Tag Archives: Stephen King

3 Things I’ve learned about Screenwriting…So Far

They're doing their best imitation of Mommy.

They’re doing their best imitation of Mommy.

At the time of writing this post, I’ve got about 32 pages of my screenplay written. The goal, so I’m told, is to keep it around 120. While I’m having fun with this project, I’m also learning why books always seem better than their film counterparts.

I love details. I love the ins and outs of knowing why things happen. I love knowing exactly what motivated ¬†a character to say or do what they said or did. I’ve always kind of known why movies can’t portray this as well as books, but I’m “getting” it better.

On the other hand, I also love the “Behind the Scenes” features. So this experience (whether or not it gets produced) is a real treat. ūüôā I feel like I’m getting a blast of “Behind the Scenes” for all the movies I’ve ever watched, by learning how they were originally created. So for all you “Behind the Scenes” junkies like me, here are some things I’ve learned:

1. Writing “meanwhile” scenes is tricky.

Okay, so maybe there’s a technical term here that I haven’t learned yet. You know when important things happen at the same time? That’s what I’m calling “meanwhile” scenes. Like, in The 5th Element, when Leeloo fights the Mangalores during Diva Plavalaguna’s concert. The way those scenes are presented would be very confusing to read if a novel presented them that way, and it wouldn’t have the energy.

So I’ve got two scenes where Thomas and Ardan discover Bresal’s book of faerie spells while Bresal is out with Turlough in the garden having a secret chat with a faerie chief. The scenes are written separately, but that doesn’t work visually. Figuring out how to chop them together so that they both end when the boys vanish in a flash of light was an interesting task.

2. Killing darlings is tough. 

If you’re not familiar with the phrase, I believe it was coined by Stephen King. He uses it anyway in his book, On Writing. Your darlings are the passages of text that, in the words of Ralphie from A Christmas Story, rarely¬†have the words pour from your penny pencil with such feverish fluidity. But rather than having readers go over your work with the Romeo and Juliet theme playing in the background, their likely to give your beloved words a 2 star review (translated in my mind as C+).¬†

I killed many darlings already in the The Stone of Kings, but the slaughter continues, not only for the sake of time, but also for losing visual interest. In my book, I have Turlough play two songs that help to encompass who he is. But describing the performance is much shorter than presenting it. So he only plays the song which helps to set the tone of the story. I’ve read how the inciting incident (in this case, when the boys find the magic book and promptly send themselves 300 years in the future), is supposed to happen around page 30 of a screenplay. Killing more darlings helped me to be on track. ūüôā

3. Research starts anew.

I thought I’d put my biography of Turlough O’Carolan away when I got the major edits done on the novel. But then there were things that I didn’t bother mentioning in the novel, that I had to mention in the screenplay.

After Turlough wakens from his fever with smallpox and realizes he’s blind, the scene in the book is written from his point of view, so I didn’t bother to talk about Mrs. MacDermottRoe’s appearance. She’s the lady who eventually has him trained as a traveling harper. But I didn’t think that having an entire scene from Turlough’s blind perspective would work for the movie, so I had to give some description so that if this gets produced, they could cast an appropriate female for this minor role. Mrs. MacDermottRoe was, in fact, only about 5 years older than Turlough.

Do you like “behind the scenes?” Are you frustrated when movies don’t quite capture the book? Are you understanding of filmmakers when they leave out your favorite scene from a book?

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Filed under The Stone of Kings, Writing

#5 How Did You Get Started Writing

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Hee hee. I remember being six years old and sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table when I composed the following:

Oh, Miss Dog, please marry me,

For I have not seen a flea.

I beg you on one knee,

Please will you marry me?

Soon after I started a short story called The Blabbacca¬†about an animal made of all sorts of other animal parts. And no, I hadn’t even heard of Frankenstein at that time.

Guess I had a thing for animals.

I later went on to write more short stories and poetry through high school. I was part of a creative writing pilot program at Pinellas County Center for the Arts. But a book? Pfff! How could I ever draw my ideas out for that long?

Then, I started working for Verizon. While it was a great job, it was so dismally dry for me creatively, that my brain finally started screaming, “Write something! Please!”

“Okay! Okay!” So pulled out my trusty journal before my brain got out the big wooden¬†spoon. I was mostly through writing Harp Lessons, when I came up with the idea for The Stone of Kings.

The book ideas multiplied like rabbits after that.

But seriously, that first draft of Harp Lessons (though I was super proud of myself for having written something that long) was so rough, you could have sliced an artery on it. The only writing¬†craft book that I’d read at that point was Steven King’s On Writing. While a great book, my skills needed (and still need) a lot more polishing.

But I got lucky.

Astraea Press took pity¬†a chance with me and helped me tighten my story a little more and in the meantime, they introduced me to wonderful¬†bloggers like Kristen Lamb and¬†voice-of-reason editors like Kay Springsteen. I’ve been reading craft books with as much relish as if they were episodes of Law & Order: SVU.

So yeah, I’m still “getting started.” ūüėČ

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 3,806 Gah!

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Filed under Blogging Contest, NaNoWriMo, Writing

How To Get Inspired – Part 1

Um, is that a ghost in the window?¬†Whew! Nope, just a lamp shade. No, wait…¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Image via Wikimedia Commons.

A couple of weeks ago, Hubby and I got the chance to stay for a few days at Estes Park, Colorado. The boys didn’t join us. Instead they had¬†a great time¬†at my sister-in-law’s farm. William’s tears kept spilling out all the way to the airport on the day we left (“I’m going to miss my cousins!”). But Estes was fun for us. When we weren’t hiking the incredible Rocky Mountains (this was my first time experiencing them),¬† we explored the town. Of course, we couldn’t ignore the huge, historic, and haunted,¬†Stanley¬†Hotel which overlooked it.

At first, hubby said that it was the hotel where The Shining was filmed. But this turned out to be half true. It was the setting for the mini-series, not the movie with Jack Nicholson. But more importantly, it was where Stephen King was inspired to write that novel.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never read The Shining, nor have I seen the movie. I’ve seen the first part of the miniseries since we got back. I have a hard time swallowing much of Stephen Kings works though I’ve read a few. I like his plot ideas and description. Some of his content pushes my boundaries a bit too much and turns me off, but none more so than the amount of expletives he uses. This is was especially true when I tried to read Blockade Billy. I couldn’t finish it despite how short it was.

What does fascinate me about King is how prolific he is as a writer. I enjoyed On Writing for the same reason I enjoyed Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone. Both books¬†caused ideas to light up in my head like a Christmas tree. So while at the Stanley Hotel, I remembered how King wrote about where his ideas came from.

Many people, non-writers in particular, often wonder how writers become inspired. King came up with The Shining after spending the night in that haunted hotel in Estes Park. But even he says that you don’t have to go through great¬†lengths to come up with a plot. Suzanne Collins came up with the idea for The Hunger Games while watching TV.

The key is to simply ask, “What if?”

What if a recovering alcoholic spent the winter alone with his family in a haunted hotel? What if in the future, there was one group of people who controlled the wealth and found a way to bring back gladiator style games? What if one of Turlough O’ Carolan’s guides got stuck in present day and began to remind people about who he really was? This last “what if” was how I started The Stone of Kings.

What about you? How do you get inspired to write? Does it wake you in the night? Does it hit you while you’re doing the dishes? Or have you had to go across your country?

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Filed under Books I Love, Writing