Why Do You Write?

I write for a living, but that’s not why I write. I provide 14 to 16 blogs a month for my clients’ websites. The research that goes into writing these blogs can be tedious and boring. Most times, the topics are fun and educational. I go home learning about random things like TMJ pain or why it’s not so bad to plant in the summer.

After writing so much during the day, it becomes difficult to go home and want to write about what really interests me. I force myself to log in to my computer and after that, my love for writing settles in. Once I’m in the groove of it, the real answers to why I write reveal themselves.

  • I blog because it’s therapeutic, almost like writing in a diary. All my thoughts go into a computer and become real. They’re corporeal. I’m able to read back these words and reflect on them, rewrite them, and delete them if I want. If something you do makes you feel great about yourself or helps you in some way, you should do it more often.
  • I write because I aspire to be known for my writing. Like all writers, I struggle with what to write first. The list of unfinished writing projects is accumulating. No matter though, as I’m writing now and it shows promise for my future. A little discipline is all you need sometimes.
  • I write because I want to help and inspire. I’d like to help in inspiring someone to accomplish their goals in life. Stephen King inspired me to write horror. J. R. R. Tolkien inspired me to write fantasy. Joss Whedon inspired me to write for television, and Wes Craven inspired me to write for film. All four men inspired me to write!

Hopefully, this blog inspired you. Why do you write? Let me know in the comments!

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All Writers Should Be Acting Too

The stage manager calls places. The actors, including myself, scramble to get their last pieces of costume on and touch up their makeup once more. I stand up, walk to where I’ll enter on stage, and take a deep breath. Thoughts of doubt enter my mind as I wonder if I’ll forget my lines or blocking, or if someone else will forget theirs. But I stay positive either way. Whatever happens will happen, and we will get through the show scene by scene, as perfectly as we can. The lights go down. I get ready to enter the stage but before I do I ask myself, “Why the hell am I saying these words?”

A writer tends to criticize other people’s writing in the same way artists criticize other artists. I’m no Aaron Sorkin but it’s important to go through a character analysis and even a script analysis and sit down with your director and ask why you’re character says what they say and how it should be said. A good director won’t show you how to read your lines but will explain the motivation behind it.

Ever since I began acting on stage again, I felt it has been beneficial to my writing process. I analyze the scenes I’m in and begin to see the importance of the scene and the dialogue in it. In order to become better in the craft, a writer should act in a few local theater productions for many reasons. Here’s why:

  • First, you’ll understand the courage an actor needs to be onstage. What you request of an actor to do and say onstage should be beneficial to the story and or signify a theme.
  • You’ll begin to understand emotions. Every actor goes through an emotion within each scene. What is your character feeling?
  • You’ll see the hard work that goes into memorizing lines and developing a character from the actor’s point-of-view. What you envision as the character might not be what the actor brings to life. Clarify the personality through description and dialogue, and also through the character’s “voice”.
  • “Voice” is how the character speaks. If the character is Southern, they’re likely to leave out the “g” in words ending with -ing. A writer may not realize they’re utilizing the same voice for each character. Once you’ve experienced acting, you’ll notice that each character is distinct in the way they speak and you’ll develop a different voice for each character.
  • You’ll notice if the lines sound natural. Phrasing can become a big issue in your dialogue. Reading your script aloud could assist with this issue.

Acting is also beneficial for other reasons. While acting in local theater, you meet more people and you can bring those personality traits to the characters you create. Acting also boosts your confidence and helps you to become more of an extrovert.

How has acting benefited you or your writing?

 

Oscars 2017: Who Should Win the Writing Categories?

Last Sunday, the Writers Guild of America announced the winners of the 69th Annual WGA Awards. Although based on an unproduced play, Moonlight was placed in the Original Screenplay category and beat out Hell or High Water, La La Land, Loving, and Manchester By The Sea. For Adapted Screenplay, my favorite movie of the year, Arrival, took home the prize over Deadpool, Fences, Hidden Figures, and Nocturnal Animals. These are all worthy films to be honored for their writing, but the Academy chose to shake up the writing categories a bit. For the 89th Academy Awards, Moonlight was placed in the Best Adapted Screenplay category this time and will battle Arrival on Sunday. Here’s who I’m rooting for.

For Best Adapted Screenplay, the Academy nominated Arrival, Fences, Hidden Figures, Lion, and Moonlight.

This list is comprised of better, stronger screenplays and is the tighter race. Arrival won the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Adapted Screenplay but was left off the list of nominees at the Golden Globes. Eric Heisserer, mostly known for horror films, created a new language for the film. That alone deserves an Oscar! In what is arguably the biggest twist in 2016 cinema, the story examines how we fear and hate what we don’t understand. By the end of this topical tale about language, you’ll find yourself questioning the decisions you make in life. Since Moonlight is considered an adapted screenplay now, it now battles Arrival for the win. It’s quite good but not as smart as Arrival. I appreciate seeing homosexuality addressed in an environment where it is not accepted, but we’ve seen this before in Brokeback Mountain. The other contenders in this race are strong aside from Fences, which I find to be a close copycat to the play of the same name.

Who Should Win: ARRIVAL (Eric Heisserer)

Honorable Mention: MOONLIGHT (Barry Jenkins)

For Best Original Screenplay, the Academy nominated Hell or High Water, La La Land, The Lobster, Manchester by the Sea, and 20th Century Women. 

Damien Chazelle (La La Land) tied with Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By The Sea) for Best Original Screenplay at the Critics’ Choice Awards, but he took the sole screenplay prize at the Golden Globes. Although I praise Chazelle for creating a beautiful film, La La Land is not as great as Chazelle’s previous film, Whiplash.  It’s built so much momentum from its previous accolades that it’s the front runner to win Best Picture, but only two of those original songs are great and, although it doesn’t end happily, I didn’t leave the theater as sad as I left Moulin Rouge! or as satisfied like I did with Chicago. Manchester By The Sea has a simple plot, but is driven by strong characters. The writing is wonderful and is expressed in much of the dialogue and visible in the character arcs. The script takes the lead character (Casey Affleck) and drags him through his journey as he takes on the role of the guardian of his nephew. Best Supporting Actor nominee Lucas Hedges even deserves the Oscar over front runner Mahershala Ali (Moonlight).

Who Should Win: MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (Kenneth Lonergan)

Honorable Mention: HELL OR HIGH WATER (Taylor Sheridan)

Who would you like to see win in these categories?

5 Broken Heart Films to Watch on Valentine’s Day

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What is there to say about the romantic comedy besides the fact that it is not my favorite genre. If you ask me out to see a movie, chances are I’m choosing to watch something scary. I have a great deal of appreciation for horror films and what real-life horrors they represent. I also like Oscar-bait films, sci-fi, musicals, and many more. It just takes more than a love story to grasp my attention. When movies (especially romance films) end unhappily, I leave the theater with something more to say. Since I end up enjoying those films more, feel free to read on and view a list of my romance films that leave you with a broken heart at the end.

Titanic (1997): Now viewed as a corny guilty-pleasure, upon its release James Cameron’s Titanic was Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster and referred to as “flawlessly crafted” by film critic Roger Ebert. Deserving of all its accolades, the film teaches us that love is not defined by social class, or anything else for that matter.

Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind (2004): I must love me some Kate Winslet because here’s another film with her in it. The screenplay is beautifully written by Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation) and demonstrates what happens if we were able to erase the memories of the past. After all, it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Edward Scissorhands (1990): Following the success of Batman, Tim Burton combined Universal classic monsters, fairy tales, and German Expressionism to create the story and character of Edward. Burton showed that not all fairy tales end happily, albeit the main theme of the film dealt with self-acceptance and tolerance.

Brokeback Mountain (2005): Brokeback is acknowledged as being the vehicle for gay cinema into the mainstream. The sexuality of the characters is controversially debatable, however the film finds two men falling in love with each other but separating and building unhappy heterosexual relationships with women. It was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 2006 but lost to Crash.

Moulin Rouge (2001): Take Romeo + Juliet (1996) and add song and dance. It is visually stunning and is energized by the dozens of love songs used as musical numbers. Director Baz Luhrmann creates arguably the most entertaining musical ever and ends it like a Greek tragedy.

Yes, I’ve left a lot of films off of this list and some good ones, too. Comment below and tell me some of your favorite broken heart films.

Happy National Screenwriters Day!

Today, we honor the people who started it all! It’s safe to say a movie begins with an idea, and out of that comes the screenplay. So, we celebrate our favorite movies because of the men and women who wrote them.

Here’s a list of my favorite screenwriters who have inspired me and continue to inspire me on my journey to becoming a successful screenwriter, myself:

  1. Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Match Point)
  2. Alan Ball (American Beauty)
  3. James Cameron (Aliens, Titanic)
  4. Paddy Chayefsky (Network)
  5. Damien Chazelle (La La Land, Whiplash)
  6. Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous)
  7. Eric Heisserer (Arrival, Lights Out)
  8. Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Story by Kaufman, Michel Gondry, and Pierre Bismuth)
  9. Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Dark Knight – also written by Jonathan Nolan)
  10. M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense)

There’s many more to mention! Quentin Tarantino is amazing with dialogue in all of his films. Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” is a masterpiece of its time. Dustin Lance Black wrote a powerful screenplay with “Milk”. And, I hope Tina Fey, Amy Schumer, and Kristen Wiig continue their screenwriting careers after the successes of “Mean Girls”, “Trainwreck”, and “Bridesmaids”, respectively.

Who are your favorite screenwriters?

New Year’s Resolutions for the Writer

The universe has a funny way of blocking me from certain goals. If I’m at the gym and I want to run four miles, I’ll get a phone call from mom who wants to talk my ear off or I’ll get the workout poops in the middle of a run. It happens! The same thing happens when I want to write.

Right now, I’m experiencing a lot of writer’s block, but that’s only because I have so many projects in my head that my mind won’t allow me to focus on just one yet. It’s nothing some meditation and yoga can’t fix. But other things happen: Friends want to hangout, the boyfriend wants to see a movie, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Etc. Things get in the way, for sure.

But there are tasks you can work on that will help you with your writing goals.

  1. Write Every Day: Invest in a writing journal. Utilize it as a diary for daily use or dream journal. You can even purchase journals that give you a different writing assignment each day. There are some assignments you may not find too appealing and it will cause you to skip days, though.  Also, get out of the mindset of wanting to be in the mood for writing. Repetition is the key!
  2. Make Time: Your novel, screenplay, whatever is not going to write itself! READ THAT AGAIN! You have to make time to complete your writing projects. If Diablo Cody could write “Juno” during her lunch breaks at work, then you can find the time to write. Communicate with your partner/friends/family on how much time you need within a day or week to write and follow that goal. But follow through with it!
  3. Focus On One Project: Our minds are filled with numerous ideas. I’m guilty of wanting to complete a horror screenplay in October, but once that month ends I don’t want to be scared anymore, so I begin writing my next project. Make it a goal to finish one writing project at a time. Finding writing competitions will help determine the kind of project you need to complete first. There are screenplay competitions, short story competitions, and they  can be pretty thorough in what they ask for. If you’re just writing to submit to a publisher, give yourself a deadline for your first draft, then give yourself a deadline for edits, and so on.
  4. Read More: What I mean by this is to find the material that closely matches your project and see what others have done. Don’t copy, but learn. For instance, if you’re a screenwriter, read more screenplays but read the scripts that 1) have been awarded for its writing, and 2) match your genre (comedy, war, horror, etc.). There are many screenplays available for download online.
  5. Finish It: Writing becomes tedious at times. Sometimes, we stray away from our projects and abandon them all together. Honestly, this might mean that our projects suck. But it could also mean that we’ve been working on the same thing for awhile and we need to clear our head. Take a break, come back, and get back into it. Change a character, delete a chapter, add a chapter. What it comes down to is heart. If your heart isn’t into it, then you most likely won’t get it done so make it something you can love after it’s complete.

Good luck on your writing goals for 2017! You can accomplish so much in a year. Your biggest resolution should be to actually sit down and get it done. Get to it!

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