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Tag: script frenzy

A Couple of Ideas

After being busy with various real life things, I’m hoping to get back into writing and blogging daily, especially with Script Frenzy coming up next month. As those of you who have followed me for a while know, writing scripts does not come naturally to me. The thing that trips me up the most is the format. It’s not a particularly familiar thing to me, considering the fact that I grew up reading novels, not scripts.

Anyways, about this year’s script. I came up with the title first by basically going to Wikipedia and hitting the “random article” link until I got to a page that wasn’t about some football player. Then I tried brainstorming for ideas. So far, all I have is: 1) The titular pale-eyed blackbird is a MacGuffin, and 2) the main character, a young boy, has been sent to live with his absent-minded aunt while his parents go gallivanting off to remote parts of the world for research. In other words, a drama that happens to have a child as a protagonist and not really a film for children per se.

Other than the set-up, I have nada. Which means I really have only a week to come up with a suitable outline.

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I signed up on Steepster after seeing a mention here. Despite having some particular preferences (tea must be hot with no additions), I consider myself a casual tea drinker. And, well, reviewing teas seem like a new and fun thing to do. I’ve already scribbled some notes for my first tea log which means that a review may appear here some time in the near future.

What’s Up?

I have a guest post on Random Genre Month about my writing adventures during January. The next writing project won’t be until April for Script Frenzy. No ideas yet, though.

Meanwhile, prepare for more sporadic, if any, blogging for the next month or two since I’m neck-deep in stuff. You know: preparations for my Ph.D. defense, university paperwork, paperwork for my next job, the general hassles of moving to another state.

And as for what I’m doing during whatever little free time I have: Making a dent in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. I think finishing it before the end of the year would be pretty awesome. Currently, I’m in the middle of volume II.

Ending One, Beginning Another

Well, that’s it for Script Frenzy.  I’m not sure how I feel about the script I just wrote.  It definitely needs a lot of revision.  And I’m thinking I probably need to not see it for a while if I don’t want to get into a jag of moaning despair.  I ended up calling it a “fantasy mockumentary” that is “a philosophical exploration of a Bhutan that never was” – whatever that means.  For the nosy masochists, it’s posted here.

I wrote the script only during writing sprints which I held on Twitter and the Idaho Script Frenzy chatroom.  Since I have a record of all of those sprints, it comes out to a total of 1415 minutes or a little over 23.5 hours.  Of course, one has to put into account the fact that sometimes, in those writing sprints, I wasn’t writing but looking up random stuff on the internet.  But even with that stuff factored in, I pretty much wrote 100 pages in under 24 hours.  So if there was some contest about writing a script in a day, I suppose it would be possible.

Anyways, that’s it. No more thinking about scripts until next year.

As for May, I was momentarily crazy a couple days ago and signed up for MayNoWriMo.   I’ve only started planning for it this morning.  It currently looks like it’s going to be a fantasy steampunk story set in Venice, but one never knows for sure until the whole thing is written.

Background As You Go

Well, this is a rather belated update.  This is one of those times in the year when I’m rather swamped with stuff and doing Script Frenzy isn’t helping any.  So far, I’ve only been writing during scheduled write-in times and I think that’s the only reason why I’m still on track.  Otherwise the script, or what there is of it, would have easily fallen by the wayside earlier this month in favor of doing more important things.

As for the script itself, I’m writing by the seat of my pants.  I mean, I had some things planned, but it was the sort of nebulous planning that could get changed at any moment.  As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a documentary-style film although everything in it is not real.  As I’m writing it, I’m also making up the background and setting as I go.  (For the curious, it’s turning into an exploration of an alternate universe Bhutan that got modernized.)

Anyways, that’s it. Although I’m trying to look at this as a writing exercise, I still hate the script format.

Last Minute Planning

Script Frenzy is tomorrow and I just installed Celtx on my other computer today.  As for actual planning, um, I haven’t done any.  I may just end up writing most of the script by the seat of my pants.  The only research I’ve been doing for the story is saving articles from Wikipedia and not reading them and watching a bunch of documentaries.  The most recent documentary series I’ve been watching is Journeys from the Centre of the Earth which is hosted by the Scottish geologist Iain Stewart.  I first saw Stewart on Earth: The Power of the Planet which was pretty interesting, but in Journeys, he’s just plain wacky.  Sort of like Dan Cruickshank on energy drinks.  And the really awful food metaphors reminded me of this Simon Schama spoof.

Why am I watching these documentaries?  The format of the story is going to be a pseudo-documentary and I sort of want to get a general idea of how my main character is going to behave.  Monty (the main character) is more of a television presenter/journalist who likes being the observer.  He’s not a hero or a villain although minor characters who are heroes and villains might pop up.  (And while we’re on the subject, I recently came across an interesting Scientific American article on the psychology of heroes and villains.)  My initial idea says that it’s going to be serious, but I have the suspicion that I’m going to fail miserably in that goal when it comes to execution.

For the curious, here is a short summary:

Monty Salo, a journalist for a major news corporation, is sent to a small mountain country to investigate something called “ghost light”.  At first, it appears to be a natural phenomenon associated with some local folklore.  But as Monty digs deeper into his research, he makes the uncomfortable discovery that the grain of truth in these particular myths grows bigger with each question that gets answered.

Preparations and Such

I finally have a title for this year’s Script Frenzy project.  I’m still not sure whether I want a literal or figurative ghost in the thing. But writing a philosophically impregnated script is holding appeal at the moment.  Less characters and more ideas!  (Of course, I see the flashing warning signs.  Such a tedious thing would be better suited to a novel than a script. But what do I know about scripts?)  I also have this really weird, but also extremely strong, gut feeling for putting the whole thing in an Asian setting.  Intellectually, I don’t want it to be so culturally obvious because I want to get this across as an idea, not a culture.  So this battle between my mind and my instinct is still going on–and I have no inkling of what the outcome will be when SF actually starts.

But aside from all of this angsty pre-writing, there is the practical stuff to look after.  I’ve already posted flyers around town, e-mailed people, sent nagging tweets on Twitter, reserved times and locations for local write-ins, and kick-started the official forums.  I have yet to:

*Distribute colored flyers and postcards (once they get here from SF HQ) to local bookstores.
*Distribute flyers to libraries in neighboring towns.
*Figure out how to set up an online chat room so that everyone in the state can meet virtually.
*Prepare for the kickoff party.
*Send more nagging e-mails so people will actually check the SF site.

I still feel like such a slacker, though.  There are MLs who are doing more than I am.  There are always MLs who do more than I do.

One ML recently posted that for Script Frenzy, most people don’t even check the site until the end of March or even in April when the event is already underway.  SF is generally more quiet than Nanowrimo–I guess it’s because fewer people have the inclination to do script writing than novel writing–so I find it a lot less stressful if one cultivates a “whatever” attitude.  This is where I aim my expectations very low.  Really low.  I don’t care if no one shows up at any of the events that I schedule.  As long as no one sends me scathing e-mails telling me that I’m spamming them with too much gunk about SF, I consider it a success.

Documentaries and Brain Storming

Recently, I’ve finished watching a couple of documentaries, one on psychiatry (The Brain: A Secret History) and another about Japanese philosophy (In Search of Wabi Sabi).  I really love watching documentaries–I think as a film or television genre, it’s probably my favorite.  Sure, I occasionally watch movies or cartoons, but not very often.  And as for other stuff like serial fictional dramas and situational comedies?  Forget it.  I’m not interested.  I think it has a lot to do with my preferences on fictional reading: I really dislike reading series where the author blathers on and on and on about the same characters.  It’s really similar to a lot of TV series.  That sort of stuff, I think, is difficult to do well without repetition.

Anyways, with Script Frenzy fast approaching, it means I have to come up with some kind of an idea for a script.  Last year, I managed to finish a sci-fi script, but I ended up semi-vowing that I wouldn’t do it again and that I would leave it to people who were real script writers.  You know, the people who actually love doing this stuff.  I find script writing to be the literary equivalent of memorizing the Krebs Cycle.

One piece of advice that other script writers give is to watch a lot of movies.  I think this is sensible advice.  By seeing how others make a successful screenplay, you learn the sort of tricks one should use to write a successful script of your own.  But the problem is: I am no film buff.  I find myself in the sort of position that, say, someone who never reads wants to write a book.  So why the hell am I planning on participating in Script Frenzy in the first place?

Most of it, I’m afraid to say, is out of a feeling of responsibility.  At the moment, I’m the only municipal liaison for the entire state.  And as the ML, I really should set an example for everyone else.

But however burned out and disgruntled that I feel, I’m not the sort to just give things up.  So I’ve been thinking about possible ideas that would make me excited about writing a script.  Well, I’ve been watching documentaries–so why don’t I make a mockumentary or something similar to that?  Surely, since I’ve watched so many of them, I’ve absorbed what sort of story telling techniques were used to relay information to the audience in an entertaining way.  I’ve already written a Nanowrimo novel about a documentary crew.  Maybe I can write a script using the documentary style.

I was thinking of using a journalist as the main character. He or she would be dispatched to find out more about something that the journalist thinks is a bunch of woo.  Except it turns out it isn’t.  Exactly what sort of subject matter the journalist is investigating, I’m still trying to figure out.  It could go a lot of ways: horror (like The Blair Witch Project), fantasy (“Oh look, there really are unicorns!”), science fiction (“What? A mad architect really did design the Vdara as a death ray?), comedy (possibly a mockumentary), or mystery/crime.

But it’s still a month away so in the meantime, something totally different might pop into mind.

An Exasperated View on a Saturday Morning

As I told someone else earlier this week, I was going to use this weekend to run some errands that I had put off the previous weeks.

One of my errands was to reserve space for the Script Frenzy write-ins during April.  Reserving the room at Sister’s Brew was a snap.  It was an entirely different story at One World Cafe where I was informed that they had changed their reservation policies.  I would have been fine if I had to pay ten or twenty bucks to get the room reserved for everyone.  But the policy was that everyone who was going to use the room had to pay for drinks and/or food.  I always end up ordering something when I’m using a coffeehouse’s facilities–whether it’s a drink or an entire meal–because I think it’s only fair to do so.  I’m also willing to pay for something if it will allow my friends, and in this case my fellow writers, to use it.  However, I am extremely uncomfortable reserving a location where everyone, including college students with no money, must pay to get room to write.  So I ended up not reserving anything there at all.

In retrospect, I should have seen the writing on the wall when the manager kept avoiding me when I wanted to ask if I could leave a box there for the Nanowrimo book drive last November.

But writers: have no fear. I will schedule alternate writing meetings at the bagel shop and on campus.

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On an unrelated note, I ordered a hot chocolate at OWC.  The barrista was so excited that she managed to make a perfect heart on the surface of my drink, she took a picture of it.  So now, a picture of my drink is probably circulating on Twitter or Facebook (or both!) somewhere.

I ruined the drink by attempting to put a lid on the cup.  I tried every single size of lid, but none of them fit.

West of the House and Examining the Mailbox

Now that Script Frenzy is over (at least for this year), I am considering writing an interactive fiction game during any free time I have during the summer.  Sure, I’ve sort of dabbled in this sort of thing before, but I’m hoping this time, I can get past designing the first room and its random objects.

The biggest obstacle, obviously, is learning how to code the game.  I’m a microbiologist by training, not a computer programmer.  In some ways, computer code scares me a lot more than those terrible medical pictures scientists love to put in biomedical lectures.  Why?  I think it basically boils down to flexibility.  Although there may be certain “bad” outcomes in a biological situation, things can be flexible.  There isn’t necessarily one single solution.  Computer code, on the other hand, can come crashing down if you misplace a single bracket.

So why even bother? Interactive fiction is an interesting concept.  Just as computer code on its own is inflexible,  most fiction is a one way street–the author has control of the narrative and tells the reader what happens.  The reader has no input into where the story is headed.  But by melding of fiction and computer code, two seemingly static things, we get flexibility mimicking the real world.  In IF, the reader (or rather, the player) can manipulate the author’s fictional world and create a unique narrative.  So in a way, the resulting story is a collaboration between the author and the reader.

For the next couple of months (if nothing more shiny shows up in the meantime), I’m going to use this blog to chronicle my attempts at writing an interactive fiction game.

I’ve already picked out which design system I will be using (Inform 7).  So far, I have three ideas: 1) a character trying to retrieve a hidden text in a library; 2) my failed 2009 Script Frenzy project; 3) and a mysterious tree house that is bigger on the inside than the outside.  I am not completely happy with any of these ideas, so I suppose I will continue to brainstorm.

So Close

Two-thirds of Script Frenzy is already over, but unlike previous years where at this point I either was woefully behind or had given up, I am actually ahead of schedule.  In fact, as of this moment, I only have about ten more pages to write in order to reach the 100 page goal.  And as the writing time I have been averaging is approximately one page per ten minutes, I could easily achieve the ten page goal in under two hours.  Heck, if I had written the entire script in one sitting, I could have finished this under a day and not thought about this for the rest of the month.  After all, there are other things that have demands on my time.

One could conclude that this script writing is easy since it has been a smaller drain on my time than novel writing.  But it isn’t, considering the past three failed Script Frenzies.  I still contend that the script format is unnatural and not easy.  And despite making excellent progress this year, it doesn’t mean that I’m getting any good at it.  Script writing, like anything else, requires practice and dedication.  But other than this particular month-long challenge, I don’t really have the inclination to write scripts.  This particular art form does not fire my imagination like, say, writing prose.  I don’t like reading scripts or plays even though I can appreciate how a good one is put together.  I get bored by most movies and television drama.  The last DVD I attempted to watch, I ended up jumping past a good half of the scenes. I do not think I have ADD.  I am perfectly fine getting through entire books.  I’d be happy to spend an entire weekend watching a documentary marathon.  There are times in lab I’m concentrating so hard on what I’m doing that people have to yell at me to get my attention.  I only get impatient when I find myself doing something I don’t find particularly interesting.

One could argue that I’m feeling this way because I’ve hit a creative rough patch.  I don’t think that’s the case.  I have plenty of ideas.  I just don’t like the form because I feel like I have a complete lack of control over what I consider as the story.  The script writer just provides the words, the lumber as you will.  The actual house, castle or shack would be built by actors, production crew, director.  Unlike a novel, short story, or even poem, where the reader can ignore the physical trappings of how the work was printed and concentrate solely on the words, a script is only one building block.  The writer has absolutely no control on how things would actually look like or what the characters do with the words.  Directors and actors could very well alter character motivations and make a script into an entirely different story by interpretation alone.

So, as a reporter for the local newspaper last week had asked me, why do I want to do this if I have no intention to actually do anything with the script, like making it into a movie?  Well, there’s the easy answer: that I view this as a writing exercise to practice writing dialogue.  And then there’s the really easy answer: why not?  I’ve never finished a script before.  So maybe this is the year to do so.

But after this month, I’m leaving script writing to those who live to do it.