movies

Silver Scream: Our Friday the 13th Boneyard of Horror!

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Friday the 13th in October means one thing: a marathon of frightening films (or in my case, a corny Halloween movie binge). Whichever genre you prefer, take a peek at some of our favorite spooky flicks (and podcasts!)from the good, to the bad, to the downright bone-chilling. And while you’re at it, avoid walking under any ladders today.—Stephanie Schaefer

Daniel Ford: Tomorrow's Friday the 13th, which means something horrible will likely befall Sean Tuohy and myself.  

Before the inevitable hot-coffee-spills-in-lap scenario, we want to know what your favorite Halloween/scary movie is and why! (Question from the desk of Stephanie Schaefer.)

Sean Tuohy: Doesn't some horrible happen to us every day?

I mean just this morning I experienced the worse thing ever: I woke up.

Here are some of my favorites:

“Halloween”

Besides being a classic and one of the first teen slasher films, “Halloween” is just a creepy movie. It takes its time building up to the final, tension-filled moments. The music alone (which is just a bongo beat switched to a piano) will cause your skin to crawl.

“E.T.”

Look, that scene when the federal agents show up in EVA suits with the blinding white light shining behind them is terrifying. I refuse to watch this scene as an adult.

“Prince Of Darkness”

The middle film of John Carpenter's Apocalypse Trilogy, “Prince Of Darkness” is a "smart man's" horror film. With an original plot line, a great cast, and some horrifying imaginary, this is one of Carpenter's best movies. 

“Friday the 13th: A New Beginning”

Stop rolling your eyes! Yes, this is a blood-soaked teenage slasher film with some really over-the-top deaths but…there are some really scary moments that cause you to jump out of your chair.

“28 Days Later”

From the opening scene in the dark underground lab that shows a young eco-terrorist get infected (what you deserve, you hippie!) to the final rain-soaked fight sequence, “28 Days Later” is one of my favorite modern horror films.

“Phantom Of The Mall”

Paulie Shore is in this movie. Enough said.

Stephanie Schaefer:

“Halloweentown” Series

I’m not a fan of horror movies, but I can get down with a good Disney Channel Halloween flick. Plus, the late Debbie Reynolds made the movie with her portrayal of kooky Grandma Aggie.

**Looking up last-minute flights to Oregon.**

“Hocus Pocus”

How can you not love this cult classic? From “I Put a Spell on You” sing-alongs to talking cats and an all-star cast of witches, its 1990s nostalgia at its finest.

Rob Bates: So, this isn't a movie, but I just started listening to, and am very much enjoying, the Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society Podcast, where three dudes play an old radio show and then afterwards analyze and geek out about it. It's a lot of fun.

I would recommend these episodes, featuring episodes from the truly creative and wildly innovative series “Quiet Please:”

“The Thing on the Fourble Board”

This is one of the most famous old radio episodes out there, and I've kind of grown obsessed with it. (Patton Oswalt is a fan.) The plot is,let me just warn you, completely ridiculous, but you kind of "buy" it,  thanks to the great lead performance by "Porky" as well as the "guest." Also, you learn a ridiculous amount about oil rigging.

“Whence Came You”

I found this one even freakier than Fourble Board, though it does contain one marginally offensive piece of dialogue, which may be why it isn't well known. But it's awesome.

If you want to hear those shows without the before and after commentary, they are both readily available for download on archive.org.

Remember, the show is called “Quiet Please.” Listen in the dark with headphones!

Mike Nelson:

“Sleepaway Camp”

A basic, campy (like, campy-campy, but also literally about camp), mysterious slasher film that is as stupid as possible until the very end when it becomes genuinely stupider than is conceivably possible in the most fantastic way. I refuse to share a clip. Just go watch it and do not look at spoilers, you jerk.

Sean: I am going to second “Sleepaway Camp.” The ending scene and Judy's death scene make the movie. Also, James Earl Jones's father is in the film.

Daniel: “The Omen” is up with all movies that led to sleep loss for me as a teenager. I remembering watching it with my father, who laughed whenever I'd swear at the television or blankly stare at what was going on. Great flick.

Plus, Gregory Peck. I mean, the guy's a legend.

Caitlin Malcuit:

“The Thing”

John Carpenter’s “The Thing” is a perfect horror movie. It’s gross, it’s scary, and has that amazing Drew Struzan poster. A masterful exercise in body horror and paranoia, “The Thing” is best viewed with the lights out so that deep Antarctic chill can creep into your bones. With fantastic and dark performances by Keith David and Wilford Brimley, it’s also a worthwhile viewing because of Kurt Russell’s beautiful mane.

“Suspiria"

Suspiria is visually stunning, arguably the most beautiful horror film ever made. A standout in Italian giallo master Dario Argento’s oeuvre, this entry in his “The Three Mothers” trilogy is one of the last films ever to be printed in Technicolor. The death scenes alone are enough to put 1980s slashers to shame.

“The Witch”

Robert Eggers’ debut couldn’t be a bigger home run for a director. “The Witch,” moody and slow burning, is one of the most pitch-perfect thrillers in recent memory to hit the genre. Though the forests of Ontario stand in for New England’s onscreen, you won’t be able to walk through your neighborhood woods without a side-eye to the rustling leaves or the next rabbit you see.

Rob Masiello: I'm gonna let you all finish, but "Deep Blue Sea" is the greatest horror movie of all time.

Joking aside, I'd like to submit something arty and weird, but instead am going to recommend “The Conjuring.” It's the first time a movie caused me to audibly shriek, and the whole film is elegantly executed. Even the climax, which is often when horror movies lapse into absurdity (not the good kind), is harrowing. Not to mention Vera Farmiga is always a delight to watch. Sadly, after viewing “The Conjuring,” I read an article criticizing it for socially regressive themes. It got me thinking, and I can't say I disagree. But if you're only after a good spook, it's a must-see.

I'll also second Caitlin's recommendation of “The Witch.” It's a slow-burner that spirals into this urgently fucked up fever dream that will haunt you.

Sean: “The Conjuring” was a solid ghost movie. “The Conjuring 2” starts off great and then falls apart at the end.

Rob Masiello: I agree! The second one was a big disappointment. Never as spooky as the original, and some tacky CGI thrown in to boot. And way too much yelling.

Sean: Yes! Halfway through they got lazy and said, "Screw it! We'll do it on a computer.”

Rob Bates: Can I also recommend the original “Wicker Man?” Saw it a few years ago and it has some weird off-key moments (which kind of work for it) and definitely packs a huge punch. Forget the stupid Nicolas Cage remake; I have never seen it but, based on the excerpts I've seen, I don't want to. And remakes usually suck anyway. But this was great.

If you ever watch the show “Coupling,” one of the characters is obsessed with Britt Ekland in this movie, and if you watch it, you will know why.

Also, “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” is the supreme horror-comedy. Funny, and even goofy-scary. Can't wait to show it to my kid.

Emili Vesilind: “The Ring!” Couldn't sleep for weeks after seeing it.

“The Nightmare Before Christmas”

Alison Doherty (Writer's Bone newcomer!): This movie is confused. It doesn’t know if it wants to be a Halloween or Christmas movie. Written by Tim Burton, the movie chronicles the adventures of Jack the Skeleton, King of Halloween Town. Jack is overjoyed when he discovers Christmas Town but things go awry when he tries to bring Christmas to Halloween Town.

Hitting the High Notes: The Sequel!

Back in 2014, the Writer’s Bone crew compiled their favorite musical moments in film. After revisiting the post for our newsletter recently, we decided to stage a sequel. If you want to join the discussion, submit your favorite suggestions in the comments section, post them on our Facebook page, or tweet us @WritersBone.—Daniel Ford

“Dick Tracy”

Mike Nelson: Al Pacino’s finest performance (do not @ me) is laced with misogyny and misunderstanding, but not misguidance. The man knows a crappy dance routine when he sees one, and he exposes Madonna so much in this one scene that her next hit is “Ray of Light,” which, let’s be honest, is complete garbage with a nice brand name attached to it.

“The Commitments”

Daniel Ford: The Commitments give The Wonders a run for their money for best fictional rock band that flamed out too early.

“Top Gun”

Stephanie Schaefer: Pre-Scientology Tom Cruise at his finest. 

"Goodfellas"

Caitlin Malcuit: The three-minute tracking sequence in "Goodfellas" is one of the film's most dazzling moments, but the extra touch comes from the use of The Crystal's "Then He Kissed Me." As Henry takes Karen for a night out at the Copacabana nightclub, introducing her, and us, to the perks of organized crime, the girl group's sweetness heightens the rush of a mesmerizing first date.

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”

Lindsey Wojcik: After the huge success of the revival of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" on Broadway, which I saw four times, I became a Hedhead and discovered this 2001 release—an adaptation of the stage book, written, directed and starring the original Hedwig, John Cameron Mitchell. The film has so many powerful and catchy songs, but "Origin of Love" is a gut-wrenching ditty based on a story from Plato's Symposium. It's songwriting at its finest—Stephen Trask is a master—and evokes all the feels about what it's like to love. 

“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”

Daniel: “What’re you doing?”

“Stealing your woman.”

“Take her.”

“TRON: Legacy”

Mike: Everyone has their motivation tactics at work. Coffee, going outside for some air, doing pushups at your desk (I have seen this happen, and I don’t think it’s that weird, and if you’ve ever seen my arms you know it’s not me), and probably the most common: music. The “TRON: Legacy” soundtrack is mine, and I then turn into Olivia Wilde during this Daft Punk cameo in the movie (meaning, I start absolutely dominating work, and then it fights back and permanently cripples me).

“The Wedding Singer”

Lindsey: "The Wedding Singer" and its soundtrack was the seed that sprouted my never-ending fascination with the culture of the 1980s, a decade in which I was only alive for nearly three years. "Grow Old With You" is one of two only original songs on the soundtrack and it's the sappiest. It perfectly encapsulates what most people are looking for in a partner—someone to share the milestones and monotonous parts of life with for the rest of days. The hilarity of the scene (I'm looking at you, Billy Idol!) does not take away from the sentiment, which is why I consider it of the most powerful musical moments in film.  

“Mulholland Drive”

Rob Masiello: Rumor has it that Rebekah Del Rio's thunderous performance of "Llorando" was recorded on the spot, without her knowledge and with virtually no editing before being worked into “Mulholland Drive.” How it fits into the film's larger narrative is worthy of a much longer analysis than appropriate for this feature. This Spanish cover of Roy Orbison's "Crying" will leave you shaking regardless of what language you speak.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze”

Mike: School is a waste of time. I learned everything I needed to get through childhood right here.

“Skyfall”

Matt DiVenere: Check out the reintroduction of the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 in “Skyfall.” Seeing the car, hearing the trumpets...I immediately get goosebumps and smile. Such an iconic car and such an iconic moment.

“True Romance”

Dave Pezza: I've been holding on to this magical scene from a highly underrated Quentin Tarantino movie (he wrote the screenplay). It doesn't get much better than Tarantino dialogue in front of a Hans Zimmer score. So cool.

“Hudson Hawk”

Sean Tuohy: What a weird movie, but Bruce Willis can sing. Really, the man has a set of pipes. This scene is playful, fun, and weird, which sums up “Hudson Hawk.” Also, this captures Willis at his best: charming and a must-watch.

“Baby Driver”

Sean: “Baby Driver” is “La La Land” but with better characters and armed robbery. This clip sums up film perfectly.

“Back to the Future”

Hassel Velasco: Guys...Marvin Berry discovered his cousin's revolutionary sound back in 1955.

“Romeo & Juliet”

Lisa Carroll: I loved loved loved teaching Romeo And Juliet in freshman English, and after we finished reading the play we'd watch Baz's version and discuss the adaptation. The innocence and tension in this scene is so beautifully amplified by the sensuous nature of the song and her captivating voice. Totally swoon-worthy.

“Dreamgirls”

Lisa: Yes, I will take the Oscar, thank you.

“Ella Enchanted”

Lisa: My second favorite Queen song (after “Bohemian Rhapsody” in “Wayne's World”), and one of my favorite Cinderella adaptations.

“The Bodyguard”

Lisa: Whitney Houston’s “The Bodyguard” made Cosmopolitan's “50 Old Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch.”

It has the greatest soundtrack of all time and the worst acting of all time as proven in this clip.

“My Best Friend’s Wedding”

Daniel: If you’re a sappy romantic, you really can’t get better than this.

“La La Land”

Mike: “You know the most psychologically damaging event of your life? Let’s just run it back and see what life looks like if we skipped that part.” Everyone who had a hand in “La La Land” is a jerk and deserved to get bested by “Moonlight” for all the emotional damage you caused me. I’m sending you all of my future wife’s inevitable therapy bills.

The Boneyard Archives

4 Essential Documentaries for Writers

By Sean Tuohy

We should always be writing, but there are times when we need to rest and relax. During those times, however, we should still be doing something that refuels our writing tank. These four documentaries about famed writers will get the juices flowing! Feel free to share your favorite writer documentaries in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.

“Life Itself”

Roger Ebert was a writer first and a film critic second. His skill behind the keyboard was unmatched. In this heartwarming and inspiring documentary, viewers get to see how Ebert became a world icon. If the final scenes don’t cause you to tear up, you may be dead inside.

“Salinger”

Made by famed Hollywood screenwriter Shane Salerno, this in depth look at J.D. Salinger provides details about a man who hides in the shadows even in death. The film studies the man and the writer who would become famous for staying away from the fame.

“Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia”

Gore Vidal is larger than life. Vidal has been friends with, or gotten into fights with, some of the biggest stars, trendsetters, and icons of the past 50 years. This film takes you through the long and winding road that is Vidal’s interesting life.

“Dreams With Sharp Teeth”

Harlan Ellison is short tempered, tough, and one hell of a writer. He does not shy away or try to be kind of politically correct. But that is where his charm comes from. If this does not light the writing section of your brain on fire, then nothing will.

The Boneyard Archives

Halloween Hijinks: A Frightfully Fun Collection of Books and Movies

Sean Tuohy and Daniel Ford rounded up their frightful favorites for your Halloween reading and viewing pleasure! Feel free to share your own suggestions in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.

“Trick ‘r Treat”

Sean Tuohy: If one film could sum up the Halloween spirit and scare the hell out of you, “Trick ‘r Treat” is it. Five stories featuring deadly ghost from the past, vampires, and creepy monster children, play out over Halloween night. It’ll haunt your dreams long after Halloween is over.

Seven Sins by Karen Runge

Daniel Ford: Sean hit the nail on the head when he called Runge’s collection of short stories “deeply unsettling but overwhelmingly enjoyable.” Every story makes your skin crawl, but you can’t help but marvel at Runge’s sharp, artistic prose.

“The Witch”

ST: “The Witch” features classic New England horror mixed with the supernatural that will take you on a journey through despair and horror. Following a family of Pilgrims during the 1600s, the film examines how a family can slowly crumble under a growing pressure. Unsettling and masterfully done, “The Witch” will keep you glued to the screen (even if you have your hands over your eyes).

Perfect Days by Raphael Montes

DF: You’ll never look at your luggage the same way again.

“Night of the Creeps”

ST: Master director Fred Dekker—of “Monster Squad” fame—combines a hardboiled detective story, a monster tale, and a love story in this classic ‘80s horror film. After an alien slug is let loose on a college campus, it's up to a chain-smoking detective and a nerd with a broken heart to save the day.

“The Slutty Pumpkin”

DF: “How I Met Your Mother” may have had a divisive end, but you there's no denying that this show was great once upon a time. This episode encapsulates everything that made the show must-watchable when it was on its game: Lily and Marshall’s “they’re so cute and in love it makes you want to hurl” relationship, Barney’s witty, yet sexist, machismo, and, of course, Ted Mosby’s sweet, deluded pursuit of his one true love. Throw in Robin getting dumped by a guy wearing lederhosen, and this episode is just about perfect.

“The Devil’s Backbone”

ST: Taking place during the Spanish Civil War, this creepy ghost story looks to find the human elements in the supernatural. Boys at an orphanage must confront a ghost haunting them within the walls, and then must fight the evil forces of war trying to get in.

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

DF: Kelly Link’s stellar short story collection ended up becoming a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, named one of the best books of the year by Time, and earned rave reviews from critics and readers alike. Not bad for a collection that features demonic houses, iBoyfriends, haunted spaceships, and plenty of weird.

The Murdery Delicious Blood Stone Secret by Peter Sherwood

DF: The first two books in Peter Sherwood's Murdery Delicious series provided plenty of thrills, humor, and delectable recipes, and the ghostly finale is no exception. The Chalmers brothers "breezy summer getaway at their newly restored ancestral home" predictably goes awry, and the Chalmers brood must survive the perils of Blood Stone Manor! As Sherwood suggests, "Do peer past the gate, won't you?"

The Troop by Nick Cutter

ST: Part Lord of the Flies, part “28 Days Later,” all horror. This novel follows a group of Boy Scouts who must fight a deadly virus that threatens to kill them all.

“The One With the Halloween Party”

DF: The only thing better than Chandler’s usual snark is Chandler being sarcastic while he’s wearing a bright pink bunny costume. Also, Joey’s Chandler impression is aces.

"Epidemiology"

DF: Zombie attack!!!! (*Sniff* Miss you, "Community.")

The Rising: Deliverance by Brian Keene

ST: When the world is overrun by demon zombies, a father teams up with a priest and woman with a haunted past to save his son. The book is filled with gore and moments that will make you wince, but you'll learn that the real monsters in this tale are the humans.

The Captive Condition by Kevin Keating

DF: As I said in last October’s “Books That Should Be On Your Radar,” every character in this novel receives a fate that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies. Oh, that sound you hear is likely Keating pounding the final nail in your coffin. Enjoy!

ST: Much like Daniel warned, this novel will keep you awake at night and have you jumping at every bump and shadow.

DF: *Checks closest for creepy crawlers* Damn you, Tremblay.

The Night of the Four Horror Authors

Four horror authors in one place means four times the horror! Listen to our interview with Joe Hill, Kat Howard, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, and Paul Tremblay.

The Boneyard Archives

12 Screenwriting Lessons From Our Favorite Screenwriters

By Sean Tuohy and Daniel Ford

Screenwriting is the redheaded stepchild of the creative world that makes millions of dollars. The literary elite has always looked down on the craft of screenwriting. Hemingway was known to hate screenwriters, and F. Scott Fitzgerald truly hated writing screenplays toward the end of his life.

This hatred, and the simple-minded image of the screenwriter that has emerged over the years, makes it is easy to believe that screenwriting is a simple task. However, fist fighting a bear after pouring honey over your head is easier than completing a screenplay and then selling it.

Screenwriting is all about images and keeping the story short but powerful. A good screenwriter has to figure out how to write an epic but do it on the head of a pin. It’s easy to lose your voice as a screenwriter because you try to please so many people. The best screenwriters can throw a heavyweight punch with a baby-sized fist and keep their voice despite everything going on around them.

Editor-in-Chief Daniel Ford recently picked out the best screenwriting advice Writer’s Bone has heard. Share the best advice you’ve received in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.

Always hire better writers than yourself.
— Mike Royce
The craft will always be the most important thing, but this is a business; you need to stay on top of it because it changes constantly and can eat you up and spit you out if you don’t know it.
— Shane Weisfeld
More than anything it was, ‘Let’s just tell a damn good story.’
— Doug Jung
You develop your voice through rewriting.
— James Vanderbilt
If you are passionate about television, and you watch much more television, than try writing for television because the jobs are there.
— Amy Holden Jones
You have to keep the hustle going even after you sell a script.
— Katrin Benedikt
Tropes are shorthand for emotional strings you can pluck.
— Nicole Perlman
It’s going to feel wrong until it feels right. You can’t give up.
— Scott Frank
Write! Read screenplays to get a feel what they are supposed to read like, then just keep writing screenplays.
— William C. Martell
Make sure Michael Mann knows who you are when you meet with him.
— Ken Nolan (we’re paraphrasing…)
Feed your brain with a bunch of ideas. Read as many scripts as you can.
— Eric Heisserer
Outline your favorite movies as you watch them so you can teach yourself structure.
— Kirsten Smith

Remembering Garry Marshall

Think of the television shows and movies that can instantly make you feel better—the ones that you watch when you’ve had a rough week or stayed home sick. Chances are, Garry Marshall created, starred in, or directed most of them. Marshall, who passed away at the age of 81 this week, has touched generations of viewers with his roster of classics, from beloved sitcoms like “Happy Days” and “Laverne & Shirley” to Julia Robert’s breakout movie, “Pretty Woman,” and more modern flicks including “The Princess Diaries” and the star-studded “Valentine’s Day.”

To honor Marshall, the Writer’s Bone crew shared our favorite works from the icon. Tell us about the films and movies you love in the comments section!—Stephanie Schaefer

Sean Tuohy: I loved Garry Marshall's television shows. Loved 'em. As a kid I watched “Mork and Mindy,” “Happy Days,” and “The Odd Couple.” In the third grade, I would stay up late watching Nick at Night and binge watch the reruns of those shows. I would hum “The Odd Couple” theme walking to the bus stop. I would try and fail to sit on my head in chairs. I would daydream of becoming the Fonz. The episode where Richie gets in a bike crash and Fonzie pleads for him to live while in the hospital still brings a tear to my eye. The jokes in those shows still work today. The set ups and the knee slapping punch lines were perfectly timed.  The shows were amazing and the few that my mother watched, and she didn't watch a lot of American TV, but she loved those shows. 

Marshall made one good movie in his career and it was “Overboard” with Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. The plot is over the top and almost unbelievable and the characters are far from likable, but the jokes are great and, in the end, Marshall gets you to really root for the characters.

Stephanie Schaefer: “Overboard” may be lesser known, and I think it was actually a box office flop, but it’s one of those perfect sick-day movies you can watch over and over again. The chemistry between real-life couple Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell (talk about #relationshipgoals) is naturally amazing and although the plot may be a little silly, in true Garry Marshall style it’s a “feel-gooder”, proving that (in the words of J-Lo) love don’t cost a thing. Plus, Reese Witherspoon actually called out the film as her favorite movie at the 2012 Oscars!

The Princess Diaries was also my favorite book as a child, and I think Marshall did a great job of bringing it to life in the Disney film.

Daniel Ford: Marshall was also a great actor. He had a small, but important, role in “A League of Their Own.” He played the grouchy (and rich) founder of a woman's baseball league, and he steals every scene he's in. The way he needles Tom Hank's drunk of a character in the beginning is just masterful. I mean, read this exchange: 

Walter Harvey: You kind of let me down on that San Antonio job.
Jimmy Dugan: I, uh, yeh, I, uh... I freely admit, sir, I had no right to... sell off the team's equipment like that; that won't happen again.

Walter Harvey: Let me be blunt. Are you still a fall-down drunk?
Jimmy Dugan: Well, that is blunt. Ahem. No sir, I've, uh, quit drinking.
Walter Harvey: You've seen the error of your ways.
Jimmy Dugan: No, I just can't afford it.
[giggles]
Walter Harvey: It's funny to you. Your drinking is funny. You're a young man, Jimmy: you still could be playing, if you just would've laid off the booze.
Jimmy Dugan: Well, it's not exactly like that... I hurt my knee.
Walter Harvey: You fell out of a hotel. That's how you hurt it.
Jimmy Dugan: Well, there was a fire.
Walter Harvey: Which you started, which I had to pay for.
Jimmy Dugan: Well, now, I was going to send you a thank-you card, Mr. Harvey, but I wasn't allowed anything sharp to write with.

He's equal parts generous and smarmy throughout the film. I loved that performance.

Alexander Brown: Very sad news, he was only just recently on Marc Maron's podcast if anyone is looking for a great interview with him.

My fondest memory of Marshall revolves around a wonderful series of improv impressions done by comedian Paul F. Tompkins on the “Comedy Bang Bang” podcast. Once or twice a season he shows up in character as Marshall and proceeds to shout about the majesty of old Hollywood while brainstorming new and creative romantic comedy ideas. (Martin Luther King Day being my favourite, a pitch that had me rolling on the floor, or ROFLing as the kids say.)

Here's a video for anyone interested:

The Boneyard: Creative Comforts

Photo courtesy of  Joe

Photo courtesy of Joe

Daniel Ford: During our last Friday Morning Coffee, we voiced our frustrations about substandard fiction (but also how it helped us learn about the craft).

We do a lot of reading based on books we get in from publishers, as well as fiction and nonfiction we have on our "must-read" lists. But what books or movies do you go back to when you need a comfort read? Something that restores your love of reading and primes you to read the next chunk of your list?

For me, during the last year or two, it's been Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire series. Sure, I have a soft spot for him because he was one of our first interviews, but his lugubrious, warm writing style and earthy characters are more like old friends than literary devices. There's also enough of a plot that satisfies the thriller-genre lover in me. He's really taken the place of Clive Cussler and Nelson DeMille in my reading life.  

Sean Tuohy: Normally I would spit out five titles that I return to, but right now I’m in this weird output mood. At the moment, I can’t take anything in or focus on anything new, even stuff I really like. I usually would go back to a Stephen King novel or a movie like “Bullitt” or “Die Hard.” Something I enjoy, something simple.

The other night, however, I felt like I needed to take a break from writing but the idea of reading didn’t seem to work. So I blew the dust off my copy of “The Punisher” from 2004 and popped it in. There is an amazing audio commentary from the film's writer and director, the great Jonathan Hensleigh. I have listened to it a dozen times before, but at that moment it felt perfect because I needed something familiar. Someone talking about the craft of screenwriting accompanied by flashy images.

Daniel: Oh, that's cool. I can totally see how that would be helpful and entertaining at the same time. It's not draining you like reading a screenplay or novel either; you're engaged with whatever movie you're watching. I dig it.

You worked in a video store, so you'll remember when DVDs first came out. Remember how cool it was having all of those "special features?" It blew my mind as a teenager. I think I may have enjoyed “The Lord of the Rings” special features more than the actual films. I would buy DVDs just for the extra stuff (which is why I think I ended up buying "15 Minutes").  

I need my output mode to kick on. That's the other reason I've needed a comfort read. Great fiction can inspire for sure, but there's something about tapping into the genre and authors that made you a writer in the first place that gives you a creative boost.

Sean: Don't you wish there were book commentaries? After you read something you can play it, and it’s just the author talking about how he or she came up with scenes, characters, plot.

The special features on DVDs are the best things in the world. I’ve bought movies twice because one copy had more features than the other.

I like a good creative boost. You need it, but don't you also need downtime? As a writer, our minds are always racing from plot to character to research to the small details of a scene. Don't you need a little rest?

Daniel: Exactly. You hit the nail on the head. Reading a worn copy of one of your favorite novels or watching a movie you've seen hundreds of times gives you a mental break while at the same time still sharpening your creative katana (yeah, I stole your idea!). You don't have to worry about assessing the characters or keeping track of the plot. You know what happens already! You can just enjoy whatever it is about the novel you loved—whether it's the language, characters, or setting.

I try to read a portion of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera every year. That book is just too beautifully written not to go back to it often. And I don't have to read it in order. I can just concentrate on all my favorite scenes without feeling like I'm missing anything. And the end of that book...man...that's how you do it. I don't think I've read a better ending. I envision that Taylor Brown's Fallen Land is going to be one of those novels for me as well. That hit me right in my sweet spot. Other books on my comfort read list: To Kill A Mockingbird (of course), The Cider House Rules by John Irving (anything by him really), Richard Russo's Nobody's Fool, Alice Walker's The Color Purple, and John Steinbeck's East of Eden.

Book commentary...I love it.

Emili Vesilind: Fabulous Nobodies by Lee Tulloch is my go-to read when I'm stressed out—I also read it every five years or so because it makes me laugh. It's a rather formulaic story told in incredible detail about a fashion-obsessed girl named Reality who lives on the Lower East Side and talks to her clothes (example: she can hear her frocks quivering in anticipation as she's about to put them on). Tulloch was a writer for fashion magazines, and she encapsulates a really specific, magical moment in New York City pop culture with this one. It never fails to make me happy.

Gary Almeter: On days when I am feeling "not so fresh" I typically revisit college anthologies and read some poems and/or a short story or two. They are familiar and provide comfort; and each subsequent reading is different from those before it. They also serve as a sort of benchmark for how I have grown as both a reader and a writer.

Sean: My ultimate comfort read is called “The Hemingway.” It’s just me drinking too much whiskey in a boat while trying to wrestle a marlin.

Dave Pezza: Take me, Sean. Anytime, anywhere.

Danny DeGennaro: I once saw Sean punch a grouper so hard that they had to call in the Coast Guard.

Gary: Once Sean and I were on a raft heading down the Mississippi River when a big ugly catfish the size of a horse jumped onto the raft. Sean dropkicked that fish so hard and so far. I've never seen anything like it.

Sean: That was an awesome summer trip, Gary. We learned two things:

  1. I don't care for catfish.
  2. Gary can build a raft out a few planks of wood and a lot of heart.

Stephanie Schaefer: Does a comfort television show count? If so, “Friends” all the way. It never gets old!

Daniel: Bradley Cooper would disagree with you, Sean:

I'd be remiss if I didn't say that "The West Wing" remains my ultimate comfort television. I could start anywhere in the seven seasons and be happy as a clam. The acting and writing is superb, of course, but each show has a different memory attached to it. Watching "Two Cathedrals" with my three best friends/roommates in New York City when none of us had much more than the clothes we wore and cheering as Jed Barlet denounces God in Latin. Bingewatching with my younger brother when I came home for holidays and cramming 22 episodes into three days. Watching with my parents during the four months I stayed with them while transitioning to Boston and telling my mother she had to watch what happened next instead of asking me questions. I recently watched the series finale, which means I get to start over (and listen to Joshua Malina's new podcast while I’m at it)!

Stephanie, that was a long-winded "yes" to your question!

Rachel Tyner: Comfort TV would be “Friends,” “New Girl,” “The Office.” Comfort books include Harry Potter (obviously!) and A Wrinkle in Time.

Lindsey Wojcik: Comfort TV is easy. “Arrested Development,” “How I Met Your Mother” (sans the series finale), “30 Rock.” Comfort read would have to be Here Is New York by E.B. White. A constant reminder of why I love living in the city even when things get rough and an illustration that the city never really changes with time. 

Join the conversation! Reply in the comments section below, tweet us @WritersBone, or drop us a line on our Facebook page!

The Bonyard Archives

Hail to the Fictional Chief: 7 Movie Presidents We’d Vote For

By Sean Tuohy

It is election time again! It’s that wonderful time of year when you get into screaming matches with family members over their political views. With the looming fear that the guy who trademarked “You’re Fired” has a chance of winning and cause World War III, we decided to come up with a list of the top five movie presidents.

President Sawyer in “White House Down”

He’s stylish, smart, witty, and his best friend is a shirtless Channing Tatum. How do you not want this guy to lead the free world?

Also, he’ll totally admit when he makes a mistake. Like losing a rocket launcher.

He’s great with words too:

The President in “Escape From New York”

This president is so tough on crime that he turned the Big Apple into a prison. After his airplane crashes into a New York City prison he has to be saved by a one-eyed ex con. Yes, he is taken hostage and has a complete metal break down. Yes, he is a complete and utter ass that does not flinch when he is told that a lot of people died to save him. Yes, he is not really American, he’s British.

But, man, he sounds so distinguished

President Diana Steen in “Mafia!”

Steen is the first female president who brought peace to the whole world. And she played catch with her son on the front lawn of the White House. 

Also, she found Jay Mohr charming enough to sleep with. Something no one has ever done…ever.

Mr. President in “The Rock” and “Armageddon”

This president had one of the most stressful admissions ever. Yeah, Honest Abe lead a divided nation during the Civil War, but this guy was in the big chair while rogue Marines took over a prison and a planet-killing asteroid hurtled toward Earth. Both times he gave a killer speech (puns always intended)!

Presidents Kramer and Douglas in “My Fellow Americans”

Finally, a few cranky white guys we can believe in.

President James Marshall in “Air Force One”

Enough said.

The Boneyard: From Notebook to Silver Screen

By Daniel Ford and Sean Tuohy

Sean Tuohy: Picture this: Your book is purchased by a studio and is fast tracked into a film. Casting is okay, director is okay, and the screenwriter is okay. Nothing special but they have a good staff.

They make the film and you go and see it. The movie is all right, but nothing like your novel. They got the message and some of the characters, but overall it’s not really yours.

How do you react?

Daniel Ford: Well, first of all, I think I'm lighting hundred dollar bills on fire in the theater lobby. You're telling me I got a novel published! A lifelong dream?! After that, the rest is gravy. I'd be overjoyed even if it sucked. Probably exactly how Nicholas Sparks must feel.

Plus, I'm going to make you and Stephanie Schaefer write the movie. I'd be like the Fifty Shades of Grey author demanding her husband write the next batch of crappy, soft porn movies devoid of chemistry, but with two people who actually know how to write.

What about you? If you write this screenplay and then see the movie and they cut some of the things that you really love, would it lessen the experience for you?

Sean: "Sir there is no smoking allowed here in the—"

Dan spits in usher's face, "Dan Ford! That's my movie!"

Just how I see it going down. Also, I would write that film in a heartbeat. I will say this about the Fifty Shades writer—she is demanding and crazy.

For screenwriters, it is a different relationship with a screenplay. A writer's relationship to his novel is one-on-one. You write it, edit it, and take all the steps.

With the screenwriter, it is a very open relationship. A script is going to be handled by actors, directors, producers, and studio heads, all who want to change this or that.

So as a screenwriter you have to be ready for change but you can't just lie down and take it. If there is a scene you believe that needs to be in the film you have to fight for it.

Daniel: Before I reply, I should mention I'm listening to Ennio Morricone's "Ecstasy of Gold" from "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" soundtrack.

Sean: Awesome soundtrack. Currently bouncing to “X Gon’ Give It To You.” Take a listen to “Brothers In Arms” from the “Mad Max: Fury Road” soundtrack.

Daniel: How often do you read something and think, "Hm, that would work great as a screenplay."

Sean: Hm, not often. If I am reading something I am doing it to relax or to learn something. So my mind is a different gear. If it does happen normally it’s because there are three or four stand out scenes or one really strong character. Not the story as a whole.

That being said, I am in the process of purchasing the rights to a short story that I read. After reading the story I looked up and said, “This could be a movie," and I began to break the story down into a three-act screenplay. Because the story is so strong and the tone is so powerful, it might be pretty easy to switch it over to a script.

Now the hard part is writing the screenplay. Since it is a short story, I don’t have to cut down a 300-page novel to a 120-page screenplay. I have to beef up a 40-page short story to a 100-page screenplay. This will take time. Also deciding what to keep and what to cut is hard and also trying to keep the story's tone.

Hopefully I get the rights—that is the easy part—the hard part is turning the story into a script.

Daniel: This is truly fascinating. Isn't it incredible how a short story has that kind of power? I've been floored by more short stories in my life than full novels. There's something about the brevity of a short story that allows for a bigger emotional punch.

And I think you nailed the most difficult part of the writing process: the actual writing. Editing, revising, and rewriting aren't easy, but at least you have something to work from. When you sit down to create a world or a character, it's like you're making a batch of chocolate cookies without a recipe.

Now, is it weird trying to get your mind into a world someone else has already created? Or is it freeing to go in fresh and extrapolate other threads the original author didn't have space to explore?

Sean: A short story is such a strange and difficult art form to master. It is like baking. You have to have the perfect balance. You can't go heavy on this or that. You have to be right in the middle to make the perfect serving. I agree, I have been floored by more short stories than full novels.

When you sit down to write a short story what are you focusing on? The scene, the character, the dialogue? What goes through your mind?

I would say it is weird but I have been reading this story for more than 10 years. I picked it up when I was 14 years old. I found it in a collection of pulp fiction short stories and I read it, and reread it, and reread it. At one point I tried writing a story similar to it, like most writers do when they first start out. So the story has been with me for a while but it wasn't till recently that idea of turning it into a film came in my mind.

Daniel: Regarding my thought process for short stories, it depends. There are times when the events come to me as an individual scene. I don't have much more to go on than a few lines of dialogue and a setting. I hear my characters talking to each other well before anything else. There are times though that the characters come to me more fleshed out and I have to figure out what hell to put them through (life can't be easy for any of my main characters). 

Once I have the kernel of the idea, it has to marinate for a bit. I have to play around with it in my head. Sometimes it's easy, like in the case of "343" and "Cherry on Top," and I can write for a couple of sleepless nights to get the story out of me. Other times, like in the case of this quasi-drug addled short story about a criminal named Mel, it takes months for me to generate a story.

Good thing I'm a writer because otherwise these would be considered the ramblings of a mad man. 

Sean: Hearing your characters talk. I just got stuck on that because I feel like all authors do this and it’s insane. We hear voices in our head. That is what crazy people do.

What is more draining on you as author the story that comes out in a couple of sleepless nights or the story that takes month?

Daniel: Probably the sleepless nights only because I have to get up for my day job in the morning. But then again, there's this adrenaline rush that comes along with that, which propels me for a good long while.

Is it the same for you writing a screenplay? Or does the structure give you set milestones you can work toward without completely killing yourself?

Sean: You do have set a milestone, which helps a lot. It feels good knowing you hit your first action beat or you are almost done with act two.

Act one and three are easy to finish; it’s act two that is draining. Two is the biggest section of a script and the easiest place to get stuck.

I have taken a new process up recently. I used to create thin outlines and then start writing. Now, I’m writing a thick and detailed outline. I’m not touching a keyboard until the notebook outline is complete. And yes, the notebook looks like it belongs to the killer in “Seven.”

THE BONEYARD ARCHIVES

Writing Nirvana: What's Your Dream Writing Gig?

By Daniel Ford and Sean Tuohy

Sean: What is your dream project? Given the chance and funding, what would you love to work on?

Daniel: My go-to answer usually has something to do writing a novel as my job instead of something I do as a side gig. I don't want to write on buses or trains, at bars or college campuses anymore. I want my daily work routine to include sitting down at a computer and typing up some rich hell to make my characters walk through.

However, I have this other dream. And it scares the hell out of me. I'd love to write for a television show. I have zero experience writing screenplays (as you're painfully aware of), and have no clue about writers’ room dynamics. But it would be thrilling to have an idea that's good enough for a character to say on television. Just one line of dialogue in a drama or sitcom that gets a reaction from an audience would make me the happiest writer on Earth.

How about you? Major feature film? Small indie? Television show? Detective novel?

Sean: Making writing a full-time gig would be the best. I know that it will happen at some point, so I’m comfortable waiting for it to happen. Just have to pay the dues first. I remember reading that during his high point screenwriter/novelist William Goldman would leave his New York City apartment in the morning and make his way to an office where he wrote for hours until the late afternoon and then went out and walked around the city. One day... 

The dream project would oddly be a novel. I love screenplays but there is no dream screenplay that I want to see as a film. Sadly with screenplays you have to accept that there is a huge chance it will never be made. Ever. 

I've outlined chunks of a story, done the research, conducted more research, but I need the time to focus on it. I also think it needs more time to simmer...like a few years. The novel would focus on Peru in the 1960s and follow three men with a shared goal. It’s based on my family, but with a good chunk made up.

Television is more open nowadays because everyone needs content. Doug Richardson told us that.

Daniel: It's fascinating that we essentially want to switch roles. Do you think that's because I've written a novel and you've written a screenplay? Do you think it's just us wanting to test our storytelling ability and seek out new challenges?

Judging from what I know about your family's history, those men's shared goal might not be altruistic. That's a novel I'd want to read.

Sean: I'm not too sure where it comes from. Maybe just the need to change it up. I think it may come from the fact that as writers you need to find the right match for a story.

The one I want to tell really fits well with a novel. A screenplay would limit the story, and I can’t force it into another format. If you try to force a story to be something it isn’t, it won’t work. The back of your mind knows what works, but it needs to connect with the front of brain and that can be hard.

The story you want to tell may work best for television and your brain knows it and is letting you know that.

Daniel: Could also be that I binge watch television on a regular basis.

I gravitate toward shows with singular visions. Like "Mad Men," "Rectify," "Deadwood," "The Sopranos." Hearing those writers/directors talk about writing scripts late into the night and molding a show to fit what's in their head sounds exhilarating. I don't have an idea for anything (yet), but those are the types of shows I'd like to work on. Something that maybe lasts for a season or two, but maybe influences other shows.

I essentially wrote my novel as a series of short stories. Each chapter doesn't advance the plot so much as take a snapshot of my character at that specific point in his life. You could say each chapter is an episode.

Damn you, Tuohy, now I'm writing a television series in my head. How dare you!

Sean: You write that television show, damn it!

If you look at “The Wire,” it's just one giant book. That is all it is.

As much as I love television, the question going forward is when do people become overwhelmed by everything that’s out there and stop watching?

Daniel: I think that question exists for everything. Think about how many crime novels there are. How many of them are truly original? But people love the genre, so books keep getting published. The great material will always rise to the top. People thought television was going to be a fad when it first came out, but it's still with us. I think showrunners are treating these shows very much like a short story collection right now. It’s chance to tell a story over time that's not as limiting (or financial crippling) as a major feature film. There's just so many ways you can explore characters and plots.

Take "Fargo" for example. Great movie that you wouldn't think would make for a good series. Yet, it's great. Writers are always going to come up with good stories. I think the form is constantly being reinvented and that's a good thing. The landscape should encourage future screenwriters (and writers in general), not discourage them.

Sean: Wow. That sums up the writing landscape perfectly.

Daniel: That's why I believe in what we do. There are roughly a gazillion blogs, bazillion literary websites, and a plethora of other content publishers online. But how many actually stand out for good reasons, not salacious ones? Sure, every market is saturated in some way, but there are so many niche readerships, audiences, and communities that can support fledging operations. If we had unlimited resources, we'd maybe have a sleeker website design, we'd have a sound studio to record pods, and we'd serve Blanton's in our water coolers. But would we really do anything all that differently? Probably not. We'd just be able to do more of it with greater frequency and depth. At least before our cocaine addictions.

Sean: ...The blow always gets me...always...

But you are correct. If we had the resources we would be able to make the website sleeker and make this better and that better, but it would not make the content better. You could have a million dollars invested into a website or television show, but if the content is poor the show is going to be poor.

Unless it’s "NCIS."

THE BONEYARD ARCHIVES

The Boneyard: Sharpening Your Literary Blade

By Daniel Ford and Sean Tuohy

Daniel: So lately, whether we like a book or movie, we can usually find a moment, stretch of dialogue, or character that we remember fondly. I recently re-sold you on a couple of books that you gave up on, and you always suggest a movie I should see even if it's true for that one good thing.

My question is, are we a product of consuming so much content we can identify something to critique in everything or are we doing this because we're born storytellers and like seeing how the sausage is made?

Sean: It's a mix. We are born storytellers, yes, but that is a talent that has to be skilled and shaped and the only way we can do that is by consuming content.

Think of a writer's mind like a blade. It starts out dull and unable to slice butter. The blade has to be sharpened over time to be used properly. So when we are younger learn and sharpen our mind.

As we get old the blade becomes dull from use. We have to sharpen it back up. That is why any writer worth a damn is reading and writing all the time. They are always working on the craft.

For every hour you spend writing you need to spend another hour reading.

Daniel: Wow, I love everything about what you just said.

Makes writing the headline for this chain easy. 

And you're right. I never feel like I'm slacking off when I'm reading or watching something. It's research in a lot of ways. And everything, including the crap, should make you excited about your own work.

Take a show like "Rectify." I'm sure that not many people have even heard of it. It's about a man who is let off death row after spending most of his adult life there. The show follows him as he tries to put back together his existence. It's so quiet and subtle at times it feels like I'm invading these characters privacy (much like the experience you had with "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"). After watching a couple of episodes, I never feel like I'm wasting my time. I soak in how the characters interact with each other, why the director chose one angle over another, or how the plot comes together slowly like a stew. 

Same goes for a novel. Even if I'm slogging through it, I learn things that I can apply to my own work. Every book and movie offers a lesson, so it's important to keep a notebook around whenever you're binging watching or reading. 

Sean: 100% every form of content—book, movie, poem—offers some insight into the creative mind. From the worse film to the best novel, you are going to learn something.

I should keep a notebook handy. That would be really helpful. How many times have you thought "great idea" and then forgot it about an hour later?

I have recently started keeping a notebook at my desk at work and when I think of scene, some dialog, or a log line I write it down. Some times I forget what I wrote down and when I look thought the book I surprise myself with something.

Daniel: That happens to me too often sadly. Although the notebook feature on the iPhone has saved my bacon more than a time or two.

We've talked about this, but ideas tend to hit me right before I pass out for the night. Sometimes I'll start teasing out an idea, get something I really like, and then fall asleep. Typically I can retain it that morning in some form, but it's not as pure. There’s nothing more soul crushing than a lost idea, especially a good one.

Sean: Agreed, nothing more soul crushing then losing an idea. You strain to get it back but nothing happens. A feeling I love is when you have a long-standing idea that would never work but then some happens and it clicks. It is brilliant.

I've had long standing ideas that never worked out. Something was missing. It felt hollow and small. But then something pops into my head and the light bulb just pops.

Have you thought about leaving the notepad next to the bed? Just flip over and write down the idea. A word or phrase that you can review in the morning.

Daniel: Oh, it's there. Sometimes I don't have the energy to reach over and grab it.

Keep those ideas around. Maybe it didn't work for that particular project, but it could end up being perfect for a project down the line. Kill your darlings, but keep their corpses around! 

To join the conversation, use the comments section below or tweet us @WritersBone.

THE BONEYARD ARCHIVES

The Name is… The Top 5 James Bond Moments

By Sean Tuohy

James Bond, the tuxedo-wearing British super-spy that we all love, swaggered back into theaters this weekend in the newest installment in the long running film series. “Spectre” may have not been a hit with critics or audiences, but it inspired us to take a look back at the our favorite James Bondian moments that only martini-swilling spy could pull off.

Fixing His Tie While Driving a Tank…Through a City

Who hasn’t done a double take in the mirror while driving to make sure they look good? Bond does it too…only he does it while driving a 30-ton tank through a brick wall in one of Russia’s largest cities.

Being Reassuring During a Shoot Out

Getting shot at by terrorist can be extreme stressful...unless you’re 007. In that case, you simply wink.

Trying on a Tux

Most of us are filled with shame and self-loathing when we examine ourselves in a tight-fitting penguin suit, however, angels get wings when Bond does it.

Hey, What Time Is It?

Time to woo a beautiful woman and save the world.

Introducing Himself

Need we say more…

For more posts from The Boneyard, check out our full archive.

The Boneyard: When Do You Give Up On A Bad Book or Movie?

From the desks of Sean Tuohy and Daniel Ford: At what point in reading a book or watching a movie do you know it's bad? At the beginning? In the middle? The end? How many books or movies have you dropped in the middle and never returned to? How bad does it need to be to walk away?

Rachel Tyner: I used to never stop reading a book or watching a movie, even if I didn't like it, because I had something against leaving it "unfinished."

Now, I'm getting older, and ain't nobody got time for that.

There are so many books and movies out there, so if I don't like something, I'm done with it. I try and give it three chances. Pick it up and read, get bored. Try again a few days later (or weeks, months, etc.). Try again one more time. Recently, this happened with Ender's Game. It seemed like I would love it "on paper" (haha, get it?), but it was seriously a terrible book.

I think you know pretty soon into a movie too. Remember "That Awkward Moment?" Terrible within the first five minutes. When something you are watching or reading is making your life less interesting (or even less fun, if that's the movie/book you are reading), what's the point?

Daniel Ford: I remember walking out of the theater during "That Awkward Moment" with you, Sean, and Steph. It was that moment one of the female characters' father dies and Zac Efron has to have a powwow with his boys to decide whether he wants to go or not because he doesn't want to be considered the girl's boyfriend. That movie still owes me money.

I tried to get into Ender's Game a bunch of times as well. Couldn't do it. Dune, same thing. I used to read much more nonfiction than I do now, and I'd bounce around from book to book if I got to a slower section or if my interests pulled me in another direction, but it's tough for me to put down a book for good.

I mentioned to Sean that I read a book recently that was awful, just awful. It had a good, strong opening, and then became 12 novels in one and none of them were good. And I hate read the rest. I complained to everyone I know. Must of the reactions were, "Well, just stop reading it." But by reading the whole thing I got a great lesson on failure (not that I needed one), and how learn how not to write dialogue.

That being said, you're right about time. It's one thing if all you're doing all day is sitting on the beach reading shitty paperbacks, but all of us have to work for a living. Why torture yourself when something isn't good? Better to go write something great than read something terrible!

Matt DiVenere: I have had the absolute worst luck with movies lately. It's basically a curse at this point. Here's the order of the last few movies I've watched that were offensively bad:

  • “The Drop”
  • “Hot Pursuit”
  • “Focus”
  • “Pitch Perfect 2”

I know that I should take the blame for some of these, but yikes. If I were the creators of “The Drop,” knowing that it's James Gandolfini's last movie, I would have burnt every single copy of that mess and sent the remains up into space rather than have that movie be in his IMDB profile.

The only reason why I watched the whole movie was to be able to fully hate them and thoroughly discuss my hate for them with anyone who asks.

Also, you know a movie is bad right away. The dialogue, the acting, and the soundtrack. Those are my three strikes.

Gary Almeter: I spent 2006 reading Theodore Dresier's An American Tragedy. It took an entire year and I hated every minute of it but just thought it was something I should have read. Never again. Now, if something doesn't grab me by page three or four I put it down and it is dead to me.

I walked out of "The Flintstones" starring John Goodman and Elizabeth Perkins. 

Daniel: I have fond memories of going to see "The Flintstones" with my family. It was one of the rare times in those days that my father had a Saturday morning off. I'm convinced he still regrets taking us to the movies that day.

I'm also more selective now that my time is so divided. I won't necessarily pick up a book that I'm on the fence about if I get in another book that I know I'll probably love. The one time I was swayed by some fall lists and picked up something I originally dismissed, I got burned with a crappy read.  

Lisa Carroll: I feel slightly ashamed to admit that I've tried to read The Hobbit about a dozen times since 2001 when "The Lord of the Rings" movie came out (because I will not break my rule about seeing a movie before I've read the book) and I just can't get past the damn dwarf party. Needless to say I have yet to see any of the films.

However, I do teach the "three strikes and you're out" rule to my kids. I tell them, "Give a book three chapters because sometimes the author takes a little longer with the exposition and if you get through three chapters and he/she hasn't captured you, put it down." I general stick with that rule myself. Except when I have to read a book for school.

The hard part about being a middle school librarian is when I have to read all 20 Nutmeg nominees and then book talk them and convince the kids that I love them all. That's where my degree in theater really pays off.

To add to the discussion, comment below, weigh in on our Facebook page, or tweet us @WritersBone.

For more posts from The Boneyard, check out our full archive.

The Boneyard: To Critique or Not To Critique?

From the desk of Sean Tuohy: "Has being a writer/photographer/designer affected the way you enjoy books, movies, art, photography, or television shows? Are you able to unplug long enough to enjoy the experience, or are you constantly on the lookout for things to critique?"

Alex Tzelnic: I am constantly being critiqued for how critical I am. Nary a pop cultural experience passes by without my friends expecting me to expectorate all over it. The truth is, not only do I love so many things, but I also love to hate so many other things for failing to achieve the standards of the things I love. Why devote hours to an experience only to passively move on to the next? I'd rather parse the minutiae, debate the details, and become fully immersed in the consumption of culture. I critique because I care.

Sean Tuohy: I can unplug and enjoy myself when reading a book. I'm a reader and not a writer at that moment. However, when it comes to television and movies, the screenwriter in me is very critical of the pacing, the dialog, everything.

Yet, I still watch “Empire.”

Daniel Ford: I've discovered I'm way more critical of written communication than I ever was in my twenties. Once you learn the rules, and know how to bend and break them effectively, it's tough to read something that is written poorly. Typos in articles, lists, and emails now stand out like me in a hot yoga studio. It doesn't necessarily make me devalue the content, but it makes me question why this person didn't have a more competent editor. 

Then again, I once went on a diatribe about being a stickler for the rules entitled "F U Grammar Po Po," so I could just be full of shit.

Reading a novel is different. I think I give authors more leeway than say a blogger or journalist. A book has to be really bad for me to start tearing it apart midway through. But I do notice and appreciate when authors do things that surprise or impress me in regards to sentence structure, characterization, or word choice. It all fits into the writer's toolbox I cart around.

Lisa Carroll: Being an English teacher certainly puts me on high alert when it comes to reading just about anything, especially personal and professional communications. I spend a great deal of time crafting emails and letters and I expect others to do the same. Blogs, editorials, opinion pieces, and some “news” articles (especially in our local paper) make me want to cringe and I have, on occasion, sent an article in after brandishing my red pen and marking it up. Apparently everyone knows I'm a little judgy because a friend of mine recently sent me a shirt that says, "I am silently correcting your grammar." (Like I do anything silently!)

However, as a theater educator, I am never able to unplug at a show. I am constantly hyper-aware of the technical elements. “Where is that light coming from?” “How did that set piece move that way?” “How did she change so quickly?” “Is that a wig?” I'm also aware of directorial decisions: “Why did she cross there?” “Was he really the best person for this part?” “I love the relationship they've built between the father and the daughter."

No matter the level—local, educational, professional, or location—from Bristol to Broadway, I cannot just watch a show. And my daughter has been blessed/cursed with the same critical eye so when we go to a show together we deconstruct every moment. And she is also a grammar Nazi who will probably have a few comments on this piece. It's pretty awesome that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

To add to the discussion, comment below, weigh in on our Facebook page, or tweet us @WritersBone.

For more posts from The Boneyard, check out our full archive.

What Your Favorite Meryl Streep Performance Says About You

By Gary M. Almeter

Linda in “The Deer Hunter”

You once made the beach-themed cupcakes (with marzipan starfish, graham cracker sand, and fondant beach balls) that you saw on Pinterest for your best friend’s summer outdoor baby shower and, goddamn, if your cupcakes didn’t turn out better than the picture on Pinterest!

Jill Davis in “Manhattan”

You loved your new sporty modern bikini bra you bought from Urban Outfitters with its banded cutout detailing, its sleek silhouette, and its strappy scoop neck, but then your boyfriend ruined it by throwing it in the washing machine and it is sold out online.

Joanna Kramer in “Kramer vs. Kramer”

For your 21st birthday, you and some girl friends went to “The Price is Right” and you wore a t-shirt that said “Kiss Me Bob Barker—I’m 21 Today.” You neither got called to be a contestant nor kissed that day and have been resentful ever since (but that Bob Barker sounds like a sick crazy fuck anyway, so fuck him). 

Sarah Woodruff/Anna in “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”

You once created a stir at your book club when you suggested that Pilates did not count as strength training.

Sophie Zawistowskiin “Sophie’s Choice”

You swear—and have asked your primary care physician to certify this to a reliable degree of medical certainty—that you pee more often when you’re wearing a button-up romper.

Karen Silkwood in “Silkwood”  

Sometimes you just want to yank out your uterus and smack it around for being such a bitch when you’ve been nothing but kind and considerate to it.

Susan Traherne in “Plenty”

You get bikini waxes with some frequency and after each one you can’t help but ask yourself, “Was that really worth it?”

Karen Blixen in “Out of Africa”

You make 77% of what your male counterparts make but you sort of don’t even give a shit about the gender pay gap because you get stoned with your boss at lunch from time to time and you can wear sleeveless blouses on casual Friday.  

Rachel Samstat in “Heartburn”

The cup size on the bustier you just bought at Marshall’s seems a little bit off. Also, you definitely had a poster of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” in your dorm room in college

Helen Archer in “Ironweed”

You and your girlfriend had a three-way with Seal when he played the Orpheum in 1995.

Lindy Chamberlain in “A Cry in the Dark”

Your period tends to come the day after you buy a pregnancy test and you’re always like, “Quit playing games with me, okay uterus?”

Mary Fisher in “She-Devil”

You could very much go for a nice long fuck right about now. Also, why is it so hard to hard to find classic rock t-shirts that are cut for women?

Suzanne Vale in “Postcards from the Edge”

You would love it if one day you could eat, oh I don’t know, a fucking cheeseburger and not feel guilty about it?

Madeline Ashton in “Death Becomes Her”

You were at a job interview once and the interviewer was staring at your cleavage the whole time and you were all, “What the fuck?” And then in the elevator you looked down and guess what? You had a chocolate stain on your blouse. 

Clara del Valle Trueba in “The House of the Spirits”

You borrowed your roommate’s Tory Burch “Louisa” ballet flats without asking one autumn and subsequently trashed them as you were tailgating before the big game. When you got back to your apartment your roommate wasn’t back from her shift at Legal Sea Foods so you just threw them in the dumpster behind your building and your roommate thought she lent them to her sister.

Gail Hartman in “The River Wild”

“To shave your legs or not to shave your legs?” That is the question you ask yourself each morning from October through March. On the one hand, smooth legs are sexy and, on the other hand, you can just wear leggings all fall and winter. 

Francesca Johnson in “The Bridges of Madison County”

You’re wearing the prettiest bra and silk shantung jacket today but every time you lean over it’s like “Free the nipples!” and you’re like, “Whoa!”

Kate Gulden in “One True Thing”

You cannot find any patio furniture that you like.

Roberta Guaspari in “Music of the Heart”

There was definitely a long adjustment period but you finally got to the point where you kinda liked having short hair. It’s nice needing the tiniest amounts of conditioner and product. However, last week you went to get a trim and your friends were dumbfounded as to why you were not letting your hair grow out

Susan Orlean in “Adaptation”

You would rather stand on the bus and/or train holding on to an Ebola-slathered pole, than sit next to a dude as the dude would inevitably sit with his legs spread wide open and why the fuck do dudes get to sit with their legs spread wide open but you can’t and if you do you get admonished, explicitly and implicitly, for not sitting like a lady? 

Clarissa Vaughan in “The Hours”

You were talking to your gym crush the other day and you’re pretty sure you smiled when he told you that he and his girlfriend had just broken up and you’re wondering if he noticed.

Lisa Metzger in “Prime”

Victoria’s Secret has no bras in your size. Do you sweat it? No! You go to Kohl’s where you can get Hanes and Bali bras—underwire bras, wire-free bras, sports bras, minimizer bras, sexy and seductive bras, any kind of bras—for less than half the price!

Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada”

Once you were watching “New Girl” while lying on your couch and you lost your phone. You were freaking out but then you remembered that you set your phone on your boobs.

Janine Roth in “Lions for Lambs”

It is 7:00 a.m. and you are craving corn dogs right now.

Donna Sheridan in “Mamma Mia!”  ­

Your favorite drink is the mojito. However, no drink exemplifies the problems that arise when a drink is made without precisely measuring its ingredients better than the mojito. It’s basically a fucking crapshoot every time you order one. 

Sister Aloysius Beauvier in “Doubt”

You cannot walk through Target without spending at least $150.

Julia Child in “Julia & Julia”

It’s time for you to go bra shopping again and you fear you will have to sell a fucking kidney or something so you can afford it.

Jane Adler in “It’s Complicated”

You just bought this dress from J. Crew but it’s apparently sort of vanity sized and it was a final sale so you can’t return it. It’ll cost more to have it tailored than the dress actually cost and for fuck’s sake.

Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady”

You refuse to buy feminine products from young male cashiers. If there are only young male cashiers at the open registers at whatever Walgreen’s or CVS you are at, you will walk or drive to a different Walgreen’s or CVS. 

Violet Weston in “August: Osage County”

Your go-to Halloween costume is getting dressed up as Audrey Hepburn from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Witch in “Into the Woods”

You had your period the entire week of band camp for three years in a row.

Ricki in “Ricki and the Flash”

The prestigious East Coast college you went to subtly emanated, over a period of four years, a concept of the ideal American woman, who is nothing short of fantastic. She must be a successful wife, mother, community contributor, and possibly career woman, all at once. Besides this, she must be attractive, charming, gracious, and good-humored. She must talk intelligently about her husband’s job, but not try to horn in on it, keep her home looking like a page out of House Beautiful, and be efficient (but not intimidatingly so). While she is managing all this, she must be relaxed and happy, find time to read, paint, and listen to music, think philosophical thoughts, be the keeper of culture in the home, and raise her husband’s sights above the television set. And you’re like, “Umm. No.” 

For more posts from The Boneyard, check out our full archive.

Flashback Friday: Would Our Favorite '90s Flicks Survive in 2015?

As if! It’s been 20 years since everyone’s favorite material girl Cher (played by Alicia Silverstone) and her posse hit the big screen in “Clueless.” That’s right, the iconic film that brought us plaid outfits, Valley girl slang, and Paul Rudd is now two decades old. Feeling ancient yet? 

In honor of the film’s big birthday, the Writer’s Bone crew decided to reminisce about our favorite '90s flicks. We also ponder what would the movies we loved as children be like if they were made today?

Put on your slap bands, let your hair down from a scrunchie, hang up your Zack Morris phone, and read our roundup of 1990s nostalgia.—Stephanie Schaefer

Emili Vesilind: How about a remake of “Se7en” with Charlie Hunnam as Brad Pitt (for, um, selfish reasons), and Irrfan Khan as Morgan Freeman?? But we'd have to get Gwynnie to reprise her role because she still deserves to have her head in a box. Okay, maybe Zosia Mamet would be good, too—she has that skittish 20-something thing down!

Scored by Evan Dando of the late Lemonheads, who sung about Paltrow's head in a box in the '90s:

Daniel Ford: As Andy Dwyer said, “I'd like to remake the movie ‘Kazaam' with Shaquille O'Neal, where he plays a genie, and I'd like to get it right."

Sean Tuohy: I would remake “Ghost Dad” but make it gritty and hardcore. Damon Wayans' plays the Bill Cosby role and he is beaten to death and then thrown off a bridge by a Russian gangster. He then comes back as ghost and makes his children take out revenge on those who killed him.

...And somewhere along the way they all learn the importance of family...

Kevin Almonte: At the risk of sounding like an angsty millennial, the '90s were probably the best decade for movies.

You got the beginning of truly great indie films with Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs." "Jurassic Park" revolutionizing blockbusters. Comedy gold from the Coen Brothers' "The Big Lebowski" and "Fargo." The rebirth of gangster movies with "Goodfellas" starting the decade. Technically, " The Matrix" is a '90s movie, ushering in gritty sci fi.

I can go on all day.

Matt DiVenere: “The Sandlot” (1993) is an absolute classic, yet I quote the movies to my AAU baseball team (13-year-olds) and not one of them had ever heard of the movie! Blew my mind.

The movie itself would be quite interesting in today's society. Do people even swim at public pools anymore? But to include some type of technology angle to the script would probably be pretty cool. I think it would still hold up, and probably do pretty well as a kid’s movie. All we need is Kevin Costner to be in it and we're good to go.

Stephanie: Some of my favorite '90s movies are “10 Things I Hate About You,” “You’ve Got Mail,” and “While You Were Sleeping.”

So much has changed since “You’ve Got Mail” first came out in 1998—and I’m not just talking about Meg Ryan’s post-plastic surgery face. Today, Fox Books would have been put out of business by e-readers like Kindle. Joe and Kathleen would have met via Tinder, where I’m assuming their exchanges would have been quick and to-the-point and far less romantic.

“I go online, and my breath catches in my chest until I hear three little words: You've got swiped,” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Daniel: Would a movie like “Home Alone” get made today? Let's face it; Kevin's parents are historically awful. How do you forget your kid twice? And when you're taking life advice from a polka bandleader played by John Candy, you know you've hit bottom. Forget the Wet Bandits, these parents would get jail time or have their kids rightfully taken away. More likely, they would be given a television show on TLC called, "Loser Parents: How to Lose A Kid in 10 Days."

We also haven't had a good (bad) athlete-centric movie in a while. Lebron is in "Trainwreck" and Tom Brady is in "Ted," but no one has done a "Space Jam" or "Kazaam" like Michael Jordan and Shaq. Are athletes "too cool" to star in something that might get skewered on Twitter? Or is that no athlete other than Lebron has the kind of star power Jordan or Shaq did at the time?

That being said, who wouldn't watch a Bill Murray spin-off of "Space Jam" where he helps out alien basketball teams across the universe? I would hand over my money like this:

Matt: Um Ray Allen was/is/will always be Jesus Shuttlesworth.

With that being said, I think that the social impact of the sports world has changed and that is why we don't see a star athlete playing them self in a movie based in their own sport. Those '90s athletes transcended their sports. Now, with social media and every athlete thinking they can be a serious actor or comedian, society doesn't need them to be as prevalent as Shaq and MJ were.

Short answer is that the film industry doesn't need them to be the main star as a draw to their movie. Cameos and supporting roles are the better choice now a la Brady and LeBron. 

For more posts from The Boneyard, check out our full archive.

10 Great Douchey Writer Moments in Film

Jack Nicholson in "As Good as It Gets"

Jack Nicholson in "As Good as It Gets"

By Daniel Ford

One could make the argument that any character acting like a douche in a movie is a reflection of some part of the screenwriter’s personality. However, in compiling this list I limited myself to just those movies that featured a writer on screen acting like a true asshole. Feel free to make your own suggestions in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.

You’ll Never Write Well

Ernest Hemingway in “Midnight in Paris” subtly telling Owen Wilson’s character he’ll never be a good writer.  

All Work and No Play

Jack Nicholson, how hard is to write a play and not go crazy? Oh, you’re married to Olive Oil? Never mind, carry on with that ax.

“I’m a $250 a Week Newspaperman”

I’ve posted this before, but it’s worth including again. “Even for Albuquerque, this is pretty Albuquerque.” And the editor just refunds him his nickel! Challenge him to a duel at least!

Of Course I Won

Sean Connery’s character brags about winning a Pulitzer and then drops this gem: “Writers write so readers can read.” He then goes on to pretty much nail why it’s great to be a writer (regardless of talent).

Writing Women

Poor Julie Benz…she doesn’t even see it coming.

Miles From Sideways

Fine, don’t drink the merlot.

Nice Tip

I suppose you do have to give Johnny Depp’s drug-addled character some credit for actually tipping the waiter. The fact that it was a handful of change thrown on the ground is a minor detail.

That Was the Only Copy??

What the fuck is the matter with Michael Douglas in “Wonder Boys?” Oh yeah, he’s a writer. He just “couldn’t stop.”

Zen Douche

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lester Bangs in “Almost Famous” brings the douche, but it would be hard to argue that he’s not damn inspiring at the same time.

My Opinion Is I Hate It

One more “Midnight in Paris” Hemingway jab for the road.

For posts from The Boneyard, check out our full archive.

The Boneyard: Fifty Shades of Lame. Should Nepotism Trump Talent?

We didn't want to watch the movie either...

We didn't want to watch the movie either...

The Boneyard features the best of the Writer’s Bone crew's daily email chain. Yes, we broadened the definition of “best” to make this happen.

Sean Tuohy: E.L. James, the author of Fifty Shades of Grey, forced the studio to hire her husband Niall Leonard, a well-respected screenwriter in his own right, to pen the next movie in the series. As a writer, how would you feel if you were given a high-profile assignment because who you were married to and not based on your talent or skill?

Dave Pezza: Well if you're a writer and you have an opportunity to get paid for your writing, no matter how shitty your writing may be, you take it.  A gig is a gig is a gig is a gig.

However, I'd feel someone was totally giving me a leg up, but then again don't we all need a leg up.  No one ever really "makes it" on their own.  All I can hope is that if I am ever given an opportunity like this, it isn't to write something as embarrassing and as god awful as Fifty Shades of Middle Aged Regret.

Sean: I agree with you on the "no makes it on their own" point, but I would feel weird if I got a high profile gig not based on my writing at all but who I decided to put a ring on.

Did anyone here see the first “Fifty Shades of Grey?”

Dave: You'd feel weird, but you'd totally write though, right?

Sean: To be honest, I don't really know. Going with my gut, I would say no. I don't feel like I would deserve it. Yes, it’s a paying writing job but it’s not all about money. I want to be hired for my work and my skills as a writer.

Then again, my credit card payment is due in two weeks...

Daniel Ford: I couldn't even make it through the boring trailers.

Part of me really enjoys the fact that a writer has this much control over a movie. Or this much power in general. I don't begrudge any writer making money, but this wasn't the case of someone hitting it big for something they labored over for years. It was a marketing plan from the beginning, so I'm not surprised that the writer is acting more like a media mogul as opposed to a creative collaborator. I'd like her to use some of that money to buy some writing classes or, at the very least, a dictionary or grammar book.

Her husband apparently worked on the first film, and doesn't seem to have a problem getting his own piece of the cash cow. I don't think I'd mind getting a leg up, but I'd want to work on a project of my own. Then again, if my wife asked me to do anything, I'd probably do it, especially if she's making way more money than me.

Stephanie Schaefer: Well, the only reason Dakota Johnson was cast as the female lead was because of her famous parents, so nepotism all around.

And no, I did not see the movie or read any of the books. The awkward lack of chemistry the two leads had at the Golden Globes, among other things, deterred me from spending $14 for a movie ticket.

Daniel:  And led to media coming up with posts such as “15 Inanimate Objects With More Chemistry Than Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson.”

Anne Leigh Parrish: Oh, I don’t know. I’d probably take the job. But, as to the book itself, didn’t read it, didn’t see the movie. It’s set in Seattle (where I live) so that may be why I couldn’t quite take it seriously. Also, the movie reviews were scathing.

Daniel: I don't know, people make a big deal about selling out, but hanging on to integrity and principles when you're buying Chinese food with the spare change in your piggy bank (which I was doing religiously at one point) is stupid, right?

Dave made a good point to me just now, that most of us on this chain don't have the money to make some kind of noble stand for our integrity as creative types. And what does a stand like that look like nowadays? George Clooney took the money he made from “Batman & Robin” and became a "serious" actor and director. Is it possible to dip your toe in the water of commercialism just so you can do your own thing, or does that mark you for life so that people never take your work seriously (in Clooney's case, it helps to be handsome and talented)?

I think if someone said to me, "Daniel, we think your novel would sell like hotcakes if you added in 12 more sex scenes and killed off 75% of the characters during the first act," I would tell them to go pound sand. But if my work gave me the opportunity to jump to a different, more lucrative project that may or may not be helmed by my significant other, I think I'd be more inclined to go for it. 

A question for Sean though, if you've got a few credits under your belt and your spouse picks you for a project, would you really think you didn't deserve it? What would have to do in your career to feel like you can write a third-rate soap opera starring two actors Joey and Rachel on Friends look like a power couple.

Sean: Yeah, if my spouse bitched and moaned that I should get the job to write the movie and she wanted me to do it because she knew she could control me I wouldn't take it. That is the feeling that I am getting from E.L James. She wants complete control of the project.

If my spouse was helping me, giving me a leg up like Dave said, I would work extra hard on it because I still would feel like I didn’t deserve, but I’d work three times harder to prove to everyone that I do.

Lisa Carroll: From the Fifty Shades of Grey peanut gallery:

1. I read all of the books. And, I didn't hate any of the books for the same reason I tore through the Twilight series; there's something exciting about having a window into the world of these girls who are the obsession of a hot guy (Team Jacob, by the way). As a plot-driven reader, I skipped over most of the sex stuff because it was just the same thing over and over and over but I did get lost in the storyline and I did enjoy the guilty pleasure of reading the series just like I used to enjoy “Days of our Lives” and “General Hospital.” Classic literature? No. But, it had exciting moments. It had a few (sometimes obvious) plot twists. It was entertaining and frivolous and sometimes that's enough.

I saw the movie with my 72-year-old aunt who also read all the books (she would make a great book character but that's for another day). The movie was okay. I didn't hate it. But the truth is that the book is always better than the movie and when the book is just okay, the movie doesn't have much of a chance. The chemistry was pretty bad (and Daniel, I laughed at the intimate objects link!) and because much of the story is internal, the presentation of it was meh. But again, entertaining and frivolous and sometimes that's enough. Oh, and it was the first movie I've seen without my 14-year-old daughter in 14 so I think there was also something about being at an adult movie that made me a little giddy and light-headed from the moment I sat down with my own popcorn. If there are any movies I've missed since October 2000, please share so I can watch them on Netflix. Thanks.

As an aside, these are two books that I carry in my middle school and I have had more than one kid ask for Fifty Shades of Grey when they really mean Between Shades of Grey. It gives me a good chuckle. Although, I did have one boy who asked for Fifty Shades and really meant Fifty Shades and he seemed rather disappointed that his middle school library didn't carry it.

2. The writing job. I have no context here. I haven't read about it or looked into the circumstances around which this hiring took place. So did he get the job because she figures he will listen to her when it comes to maintaining the integrity (if that's even a good word to use for the book) of her story/plot? Does she think he'll be easier to manipulate than another writer? Does she figure that since she's sleeping with the screen writer she'll have more say?

And if she's a good wife, she thinks he's a helluva screenwriter because that's what we wives do. We believe in our spouses. So I'd assume she's picking him because of his talent and skill and because of the ring on his finger and maybe because he's the person upon whom Christian Grey is based which is more than I want to think about...

And let's be honest, there are people who make money writing frivolous crap so I pose the question: is it always good to make money at your craft and to earn your living doing the thing you love to do? Or is there a line of integrity that you wouldn't cross? I give you the trained ballet dancer who is making a living on a pole, the singing waitress, the actor who is doing Viagra commercials. How low is too low? How many of you would just love to write for a living?

To add to the discussion, comment below, weigh in on our Facebook page, or tweet us @WritersBone.

For posts from The Boneyard, check out our full archive.

The Boneyard: The State of Science Fiction

From "The Twilight Zone"

From "The Twilight Zone"

The Boneyard features the best of the Writer’s Bone crew's daily email chain. Yes, we broadened the definition of “best” to make this happen.

Daniel Ford: Sean and I talked about some of our favorite reads for an upcoming podcast and included:

  • Starship Troopers (just kidding, Sean hates that book, I want to get him foaming)
  • Heir to the Empire (First book in the Star Wars extended universe).
  • Dune (just kidding, I hate that book)
  • The Martian (great techie read)

So what's better? Sci-fi books or movies? What makes a good sci-fi read/film? What makes a bad one?

Oh, and maybe you've seen the new "Star Wars" trailer...

Dave Pezza: First off, "sci-fi" as a genre has really degraded to series specific mini-universes, which I find rather boring and way too repetitive.  So I don't have much for you. Star Wars extended universe novels aren't very good. I'm sorry that's not the answer you want, but they are only cool for the novelty of reading about “Star Wars” characters outside of the confines of Lucas' movies. It's the truth, and it's coming from a huge “Star Wars” nerd!

Then you have stuff like Ender's Game or The Hunger Games series, which classify more under Young Adult. And Young Adult novels should be read by young adults...

So what's left: One offs that don't get much attention. I was recently given a copy of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but I haven't read it yet. Sooooo can't really talk about that one. I would argue that 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 are sci-fi (really the whole old school dystopian novel is really sci-fi), but I have only read the former. Good sci-fi is dying; blame lack of imagination and science's shitty way of explaining everything and nothing at the same time. All we have now are shitty pseudo fantasy books like Game of Thrones that fail at emulating a genre that has already been and always will be dominated by Tolkien lore, an author who all but invented that genre. No, I take that back, he did invent the genre. 

Matt DiVenere: I think Dave forgot to say something at the end: "Boom, roasted."

Ernie Smith (founder of the awesome newsletter Tedium and website Short Form Blog): I live for horrible sci-fi on "Mystery Science Theater 3000."

Daniel: I actually agree with you on a lot of these points. Sean actually asked me what those Star Wars books were about and I stammered for a bit and then said, "Oh yeah, they aren't good."

The other thing is that all of these sci-fi series are a time investment. How many Star Wars EU books are there? A billion. The Dune series is long. The Hunger Games is a trilogy, but I'm not wasting my time with three books while I'm rooting for all the kids to be murdered in book one.

That's why Sean and I liked The Martian so much. It was one book, the science wasn't outlandish, and it was explained in a way that didn't make you feel like you were back in an eighth grade biology class. And it was one of the funniest books I've read in a long time.

So, why the intense passion when it comes to sci-fi? Is the millennial generation stuck in a perpetual childhood? Or do people just latch on to these series to escape their otherwise bleak and pointless realities? 

Dave: Well, Daniel, let's be honest about this generation; they are lazy. Now before you all give me the "our parent’s generation had it so much easier," argument, which certainly has its merits and roots in reality, it doesn't change the fact that our generation is lazy and media saturated. We don't read newspapers; we read news tweets or news feeds. We tend to ignore context and gulp text. We don't pine for childhood; we digest and consider our books and stories at the level of a child. We need plot up front, characters who we can recognize as good or bad a chapter in. We don't want to understand the science behind something, just what it results in. The old school allure of science fiction were the questions how? And why?  How does warp drive work and why is it important to travel through space to seek out new life and new civilizations. Now we ask questions of so what? Okay, so what's the plot of “Star Trek,” what happens?  “Star Trek,” “Star Wars,” and most sci-fi has never, ever been plot driven. Because plot is hard to get right, because plot is largely synthetic. Real events rarely ever follow and interesting or climatic story arch. And when you are writing a synthetic story in a synthetic time with synthetic science, something needs to feel real.

Sci-fi now faces its toughest obstacle: an audience that already thinks it has all the answers to the questions sci-fi would try to ask. Look at my favorite sci-fi media of all time (and really the gold standard): "The Twilight Zone." This series had zero plot. Zero! Each episode was unconnected and was presented as a vignette. It challenged the watcher to consider if things incredibly were different, making us consider how we would react, forcing us to think about how our morals and assumptions could or would exist if there really was a gremlin tearing apart the outside of the plane, if an atomic bomb really did destroy the whole world and left just you and your books... and your broken pair of glasses.

We don't think like this anymore. And that might be why we don't have a space program or that the biggest achievements in science are in web based consumerism.

Food for thought. All I know is that I'm picking up The Martian, because it sounds cool as shit!

Daniel: Slow clap.

You're right. Characters are what drive any fiction worth reading, and even more so in sci-fi. There has to be a huge helping of humanity in all of these crazy world for any readers to give a damn. But since our generation tends to be more superficial, action takes the place of true narrative. In books/movies like “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” you're not invested in it because you like the plot (I mean, “A New Hope” is essentially a spaghetti western). It's because the characters reveal something about you and humanity in general that makes you keep watching and rooting for/against them. It's still a broken world, just like ours, but with lightsabers and Force choke holds.

Which leads me to ask another question:  Do you think the pendulum swings back to where there's more literary-based, honest, character-driven fiction that's not serialized, or does the fact that these turds make boatloads of money mean that we're stuck in this trend for some time to come?

Dave: Well, I think the answer to your final question is yes; I do think this turn could happen in the near future, but I don't think it will be because of any clear distinction between good literature, sci-fi or not, or serial pop bullshit. The industrial will change because big publishers cannot compete with the sheer volume and inexpensiveness of the self- and pseudo-self-publishing trends. Amazon and other helpers of self-publishing are turning out books, serial or not, whatever they can get their hands on. Yea this gives you a lot of shit, but just as much shit that big-time publishers used to take chances on, and Amazon is doing it for a fraction of the cost and thrice the profit.

So that leaves us with publishers doing their homework again and putting out untested authors with untested fiction. It's not the best, but it's better than the last few years. Yea, we'll still get a Stephen King novel a year, James Patterson's NYPD 1-8, and dog feces like Fifty Shades of Gray, but at least we can sift through and find The Martian, Green on Blue, or Redeployment. Simply because publishers can't afford to not publish these books.  If one hits they make their money, but if they don't and Amazon hits with it, publishers will lose more than they would having it flop.

Maybe The Martian will inspire a second coming for sci-fi. Maybe we'll finally grow out of vampires and zombies and poorly written fantasy. We'll just have to keep searching and finding the good ones.

Here’s what some of our social media followers had to say about what makes a good sci-fi read:

John D. Moore: For me, I like one that is believable to some degree. I like good science and some history. Stories set underneath the oceans, near the ice caps, or in the rain forest generally get me.

Rick Vincent: It’s about imagination and reading something unique, yet, as John says doesn't take too far a leap with believability. Science fiction that doesn't stretch science too far (or is well explained how) is more interesting to me. I would love it if someone post the five must-read sci-fi books. I've read Asimov, Bradbury, Vonnegut (if you call Slaughterhouse V sci-fi), and am now reading Le Guin.

Deborah Wall McGraw: Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars series and his 40 Days Of Rain series are wonderful. The science holds up over the years and yet there is the future to imagine. I am kind of tired of the stories where the future is horrible, though I still think 1984 is amazing.

To add to the discussion, comment below, weigh in on our Facebook page, or tweet us @WritersBone.

For posts from The Boneyard, check out our full archive.

Top 5 Screenwriters To Follow On Twitter

By Sean Tuohy

Twitter can be a wasteland filled with hashtags and trending topics all but a few Internet trolls understand. But among hordes of handles there are still a few worth following.

These are the #top #five #screenwriters to #follow #on #Twitter. Did we use those right? 

Doug Richardson
@bydougrich

"Die Hard 2," "Bad Boys," "Hostage"

“Nicest Guy In Hollywood” Doug Richardson has been in Hollywood for twenty years, and he’s got the stories to prove it. Richardson tells brutally funny and knee slapping stories about his time as a screenwriter. Richardson normally interacts with fans through the social website and has some of the funniest tweets out there.

Creighton Rothenberger/Katrin Benedikt 
@creightonwriter/
@katrinbenedikt

"Olympus Has Fallen," "Expendables 3"

Hands down one of them most inspirational Writer’s Bone interviews we ever had. The action writing couple spent 10 years struggling in Hollywood before breaking it big. They are down to earth and terribly funny.

William C Martell
@wcmartell

"Steel Sharks"

Quick witted and damn dry, Martell is a bomb to follow. The screenwriter of nearly 20 films and several books, Martell provides the ins and outs of screenwriting.

Steve E. de Souza
@StevenEdeSouza

"Die Hard," "Commando," "The Running Man"

Through his writing, De Souza has blown up his share of buildings, but on Twitter the action screenwriter can normally be found sharing stories, chatting with fans, and being an all around entertaining fellow.

Jon Hurwitz
@jonhurwitz

"Harold and Kumar," "American Reunion"

Hollywood funny man Jon Hurwitz has been making us laugh for more than 10 years, and he keeps it up on his Twitter feed. Hurwitz uses topical humor and witty statements to split opposing sides. 

For posts from The Boneyard, check out our full archive.