Thursday, December 29, 2005

[RPG] Sunset, Season 2

I've started a thread over at rpg wellie about the new game I'm running set in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

It's a 'by-popular-demand' sequel to a game from 2 years ago. Back then, all the plot-craziness created a game about personal responsibility, about choosing between what's good for you and good for other people. Seems like that'll be the starting point for
this one, but I suspect it could skew more AO than our earlier game.

Everyone helped set up the situation & what's emerged is - to me - an exciting metaphor about the War on Terror, with the Slayers in the role of the terrorists.

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[The Limit] Draft D Done

Reduced from 115 pages of puffiness to a lean 93 pages of action, the script's ready for Andrew to read through it. Then we'll decide whether it needs any more radical rewrites. I'm hoping not.

Couple of things I learned during this redraft:

1. There's always more stuff you can take out.

I adhere to Stephen King's rule, that the 2nd Draft = the 1st Draft - 10% (except in my blog posts). This time round, I discovered moments within a single scene that duplicated each other, moments that didn't make any sense because they referred to previous versions, simple spelling mistakes ('streaks' became 'steaks').

In fixing all this, I took out beats I was fond of but thought distracted from getting to the story. Mostly those were slightly jokey moments or actions I wasn't 100% convinced by.

2. I always have a warm-up period where the writing doesn't come easily.

It'd be great to figure out a way around this - where it comes from and how to deal with it. That would increase my productivity.

3. I'll feel whatever I'm writing about.

That's the only way it seems to work for me. And, with this script, a lot of good's come out of it. I used to be afraid of feeling angry. Now I understand it more: the way it's powerful and it feels good - but how I nearly make bad decisions under its influence.

4. I have a new benchmark to aim for.

Earlier this year, I locked on to something new to explore in my writing - being aware of a script's central conflict and making sure every scene hooked into that. I'm still learning how to do that but now I have an even more demanding goal to reach for.

You see, I read a script and rate how engaged I am with it (out of 10) on every page. Next script, I want to aim for 10 out of 10 for all of it. I don't even know if that's achievable but there is definitely no harm in trying.


That's the great thing about writing: the process is still fun (even when it's frustrating and heart-breaking), but the benchmark for my satisfaction keeps moving.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Restarting the Limit, Professionalism & the End of the World

I've restarted work on (hopefully) the final draft of The Limit. So far, there are 3 main problems: that the setup's too long - it feels puffy, repetitive, boring; there's also a subplot that I've recently introduced that's destroying the script's momentum; and last, the ending has too much exposition in it & not quite enough emotion. Overall, the script's a little too long - 115 pages where I think it should be 90-100 at most.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed reading it. The story has a dread & tension to it that I found riviting, and finally the third act is starting to play the way I've always wanted it to. So, there's a bit of work ahead of me if I'm going to finish this before New Years, but I do think it's possible. This thing could have stopped dominating my life within the next 10 days.


I invoiced my first script editing client last night. Ah, professionalism. So satisfying.

With that in mind, here's a link to a synopsis of Robert McKee's book on script-writing, Story. Saves me the work of doing it myself.


And the world is ending. Read about the death of virtual world Asheron's Call 2 in Wired, and the melancholy that's settled over the players/customer there. Sample quotes from Clive Thompson's article:

What struck me immediately was how creepy the world had become. "Being in-game is like walking around a ghost town," I was warned by Amy Gilson, a 31-year-old from Philomath, Oregon. "You can almost see the tumbleweeds pass you by."

But I couldn't get past the sense of existential emptiness. At one point, a non-player character assigned me a quest of killing all the burrowing beasts in a nearby canyon, to save her town. I'm like, save the town? Lady, the whole damn world is about to end!

Now as the final days click down, the last denizens of Asheron's Call 2 are wrestling with a question that historically faces all displaced peoples: Where next? Thorn says many in his guild have emigrated to World of Warcraft, a game that is now so hugely popular -- and so overcrowded, with migrants fleeing to other games -- that it has become a virtual version of 19th-century America: A hallowed land of opportunity, where everyone can have fresh start.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

[TV] The Chappelle Theory

OK, here's a link to a conspiracy theory: The Chappelle Theory - that postulates that a group of prominent African-American leaders (including Oprah, Cosby, Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton) drove comedian Dave Chappelle to financial and psychological ruin because they didn't like the way Chappelle was portraying African-Americans in his sketch show.

Now I've believed in quite a few conspiracy theories in my time, but this one had me veering between 'that sounds reasonable' and triggering my bullshit detector about every 2 sentences. Here's one example:

On Tuesday, while watching an episode of the Oprah Winfrey show, Chappelle recalled being completely stunned when Winfrey turned to the camera in the middle of interviewing Tom Cruise and said "Dave Chappelle, you should be ashamed of yourself for airing that Niggars sketch on your show this week, I'm going to make sure you never work in Hollywood again."

The image, allegedly taped by Winfrey, and transmitted to Chappelle's house under the direction of Robert L. Johnson who called in some favors with Chappelle's local affiliate station manager, terrified Chappelle.

If stuff like this (and Bill Cosby as an intimidating kingpin) were true, I reckon Chappelle should have just turned every attack on him and his family into more sketches.
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Sunday, December 18, 2005

[Script] What do characters fear?

I really like this quote from Sid Field's Going to the Movies. It's Robert Towne (Chinatown) about creating characters. He first asks himself, What is this character afraid of? In other words, what is his or her deepest fear?

In Chinatown, Jake Gittes, a private detective specialising in "discreet investigation," has a certain reputation to uphold, so he does everything to make a good impression. He dresses immaculately, has his shoes shined everyday and has his own code of ethics. Gittes' deepest fear is not being taken seriously.

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

[TV] Unsubstantiated Futurama rumour

I saw absolutely nothing in this Read Sydney Morning Herald article to support Groening & Cohen's belief that Futurama is coming back, but after watching all 4 seasons this year I believe a show that's this smart deserves it.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

[TV] Breaking the Story

Rasah, over at Procrastinatey, had the good fortune to attend a seminar about writing for TV led by Tim Minear (Angel, Firefly, The X Files, The Inside, Wonderfalls). Her full report is here.

Executive Summary of how they do it over at Team Whedon:

Take multiple pitches for story ideas.
Choose one. In the seminar, the idea chosen was for an episode of Angel:

Lonely Cordy finally meets the man of her dreams, only to realize that he's Dennis the poltergeist, who's chosen to become corporeal for one day just to be with her, but his trade-off is that he must go away forever after his day is over.

Map out the general emotional arc.

Tim used the term emotional arc in contrast to plot moves, as in, he was interested in the characters' emotional beats more than fancy plots and mysteries. He was not so much interested in the details of the plot, and when someone brought up an intricate plot idea, Tim would say, "That could be interesting, but it doesn't matter. What's the emotion underlying the moves?" Following the characters' emotions was more important than "Well, what happens next? How does Angel manage to beat the baddie?"
See where certain beats would hit at certain points.

First act break, Cordy meets the man of her dreams. Second act break, finds out he's, um, not-alive. Third act break, finds out the guy is Dennis. Fourth act, Dennis must go away.

Generate ideas for the main A story.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

[Biz] Accounts set up

I'm now officially ready to trade as a script-editor and online seller of RPGs.

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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert A. Heinlein.

So far, this is the best 300+ page novel by Heinlein I've ever read. Political revolution on the Moon. A great narrator's voice, an exciting & epic scale to the events and violence, a well-worked out and unique social system. AIs, VRs, mass-drivers, libertarian philosophy and marriage clans - and many other gimmicks.

I'm a huge fan of The Puppet Masters but this is far more advanced.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

[The Limit] Dialogue Draft finished

I now breathe a sigh of relief.

Yesterday was fun. I wrote an intense action sequence about a man trying to find a roll of toilet paper, watched Frenzy for inspiration, and was just generally on a slow-moving yet relentless roll towards finishing the script.

Now, some formatting, printing out and feedback from Andrew. Then the final tighten and polish (and rigorous proof-reading - my favourite part!). I suspect after that, I'll be asking 5 people if they want to read it, just to get a final idiot-check on the whole thing. 'Idiot' in the sense of 'did I write anything totally stupid (continuity errors & such).

Anyway, now I'm going to get back to that sigh.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

[The Limit] Writer's Beard shaved

Quite often when I'm starting a dialogue draft, I won't shave until the story has quickened and the dialogue is coming naturally and rapidly out of me. Yesterday (which was also my 33 1/3 birthday) I was able to shave the beard - which had grown very uncomfortable and was stopping me from sleeping well - and see Serenity (my estimation of that movie has gone way up on a second viewing).

So, I'm going to duck away now and keep writing ... hopefully reaching the 3/4 mark by this evening.

Edited to add: Two fun links that have a lot of applicability to the writing I'm doing. Here's John Rogers on action sequences, and Josh Friedman on sex scenes.

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