Saturday, February 22, 2014

Why The Long Face?

I’ve been working on the same story for nearly a year now.  This is exceedingly out of character for me.  I’ve always prided myself on being a prolific writer, giving my plays and screenplays “two drafts and a polish,” a tidbit I have been clinging to ever since I read it in Stephen King’s nonfiction book On Writing.  And yet with this story, I have written it in screenplay form three times, got nearly 80,000 words into the story in novel form, and then reverted to screenplay form for a fourth “page one” rewrite.  And why?  At first glance, the piece seems little more than a genre piece.  And it isn’t that I don’t have other ideas that I’m excited about – quite the contrary, I have several potential projects that I could be working on.  What is it about this piece that keeps me still working on it?

This has been a notable year for me, for personal reasons.  I turned 40 in October 2013, which is the age my father Tom was when he died of cancer.  I have flirted with many of the same self-destructive habits that he had my whole life.  I held them as a badge of honor in my teens and 20s, and in my 30s juggled back and forth between viewing them either as an inevitability or as a problem to be attended to “tomorrow.”  But this year, if for reasons none other than numerological, I have felt compelled to address them.  At the moment, my health is good, as is my family life, as is my career.  I wish to keep them this way.

There is nothing in the piece that I am working on that directly mirrors the issues I deal with in my personal life.  “Andy,” the character I have been writing all year, has little in common circumstantially with me.  So why is it that I am still so glued to his story?  The glib answer would be: “I guess I’ll have to find out.”  But I am not feeling particularly glib.  I feel the real answer is that I am finally capable of giving something else the attention it deserves, not the attention I am willing to part with.  This may be an easy lesson for some people to learn – maybe they never even had to learn it – but for me it has taken a while.  And I am grateful for that lesson.

Monday, February 17, 2014

How To Write A Play

HOW TO WRITE A PLAY, by Tommy Trull

The following method has been meticulously researched, both through rigorous self-observation and numerous observations of other playwrights, both professional and amateur.  It is guaranteed to work, provided one follows each one of these steps.

1.      Open Microsoft Word.
2.      Find Microsoft Word not conducive to your process.
3.      Close Microsoft Word.
4.      Spend money on the newest version of Movie Magic Screenwriter or Final Draft.
5.      Discover that you cannot afford MMS or FD, so explore Celtx for a while before going back to Microsoft Word and promise yourself to take care of the formatting later.
6.      Open Microsoft Word.
7.      Select “Times New Roman,” and type your title at the top of the page.
8.      Realize that the title doesn’t “pop,” so change the font to “Courier New.”
9.      Change back to “Times New Roman.”
10.  Type “Cast of Characters” at the top of the page, and underline it.
11.  Chew on your left thumb until you develop a large, moon-esque callous just above the knuckle.
12.  Open up Google and type “awesome symbolic character names” in the search box.
13.  Check Facebook.
14.  Check your email.
15.  Absently play with your thumb callous.
16.  Notice that you have been playing with your thumb callous, and search the house for a nail file.
17.  Take a shower.
18.  Come back to the computer feeling mostly refreshed, and decide that a pot of coffee is what you need most.
19.  Email your favorite local actor/actress and tell them you’re thinking about them for a new play and are they free?
20.  Check Facebook.
21.  Change your gchat status to “Writing” or (even riskier) “Revising.”
22.  Absently play with your thumb callous.
23.  Remember that you had originally meant to find the nail file, and resume your search.
24.  Find the nail file, remember to floss, and return to the computer.
25.  File your thumb callous down while staring at the white page.
26.  Decide names can come later, and type “Father Figure, 50s” under “Cast of Characters.”
27.  Change the font to “Courier New.”
28.  Tweet the sentence “Writing can be a bitch, but I can’t not do it.”
29.  Take a cell phone picture of your title and cast of characters on your laptop, and upload the picture to Facebook with the comment “The journey begins …”
30.  Change the title’s font to “Broadway,” make it bold and 24 point, and then retake your picture to replace the one you have already deleted from Facebook.
31.  Check your email.  If your favorite actor/actress has responded with the question, “What’s it about,” delete the email.
32.  Check Facebook frequently for heartwarming responses to your picture and corresponding “journey.”
33.  Write a play.
34.  Remember to take care of the formatting.
35.  Change the font to “Times New Roman.”
36.  Set the script on fire.

37.  Repeat.