February 28, 2005

Character Counts

As you probably know by now, I want to be a screenwriter (among other things). The following post is about a very important aspect of writing that I learned over the past month. Because this is a discussion of my art, and some of you may not give a crap (and it's really long), I'll put it in the extended entry. But I have to share it, because it changed my entire perspective on fiction writing.

Click if you're interested...

Anyway, my birthday was last month, and my awesome parents sent me a copy of Final Draft as a present. This is the software the pros use, folks. It does all the script formatting for you so you can concentrate on the story. I was excited.

When I got some free time, I decided to install FD and take it for a spin. I didn't have any particular ideas in mind, so I just put two guys named Bob and Joe in a room and had them say some random lines. After a couple pages of stream-of-consciousness, I realized that there was a plot developing, so I kept it going and built on their characters until Bob and Joe were two unique individuals (Bob is a naïve, dumb guy, and Joe is a cynical, pessimistic guy). But I still wasn't done.

Over the last month, I've been adding more and more to this script that started out as a test run for my new software. Since the b@stards at SU decided that I should take a business class this semester instead of a writing or production class, it was my only creative outlet. I just finished it last night, and it's 97 pages long.

97 pages. That's about an hour and 40 minutes. In other words, I just finished my first full-length screenplay ever.

What does this have to do with anything, you ask? Let me explain. I've written a couple scripts before (and I posted two on the blog, if you feel like tracking 'em down), and I've enjoyed creative writing since...well, since I was able to pick up a pencil and make words with it, basically, but I've always done plot-based writing. I would come up with a story, plan the entire thing from start to finish, and then add a few characters as an afterthought. This made it really hard to keep the plot interesting, since I had to force all these fictional personalities into roles I had given them before they existed. But that's all changed now.

For this script, I had no expectations, and I had no idea that it would extend beyond a couple pages of random crap when I started, so I had no plot in mind. It was completely centered around the characters, their personalities, and their interactions with each other.

Did I mention that this was a comedy script? Before this thing, the only humor writing I did was satire. The closest I've come to something that could be considered genuine "comedy" is that weird Nigerian spam sketch I posted over the summer. But as the plot progressed and I added more characters, the jokes started writing themselves.

Read that again: The freakin' jokes were writing themselves.

I'm not sure how to explain it any other way. It's really something you have to experience to understand. See, I decided that I would just come up with characters and leave the plot to them, so I had no idea where the story would go. As a result, I was forced to actually think about character development, as opposed to my previous plot-centered style.

It changed everything.

I found that when you have strong characters, the clashes between their personalities and interests will create a humorous plot without much input. And these are good characters, in my opinion. For example, there's Joe's brother Jukebox, a white guy who talks in Ebonics and owns an airplane that he calls "Wings of Bling." There's also Howard U. Dewing, a businessman who owns a successful lumber company, and Leonard Blundersmythe, a jungle explorer.

This is good stuff.

Anyway, long story short, it's a month later, and these characters practically wrote the entire 97 pages for me. I did come up with a plot, but even after I did, they still surprised me. There's a huge twist near the end that I didn't even see coming until it happened. And I was the one writing the freakin' thing. But more importantly, the jokes were funny! I hardly ever laugh at my own writing, but these guys kept surprising me with comedy gold. It's a really weird experience, but it works.

So, I learned that character-based writing is the key, especially in a comedy like this. If you have really good characters, it's almost like you're writing a documentary. Instead of coming up with the entire plot, you're putting the characters in a situation and recording what happens to them. It saves time, it's more fun, and it's just plain better. I just wish I'd figured this out earlier in my writing career.

(By the way, I'll spare you the posting of the script unless you want to read something really, really weird. We're talking "Billy Madison" or "Family Guy" levels of weirdness here.)

Posted by CD at 07:09 PM | Comments (5)

February 27, 2005

The Things We Take For Granted...

Holy crap. I was just sitting here procrastinating about an hour ago, and I noticed that the USB cable for my printer was out in the open. I picked it up to toss it out of the way, and I realized that it had a chunk of the actual USB port inside. Not good. I was having some trouble hooking it up last week, since it seems to always end up under my chair and get bent out of shape, and I guess that it took the port with it when I unplugged it. Oops.

Anyway, I wanted to make sure it would still hook up to the computer, so I tried it...and the monitor shut off.

The freaking monitor just shut itself off.

I took the cable out and tried to turn on the monitor again, but it buzzed and fizzled out. I repeated this process several more times, but it wasn't working. I tried unplugging it for a few minutes and turning it on again. Nothing.

To make a long story short, I walked away and read my geography book for a few minutes, then came back, messed with the now useless USB port for a while, and hit the button again, and it turned on. But for about half an hour, I thought my computer was dead. That, my friends, was a scary thought. I was already trying to work a couple trips to the computer lab into my schedule so I could check my e-mail.

Needless to say, I won't take my computer for granted again. And I still don't know if I'll be able to use my printer.

Holy crap.

Posted by CD at 09:28 PM | Comments (0)

What A Waste

As an aspiring filmmaker, let me take this time to say that I could not possibly care less about the Academy Awards.

Thank you.

Posted by CD at 06:06 PM | Comments (1)

4 AM Epiphany

You know...I was just reading through my archives...and it occurred to me that I am waaaaaaaaay past my blogging prime. I was at my best last summer, and it just went downhill from there.

I don't want to turn this into a pity post, but...seriously. What the crap happened to SIT? Oh, well. Hopefully, it'll all be back to normal once this horrible, horrible semester is over forever.

I'm going to sleep now.

Posted by CD at 03:52 AM | Comments (3)

February 26, 2005

Academic Bragging

I'd just like to announce that I sacrificed two whole hours of my Saturday afternoon to do research at the library.

...Actually, I'm not sure if that's impressive or just sad...

Posted by CD at 06:15 PM | Comments (3)

February 25, 2005

Maybe If I Toss A Banana At Them, They'll Go Away

You may think I'm exaggerating when I talk about how annoying the people on my floor can be. You'd be wrong.

Right now, a couple of The Chimps are skateboarding in the hallway.

Skateboarding. In. The hallway.


I think the school accidentally put me in a zoo exhibit instead of a residence hall.

Actual quote from a couple seconds ago:

"This carpet's slowing me down."


Posted by CD at 04:36 PM | Comments (3)

February 23, 2005

Downtime Is Good

Well, I'm still alive. I thought those exams would destroy me, but they weren't as bad as I expected. I finally had some free time afterwards, so I did what anyone in my situation would do: I created a Myspace account for my music.

"What did he say?"

Well, remember all those lyrics and drum recordings I've posted over the past year? I decided to give them their own website. I will have a freaking rock band someday. Seriously.

Anyway, check it out if you're so inclined. I'm too tired to blog.

Posted by CD at 09:19 PM | Comments (0)


hitler knife chicken

...How are these three words at all related?

Posted by CD at 05:54 PM | Comments (3)

February 22, 2005

Die, Evil Spring Semester, Die

Seriously, I hope nobody's expecting detailed political blogging for a while. Liberal arts requirements are making my life needlessly difficult. I'll make it up to you by posting the Grand Theory of Leftism over Spring Break (March 11-20). I promise.

As for the time being, I have two huge tests about an hour apart tomorrow, and I've barely studied for either of them yet.

In other words, I'm boned like a Crunchy Frog. Bye now.

Have I mentioned that the "people" on my floor make me want to do violent things to them?

Get me the f**k out of here.

Oh, and when I do get back to regular blogging, there are going to be some changes around here. Don't bother trying to crack that enigma. You'll understand when it happens.

Posted by CD at 05:38 PM | Comments (1)

February 21, 2005

Your Daily Dose of Existentialism


...Do you ever get the feeling that nothing really matters?



Posted by CD at 12:21 AM | Comments (4)

February 16, 2005

Hooray for Higher Education

I hope you're not expecting any major posts in the next week, because if you are, you're going to be extremely disappointed.


Posted by CD at 10:24 PM | Comments (2)

February 15, 2005

Random Research Paper Commentary

Introductory paragraphs are evil. Evil, I tell you.


Posted by CD at 10:05 PM | Comments (4)

That Time of Year

You know what's great about mid-February? In every class, at least 30% of the people in the room are sick. Therefore, lectures are made more lively and exciting by continuous f**king coughing and sneezing for an hour.

For example...

History: "The te*cough*mper*cough*ance move*cough*ment be*cough*ga*ah-choo-choo-choo*n in the 19*cough*0*cough*0*cough*s as *cough* a form of *cough**cough* so*cough*cial con*cough*trol..."

Geography: "When *cough* spe*cough*cific hum*cough*id*cough*it*cough*y is e*cough*qual to *cough* wa*cough*ter ca*coughah-choocough*paci*cough*ty, *snnnnnnnkkk* *cough* it's *cough* known *cough* as *cough**cough* *coughcoughcoughah-choocough* the dew *cough* point..."

Archaeology: "The *cough* Deetz gra*coughah-choo*vest*snnnnkkk*one stu*cough*dy found a *cough* patt*cough*ern in New *cough* Engl*cough**cough*and repre*cough*senting *cough* *ah-choo ah-choo choo ahhhhh-chsnkkk* the de*cough*velo*cough*pment *cough* of *snkkkk* reli*cough**cough*giou*cough*s tradi*coughchoo*tion*cough*s..."

The scary thing is that I haven't been sick since January of 2004 (and I blogged it, as pathetic as that sounds). I have no idea how I pulled that off.

Posted by CD at 10:58 AM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2005

Today's Brilliant Political Commentary

When did the entire left wing decide that the only appropriate response to criticism of a Democrat is to point out an instance of a Republican doing something similar? It seems like it's all they have left, other than calling them "liars."

Liberalism = Immaturity. I've been saying it for over a year, and they just keep giving me more evidence to work with.

Posted by CD at 06:55 PM | Comments (0)

Happy Extortion Day

No, not April 15. Valentine's Day. I wrote a Valentine's rant last year, but the more I think about it, the more I realize just how stupid the entire concept is.

Like I said last time, it's ridiculous to manipulate people's emotions and make them feel guilty for not buying useless crap. I find it hilarious that people take this "holiday" so seriously in the first place. Why set aside one day to celebrate love? Are you faking it the rest of the year?

The whole gift-giving thing is what really gets me, though. I've never had a girlfriend (yes, ladies, I am available), so maybe I'm missing something, but...think about it. The whole reason you get involved in a relationship is because you enjoy being around the other person, right? So why should you need to prove yourself by buying them stuff? That seems suspiciously like bribery to me, among other things. If you willingly spend time together, doesn't that prove that you have some sort of affection for each other? Why bring money and little pink trinkets into the equation?

Seriously. Think about it. Do you form friendships by buying crap for your friends? No. You form friendships because you enjoy their company. So why should romantic relationships be any different? Just enjoy being together and stop acting like you have to pay for your significant other's approval.

Even the concept of cards strikes me as a little unnecessary:

"To prove how much I love you, here's a piece of paper with someone else's words on it!"

If you're going to go that route, at least take the time to express your own feelings, not those of someone who gets paid to put words in other people's mouths.

Now, I understand the idea of emotional significance, and I suppose I can see why people would want to get their boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/whatever (for you Massachusetts residents) gifts occasionally, but the basis of your relationship should be the quality of your moments together, not the quantity of money you spend. It just seems more honest that way.

Thank you.


Posted by CD at 12:06 AM | Comments (2)

February 13, 2005

Did YOU Know?

Heh. I just got this from the College Republicans listserv:

Did you know that 47 countries have re-established their embassies in Iraq?

Did you know that the Iraqi government employs 1.2 million Iraqi people?

Did you know that 3100 schools have been renovated, 364 schools are under
rehabilitation, 263 schools are now under construction and 38 new schools
have been built in Iraq?

Did you know that Iraq's higher educational structure consists of 20
Universities, 46 Institutes or colleges and 4 research centers?

Did you know that 25 Iraq students departed for the United States in January
2004 for the re-established Fulbright program?

Did you know that the Iraqi Navy is operational? They have 5 x 100-foot
patrol craft, 34 smaller vessels and a naval infantry regiment.

Did you know that Iraq's Air Force consists of three operational squadrons,
9 reconnaissance and 3 US C-130 transport aircraft which operate day and
night, and will soon add 16 UH-1 helicopters and 4
bell jet rangers?

Did you know that Iraq has a counter-terrorist unit and a Commando

Did you know that the Iraqi Police Service has over 55,000 fully trained and
equipped police officers?

Did you know that there are 5 Police Academies in Iraq that produce over
3500 new officers each 8 weeks?

Did you know there are more than 1100 building projects going on in Iraq?
They include 364 schools, 67 public clinics, 15 hospitals, railroad
stations, 22 oil facilities, 93 water facilities and electrical facilities.

Did you know that 96% of Iraqi children under the age of 5 have received the
first 2 series of polio vaccinations?

Did you know that 4.3 million Iraqi children were enrolled in primary school
by mid October?

Did you know that there are 1,192,000 cell phone subscribers in Iraq and
phone use has gone up 158%?

Did you know that Iraq has an independent media that consist of 75 radio
stations, 180 newspapers and 10 television stations?

Did you know that the Baghdad Stock Exchange opened in June of 2004?

Did you know that 2 candidates in the Iraqi election had a televised debate



Because a Bush- hating media and Democratic Party would rather see the world
blow up than lose their power.

Instead of shouting these accomplishments from every rooftop, they would
rather show photo's of what a few perverted malcontent soldiers have done in
prisons in many cases never disclosing the circumstances surrounding the

Instead of showing our love for our country, we get photos of flag burning
incidents at Abu Ghraib and people throwing snowballs at presidential

The lack of accentuating the positive in Iraq serves only one purpose. It
undermines the world's perception of the United States and our soldiers

Pass it on!

Posted by CD at 11:45 PM | Comments (5)

Way to Go, Frnak

This and this are two of the many reasons I don't drink.

Posted by CD at 03:59 PM | Comments (0)

Seriously, How Can These People Exist?

This is disgusting. That's all I have to say.

Posted by CD at 02:03 PM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2005

Obligatory Explanation Post

Just so you know, I am still alive, and I do realize that I haven't posted much, but there are two reasons for this.

1. I am really, really, really falling behind on my schoolwork, and I've been doing a lot of reading to catch up.

2. There's not that much to write about.

Yeah. Yay, college.

Posted by CD at 10:44 AM | Comments (3)

February 08, 2005

I Hate This Building

So, my RA started off tonight's floor meeting by saying, "In case you didn't know, I have the flu, and apparently, so does half the campus." After she said this, several people coughed and raised their hands.

Well, nothing's better for the flu than GATHERING US ALL TOGETHER IN A ROOM, YOU IDIOT!!!

Only a month until Spring Break...

Posted by CD at 08:59 PM | Comments (4)

February 07, 2005


fight of the fittest v.s monkey ninja


Posted by CD at 01:48 AM | Comments (0)

February 06, 2005

Come And Get 'Em

I now have 50 Gmail invites, so...let me know if you want one. Yeah.

Posted by CD at 11:48 PM | Comments (0)

That Was Fast

I just spent the afternoon at HillTV as we finished the new episode of Syracuse Live, and it's online already. Check it out.

I ran VTR for this one, which means I got to sit in the control room pressing "play" and "pause" and switching between tapes. If you watch the show, keep in mind that whenever it goes to a PSA or out-of-studio segment, it's because I pushed a button. Fun stuff. We actually had to start the show 3 times because the decks kept screwing up, but it came out all right.

Posted by CD at 03:38 PM | Comments (0)

February 04, 2005

Open Thread

I haven't done one of these for a while, but I don't feel like blogging tonight, and all my recent posts have just been complaints about my classes anyway. Maybe one of you has something interesting to say.

Posted by CD at 09:24 PM | Comments (8)

Remember, Kids: Lame Liberal Arts Requirements Kill Brain Cells

You know, when I was a senior in high school, I took a class called AP (Advanced Placement, for those who don't know) European History. I had to write a 3 page essay practically every other night, and each one usually took about an hour.

Fast forward to the present. I'm a sophomore in college, so I should be better at writing essays, right? You'd think so. But it's taken me an entire freakin' night to write 2 pages of my 3 page history essay. I'm still not done, and the dang thing is due in 10 hours.

This is going to be a looooooooooooong semester. I just want to make movies, dang it. Why is that so hard to understand?

Well, 40 minutes later, I'm done. And the essay is basically crap. I must've typed the word "African-American" about 100 times. I'm afraid to overuse "black" in a class where the writing guide warns against "jingoist nationalism" (see Wednesday's post).

Posted by CD at 12:00 AM | Comments (1)

February 03, 2005

Tip of the Day

If you're a college student, it's always a good idea to look at your class schedule every so often, even if you think you have it memorized. Walking into a 12:30 class at 12:40 because you thought it didn't start until 12:45 isn't a fun experience.

Posted by CD at 01:22 PM | Comments (3)

February 02, 2005

I Love College. Really.

So, I've got a history essay due on Friday. My professor provided a handy guide for writing papers. Check out a couple choice excerpts:

When talking about the United States or the “American people,” do not refer to it or them as “we” or “us.” [Incidentally, “United States” is singular; this is a philosophical and ideological, as well as grammatical, truth.] Plural first-person pronouns are not only historically inaccurate (e.g., were you really there when “*we* beat the British in the Battle of New Orleans”?), but they smack of jingoist nationalism, as well.
Be conscious of the pitfalls of ethnocentrism, sexism, class bias, and so on—and strive to avoid them. Not all Americans were—or are—male, white, middle class, native-born, Christian, etc. And not all people are Americans. Do not, for instance, refer to females by their first names (“Jane” for Jane Addams); would you call F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Scott” (or “F.”)? And PLEASE avoid arbitrary use of male denotations for people generally. [In response to those who believe that “man” and male pronouns are “generic” terms, consider the implications of the following: “We want to hire the best man for the job”—or the statement (correct by “traditional” standards of usage) that “Some believe that it is up to each individual to decide whether or not he should have an abortion.”] In short, do not assume or assert homogeneity or consensus where it does not exist—and do not ascribe your attitudes, gender, identity, or beliefs to the world at-large.

I find the second one rather interesting, as the topic for the essay is this:

How did white Northerners, white Southerners, and African Americans understand the concept of freedom during the era of Reconstruction?

How exactly does one answer this question without asserting homogeneity or consensus?

Posted by CD at 11:34 PM | Comments (5)


As of February 2, 2005, Semi-Intelligent Thoughts officially supports Howard Dean for DNC chairman. We're talking serious entertainment value here, people.

And now, I'm off to the weekly College Republicans meeting, where we'll probably be discussing this issue. Heh. I leave you with this blast from the past:


Posted by CD at 07:48 PM | Comments (0)

February 01, 2005

You've Gotta Be Kidding Me: Second Edition

This is just...wow. A freakin' G.I. Joe fooled the MSM.


This is the most surreal thing I've seen in weeks. Holy crap.

Posted by CD at 06:59 PM | Comments (3)