The future is now

I like to begin every screenplay with a burst of delusional self-confidence. It tends to fade pretty quickly, but (for me, at least) there doesn’t seem to be any other way to start writing a script — Michael Arndt

What have I gotten myself into?

Just when I thought I could get back to working on my writing project and get back to my two lead characters (the ‘boys’) after completing a non-related commitment, I find myself with another writing project.

This one is courtesy of the monthly-ish writing group get-together that was held on Saturday. Everyone in the group has been instructed to work on something of their choice, something short — it could be a short story, short non-fiction, short genre-of-your-choice — whatever you want as long as it’s short. This is a project we will be working on over the next five or six (or is it four or five?) workshops. The aim is to have something publishable at the end, or at least be on your way to creating something you can publish.

Everyone has been given their marching orders. Each project is as different and varied as the individuals in the group.

So, what’s my marching order? Develop a screenplay for a short film. Yeah, you read that correctly. A screenplay for a short film. And maybe get it produced.

What have I gotten myself into?

My mentor had the screenplay idea pop up in his head last week. He thought it was something I could sink my teeth into, given my skill set and my tendency to think cinematically when I write.

Truthfully, I’m not going into this kicking and screaming. It’s always been something I knew I would eventually tackle. And before my mentor mentioned that I should try writing a screenplay, the idea had been running around in my mind more often than it should have in recent weeks. It’s something I honestly believe will play a role in what I do in the future.

Apparently, the future is now. Man, it sneaks up on you like a little bratty shit.

I have research to do for the screenplay which is on top of the research I’m already doing for my main writing project. I’m not sure if there are enough hours in the day to do what I need to do.

Two words come to mind. Time management.

I do have an idea for the screenplay. It’s only been shared with the writing group as a one sentence description followed by an explanation of the idea’s origin. In the 48 hours since the workshop, it has evolved with more details. I still need to flush it out further before I can start writing. So now, the writing group is in the dark about how the idea they heard at the workshop will turn into a screenplay. Nobody knows what the story will be except for my best friend. I haven’t told her what it will be but she’ll find out soon enough.

I admit that I’m a little stumped as to how I can juggle two writing projects at the same time. They are two different styles of writing, two different ways of thinking although I think they compliment each other. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to stretch my creative brain and imagination in this way. I do believe my fiction writing projects will benefit in the long run with the introduction of screenwriting. How could it not?

So now, I have a novel and the makings of a screenplay staring at me. Splitting time between the two is going to be interesting. As it stands, the boys from the novel are a little miffed at the thought of having to share me with the three characters from the screenplay. Well… they might be more than a little miffed. After all, it had been just me and the boys. They’ve enjoyed monopolizing my attention. Maybe a little too much.

Now it seems they are a tad jealous and worried about losing my attention. I get the feeling there might be a donnybrook in the near future between my boys and the screenplay characters. I can tell you the two females from the screenplay can handle themselves and are quite capable of playing dirty when necessary. They are very aware the boys play rough. They’re evenly matched but I have a funny feeling the boys would win with only the skin of their teeth.

Regardless, the donnybrook cannot happen. I have to figure out how to keep everyone — and that includes me — happy.

Oh man, it looks like I’ll be busy for the rest of the year with the two writing projects. This is going to be crazy. But I have a funny feeling I’m going to love it because that’s how I roll.

What have I gotten myself into?

Tugging at my bindings

When I get an idea for a book, something appeals to me, it’s usually a character. I’ll see a picture of a female marshal in front of the courthouse in Miami and she’s got a shotgun on her hip and it goes up on an angle. And she’s good-looking. And I say, ‘I’ve got to use her’ — Elmore Leonard

When it comes to starting a new writing project, it always revolves around, not one, but two characters born out of an interesting idea. That is how it was with my first book. That is how it is with the modest pile of story ideas currently sitting in my figurative keepsake box, waiting for me to revisit them or explore them beyond the one sentence description.

And clearly, that is how it is with my current writing project. Two characters who barreled their way into my imagination, disrupting the development of another story idea, forcing me to temporarily set aside that story idea for these two bundles of energy who have made it their mission to never allow me to ignore them for any extended period of time.

Apparently, they’re done being quiet and allowing me to go about my business during this extended time period that I am in. My two boys don’t come up to me and tell me point blank that they need playtime with me. This time, they sneak up on me ninja-style, which is pretty hilarious given how loud and energetic they are. Even when they’re quiet, the air ripples around them.

To be honest, it’s my own bloody fault. I’m starting to tug at the bindings that have me bound to the commitments I have outside from my boys. Then I started thinking about a particular plot point that popped into my head as I was driving yesterday afternoon. I’m seriously considering adding this plot point to my boys’ story. It would also expand a third character’s role in the story and would make the dynamic more than interesting between the three characters. This has the potential to play out in new, exciting and thrilling ways for everyone involved.

Of course, as soon as this plot point popped up, one of the boys fired off a grenade launcher and the other ran around banging two trash can lids together, both yelling “Hell ya!!!!!!” Yes, I know that’s a lot of exclamation marks. That’s how bloody excited they are.

They’re incorrigible.

That means the new plot point goes in. When your characters whole-heartedly want (it’s actually more like, demand) you to add this twist into the story, you can’t say ‘no.’ I do like the twist. It might offend some people’s sensibilities but I really couldn’t give a fuck about that, right now.

As for the reaction of the third character whose role has become much more intriguing (and possibly a little more frightening), she’s pretty pleased. She doesn’t jump around like those two hotheads. She’s ready to sink her teeth into what I’ve come up with for her.

I’m happy to be developing her beyond being a prop. I’ve always wanted her to be more than that and it has niggled at me since she came to life. I’ve always believed she was meant to do more, be more than whatever archetypal conventions could cast upon her. I needed her to deviate, even if it’s just a little. And this twist is what she has been waiting for. The glint in her eyes when she realizes I have more in store for her, tells me this is the right thing to do.

Now when I think of her, Fleetwood Mac’s Gold Dust Woman comes to mind. But the version of the song that plays in my head is performed by Halestorm. It’s a great cover, by the way.

After my non-writing commitments have been met, it’s back to my characters. I’m still tugging at my bindings. But I know my boys will cut me loose.

Probably sooner than I expect.

All lit up

The one thing emphasized in any creative writing course is ‘write what you know,’ and that automatically drives a wooden stake through the heart of imagination. If they really understood the mysterious process of creating fiction, they would, ‘You can write about anything you can imagine’ — Tom Robbins

If I consistently followed the mantra ‘write what you know,’ I’d be pretty fucking boring as a storyteller. The mantra is without a doubt, a good place to start when figuring out what it is that you want to write. And it is a great place start if you want to figure out the process of writing and to just start writing.

The phrase popped up ten months ago while having drinks with my best friend and a mutual acquaintance of ours. The acquaintance was curious about my writing so I explained what the first book was about in a rough-and-tumble kind of way. Then I gave him a quick and dirty pitch describing what my next writing project would be about. At the time, it was roughed out in my mind but I gave him the gist of it. He responded by asking me if I was supposed to write what I know, not what I just told him. His initial assessment of me never prepared him for what came out of my mouth. He was utterly befuddled much to my best friend’s delight and amusement.

I have never taken a creative writing course. I don’t think my lack of being formally educated in the art of storytelling via a college course or some sort of university degree makes me less skilled at it. Wait, does double majoring in English and Political Studies count for something? Maybe not.

To be honest, I’ve seen some of the requirements needed to enter master programs for creative writing. No, thanks. Never mind the ‘write what you know’ mantra driving a stake through the heart of imagination, those masters programs will do it for you… well, me for sure. It would have just filled me with self-doubt while I despised my perceived inadequacies as a writer. I know how much angst I can handle. I don’t need anybody deciding for me what I can or can’t handle. Or what I can or cannot write.

I’ve UN-intentionally avoided pursuing a diploma or a degree in creative writing because it was never the path I needed to get where I am right now. Where I’m at right now, is at the cusp of something amazing, creatively and personally. It’s something that been gestating for a long time. It started before I gave writing a go. It picked up a little steam when I wrote my first book. It started accelerating with the two characters (affectionately referred to as ‘my boys’) I’m working with now. I can’t remember the precise moment when they came roaring into my life, upending a previous story idea and planting themselves firmly in front of me so I couldn’t see anything else but them.

That upended story idea hasn’t been tossed aside. It is something I will return to explore. There is a reason for the switch-off. I think I know what it is. When the timing is right, I will revisit those characters and explore them again.

And as if my boys weren’t pesky enough with their poking me and wanting to play in the now-too-small sandbox of imagination (they now live in a hut with a fire pit by a beach), my field trip back in late October turned up the heat a little more. The boys were excited as hell by the research. I could feel their energy thrumming.

You know that carnival/exhibition ride operator who asks you if you want the ride to go faster? It seems I have been saying ‘HELL YA!’ a lot along with my two boys in the last couple of months or so. I must be some sort of closeted adrenaline junkie. I don’t get my kicks in the most obvious ways. The boys make it known that they’re in my head 24/7. When I’m not paying attention to them, they’re always there. Oddly enough, they’re not annoying. I enjoy their company regardless of the shenanigans they insist on exposing me, too. They’re quite shameless when it comes to grabbing my attention. I find it impossible to hate them. They love being around me. Te amo y más. That phrase pops into my head a lot. Some could argue that they love being around me too much.

While I might be a closet (maybe ‘latent’ is a better description) adrenaline junkie, I do think something is awakening in me that has long been dormant. Things have become clearer with regards to who I am, who I need to be. I’m sure how it ended up being dormant. Maybe, I just needed to get to a point in my life where it was the right time to come out of its slumber.I attribute a part of the awakening to the political disaster unfolding in America, one which threatens what stability there may be in the rest of the world. A tangible sense of activism has been awakened. And I’m figuring out how to express it. The expression isn’t looking to be deafeningly loud. It’s just looking to be duly noted along with all the other voices out there.

Being just a drop in the sea of humanity, I do have a sense of what I can do. I can’t explain it right now. It’s something I feel. And it’s taking me somewhere I need to go. It starts with the personal choices I make in how I live my life and who I want in my life. And it also starts with the stories I want to tell.

The stories I want to tell will represent who I am. I don’t think I’m a writer whose subject matter necessarily appeals to the masses. Being something to everyone is a straight jacket I don’t care to slip into.

Last Wednesday, I came across something that piqued my curiosity and now, it has me excited because it’s a story idea (in its most fundamental elements) I want to explore after my boys and I are done playing together. Although, I don’t think the three of us will ever leave each other. Will this new story idea become a novel? Probably, considering long-form writing seems to be my jam. I haven’t put a ton of thought to it yet. But it’s an idea I find fascinating. But I don’t want to create any characters for it until I do little more research on it.

And speaking of research, I’m hoping to do more field research in the near future with someone I consider a really good friend. The biggest obstacle will be finding time from our busy schedules to get this research done. Yes, I’m being vague again. Mainly because what I want to do, might raise a few eyebrows except for the ones who really know me. They’ll just think to themselves ‘why am I not surprised she’s going there?’ As for the others who don’t know me all that well… let’s just say they may have reason to be a bit wary around me. I say that with a semi-evil grin.

I have been fortunate enough in the last few months to find, encounter and be surrounded by individuals who inspire me just by being themselves, who accept me and my foibles. And in that time, I’ve also been lucky to discover things that have set my imagination on fire. Not the kind of fire that burns hot, blindingly bright and quickly dies. It’s the kind of fire that burns slow with a hotter-than-warm glow and doesn’t seem it will ever fade away.

Comforting yet energizing. Perfect and seductive, especially at night.