Friday, March 16, 2018

Screenwriter Robert Gosnell ~ The Hero In The Well

 Multi-produced screenwriter Robert Gosnell brings us his wisdom 
from the trenches ( of a working screenwriter.  
This bit of advice is priceless, and I laughed after I read it.

The Hero In The Well

In the 1950's and 1960's, Western-themed movies and television shows ruled. During that time, let's say there existed a hypothetical Western TV series.

Now, on this hypothetical Western TV series was a head writer, who was busy writing an episode for the upcoming week. In the midst of writing the script, the head writer got a phone call from home; a family emergency.

The head writer informed the producers that he would have to leave, and the writing staff would have to finish the script. The writers set to work, but were immediately faced with a problem.

At the point where the head writer stopped writing, the show's hero was stuck in the bottom of a well. The writers thought and thought, discussed and argued, but could not find a way to get the hero out of the well.

Days went by, the deadline for production was near, and the script was only halfway finished. All because no one could find a way to get the hero out of the well.

Finally, their backs to the wall, the producers called the head writer and told him he had to come back to work, post haste.

The head writer returned. Everyone gathered anxiously around him, as he sat down at the typewriter and wrote....

"After getting out of the well..."

The lesson here is simple: don't block yourself.

Write past it. Finish the story, then come back. In the rewrite process, you'll find a resolution. Maybe, you'll explain it away in a line.

"It's a good thing that old miner came by, and heard my calls for help."

Maybe you won't explain it, at all. He's a hero. Any old hero can get out of a well. I see this option all the time.

Or maybe, when you go back, you'll realize that the hero didn't have to be stuck in that well, in the first place.

But, don't block yourself. Finish your script. In the end, rather than having an unfinished script, you'll have a finished script with a single issue that needs addressing.

That's a lot easier to deal with.
~ Robert

"The Blue Collar Screenwriter and The Elements of Screenplay" is currently available at:
Amazon digital and paperback
Find Robert at:
Website (with information on classes)

A  professional screenwriter for more than thirty years,  Robert Gosnell has produced credits in feature films, network television, syndicated television, basic cable and pay cable, and is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West and the Writers Guild of Canada.

Robert began his career writing situation comedy as a staff writer for the ABC series Baby Makes Five.  As a freelance writer, he wrote episodes for Too Close for Comfort and the TBS comedies Safe at Home andRocky Road.  In cable, he has scripted numerous projects for the Disney Channel, including Just Perfect, a Disney Channel movie featuring  Jennie Garth. In 1998, he wrote the  Showtime original movie, Escape from Wildcat Canyon, which starred Dennis Weaver and won the national "Parents Choice Award." Robert's feature credits include the Chuck Norris/Louis Gosset Jr. film Firewalker, an uncredited rewrite on the motion picture Number One With A Bullet starring Robert Carradine and Billy Dee Williams, and the sale of his original screenplay Kick And Kick Back to Cannon Films. Robert was also selected as a judge for the 1990 Cable Ace Awards, in the Comedy Special category.

In 1990, Robert left Hollywood for Denver, where he became active in the local independent film community. His screenplay Tiger Street was produced by the Pagoda Group of Denver and premiered on Showtime Extreme in August of 2003. In 1999, Denver’s Inferno Films produced the action film Dragon and the Hawk from his script. In 2001, Robert co-wrote the screenplay for the independent feature Siren for Las Vegas company Stage Left Productions. His feature script Juncture was produced by Front Range Films in March of 2006. 

Robert  is a principal member of the Denver production company "Conspiracy Films." He is frequently an invited speaker for local writers organizations,  served on the faculty of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference in 2002, and in 2007 was chosen to participate as a panelist for the Aspen Film Festival Short Screenplay Contest. Robert regularly presents his screenwriting class "The Elements of Screenplay," along with advanced classes and workshops, in the Denver area.

Additionally, he is a frequent contributor to this blog. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Mental Can Openers and Writer's Hash ~ I'm Not Clowning Around Here

Another great post from Brad. And as usual, he ties it all together in the most entertaining way. Why else call the blog what I call it :)

Writers share something with those traveling circuses and carnivals of yesteryear. Then you paid for a ticket and were promised a memorable experience. Whether it was a Tunnel of Love, the dizzy action of the Octopus ride, or the drama and tension of the high wire act, traveling circuses tried to provide something for everyone. Clowns, magicians, the bizarre, the impossible; all were part of the sawdust-and-popcorn entertainment a century ago.
Writers charge for a book and promise an experience.  We simply call the rides and acts, genres. Romance comes in books, not boats. Tension from a thriller’s high-stakes, not high wires; humor from characters, not clowns.  Like circus acts, genres must deliver.  If you read thrillers, you want to be thrilled. Mysteries should offer a perplexing puzzle. Romances should render that back-and-forth relationship tango.  Readers choose the genre for its specifics.

This expectation presents a challenge. Solomon pointed out that there was nothing new under the sun. Every genre has its clichés. It was a dark and stormy night; the butler did it; they all lived happily ever after.  How do we offer something new?

Details, my friends.  The devil may be in them, but so is our answer. We know in a romance the boy and girl will find each other after various trials. So what if they find each other via letters on a pen-pal site?  And what if, while “graphically” attracted to each other, they physically work in the same shop, constantly rubbing each other the wrong way? Voilá, a couple of changed details and you got, “The Shop Around the Corner.” 

Or take a murder mystery.  A victim is killed and the detective must solve the crime. But what if the victim is forced to become his own detective?  A slow poison given to an accountant that can’t be stopped gives him 24 hours to solve his own progressing murder?  Change this one detail regarding the detective and presto, the movie “D.O.A.”

With my own genre, fantasy, castles are an oft-used setting.  They are known to be winter cold. The kitchens could get hot when the ovens were going.  I have a castle.  I could use fireplaces in most rooms and the kitchen staff could carry hand fans. But why not have some fun with magic?  It’s a fantasy, people want the unusual.  I put my palace over caves and fault lines.  Why not stick a couple of cranky frost giants in a room under the castle and have them blow their frosty breath up various shafts to cool the castle?
Winter heat is provided by flame sprites who spit their little fireballs up the same shafts. The castle mages make their living producing magic candles. So let’s have one large candle, cut it in half, and when the upper portion is lit, the lower portion’s wick catches fire as well, no matter the halves’ distance.  Need heat? Cold?  Light your candle and down below the corresponding half ignites near the shaft. telling the occupants to send up fireballs or frost.

Of course, when our castle friends switch over from cooling to heating, there's always difficulty. Cold versus hot, giants versus sprites; more trouble than any HVAC man has ever had to deal with. But to find out about that you will have to read my upcoming book, “Riddley Bundleforth and the Banshee's Bell.”

As authors, we should find details to change, creating more experiences for our readers.  Boy meets girl? Why not girl accidentally purchases boy when she mixes an Uber ride for Uber date?  The butler did do it, but the butler is an interplanetary alien doing a sociological study on why murder disturbs humans.  Instead of a fantastic sword that can defeat all enemies, how about a bewitched sword that takes every shield as a personal insult, attacking it mercilessly, while the hero is dragged by the hilt?  As authors, let’s steal a page from P.T. Barnum and fill our pages with “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

~ Brad