The Stone of Kings · Writing

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. 🙂 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. 🙂

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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Books I Love · The Stone of Kings · Writing

5 Quick Tips About Irish Faeries

That hat is red. Trust me.

I’ve been so busy learning about screenplays this past week, that I almost forgot to write today’s post!

With all due respect to the movie The Labyrinth, which I grew up watching over and over… and over, I’ve learned that faeries command more respect than from a fear of being bitten by them as if they were nothing more than beautiful bugs. 😉 My Grandma Caroline didn’t talk about the faeries often. But when she did, she spoke about them as if they were real. She gave me W. B. Yeats book on Irish Myth, Legend, and Folklore, and on page one I saw why she might have been so silent on them – “Beings so quickly offended that you must not speak much about them at all,…”

Huh, but we lived in America at the time. I guess old habits die hard.

But silence on the subject puts a damper in my story, so I did take a few liberties. I hope The Good People can forgive me. Which leads me to my first tip (many of these come from Yeats, some come from The Stone of Kings):

  1. “…never call them anything but the “gentry,” or else daoine maithe, which in English means good people,…” I’d much rather refer to them as Good People than Bad People anyway. 😉
  2. They are “…so easily pleased, they will do their best to keep misfortune away from you,…” I think I’d want these guys on my side…
  3. Don’t mess with the rath! – A rath is the faery’s fort. This can be a simple mound of earth. My mom says that the Irish even build some of their roads in such a way to avoid destroying a rath. And yet – we come to a bit of inspiration for my book – Yeats says, “Carolan,…slept on a rath, and ever after the fairy tunes ran in his head and made him the great man he was.” This leads us to…
  4. They love good music! My account of how O’ Carolan acquired his abilities is not completely accurate (you’ll just have to wait for my book to come out 😉 ). But I believe that it encompasses the ideas of how the faeries are easily offended yet appreciate a good tune. For more on this, read the story of Lusmore and the Fairies.
  5. If you want them to visit your garden, plant red foxglove. I believe this is something I borrowed from the story of The Priest’s Supper, found in Yeats’ book. When the priest comes along, “…away every one of the fairies scampered off as hard as they could, concealing themselves under the green leaves of the lusmore, where, if their little red caps should happen to peep out, they would only look like its crimson bells;…” In my book, anyone associated with fairies has red foxglove (lusmore) in their garden so the faeries have a place to hide. 😀

What are some tips you’ve picked up Irish faeries? Have you ever had a run in with them? Share your story! 😀

Writing

On Screenplay Writing

Image attributed to Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Most of the editing for The Stone of Kings is now finished and we’re in the proofing stages. I’m not quite ready yet to pick up where I left off writing my NaNo book.

*twiddles thumbs*

Okay, yeah, I’ve been reading. I’m thoroughly enjoying a novel called 6:59 by Nonye and Kelechi Acholonu, but I find myself feeling slightly guilty because it’s recreational reading.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in the last few years as a writer it’s that I’ve gotta DO if I’m gonna GROW.

Right now, I’m not doing much.

But I keep going over scenes of The Stone of Kings in my head and I keep seeing it as a movie. My high school writing class touched briefly on screenplays and I’ve realized that I never tried really writing one (I think I wrote a sketch at one point, but all I ever wrote at the time was short stuff).

So I’m trying it.

Hubby thinks I’m crazy. “Wait and see how well the book sells first.”

*puts on pensive face*

But what if I’m better at writing screenplays and I just don’t know it yet? I won’t ever find out till I try, right?

Right?

So I’m chomping at the bit patiently waiting for whoever has checked out Syd Field’s book at my library to return it. Till then, I’ve been reading screenplays for research. It’s actually pretty fascinating. In the last few days, I’ve read The 5th Element, the Back to the Future trilogy – did you know that there was no DeLorean in the original script o_O -, Thelma and Louise, and I’m in the middle of reading Titanic. It’s really neat seeing how things in the script played out (or didn’t) as compared to what’s on the screen.

Yes, I said “neat.” It just is. So there.

I’m having fun so far. And what’s the point if it’s not fun? 😀

It doesn’t matter if I write a screenplay and it never gets made into a movie. What matters is that I’m exploring a new medium. I’m looking to this experience to teach me other ways to make my writing more visual.

Show, don’t tell. 😉

Anyway, thinking of The Stone of Kings being made into a movie but never writing the screenplay seems silly. It’s like saying, “I’m hungry. I’ll wait and see if someone will make me dinner.”

I might burn the dinner, but at least I tried.

Have you had an idea and thought, “Hey, that would make a great movie!”? Have you looked into writing a screenplay? What was your experience? Share your story!

Writing

What’s In a Name?

You may think we're William and Charlie, or even Peter or Spiderman. But really, we're George.
You may think we’re William and Charlie, or even Peter or Spiderman. But really, we’re George.

If you have a sibling, especially one of the same gender, you were probably called by the wrong name from time to time. Growing up, my parents would occasionally call me by my sister’s name. I never understood why. After all, I had perfect recall of my classmate’s names. Why couldn’t my parents get two simple names right?

Then I became a mom of two boys. 😉 Enough said.

Charlie is the twentieth grandchild on my hubby’s side of the family. My mother-in-law just calls all her grandkids George.

Sometimes I want to do that with my characters. Every so often, choosing a name comes naturally, other times it takes research. I try to pick character names that have meaning for their role in the story. For example, I chose Ardan for the main character of The Stone of Kings because it means “high aspiration.”  An average reader probably wouldn’t pick up on it. But for those like me who revel in detail and happen to know the meaning, we realize from the start that there might be more to this clumsy little orphan boy.

Other name selections are more personal, like Sarah McKenna from Harp Lessons. She’s a fictionalized version of myself at that age, so of course her initials had to also be SM. Grandma Maggie is my Grandma Caroline and the story of letting strangers wander into her house for tea in case they were thirsty came from Grandma Caroline about her friend Maggie. 🙂

*giggles* And then there’s George. I couldn’t think of a name when I created the character in Harp Lessons, and I didn’t have time to research something at the time, so I borrowed the trick from my mother-in-law, and simply called him George. In The Stone of Kings, Hannah’s little brother (and Ardan’s alias) is also George. And in my NaNoWriMo book (tentatively titled The Secrets of the Kennel Plantation), George is the family name for the Kennel descendants.

The benefit of naming characters in a story, is that we, as authors, happen to know the character’s story and can name them accordingly. As parents, we have no idea what our children will grow up to do. My boys are William and Charlie, named for Shakespeare and Dickens. Will either of them ever grow to be great writers? I have no idea. But hubby agreed to their names because he was thinking of William Wallace and Charles Ingalls. I’ll be proud of them no matter what they choose to do with their lives as long as they live honorably. Personally, my mom happened to be watching Family Feud just before I was born and thought that the contestant named Shea had a pretty name. 😉

Do you look for meanings in names? Were you named for someone famous? Were you named for family? Have you ever looked up the meaning of your name and found that it totally described you? Does it not describe you at all? If you’re an author, do you have a particular method for choosing your character names?

Writing

How to Deal with a Bully – A Lesson From Uncle Henry

All bullies truly have green skin. But it only shows when they’re in Oz. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Charlie has recently become enamored with The Wizard of Oz. It had been a while since I’d sat down and actually watched it, but I still felt familiar with it mostly because of all the different comparisons people draw from it. The one I usually read about, being a writer, is why a reader doesn’t always need to see the man behind the curtain. In other words, don’t explain everything in your story. Keep the magic.

But then I saw again this funny little scene (I couldn’t find the scene I wanted by itself, so you get the “twista” one too):

In spite of the fact that none of this happened in the book, I just love it! I love the fact that Uncle Henry is face to face with this horrible woman and finds a way to make her look completely silly without even directly insulting her. Letting the gate smack her on the rear just puts the period on the whole thing.

Maybe this scene is not so much about writing, but it ties in with my personal theme as a writer; less irrational hatred and more acceptance.

In a world where people are more likely to shoot you because you were texting during movie previews, I think it would be nice for us all to be reminded to chill out and find a less aggressive way of addressing our beef with others.

Although, I seriously wouldn’t recommend making fun of your bully out-loud. 😉 But thinking of the way that they make themselves ridiculous (because most bullies are in some way), can help to keep you from lashing back until the situation can be diffused properly.

Uncle Henry heard his niece’s earlier complaints even though he was busy counting chicks. He knew exactly why Miss Gulch was there. I’m inclined to think that most people today would start yelling and even pull out a gun to chase her off their property. Even Dorothy tells Miss Gulch to go away or she would bite her herself.

I get it. We all get mad at people for one thing or another. But rather go on a tirade, we (emphasis on we here 😉 ) should try to find some other way to deal with the problem. Some things you just aren’t going to solve no matter how angry you get. Miss Gulch got Toto anyway despite Dorothy’s threat because she had “the law” on her side. But Uncle Henry had the benefit of displaying Miss Gulch’s ridiculous bulling by making her look like the fool she truly was.

I liked Uncle Henry’s style better than Dorothy’s and I hope I can find a way to be more like him. 😀

Would you respond to Miss Gulch the way Uncle Henry did? Or would you be more like Dorothy? Which one do you prefer?

Writing

How to Heal a Black Eye

What Biblical Christianity truly looks like. Image via the Huffington Post.

I’ve been waffling for months about writing this sort of post. Kristen Lamb once said that unless it’s their brand, authors shouldn’t blog about politics or religion. My brand is essentially “Be nice to people.” It’s what I write about. It’s what I hope encompasses all faiths and beliefs. But I feel strongly about this particular topic and I’m afraid I have to get Biblical. Please keep an open mind.

I’m a Christian. Not Catholic, not Baptist, not Methodist, etc. Just Christian. I attend a Church of Christ (a group that is autonomous from other groups), study the Bible, and try to live my life as best I can according to the teachings in the New Testament and learn from the examples in the Old Testament.

I’ll be honest. The actions of the Westboro Baptist Church over the last several years have really irritated me. It smears the name of Christian. They spread their message of hate in the name of God, and they have no Biblical authority for behaving in such a manner.

*Deep breath* Please don’t let the WBC influence how you perceive my following words. I believe the Bible teaches that engaging in homosexuality is a sin. But I will never tell someone that they will burn in hell for it. I’m not their judge. God alone is this kind of judge. The one Bible passage that I think the WBC really needs to consider (because their actions would suggest that they never have) is from 1 Corinthians chapter 5 (I’ve highlighted key phrases):

9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. 12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

Sin is sin. Whether you engage in homosexuality, or are a drunkard, or even someone who simply forsakes the assembly, there is no sin that is “bigger” than any other. And if you make the choice to sin, that’s YOUR choice. Just as it’s my choice to stick to my faith. As long as there’s no oppression going on between people, I really don’t see why we can’t be friends.

Because you know what? I sin too!!! And so do the people of WBC. Everyone sins (1 John 1:8). So who are we to throw other’s sins into their faces? Jesus never cast a stone against the adultress though he was the only person there without sin. But you know what he DID tell her? “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:2-11)

Did she obey? Maybe. Maybe not. But he didn’t treat her as less than human because she had sinned. And I’d be inclined to think that she would be more likely to obey because Jesus didn’t lay into her for her behavior.

Do the WBC people really think they are changing lives by their message of hate? I’d like to ask them in the words of Dr. Phil, how’s that workin’ for ya? What it does instead, is give a black eye to the face of Christianity. But you know how the black eye can heal? By the actions of more people like the counter-protesters who offered condolences on the death of Fred Phelps Sr. THAT is an example of Biblical Christianity in action. (Colossians 3:12-15) In the face of hatred and malice, these people showed compassion.

What I want most is for people not to assume that I hate those who are openly homosexual just because I believe that the way they live their lives is sinful. Plenty of other people live sinful lives and I don’t hate them either. I’m not going to cram my faith down anyone’s throat because I wouldn’t want others to cram their beliefs down my throat if I didn’t agree with them. We can find other things in common. However, I’m also not going to be shamed into not sharing what I believe because others have misrepresented it. And seriously, if you don’t want to talk about religion, we don’t have to. But I’m here if you do.

Let’s focus on what unites us.

Please share what you think! Do you feel the counter-protesters have the right idea? Do you disagree? If so, why?

Writing

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

I have been gone, I know. Typical. I’ve been dealing with other family issues that are terribly distracting and trying (and failing miserably) to keep up with my edits. I finally finished this round of edits (waaaay past the deadline, I might add), and the family issues are getting a little better for the moment.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t pop on here to say Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone, given my love for all things Irish. 🙂 Sorry I didn’t get the chance to plan out a nice, elaborate post on it. Complete with shamrocks, fairies, and claddagh symbols.

But Cead Mile Failte! And I hope to be back to my regular beat here very soon! 😀

Gluten · NaNoWriMo · Writing

When It Rains, It Pours

I’m thinking this may be a good look for our next car. Anti-theft paint! Image attributed to popejon2 from Paddington, Australia via Wikimedia Commons.

Well…

Okay, so trying to make this fun. Somehow. Who can make anything fun? SNL! I looked up Debbie Downer. I watch Saturday Night Live only occasionally, and I remember seeing a few bits with this character. In the Wikipedia article, it talked about the sketch where Betty White (as the grandmother) tells Debbie not to enjoy her birthday cake because gluten allergies run in her family.

Hahaha!

Why is this funny to me? I’ve always thought that my Grandma McIntosh (the last of my grandmothers who’s alive) resembles Betty White and she’s the grandmother who has celiac disease. In other words, I inherited my gluten problems from her.

So, what is it I’m trying to make fun?

Our new year is off to a bang-up start. The big thing is that less than a week into the new year, hubby’s car was stolen. And no, the keys or other valuables were not left inside, nor was it left in a high crime area. On top of that, the boys glutened me again, which, as miserable as I feel, after what happened to the car, it’s the least of our worries.

What a great way to get back into my blog, huh? I guess this explains my prolonged absence too. 😉

So, the bright side.

There’s a bright side? Okay, well,

1. They didn’t take the family car.

2. It was ours – not the bank’s. We don’t have to make payments on something we don’t have since we don’t like making bankers rich taking out loans.

3.We will be getting money toward a new one in the likely event that the stolen one is not recovered.

4. I learned a new emotion to use and correct for a reaction in my NaNoWriMo book: helpless, victimized, anger. My main character is kidnapped, and after this experience with our car, I’ve realized that her parents are not nearly angry enough about it.

Anyway. I hope your New Year is going better than ours.

Please tell me good happy things going on in your New Year! I need cheered up!

Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo · Writing

Finding Positives From the Worst November

I’m ready for next year! 😀

This is not the worst November because it was my first NaNoWriMo and I didn’t “win.” On the contrary, NaNo pumped me as a writer. I’m looking forward to finishing my third book in much less than half the time of my previous two.

This has been the worst November because it was parenthesized by the deaths of two beloved grandmothers.

So, positives:

1. My grandmothers were both ready to pass. They died in relative comfort. I’m grateful that neither one is in pain anymore.

2. I’ve proved to myself that it doesn’t have to take a year to write a book. Even one that requires a bunch of research.

3. I had fun posting my blog contest entries and engaging in the comments that were made.

4. I won the blogging contest! And Jessica has been gracious enough to allow me another month to finish my book. I’m looking forward to her critique. 🙂

5. I didn’t get glutened.

6. I got a new computer. 😉

Despite, and in some cases because of, the positives, I’m exhausted. So I’ve decided to take a two-week blogcation. I’d like to focus on family and finishing my book. In that order. 🙂 I hope everyone has fun with their pre-Christmas festivities. See you in two weeks. 😀

Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo · Writing

#30 Why Do You Think You Could Benefit From Manuscript Evaluation and Critique?

Pre-polishing. Image attributed to Scotty00 via Wanacommons
Pre-polishing. Image attributed to Scotty00 via Wanacommons

Despite having been a writer since I was 6, I’m still learning. Despite having a degree in English Literature and having taught High School English, I’m still learning. Despite having published a book and having another one under contract, I’m still learning. If I have ten plus books under my belt, I’ll still be learning.

I have grown a pretty thick skin. I need feedback whether good or bad because I know that it means I can learn to get better. That’s why I’ve been pretty disappointed that I’ve only gotten two reviews for Harp Lessons. Sure, I’ve had people come up to me to tell me that they enjoyed it, but I really want to know what they liked about it. I want to know what they didn’t like about it.

Help me be a better writer!

But even better than reviews, is having a professional evaluate my manuscript before it gets sent to my publisher. It’ll be great to have someone tell me which “little darlings” need to bleed out and which spots need to be beefed up.

I’m very curious how this manuscript is going to come out. I’ve never written anything this quickly before. I can only imagine how much editing I’ll need to do when it’s finished. It would be nice to already have a plan in place to adjust the parts of the story that need work before I even get started on the grammatical issues.

A different set of eyes is always helpful. Different people have a different set of experiences to bring to the table. A different editor can catch things that another one may not. Not that the other editor is a bad editor, just one with other experiences. And the other editor may catch things that the first one didn’t.

The bottom line is, I want to be a better writer. The experience of NaNo will be unique for me. I’m hoping it will help, but I’d like to know if by the end of it, do I have a descent book or is it just puked out words?

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

NaNo word count: A little more, but not much. Still not quite 26,000, but I didn’t get the chance to count. As stoked as I am that I found out I won this contest, especially for reasons expressed in the above post, I also found out that my Grandma Caroline just passed. She was a great inspiration for my writings. I will miss her tremendously.