Category Archives: Writing

My Superhero Pitch

What happens when you mix The Dark Knight with Breaking Bad?

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My Superhero Pitch

This is a treatment for the type of superhero movie I’d like to see; one that challenges our romantic notions of the stoic vigilante. This isn’t the summary of an idea. It’s the primordial ooze from which an idea could crawl forth from. This is a work in progress. If you think it has legs, please tell me in the comments.

Character/Drive

William has an unhealthy obsession with Batman. Modeling his haircut after the actor Christian Bale, he quotes the character in casual conversation. He lives a solitary life in an mansion on the outskirts of town, where he prominently displays a life sized statue of his idol.

“A ghastly effigy,” so says his grandmother.

His life mirrors Bruce Wayne’s beat for beat. Like Wayne, William is the heir to a family fortune. His city is stricken with crime and corruption, a reality made all the more apparent by the fact that his parents were gunned down in front of him. Identifying with the Dark Knight, William becomes a body builder, a martial artist, and an aspiring vigilante.

The difference between William and the Caped Crusader, is that he lives in a world that doesn’t bend to suit a hero’s journey, a world indifferent to his drive for redemption, one with complex problems that don’t have simple solutions.

While Alfred advised Bruce to pose as a billionaire playboy, William’s grandmother urged him to go to nursing school. Now he works the night shift, with the good natured Dawn. The pair see their share of carnage. A rash of muggings have given them a lot to do. They treat stabbings and bullet wounds, but more often than not traumatic head injuries.

William spots a pattern, one the police refuse to acknowledge: a gang is out there handing out brass knuckle beat downs. They occur so frequently, that the cops only take statements when there’s a fatality.

Dawn admire’s William’s ability to counsel grieving families. Aside from his grandmother, she’s the only person he lets into his proverbial bat cave. She’s intrigued by his mysterious nature, until she catches him stealing tranquilizers. Fearing the pressure has gotten to him, she has no idea that he’s lining his utility belt. Continue reading My Superhero Pitch

#YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen Part 6

This is the sixth collection of my best Tweets under the hashtag #YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen. Click here to catch up on the first part. These were inspired by @KMWeiland. Her blog is an excellent resource for writers looking to become authors.

These come at the special request of Jessica West (@Wes1Jess on Twitter). Be sure to thank her if you get some amusement out of these.

Mercy Continue reading #YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen Part 6

Witching Hour Whims

What do you do when your muse always gives you schlocky ideas? Write them anyway. This is an article on taking your kitsch inspiration and running with it.

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Witching Hour Whims

Ever get one of those late night story ideas, one of those pillow premises that won’t let you get to sleep? Your subconscious goes to work before your consciousness can clock out. It’s dream drafting, telling you a story. You should’ve been asleep hours ago, but you want to know how it ends. One minute you’re staring at the alarm clock, the next minute you’re booting up your computer. In an hour, you go from trance typing a treatment to the cognizant composition of a cliff-hanger. There’s a thud against the front door. Looking through the blinds, you spot a car pulling out of the driveway. That was the newspaper.

Whatever clock inspiration is running on, it isn’t in your timezone.

The next morning, the story is a quiet whisper beneath the noise of your routine, a murmur beneath the bristles of your toothbrush. It has none of the charm and confidence it had last night. After work, you page through what you’ve got. The hook is clever, but it doesn’t say anything about you on a personal level. It’s a fresh idea but not the profound epic you aspire to write. It’s not the journal entry that’s going to trick the world into falling in love with you.

There’s an audience for your sunset scribblings, but they’re looking for mindless entertainment. They want popcorn page turners, not deep reads. It’s not enough to get your work seen, you want to make an impression. You’d rather enlighten than entertain. The problem is, if you ignore every sleep deprived spark, you won’t know what to do with real late night lightning. You have to work on crap, before you can handle something with merit.

When you get a third-rate idea, use it to churn out some bronze caliber work. When you get a harebrained scheme, find the strands of silver in it. When you get the materials for a straw house, spin it into gold. When life gives you lemons, make something with pulp in it.

Inspiration rarely gives out straight flushes. Play the hand you were dealt. See your story through. It might set you up for the cards you need to go all in with later.

J.R.R. Tolkien had to write The Hobbit before he could tackle The Lord of the Rings. George Lucas had to put in his time with THX 1138 before he whisked us all to a galaxy far far away. George R.R. Martin wrote five novels, dozens of episodes of The Twilight Zone, and Beauty and the Beast before he tackled the Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones) series.

So your story is too simple to be a Pulitzer Prize winner, maybe it’s a cult classic. There are B-Movies in the Criterion Collection. There are character actors on the Hollywood walk of fame. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is full of guitarists who only played power chords.

Let’s face it; bad taste, tastes great. If War and Peace is on one side of the shelf, and Salem’s Lot is on the other, I can tell you which way I’m leaning.

Your story might be a cheesy cornball dripping with sap, but it’s value depends on how you serve it. If you serve it as a gourmet entree, your diners will be disappointed. If you serve it as a fattening state fair guilty pleasure, you’ll have some satisfied customers.

You have to put out a large quantity of schlock before you can put out anything of quality. You have to refine your imagination before you can cash in on your big idea. You have to question your ability to write a blog entry before you can be certain you know how to write a novel. You have to give your work away before you can option off the movie rights. You have to write paperbacks before you can earn a coveted dust jacket.

Take those witching hour whims and roll with them. Play the odds. You’re far more likely to find a story that works when you see each of those twilight triggers to completion. So what if the idea is a little far fetched. So what if it’s a convoluted high concept mess that takes an hour to pitch. Does it hold your attention? Then it has that going for it.

One person’s piece of crap, is another’s golden turd. Just because it’s trashy, doesn’t mean it’s a throwaway idea. This need not be your magnum opus, but rather your dime store offering. Your story need not shift our world view, just flash some pretty lights in front of it.

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An Outbreak of Cabin Fever

Some of us are so in tune with our Seasonal Affective Disorder that we prep for it. Here’s a manifesto for those of us who plan for hibernation. A lyrical tribute to agoraphobia, full of rhymes, mixed metaphors, and alliteration.

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An Outbreak of Cabin Fever

Sensing an epidemic on the horizon, the birds evacuate. Seeing an infection spread across the leaves, the squirrels dig fallout shelters. Watching the clouds, we wait for an air born agent to whiteout the earth, and blot out the sun. We sense an outbreak of cabin fever, a transmission of isolation.

Stocking up on comfort foods, we can our emotions before they go bad. We insulate our hearts before they freeze shut. We look across the bar for something to wrap ourselves in, to heat our beds when we get the chills; an autumn romance, a snow blind date, an eleventh hour Valentine.

Fishing for compliments, we feed our egos just incase we have to live off of them. We bait our lovers to tell us something that will last through winter. Something to quote in front of the mirror. We ask them to pad it out to keep us warm, to fill it with enough hot air to inflate our self images.

Stuffing our pillows with short term goals, we rest on stockpiled New Years’ resolutions. We count plans like they were sheep. They always seem more realistic once we’ve fallen asleep. Our calendars are crossword puzzles begging to be filled. We write list poems in our daily planners, haikus under our reminders.

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Filling our DVRs, every night is movie night. Building endless streaming queues, we binge through every TV series. Every weekend is a marathon. We’ve watched The Wire. You don’t have to tell us about it. We’ve seen every frame of Breaking Bad. We’re way ahead of you on that. While you’re catching up with The Walking Dead, we’ll be digging into series from the seventies. We’re half way through Night Gallery.

We stack books, when we run out of shelf space. We fold pages, when we run out of bookmarks. We have so many options, all we ever read are spines. There’s a hardcover propping up every lopsided desk. There’s a paperback on every surface. The nightstand is cluttered with cliffhangers. The coffee table is teaming with tragedies. The toilet is flooded with fables. Escapism is always at arm’s reach. Fantasy is always a couch cushion away. Distractions are falling out of the ceiling.

We may be alone, but we’ll never have to be alone with our thoughts. Continue reading An Outbreak of Cabin Fever

#YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen Part 5

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This is the fifth collection of my best Tweets under the hashtag #YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen. Click here to catch up on the first part. These were inspired by @KMWeiland. Her blog is an excellent resource for writers looking to become authors.

These come at the special request of Jessica West (@Wes1Jess on Twitter). Be sure to thank her if you get some amusement out of these.

Menacing Grin Continue reading #YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen Part 5

Spring Forward, Fall Apart

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The temperature falls
Cabin fever rises
We all catch
The same thought virus
We prepare our homes
For the contagion
We prepare ourselves
For hibernation
The big bad wolf
Is at the door
The raven pecks
Forevermore
Jacob Marley
Shakes his chains
Old Man Winter
Raises Cain

Spring forward
Lag behind
Daylight savings
Rob the mind
Spring forward
Fall apart
Daylight cravings
Starve the heart

Bricks in hand
We wall ourselves in
They huff and puff
And we take it on the chin
We’re dismay preppers
A horde of hoarders
We’ll never have to
Look past our borders
We see red
With our attitudes
Dreaming of a White Christmas
Waking to the winter blues
We go stir crazy
Mixing up our metaphors
Going out of our heads
Behind closed doors

Spring forward
Lag behind
Daylight savings
Rob the mind
Spring forward
Fall apart
Daylight cravings
Starve the heart

The Eye Rollers

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The eye rollers
The chin raisers
The marble counting
Sanity appraisers
The mixed messengers
The somber smilers
The cheer exuding
Rank and filers

The long nodders
The collar biters
The head ducking
Out of sighters
The leg crossers
The seat adjusters
The wall erecting
Superstructures

The fair weather friendlies
The mute greeters
The face forgetting
Silent treaters
The blind spotters
The selective seers
The magicians deciding
Who disappears

The social climbers
The crowd surfers
The bridge building
Community pillars
The rolling stoners
The flattening boulders
The cool operating
Iceberg shoulders

The boulevard bouncers
The list they scroll through
The police enforcing
A charisma curfew
The heroes of exclusion
The enemies of empathy
The ducks always sending
Swans out to sea

The wheat reapers
The chaff removers
The hired hands separating
The bad from the pure
The black listers
The quality controllers
The assembly line full of
Eye rollers

#YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen Part 4

TITLE PAGE 4

This is the fourth collection of my best Tweets under the hashtag #YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen. Click here to catch up on the first part. These were inspired by @KMWeiland. Her blog is an excellent resource for writers looking to become authors.

These come at the special request of Jessica West (@Wes1Jess on Twitter). Be sure to thank her if you get some amusement out of these.

Your Holiday Continue reading #YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen Part 4

The Boogeyman in My Basement

Bloody Door

There was a peck on the door. Not a knock, but a gentle rapping that wasn’t sure of itself. This was not the beak of a raven, but that of a hummingbird. Yawning in the hallway, I thought I’m not putting my pants on for that.

The tapping stopped, whoever it was. The Jehovah’s witness had second thoughts about sharing their beliefs with someone with such an unkempt hallway. The vacuum cleaner salesmen doubted his product would do me much good. The petitioner doubted someone with that many bottles on their porch cared about wildlife preserves.

The stairs creaked as the mysterious solicitor slunk back to the sidewalk from wince they came. I shuffled over to the kitchen to attend to the pressing matter of eating ice cream straight from the tub.

My roommate had asked if I’d borrowed any of the cash on his desk. I’d helped myself to some of his razors, deodorant, and clean socks, but I wasn’t aware that he’d left any money out.

I caught movement out of the corner of my eye; a shadow beneath the back entrance. A key clicked into the lock. There came a rapping, so faintly came a tapping, and my ice cream hit the floor. I squeezed my knuckles into fists and positioned myself in front of the door.

It screeched open to reveal an intruder. His face was slick with sweat. His skin was sun dried, red enough to hide the cysts along his hairline. He was shirtless, an emaciated golem. His skin left none of his rib cage to the imagination. His shorts were a patchwork of grass and blood stains.

His hand shook, wielding the key like a prison shank.

I stepped forward. “How’s it going?”

The intruder leapt back. “Is, um, Mike home?”

Shaking my head, “Nope.” I put my hand out, “Can I see that key?”

Feigning to set the key in my palm, the intruder dropped it on the floor. Lowering my eyes, I missed his getaway. The intruder slid down the railing, tapped one foot on the mezzanine, and leapt down the stairs. He was ghost.

So it turned out this was the tenant I’d been brought on to replace six months ago. He’d been stealing DVD box sets and pawning them for drug money. Here he was to make another rental from my roommate’s library.

Running down the stairs, I saw no clear sign that the intruder had left the building. My hunch was that he hid in the basement. Flashlight in hand, I made my way through the cobwebs and the mouse traps. Shattered glass cracked under foot, announcing my position to the darkness. I scanned the abandoned storage closets. There were deflated bike tires, doors stacked against the walls, and circular saws in the laundry room sink.

There was a color crayon picture on the work bench, a crudely drawn man with a handlebar mustache. A series of violent lines sliced through his gut, a gash of black across his middle. A caption down the side read:

I DIDN’T DO IT, BUT I KNOW WHO DID.

He’d been living down there. Who knows for how long? In the coming months, I would jump whenever the wind rattled the doors, put my ear to the walls, listen for bumps in the night, look for silhouettes through the blinds, and drudge into the basement to check for boogeymen.

Though the intruder never returned, the intrusion haunted me. Continue reading The Boogeyman in My Basement

Build Your Own Monsters

Photo by Keane Amdahl follow him on Twitter @FoodStoned
Photo by Keane Amdahl follow him on Twitter @FoodStoned

There’s a reason why vampires still rise out of crypts. It’s the same reason why packs of werewolves roam the countrysides, ghosts linger in abandon lighthouses, and demons wait in attics beside Ouija boards and Twister mats. There’s a reason why every flash of bright blue light hides an alien vessel, why squadrons of witches streak across the moon, and why zombies clog the interstate. It’s the same reason why Bloody Marry is on call behind every reflective surface, why trolls make living rooms of covered overpasses, and why every tomb, no matter how far from Egypt, is stacked full of mummies.

These monsters have stood the test of time. They’ve been vetted by generations of storytellers. Each creature has deep cultural roots and instant brand recognition. We see elongated canines, dripping with blood, and we know what to expect. We hear doors slam, see furniture stack, and we anticipate a chill in the air. We see a sickly girl chained to a bed, shouting obscenities, and we expect her head to spin like a sprinkler firing pea soup across the walls.

These creatures have the staying power to crawl up from the pits of the public domain. Their mythos are classics. New works based on them are never dismissed as fan-fiction. Good writers borrow, great writers steal, and if you’re going to be a thief you might as well steal from the best.

Writing a story about vampires or werewolves is like filling out a mad-lib in reverse. The character attributes are already there, all you have to do is come up with the situation. Writers who take on these monsters are like DJs remixing mythologies. The tune never changes, all they have to do is drop a fresh beat. Like grade school students passing a story around, writers using these monsters contribute to an ongoing plot. They expand a vast universe that’s populated with characters with strikingly similar names.

What do you do when you want to tell your own story? Continue reading Build Your Own Monsters