Monday, August 14, 2017

Mental Can Openers & Writer's Hash ~He Was So Fantasy Minded He Was No Technical Good

 Brad Leach brings us another cool and maybe even mind bending on.

Many of you may remember from the television or movies where some individual dictates while a typewriter magically clicks away taking down every word. Some of you may think of the movie, The Bishop’s Wife with David Niven and Cary Grant. Grant plays an angel who, at one point in the film, dictates a Christmas sermon. I think of the original Star Trek episode where Gary Seven dictates his mission report to a typewriter. The Twilight Zone, Bewitched, and I Dream of Jeannie had something similar.
My younger mind eagerly imagined such machinery as typewriters and cars bound to my verbal command. I might helpfully tell the construction crane to go to work or have the nearest vending machine wheel itself over and empty itself of my favorite candy bar (Snickers and Baby Ruth being high on the list.)

Now that I have retired to write, imagine my delight upon learning there is a voice recognition system available to be used in place of typing. While speech recognition has been available for the past 20 years, it’s only recently become refined enough to see a 95% success rate, right from the box. Now the only limit to my “typing speed” is the speed at which my mind can compose sentences. My computing word processor composes even as I speak. I have the power of Gary Seven and an angel combined (well, maybe not quite an angel.)

It must be conceded that the 3% to 5% of errors do need correction, but almost all of the correction can be done verbally. Also, the punctuation must be dictated as part of the sentence. I don’t remember Cary Grant or Gary Seven having to do that! Still, for those who don’t type well or can’t type at all, this rivals the automobile replacing the horse, and a slightly dyslexic horse at that.

My system, Nuance’s Dragon Naturally Speaking, learns as it goes. It can be taught new or unique words and also studies your style of writing so it can better anticipate your word usage. I think of this like those movies where the English butler has learned that the master likes his eggs lightly basted and his bacon crispy. It took a computer, but now there’s something that hangs on my every word.

Now, the bad news. This won’t make you a better writer. It simply makes you faster. So if all you write is junk, you will only be able to write junk very quickly. With this tool helping you, you can quadruple your rejection letters.

The other factor not often considered is that you must compose the sentence in your mind as you wish it to look upon the page. Prattling on a mile a minute without thought leaves you hundreds of minutes needed to edit miles of prattle. I suppose even angels had to think about what they were going to say.

PostScript – this entire blog article was dictated, corrected, and formatted verbally. My fat little fingers never caressed the keyboard. I even had a suave, female, British computer voice named Serena read my article to me for editing purposes. Ah, the life of an angel.

~ Brad

Monday, August 7, 2017

Screenwriter Robert Gosnell ~ Rule Number One: Beware of Rules

Hi Guys, this post made me laugh but think as well.  
There are a million rules out on.

In the first major screenwriting class I took, the instructor insisted that the first act of a screenplay must end on page 30. Not around page thirty, not give-or-take, but on page 30.

So, that's what I did. I ended the first act of every spec screenplay I wrote on page 30. The trouble was, sometimes my first act didn't want to end on page 30, and conforming to that was often a source of frustration.

That frustration led me to do some research. I got my hands on a few produced scripts and timed some successful films and discovered the fatal flaw of this rule. A fast-paced, 90 minute romantic comedy might have a 20 minute first act, while a longer, more involved drama with complex characters and subplots might require a 40 minute first act. It isn't determined by page length, it is determined by the story.

Another rule, one which I've heard many times, recently resurfaced in a conversation.

Voice-over narration is death!

Only amateurs do it. A script with voice-over narration will be instantly rejected. Show, don't tell!

I fact-checked that one, too. It didn't take long to find evidence to the contrary.

Okay, we don't want a screenplay that reads like a 1950's wildlife documentary, with all of the action being described off screen, but many notable films have employed voice-over narration to great effect. "To Kill A Mockingbird," "Sunset Boulevard," "Forrest Gump," "Apocalypse Now" and "The Wolf of Wall Street" all relied heavily on it, and it seems to me, those films did okay.

There are a number of hard-and-fast rules to the screenplay form,  but different methods from different instructors create new rules, some of which are debatable. Understand that they are teaching you how they write a screenplay, not necessarily how to write a screenplay.

I have a personal hard-and-fast rule of my own: Never kill the dog.

That one can likely be debunked, too, with a little research, but I can't help it. I've never forgiven Disney for Old Yeller. (LA here, neither has my husband and I refuse to watch it.)

A comic friend of mine once enlightened me with this advice:

"Bob, what's the most important rule of screenwriting?"

"I don't know, John, what is the most important rule of screenwriting?"

"Number your pages."

There's a rule you can take to the bank.

~ 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.