Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Maybe it’s a weird way to collaborate but it seems to work. My buddy and I are working on two new screenplays. One’s scifi horror and the other is a thriller. We spitball several ideas until one seems to gel more than the others. Then one does the writing while the other reads the pages as they’re produced and makes edits and suggestions and rewrites scenes that could be fine-tuned. Sometimes we disagree; sometimes it all comes together. But, and this is the major thing, it works for us.

Currently my buddy is working on a scifi horror idea we tossed around. He’s written a good opening and created a solid main character.

I’m fumbling as I usually do, through the opening of a thriller idea we spit-balled. I’ve got twenty-plus pages done. Reached an up-the-stakes moment that I think works. We’ll see. I write short stories and novels. My buddy keeps reminding me that screenplays are for a visual medium. My characters tend to talk too much. Especially in the first draft. I’m trying to get them right and when they talk I get to know them better. I know we’ll end up cutting half to three-quarters of the dialogue because it’s unnecessary but I need it in the first draft to find their center.

I do a lot of research when I work whether it’s a short story, novel, or screenplay. I love Goggle and Dogpile. Type in something and here comes a bunch of sites dealing with that topic. Today I was working on a small moment when Hannah, the main character, has the villain’s cell phone. There are no numbers in the cell’s address list but three numbers are on the call list. She dials them. With the first two she hears an automated voice say that the number is no longer in service. The third is a suspense hook. What I came up with is serviceable but I hope my buddy or I can come up with a better one. Maybe not. But as I was rereading this scene, I wondered if I’d done all I could with it. Was there something that might twist it a little more. Minor moment in the first twenty pages. Really isn’t that important. But I keep playing it over and over in my mind. Then. Light bulb. Off I go to Google. Will this be a highlight in the story arc? No. But it added the right element for me. My buddy may like it, not notice, or hate it. It may end up being cut out of the final draft. Don’t know. What did I do? Hannah calls the first number and gets the “no longer in service” recording. She dials the second and gets a “no longer in service” recording but it is in German. Thanks to a site I found with Google I got the line translated. I think it’s cool. At least I do today. Tomorrow? Who knows?

More research. I’ll look over some Elmore Leonard novels I own and, probably, glance through William Goldman’s Marathon Man. It’s one of my favorite novels. “Is it safe?”

I also watch some movie thrillers. We are writing a screenplay after all. I just saw Red Eye the other day. A little over-the-top at the end but a decent nail-biter. I liked it. From my DVD library, I’ll look at Breakdown, Cellular, In the Line of Fire, Absolute Power and, of course, Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. I also picked up three new DVDs to add to my collection. All thrillers and I can’t believe I hadn’t bought them before today – Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Chinatown, and 3 Days of the Condor.

Okay, back to writing. The villain’s chasing Hannah and he’s pissed. What does he do? What does she do? Something unique. Avoid clichés. Avoid ripping off scenes I’ve loved in other movies. Ripping off is the word wrong. Homage is the right word.



dink said...


Good post--fun to read. I write a bunch of stuff in first drafts that never goes in the final --I know that but I gotta. It's for meeeee. ;-)

You pegged it just right "getting to know the characters" I love that part.

I'll keep my fingers crossed that Hannah will come up with something unique and fabulous and escape the villain just in the nick ...

Christopher55 said...


Hope you're over your cold.

I hope Hannah gets away, too. If she doesn't, it's going to be one really short screenplay.