Saying Goodbye…For Now

I just realized that this is my 10th blog post. Starting this journey, I was unsure if I could keep to my schedule and get 10 posts up by the end of March. You read that right, it’s a:

#HumbleBrag

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Anyway, I’m proud of this accomplishment, but it has come with some sacrifices. I have been so busy writing blog posts that I stopped writing screenplays.

Picard face palm

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It’s true. There is only so many hours in the day, making it difficult to write both my blog posts and scripts. So I need to make a decision. Just like my decision to burn my hammer pants, this choice was easy: I need to spend more time writing screenplays. That means I need to slow down on the blog posts.

Don’t worry! Posts will still be posted, but they are just going to come less frequently. Hopefully, this change in pace will refresh my blog and make the content better than ever.

So this isn’t goodbye, but farewell for now. I’ll see you all later.

Happy writing, fellow writers!

Until next time,

Mr. Struggle

 

 

Saying Goodbye…For Now

Breaking Up is Always Hard

Today’s been a tough week. I thought I be able to write more, but something unexpected happened. Before I get into the gory details, let me set the mood with some context.

Whenever possible, I like working with another writer because we can bounce ideas off each other and come up with more creative solutions. I had a great relationship with one writing partner. Our skills complimented each other well, leading to some fantastic scripts that we even sold! This was us:

Two Otters Hold Hands

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As the title suggests, the dam got demolished. We decided to stop working together on Tuesday. We came to this decision for a couple of reasons. Most notably, our work just didn’t feel fresh anymore. At the start of our relationship, we would have new and creative ideas almost everyday. It was a real adventure writing together.

Then over time those ideas became less frequent. Our work became safe, predictable and I can’t believe I’m saying this, boring.

So I had to make a change. Like a Band-Aid, I just had to rip it off and end our working relationship. However, people don’t tell you that it’s going to be so hard, which I guess is also like ripping off a Band-Aid.


“So I had to make a change. Like a band-aid, I just had to rip it off and end our working relationship. However, people don’t tell you that it’s going to be so hard, which I guess is also like ripping off a band-aid. “


From Tuesday onward I haven’t been able to write anything. Writer’s block is beating me down like this:

Monkey Punches Man in Head

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So this is my current predicament. It’s holding me back at the moment, but hopefully I can come out ahead. Or I could find another writing partner, anyone interested?

Until next time,

Mr. Struggle

 

 

Breaking Up is Always Hard

Can’t Stop That Tone-Deaf Feeling

I was out with some friends over the weekend. After a few drinks, we decided to make our way to a karaoke bar.

Inebriated enough to be confident in my singing skills, I proudly snatched the mic right away. As any budding American Idol would do, I picked the song of the summer: Can’t Stop that Feeling by Justin “ramen hair” Timberlake. As I belted out the lyrics, I thought I sounded pretty good –  almost at the same level of JT. In reality, I sounded more like him:

I can’t sing. I’m tone-deaf. My career as a pop singer turned movie star will probably never happen. I made this realization after my friends banned me from singing.

Luckily, I have writing, I thought as I stumbled home from karaoke. Inspired, I wrote a terrifying scene where the recently revealed antagonist hunts the protagonist.

I awoke the next morning eager to read my work. I wish I didn’t because the scene was awful. The tone was completely off. My dialogue, for instance, did not match the feel of the scene. One line was: “Here’s Pedro!” You read that right. I just included a goofy parody of the Shining in my tense, nail-biting scene.

Frustrated Jack from the Shining

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Tone or “feeling of the scene” is like the present you get your in-laws – it is almost impossible to get right, but brilliant when you do. I struggle with the tone every time I write.

I try not to keep my script monotone because that’s boring. At the same time, extreme shifts in tone cause unexpected hilarious “here’s Pedro” moments. It’s a balancing act and I am not graceful. I have so much respect (and jealously) for writers who can execute proper tone. They are the masters and I am this guy:

Falls in the garbage

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I’ve found that the only way to get tone right is to have someone else read your work. I then ask how the scene made them feel and hope it matches my desired tone. Spoiler: it often doesn’t. In those moments, I feel tone-deaf…again.

Until next time,

Mr. Struggle

Can’t Stop That Tone-Deaf Feeling

When Technology Fails

I woke up this morning inspired to write. I love those days. It’s when I write the real gold that holds my script together. On days like today, I feel like this:

Basketball player dancing

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Feeling inspired, I booted up my almost decade old MacBook Pro and opened my screenplay software of choice, Final Draft. I was then off to the races. One scene, two scenes, three scenes done in an hour and a half! I was in the zone and flying through my script.

Then boop. My laptop shut off. I quickly pushed the on-button and my computer slowly rebooted. I felt as nervous as those people in the audience during the original Paranormal Activity trailer:

Scared audience in a theatre.

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After what felt like a decade of waiting, my computer was running again. I opened Final Draft and my three new scenes weren’t there. They disappeared like the box office returns for the later Paranormal Activity films. This moment I felt like him again:

GIF: Camera pans closer to Ben Affleck with a sad face. There is a caption on the bottom:

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Clearly, I was too busy writing that I forgot to hit save. I guess this is the risk we take with technology. It can always fail us.

However, I’m not going to stop using a computer or Final Draft to write my scripts. Screenwriting is more than what you write, it’s how your write it. There is specific formatting that you must follow if you want your work to be sold.


“Screenwriting is more than what you write, it’s how your write it. There is specific formatting that you must follow if you want your work to be sold.”


In all honesty,  it would difficult to create this formatting without specific software. So I need Final Draft, Celtx or some other screenwriting program. The computer though, maybe it’s time for a new one.

Until Next Time,

Mr. Struggle

When Technology Fails

Getting Writer Blocked

My writing process is very goal-oriented – I try to write 2 to 5 pages everyday, come up with a new idea once a week and finish a script a month. I need to always be striving towards a goal because I am so easily distracted. My attention span makes the dog from Up look like any hacker in a terrible b-movie.

Old-fashion hacking scene

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Side Note: who remembers Swordfish? Yeah, neither do I.

See! I am not disciplined. This is why I hate writer’s block. When I can’t think of what to write, I miss my deadlines and stop focusing on writing altogether. I recently experienced a serious case of writer’s block that made me feel like this:

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Here’s a little more about my latest battle with a writer’s ultimate nemesis. I was working on a new script about a employee trying to deal with a very corporate boss. I was racing through it. I had the first 25 pages done in a week.

I arrived at a critical scene that kicked off the second act. It was all going good, but I just couldn’t get the scene right. I wasn’t sure how subtle I should make the turn, if I had the right characters in the scene (probably means I need to spend more time differentiating each character) or how the conflict should play out.

I kept coming back to the scene. I rewrote, deleted, rewrote, deleted, rewrote, deleted…

What Feels Like 38.8 Days Later

Rewrote, deleted, rewrote and deleted it again.

It was infuriating. I couldn’t figure out how to beat this writer’s block. I tried a beat sheet to lay out the scene. That idea failed. I bounced ideas off a fellow writer. He was no help. Finally, I got inspiration from Neo himself, Keanu Reeves.

My friend convinced me to see Keanu’s film, John Wick. I enjoyed the film, it’s a tight action movie with a simple story that works. Character motives are clear, the plot moves and the tone is fun. Check out the trailer:

I’m back. No joke, I just spent the last 30 minutes watching John Wick clips. I swear a gold fish could finish a blog post faster than me. Think about how crazy that sounds – you can’t even use a computer underwater!


“I swear a gold fish could finish a blog post faster than me. Think about how crazy that sounds – you can’t even use a computer underwater!”


Anyway, this simple, but effective action movie made it obvious why I was stuck: my plot was too muddled and I couldn’t neatly transition to act two. My solution? Follow John Wick’s lead and take revenge on my script by tearing the convoluted mess apart. The script now resides in trash can heaven. Thank you Keanu for your endless wisdom.

Keanu Reeves Saying You're Welcome

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The next step is to restart my simplified script, or I could just watch Swordfish.

Actually 99 Minutes Later

Back from watching Swordfish. That was not a good movie.

Until next time,

Mr. Struggle

Getting Writer Blocked

My Latest Screenplay Idea Felt Perfect

Inspiration strikes me at the oddest times. Many writers have rituals to help them write  and brainstorm new ideas. Ernest Hemmingway, for instance, enjoyed a drink or four to get inspired. I never had these rituals. It felt too constraining to have a single hub where I’d dream up all my stories. This particular idea, though, did come to me at a peculiar time: on the toilet.

This impromptu brainstorm session began pretty typically. Most of my ideas at the start were shit. I must have come with five or six stinkers. Then, out of nowhere, a golden nugget popped into my head. This was amazing! I beat writer’s block! I was so excited, I even whispered to myself:

GIF: Matt Damon holds up paper in Good Will Hunting

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This idea had everything I look for in a story – it was emotional, original and bankable for producers. All writers know that ecstatic feeling when you come up with the perfect idea. It’s like winning the lottery, but way less likely to happen. This is how I felt. I was over the moon.


“All writers know that ecstatic feeling when you come up with the perfect idea. It’s like winning the lottery, but way less likely to happen. This is how I felt. I was over the moon.”


Let me breakdown this story for you. We follow a young man, mid 20s, who works as a plumber at some Ivy League school. He lives in a bad neighbourhood and his friends are a terrible influence on him. They all drink, hit on girls, get in fights and commit petty crime (you know, the redeemable kind). During one of his late-night shifts at work he notices an impossible math question on a chalk board. You assume he is going to ignore it and continue cleaning, but to the shock of the audience the plumber actually solves it. He just disproved all our preconceived expectations; he is actually a genius!

I stopped after finishing that sentence. Something felt off in my synopsis. Then a horrible feeling rushed through my body like bad chinese food. I realized my mistake. My original idea would have been perfect…in 1996. I just pitched Good Will Hunting.

GIF: Camera pans closer to Ben Affleck with a sad face. There is a caption on the bottom:  GIF Source

This is not the first time I’ve brainstormed an unoriginal, original idea. It’s one of the core problems I’ve encountered while writing scripts. Storytelling has been around for a millennia, meaning countless stories have already have been told. The challenge is to discover an idea that’s original to you. Or you could invent a time machine, whatever is easier.

Until next time,                                                                                                                                      Mr.Struggle

My Latest Screenplay Idea Felt Perfect