August 17, 2010

Blast from the Distant Past

Here's something completely different.

While I was going through my computer zapping any extra data to maximize the space and performance of the new hard drive, I was reminded that I have pretty much every paper I wrote during my academic career saved on here, just for nostalgia's sake.

I don't just mean college, by the way. This stuff goes back ten years. It's actually kind of fun to read some of these and see just how much my writing has improved since then, so I'm giving everyone else the chance now.

In the extended entry are three essays I wrote in early 2000 (9th grade) for various classes (mostly English, I think). They have not been edited in any way other than spacing taking the place of indentation. I have literally dozens more like this, if anyone is interested.

Here we go...

The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad was a system used in the mid 1800’s to get slaves in the United States to freedom, often times taking them to Canada, which had no slave laws. This was very important in eliminating slavery, because there were over 3 million slaves in the South in the mid 1800’s. Eventually, laws such as the Fugitive Slave Act made it even more difficult to get slaves to safety. This law made it legal for escaped slaves to be returned to their owners from anywhere, even if they were in a place with no slavery.

The Underground Railroad itself was started slowly and secretly by abolitionists and others who wanted to take a role in the elimination of slavery in the United States. It had no name originally, and was not very well known to people not involved. Eventually, slave owners found out about the operation and gave it the name “Underground Railroad.” They chose this name because it was said that if a slave escaped and made it all the way to the North, they would go “underground” and disappear for good. This also led to the leaders of the Underground Railroad being known as “conductors.”

A very complicated process was involved in helping slaves through the Underground Railroad. The following is just one example of how the system worked. A conductor visited a plantation claiming to be on official business. This made sure the plantation owner was totally unsuspecting and considered the conductor a friend. Once they had a good reputation, the conductor secretly talked with the slaves on the plantation and informed them of the true reason for their visit. A meeting place was arranged for any slave that wanted to be free, and they began a dangerous and often fatal journey from there.

The slaves had to travel through the wilderness on their own for a part of the trip, facing the risk of being caught by slave hunters or any other person in the area that happened to spot them. The Fugitive Slave Act made this part of the journey especially difficult. Eventually the slaves met their conductor once more and were transported in many different ways. They would be carried in a cart under a load of supplies or pose as being the conductor’s property. Sometimes, they would simply receive survival supplies from the conductor and continue on their own.

Eventually, they would have to stop, and since they traveled at night, the slaves needed a place to stay during the day or to spend the night at times. Supporters of the Underground Railroad that were willing to harbor slaves identified their homes by placing a lantern in the window. They also communicated with secret phrases, such as “friend of a friend,” to identify themselves as friends of the movement. Since it was illegal to harbor slaves, these people were especially courageous, sometimes even keeping the slaves in the same house as an anti-abolitionist or a government official capable of arresting them.

By continuing on this path, the slaves were able to reach actual railroads, although often times many died or were arrested and taken back to their owners. Once on the train, they had to hide in boxes to avoid detection. Sometimes, they left one train and boarded another immediately. The process eventually brought them to freedom, usually somewhere in Canada, where they could be safe from slave laws and live normal lives.

The leaders of the Underground Railroad were some of the most dedicated abolitionists, risking their freedom and sometimes their lives to see that the slaves were freed. One of the most well known leaders of the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman, was so dedicated to the system that she became known as “Moses” among the others for her extreme efforts to liberate all slaves.

All the events here eventually led to the Civil War, which would finally determine the outcome, an end to all slavery. Certainly this would have been much more difficult to accomplish and support without the brave men and women of the Underground Railroad.

Eliminate Television?

A large problem facing this country today is separate opinions about the fate of television. Many people say that if there was no television, students would do better in school and grow up with better morals and values. Many also complain that television is too violent.

In my opinion, these people are simply complaining about something that they could personally control without interfering with other people’s lives. Television is just too important in today’s society to simply eliminate it like it never existed. First of all, television is becoming a larger source of news and other current events information than anything else. Television news broadcasts are overtaking newspapers, and some people would miss important events coverage. Certain opponents of this position say that using television news instead of newspapers can contribute to illiteracy. You still have to be literate to read headlines, certain pieces of information shown on screen, and so on. Another thing provided by television news is weather, which you must be aware of. This can provide constant broadcasts rather than once a day information like newspapers.

Television is also a way for advertisers to have their products heard about in large numbers. As much as people hate commercials, they are a vital part of the media, and it would be hard for many businesses to function without them. Speaking of businesses, television advertising can often give opportunities for jobs or recommend internet sites that can help employment rise. Even the local channels keep people in the area informed of events on a constant, live basis.

As for the issue of violence, if children are being exposed to too much on television today, it is their parents’ responsibility to protect them. If all programming is censored, then people mature enough to handle it and distinguish reality from fiction will be deprived of something they have a right to. People don’t complain about this in movies, because they have specific ratings. This is now being done with television shows, and technology such as the V Chip allows parents to easily block out shows they find offensive.

In conclusion, television is a vital part of society today, and simply eliminating it, in my opinion, would just be taking the easy way out of a problem that can be solved with only a little compromise.

A “Memorable” Vacation

Many vacations begin with expectations that you will have a great time and everything will be perfect. Often times, however, the outcome is slightly different. The recent music trip to Virginia Beach was somewhat similar to this, and I’m sure that everyone has heard of it and everyone who was there will remember it for a long time.

My story began when the buses arrived at the school and I discovered that I could not bring my backpack along with me. Also, it was too big to fit in my locker. Analyzing the situation, I rushed back into the school and put it in the music office, attaching a note that said not to move it. I then ran back out and got on my bus, discovering that my hurry was unnecessary because we sat there for twenty minutes before moving.

The trip wasn’t bad, except that we stayed at one rest stop for about half an hour and didn’t get to eat until after eight. Also, we didn’t actually arrive at the hotel until about 11:45, a bit later than the scheduled time of 9:30. When we got up to the room, there were two beds, a sofa, and the floor, and four of us in the room. I, of course, was assigned the floor, where I would spend the next three nights. Luckily, I was allowed to use the cushions from the couch as a bed.

The next day, we were supposed to take a trip to a nearby naval base, but when we assembled, we found out that our bus had broken a belt (an omen of things to come.) This was actually somewhat good, because we were allowed to stay at the hotel and relax. The rest of the day was uneventful, except for getting lost at the mall we visited for dinner and having to search for our buses for twenty minutes. Also, one member of my group made some coffee at ten at night and kept us up making noise for about two hours.

The next day, nothing happened until around eight at night. We were supposed to go to Norfolk State University to watch a jazz band performance, but sure enough, our bus had broken down again. We were once again allowed to stay at the hotel, but were now confined to our rooms. Also, my roommate made more coffee when we got back. Finally, we all went to sleep at eleven, but our chaperone woke us up at 11:45 to tell us the next day’s itinerary.

As for that next day, we were scheduled to march in a parade at ten in the morning, and had to get up at 5:30 to get there in time. It was about 75 degrees, we had to wear heavy wool uniforms, and our bus was still not working, so we all had to be split up onto different buses and stand in the aisle to compensate for lack of seating. By the end of the parade, we were all sweating so much we practically drowned, and we once again had to load onto the alternate buses. We returned to the hotel, checked out, and went back to the buses, where we waited for half an hour while the lack of seating and the heat caused vicious arguments containing quite a lot of swearing and vulgarity.

The next stop was Busch Gardens, and the day was going well until about 4:30, when I checked my pocket and realized my wallet was missing. I retraced my steps for twenty minutes, then checked with lost and found, then looked again for the rest of the day until a member of my group loaned me some money for dinner. The only good part of the day was the awards ceremony, where Plum won awards in every category it was eligible for, mostly first place, of course. Bus five, which was our broken down bus, was fixed, and we were finally able to get our own seats. We checked in at another hotel and settled in, and I finally got to sleep in a bed.

The next day, it was time to go home. We got on the bus and left for Williamsburg to visit quickly. When it was time to leave, two members of our group didn’t show up at the checkpoint, and when they couldn’t be found, we stayed to eat lunch. The members were finally found, and we left again. The trip home was going okay, but we soon had more trouble. One of the other buses had brake trouble, and we had to stop again. We pulled into a Wal-Mart parking lot and were able to go inside to use the restrooms, then returned to the buses. After about an hour, we finally left again, and traveled at a decent pace until we pulled into a McDonald’s in Breezewood for dinner. Unbeknownst to us, this was bus five’s final destination.

After we ate, we were told that our bus had broken down and they had to have another one sent to bring us home. The other buses left while we waited in the parking lot chanting “refund” for two hours. Around midnight, our new bus finally arrived, and we all got on and soon fell asleep. The ride was uneventful, and we arrived at the school at about 2:30 in the morning. This finally ended the trip we had all been looking forward to and were glad was through. Although so much went wrong, I learned many valuable lessons. Among these are that it is easier to wake up if you are sleeping in a really uncomfortable place, technology cannot always be trusted, and it is hard to spend four days in close proximity to so many of your peers no matter how much you like them.

...I am really reaching for new material right now. Also, that last story is 100% true, and most of it was actually worse than I described it.

Posted by CD at 11:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 05, 2010

Craigslist. Just...Craigslist

Like the post title says, I've been having some more fun with Craigslist. In addition to the TV/film/video/radio section, I also check a couple other sections each day to see if I can make some extra money writing or proofreading, since I'm actually better at both of those at the moment than film editing (though editing is much, much, much more fun when it goes well).

Anyway, I happened to come across this ad in one of the writing sections. The gist of it is this:

I'm having a creative writing contest for my bicycle, which I'll be giving away to the winner of my choosing June 7th.


I thought about selling it here, but the more I thought about it the harder it became to name a price. This bike is my very favorite possession. I find it painful to imagine thinking, "Well, all those good times and feelings I had were worth $300."

The conclusion I came to is that I will get much greater satisfaction giving it away to a deserving winner. I want a starving artist to benefit from their skill. Please do not enter if you already have a functioning bike. I would, however, appreciate if you suggested the contest to someone you know who could use the bike.

So here are the rules.

I want a short written entry of 500 words or less demonstrating your skills as a writer.
Submissions must include either an email address or a phone number which you will respond to. Including both is better.
It can be any type, style, format, etc.
It does not need to be originally written for this contest.
If poetry, multiple pieces are allowed.
I am the final judge on the winner.

Sure, it's a noble idea, but I have a feeling that if someone other than a "starving artist" really wanted that bike, and they managed to track this guy down, they could find a way to convince him that writing ability is less important than money.

I mean, the rules are so broad that even a haiku could win. For example, one written on the back of a check:

Here's five hundred bucks
Now please give your bike to me
Thank you very much

Feel free to contribute your own rule-bending ideas in the comments.

Also, as you can tell by the UPMC building and the Heinz logo in the background, the picture in that posting was taken in Pittsburgh. Interesting.

Posted by CD at 05:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 25, 2010

Coming Attractions(?)

I guess I might as well stop pretending that I just came out of retirement temporarily to vent about Obamacare. I think that's four times now that I've decided to quit blogging and ended up coming back.

With that said, I thought I'd inform anyone still out there that I have a bit of a political essay brewing in my mind. It's about the weird dictatorship fetish certain liberals seem to have, and an intriguing (to me) Shakespearean connection I made to it recently. It's tentatively entitled "Democrantz and Guildenstatist."

Unfortunately (for you, anyway), I actually managed to get some useful information and potential leads from one of my networking contacts yesterday, so I may be too busy to actually write the thing for a few days. In any case, this post will be here to remind both me and you that I said I would do something.

On another note, go Hawks (that feels so weird to write), and Phuck Philly. Better for Marian Hossa and Ben "Babyfat" Eager to win the Cup than Scott "Fartsmell" Hartnell, Mike "Leadership" Richards, and Dan "Rapestache" Carcillo.


Posted by CD at 11:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 12, 2010

More of My Bizarre Thought Process in Action

I'm really not sure how to preface this. Basically, the other day, I was thinking about how the job of most modern politicians is to convince people that they enjoy being financially raped. My mind somehow made the jump from that to Stone Temple Pilots' "Sex Type Thing" (which is about a more literal version of the aforementioned political metaphor), and, thing led to another, and this was the result. For the full experience, listen to the song as you read it, but imagine it in Barack Obama's voice:

Tax Type Thing

I am, I am, I am
I said I wanna bring change to you
I said I'm gonna give hope to you
You wouldn't want me have to fine you too, fine you too

I ain't, I ain't, I ain't
A buyin' into your bags of tea
I'm organizin' the community
You think I care about democracy, democracy?

I know you trust me with your health
I know you want to spread your wealth
I love to talk about myself
I'm O, you know, you know, you know

I am a Dem, a Dem
I'll put your money in the safety net
I said ya shouldn't have achieved success
I said ya shouldn't have achieved success, achieved success

I know just how to run your lives
I know you can't disprove my lies
I'll call you racist if you try
I'm O, you know, you know, you know

Here I come, I come, I come, I come
Here I come, I come, I come

I am, I am, I am
I said I wanna uh...uh...
Uh...I wanna get...
Uh...let me be clear...uh...

The teleprompter, uh...
It isn't, uh...
It's broken, and, uh...uh...
I don't, uh...can someone...

There we go...

Here I come, I come, I come
Here I come, I come, I come
Here I come, I come, I come
Here I come, I come, I come

Here I come, I come, I come
Here I come, I come, I come
Here I come, I come, I come
Here I come, I come, I come

Here I come, I come, I come
Here I come, I come, I come
Here I come, I come, I come
Here I come, I come, I come

Here I come, I come, I come
Here I come, I come, I come
Here I come, I come, I come
Here I come, I come, I come

Uh, I think it's, uh...
I think it's stuck now...
Uh...hang on...



I've also been trying to rework Metallica's "Leper Messiah" as "Obamessiah," but since it's already about a demagogue using religious iconography to fool people into giving him money, I'm really not sure what I could change to make it more appropriate.

Posted by CD at 05:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 21, 2008


You know, as I look back on some of my old posts, especially from the first few months of SIT's existence, I realize just how much my writing has improved over the last five years. Writing has always been my greatest strength (which makes me wonder why I've decided to look for a job in film editing until I remember how much more fun editing is), but for some reason, most likely the blogging itself combined with all the essays I had to force myself through in college, I've gotten about 50 times better at it since I was 18.

This may sound horribly arrogant, but I really believe that if I were to go outside and randomly select 100 people, I would turn out to be a better writer than at least 98 of them. This would, of course, require an objective method of making that determination, so it'll never actually happen.

It's really too bad that I hardly ever blog anymore, and that hardly anyone reads it when I do. Maybe I should try to fix both of those problems...

Posted by CD at 07:03 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 13, 2006

I Am A Machine

The script is finished...mostly. 93 pages. I still have to proofread and add some info at the beginning, but the actual writing process is done. I think it's pretty good. It needs some improvement, but considering the circumstances, I'm happy with it. Even though it's a little on the short side, I was able to include every scene and every line I've come up with throughout the semester. That's a satisfying feeling.

Now all I have to do is finish my anthropology report that's due in 25 hours...and I'm leaving on Thursday afternoon. Woohoo.

And yes, I will be posting the script when I go home. However, it's really just a rough draft, since I plan to keep working on it and possibly enter it into a contest in the spring. In any case, it will only be here for a limited time (is this the Wendy's blog?), so be on the lookout.

Being nocturnal has its perks...

I figured that since this script is kind of about photography, it would be appropriate to show you a couple pictures of it.

Here's the professional looking title page, blurry in this shot because my phone takes terrible pictures.

And here is what 96 pages look like. Also, my arm isn't really as hairy as it appears in this photo.

I should go to bed soon. I imagine it would be hard to use "I overslept" as an excuse for not turning in something that's due at 5 PM.

Posted by CD at 06:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 12, 2006

More Script Musings

Screenwriting is freakin' magical when it works right. I love how I can watch situations developing right before my eyes and then choose which direction to steer the action while still giving the characters enough independence to make it interesting.

Incidentally, if you've never written a script, the above paragraph may make very little sense.

The stuff I talked about in the last post is still causing a little bit of trouble, but the character development in this story is actually going fairly well. There have been several moments during the writing process that literally (and yes, I mean that) caused me to jump for joy because they surprised me so much.

For example, there's a scene where the protagonist is telling a somewhat boring story about getting lost in New York City and finding a restaurant, and it somehow turned into a profound commentary about taking chances in life (which is one of the main themes of the film, inspired by my recent revelations). Also, the aforementioned story is based on something that actually happened on a high school band trip to New York. So, like I said, experiences matter.

I'm currently on page 39, and I've written another 10 pages from other parts of the story, so I've got approximately 50 completed pages. The average script is between 90 and 120 pages. This is due on Wednesday at 5 PM.


UPDATE (6:00 AM)
Up to page 51 (which means 61 pages total). Yay.

Posted by CD at 03:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 11, 2006

Screenwriting Teaches You About Yourself

So...I'm desperately trying to make up for the fact that I've been ignoring my TRF script for most of the semester by writing pretty much the entire thing in a four day marathon session. I've gotten about 12 pages written in the last 24 hours, which leaves about 70 to go. Fun stuff.

In the process, I've discovered how limited my background has made me. They say to "write what you know," and having not had much of a life up to this point, I sometimes have trouble figuring out ways to make the plot interesting.

Case in point: The story I'm working on this semester (which will probably be posted to the blog when it's done) contains a romantic subplot. Yeah. For the first time in my life, I'm trying to write a convincing love story. It's not the main story (which is much more complicated and can't be explained in less than a paragraph), but it is integral to the larger plot.

However, seeing as how I've never had a girlfriend or a date or a...non-platonic hug...or anything...I'm finding it extremely hard to write realistic chemistry into this thing. I think it's going pretty well so far even though everything I know about relationships is stuff I learned from TV/movies and observing others from a distance, but still...writing about things you haven't experienced is hard. I need to go out and live more. One of my main problems as a writer is that I have a really hard time coming up with ideas, and it hit me recently that it's probably because I don't have any experiences from which to draw inspiration.

Have I mentioned that I'd like to relive the last decade or so?

Incidentally, the mentally paralyzing depression that partially contributed to my inability to get any work done since October seems to be lifting, but that doesn't change the fact that I need to have more life experiences.

I think I'll try to find some fun stuff to do back in PA over the break. If I don't die of a stress-induced heart attack before then.

Posted by CD at 02:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 26, 2006

Can't Sleep...Yog Sothoth Will Eat Me...Can't Sleep...Yog Sothoth Will Eat Me...

If you're looking for a really good story that will also freak you the fuck out, I highly recommend The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. For added effect, you can read it in the dark like I did for part of it.

And yes, the fact that I just finished it a couple hours ago and the fact that I'm still awake right now are somewhat related. My dreams have been weird enough already...

Posted by CD at 07:15 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

June 04, 2005

The Return of Bob and Joe

As promised, I'm posting my new script, "Bob and Joe vs. the Afterlife," the sequel to the critically acclaimed Bob and Joe: Back to Nature. As usual, however, I have to go through the introductions. You know the drill.

Anyway, this script is a bit different. Whereas Back to Nature was kind of silly, contrived, and spontaneous, the new one is much more plot-centered. I planned the entire thing from start to finish before I even wrote one page, and as a result, it's a lot more complex. I have my own opinions about which script is better overall, but I won't say which it is. You can decide that for yourselves.

Also...and I can't stress this enough...if you haven't read Back to Nature, you must read that before you can fully appreciate the sequel. Heck, it's been three months, so you might want to read it again even if you did see it before. If you're not familiar with the characters, you won't understand a lot of the jokes. For example, you won't get what's so funny about Jukebox, because I don't mention it anywhere in the sequel. Also, you won't know what a spone is. That's kind of important.

In addition, the same warnings apply to this as to the last one: It's rated R, and it's a lot more obscene than what I post on the blog. I tried to cut down a little on the naughty language this time, but as you'll find out, the profanity actually adds a lot to a certain new character's personality.

Another random note...if you don't understand what's funny about the call on Jukebox's phone (page 80 in the PDF version), let me know, and I'll give you a hint. It's a literary allusion...

Finally, a note on the writing aspects of this thing. Like I said, I tried to focus more on the plot since the characters had already been fleshed out a bit in the last script, so I think it's a much more interesting and engrossing experience overall. It's essentially a haunted house story, so I even tried to make it mildly scary in a few places. And yes, I did research actual ghost hunting techniques before writing the middle section.

It also gave me some practice writing from different perspectives, which is always good for character development. As I've mentioned before, I actually don't believe in ghosts, but I had to write from both a skeptical perspective and a "true believer" perspective to get this thing to work, and it was fun getting inside my characters' heads. I love this.

Anyway, without further pretentious rambling, I present: Bob and Joe vs. The Afterlife. The PDF is identical to the original, but is large and slow, and the RTF is smaller, but has no page numbers and a slightly different font. Choose either one...or both...or...neither...yeah:

PDF version
RTF version

PS: Feel free to write a review if you read it. I'm taking a screenwriting class in the fall, so feedback is always welcome.

(PPS: There is yet another sequel on the way, but it's going to be a few weeks.)

Posted by CD at 06:57 PM | Comments (2)

June 03, 2005

Script Update the Third

I'm now on page 84 of the new Bob and Joe script. It should be done by Saturday or Sunday.

Just in case you were wondering.

Yep, it's done. 96 pages long. Expect it to be posted sometime on Saturday.

Posted by CD at 03:11 AM | Comments (1)

May 26, 2005

Script Update the Second

I'm now on page 42 of the new Bob and Joe script. This thing is going to be good.

(Why yes, I am avoiding blogging. I don't know why, either.)

Posted by CD at 12:24 AM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2005

Script Update

This isn't really necessary, but I thought I'd let my Loyal Readers know that "Bob and Joe vs. the Afterlife" (tentative title), the exciting sequel to Bob and Joe: Back to Nature, is now about 1/4 of the way complete. It should be done in the next couple weeks. I can't reveal too much information, but I can tell you that it somehow involves a man named Thaddeus Pricklestankler and a mansion from the 19th century. More details will be available once they actually exist.

By the way, if you're planning on reading the new script, I highly recommend reading "Back to Nature" first, or you won't get half the jokes. Seriously.

Posted by CD at 12:07 AM | Comments (1)

March 21, 2005

Good News, Everyone!

Those of you who have watched Futurama should be suspicious already...

Anyway, I've devised a plot for the next exciting/hilarious Bob and Joe adventure! It involves ghosts and more people with weird names.

Unfortunately, I probably won't be able to write it for at least a month. But there is a sequel on the way.

Bye now.

Posted by CD at 10:30 PM | Comments (2)

March 01, 2005

Meet Bob and Joe

Well, I guess some of you do want to read the script I wrote. Hmm. I suppose I might as well post it. I won't have much time to blog until spring break anyway.

Just a quick introduction: As I said in the last post, this whole thing was an exercise in character-based writing, and it was largely stream-of-consciousness, so it most likely doesn't reflect the kind of films I'll be making as a professional. It's also much more obscene than anything I've ever posted on the blog, but compared to something like the South Park movie, it's pretty tame. However, it is rated R. You've been warned.

As far as the plot, I mentioned before that I had no idea where it was going to go, so it really surprised me a few times. At some points, it may seem like it was written by a crazy liberal (you'll understand when you see it), but in reality, I just decided to make fun of everyone instead of trying to send some kind of message. Nobody escapes from this thing without being made a fool of at least once (although I do tend to go easy on Joe, since he's basically a fictionalized version of myself).

Also, I'm planning on making several sequels. I'm not sure what they'll be about, but Bob and Joe are too funny to leave behind.

Now that I've done my traditional "introduce a piece of my art with boring explanations" routine, I'll post the script. It's pretty big, so I made it a PDF (I can make it into a text document if anyone has trouble with that). Click the link below to download it:

Bob and Joe: Back to Nature

Now available as a text file:
Back to Nature.rtf

Posted by CD at 05:44 PM | Comments (8)

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)