Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #21 – ‘A Walk in the Woods’

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

by Larry Brody

The extremes of human thought and behavior have always fascinated me. On the one hand we have Mozart and Johnny Cash. On the other, Blackbeard the Pirate and Billy the Kid.

The way we can dream the loftiest dreams yet go out and kick butt is something I’ve always wanted to get a handle on, and last week as I sat in the Paradise town square it all came closer to home.

Gwen the Beautiful was getting her hair done, and I had nothing to do but wait. I picked myself a bench outside the courthouse and sat down with some Old-Timers.

In a larger town these retired gents would be mall-walkers. Here there’s nothing much to do after a life of back-breakingly hard work but set a spell.

Unlike their sons, the current generation of Good Old Boys, who tend to grow up big and beefy and love to talk about hunting, these Old-Timers are lean and wiry and have reached the point where they can philosophize about life.

As they talked, the phrase “a walk in the woods” came up often. It seemed as though everyone here had someone they wanted to take for a foresty stroll.

One Old-Timer was looking forward to walking with his son-in-law, who’s not treating his daughter with the respect she deserves. Another hoped to amble with a noisy neighbor whose drunken shouting wakes him up every night. Another couldn’t wait to get out there with a neighbor who’s owed him money for forty years.

Every time someone spoke up about their situation the others joined in a chorus of, “Yeah…we’re with you if you need us.” And the more they talked the more dire a walk in the woods sounded. Like these Old-Timers were planning a certain deed most foul right there in the square.

Were they really discussing the ultimate revenge with me on my bench not three feet away?

It’s not as though these were the local black sheep. They’re respected former business leaders and farmers. So I sat and I listened and finally I got it.

What they were talking about was the traditional method men have used to deal with other men since we lived in tribes. Direct, one-on-one justice. A man with a problem dealing with that problem by taking another man aside and, one way or another, thrashing it out.

There are nuances. Degrees.

A walk in the woods is a private meeting between parties who’ve got a beef. It occurs in the woods because that’s what insures the privacy. Those involved talk over the situation. Or punch and rassle and kick and roll. Or—at least once upon a time—take out their weapons as a last resort.

One Old-Timer put it to me this way. “Folks around here don’t hold with courts or mediations. Those involve outsiders, and we’re pretty much ‘keep it close and personal’ kind of people. If I say ‘I think it’s time we had a walk in the woods,’ whoever I’m saying it to knows the jig’s up and he’s got to change his attitude. Most of the time that’s enough, and we don’t really have to take the walk at all.”

Another Old-Timer nodded. “Must be somebody you’d like to have a thing or two out with,” he said to me.

I thought it over. “Well, there’s this Old Boy who just bought the place down the mountain from me. I heard he’s thinking about sub-dividing, and that could change the whole way of life on our road…”

The Old-Timers may not have known who I was talking about, but they understood what sub-dividing could mean only too well. The first one leaned in close and said, “Just tell him that if you see any surveyors putting up those orange flags you and he are going to have to take a walk in the woods. He’ll understand that you’re upset. Probably he’ll change his mind.”

“And if he doesn’t?”

A third Old-Timer looked at me grimly. “Tell me and I’ll walk with him for you.”

“I’ll go too,” another said. And, to me: “Some folks think change is good, but around here we’ve never seen a one that didn’t make things worse than before. Got to put this kind of talk to a quick end.”

A quick end? I wondered. With talk? Fists?

Guns?

Unless I got out there, how could I know?

The old-timers were watching me closely. I shook my head at the mystery of it all.

As a man, they sat back and sighed.

Relieved? Or disappointed?

I’m still not sure I want to  know.

And that may be the real power at work whenever one good old boy turns to another and says, with total sincerity, “You and me better take a little walk in the woods…”

The mystery of how it’s meant to end.

Most Viewed TVWriter™ Posts of the Week – Nov. 19, 2018

It’s Monday, which means it’s time for TVWriter™’s latest look at our most popular blog posts of the week ending last Sunday. They are:

How To Write The Perfect TV Series Review To Captivate Your Readers

‘The Following’ Season 4 was Cancelled by Fox Because the TV Series Became a Victim of Lazy Writing!

8 Tips for Writing for Children’s TV Shows

Empty Promises: My experience submitting scripts to Amazon Studios

LB: First Thoughts on the PEOPLE’S PILOT 2018 Writing Competition Entries

And our most visited permanent resource pages are:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED SECOND SEASON ARC

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2018 Writing Contest

The Logline

The Outline/Story

Big thanks to everybody for making this another great week at TVWriter™ . Don’t forget to click above and read what you missed and re-read what you loved!

Bri Castellini: How to Kill Your Darlings – @stareable

 by Bri Castellini

I don’t care how talented a writer you are, how witty your dialog, how ingenious your story weaving- it’s almost guaranteed your scripts are several pages too long. But especially when your story is good and your dialog competent, it can be easy to convince yourself you’ve done enough and you’re ready to shoot. Think again- today we’re talking about killing your darlings.

Defined: a “darling” is an element of your story (usually at a script level, but occasionally is a particular prop or piece of wardrobe) that is disproportionately important to you than the story itself.

An example is a three-page witty dialog sequence that you love because it’s funny and clever but doesn’t actually move the story or the characters forward in any way, or a particular poster on a character’s wall that would be expensive or difficult to attain but is an inside joke amongst the cast and crew.

Defining and deciding to kill your darlings is an exercise in understanding the purpose of every moment, every character, every word, and every beat in your story, but that can be difficult. Let’s make it simple.

Do A Table Read

Because screenplays are mostly dialog, it can be easy to write off long conversations as too long because the individual lines seem short and “it’ll be faster when the actors talk.” It’s hard to actually make that call without hearing those lines aloud, though- there’s a reason even veteran showrunners still do table reads on major network shows. Even if you don’t have all the parts cast yet, get a group of actors and friends together and hear your work, and pay attention to the moments of waning interest. In theory, a table read is engaging to everyone the whole way through the same way watching a new movie is. But if you look up from the page and pay attention to the readers who aren’t speaking, you’ll notice at which points they start to zone out. The sections with the most glassed-over eyes are the ones you should reconsider.

Furthermore, if your script is comedic and you haven’t heard a chuckle in over a minute, something’s wrong.

Cut transitions, intros, and outros

What is the absolute shortest version of your story where it can still make sense and be impactful? Arthur Vincie, the creator of Three Trembling Cities 1, suggests you “cut the first 10 pages out and see if the story still makes sense. About 60% of the time it does; the other 40% usually just require some tweaks.” Obviously not every web series has 10 pages to spare (or 10 pages in an episode), but the point stands- introductions are worthy exercises in figuring out your narrative, but they aren’t always the actual best place to start the story.

In a similar sentiment, Tim Manley, writer and co-creator of The Feels 1, talked about cutting his scripts on our podcast Forget The Box as a reaction to his other co-creator Naje Lataillade explaining the various shots a particular episode will require. Tim recalls that “my brain will trigger- ‘that sounds like a long day.’ And I’ll be like, you know what? The whole scene takes place in one room. And actually I cut the beginning and I cut the end…. But what that actually does is boil it down to the most interesting part anyway. So the constraint, from my point of view, forces us to only do the parts that you really need, and in the end honors viewers time and honors everyone’s time.” And isn’t that how it should be?

Ask yourself: do you need a page of a character leaving one location and arriving at another? Are we learning anything from that, or are you worried people will get confused about where she is? Sometimes, it’s actually better to tell instead of show, if telling takes a single line of dialog and showing is two minutes of screentime.

Combine or cut characters

Alicia Carroll of Fishing explains that her “personal vice is characters. I always have too many. The challenge becomes deciphering which ones are necessary, which ones can composite together, and which ones have to cut.” Especially on a web series, more characters means more people to coordinate schedules with, more pages of dialog leading to longer shoot dates, more bodies to feed and keep comfortable on set, and just generally more variables to account for. And often, that many people aren’t necessary.

Ask yourself- is the purpose of this character to have a world and path of their own, or to move the plot forward in a few key scenes? If it’s the former- great! If it’s the latter- give those key scenes to another character who is fully fleshed out and who is not just a prop in service of your plot- it’ll give more gravity to those moments because the characters are more integrated with the story by nature of the fact that there’s more to them than their main plot significance.

Have someone else do it

Presumably, the reason you’ve been made aware of a “darling” is because you showed your script to a friend or colleague. If you trust them, or have another person you trust, why not give them a go? Give them a new document to cut what they wish, then read over the new version yourself. If you don’t notice something’s gone or it only takes a small rewrite to connect the dots between sections previously separated by darlings, it might be easier to let them go. (shout out to Dana Luery Shaw for suggesting you let someone else do the dirty work)

Save stuff for later

In The Good Place podcast, which I highly recommend, the writers of the show talk about how when a joke gets cut or changed in an episode, it doesn’t get purged from the Earth. Instead, jokes that don’t make it to air end up in the “candy jar,” a document of funnies pitched to dip into when in need of a laugh or some inspiration.

When we talk about “darlings,” we call them that because they’re good, they just might not be good for this particular project or moment. So don’t reject them entirely- protect them and put them in a list of things you want to revisit eventually. That can often help with the sting of killing them- maybe we should rephrase to “gently guiding your darlings to a waiting room because they aren’t needed quite yet.”

Do you have an example of a darling you’ve killed? Or do you have another method for identifying and trimming them? Let me know in the comments!

Will Shane Dawson’s 15 Minutes of Fame Ever Stop?

Do you know Shane Dawson? Have you heard of him? He was brought to our attention recently because Mr. Dawson and his YouTube channel have – brace yourselves – over eight million subscribers.

Dood’s rich and famous and does what he wants the way he wants it, and entertains people in the process. And as of now he’s my #1 hero, a mythic creator who not only has ideas but goes to work on ’em…and finishes as well.

Some cases in point:

The hell with so-called Bigtime TV. I’m downloading the best free video editing app I can find and pulling myself out of my lower middle class existence and into the YouTube Hall of Fame.

How about you? Gonna give it a try?

Shane Dawson TV is HERE

Last Day to Nominate Your Screenplay or Videogame Script for a WGAW Award

In case y’all forgot: