Fact and fiction are a strange pair of bedfellows. One might think that fictional episodes might provides the strangest stories, but in reality, it is often true episodes that provide the most bizarre tales.
When I was in grade school, I acquired a Smother’s Brothers LP, where they did a short sketch on the pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock. Though short, the routine was hilarious and may have provided a bit of inspiration to this story. Looking at the success that these two brothers had in spoofing America, one can only conclude making fun of our past might lead to some success.
Getting Your Facts Straight
Just because you are presenting an alternate history to the mainstream version, does not mean that you can skimp on the little details of everyday life. Things like dress, architecture, mannerisms and even language should fit the times as best you can. This may take some research and in the process you may surprised as to some of the information that you might come across.
When writing Colonial Capers, I wanted to use the type of Elizabethan English that might have been used by the Pilgrims. During my inquiry, I found out that by the time of the Revolution, this style of speaking had all but died out, so I dropped all the thees and thous. Nonetheless, I did come across some very colorful Colonial slang that was used in the years just prior to the Revolution.
My venture consists of a short story, based on events surrounding the Boston Tea Party, which occurred in December of 1773. The tale is called Colonial Capers and is set before, during and after the famous action. The story is meant as a satire on the Colonial era and American history in general. Presently, it available through Smashwords. Here is the link.
In a darkened boathouse on the edge of Boston Harbor, Phineas Phillips and a small band of dissidents sit quietly watching two British ships that are at anchor along the Pearl Street Wharf. Soon a band of heathen Indians will board the two schooners and toss all the tea into the harbor. With advance knowledge of what may happen, Phineas and friends have a different plan in mind.
“As with most battles, all combatants lost a little something in end.” Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords
Last week, Amazon and Hachette came to a tenuous agreement on their feud concerning ebook pricing. The Amazon-Hachette settlement followed an Amazon-Simon & Schuster agreement that went down just a few weeks ago. If you stand back and look at both agreements, they are not all that different. The Agency means of ebook pricing pretty much stayed in tact. What this means is that the publisher (Hachette and Simon & Schuster), gets to set ebook prices in most cases. Amazon gets to some discounting (they wanted much more), but only under certain circumstances.
Good News for the Print Market
Most observers believe that Hachette and the Big Five publishers wanted to keep ebook prices high so that they could discourage ebook sales and push paper sales, which at present are their main bread and butter. This should benefit authors, who are capable of generating large numbers of paperback sales in the mass marketplace. It is no wonder than best-selling authors such as Stephen King, Tess Gerritsen, James Paterson, JK Rowling, John Grisham and Donna Tartt, all supported high-priced ebooks to keep paperback sales high.
This agreement that Simon & Schuster first achieved will most likely set the tone for any negotiation between Amazon and any other Big Five or large-scale publisher. Although Amazon did get some concessions, these terms favor the short-term livelihood of the large publisher.
Why Indie Authors Might Be the Big Winner
By keeping ebook prices high for traditional authors, self published ebook authors, who keep their prices low and royalties high, may be the biggest winners. For those working outside a major paper publisher, large sales and high royalties are possible by placing a book in the $2.99 to $7.99 range, not only through Amazon, but with other ebook publishers as well. By maintaining the status quo, Big Five publishers may drive more readers to the Indie market, where ebook prices will probably stay the same in the near future.
The Ultimate Irony
The ultimate irony is that in order to develop and encourage new talent that can create mass paperback sales, companies like Hachette may have to mine the field of self-published Indie authors. This situation may come to exist if the Agency model does become less lucrative for mid list and first time authors. In this situation, much depends on how much of an overall share the ebook market achieves.
Hachette’s (and other Big 5) Dilemma
After this agreement, Hachette will come under increasing pressure to raise ebook royalties for authors and also to show a better bottom line in profits to its parent company, Legendaire. These could be conflicting demands that will never be met at the same time….or a situation, where the publisher might opt for lower ebook prices to increase sale and profits.
Screenwriting is a well defined craft. There’s not a whole lot of room for flexibility…..at least not at first glance. In a script for a full length film, the text should come in at just under 120 pages. Font is a mandatory New Courier with even spaces between each letter. Your story is told from start to finish by the use of several basic written components. Most important, is the dialogue, spoken between characters. In between dialogue,there is action and setting, which isaptly noted by small blocks of description.
Then come the Sluglines, which give a quick heading to each scene. Rounding up the screenwriter’s toolbox are various commands directed towards the final composition of the film. These include such well-used prompts as fade in, fade out, superimpose, cut to and montage (of shots), just to name a few. In reality, this limited palette of writing tools just makes the writers job more challenging. Taglines and Loglines actually fall outside of writing the script and are in many ways much like the two mooring lines pictured above, for they anchor the main ship to the commercial doc. However in a screenplay, they do so in different ways.
Loglines identify movies, for each movie has one. By the time the film hits the big screen the logline is passe′, but during the development process, the logline is essential to promoting and eventually selling the script to producers and financial backers. Therefore it is essential that the screenwriter come with a catchy one or two sentence riff that defines the proposed movie in a nutshell.
Loglines of Successful Movies
1. “A man with no name and a man with a mission hunt a Mexican bandit for different reasons.”For a Few Dollars More
2. ” A college graduate, home for the summer, has an affair with the wife of his father’s business partner, then falls in love with her daughter.”The Graduate (Compare this with the tagline, which is much better)
3. “Naïve Joe Buck arrives in New York City to make his fortune as a hustler, but soon strikes up an unlikely friendship with the first scoundrel he falls prey to.” Midnight Cowboy
4. “An Iowa housewife, stuck in her routine, must choose between true romance and the needs of her family.”Bridges of Madison County
5. “Charlie Brown is finally invited to a Halloween party; Snoopy engages the Red Baron in a dogfight; and Linus waits patiently in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin.” It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
6. Only two men can save the world when Aliens attack and attempt to loot and destroy Earth on July 4th.”Independence Day
7. “Upon admittance to a mental institution, a brash rebel rallies the patients to take on an oppressive head nurse, a woman he views more as more dictator than nurse.”One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
8. “A 17th century tale of adventure on the Caribbean Sea where the roguish yet charming Jack Sparrow joins forces with the young blacksmith in a gallant attempt to rescue the Governor of England’s daughter and reclaim his ship.” Pirates of the Caribbean
What Is a Tagline?
In short, a Tagline is an abbreviated version of a logline. It is the catchy little slogan that helps sell your movie to the right people and then it may be used a second time to make a favorable impression on the general public.
Great Movies and Their Corresponding Taglines
1. “The longer you wait, the harder it gets.” The Forty-year Old Virgin
2. “The bitch is back.” Alien 3
3. “They had a date with fate in Casablanca.”Casablanca
4. “The nearer they get to their treasure, the farther they get from the law.”The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
5. “The movie too HOT for words!”Some like It Hot
6. “It’s all about women…and their men!”All About Eve
7. “This is Benjamin. He’s a little worried about his future.”The Graduate
8. “Pray for Rosemary’s Baby.”Rosemary’s Baby
9. “On every street in every city, there’s a nobody who dreams of being a somebody.”Taxi Driver
10. “M*A*S*H Gives a D*A*M*N.”M.A.S.H.
11. “How far does a girl have to go to untangle her tingle?”Deep Throat
12. “The snobs against the slobs!”Caddyshack
13. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”The Shining
14. “Can two friends sleep together and still love each other in the morning?”When Harry Met Sally
15. “And you thought Earth girls were easy…”Bad Girls from Mars
16. “What if someone you never met, someone you never saw, someone you never knew was the only someone for you?”Sleepless in Seattle
17. “This Ain’t No Chick Flick!” AND “Escape or Die Frying.”Chicken Run
18. “They have a plan…but not a clue.”O Brother, Where Art Thou?
19. “EARTH – take a good look. Today could be your last.”Independence Day
20. “The Toys are back in town.”Toy Story 2
Get the Picture
There is a distinct difference between a logline and a tagline. While the logline attempts to follow good sentence and grammatical structure, the tagline, more often than not, breaks free from the restraints of good grammar into the realm of slick sloganisms and making the English language do the boogie-woogie. And this my friends is the basic essence of taglines and loglines.
This much used sci-fi quotation actually was first used by Dr. Who, not the Borg. The Borg is only the latest in a long line of alien entities to issue such an ultimatum to an inferior force. On a more humorous note check out President Obama as a Borg like creature in the caricature spoof at the bottom of the page. In a similar mode, I have included a collection of 13 quotes from both sci-fi writers and sci-fi movie characters. Check these out and see how they differ. Henri B
1. “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I cant do that.” – HAL 9000, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
2. “Are you telling me you built a time machine… out of a Delorean?” – Marty McFly, Back to the Future (1985)
3. “It is curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want.” SPOCK, Star Trek: The Original Series, “Errand of Mercy”
4. “In my experience there is no such thing as luck.” by Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
5. “Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave.” -Roy Batty, Blade Runner
6. “(I’m) from another planet. Let’s just say that we’re neighbors.” Klaatu, The Day the Earth Stood Still
7. “If you’re going to make a science fiction movie, then have a hover craft chase, for God’s sake.” by Joss Whedon
8. “Hey doll, is this guy boring you? Come and talk to me. I’m from a different planet.” — Zaphod Beeblebrox in Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
9. “Destiny always seems decades away, but suddenly it’s not decades away; it’s right now. But maybe destiny is always right now, right here, right this very instant, maybe.” — Brother Joshua in A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller.
10. “Do…..or do not. There is no try.” Yoda, in The Empire Strikes Back
11. “Imagination is the key to my lyrics. The rest is painted with a little science fiction.” by Jimi Hendrix
12. “I realize that command does have its fascination, even under circumstances such as these, but I neither enjoy the idea of command nor am I frightened of it. It simply exists, and I will do whatever logically needs to be done.” SPOCK, Star Trek: The Original Series, “The Galileo Seven”
13. “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” -Philip K. Dick
As the Amazon-Hachette stand-off continues, it appears the party most being hurt are the authors. Amazon and Hachette aren’t doing too well either, yet still there is no clear signal as to how long this dispute will last or how things will turn out, when the issues finally get resolved. From my viewpoint, which definitely, leans towards Amazon, it looks like ebook sales will continue to grow and that more authors will pursue the ebook as the primary venue for their creative literary efforts. This will include newbie authors as well as writers previously published with both small and large print presses. High profile best-selling authors will continue to see most of their sales come through the retailing of paperback books, which probably predisposes these guys and gals away from the growing ebook market.
How It Used To Be
The conclusion of World War II and the return of the American G.I. to the U.S., lead to many books being published by authors, who in the past may have found a harder road to publication. War seen through the first person had always been prevalent in literature (i.e. The Red Badge of Courage and All Quiet On the Western Front ), but there seemed to an outpouring of books about the “Big One.” The war experience launched such notable writers as Norman Mailer, James Michener, Elie Wiesel, Kurt Vonnegut and Ernest Hemingway (Spanish Civil War). Unfortunately, the publicationof war stories has not been discontinued as we roll into the 21st century, for armed conflict around the world has not abated by any means. In fact, it is quite possible that they have increased. However, the point here is that in the 40s and 50s, editors and publishers were not overwhelmed by large numbers of ambitious and talented writers, like they are today.
Manchild In the Promised Land
In 1965 Macmillan & Co. published Claude Brown’s street-tough classic, Manchild In the Promised Land. Though Claude Brown grew up among Harlem hoodlums, he was able to turn his life around and complete a memoir about his troubled NYC youth in upper Manhattan. The book was discovered in the slush pile by an astute NYC editor and eventually went on to sell four million copies and was also translated into 14 languages. At time of publication Mr. Brown was working as a mail carrier, but would begin a lecturing career that lasted a lifetime once the book became successful. Claude Brown also introduced Toni Morrison to his editor, who also became a major catalyst with her literary success.
Trying To Get A Handle On Today’s Literary Scene
Things are definitely changing today. Books are still being printed and read, but the onset of ebooks has definitely leveled the playing field somewhat. Many of the old authors despise the new format. One of the most notables was the late Ray Bradbury, who recently said this about ebooks:
“Those aren’t books. You can’t hold a computer in your hand like you can a book. A computer does not smell. There are two perfumes to a book. If a book is new, it smells great. If a book is old, it smells even better. It smells like ancient Egypt. A book has got to smell.”
Despite these words, Mr. Bradbury succumbed to the evils of ebooks before he passed away. However, writers facing the challenge of first-time publication are presented with a whole set of different problems than Ray Bradbury, when he first came of age as a author at the end of WWII. Since mainline publishers are more and more interested in mass market genre titles and less so in literary fiction, contemporary authors cannot necessarily rely on the proverbial slush pile for their success, even though it is still a viable option for some. Instead networking, visibility on social networks, blogging, self-publishing and plain old perseverance all play an important part in getting the story out.
P.S. Thanks goes out to Alan Rinzler at The Book Deal for the inspiration for this blog. Alan is the editor who discovered Claude Brown and was consequently introduced to Toni Morrison, who went on to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature.
1. “There are two kinds of people who sit around all day thinking about killing people….mystery writers and serial killers. I’m the kind that pays better.” Richard Castle
2. “The best time for planning a book is while yo’re doing the dishes,” by Agatha Christie
3. “I think film had a terrible effect on horror fiction particularly in the 80s, with certain writers turning out stuff as slick and cliched as Hollywood movies.” Poppy Z. Brite
4. “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” Groucho Marx
5. “I prefer dead writers because you don’t run into them at parties.” Fran Lebowitz
6. “It’s a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.” by Andrew Jackson
7. “A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.” by Ring Lardner
8. “A good novel tells us the truth about it’s hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.” by Gilbert K. Chesterton
9. “Television has raised writing to a new low.” by Samuel Goldwyn
10. “Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman’s name out of a satire then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to a writer–and if so, why?” by Bennett Cerf
11. “If it has horses and swords in it, it’s a fantasy, unless it also has a rocketship in it, in which case it becomes science fiction. The only thing that’ll turn a story with a rocketship in it back into fantasy is the Holy Grail.” by Debra Doyle
Since I have nothing to add to the blogosphere on this hot July Sunday afternoon, I just thought I’d pass along a few comments and quotes by some of the more noted authors. I have culled these little gems from my internet musings over the past week and I may attempt to continue this effort on a weekly or bi-weekly basis if time allows.
1. “I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.” by Steve Martin
2. “The cliffhanger — which sounds like a weird sex move or a particularly diligent dingleberry – isn’t just for use at the end of a book.” by Chuck Wendig
3. “The good news is that anyone can get published. The bad news is that anyone can get published.” by David Henry Sterry
4. “There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money either.” Robert Graves
5. “It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.” by C. J. Cherryh
6. “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.” by Kurt Vonnegut
7. “An onion can make people cry, but there has never been a vegetable invented to make them laugh.” by Will Rogers
8. “The best of us must sometimes eat our words.” by J.K. Rowling
9. “From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.” by Sir Winston Churchill
10. “Thankfully, persistence is a great substitute for talent.” by Steve Martin
11. “I can have oodles of charm when I want to,” by Kurt Vonnegut