screenwriters

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:

15 Tips From Our Favorite Writers On How To Hone Your Craft

By Daniel Ford

We're spoiled around here with all the advice we get from both established writers and aspiring scribes like ourselves. Every now and again, we like to corral all our favorite tips and words of wisdom into one post and share it for an added boost of creative inspiration. Feel free to share your own literary encouragement in the comments section or on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Keep writing!   

Get better, get better, and don’t think about anything other than getting better.
— Richard Russo
Keep writing. Just keep writing. No one else is going to do it for you.
— Jo Baker
Read a lot. Read, read, read. And then try to write something you would enjoy reading.
— Nelly Alard
Photo credit: Stephane de Bourgies

Photo credit: Stephane de Bourgies

Develop your voice through rewriting, but don’t destroy what’s actually working.
— James Vanderbilt
Even if you think your writing is not good, just keep writing every day because you get better every time you do it.
— Michelle McNamara
Read like crazy. And write as much as you can.
— Lee Eisenberg
Photo credit: Marion Ettlinger

Photo credit: Marion Ettlinger

The difference between a writer and a wannabe writer is that, in the end, a writer can’t give up.
— Billy Coffey
I believe that, whatever one accomplishes in life has little to do with age, and everything to do with attitude. If anything, long years of a rich life, as mine was and is, expands a writer’s possibilities. In the end it all resides in the mind and spirit.
— Lynn Rosen
First, read. Read all the time. Read widely. Second, embrace the process. Third, don’t give in to the self-doubt
— W.B. Belcher
Remember that everything is a work in progress.
— Lindsay Starck
Photo credit: Victoria McHugh Photography

Photo credit: Victoria McHugh Photography

The most important thing is to find the subject that feels completely urgent to you.
— Moira Weigel
Take encouragement from everywhere you can get it. Enjoy the journey and do your best work.
— Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt
If you want it bad enough, and you work long enough and hard enough, and you get up again and again and again after being knocked down, you can do this.
— Taylor Brown
Photo credit: Harry Taylor

Photo credit: Harry Taylor

The important thing is to keep a sense of perspective. It took my father’s death (I was 26 at the time) to motivate me to send out my work. His death taught me that time is short, and if there’s something you’ve always wanted to try, you better do it soon, because you may never get another chance.
— Meg Cabot
Photo credit: Lisa DeTullio Russell

Photo credit: Lisa DeTullio Russell

This is work. And it never stops. You have to be both humble and believe in yourself and your songs more than anything.
— Matt Pond
Photo credit: Derek Cascio

Photo credit: Derek Cascio

10 Writers Worth Following on Twitter

Photo courtesy of  Andreas Eldh

Photo courtesy of Andreas Eldh

By Daniel Ford

A snowy morning in April (one in which saw the hot water in my apartment crap out) makes a man take stock and think about what’s important in this life.

Writers kibitzing on Twitter ranks pretty high on the list, duh.

Ann Hornaday (@AnnHornaday)

Anyone who thinks Ethan Hawke is as underrated as we do is a friend of ours! Hornaday also loved the vastly underappreciated “Inside Llewyn Davis,” which earned her plenty of Writer’s Bone brownie points. Her movie reviews for The Washington Post are always spot on.

W.B. Belcher (@wbbelcher)

You drink whiskey with a man after he signs a copy of his novel, the least you can do is put him on a top 10 list. You should really buy and read Lay Down Your Weary Tune in addition to following him!

Marlon James (@MarlonJames5)

Superb author. Important voice. On our podcast bucket list.

Scott Frank (@scottfrank)

I give all the credit in the world to Sean Tuohy for holding in a high pitched squeal during a recent podcast when one of his screenwriting heroes started talking about adapting Elmore Leonard.

Matthew Hefti (@TheRealHefti)

Hefti’s novel A Hard and Heavy Thing floored me. He’s proven to be equally insightful on Twitter.

Julia Claiborne Johnson (@JuliaClaiborneJ)

If you haven’t read Johnson’s Be Frank With Me, you’re really missing something special. She’s also wickedly funny on social media (despite her claims that she’s a “dinosaur”).

Walter Chaw (@mangiotto)

Any writer that can craft something of this depth inspired by a substandard comic book movie deserves an instant follow. He earned bonus points for defending “Superman Returns.” 

Rachel Harper (@rachel_m_harper)

I haven’t been able to put down Harper’s novel This Side of Providence. Look for a podcast with the author in the near future!

Tommy Wallach (@tommywallach)

Wallach wrote a wonderful book called Thanks for the Trouble and put up with me asking a bunch of dopey questions about the Young Adult market during our recent interview. I'm also pretty sure he's read every book that's ever been written. 

Jay Atkinson (@Atkinson_Jay)

Last, but in no way least. Atkinson has become a vocal advocate for Writer’s Bone and has an unending supply of good stories and writing advice. Hannah Duston would be really proud of how he told her story (I’d also like to see those two compete in a decathlon or something).

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

The Boneyard: Don’t Let Facts Get in the Way of a Good Story

Photo courtesy of  heyrocc

Photo courtesy of heyrocc

By Daniel Ford and Sean Tuohy

Sean: Okay, so last night I attempted to read—for the second time—a book that we received some time ago. 

The book hasn't been released so I don’t want to name it, but it’s a detective novel. The writer is a former police officer. The first time, I stopped reading three chapters in because it was boring. The writer spent too much time trying to make it feel real that it slowed everything down. It happened again this time around. The author would slow the story down to give some little fact about this or that. 

Now, with these types of stories you have to put in details but when is it too much? When should a writer stop trying to get in all the facts and just tell the story?

Daniel: Man, I'm glad you brought this up. I just finished a book that comes out in June and it is awful. Poor dialogue, wimpy plot, caricatures instead of characters. I plowed through it because I hate not finishing a book I start, but I threw it right in the trash when I was done. I chalked it up as a lesson in how not to do things and I'm moving on.

Anyway, I think if you're going to overload people with facts, write a nonfiction narrative or just a straight nonfiction account. The rules are essentially limitless, so why do writers hem themselves into plot devices and narration that don't move readers? 

Take the movie "Spotlight." Are all the details factually correct? No, of course not. Journalism, when done right, can be monotonous to an outsider. I heard Ann Hornaday, a movie critic who writes for The Washington Post, say on a podcast a couple weeks ago that some of the scenes featuring confrontations on the golf course or at parties were actually done through email. Does that make the movie any less authentic? No. The whole point of fiction is that you get to stretch beyond the bounds of reality. You can do that without losing the essence of the story. 

Also consider Dimitry Elias Leger's God Loves Haiti. He tells a spirited, haunted love story in the middle of the Haitian earthquake in 2010. He doesn't dwell on Richter scale readings or news reports. He uses the facts to build his own world, one that explores the themes unleashed after the earthquake in a way that relates to readers. 

People who read fiction want the authenticity of feeling and emotion, and don't necessarily care that facts have been stretched or tweaked.

Sean: Good example with “Spotlight.” You could say the same for “Bridge of Spies.” Was the film 100 percent spot on? No, not at all. Chunks of dialogue were taken from documents and things like the exchange and sneaking people out happen but not like it did in the movie. 

I like to look at Stephen J. Cannell's work. The man was known for his research. He would spend months researching people, topics, and fields for a single book or television show. But he knew how to inject that into his work without slowing it down. He knew that you shouldn't let the facts get in the way of a good story. 

If you are a good cop, it does not mean you’ll be a good writer. I tend to find that they get bogged down in details that the readers do not care for.

Daniel: Right. You have to know the facts, but also know when to ignore them. Creating a mood or a deep character is much more important than, say, explaining exactly how a suspect gets booked or what streets cops actually police. 

"The Wire" is probably another good example of doing it the right way. Fiction's job isn't to inform using facts and details, it's to inform with passion and emotion.

Sean: Yes! I completely agree. 

“The Danish Girl,” which was a big award-winner this year, tells this "true" story about a male artist who wants to become a woman in the early 1900s. Everyone loved it. It was not a real story. The film was based on a novel, which was based off a true story. But the film and novel captured the passion and emotion of the real people but put it into a fictional setting.

Daniel: "Steve Jobs" is another excellent example. All of Jobs's life didn't happen before product launches. However, I was impressed by Aaron Sorkin's screenplay. He illuminated Jobs's entire life in a structure that would make an excellent play. I walked away feeling like I knew a little more about Jobs without caring if every detail was correct. And after reading the biography, I think Sorkin captured the man and all his faults in three acts.

Sean: "Ray," the Jamie Foxx movie, did the same. It captured the man, how witty and driven he was, but also all his faults. 

I want the facts and what to know how those facts impact a character but I don't want them to slow down the story.

Daniel: I live by three commandments when it comes to writing: 

  1. Be honest
  2. Be human
  3. Don't be boring

Facts can throw up roadblocks for all three. We're storytellers, and storytellers shouldn't be afraid to deviate from facts in order to uncover larger truths about the human experience. Move people with your dialogue and characters; don't bore them with lists and procedures. Readers get enough of that at work!

Sean: You are like Frank Ryan in Swag. You got your rules and you live by them. I like that.

But those are good rules and should be the cornerstones of any storytelling. Like Raymond Chandler said, "Every ten pages have a man with a gun." We need to keep the readers invested and interested without making them work.

The Boneyard 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

Writing Supplies: 10 More Cool Gifts for Writers

By Daniel Ford

As I mentioned last year, shopping for writers is a pain in the ass.

Sure, there’s plenty of booze you can choose from, but how original is that? Plus, by now, you must have gotten your writer a dozen bottles for the holidays. Being a writer is hard enough without someone encouraging a dependency issue.

With that in mind, I scoured the Internet and found 10 more cool gifts for the writer in your life.

Plotting in Pink

I love everything about this pink typewriter. Its price tag is a little steep, but it might be worth it for the Instagram pictures Stephanie Schaefer would cook up.

Write On

I have firsthand knowledge that this mug actually changes colors when it’s hot. By the time “Write On” appears after you’ve poured in your hot beverage of choice, you’re ready to start hitting the keys.  

Master Class

Forget James Patterson’s Web series! This book is all you need to become a better writer.

Serving Up Thrilling Plots

My mother shared these on my Facebook wall, so I’m pretty sure I know what I’m getting for Christmas. I can’t imagine a better landing place for my typewriter waffles.

Hot and Cold

There’s nothing worse than reaching for your mug after typing away for a good chunk of time to find your coffee has gone cold. This product would fix that problem once and for all. I don’t want to think too hard about how it works, so I’ll just be satisfied with scalding my lips hours after I poured a fresh cup.  

Shower Journal

Hey, you can do more than weep in the shower now!

Wall Art

If you’re going to stare at the wall for hours at a time while trying to come up with what happens next in your novel, you might as well space out to something funny, yet inspiring.

You’re the Best…According to the Mouse Pad…

You may not believe it, but your mouse pad sure can! Everyone needs an extra boast of inspiration, so why not have it at your fingertips!

Composition Shoes

Last year, we included literary high heels. This year, we provide a more sensible, comfortable option for the female scribe in your life.

Lead Socks

If you get those shoes, you’re going to need stylish socks. And these are Scantron friendly!

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.

'Sal’s Notorious Eggnogeria'

By Gary M. Almeter

Scenes from Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” reimagined to reflect “Sal’s Famous Pizzeria” being replaced with “Sal’s Notorious Eggnogeria,” which sells only eggnog, obviously.

PLACE: A block of Bedford‐Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, N.Y. A host of residents, each with effervescent and colorful personalities mill about the sidewalks. Sal’s Notorious Eggnogeria is a popular, nondescript—though well cared—or hangout at the corner of the block. The colorful scene provides no indication of the hate and bigotry smoldering thereupon.

TIME: Summer 1989

WEATHER: It is the hottest day of the year and it is hot as shit! Even though it is early morning, you can literally see the heat rising form the pavement already. People are in a hurry to get their shit done before it gets too hot.

***

INTERIOR: SAL’S NOTORIOUS EGGNOGERIA. EARLY MORNING. Mookie, Sal’s nonchalant but loyal longstanding eggnog delivery person, saunters into Sal’s Notorious Eggnogeria as Sal, the owner, is pouring heavy cream into a large crystal bowl. His son Pino separates whites from yolks in dozens of eggs while Vito, Sal’s younger son, replenishes the nutmeg shakers behind the counter.

PINO: Mookie, late again! How many times I gotta tell you?

MOOKIE: Hello Sal. Hello Vito.

VITO: Whaddup?

MOOKIE: Just coolin’.

PINO: (beating the egg yolks aggressively) You’re still late.

SAL: Pino, relax, will ya.

PINO: Here Mookie, take the broom and sweep the front sidewalk.

MOOKIE: Wait a minute, wait a minute. I just got here. You sweep. I betcha Sal asked you first anyhow.

VITO: (having replenished the nutmeg canisters, has moved over to the range where he combines the milk and heavy cream and waits for it to boil) That’s right.

PINO: Shaddup Vito.

MOOKIE: Fuck that shit. I deliver eggnog. That’s what I get paid for.

PINO: (who, with even more aggression than that with which he beat the egg yolks, beats the egg whites until they form soft peaks) You get paid to do what we say.

***

INTERIOR:  SAL’S NOTORIOUS EGGNOGERIA. EARLY AFTERNOON. Customers are in Sal’s. It’s lunchtime and it’s fairly busy. Sal puts a porcelain cup of his famous eggnog down on the counter in front of Buggin’ Out, an energetic hip‐hop boy.

SAL: You paying now or on layaway?

BUGGIN’ OUT: (looking at the cup of eggnog) How much?

SAL: You come in here at least three times a fucking day. Are you a retard? A buck fifty.

BUGGIN’ OUT: Sal, put some more whipped cream on top of that motherfucker.

SAL: Extra whipped cream is two dollars. You know dat.

BUGGIN’ OUT: Two dollars! Forget it. (Buggin’ Out slams a dollar bill and two quarters down on the counter, takes his cup of eggnog and sits down.)

(All round Buggin’ Out, peering down from the Wall of Fame, are signed, framed, eight by ten glossies of famous eggs. We see Faberge eggs, Easter eggs, Egghead from the Batman television show, and of course, Humpty Dumpty. Buggin’ Out looks at the pictures hovering above him as though for the first time. The expression on his face turns from one of elation to one of anger at the injustice at not having any brothers on the wall.)

***

INTERIOR: SAL’S NOTORIOUS EGGNOGERIA.  LATER THAT AFTERNOON. As we see Radio Raheem walk—more like bop—into Sal’s with the heavy thump thump thump of his boom box. The size of his boom box is tremendous and one has to think how does he carry something that big around with him? It must weigh a ton and it seems like Sal’s is shaking as the rap music blares out. The song we hear, “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy, is the only one Radio Raheem plays.

RADIO RAHEEM: Gimme two cups of eggnog!

SAL: (shouting) No service til you turn dat shit off.

RADIO RAHEEM: Two cups of motherfucking eggnog!!

PINO: (shouting) Turn it off.

SAL: (shouting) Mister Radio Raheem, I can’t even hear myself think. You are disturbing me and you are disturbing my customers.

(Sal grabs his Mickey Mantle bat from underneath the vats of eggnog sitting atop the counter. Everyone—Sal, Vito, Pino, Radio Raheem, and the customers—are poised for something to happen.)

RADIO RAHEEM: (Smiling as he turns off the radio) Two cups of eggnog, both with whipped cream and a cinnamon stick.

SAL: (putting the Mickey Mantle bat back into its place) When you come into Sal’s, no music. No rap, no music. Capisce? Understand? This is a place of business. Whipped cream and a cinnamon stick are two dollars.

RADIO RAHEEM: And put some motherfucking sprinkles on that whipped cream.

SAL: (removing the jar of rainbow colored sprinkles from the shelf above his head) Sprinkles are an extra fifty cents.

***

INTERIOR: SAL’S NOTORIOUS EGGNOGERIA. LATER THAT NIGHT SAL: (taking a seat at one of the tables) I’m beat.

PINO: (sitting down next to his father) Pop, I think we should sell this place, get outta here while we are still ahead…and alive.

SAL: Since when do you know what’s best for us?

PINO: Couldn’t we sell this one and open up a new one in our own neighborhood?

SAL: There’s already too many eggnog shops already there.

PINO: Then we could try something else.

SAL: We don’t know nuthin’ else. All we know is eggnog.

***

INTERIOR: SAL’S NOTORIOUS EGGNOGERIA. Police Officers Ponte and Long are awaiting their eggnog orders. SAL: (gingerly ladling eggnog from the crystal punch bowl behind him into two porcelain cups) They’re almost ready officers.

OFFICER LONG: What time are you closing tonight?

SAL: (garnishing the two cups of eggnog with nutmeg) Ten o’clock. And here you go officers.

OFFICER PONTE: What do we owe you?

SAL: Three dollars

OFFICER PONTE: Here.

SAL: Thanks. Enjoy.

(The officers leave just as Mookie enters. They look at each other with mutual disdain and distrust.)

MOOKIE: (Tossing his thermal eggnog delivery case onto the counter) Sal, if you want me to deliver any faster, get me a jet rocket or something, cuz I can’t run with eggnog, it ends up sloshing to and fro in the cups and the nutmeg and whipped cream gets all fucked up and shit.

SAL: I didn’t say nuthin’. You must have a guilty conscience. What are you guilty of?

MOOKIE: I’m not guilty of nuthin’.

SAL: You must be guilty of something or you would have never come in saying the things you said.

MOOKIE: Come on Sal.

SAL: Where we goin? (Sal laughs at his own joke. And adds a splash of vanilla extract into the egg nog bowl.)

***

INTERIOR: SAL’S REFRESHING EGGNOG. NIGHT . Vito, Pino and Mookie are cleaning up the dining area as Sal wipes the residual eggnog out of the punch bowls.

MOOKIE: Sal, it’s almost quitting time so please start counting my pay. I gotta get paid.

SAL: (looking into the cash register happily) We did a good business today. There ain’t nothing like eggnog on a scorching summer day. We got a good thing going. Nothing like a family in business together. One day the both of you will take over…and Mookie there will always be a place here for you at Sal’s. Ya know, it should be Sal & Sons’!

(All three look at each other. The horror is on their faces, with the prospect of working, slaving in Sal & Sons’ Notorious Eggnogeria, trapped for the rest of their lives. Then, four customers enter.)

SAL: We are about to close.

CUSTOMER 1: Just give us four cups, regular cups of egg nog with regular nutmeg and a cinnamon stick garnish. Please! To go!

SAL: (Retrieving his ladle from the sink and going to the walk in cooler.) Ok. But that’s it. It’s been a long day.

MOOKIE: (Talking to the four customers at their table.) Look, I want you to get your eggnog then get outta here. No playing around. We gots to leave.

CUSTOMER 2: You got it.

(From outside we hear the thump thump of Radio Raheem’s boom box. As everyone turns their heads to the door, Buggin’ Out and Radio Raheem come inside. The music is louder than ever.)

SAL: What did I tell you ‘bout dat noise?

BUGGIN’ OUT: What did I tell you bout dem pictures?

For more 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.

8 Thoughts All Writers Have During the Day

"Oh, I should have..."

"Oh, I should have..."

By Sean Tuohy

If you’re a writer, odds are you’ve had a few of these thoughts run through your head at one time or another.

“I Need To Remember That for My Book!”

Every day, you’ll talk to someone who will give you a great line of dialogue that resonates with you and starts turning the gears in your head immediately.

“Where’s My Pad and Pen? Where Is It? Ah, I Forgot It!”

No big deal, I’ll carve it into the flesh of my arm.

“How Did This Happen?”

We’ve all been there. You need to research something quickly and head to the Internet. Unless you’re really focused, this can get out of hand quickly. You start at Point A and end at Point What the Hell Am I Doing. “How did this happen?” leads to other things like, “I need to find out what kind of cars they drive in Peru, and I now know everything about the 1986 World Cup.”

“I Need His Looks for the Bad Guy.”

Ever been in public and spot a person who has the look or personality that you want one of your characters to have?  And then study this person like Jane Goodall watching gorillas? You peer at them from around corners, make notes about how they open doors, and become an all-around creep. Oh, and people notice all of this.

“I Really Like Her Face, But Hate Everything Else About Her. I’m Just Gonna Write About Her Face.”

You know who else thinks these things while looking at other humans? Serial killers.

“I Hate You.”

All writers have to face the blank page. You’ve spent weeks and months planning, outlining, and researching for this moment and now you have nothing. So you hate the blank page the same way Captain Kirk hates Klingons. “I hate you! I hate you! Stop laughing at me!”

“Oh, I Should Have…”

Sadness hits writers really hard. Sadness is then followed by self-doubt, which normally leads to, “I should have gone to law school.”

“This is the Best Thing I’ve Ever Written!”

But you always bounce right back and start working on your story again. 

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

3 Screenwriters Turned Novelists

By Sean Tuohy

Writing is writing no matter the format. Screenplays, novels, poems, and Writer’s Bone essays are all valuable forms of writing.

There are an elite few that are able to bounce between different formats with ease. Screenwriters are a tough breed, so it’s not surprising when they slip into the world of prose.

Below are three screenwriters who switched to novels:

Stephan J. Cannell

Stephan J. Cannell is one of the most well-known television writers of the 20th Century and produced more than two dozen script television shows before becoming a bestselling novelist. His award-winning Detective Shane Scully series was beloved and showcased Cannel's natural storytelling talent and his close eye for detail and research. Cannell's mysteries featured fast moving plots and engrossing characters that sucked you into Cannell’s world completely. He’s truly one of the best storytellers of our time.

Doug Richardson

Our buddy Doug Richardson penned such hits as “Bad Boys” and “Die Hard” before moving to novels. Like Cannell, Richardson is also a natural storyteller with great timing and the ability to develop wonderful characters. His thriller novels True Believers and Blood Money were smash hits. It is very easy to get lost in the worlds that Richardson creates and it’s even hard to pull yourself out of them.

Robert Crais

Robert Crais started as a television writer, penning episodes of “Hill Street Blues” and other groundbreaking shows of that era before creating one of the most endearing private detective series in modern fiction. 

His Elvis Cole series, which is still going strong, was groundbreaking for its first person narrative, flashbacks, and multiple storylines. Crais’ ability to engineer fun, edge-of-your-seat stories makes him a great read in any format.

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