Sunday, July 28, 2013

Review of Daria: High School Reunion... Trailer!



Normally I don't review College Humor's brilliant trailers, but since I have a connection to Daria, I couldn't resist.

The two-minute trailer features a live-action "movie" where Daria has come home for her 10-year high school reunion.  Suddenly she's dealing with the same stupidity... just 10 years older.

Audrey Plaza does a nice job capturing Daria's voice and mannerisms.  The other stuff is pretty spot-on, too.  Some Daria fans have complained about details that the trailer gets wrong, such as Daria being the valedictorian instead of Jodie.  To me, that misses the point.  The trailer isn't supposed to be a 100% accurate update of the cartoon: it is guessing what a Hollywood movie of the cartoon would look like.

A Hollywood movie could have multiple writers, producers, and a director not familiar with the show.  That means details get missed.  The Daria the Movie fanfic spoof from years ago showed the worst-case scenario.  If anything, this Daria movie is a thousand times more faithful to the show.

While the trailer ran on a bit long, I thought it was note perfect.  Here are some other random thoughts:

1.  Is it really so odd that Quinn is on the reunion committee?  Yes, she's a year younger.  Yes, it's contrived.  But since when is Daria a stranger to contrived school events?  "Antisocial Climbers," anyone?

2.  I'm probably one of the few who appreciated the pudgy older Trent.  It shows that the spoof makers watched "Lane Miserables," which included a dream sequence with... a pudgy older Trent.  The Daria creators never shied away from expressing the view that while young Trent might make a great fantasy, he would be a terrible reality for Daria.  So the Trent in the trailer is what you get if he has been doing things the same way for 10 years.  Does that mean the "real" Trent is the pathetic guy from "Lane Miserables"?  No.  This is just a spoof of what the Daria characters would look like if they were 10 years older.  Would 28-year old Daria still be wearing the outfits she wore in high school?

3.  If you thought Trent looked bad, what about Jesse?  Damn.

4.  The spoof makers must have taken the 2002 graduation date from the release date of Is It College Yet?.  However, given that every Daria season is roughly six months, it's more likely her graduation year was 1999 or 2000.  Daria is over 30, everyone!

5.  The rest of the cast was very good.  Before I saw the cast list, I wondered if Wendy Hoopes had been recruited to play Jane.  Though we saw little of Quinn, I thought that Kendra Bates captured her chirpy voice and mannerisms pretty well.  Judith Bradshaw was eerily good as Helen, and Ian Roberts's Jake earned a big LOL.  Many people would cast Bryan Cranston as a live-action Jake, but (1) I think Cranston has outgrown those types of roles, and (2) I don't think he could play someone as gullible as Jake.  While Hal on Malcolm in the Middle had a spazzy personality, he always struck me as more intelligent.

Josh Ruben actually looked like Kevin, and Morgan Grace-Jarrett had Brittany's piercing voice to a T.  I never thought DeMartino could be captured in live-action form, but I was wrong.                       

6.  Kevin doesn't wear his football pads nonstop.  Daria's boots are a little lower.  Jane has a baby.  Some things do change after 10 years.

7.  Like I said, the inaccuracies don't bother me so much.  What amazes me is how many details the trailer got right, like the Morgendorffers' brick house and the padded walls in Daria's room.  

8.  So if we are to infer anything about the characters' future from this... Daria works in an office somewhere, doing something.  Quinn's job involves fashion shoots in some way.  Jane is or is not married and has one or more children.  Kevin and Brittany are back together.  Jake let himself go.  Trent still has his band and still struggles with a name.  Tom is still interested in Daria.  The teachers have aged well, maybe because Kevin is no longer enrolled.  Upchuck's hair... has grown and he appears to be in a relationship with Tiffany.

9.  I see about as much value in predicting the characters' future through this spoof as through the "future" scenes at the end of Is It College Yet?.

10.  Loved the homage to the opening credits in the series.  According to the cast list, it was likely Stacy who fell down, but it looked more like Sandi.  For some reason, Sandi was never cast.  Wonder what happened to her...

If they ever made a live-action version of this spoof, I would not regard it as Daria: 10 Years Later, but as an interpretation of, and homage to, the TV series.  I'm perfectly happy to see a live-action take on the show, while keeping my own image of the characters' futures.  

So Hollywood?  MAKE THIS.

Thanks, College Humor, for letting outside sources embed your videos!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

It's Novel Wed--No, Thursday!

The last two segments of my novel are here and here.

All three segments are in sequential order, but not back-to-back.  Given how long it will likely be before my novel is published, I'm afraid that if I release it chapter-by-chapter, the whole friggin' novel will be on the Internet before it sees print.  So my goal is to release samplers here and there that hopefully generate interest.  

If you have feedback, you know the drill.  Also, for some reason, the formatting came out double-spaced this time, despite my efforts to make it like the other segments.  Enjoy!   

**********************



Arthur rushed outside toward the commotion.  It came from a side street, but was spilling onto the high street, slowing traffic.  Arthur hoped that he was wrong, that it was something else.  Maybe some Strand workers had got into a brawl.  As he grew closer, he heard jeers.  “Where do you think you’re going, murderer?  Stay right where we can see you!”  Arthur felt a shiver as his worst fears were confirmed.  
He pushed through the growing crowd to find Brutus, Mr. MacDougal’s horse, rearing and snorting as two men held his reins tightly.  A few feet away stood Mr. MacDougal.  He was unrestrained, but completely surrounded.  There was a cut on his cheek, and his right eye and lip were swelling.  His shoulders were slumped and his expression downcast, as if he had no fight in him.  Every time he moved, one of the people in the circle pushed him back.  The jeers were so loud, Arthur could barely hear himself.  He looked for someone he knew, but found only drifters, Strand employees itching for a diversion, and itinerate workers.  One young fellow caught his eye -- he was crouched in a corner, writing rapidly in a journal.  Mr. Kettlewood’s assistant?
“Stop, he’s done nothing to you!” Arthur yelled, but he might as well have whispered.  He shook the shoulder of the man next to him.  “Stop this.  What has he done?”
“You’ve not heard?” the man wheezed.  “He murdered the mistress of the great house.  If we don’t do something, he’ll just do it again.”
How well did you even know my aunt?  Arthur wanted to scream.  Are you really trying to avenge her, or is she just the excuse you need?  How many townspeople had quietly resented the Scotsman for his success? 
Arthur tried to break the circle, but it held fast.  People turned to look at him.  “It’s his boy!” one of them shouted.  Arthur felt great pressure from behind, and at once, he stumbled into the circle.  The circle broke, except for one man who caught him around the waist.  Arthur’s eyes met Mr. MacDougal’s for the first time.  His mentor looked at him with a sad expression, as if to say: I didn’t want you involved in this. 
Arthur did not have time to respond, as he was pulled back and confronted with more angry faces than he could count.  He felt a heavy blow to his cheek, a sharp pain in his ribs.  The angry voices danced around him.  Arthur tried to fend them off, but there were too many.  He could only shield himself from the blows and pray that someone would come.
Then a voice cried out: “It’s the Warpole carriage!  The Warpoles are here!”  Other voices rose in approval.  “Let’s show them!  C’mon, let them sentence these two murderers!”
Do they even know that I’m her nephew? Arthur wondered dazedly before being all but carried back onto the high street.  He did not believe that the Warpole carriage was truly in town until he was thrust against it, into the face of his cousin Isabella.
I can see my reflection in her eyes.  That was all Arthur could think before he was yanked away.  He saw a Warpole footman standing in front of the carriage, facing the crowd and shouting.  The driver was trying to control the horses as the crowd flowed about.  Arthur then saw Mr. MacDougal being shoved against the other side.
At once, Arthur was up against the carriage again.  This time, he saw Isabella recoiled against the seat, lines etched deeply into her face.  Aunt Brimley was sitting in the carriage beside her.  She was shouting something, maybe out of concern, maybe out of anger, but Arthur could not hear.  Then a voice cut through the din: “Matthew, quickly!  Take him!”  Arthur was gripped from behind again, this time in an effort to steady him.  The Warpole footman had him by the waistcoat and was trying to guide him into the carriage.  What a day to forget my bloody coat.
The footman’s actions met the crowd’s approval; they seemed to think Arthur was about to punished.  He tumbled into the compartment, against a seat opposite his aunt and cousin.  He looked at their stunned faces for a moment before remembering Mr. MacDougal.  Arthur thrust his head out the other window and looked for him, but he was no longer on that side of the carriage.  He was nowhere to be seen.
Arthur tried to open the door.  “Don’t you dare, Arthur!  You stay here with us!” aunt Brimley ordered. 
Arthur’s cheeks grew hot.  “I can’t leave him out there!”  He tried the other door, then realized that the footman was physically blocking part of it to prevent the crowd from getting in.  If Arthur could not go out a door, he would try the window.  Over his aunt’s objections, he thrust his head and shoulders through the narrow space.  His cousin called out: “Matthew, if you see Mr. MacDougal, take him!”  Just then, Arthur felt a severe tightness in his throat as his collar was yanked from behind.  His arms weakened and he fell backward into the carriage, his rear hitting the floor and his head striking the opposite wall.  Arthur’s ears were ringing, but he could see Isabella standing overhead, and felt her black-gloved palm pushing into his chest.
He could not tell if she was angry, as she quickly turned away and leaned out the window.  “Stop this at once!” she cried out.  “My mother would not have wanted this!”  Her voice began high and thin, but grew deeper and steadier the more she repeated herself.  Arthur pushed himself up onto a seat.  From his view out the other window, it was not clear that the crowd heard, much less responded, to Isabella’s voice.  However, their rage did appear to be losing steam.  Then Arthur heard: “Go back to work, you lazy scum!  Or lose a whole day’s pay!”  The constable’s booming voice followed.  “Break up!  Move along now!”  The crowd shifted about, then flowed away from the constable, some people walking, some running.
Isabella pulled her head back into the carriage and fell against her seat.  Arthur saw that she was shaking all over.  He reached over to press his hand over hers, but aunt Brimley was faster.  She stroked Isabella’s hands in a soothing matter.  “Thank you,” Arthur said.  Isabella raised her face and looked at him like he was a stranger.  Then, as if realizing what she had done, and for whom, her expression sank into one of revulsion.  Her pale blue eyes grew colder -- so cold that Arthur felt cut to ribbons by her gaze.  He wondered how he could have looked at her directly before. 
Arthur knew that Meg and Charlotte did not care for her, but he never thought her so bad.  Now Arthur understood what they felt.  Isabella looked as though she did not know how to smile -- had never known how to smile.
Outside the carriage, the flood of people had become a trickle, and soon would be puddles.  In the near distance, Arthur saw the Warpole footman returning with Mr. MacDougal, who was able to walk under his own power.  Arthur thrust open the door and leaped out of the carriage.  Upon closer inspection, Mr. MacDougal looked worse than when Arthur had last seen him, but still far better than he had feared.  When Mr. MacDougal saw Arthur, his eyed shone with relief.
“Well, now.  What’s going on here?”
The sharp, nasally voice could only belong to uncle St. John.  He strode toward them with the constable at his side.  Uncle St. John was a tall man whose heaviness made him seem thick and solid like a bear, rather than soft and flaccid.  His tall black hat shadowed part of his face, and his long dark coat gave him a more official air than the constable.
“What sort of trouble did you get yourself into this time?” uncle St. John asked tensely.  His small dark eyes examined Arthur’s face; Arthur was sure that a massive bruise had formed on his cheek.  Without waiting for Arthur’s reply, he strode over to the Warpole carriage.  “Was he bothering you, my dear girl?”
Arthur’s blood simmered.  Why should he be surprised that uncle St. John thought he started the riot?  Uncle St. John blamed him for taking a shit in the morning.  Arthur could not hear Isabella’s reply, but felt Mr. MacDougal’s hand on his arm.  “It was my fault,” Mr. MacDougal said wearily. 
Uncle St. John turned briefly.  “I never said it wasn’t.”
“Now, now, Mr. St. John,” said the constable, “it seems Mr. MacDougal was the victim of some mischief making.  I’ll send my men ‘round to see if they can find the ringleaders.  In the meantime, Mr. MacDougal, if you need to be escorted home --”
“No need, sir.  My house is quite close,” Mr. MacDougal said curtly.
“Very well, then.”
Aunt Brimley poked her head out the carriage window.  “Arthur, come here and get into the carriage.  We’re going home.”
Arthur stiffened.  “I can’t leave Mr. MacDougal alone when he’s injured.”
“He is a doctor -- he knows how to take care of himself.”
“Yes, but the lad’s injuries need tending to as well,” Mr. MacDougal reminded her softly.
Aunt Brimley sighed.  “All right, then.  I shall wait here as well.”
“No Liza, you take dear Isabella home,” uncle St. John urged her.  “Grace and I will take the boy back to the parsonage.”
“I would rather walk,” Arthur blurted out.  He did not mean to be insolent; he just wanted to be alone to think.  However, it was clear by his glare that uncle St. John took offense.
“You most certainly will not do,” aunt Brimley said sternly.  “I’m not letting you wander about anymore.  You were supposed to be at school today -- if you had been, none of this would have happened.”
I can spend one day without talking about dead philosophers in dead languages! Arthur wanted to shout.  Instead he mumbled an apology -- knowing that it would never be enough to satisfy her.
“All right, Edmund, you may take him home,” she told uncle St. John.  Then, as if something just occurred to her, she added: “It would give you and Arthur the opportunity to discuss certain things that need discussing.”
Arthur did not want to discuss anything with uncle St. John.  From his darkening expression, uncle St. John was in no mood, either. 
The Warpole carriage left soon after, and Arthur helped Mr. MacDougal home.  They found Brutus grazing in front of his stable, as if he had never left.  Yet despite the brevity of the riot, someone had found time to break two of Mr. MacDougal’s front windows.  At least there was no shattered glass inside.  Nice solid boards.  Mr. MacDougal did not seem to notice as he led Arthur to the surgery.  A close examination found that Arthur’s ribs were bruised, not cracked or broken.  A poultice was applied, as was one for his swollen cheek.  Arthur refused to leave until Mr. MacDougal had tended to his own injuries.  Mr. MacDougal’s own face needed a poultice, and his left arm needed setting.  Mr. MacDougal thought that his left forearm was fractured.  Arthur put together the splint and wrapped the arm, taking as much time as possible, knowing that uncle St. John waited impatiently outside.  Maybe he would get tired and leave.
Before Arthur departed, he had to settle one thing.  “You must leave this place,” he insisted. “Come live with me.  My aunt and uncle gave their permission.”
Mr. MacDougal smiled sadly.  “They won’t get me tonight, lad.”
“Tomorrow, then.  Please.  You can’t stay here.”  Frustrated that he was not getting a better response, Arthur issued an ultimatum: “If you don’t, I’ll give up my spot at university.”
Mr. MacDougal blinked.  “I shall think about it, lad, all right?  That is all I can say.  Arrangements must be made before I move anywhere.  All right?”
Arthur nodded reluctantly.  “I will come by tomorrow.”  
To his disappointment, when he left Mr. MacDougal’s house, the St. John carriage was still waiting outside.  Uncle St. John stood in front, eyeing his pocket watch.  He exhaled sharply through his nose when Arthur appeared.  Arthur vowed to say as little as possible on the ride home to avoid his uncle’s cutting remarks.  He sat in the seat directly across from aunt St. John, who smiled at him weakly and whispered a greeting.  Arthur did not mind aunt St. John so much, though she always seemed half afraid of him.  Did she think that he was plotting to take away her son Benjamin’s birthright?
Uncle St. John heaved himself up onto the seat beside his wife.  “My dear, I’m so sorry for the delay,” he huffed.  “Had I known that he would be so slow, I would have let the Brimley carriage come for him after all.”
Aunt St. John said quietly that she did not mind, but throughout the trip, both acted as though Arthur had committed a grave sin.  They discussed all of the things they missed since they were late, and how their children would never forgive them.  Arthur gazed at his feet, or out the window, trying not to notice.  All the while, he kept thinking one thing over and over.
I don’t need to join the navy to get on a ship.

Note that use of the photograph above does not mean Philip Halling endorses this work.  This work has been registered and may not be reproduced in any form without my express permission.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Movie Musicals That Got It Right: Mamma Mia!

My last few posts have been a bit cranky, so time for something cheerful.  And few things are more cheerful than the 2008 musical, Mamma Mia!.

Mamma Mia! is based on the hugely popular West End jukebox musical, which was built from popular tunes by ABBA.  For those who don't know, ABBA was the first non-English-speaking band to enjoy huge success in the English-speaking pop world.  The band consisted of two men and two women from Sweden, and lasted from 1972 until 1982.  Even if you hate pop, you can't escape their songs, which include "Fernando," "SOS," and "Dancing Queen."

In 1997, British playwright Catherine Johnson wrote the stage musical, which premiered in London in 1999.  It was a smash, and made its Broadway debut in 2001, where it has played nonstop ever since.  From there, it was only a matter of time before a movie version premiered.

That movie came in 2008, and went on to gross $600 million worldwide.  All of this success came on the back of a simple, almost flimsy, story: Sophie is getting married and wants to invite her dad.  Problem is, she doesn't know who he is.  After reading her mother Donna's old journal, she narrows it down to three men -- Sam, Bill, and Harry -- and invites all three.  Wacky hijinks ensue!

Of course it helps that Sophie is played by a winsome Amanda Seyfried, and that Donna is played by grande dame Meryl Streep.  And that Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan compose two-thirds of the male trio (Stellan Skarsgard is noteworthy, too, though lesser known).  And that the wedding is set on a picturesque Greek island, where everyone knows each other and no one seems to work.  All of these elements, combined with the ABBA songs, makes Mamma Mia! an energetic good time.

Does that make it a great movie?  Definitely not.  Mamma Mia! can drag for stretches, and its flimsy premise could have been resolved in a half hour.  As for why I put it in the Right column, I'll confess that I'm grading on a big curve.  Had Mamma Mia! the grandiose aspirations of Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, or Evita, I would call it an utter failure.  Yet all Mamma Mia! wants to do is be infectious and fun, and get you to sing along with ABBA.  In those goals, it succeeded.  Whereas Across the Universe, the other jukebox musical I reviewed, aspired to be Something New and Different and was too often cliche.  So I guess the lesson is to set very modest ambitions so you can meet them?  That sounds... fair.

Maybe years from now, I'll shake up the list and place Across the Universe in the Right column and Mamma Mia! in the Wrong column.  But for now, I'll say that there's a place for a fun, frothy musical that just wants to make people feel good.        


The Good

1.  Eye Candy.  In every sense.  The Greek island location is picture perfect and the Mediterranean looks like a giant swimming pool.  Everyone is tan and dressed in bright colors.  Donna's hotel is just old enough to look quaint.  And for some, Amanda Seyfried is easy on the eyes, while others will be drawn to Pierce Brosnan's smile, or Sophie's hunky fiance.

I would venture that this is one of the rare movies that offers more eye candy to straight women (and gay men) than to straight men.  You can't beat a row of bronzed, buffed men dancing in fins.



2.  ABBA Songs.  I've always enjoyed ABBA songs, but this movie made me appreciate their range.  Just about everyone knows "Dancing Queen," but I had never heard the touching, introspective "Our Last Summer."  Overall, the movie does a nice job showcasing the ABBA catalogue.  The songs are staged with energy and flair, such as when Sophie's fiance expresses his jealousy, or when Donna learns that her past lovers are near.  There are a number of big group sings, and let's just say that the long pier gets used a lot.  Make you want to sing along?  Oh yes.         

3.  Energy.  The cast look as though they're having fun, and that comes through the screen.  That includes Donna's friends, played by Julie Walters and Christine Baranski (is she in every musical movie?).  Ageist as this sounds, I didn't think Meryl Streep could still move like that.

Also, the singing isn't half bad, with one notable exception.  Madame Meryl belts quite nicely, and Seyfried -- not shockingly -- seems much more comfortable singing ABBA tunes than "A Heart Full of Love."





The Bad

1.  Thin Story.  It's not surprising that after a while, the movie feels like one long music video, with a few breaks in between with dialogue.  There is so little to resolve: the three men arrive; Sophie tries to learn which one is her father; and Donna works out some unresolved anger.  The characters are little more than types.  Bill is adventurous; Sam is square; Harry is an even bigger square.  Donna is still a hippie at heart, and Sophie is sweet and irrepressible.

Sophie keeps claiming that some part of her is "missing" without her father, but it's hard to see what.  Her life seems pretty darn good -- cool mom, sexy boyfriend, island paradise.  That Sophie could want something more is dealt with half-heartedly, such as in a quick scene where Sam discusses her drawings.  

Again, I should mention that what separates Mamma Mia! from Evita, which was also one long music video, is that the latter had grand pretensions that it was something more, while Mamma Mia! never does.

2.  The Acting.  The acting in this movie tends to fall into extremes: either people overact, or they don't act at all.  In the overacting category is Amanda Seyfried, who seems ready to burst from excitement at any moment.  Meryl Streep also fits here.  Grande dame or not, Streep's acting is weakest whenever she plays normal women with romantic problems.  Give me Miranda Priestly or Julia Child any day.  The woman needs a character to sink her teeth into, and Donna has none.  Worst, the movie requires cringeworthy moments from Streep, such as bursting into hysterical tears after seeing her former lovers.  Still, I'm sure Streep had a ball.

In the non-acting category are Brosnan and Firth.  Brosnan occasionally shows glimmers of life, but then his eyes deaden once more.

3.  Pierce Brosnan's Singing.  So how bad is it?  Better or worse than Russell Crowe's Javert?  Judge for yourself.  To my ears, they sound roughly the same.  I'll give Crowe the edge for having more challenging material to work with.  And for not being aided by Autotune.

Conclusion

Mamma Mia! is not a great musical overall, but it's good for what it wants to be.  When I saw it a few days ago, I started depressed about my day, but ended humming "Dancing Queen."


Other Movie Musicals That Got It Right: Dreamgirls, Les Miserables, Chicago

Movie Musicals That Got It Wrong: The Phantom of the Opera, Evita, RENT, Across the Universe

The above image is used under the Fair Use Doctrine.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Unpopular Opinion: In Praise of Length


Warning: this post will be long.  If you do not like length, the exits are to the left and right.

I have begun shopping my book around.  I typed "best query letters" into Google and came up with this page.  I followed its advice to the letter, and the advice of other "best query" sites, and sent out about 20 queries.  I have since learned that the advice on the pages is outdated.  I also learned something else uncomfortable: according to conventional wisdom, my novel is too long.

How long?  A debut novel should be 80,000 words.  Who says?  Everyone.  Who is "everyone"?  I don't know.

But everyone says that a debut novel should be between 80,000 and 100,000 words, and mine is well over that.  I can (and likely will) edit it down further, but it will always be a big book.  According to everyone, big books don't sell.  I can point to exceptions, but apparently I will never be one.

I could protest, but everyone is probably right.  The modus operandi in today's world is to cut, cut, cut.  Stories, articles, scripts -- they can always be shorter, and they will always be better for it.  Or so everyone says.  But what if everyone is wrong?

What if big is better?  What if the story can't be told in less than 150,000 words?  Why assume that nothing will be lost and everything gained from cutting?

How often have we seen exactly the opposite?  I can think of at least half a dozen movies that were panned for fuzziness and confusion -- only to come across much better when minutes were added.

What if Tolkien never published the appendices to Lord of the Rings?  "But he's Tolkien!" you exclaim.  Not if he never published the appendices!

In fact, many people would not be "Big-Named Person!" without length.  Length deepened the worlds they created, the stories they told.  Tolstoy, Hugo, Jean Auel, George RR Martin.  The list goes on and on.  Did every word have to be there?  No.  Would they have suffered if confined to 100,000 words?  Yes.

"But it won't sell!"  "But that was 150 years ago!"  "But that's fantasy!"  So what?  No one wants to read long books anymore?  Long books aren't good unless they conform to a specific genre?  If anything, I read more lengthy books now thanks to the Kindle and other e-readers.

I realize that publishing is a complicated business and that many think that long books are detrimental.  But given the gravitation toward e-reading, I see it as nothing to fear.

It sells readers short to assume they lack the attention span for a good long read.  That may apply to some, but not to all.  Why this perpetual urge to dumb things down?

So let's say I do cut 50,000 words from my manuscript.  Who says that it will sell any better?

A bit of a tangent (you know how we long writers are): as I mentioned in my Girls post, my last major effort to sell my work was in the television industry.  My first spec scripts were half-hour comedies:  40 pages apiece with bright-colored covers.  I entered them in a prestigious studio competition and never heard back.  Only later did I learn that half hours were 30 script pages or less, and white covers only.  Next time, I wrote lean, taut scripts that conformed to all of the parameters.  I entered the same competition again, brimming with confidence...

... and never heard back.  And never heard back.  And never heard back.  I entered four years in a row, and never made the second cut.

I entered a Gilmore Girls script in another well-regarded competition.  Having worked at Warner Brothers, I knew the average Gilmore script was about 80 pages.  Mine was 72.  Only later did I learn that drama spec scripts should never exceed 60 pages.

I made the finals.

Would I have won with a shorter script?  Maybe.  But it's also possible that the script's best moments would be lost.  In any event, it shows that even when you break the "rules," you can still come out ahead if your product is good.

So much of selling writing is about random shit.  For instance, I entered a pilot script in one competition and didn't place.  At all.  I was discouraged, but decided to reenter it, thinking it could have been lost in the pile.  The only thing I did differently was tighten the synopsis that came with it.

I won first place.

Maybe I will cut my novel down further, and maybe I won't.  Either choice does not guarantee success or failure.  My novel will not automatically be better because it has been cut by a third.  Rather, it could become a shell of itself.  And given the time I will devote to shopping it around, shouldn't my opinion hold some weight?  

The above image comes from Stock Xchng and is used with permission.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How to Converse With Your Friendly Neighborhood Introvert


Oh whoops -- hey.  Didn't see you.

Hello.

You're one of those introverts, right?  You don't smile and you hate people?

And a jolly good day to you, too, sir.

Well you are, aren't you?

Insofar as we are a "type," I guess so.

So it's true you don't know how to be happy?

False.  Introverts are as capable of happiness as anyone else.

Then why does the media keep saying you're miserable?

Probably because most of the media never look past the surface.  They see us standing by ourselves, not talking, and go "OMG, they must be sooooooo sad!1!1!1"  But the thing is, we're not sad by nature.  I like spending time alone and not talking.  It makes me happy.  But somehow the media got it in their collective bubble head that if I'm not parading around drunk and topless on a homecoming float, if I'm not talking trash about my friends, my life choices are not worthy of attention, much less respect.

Huh?

You stopped listening after "probably," didn't you?

*guilty silence*

You bumped into me because you didn't see me -- even though I'm in an Iron Man costume.

Oh... cool!

But because I was just minding my own business, not smiling, not in your face with my chatter, I became invisible to you.  Since the media have cemented in our heads that the only people worth paying attention to are loud and in your face, I am best ignored.  And if I'm ignored, I must be sad.

If you're not sad, why aren't you smiling?

Have you tried smiling every time you're happy?  It hurts after a while.  Not smiling is just a person's resting expression -- it doesn't have to mean anything.  You could be happy, miserable, surprised, curious, whatever.  You don't have to look like a circus clown.    

But how am I supposed to know how you feel?

What does it matter?

Because unhappy people bring me down!

I didn't realize it was my responsibility to keep up your spirits.  Believe it or not, smiling does not automatically equal happy.  A lot of the smiliest people you know could be miserable.  It's just that they've done a good job internalizing the media's message, or at least giving the media what they want.  You know when people claim that "Brad" has so much "personality" even though they've only known him for five minutes?  It's bullshit.  They're not seeing Brad's personality -- his real personality -- but an act that Brad has put on to fool them.  Whereas when people complain that certain introverts have no personality, what they're really complaining about is that these introverts don't put on acts.  We don't try to entertain.  We unspool our true personalities bit by bit as you get to know us.  

Happy people are miserable?  You're blowing my mind!

Sorry.

No wonder no one wants to be around you!

Then they won't have many places to go.  Introverts are one-third to one-half of the population.

That's creepy!  What are miserable people like you even good for?

Leadership, believe it or not.  Yes, it shocked the media to learn that people who don't need to talk every minute are really good listeners.  When we're not constantly bombarded by the echo of our own voices, we're more willing to consider other people's ideas and reflect upon the best approach.

LaLALa!  I'm not listening!

Shock.  Don't you even want to know why I'm dressed like Iron Man?

Nope!  Nada!  Talk to the hand!  *runs off*

Too bad he didn't run in the other direction.  There are a lot of introverts at Comic-Con.  


The above photo was taken by Marcus Quigmire from Wikimedia Commons.  Use of the photo does not mean the author endorses this post.