New Year’s Dissolutions

I’m always resolving to do things, and I think it’s time to make a change.

The sheer volume of life goals I set, and often expect myself to achieve, is intimidating. Or inspiring, depending on my mood.

So this January let’s try paring down the list. Not the list of what I resolve to do – no way, that would be admitting defeat which I never, almost ever do while all the blood remains in my body. Instead, let’s cut out some of the superfluous stuff I actually do, which I suspect keeps me distracted from the bigger, cooler, more interesting things I really want. You know?

I DISSOLVE: Watching TV shows I don’t care about
With the availability of Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and DVDs from the library, it’s easy to watch an entire five seasons of Breaking Bad without realizing it. You just one-after-another it whether you really want to or not.

My new philosophy is to disoblige myself from finishing a series just because I started it. Drop Dead Diva? I gave you six episodes, and that’s all I’d really like to pursue. Downton Abbey? You lost me. I’m giving myself permission to stop watching you so I can watch something else. I mean, write more.

Writing Everywhere

Writing Everywhere… it is possible

I DISSOLVE: Staying indoors
Being a writer and living in southern California comes with certain advantages. Why do I feel chained to my desk when I can write literally anywhere? All I need is a notebook! And probably a pen. Potentially a laptop. All of which are magnificently portable.

No more will I insist on sitting and staring at a screen to achieve verbal accumulation. To the streets, to the outdoors, to the beach!

I DISSOLVE: Driving everywhere
While LA is not the most pedestrian-friendly city in America, it is reasonably so. I have coffee, a library, several restaurants, public transportation and an ATM within 1 mile of my apartment. I have a grocery store down the street. And a clock repairman around the corner. Why jeopardize a perfectly good parking spot when I can walk to so many of life’s essential places?

I DISSOLVE: Working all day
This week I tried an experiment: knocking out my workday between the hours of 7am and noon. I won’t say it went perfectly, but I was amazed at how much I could accomplish in five hours. Since I tend to focus so intensely, I think short bursts of activity suit me much better than forcing a full day of lackluster performance. I certainly feel much more interested in writing my script!

I bet you have your own secret list of dissolutions for this year. Embrace it! Clear out the clutter! Let’s all let go of the stuff we don’t need, but we have it just because we’ve always had it, and make way for the new exciting stuff.

Want to?

Rebelling with Tchaikovsky

The concept of time off: I don’t seem to have it. But I keep looking for it, and maybe one day I’ll succeed.

After having not blogged since before Thanksgiving, I find I’m equal parts short on time and rebellious toward my editorial calendar. In case you’ve yet to hop on the latest fad, editorial calendars are these things writers are supposed to make so we know what to write on which day. Which means we have to figure that out weeks in advance.

Which, if you know me at all, you’ll understand this is simply not the way I operate. But I keep trying anyway, because I’m really good at feeling inadequate when I can’t do the stuff everybody says I’m supposed to do.

Which seems to mirror my screenwriting life at the moment, because after forcing myself to slog through yet another outline in preparation for my second draft, I now find myself passionately opposed to writing the script that goes with it.

They say women are mysterious, and I am proof.

I heard this quote from Tchaikovsky last night (composer of fantastic works such as the Nutcracker Suite), and I think we would have gotten along:


Then he also said:

If we wait for the mood, without endeavouring to meet it half-way, we easily become indolent and apathetic. We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination.”
― Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

So this is me, attempting to meet the mood halfway. Against my will, against my better judgement, but with a little bit of hope… I’m sitting down to write and it might get ugly.

And it most certainly bears no resemblance to my editorial calendar.

Receiving Critique

Whether they’ve been asked for it or not, most people when confronted with a creative work of obscure origins will give an emphatic opinion about it. I’ve experienced this multiple times, and so have you.

“I thought it would be better.”

“Maybe change the beginning so it takes place in Africa.”

“Make it funny.”

All of which are actual notes that I have received from real people who read my writing.

Thankfully, I’ve also been blessed with readers who give notes that are actually helpful. The thing is, between the helpful stuff and the unhelpful thoughtless stuff and the amazing completed stuff there lies a Great Wasteland of Indecision.

Today I would like to consider some strategies for crossing that wasteland and coming out the other side – as a better writer with a better script. I want to consider these strategies today, because today I am a lonely writer plodding through the parched, pathless sand. And I need to remember what the heck for.

So in no particular order, I give you these…

Possibly Helpful And At The Very Least Completely Innocuous Thoughts:

4 Strategies for Implementing Script Notes | Traveling Screenwriter

1. Be indecisive and okay with it

When I’m fresh off a rough draft high, it’s tough to hear that it’s not good enough. Even though I know this, I’ve been anticipating it even before Fade Out, it’s still a thing to be processed emotionally and intellectually. At first, you will have no idea where to go with these constructively critical responses. You will just have to stare at the wall for awhile and let it sink in.

I don’t know if anyone can relate to this, but when I finish a draft or a revision, I honestly feel like it’s the best I can do. So when the inevitable feedback comes, it’s like: I can’t. I can’t make it any better than it is, because this is my best.

But of course you can. I can. It just doesn’t feel that way at first.

2. Try not to listen to the voices of darkness

As if we don’t have enough inner chatter, between characters and plot shenanigans and the angsty inner story every writer is really trying to tell, our doubts and fears want to point out a few things too. It gets super noisy.

So do what you gotta do to boost confidence, quiet unease, and quit comparing yourself to others, but know that the noise will probably never disappear altogether and that’s okay. It’s normal. We all have it.

Of course if you are successful at ditching the voices altogether, then that is really neat.

3. Make two piles

Keep and reject. Of the comments I received on my script, which ones resonated with me (whether I like it or not) and which ones do I completely disagree with?

Some feedback will hit home. I know it’s true, even if I have no clue where to begin implementing it. Other feedback is just not connecting for me, no matter which angle I view it from, and when that happens I think we are totally fine to disregard it.

Or, if you’re like me and just have to believe that everyone in the world sees something useful that you don’t: try to get to the spirit of the critique. If someone feels my protagonist lacks motivation in Act 1, and I can’t seem to add anything that works for me, then maybe something else in Act 1 needs to go.

See, this is why revisions are exhausting. But worth it. Probably.

But whatever changes I make, I know that I as the writer am responsible for them. So I’m not making any changes I don’t feel in my gut are working for me. And I don’t think that’s arrogance, it’s just being real about the story I’m trying to tell. And no one else really knows what I’m shaping in my head – it’s up to me to bring it out and show them.

4. Don’t give up

As I write and rewrite, I have to keep connecting with the core of the story – whatever fascinated me with it in the very beginning. Whether it’s a character flaw or a curious world, I need to keep enthralling myself with that basic element. Otherwise I get lost.

The fun stuff is what keeps me oriented, keeps me telling the story I set out to tell.

And with any luck, after all the critique and deep dark questioning and sweating blood, we end up with an even better, clearer, more compelling version of that idea nugget than we ever thought we could write.

Onward we trudge, faithful screenwriters! For we shall cross the Wasteland of Indecision and reach the Promised Land of a Finished Screenplay. Keep hope alive.

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What’s Bloglovin?

WordPress is wonderful. I love how easy it is to keep up with one another on here. Good job with that, WordPress. Props.

Occasionally though… and I mean just whenever I happen to go online…which of course is very infrequently because I’m such a disciplined writer… I come across a blog that I really like, hosted on some other site. Rendering it impossible to lump into my WordPress reading traffic.

And as much as I love getting email, there are only so many blog updates I can sign up to receive before it gets kind of sad. You know, where you eagerly check your inbox and find a handful of spam nestled amongst newsletters, sales alerts, and other messages generated by robots.

Enter: Bloglovin’ – a simple solution for the busy blog reader who also wants to keep their inbox free for meaningful communication of a non-automatically generated nature.

If you, dear reader, are similarly inclined, you may now follow my intermittent scribblings by starting an account (they won’t email you unless you specifically require them to) and typing ‘Traveling Screenwriter’ into the Search box.

Similarly, you can claim your own blog and I’ll be able to follow you there.

And I hope you like it.

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A Mustache for all Occasions

Inspiration is like striking oil – except that you don’t strike it, it strikes you. So I guess you are more like oil, and inspiration is… wait. The point is, inspiration strikes unpredictably. In the same way that striking oil can be unpredictable.

Right…? Well. You know what I mean.

Particularly, I was looking at fonts. Which is a super fun thing to do. has a ton of free ones, and I came across several that I liked, but just as cool and whimsical as the fonts themselves were the font names.


Mustache Gallery – for real. And I had just learned how to animate drawings in Motion, so the two ideas in combination created a powerful visual that must needs come to life.

Resulting in the video below.

“But what does this have to do with screenwriting? Or travel, for that matter?”

Well, probably nothing. But it was really fun to make, I love it, and I hope you do too.


Why I Love Dark Comedy

I’m generally a happy person. I like sunshine and fresh air and music and friends. I literally stop to smell the roses. I wear pink.

So how come when Barton Fink wakes up in the morning to find a dead body beside him, I thrill with fascinated curiosity? Why does Victor Maynard have a special place in my heart? And What is the appeal in any part of In Bruges?

These are the questions that inhabit my thought bubbles.

Dark Comedy is a genre that makes light of serious things – really serious things, like death. Typically the humor is extremely dry – so dry it might not be obvious that it’s supposed to be funny. The British are especially adept at this (Monty Python, anyone?).

If I were to sit down and make a list of things that are funny, none of what I just wrote would even enter my mind. And yet…

1. Dark Comedy is a vicarious outlet. We all experience an occasional sense of hopelessness as regards our ability to control what happens to us. In a Dark Comedy, the hero gets to act on those feelings, take control in a very specific – and final – way.

If I’m annoyed with my boss, I’m not going to plot his demise. But it’s fun to watch other people do it (and ultimately fail, as in Horrible Bosses… but that’s not really the point).

2. Dark humor is sarcastic, dry, and dreadfully smart. Something about the rhetoric-meets-diss just tickles my word-loving funny bones. Oh, the irony.

3. Dark Comedy sheds light on dark things. It takes the bad guy out of the shadows and puts him front and center – and no one can stand up to that kind of scrutiny without eventually belying their weakness.

Villains are only intimidating because we don’t know much about them. They intentionally hide. But take the stuff of nightmares and follow them around their own problems – not so scary. Even Freddy Krueger has to pay rent and eat fiber.

To repeat the wisdom of picture book author Taro Gomi, everyone poops. Everyone.

Lastly, please watch the dark comedy short film I just produced during the LA 48 Hour Film Project.

So what do YOU love about Dark Comedy? Don’t be scared.

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Pitching Your Screenplay

Dear Inktip Pitch Summit,

Your distinguished event is coming up in just over a week, and I’m beginning to sweat. What will happen if I stumble over my words and give a poor presentation? Will I be eaten alive and disgraced forever after?

Sweaty in Palm Beach

Dear Sweaty,

Please don’t fret about your pitch. Some nerves are to be expected, but remember the producers and agents in attendance are regular people just like you, and they just want to hear a good story. 

So simply tell your story and let them react to it. You may find that the simple act of telling it over and over will give you new insights into your characters and make you even more excited to see it brought to the big screen.

Just imagine your star on Hollywood Boulevard… It all begins somewhere!


Dear Inktip,

I’m packing for my trip to Burbank, and am concerned about the dress code. Someone told me people dress up as their characters for the pitch meetings. Should I do that? And where am I ever going to get my hands on a mermaid costume at this late hour?

Finless in Wyoming

Dear Finless,

We don’t know who may have told you to dress like a mermaid, but we highly encourage you to abandon that effort. Simple business casual is preferred.

Of course a pair of seashells is never frowned upon should you wish to save them for the pool.


Captain Jack pitches his script ideas. If a producer doesn’t like it, he’s marooned.

Dear Inktip,

What if I pitch my script and a producer requests to read it? Will I become an overnight success, famous, and rich beyond my wildest dreams?

Dreaming in South Poughkeepsie

Dear Dreaming,



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Death and Comedy

A popular saying among writers is, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” Chicken soup for the would-be comedy writer’s soul.

I know comedy is hard. When I think about things that genuinely, truly make me laugh, they are few. And even fewer are intentional – most of the comedy I experience is the day-to-day variety of non sequiturs and slapstick that is all part of the funny world in which we live.

We’re at the rough draft stage in my screenwriting class (yes, that’s still going on), and so far I’m reading what I have and I’m thinking, Yes. This is funny. Only time will tell if the people who live outside my crinkly little brain will agree.

But in keeping with the Philosophy of Screenwriting tips I learned back in November (ie: Brain Training), I recognize the importance of learning and growing in all aspects of writing. So let’s look at three entertainers that are never not funny. Will we spot a theme?

The “good parts” version, from William Goldman

1. The Princess Bride (the movie and the book)
A family favorite from early childhood. I don’t even remember not loving this movie. Flip to any page in the screenplay, it’s funny.

Check out this conversation between The Man in Black and Fezzik. The Man is in pursuit of his hijacked honey, who has been secreted away by a super smart guy that left his goons to deal with their pursuer – one of whom is Fezzik, played by Andre the Giant.

THE MAN IN BLACK is racing up the mountain trail. 
Ahead is a bend in the trail. He sees it, slows. 
Then he stops, listening.

Satisfied by the silence, he starts forward again and as he
rounds the bend -- a rock flies INTO FRAME, shattering on a
boulder inches in front of him.

                                            CUT TO:


He moves into the mountain path. He has picked up another
rock and holds it lightly.

             I did that on purpose. I don't
             have to miss.

                         MAN IN BLACK
             I believe you -- So what happens

             We face each other as God intended.
             Sportsmanlike. No tricks, no
             weapons, skill against skill alone.

                         MAN IN BLACK
             You mean, you'll put down your
             rock and I'll put down my sword,
             and we'll try to kill each other
             like civilized people?

             I could kill you now.

He gets set to throw, but the Man In Black shakes his head,
takes off his sword and scabbard, begins the approach toward
the Giant.

                         MAN IN BLACK
             Frankly, I think the odds are
             slightly in your favor at hand

             It's not my fault being the
             biggest and the strongest. I
             don't even exercise.

What’s funny?

The situation, the dialogue, and the characters. First, you have this huge fellow with hands as big as the boulders he’s throwing, reasoning with a comparatively tiny hero. I love Fezzik’s character – gentle giant, not too bright, but he gets to say some really funny lines. “I don’t even exercise.” I die.

2. Jim Gaffigan
Always. Always funny. One of the few comedians who is – maybe I’m just picky. What am I saying, I’m horribly picky. I feel an apology to the entire population of humorists is in order. But that just serves to underscore how truly excellent Jim is.

Probably best known for his hot pockets bit, this man could draw belly laughs from Mister Spock. If I could summon a genie to reassure me that some day I’d be half as funny as Jim, I’d be so excited.

What’s funny?

Too much to mention. The voices (“Sincerely, Water Chestnut the Third”), the profound explorations of a topic we universally love… even vegetarians. Yes, vegetarians love bacon. Perhaps that’s part of the irony that makes bacon funny. Thanks to modern health studies, we’re all convinced bacon is so bad for us and yet we love it so completely.

3. Hyperbole and a Half
Leave it to Allie to make anything funny. Literally anything, even extremely unfunny things – like Depression. I didn’t think it was possible, but I was shaking with repressed giggles by the end of this read. I’ll just give an excerpt:

It’s weird for people who still have feelings to be around depressed people. They try to help you have feelings again so things can go back to normal, and it’s frustrating for them when that doesn’t happen. From their perspective, it seems like there has got to be some untapped source of happiness within you that you’ve simply lost track of, and if you could just see how beautiful things are…

But people want to help. So they try harder to make you feel hopeful and positive about the situation. You explain it again, hoping they’ll try a less hope-centric approach, but re-explaining your total inability to experience joy inevitably sounds kind of negative; like maybe you WANT to be depressed. The positivity starts coming out in a spray — a giant, desperate happiness sprinkler pointed directly at your face. And it keeps going like that until you’re having this weird argument where you’re trying to convince the person that you are far too hopeless for hope just so they’ll give up on their optimism crusade and let you go back to feeling bored and lonely by yourself.

And that’s the most frustrating thing about depression. It isn’t always something you can fight back against with hope. It isn’t even something — it’s nothing. And you can’t combat nothing. You can’t fill it up. You can’t cover it. It’s just there, pulling the meaning out of everything. That being the case, all the hopeful, proactive solutions start to sound completely insane in contrast to the scope of the problem.

It would be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead, they offer to help you look for the fish or try to help you figure out why they disappeared.

The problem might not even have a solution. But you aren’t necessarily looking for solutions. You’re maybe just looking for someone to say “sorry about how dead your fish are” or “wow, those are super dead. I still like you, though.”

What’s funny?

It takes guts to talk about your life and put all the dark parts out there, but also make fun of it at the same time. And it resonates with us, because we all wonder about ourselves and we all need to be given permission to laugh about it.  It’s like a communal, “Wow, life really sucks sometimes but maybe it will get better.”

Plus those cartoons, enchantingly drawn in possibly the crummiest computer art program ever designed are classic.

So now looking at my three funny things, I am noticing a pattern.

1. People (or rather characterizations of people)
The face made, the voice, the accent, the quirky turn of a phrase. So many characteristics that will tap those funny bones. Case in point: I hate puns. Despise them. Find them Unfunny. But when my DAD drops a pun on an otherwise perfect afternoon, I can’t help laughing. Because my dad is funny, even if his jokes aren’t.

2. A fresh take on a common problem
We’re all in this together. It’s fun to explore the crazy situations we find ourselves in and invent new responses we all wish we had the guts to give. You all have friends and family that who make you laugh in spite of your best efforts to resist. Every family has a punster or inappropriate potty humorist. Maybe it’s you.

3. Silly
When it comes right down to it, I can’t help being drawn to the ridiculous. The random and unexpected observations of people in books, movies, and real life are often the funniest. I even like potty humor, mostly because I know I shouldn’t.

So I’ve been working on this post for precisely 70 minutes, which I’m pretty sure is not enough time to explore this topic in depth. Feel free to respond below with funny stuff. It’s good to laugh.

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The Making Of A Scene

A screenplay is just a bunch of scenes strung together. Anyone who says otherwise has clearly not read this blog post.

To completely oversimplify it, you write some scenes to set up your story, then you write a BUNCH of scenes to complicate your story and make everyone think the lead character is screwed, and finally you put a few more scenes to rescue the lead and end your story satisfyingly. That’s whatcha call a 3-act structure.

Needless to say, your scenes need to be incredible. So incredible that the thought of writing them completely cripples you with fear and self-doubt.

But when you’re taking a class, you got these things called deadlines. So you figure a way to skirt around the inevitable mental obstacles. I’d like to share mine with you, if you don’t mind.

Step 1: Take the “What Do I Care About?” Quiz

Question: What do I care about less, the possibility of writing a crummy scene, or the certainty of falling behind in my work and hating my own guts tomorrow morning?

If you chose ‘writing a crummy scene’ then proceed to Step 2. If you chose ‘hating my own guts’ then go ahead and put on sweatpants because it’s gonna be a Ben&Jerry’s-in-bed kind of day.

Step 2: Do a dance

Seriously. It will help you loosen up and make you feel a little more creative. Music is optional. If you must take six minutes to scoot through your playlist for something suitable, then skip it.

Step 3 (and most important): Think

Do you know what this scene is about? If not, think about it a little. Feel free to let your thoughts come out on the page, so you can read what you’re thinking and save any thoughts that might otherwise get away from you.

Say you need to write something about your lead character, John. John is about to do four hundred hours of community service, but something has to come right before that. Once you have some sort of idea of the transition you want to make, move along to Step 4.

Step 4: Outline

Just three lines: Beginning, Middle, End.

John tells Peggy he is really looking forward to community service. Peggy’s boyfriend Butch appears and gets the wrong idea. John gets a black eye and has an epiphany about the relationship between observational conclusions and underlying realities.

I have to say, employing this step in my writing process has been so freeing. It gives me a bony structure on which to drape the eloquent folds of my action and dialogue.

Step 5: Expand

Put in the stuff people say or do, and tada! You have a scene.

Just add like fifty more, and you’re all done.

The end result might be brilliant, it might be terrible, but that is what editing is all about. At least you have something! And really, I believe the motivational power of ‘something’ is really quite synergistic.

I’ll end with this piece from my new favorite artist, Ceslovas Cesnakevicius, because I think it is cool and adventurous. And I love elephants.

Art by Ceslovas Cesnakevicius

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