Angelo Bell: How Well Have You Conveyed Your Message?

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by Angelo Bell

Screenplay critiques should measure how well the writer has conveyed his/her message. Critiques are not only about what’s there, it’s about what was required to tell your storycompletely.  Often a critique will be about what’s not there. A thriller should be judged and critiqued as a thriller, not a misplaced coming-of-age film. If the genre isn’t clear it’s because the writer’s message is missing some important elements, not that it’s in the wrong genre. I’ve read many critiques where experts express disappointment that a writer has chosen the wrong genre. I think they are missing the mark. It’s the delivery that should be criticized.

I want to share this excerpt from a recent critique on my script, Legend of Black Lotus. I’m always tentative when I share my work because you wonder if anyone will truly get it. Often,getting it is the truest sign of how well (or poorly) you – as the writer – have conveyed your message. I think it’s important to note that my script is a martial arts fantasy, and not the reviewer’s favorite genre.

“I was sucked into the story and often thought about the characters when I was away from the script. While [fantasy] isn’t my favorite genre, I would totally pay for and watch this movie. The characters are very rich and the story, while complex, flows nicely. You have several nice twists as well to keep the viewers on their toes. While we know Daiyu will be victorious in the end, the method in which she does it stays true to the genre while still being fresh for today’s audience.”

“…The latter half of this script is really tight. There is a huge chunk of pages where I was fully wrapped up into the story and I saw no mistakes or had any ideas on how to improve it. [One] can tell you have polished it as it reads really well. Thank you for letting me read it.”

“…Instead of gushing about each character individually, let me start off by saying, up to this point I have not read a script with such rich characters. Each character has their own strong voice, and it was very easy for me to visualize each and every one of them with one exception. They had their own personalities and I felt like I knew them all from birth. It was easy to get quickly attached to them.”

I can take critiques like this all day.

LB: Everyone Should be Reading Gerry Conway’s Blog

…And he should be writing a lot more on it too.

Gerry is one of the Kings of TV and film and comic book writing and also one of my longest-lasting and closest friends. We met almost 50 years ago at Harlan Ellison’s house, when we were both, um, kids. I went on to do what I’ve done, and Gerry did his thing at least as well. We’ve always stayed close. This post in his blog last week shows a few of the reasons why:

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Gerry created the Punisher but not exactly in his own image

Writing for a living is Hard, and other Obvious Observations
by Gerry Conway

I’m one very lucky son of a bitch.

I recognize this, believe me. Most people never have the opportunity to fulfill any of their childhood dreams, but I’ve been lucky enough to fill many, if not most, of mine. It helps that my childhood dreams were relatively modest (though at one point I did want to be Robin to my dad’s Batman, a notion which for some reason he didn’t embrace with an enthusiasm equal to mine). When I was nine years old, I decided I wanted to be either an actor, an artist, or a writer — in other words, I wanted people to pay attention to me and admire me for something I performed or accomplished. (Childhood narcissism is so cute and simple, isn’t it?) To that end I started to perform plays and make movies with my friends (the acting part), I started drawing (the art) and I started writing (the, uh, well, the writing). It was my good fortune that I had parents who either encouraged or permitted or idly stood by and scratched their heads while I pursued these dreams. And it was my great fortune that I grew up in a time and place that made the potential accomplishment of any of these dreams even remotely possible.

If you read the biographies of many authors, you may find that their life stories follow two different patterns. Some writers write for a living, other writers write as a hobby.

To clarify: Some authors are what I’ll call (in my insufferable superiority) part-time, non-professional writers — people who have paying jobs which allow them to make a living (or scrape by) and who subsequently write, more or less, as a hobby. I don’t want to suggest that writing as a hobby is somehow less serious or less worthwhile than the alternative (which I’ll get to in a moment), I’m simply using the term to make a distinction. People pursue hobbies because they have the time and freedom to do so, and because they want to. Hobbies are, to an extent, an escape from the stress of work. By definition, a hobby may be difficult or hard or require a great deal of effort and commitment, but it is not work. Work is something you do to pay your bills and support yourself and your family; it may be difficult or easy, it may require great effort or no effort at all, but it does require a commitment, and while it may often be fun, fun is not an essential ingredient. The essential ingredient of work is that you must do it in order to survive.

To further clarify: As opposed to the authors described above, other authors are what I’ll call (in my insufferable superiority) full-time, professional writers — people who write to pay their bills and earn a living. They may enjoy writing (and most do) but the central reality of their writing lives is that they write to make money.

For most of my adult life I was a professional writer. I wrote to earn a living, and I was lucky enough to earn a very good living. I recognize that: I was lucky. There are many talented writers trying to earn a living who are unable to do so. Why the light of fortune shined on me and not on them, I have no clear idea. Maybe I was just in the right place at the right time. I grew up in New York City in the 1950s and ’60s, was well-educated, and happened to approach the comic book business for work at a time when the business was desperately eager to embrace new, younger writers and artists. I didn’t have a lot of competition. I was good enough and energetic enough and ambitious enough to embrace the opportunity fate offered me. And I made good.

But here’s the thing: temperamentally, though I was a professional writer who wrote for a living, emotionally I wanted to write part-time as a hobby. The same good fortune that opened the door for me to become a professional writer at 16, and gave me more than four decades of success as a professional writer of comic books, novels, screenplays, and television episodes, closed the door for me to pursue writing purely for the love of it.

I made a bargain with fate at the age of 16 and was well into my 50s before I finally managed to break free. And once again, I was incredibly lucky to find a way to do so.

Remember those author biographies I mentioned earlier, when I said the life stories of authors tended to follow two different patterns? The part-time authors are usually academics, or people who have successful professional careers (doctors, lawyers, politicians, police men or women, etc.) who write in what they amusingly call their spare time. (I really admire people who work full time and then dedicate the remaining hours of their day to struggling with words.) In contrast, full-time authors are often people who pursued other careers with little success until they fell into writing as a last-ditch effort to put food on the table. Some of my favorite authors are in that second category (usually writers of genre fiction), though several writers I greatly admire are in the first. I’m sure you can think of several in both.

Because I started writing professionally while I was still in high school I never really faced the choice of pursuing a different career. If anything I felt I had no choice. I was earning a living doing something I loved — in fact I earned more money than my father, who worked hard, long hours at a job he didn’t enjoy. Faced with the opportunity to continue to earn money as a writer (and with the example of my unhappy father’s working life providing a view of the unattractive alternative) I naturally embraced a career as a professional writer. Like I say, I was lucky, though at the time I was too excited by the apparently endless possibilities before me to understand both how lucky I was, and what a devil’s bargain I was making.

Here’s the thing I’ve discovered about myself over a forty year career as a writer. I’ll put it in the second person because it’s easier for me to do so, but I don’t mean to suggest this is a universal truth:

When you start writing because you love to write, and you end up writing because you have to write to survive, you eventually find yourself unable to write at all.

By the time I quit my career as a television writer about six years ago I’d gotten to the point where it was a daily struggle to face an empty page. After four decades of writing to make a living I’d lost my enthusiasm for writing. In fact I developed an almost pathological aversion to the physical act of sitting at a keyboard. The thought of writing filled me with an emotion I can only describe as horror. I hated my working life. I wanted out, desperately.

I got out.

I’ve spent the past six years gradually rediscovering the original love I felt for writing. I’ve consciously avoided taking on assignments that might require more than a casual commitment. I take my time writing scripts when I do take assignments (to the considerable grief of my editors, I’m certain — sorry, Joey; sorry, Jim). I write deliberately, and as thoughtfully as I can. I try to approach writing as a hobby — as a passion project, a way to express my personal vision of the world, and whatever insights and with whatever empathy I can bring to that vision. As a result I’ve written very little in the last half-decade, but what I have written, I’ve written because I wanted to write it. Not because I’ve had to. I’m now working on a Young Adult fantasy-horror novel, and I’m loving every minute of it.

The fact that I’ve found the freedom to do this after a lifetime of pursuing a career as a professional writer is nothing short of miraculous. I recognize that. Very few people get a second shot as pursuing their childhood dreams… especially when they’ve already had a first shot, and enjoyed considerable success doing what they thought they wanted to do.

I am, as I say, one very lucky son of a bitch.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 3/14/13

Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are

  • Angela Santomero (BLUE CLUES) is developing SARA SOLVES IT, a children’s show for Amazon Studios which will be one of several completed pilots that Amazon will test online, looking for audience feedback, at al. (Which brings up a question: Can any tech company ever make decisions based on its gut? And another question: Can any artistic endeavor be successful if it doesn’t come from the gut?)
  • Ron Moore (anybody remember BATTLESTAR GALACTICA? ) has gotten the go-ahead into series by Syfy for his hight-tech medical thriller, HELIX.  (Which sounds to a us a bit too similar to some old Michael Crichton book. Anybody remember THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN?)
  • Daron Nefcy (a newb illustrator from Cal Arts) has sold STAR AND THE FORCES OF EVIL, an animated series about a magical teen princess from another dimension, to the Disney Channel. (Which tells us that the way the characters look will probably be more important than the writing – and that it pays to go to school at a place known within the biz as “Disney U.”)
  • Brian Buckner (TRUE BLOOD) is moving up to showrunner of TRUE BLOOD, replacing Mark Hudis, who replaced Alan Ball. (Which tells us that this isn’t an easy show to take charge of. But at least there’s no Robert Kirkman prob.)

TVWriter™ says “Buy Peggy Bechko’s New Book!”

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You know her, you love her. Peggy’s blog posts, both those she writes for us and those we steal directly from her blog, are among our most-viewed articles – so of course you’re thrilled to know that Peggy’s novel, Stormrider, is now available in paperback as well as e-book format.

Here’s how Peggy puts this news:

Today is a day of shameless self promotion.

Well, who hasn’t done it? So proud of what you accomplished you just want to share it with the world.

So I am.

I’m a writer after all. I get excited about writing and reading and publishing and editing…well you know.

So today I announce my book, STORMRIDER, originally available in Ebook format is now available in paperback format as well with plans to bring an audio version out by the end of summer.

I’m collecting, enjoying and am very grateful for the 5 star reviews.

And here are a few of those reviews:

** 5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary Writer March 11, 2013
By Rowdy Rhodes
Format:Paperback
If you are a science fiction/fantasy fan, then this page-turner with keep you enthralled. The multi-talented Peggy Bechko has once again taken the reading world by storm; no pun intended, with her release of Stormrider. Previously only available as an eBook, the new format and layout does justice to a story line that will hold you in suspense until the very last page. The journey and adventure of her young character Janissary keeps you rooting for her every step of the way until the final, exciting conclusion. A must have summer time read. Add it to your list folks!

** 5.0 out of 5 stars worth reading! November 26, 2012
By Vallere
Format:Kindle Edition
This is a tightly woven tale of adventure, goodwill and savagery. Beyond the classic story of good versus evil, there is the conflict between the call of duty and the call of conscience. No one is perfectly good or evil, but within each of us are seeds of both good and evil. Stormrider details the internal tug of war experienced by two very different protagonists as they find their way in a strange, yet familiar world.

The conclusion of the story is of secondary interest. It is the journey and evolution of the characters that tells the tale.

** 5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully descriptive writing & wonderfully compelling story November 8, 2012
By Nick @ Den Publishing Company
Format:Kindle Edition
Page 1 and I’m already drawn in (excitedly so). But, isn’t that how good (great) fiction writing is supposed to be?! I can’t tell you how quickly and easily (and I’m not a fiction reader) Miss Bechko drew me in – not only to the beautifully described surroundings, but to feel (~deeply) for the main character, again on page one! Amazing!

** “Once I started reading Stormrider I couldn’t put it down.”
—John Cullum, Northern Exposure , Tony winning fame

And now a short review from TVWriter™:

Peggy Bechko’s a helluva writer.

Buy this @$#! book!

Can’t say you haven’t been alerted.

The Steve Ditko Public Service Package

Steve Ditko on Kickstarter

Are you a Spider-Man lover? A genuine comics freak?

If so, then you already know Steve Ditko, the artist who started Spidey, um, swinging in the ’60s (based on a Jack Kirby design, natch). If not, you should know Ditko anyway because he’s weird shy secretive very, very retro, bee-zar awesome.

And now, thanks to Kickstarter.Com, you can find one Acme Bunch O’Info on Marvel’s most shadowy creator. According to its listing, the Ditko Public Service Package #2 by Robin Snyder and Secretive Steve is:

The Ditko Public Service Package #2

A 112 page, black-and-white reprint

This is the 2nd edition of this book and a sequel to an earlier book, Ditko Package. As such, it is nearly ready to go. The story and artwork are finished.  Most production work is complete. One addition to this book will be the inclusion of the list of backers and our ‘thank you’.

If you have seen our earlier work, you know what to expect. The material we publish is unique and one-of-a-kind.

If you are not familiar with the type of material we publish, you can expect to be pleasantly surprised.

TVWriter™ definitely thinks this is worth looking into. Hell, our very own munchman says he wants in on the $20  package…and munchy never pays for nuthin’, know what we mean?

Check it out