Monday, May 11, 2015

Screenwriter Robert Gosnell on The Word - It's Awesome

The Word - It's Awesome

Thus far, my posts have been focused on the nuts-and-bolts of building a story, specifically as relates to screenwriting. That is generally followed by an excerpt from my book (shameless plug to follow) titled "The Blue Collar Screenwriter and The Elements of Screenplay."

I won't be doing that, today. Instead, I'm going to narrow the subject of writing down to its minutia: the word.

I've always been enamored by words, even before I realized I would be utilizing them as tools in my chosen career. The phrases and descriptions; the pictures we craft and emotions we stir with them hold unimaginable power. The way words are used, specific to personalities and geographic influences, their inflections and subtleties have always fascinated me. Add to that the fact that they are malleable; ever changing in usage and meaning.

The adjective "awesome" was used facetiously in the title of this blog, only to demonstrate how certain words are hijacked to represent a contemporary social idiom. "Awesome" came into popular slang during the eighties, and is loosely attributed to the valley girls and surfer dudes of the San Fernando Valley in California. It spread throughout the country, aided greatly by Hollywood, where they have a penchant for exploitation, and it's persistent. It won't go away.

Nowadays, it seems like an awfully lot of things that weren't, previously are now "awesome." At times, I fear we've gone too far.

The Grand Canyon is awesome. "World of Warcraft" isn't.
The pyramids are awesome. Taylor Swift isn't.
The first moon landing was awesome. Kim Kardashians booty is oddly fascinating, at best.

"Awesome" is only one of many hijacked words given new meanings which have entered and eventually departed our vocabulary, over the years. Take the word "cool."  Now, this one has been with us since long before "awesome" came into vogue, probably traceable back to the forties, as part of the language of jazz musicians and ultimately inherited by the "beat" generation of the fifties. Like "awesome," it seeped into our collective vocabulary, until now, it wears like an old shoe.

But, what about "hip," (either you were or you weren't) or "dig" (either you did or you didn't?) We rejected those terms outright. And calling someone "Daddy" now takes on an whole new, and rather creepy connotation.

In the fifties, around the time rock-and-roll launched its initial assault on our national conscious, we were taught that having a "blast" with some cool "cats" in our "pad" was "way out." That sounds silly, now, especially since everyone knows a "pad" is actually a "crib." 

The sixties gave us new meanings to a lot of words. These days, I often hear news anchors freely use the word "bummer." Can you imagine Walter Cronkite telling us how the Cold War was a real bummer? Yet, I haven't met a "teenie-bopper" in decades, though I'm not opposed to it, and thankfully, "far out" didn't survive the cut, either.

Personally, I think it's time for "awesome" to fade into oblivion. It's so overused that it has lost its impact. Along with "excellent," it peaked with Wayne and Garth, and its time to put it into retirement.

But, even if it stays with us, and even if its overuse is a source of irritation to me, I can't fault the status quo. For writers, manipulating words is our bread-and-butter. It would be utterly boring if everyone communicated like grammatically correct robots, programmed for tedious uniformity. It would make for a dull world, and dull is something writers cannot afford.

No, the ever-evolving play on words is a good thing, for us. The fluctuating use of language and terminology aids us in defining personalities and adding color to the worlds we create. It provides us with more ammunition for our arsenal.

All in all, that's pretty awesome.

Robert's book, "The Blue Collar Screenwriter and The Elements of Screenplay" is currently available at:
Amazon digital and paperback
Barnes & Noble

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.

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