Archive for Writing

The Station

3979765871_f5e0676fedAs his foot crunched in the gravel between the tracks, Edward stopped and waited.  It had been more than six months since he’d seen another living soul, but he’d run into one of them just a few days before.  He kept his weight steady.  His right palm gripped against the stock of the rifle started to sweat.  He eyed the windows of the building, looking for movement.  Nothing moved.

He quickly took two more crunching steps and stopped again.  Edward was tempted to call out, but voices carried and there was no sense alerting anything that hadn’t already heard his footsteps.  Still nothing moved, so he finished crossing the tracks to the cement walkway.

Everything looked clear and dry.  He carefully leaned the rifle against one of the roof supports and slipped off his shoes.  After tying the laces together, he hung them over his shoulder and picked the rifle back up.  He momentarily juggled it from hand to hand, taking the opportunity to dry his palms on his pants.

The light was beginning to fade and he needed to find a room, preferably without windows and a single door he could lock and barricade, before night fell.  Edward approached the nearest door in sock feet, as silent as he could manage.

It was dark inside.  Electricity had first started failing within days after everything went to hell.  Some places, powered by hydroelectric had managed months of power before their mechanisms began to fail.  The last of Edward’s own working batteries had died out weeks ago, and he hadn’t been able to find any more.  Entering the building took several long minutes as he stepped forward into shadow and then waited for his eyes to adjust.  By the time he was a few feet inside, it wasn’t so dark anymore.

Most of the windows had been boarded up on the inside, which meant that someone had secured it at some point.  But the door had been wide open, so unless that someone had retreated to and was holding up in some deeper room, it wasn’t likely that any living person was inside.

Safety was important, but he didn’t have time to check the whole station.  He made his way down the first hallway and found a supply closet.  It wasn’t big, but he could see a small rectangular shape high up on the far wall he guessed was an air vent, and the wire shelves on the left and right would provide good support for barricading the door.  Opposite his closet was a boarded window, and if he needed he could use the shotgun on his back to blast a way out. He stared into the room for a minute, occasionally looking left and right down the hall in either direction.  Edward shifted his weight to his right foot, then patted his left foot on the floor a couple times.

Nothing moved.

He slipped into the closet, turned and very slowly shut the door.  Carefully he knelt down and placed his rifle on the floor, then unslung his pack from his back.  Reaching in with his left hand he quietly rummaged around for a candle and a lighter.  At this point his flash light was little more than a club, but he’d found a box of fifty disposable lighters long ago and had kept them.

Producing a candle and a lighter, he flicked the lighter to life and lit the candle.  On his left was a shelf of cleaning and janitorial supplies.  Quickly his inventoried it in his head, taking note of there was nothing to eat or drink, but there was a bottle of plain Clorox he could use to clean some water later and number of other chemicals.  There were buckets on the bottom shelf he might make use of tomorrow, and in the corner were three mops he could use to bar the door.  He found a stack of paper cups, possibly for a dispenser next to a drinking fountain somewhere in the station, and took one to use as a candle holder, which he did and set it on the same shelf at chest height.

On the right was a shelf of office supplies.  Some pens, a couple pads of paper, a stapler.  Nothing he could really use.

He looked up and saw the dark rectangle on the wall opposite the door had indeed been an air vent.  There wouldn’t be any heat or air conditioning, but it made him feel better about locking himself in a room if it wasn’t air tight.

Edward grabbed up the mops and wedged them into the wire shelves across the door.  It probably wouldn’t hold long if trouble came, but the noise should wake him up.  With that done, he moved his candle down to a lower shelf, moved his rifle into the corner the mops had occupied, and pulled his sawed off shotgun from his pack and placed it on the shelf with the stapler.

He sat on the floor and leaned against the back wall of the closet, then went searching through his pack for something to eat.  Edward came up with a water bottle still half full and one mostly full that represented the last of his clean water.  He also discovered a granola bar at the bottom, which was a surprise since he thought he’d run out last week.  He unwrapped and ate the bar, as well as a small bag of peanuts, and drank the half full bottle of water.

Less hungry than he had been, Edward blew out the candle and settled on the floor curled in a fetal position.  Using a t-shirt from his pack as a pillow, he closed his eyes and tried not to think too much about tomorrow’s trip in to town for supplies.  For now, he was safe in the station. Still he spent a long hour listening for noises in the night before drifting off into a fitful sleep.

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What’s in a Name?

One of the things that has always bothered me with my writing is coming up with names.  Every character needs one and mine always end up in one of two categories.  Either their name is unique and awesome, or it is horrible plain and forgettable.  I have spent many any hour agonizing over names and often end up reusing the same ones over and over.

However, thanks to an idea from Corvus Elrod, I started keeping a list of names from spam emails and comments on this blog.  I’ve already got well over two hundred names and I’ve only been doing it for about a week.  The names range from the banal to the exotic and every level in between.  The idea was inspired, so to Corvus, sir, I tip my hat.  I may never have to worry about character naming again.

Good News, Bad News

The good news is that I am writing.  The bad news is that most of it isn’t for Script Frenzy.

See, I had this idea.  I was going to take a graphic novel and write a screenplay out of it.  Its actually coming along quite well, but a lot more slowly than I had hoped.  Ultimately, since the graphic novel is from the early 80’s there is actually very little dialogue that I can steal directly from the text.  Did people actually talk like that?  Did people actually think street thugs and criminals talked like that?  Wow…  Anyway, there are also plot elements I can’t use, either because they don’t make sense, or because they can’t be made to make sense in 120 pages or less, or… well…

Oh hell, its not like I need to be secretive… the graphic novel I am working on taking to screenplay is The Punisher: Circle of Blood.  In my opinion, taking the Punisher to screen should be done in three parts: An origin story, then Circle of Blood, and then Suicide Run.  The reasons for this are simple.  The origin story, or at least one set near the beginning of his career sets up the character and puts him on the road of killing bad guys.  Circle of Blood involves Frank dealing with the consequences of his actions.  Suicide Run puts Frank in a place where he has to seriously consider whether he’s actually helping anymore.

The 1989 Dolph Lundgren film was a travesty.  The 2004 Thomas Jane film actually told the origin well, but it changed the origin a lot and the villain was lame.  The 2008 Ray Stevenson film actually got Frank as close to right as I think they could, but then they ruined the film with a terrible misuse of Jigsaw, horrible accents and dumb ultra-violence.  However, when it came to approaching my take on Circle of Blood, I didn’t want to be stuck with the legacy of these films, and yet I also didn’t want to ignore them.  The first scene in my script doesn’t exist in the book.  My version opens in a courtroom where the DA is laying out his closing arguments against Frank Castle, the Punisher.  Its important because this DA’s monologue touches on the idea that legend and rumor are a factor, and it is the job of police detectives to sift through that to the truth.  This opens the door to allowing the audience to feel like maybe they haven’t seen 100% of the truth so far.  That maybe the other three films were just versions of the truth, stories told and retold, much of the details being filled in by the tellers since real witnesses are few and far between.  It even opens the film up to allow a fourth actor into the role of Frank if that is something that has to happen.

The next major hurdle for me was in trying to decide if I needed Jigsaw.  Circle of Blood makes use of that character, but the makers of the 2008 film saw fit to kill him off.  So now I am managing two versions of the script going forward.  One is Circle of Blood without Jigsaw, which just seems a little off, and the other is Circle of Blood with Jigsaw’s introductory scene including a jab at the previous film as Frank says, “I thought you were dead” and Jigsaw replies (without a lame cartoony New York accent), “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” alluding back to the courthouse scene as well as setting Jigsaw up to be more than the semi-brainless thug of the 2008 movie by actually having him quote Mark Twain.  I really like the second version, but I’m not sure other people will be so ready to buy it.

The last hurdle is in taking some of the extraordinarily fantastic action of the comic and trying to ground it more firmly in reality without losing the spectacle of it.

All of this, as I said, has been tougher than I first imagined, mostly because it had been years since I’d actually read Circle of Blood and I didn’t realize how much of it I wasn’t going to be able to just take from the page.  Due to this, I’ve found myself wandering off and writing other things while I ponder decisions.  I’m afraid I won’t make 100 pages by the end of the month, but this has been a good experience none the less, and I plan to try to finish this screenplay even if I miss the deadline.

Scenes from the Apocalypse

My process for writing is often that I think of a setting, a situation, and then I think about how it is going to end, then I start writing scenes, chunks of text that might be interesting from wherever I decide to start along the way to the end I have envisioned.  Many of these scenes don’t make the final cut, either because they don’t end up working in the overall story, or because the characters I needed for them to work ended up being somewhere else, or not surviving long enough to be in the scene.  For years I’ve been crafting scenes for an apocalyptic zombie story, some are better than others, some are really bad.  What follows is one scene that was dropped from the story because the two characters involved got split up before this could happen.  A version of this still exists, but it is completely different now, with different characters and a modified setting, although much of the dialogue remained the same.

Anyway… enjoy…

“Do you believe in God?”

Robert rolled his eyes.  For the first six days Martin had barely spoken at all, but now at just over a month since the world went to Hell he was getting more prone to long winded often philosophical diatribes.  Robert did not have an answer to the question, nor did he need one.  He only needed to wait for Martin to take up the conversation all on his own.

With the spoon of franks and beans held just inches from his mouth, Robert sat motionless waiting for Martin to continue.  He looked over the boy wearing jeans and flannel shirt whose hands lightly gripped the rifle.  Martin never turned to look at Robert, he had kept his eyes focused out the window.  They both smelled like rotted flesh.

Tired of waiting, Robert started eating the room temperature food again straight out of the can, occasionally pausing to wipe his mouth with his hand and then wipe his hand on his pants.  Every time he wiped his face he was reminded that he really wanted to shave.  And a shower, but they could not afford to be clean for the time being.

“I’m pretty sure I used to,” Martin said at last.  “No, I’m certain of it.  Went to church every Sunday with Mom growing up.”  His eyes darted this way and that, tracking each and every movement outside.  “I believed in God, and God believed in us.  Maybe that’s what this is, maybe God stopped believing in us.”

Martin shifted slightly in his crouch.  Gently he lowered the rifle to the ground and picked up the crossbow.  He pulled the crossbow up to his chest, made sure the bolt was sitting proper and started sighting something out the window.

Robert craned his neck to peer over Martin’s shoulder.  There was a man in overalls shuffling down the street.  The overalls looked frayed at the edges, and their denim blue was lost in a dark stain that covered nearly the whole of it.  His left foot never left the ground, dragging the gravel when it was its turn to move.  Both men caught their breaths and the sound of the shuffling man’s feet swallowed the world.  One crunching step followed by the scraping drag of the other, then the crunching step again.

The crossbow made a quiet twang and the bolt sailed with a whisper until it drove home with a thunk through the temple and into the brain.  The man in overalls slumped the ground in a heap next to three other corpses in the street, each with a crossbow bolt protruding from the head.

Martin drew back the string and nocked another bolt in the crossbow.  He placed it back on the floor, picked up his rifle again and settled back into his resting crouch position.  His eyes never left the view outside the window.

Robert rolled backwards and leaned against the wall.  “Getting slow out there.  Might be time to burn them and move on?”

“Maybe.”  Martin turned his deep blue eyes on Robert.  They were his mother’s eyes, clear and pure.  “Maybe this is God believing that we can overcome anything.  A test of faith.”

And with that Robert knew they were here another night, Martin was not listening again.  But they were out of beans, which meant they needed to go foraging for canned goods before dark.

30 Days, 100 Pages

Tomorrow begins Script Frenzy.

You know, for the last few years I’ve made an effort to participate in the NaNoWriMo, but November is just such as awful time of year.  Everything always seems up in the air, crazy, and trying to add novel writing on top of it just never works out for me.  Threats of unemployment, actual unemployment, holidays, budget concerns, falling temperatures and people who get sick and then don’t stay home getting everyone else sick… I suppose there are people who thrive on that, but for me its just distracting.  I’m going to make an effort this year to try to clear up as many things as possible before November to take away some of the stress and see if I can make a real honest go at it.

April, however, is a much better month.  Temperatures actually rising, taxes sorted out and filed already (or at least sorted out and waiting for the last possible moment to mail them in).  April just seems to have much less drama and stress for me.  Maybe its just me, but whatever the cause, unlike November and the NaNoWriMo, I am ready for April and Script Frenzy.

30 Days, 100 Pages… here I come.

Script Frenzy

Every year I attempt the NaNoWriMo.  Every year, so far, I have failed to achieve the goal of 50,000 words by the end of the month.  November tends to always be a harsh month for me.  But even though I fail, I do still love the effort, which is why this year I’ll also be giving a shot at Script Frenzy.

I love movies and TV, and I’ve always got ideas floating around in my head, but until recently the tools I used to write scripts (Word) didn’t support the format very well.  I’ve discovered that the more effort you have to put into formatting the less desire you have to actually write.  Of course, I could always adopt a “write now, format later” attitude, but that just isn’t my style.  I don’t have a problem with rewrites, but if it just looks wrong to start with… anyway… through my brother, through a friend of his, I discovered celtx.  I’ve always wanted to own one of those cool screenwriting programs, but never could get beyond paying the money for them, an often non-trivial amount (they start around $150 and go up from there).  I did once get Write Brothers Writer’s DreamKit 4, but it turned out to be more complicated to use that I had hoped, or maybe I just sucked at using it.  Celtx, on the other hand, is simple.  I downloaded it, installed it, and spent just a couple minutes familiarizing myself with the menus.  Then I watched one of the five or so minute video walkthrus from their website, and then I pounded out ten pages of script.  All perfectly formatted.  Awesome.

So, with celtx in my arsenal, on April 1st, I’ll be undertaking the Script Frenzy challenge: 30 days, 100 pages.  At first, I was going to tackle one of the many ideas I have scribbled on bits of paper or filed away in documents on my PC, but then I went and saw Watchmen.  It got me to thinking about all the comic book based movies I’ve seen and how some I felt nailed the material, even when they strayed from it, and how others totally blew it and left me thinking “I could writer better than that.”  To that end, I went to my bookshelf full of graphic novels and picked one out.  I’ve got 12 days now to read my source material, get familiar with it and make some preliminary notes, and then, come April, I’ll start drafting my adaptation.  By May, we’ll see which category of comic book adaptation writer I fall into.

Concluding the WriMo

I didn’t win.  I ran into a few obstacles this year.  I fell into the switching stories trap.  I also got sick… nasty stuff.  And I also suffered from a general unemployment malaise.  You know, you would think that with all this free time I’d get plenty of writing done.  But it turns out then when I’m unemployed I spend all my time looking for a new job and worrying I won’t be able to pay my bills.

Anyway… I did manage to get further than I ever have before.  I got just over ten thousand words on one project and probably twenty thousand across all of them.  I’ve never cleared ten thousand before.  So, even though I didn’t win, I managed a milestone.

But now it is December, and the NaNoWriMo is done.  However, I don’t think I’ll stop writing this time.  I’m going to try to block out at least an hour every day for working on something, and I’ll even try to make it the same something as often as possible.

The Awesomest Story Ever Told

That is the title of my NaNoWriMo project this year.  Originally I was going to work on something called Necromancer, but I stalled out on it really early on and after a few days being totally stuck I decided to bail on it in favor of something that will be far easier to write.

So, what is The Awesomest Story Ever Told?  It is the tale of a clan of ninjas who protect the world from threats of the undead who encounter a spaceship from the future crewed by two astronauts, a monkey and a robot who have traveled back in time to prevent a zombie apocalypse.  Right away they discover that the apocalypse of the future was the product of a group of mad scientists who unleashed the zombie hordes in their bid to overthrow all the governments of the world.  As the scientists activate their own time machine and slip away, our heroes reconfigure the spaceship from the future to follow them.  It is a journey through history fighting for the future and encountering everything awesome that has ever existed.

As you can see, my basic story already contains much awesome.  Ninjas, zombies, astronauts, a monkey, a robot, mad scientists, spaceships and time travel.  There are already plot points to include dinosaurs, cavement, pirates, wild west gunfighters, sharks, vampires, werewolves, a medieval castle and knights, but this story needs to include all of the awesome.  All of it.

So, I implore you, every reader, suggest something (or many things) that is awesome.  Feel free to explain why it is awesome, or don’t.  Just suggest awesome and I will try to work it in to the story, and I’ll give credit to the first person to suggest an item of awesome should this work ever see publication of any form.

And So It Begins…

Today is November… and that means it is National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, a mad dash to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  Two years ago was the first time I’d heard of the WriMo.  I planned to participate, and I even wrote a couple of days, but it was fairly pathetic.  Last year I was hyped… then I got sick and was down for the count for nearly two weeks (missed a fair bit of work too).

This year, I am ready.  I got my idea all in line over the past month and did a little outlining and plotting, just to make sure the idea wasn’t going to stall on me.  Today I wrote… 1,430 words.  Best NaNoWriMo start I have ever had.

I’m looking forward to see how the rest of the month turns out…

As long as I remember to update it, you’ll be able to keep track of my progress over in the sidebar, or on the official NaNoWriMo site on my profile.

Countdown to November

I love October.  It contains my two favorite holidays: my birthday and Halloween.  However, in the last couple of years, passing through October has also held a certain growing level of dread… November is coming, the NaNoWriMo is almost here.

Once again I’ll be attempting to participate in this annual event.  The worst thing that could possibly happen to me within the next month is for me to not find a new job and have to start juggling finances until I do.  The best thing that could possibly happen for the WriMo is for me to not find a new job and have the month to split between looking for work and writing.

We’ll just have to wait and see how this one goes…