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Best New TV Shows of 2015-2016?

What New TV Show for the 2015-2016 Season is the Best?

I’m glad to be back and posting!! I’ve been down with health problems for a while, but I’m finally starting to feel better!!! During the time when I was ill I couldn’t read as much as I would normally have done because of migraines so I spent a lot of time watching television. While there are some, myself included, who are continually dragging television and its writing through the mud I realized that there a lot of shows whose script quality surprised me.

Let’s start out with a brief recap of some of the new shows which came onto the scene in the 2015-2016 season. For all of the shows I list I’m going to sort them from what I think are the worst to the best. Just as a side note, I’m only talking about the four major networks because they’re the only stations I get in my area.

For CBS-

3. Limitless – While the story is interesting the main character is written as such a smug and entitled jerk than I could not get invested in his story. This show did something extraordinary in that it created a reboot which was better than the original source material, the way its main character is written made me lose all interest.

2.  Supergirl – I have seen a few versions of Supergirl in the past but to me they all had the same problem. All versions of this superhero have made her seem too much like a whiny little girl who happens to have super powers where I would prefer her to be shown as a superhero who just happens to be a young woman. While I enjoy that this character is being used as a positive role model for young girls but I would liked to have seen her written as a little more mature.

1. Life in Pieces – While some have said that Life in Pieces with its form of showing four short stories which center around one family is merely riding on the coattails of Modern Family, I have found it to be a completely refreshing take on the family sitcom (which I actually like better than Modern Family). The main thing which I like about this show is its realistic characters. In watching this show I have been reminded of my own family and the families of my friends, which adds a level of genuinely to its laughs.

Life In Pieces

Best CBS show of the new season

  

For NBC-

2. The Player – This show…what to say about it? It is difficult to find the right words to describe it because, even though I watched a few episodes I still have no idea what the story was actually meant to be about. There were explosions, sexual innuendo and bravado but that is all I can call to mind. Unfortunately this is a show which relied so heavily on its FLASH BAM elements that it fails to come up with a believable or interesting story.

1. Blindspot – This has easily been my favorite show of the entire year. It has some of the same FLASH BAM elements which I mentioned in The Player, I mean I don’t think an episode has gone by without an explosion or gunfight of some kind, but its multi-faceted characters and multilayered plotlines offer it more substance than flash.

Blindspot

Best CBS show of the new season

For ABC –

2. The Muppets – As a fan of the Muppet movies of the past and the ones which have been released in recent years I was very excited to hear that ABC was planning on making a Muppets TV show. My excitement completely wore away as I watched the first episode. I was hoping for a return to the Muppet Show of the past but was instead greeted by a combination reality show mockumentary with inappropriate innuendos. This show just feels wrong and to my mind isn’t an accurate representation of what the Muppets are.

1. Quantico – Like many ABC shows Quantico relies a bit heavily on its steamy elements (ala Grey’s Anatomy). However its time jumping element combined with its terrorism and government conspiracy storylines have set it apart from the soap opera mold and have made it what I consider to be the best new show on ABC for 2015-2016.

ABC-Quantico

Best CBS show of the new season

For FOX-

2. Scream Queens – This show combines together all of the most annoying elements of the horror movies of the 90’s and blends it all together into a weird mashup. I really couldn’t tell if they were trying to make a horror or comedy show. The writing of this show is unfunny and so formulaic that it had no chance of holding my interest.

1. Lucifer – To be honest I actually don’t like this show, but it was at least a little better written than Scream Queens. In recent years the FOX network has been grinding out shows of this nature with suave antiheros, Empire being the most successful of these. When I heard the initial premise for this show I could imagine every character and almost hear the smugness of the main character. It’s better written than Scream Queens but I’ll still pass.

lucifer

Best CBS show of the new season

Best show of the 2015 – 2016 Season: BLINDSPOT

I am a big fan of spy/government conspiracy shows and am particularly fond of ones with a female driven cast. In the early 2000’s there was the JJ Abrams show Alias and more recently there has been Person of Interest, but that’s been about it. When I first heard the premise for Blindspot, a young Jane Doe with no memory of her past dropped off in Time Square and her entire body is tattooed with complex puzzles? Yup…I was intrigued. I hate it when a show is so predictable that I feel, even if I’m watching a new episode, like I’ve seen it all before. I also don’t care for shows that throw in random twists which don’t seem to fit any of the characters or the feeling of the series. You see I like it when a show has twists but I want those twists to feel like they arose as a natural progression of the story and weren’t just randomly thrown in to tick fans off (*cough*cough*Game of Thrones*cough). Blindspot has an intelligent script, and some of the strongest female characters I have seen on television in years.

blindspot2

Best CBS show of the new season

How about you? What did you think about the new crop of shows from the past year? Sound off in the comments!!

Even though this post was all about television, that does not mean that I have forgotten about writing!! One of the biggest factors which for me separates a good tv show from a bad one is the writing. Most importantly as I mentioned above I love when shows can avoid overly predictable plots without adding in twists which feel forced and the same is true with writing. I do not like it when I read back through my stories and particular plot twists feel out of place, like I just threw them in for laughs. So long for now!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: Escape at any cost

Imagine a character who is trapped in some way. Perhaps they are trapped in a menial job, maybe they’re stuck in a bad marriage or perhaps they are the captive of an alien life form. How does the character respond? Do they try to escape their situation? Imagine what lengths your character might go to in order to achieve their freedom. If they are successful in escaping their situation what do they do?

 

Have fun with this and I will see you later!!

P.S. IT’S GREAT TO BE BACK!!!

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Movie Adaptations of Books: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I posted this last year but I thought of some new additions to my list!! Feel free to comment!! 🙂

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Through Hollywood’s history there’ve been a great many movie versions of books which have seemed like perfect companions to their literary counterparts. However, for every good movie there have been at least three movies that make the fans of the novel want to hurt someone. We’ve all had that moment when we remember how good the book was and then we get all excited (and in some cases horrified) when we hear there’s going to be a movie. We buy our tickets and watch the movie hoping for something fantastic and in the end when the credits roll all we want to do is scream and throw popcorn. Well fasten your seatbelts movie fans, here’s my least favorite versions. (I know I posted this a while ago but I just re-read/re-watched a few movies and thought of some new additions to my list)

Romeo + JulietRomeo + Juliette (1996 adapted from the William Shakespeare play)

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Character Choices for Writers: How to Find What Works

Before you writer ask yourself if your choices make sense for the characters mindsets

Before you writer ask yourself if your choices make sense for the characters mindsets

Everything in writing has to happen for a reason and I have found that what works best is to have everything be determined by the characters. I usually start with the dialogue. It helps me to figure out what my characters need to say by first discovering what their voices sound like. The character’s voice has to make sense!

Crazy is as crazy does

Crazy is as crazy does

For example, in Stephen King’s novel Misery the character Annie Wilkes instead of using swear words says words such as “oogie”, “cockadoodie” and “fiddley-foof”. For most readers these words are very uncommon words in their lives so those words could be a bit hard to swallow. The thing that makes them work is the mindset of the character. In the book Annie feels that swear words have a sort of moral “dirtiness” and so she, with her form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, over-compensates to keep herself “clean”.  It’s like being an actor, when you are playing a character with a “questionable” grasp on reality it opens up your options for character choices because you can go outside of the realm of “normal” behavior. So when your write your characters, be sure that the choices you make as the writer are in line with the characters’ voices and mindsets. Change your mindset

In order to open your mind to different ways of thinking, and different mindsets, it helps to do some research into psychology and sociology. If you’re stuck on what kind of person your character is, or how they think knowing a bit of psychology can really help you generate ideas.

Short post, but I hope you got some useful tips out of it! Bye!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: Logic vs Philosophy

For this exercise you’re going to imagine a conversation between 2 characters. A proposes a classic philosophical question such as “If a tree falls in the forest and one is there to hear, does it make a sound” and B argues either for or against it based on the principles of logic.

Example:

A: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

B: Of course.

A: But how can you know that? You were not there to hear it?

B: The existence of the sound is not dependent on my having heard it. I might not be able to confirm that I heard the tree fall, but does that mean it didn’t happen?  

A: Um…

B. Bazinga!!! I win!!!!

Hope you have fin with this and I’ll talk to you later!!! Feel free to comment!!

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Bad Language in Your Writing: Yes or No?

Oh Gosh Golly!!!!!

Oh Gosh Golly!!!!!

Too many writers today have decided that in order for their work to have an “edge” then all of their characters have to swear like sailors or teenage boys. I am not saying that everything that you write has to read like an episode of Leave it to Beaver, but if you are going to use profanity you must make sure the words have their own flow.

All words need rhythm, even "bad" ones

All words need rhythm, even “bad” ones

In order for profanity to seem natural it has to have a purpose besides making your writing seem more edgy or adult. It needs to begin and end with the characters. In my daily life I at least try not to swear like I’m in an R rated movie but if I do something like drop a hammer on my foot all bets are off. That being said, my characters are not me and have their own unique voices. Any time my characters uses swear words it is because it sounds like it’s something natural for the characters to say. While swear words do not have a “classy” vibe, they can have a rhythm. If you’re ever worried if the types of swear words sound like they have rhythm it’s a good idea to read your passages aloud. If you reading your work aloud can’t make what the character is saying sound natural, you might need to rework the line.

Self-Censorship

Self-Censorship

One thing you need to keep in mind, especially if you plan to be published, is who your intended audience might be. If you are trying to get a kids book published then you can look forward to a lot of rejections if ever other word out of your characters’ mouths is eff this or eff that. You need to tailor your work to your audience, or more specifically to the publisher. I’ve said this before but if you want to be published then it is a good idea for you to research the kinds of things that the publisher has come out with before. If they normally publish things that are so clean they read as if they had been dipped in bleach, then they most likely would not be the best bet to publish a book with gratuitous language.

STOP TALKING ABOUT THE MAN!!! LEARN TO CENSOR YOURSELF!!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: Describe a Christmas

For this exercise you’ll need to create a character who lives in a country that is not your own. Do they celebrate Christmas? If so, what do they do? If not, how do they view Christmas? This exercise gives you a chance to research the cultures of other countries and to think of how they celebrate and view the holiday season.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

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5 Essential Pieces of Equipment for Writers

We all know that in fact you don’t really need any special equipment to write except for your brain and perhaps a pen and paper, but there are things which can make writing easier.

Write like the Wind

Essential #1: A portable notepad and pens/pencils: Inspiration can strike at any time so it pays to keep some notepads handy at all times. A portable laptop can be helpful but is by no means essential. Of course, most writing in today’s world occurs with a computer but computers, no matter how portable they are, are always going to be somewhat less portable than the humble and low-tech notepad. Also you don’t need to buy an ornate or overly expensive journal. You can go down to your local drug store and buy a slew of pencils, pens and notepads for the same price as one expensive leather bound journal. You can buy a leather bound journal if you want, but it is not essential.

Finding the best word

Finding the best word

Essential #2: A Dictionary and Thesaurus: When you are a writer words are your life so it pays to keep words near you at all times. If you want to be sure your readers understand what you are trying to say it’s a fantastic idea to be sure you are using the best words possible, or that you are using them properly. Have you ever read a book where the writer used a lot of posh words but rarely used them correctly? It’s like Amy from Little Women. She was always trying to speak with really grown up words, but she usually got either the pronunciation or meaning wrong. Writing works the same way. A handy dictionary and thesaurus are the best tools to help with this. (Note: If you are using Microsoft Word and you want quick access to a thesaurus take the word you want to find a new version of, highlight it, and then press the shift and f7 keys at the same time. A window on the right-hand side of the screen should pop up giving you access to Word’s thesaurus.)

Technology for the win!!

Technology for the win!!

Essential #3: USB Drive(s) or a portable hard drive: Most writers know that in today’s world of technological advances that most writing is going to occur on a computer. Like I said before, cheap pens and notepads are a great and simple way to jot down ideas whenever they happen to pop into your head, but in most cases the finished product is going to be written on a computer. USB drives can hold a massive amount of data and these days are relatively inexpensive. I caught a sale and was able to purchase a 15 gig USB for under $10. Portable hard drives are more expensive than USBs but they are another great way to backup your digital data. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of utter abandonment you get when your computer crashes and you lose your work.

 

Essential #4: An expansive library: All writers begin first as readers so having a large library of books at your disposal is an essential tool for generating ideas. You don’t need to break the bank to do this either. One of the best ways to do this is to gain access to your local library. Many libraries are now allowing their patrons to check out Ebooks as well as paper books. All you need is one little card and you have access to as many books as your heart desires. I spent my entire college career working in my school’s library and my hometown one as well so libraries will always feel like home to me. I say again, always remember that all writers begin as readers.

Virginia Woolf ~  A Room of One's Own

Virginia Woolf ~ A Room of One’s Own

Essential #5: A space of your own: Virginia Woolf once wrote that since the 1800’s in order for a woman to feel the freedom to write she must have at least €200 to herself and her own room. If she had those two things she would not have to be afraid of whatever other people may think of her and she could write as she saw fit. The same type of thing is still true today and not just for the female writers. If you want to write it is key that you have your own space in which to do it. Maybe your space is just a desk in a dorm room, maybe it is an office in your house, but the important part it that the space is yours. For my own part I like to write either at my desk in my room or on my bed, and I usually have either music or a movie playing. All of those things added together equals a place where I feel comfortable enough to write whatever may pop into my head. Writing is hard enough, give yourself a break and give yourself a comfortable place to do it.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Fortune Teller

Take a character from one of your favorite books and write a story that takes place before the events of the book where they meet a seer and get their fortune told. The fortune teller lets the character know what will happen to them at the end of their story. Imagine how the events of the original story would change if the character had known what would happen to them at the end. For example, how would Othello had been different if Cassio or Roderigo had known about Iago’s intended treachery from the start? Would Nils Bjurman from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo have betrayed Lisbeth the way he had if he had known how that would turn out?

Have fun with this and I will talk to you later. Feel free to comment, I love feedback!!!

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Movie Adaptations of Books: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Through Hollywood’s history there’ve been a great many movie versions of books which have seemed like perfect companions to their literary counterparts. However, for every good movie there have been at least three movies that make the fans of the novel want to hurt someone. We’ve all had that moment when we remember how good the book was and then we get all excited (and in some cases horrified) when we hear there’s going to be a movie. We buy our tickets and watch the movie hoping for something fantastic and in the end when the credits roll all we want to do is scream and throw popcorn. Well fasten your seatbelts movie fans, here’s my least favorite versions. (I know I posted this a while ago but I just re-read/re-watched a few movies and thought of some new additions to my list)

 

Romeo + JulietRomeo + Juliette (1996 adapted from the William Shakespeare play) ~ There have been thousands of adaptations of Shakespeare throughout the years so how can you really mess that up? How bout by setting it in what looks like modern Los Angeles and by having the Montague/Capulet struggle look like gang rivalry? That’s the ticket! Look, maybe it would have worked out if they had done the time shift with the gang war but had changed the language to suit the time they’d set the story in. Much of the costuming, particularly for the males, seemed to look as if it had been designed for RuPaul’s Drag Race. That plus the addition of actors like John Leguizamo makes this version seem more like a comedy then a tragedy. The writers wanted to make their version different from all the others so it would stand out but they strayed so far from the feel of the source material and to me it felt like a weird joke. Tip for writers: You have some creative and interpretive powers as the writer but when you go too far it will not feel natural.

 

Scarlett LetterThe Scarlett Letter (1995 adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorn’s novel of the same name) ~ Ok, well if you’ve never read the book I’ll just give a bit of a recap: this book is about a woman accused of adultery with the town’s reverend. That said I doubt they were quite as kinky as Demi Moore and Gary Oldman made them seem. Hollywood went a bit too far with this one. In a lot of movie versions of books the love scenes are drawn out to boost ticket sales but this movie takes a few too many liberties. Not only were numerous love scenes added, but the ending was morphed in a way that almost makes it seem as if the screenwriters said “sure it’s nothing like it was in the book, but the audience gets a happy ending and that just makes them feel so good”. Happy endings are fun, but not like this. I’m not saying that if you’re writing an adaptation of something that you can’t rework things a bit to make them work within your movie, but be smart about it. Tip for writers: If you are going to change major things from the original text make sure  you’re not destroying the whole thematic motif  of the text just doing it to make things “edgier”.

A pretty good movie, but a bad adaptation

A pretty good movie, but a bad adaptation

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) ~ This adaptation suffers from many things but for me it fails because of Keanue Reeves’ trying to do an English accent as Johnathan Harker, overdone violence, and for those of you who know the film you will recall the graveyard scene…WHY?!!! JUST WHY?!!! The writers/director of the film took particular elements of the novel and manipulated them so that they could distort as much lewdness and eroticism from them that they could. The film itself was a box-office success simply because the cinematography was very well done. For my part it is an alright movie when it is considered by itself, but it falls well short of the mark as an adaptation. Tip for writers: While I understand that certain novels have erotic elements you need to be sure that if you’re writing an adaptation you’re not focusing only on one plot point because then you end up sacrificing all of the others. In Dracula there were a lot of plot elements which concerned Victorian Religion but the film did not use them at all because they were focused on the sex. Oh and also if you’re writing a period piece DO NOT CAST KEANUE REEVES.

Alright enough of my complaining! Now not all adaptations are bad,  here are a few movie adaptations of books which I really think act as models of what writers of screen adaptations should strive for.

Sense and SensibilitySense and Sensibility (1995 adapted from Jane Austen’s novel of the same name) ~ There have been thousands of adaptations of Jane Austen’s works, but none captured the story so well as Ang Lee’s 1995 film. Emma Thompson took on the roles of both screenwriter and actress in this film and ended up winning a Golden Globe for her writing. Kate Winslet was perfectly cast to portray the young and overly romantic Marianne to Emma Thompson’s sensible and even Eleanor. The dialogue was so perfectly handled that even certain scenes which never appeared in the book seemed as if they had been there all along. Tip for writers: if you want your adaptation to be well received, then you have to make any of the changes you’ve created so natural that they feel like they could have been in the book from the beginning.

 

Fight ClubFight Club (1999 adapted from Chuck Palahniuk’s novel of the same name) ~ This movie with its sleek dialogue takes the Postmodern words of Chuck Palahniuk and translates them in a way that is both thematic and understandable. I actually had to read Fight Club for a lit class in college. I hadn’t seen the movie, and after reading the book I was nervous. I wondered how any screenwriter and director could take that book and translate it into a movie so that it wouldn’t lose its thematic integrity. After having watched the movie I can say that there was no reason for me to have been nervous. The writers and director of this movie were like magicians!! They made something which I thought would only be good as a book into a fabulous movie. Tip for writers: Use everything at your disposal (music, cinematography, dialogue) in order to capture the feeling of the novel or whatever you are adapting. That way when your audience is watching the movie they can feel the same types of things they had when they read the book.

Understatement is the mother of creepiness!! LOL!!!

Understatement is the mother of creepiness!! LOL!!!

The Haunting (1963 adapted from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House) ~ The concept of the haunted house has existed in various forms for years. One of its best versions was in Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House. Stephen King rates the novel as one of the best examples of the haunted house genre in literature and actually cited the novel as one of the greatest pieces of horror fiction of the mid to late 20th century. The 1963 film version of this novel, while only moderately successful at the box office, has become a cult classic and is considered by many to be one of the greatest horror movies of all time. The writers of this film changed a lot from the novel but everything they changed had a distinct purpose for the plot of the film. It did not feel like they had increased the shock value and add in tons of gore and gratuitous violence. One of the reasons the book was so scary was that it left a lot of things unsaid, giving the readers’ imaginations a chance to run amok wondering what or who is haunting Hill House. That same feeling was kept in Robert Wise’s film because 99% of the horror elements occur off-screen and the audience and characters both can only hear what is happening. The writers and director’s of their film also did something almost unheard of today, they kept the writer in the loop. They questioned Shirley Jackson about her intentions regarding certain scenes and also the characters and then got her views on some of their plot ideas. Tip for writers: If you’re writing an adaptation then you must  walk the line and pay respect to the original novel and its creator while at the same time exploring with your own ideas. Oh and also if your writing a horror movie/novel LESS IS MORE!!! More gore and violence might get you an R rating and perhaps some publicity, but with this genre of books and movies more opportunity you give your viewers/readers imagination’s run wild the freakier it will be!!!  

What movie adaptations of books do you love/hate? What about the movie made that impression on you? Feel free to comment!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: A Conversation with your Characters

Choose a character from a story you have written or are in the process of writing, then write a scene or multiple scenes in which that character interacts with you, the author. Write with the assumption that the character understands that you, as the author, “created” him or her and are responsible for the things that happened to them in the course of the story. Does the character agree with what you have them doing? What does the character think of the story? Write an exchange of dialogue (it doesn’t matter if it’s in play/novel format) between yourself as the author and your character.

Talk to you later folks! Please don’t be afraid to comment, I love feedback!!!

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