Saturday, December 15, 2007

Interesting Websites for Writers

Word Lab - visit main website
What in the Blinch is Wordlab?
Am I free to harvest this rich lingoplasm?
I like my neologisms defined for me. Why don't you do that?
Who can benefit from Wordlab's brilliance?
How do I use Wordlab?
Are you looking for a unique name or slogan for your business or personal use?
Does it cost me anything?
How can I participate?

Uses playfully distorted proverbs as prompts.

An exercise in finding meaning in nonsense.

Click the Generate button to view a new word. Keep clicking until you see a new word that suggests a meaning to you. When you generate a word you'd like to see listed in the WordGizmo Dictionary, please submit a definition. Include your name if you would like the definition attributed to you.

All entries appear immediately in the WordGizmo Warehouse. Selected definitions will eventually appear in the WordGizmo Dictionary.

Domestic Goddesses
A moderated E-journal, devoted to women writers who wrote domestic fiction beginning in the 19th century.

Greatest Film Misquotes
Some of the most classic film lines or scenes are really only legendary and/or apocryphal, or they are merely movie misquotes, but after many years of repetition, they have become part of the filmgoing public's consciousness. Many of these examples are film quotes that were either commonly attributed wrongly, or in fact were never actually spoken, such as:

In The Virginian (1929), one of the earliest Western talkies, Gary Cooper's taunting line was not: "Smile when you call me that!", or "When ya call me that, smile!", but "If you wanna call me that, smile."Play 1929 clip: (88 KB)

The legendary blood-sucking Count Dracula (Hungarian-born actor Bela Lugosi) never said "I want to suck your blood" in the Universal horror classic, Dracula (1931). However, the line was used in a humorous context by Dr. Tom Mason (Ned Bellamy) practicing his Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau) impersonation in director Tim Burton's Ed Wood (1994).

Costumer's Manifesto
Everything you could want to know. Research for a story or character or an indie film project.

Short Story Classics:
The Best from the Masters of the Genre

Canterbury Tales
On this site you will find William Caxton's two editions of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, probably printed in 1476 and 1483. The originals are both in the British Library

Cambridge History of English and American Literature
Considered the most important work of literary history and criticism ever published, the Cambridge History contains over 303 chapters and 11,000 pages, with essay topics ranging from poetry, fiction, drama and essays to history, theology and political writing. The set encompasses a wide selection of writing on orators, humorists, poets, newspaper columnists, religious leaders, economists, Native Americans, song writers, and even non-English writing, such as Yiddish and Creole.

Brain Candy
Brain Candy has been on the web since 1990! We started as an unusual collection of ways to have fun with words. Because we love language and words, we've been collecting bits and pieces of quotes and quips and songs and poetry for years and years. Our collections have grown through the years so that we now can claim to have the best dying words of famous people, the best celebrity sarcastic comments and insults, the best collections of jokes and humor. AND we've managed to keep our collections of word play and brain entaglement clean enough to be suitable for family viewing!

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American Museum of the Moving Image

Simple Plot and a Random Story Generator

The Simple Plot and a Random Story Generator spits out a random story idea that they use to illustrate how to flesh out a bare bones plot. It's kind of a fun exercise for your writer's brain.

From the website:

Fictional stories usually have a distinct plot or general summary of what happens in the story. A given plot can result in a number of different stories, depending on the specific characters, locations and activities.

Questions you may have are:

What is an example of a simple plot?
What are examples of stories for this plot?
How can I use this in story writing?

In a typical plot, there is the protagonist--who is the hero or heroine of the story--and the antagonist or villain. There is also often a bystander or victim of the villain.

Consider the following very simple plot:

1. A person sees a villain do something bad to an innocent bystander. This is a problem, dilemma or conflict for the person.

2. He or she tries to stop the villain, but the villain seems to escape. This is a point of tension, because of the possibility of failure.

3. The protagonist then makes a valiant effort and catches the villain.

4. The victim is grateful and rewards the protagonist.

By changing names, descriptions and actions, you can write a variety of stories for this simple plot.


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The Napkin Notebook
from MoMA

It is a little known fact that the first sentence in "A Farewell to Arms" was written on a cocktail napkin.This notebook conveniently keeps big ideas from getting lost. Includes 20 cocktail napkins, spiral bound with one ball point pen. Size: 5"sqr.


This is a fun website because it lets you "play" with the napkin notebook online, doodling or writing or anything, and then you can choose to share your masterpiece with the rest of the world. Also links to the MoMA webpage where you can purchase the real thing.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Southern Screenwriters Society [MSN Group]

"Come in a set a spell. Southern Screenwriters Society is a place for ALL writers. A place for those who write screenplays, poetry, children's books, novels, songs, etc. Our door is always open. We are here to talk about whatever is on our minds. We share ideas, get feedback on ideas, share a little advice with those who need our help, and work with each other on completing our goals. Sometimes we just set and talk about the day, our lives, our children, or our passions. We have contest updates, casting call updates, news, projects that we have completed, things we are working on, writing contest, and helpful hints for everyone. So come on in a stay awhile. Pull put a chair and relax. We are all family here. One big extended family."


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Creating Visual Scenes by Dorian Scott Cole

Creating Visual Scenes
Copyright © 2003, Dorian Scott Cole


Step 1.
Think of a scene as a miniature story. Scenes typically have a very brief opening that establishes the conflict, followed by rising tension, and a climactic resolution. Thinking through the scene, and then creating a representative shot, will help focus the drama and influence the visual presentation.

To create a story arc (rising tension) and a representative shot, ask yourself what character need is driving the action to this scene, why there will be a conflict, and what is going to happen in the scene.

Step 2.
Ask how important the scene is to the story. If the scene was missing, would the story still be intact? If no, it is an important scene, so choose an appropriate setting that enhances the drama, and if needed, give it time. But if the scene isn't that important, use the available locations or sets, and give it less time.

Step 3.
Sketch a single shot that represents the entire drama in the scene. This very visual shot would represent the height of tension where the conflict is fully developed, the climax.

This shot can also form the locus of activity in a short scene, so the drama will focus in this space. Any other set features then are incidental, and are there for variety only. However, creating too many scenes in this manner, that limit physical action to a small space, would make the movie (or novel) come off like a stage play. Cinema presents the probability of larger movement. Establishing a locus is one helpful technique for creating a short scene.

In the scene, to create the arc (rising tension) think through the battle. Make sure that the physical action matches your character's personality.

What would your character do? Think about a range of actions: cry, beg, demand, argue, build a case, use metaphors to help... While the original picture may tell the story, an individual character action may need to be altered to fit his personality.

When you are finished, you have a scene that is presented visually, is dynamic, and fits your character.


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Advanced Writing - Adapted from Writers Workshop Script Doctor

Advanced Writing - Adapted from Writers Workshop Script Doctor
Copyright © 1994, 2001, Dorian Scott Cole

Information on these pages is for writers who want to perfect their writing by raising their skills and writing standards to a very accomplished stage.
Creating Visual Scenes
Not "Just The Facts" In Stories
Engaging the Audience with Questions
Showing and Telling in Film
Understanding and Using Symbols
How To Engage The Audience
Making Stories Visual
The Writer's Craft - Views
The Purpose Of Dialogue
Using Concept To Focus The Story
Base The Story On Character Or Situation?
Choosing A Genre
Creating Honest Characters
Realism: Where To Draw The Line
Emotional Distancing
Developing Symbols and Motifs
Originality - Stretch Your Writing Skills
Originality - Outrun Tired, Predictable Storylines
Writing In Sequences
How To Raise Dead Characters
How To Use Motivation To Form Characters And Plot
What Is Visual Writing?
Five Power Points In Stories
Where To Begin Writing. How To Fix Your Story
Wife For Sale Example - Writing By Process Example
How to critique a screenplay (or story)

Distribution notice (General): You are free to give this article in its entirety to others (small groups, under 100) as long as the copyright with my name (Dorian Scott Cole) is included.


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Hollywood's Best Kept Secret: The Expanded Scene Breakdown

from Christopher Keane:

"What is Hollywood's Best Kept Screenwriting Secret? Answer: The Expanded Scene Breakdown. What is the Expanded Scene Breakdown? It's the middle step between the story development stage and the script itself.

Another step in the screenwriting process, you ask?

The Expanded Scene Breakdown is a 20 to 40+ page point by point, step by step, scene by scene outline of the entire screenplay in prose form using dialogue, character development, action, etc. It's an essential way to see the entire movie before you reach the screenplay stage."


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Structure and Character - by Robert McKee

from Robert McKee:

"Plot or character? Which is more important? This debate is as old as the art. Aristotle weighed each side and concluded that story is primary, character secondary. His view held sway until, with the evolution of the novel, the pendulum of opinion swung the other way. By the nineteenth century, many held that structure is merely an appliance designed to display personality, that what the reader wants is fascinating, complex characters. Today both sides continue the debate without a verdict. The reason for the hung jury is simple: The argument is specious.

We cannot ask which is more important, structure or character, because structure is character; character is structure. They're the same thing, and therefore one cannot be more important than the other. Yet the argument goes on because of a widely held confusion over two crucial aspects of the fictional role - the difference between CHARACTER and CHARACTERIZATION..."


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Top Ten Reasons to Write with a Partner

From the website:
Want to double your chance for success in this business? If so, we strongly suggest you write with a partner. Yes, you have to find the right person, and when you start selling your scripts, you’ll split the money, but we, and the successful script partners we’ve talked to, agree that the advantages of sharing the writing far outweigh the disadvantages of sharing the bottom line. It would take a book (and we wrote it!) to explore all the reasons to write with a partner, so we’ve assembled the consensus Top Ten, as follows... READ THE ARTICLE

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3 Seas Literary Agency (narrative writing, no screenplays)

From the website:

3 Seas is a full-service literary agency. We specialize in romance (including category), erotica, Chick-Lit, young adult, children's stories, female-focused fantasy, paranormal, women's fiction, historicals, regencies, westerns, romantic suspense, mystery and thrillers. We also represent non-fiction and other fiction genres. However, all queries sent to us will be considered, excluding poetry, novellas, short stories and screenplays.

We represent fantastic authors whose manuscripts are sold to major publishers. They have appeared on Best Sellers' lists, including The New York Times, Barnes and Noble, USA Today and Waldenbooks.

In addition, our authors have won prestigious awards, including RWA Golden Heart, Holt Medallion and Book Sellers Best.


3 Seas Literary Agency is RWA recognized
3 Seas Literary Agency adheres to AAR's Canon of Ethics

DISCLAIMER: This is not a personal recommendation by me. I do not know this agency or anything about it other than what they've published on their website.

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What are film genres?

From the website:

Film genres are various forms of identifiable types, categories, classifications or groups of films that are recurring and have similar, familiar or instantly-recognizable patterns, syntax, filmic techniques or conventions - that include one or more of the following: settings (and props), content and subject matter, themes, mood, period, plot, central narrative events, motifs, styles, structures, situations, recurring icons (e.g., six-guns and ten-gallon hats in Westerns), stock characters (or characterizations), and stars. Many films straddle several film genres.

Here's their list:









Science Fiction



The part you'll appreciate about this website is that it goes into detailed explanations of each major genre type and even discusses some sub-genres.


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Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Five Key Turning Points of All Successful Scripts

I loved my writing classes with Michael Hauge through the UCLA Writer's Program. I learned solid storytelling and proper craft***. Mr. Hauge was very approachable, easy to talk to and he seemed to genuinely enjoy being there in the classroom no matter how many dumbass newbie wannabe questions students needed to ask but were always too embarrassed to ask anyone else. He's one of the good guys.

This article from Mr. Hauge's website is well worth reading with the disclaimer by me that there is no chiseled into concrete ABSOLUTE RULE about the right way to write. If you've studied screenwriting, you already know that.

If you've spent time on writers' messageboards and forums, you will often see quite heated and silly debates about "the rules." I say there is only one "rule" and it is:

Whatever works, works.

Meanwhile, it doesn't hurt to listen to somebody who knows what the hell they are talking about explain a few basics. That's why I recommend you read the article named in the title of this post. Here's another link to it. And here are a few excerpts:

"Though writing a successful Hollywood movie is certainly not easy, the stories for mainstream Hollywood films are all built on only three basic components: character, desire and conflict."

"Film stories portray heroes who face seemingly insurmountable obstacles as they pursue compelling objectives... Plot structure simply determines the sequence of events that lead the hero toward this objective."
"In a properly structured movie, the story consists of six basic stages, which are defined by five key turning points in the plot. Not only are these turning points always the same; they always occupy the same positions in the story. So what happens at the 25% point of a 90-minute comedy will be identical to what happens at the same percentage of a three-hour epic. (These percentages apply both to the running time of the film and the pages of your screenplay.)"

Read the entire article (you won't be sorry and do remember to be wise about mentally storing away or using all the expert advice there is to be had in cyberspace and in books).

If you are a new writer (as yet unsold and/or unpublished and most likely without an agent although you may have been writing for years and have many finished works), you might believe that craft*** doesn't matter as much as character which doesn't matter as much as theme which doesn't matter as much as plot and story structure and on and on and any combination of the above.

It ALL matters.

Please, please, please do not take as gospel anything proclaimed by self-styled "gurus" of the writing trade that you will find lurking around online writing communities and messageboards. Listen to it all, sift through it, keep what makes sense or what you've had confirmed from truly authentic sources then discard the rest.

Heh heh... I've offended more than one fake guru suffering from Rampaging Ego Syndrome when I've made available the REAL deal by way of linking to a real authority or perhaps by posting the very excerpt posted by the Ego-Fake-Guru person as if it had been their own words.

LOL, I even had to have one messageboard shut down to public view when I caught one of the dummies posting my own writing as their work! Of course, it didn't hurt when the messageboard company was contacted by the reporter from the Washington Post who also objected to having her work copied and pasted without any attribution. That's a definite no-no.

In any event, Mr. Hauge's knowledge and expertise is absolutely worth listening to and digesting and then using if it makes sense to you. Give it a whirl.

Meanwhile, keep writing!

***CRAFT: There seems to be some confusion over the meaning of this word as it applies to "writing" or "screenwriting." Craft is merely the bare bones mechanics of how you put those words onto that paper (or computer screen). Craft is NOT storytelling.

Craft is, for example: When do I doublespace? How many pages should I write? How do I format a page (spacings, indentations, tabs, etc.)?

Even though "craft" is the mechanical means by which you reveal story and character and incident, it is not the actual story, etc. Yes, craft might involve WHEN certain elements happen in the course of telling a story but craft is not the actual story. Is that too confusing? I hope not.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cartoonists in Solidarity with the Writers' Strike

Sunday, December 09, 2007

BOOK NOTES: "Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy" [Robert A. Heinlein]

This book, published in 1991, was created by the editors of Analog and Asimov's Science Fiction magazines and they've had experienced well-read and well-loved writers of the genre of science fiction contribute essays on the subject.

The first essay, by Robert A. Heinlein, is titled, "On the Writing of Speculative Fiction" and I found a gem to share with any writer of any genre and even beyond narrative fiction -- this would apply as well to writers of screenplays. Mr. Heinlein writes:

For me, a story of the sort I want to write is still further limited to this recipe: a man finds himself in circumstances that create a problem for him. In coping with this problem, the man is changed in some fashion inside himself. The story is over when the inner change is complete - the external incidents may go on indefinitely.

People changing under stress:
A lonely rich man learns comradeship in a hobo jungle.
A milquetoast gets pushed too far and learns to fight.
A strong man is crippled and has to adjust to it. A gossip learns to hold her tongue.
A hard-boiled materialist gets acquainted with a ghost.
A shrew is tamed.
This is the story of character, rather than incident. It's not everybody's dish, but for me it has more interest than the overwhelming pure adventure story. It need not be unadventurous; the stress that produces the change in character can be wildly adventurous, and often is.
Well, there you have it. As I continue on in this book, if I find anything else of special fascination, I'll share it on this blog.

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