MUSINGS OF A STORY MERCHANT

INTRODUCTING KEN ATCHITY'S MASTER CLASS



REGISTER NOW! For Every Author Who Wants To Master Storytelling





Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Holloween!!

Judy Cairo in a cameo in Hysteria. On her way to see the doctor for her weekly treatment of Hysteria. The baker she is with is Ken Atchity.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Seven Story Beats To Help Outline Your Romantic Comedy




1. The Chemical Equation: Setup

A scene or sequence identifying the exterior and /or interior conflict (i.e. unfulfilled desire), the “what’s wrong with this picture” implied in the protagonist’s (and/or the antagonist’s) current status quo.

2. Cute Meet: The Catalyst

The inciting incident that brings man and woman [or man and man or woman and woman] together and into conflict; an inventive but credible contrivance, often amusing, which in some way sets the tone for the action to come.

3. A Sexy Complication: Turning Point

Traditionally occurring at the end of Act 1, a new development that raises story stakes and clearly defines the protagonist’s goal; most successful when it sets man and woman at cross-purposes and/or their inner emotions at odds with the goal.

4. The Hook: Midpoint

A situation that irrevocably binds the protagonist with the antagonist (often while tweaking sexual tensions) and has further implications for the outcome of the relationship.

5. Swivel: Second Turning Point

Traditionally occurring at the end of Act 2, stakes reach their highest point as the romantic relationship’s importance jeopardizes the protagonist’s chance to succeed at his [or her] stated goad–or vice versa–and his [or her] goal shifts.

6. The Dark Moment: Crisis Climax

Wherein the consequences of the swivel decision yield disaster; generally, the humiliating scene where private motivations are revealed, and either the relationship and/or the protagonist’s goal is seemingly lost forever.

7. Joyful Defeat: Resolution

A reconciliation that reaffirms the primal importance of the relationship; usually a happy ending that implies marriage or a serious commitment, often at the cost of some personal sacrifice to the protagonist.


via Billy Mernit defines the “seven basic romantic comedy beats” in Writing the Romantic Comedy   

 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Ernest Hemingway Creates a Reading List for a Young Writer, 1934

In the spring of 1934, a young man who wanted to be a writer hitchhiked to Florida to meet his idol, Ernest Hemingway.

Arnold Samuelson was an adventurous 22-year-old. He had been born in a sod house in North Dakota to Norwegian immigrant parents. He completed his coursework in journalism at the University of Minnesota, but refused to pay the $5 fee for a diploma. After college he wanted to see the country, so he packed his violin in a knapsack and thumbed rides out to California. He sold a few stories about his travels to the Sunday Minneapolis Tribune.



Read more 


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

How to Turn a Book Into a Movie with Ken Atchity



Kenneth Atchity began writing stories as a child under his mother’s supervision. By the age of 16 he was a book reviewer for the Kansas City Star (no one at the newspaper realized how old he was when they hired him over the phone).
Ken started in the film industry after working as a professor for 17 years because he wanted to work on the creative side of story rather than the critical side. He came up with an idea that turned into 16 films and never looked back. His company has developed over 30 films and published over 150 novels. Ken has a reverence for stories and the art of storytelling that shines through in this interview.

Listen to interview


  • The way to sell a story to its largest audience is to write a book and make a movie out of it. You can also do it the other way, and write a book based on a movie.
  • The power of having a story that is both a movie or TV show and a book is that you have two separate audiences that discover the story and each of them will seek out the story in the other medium.
  • People who read the book first will watch the movie or TV show, and people who watch the TV show first will buy the book.
  • To make your story into a movie or television show, it has to be highly dramatic and have a universal message that a large audience can connect with.
  • A good treatment can sell them with the idea of your novel even if your novel is missing some basic elements of a good Hollywood screenplay.
  • A treatment is a brief written pitch that shows the movie that exists in the story. Ken’s book on treatments can be found in the Links and Resources section below.
  • After you’ve written your treatment you should reach out to a contact in Hollywood.
  • If you don’t know anyone directly to you don’t have any friends who might be able to connect with someone one place to look is writers conferences. You can go to writers conferences and sign up for a lecture from somebody who is connected in Hollywood and that will give you a point of contact.
  • When you meet your point of contact simply ask them for their advice. Don’t ask them to buy your story idea. Give them the elevator pitch of your story. If they’re excited by that give them a copy of your treatment and they’ll look at it seriously. Often if they aren’t interested for some reason they may be able to point you in the direction of somebody who might be.
  • Don’t offer to buy them lunch. Just ask for five minutes of their time.
  • You should be able to tell people what your story is about one or two sentences. If it takes longer something is wrong with your story.
  • The pitch for under siege starring Stephen Seagal was Die Hard on a boat.
  • the pitch for Splash starring Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah was: It’s a fish out of water story only she’s a mermaid.
  • The secret to a good pitch is to make it short. Make it something that leads the person you’re talking to to ask questions.
  • If you’re in a producer’s office in Hollywood and they ask you five questions about your story, they virtually invested in your story already.
  • The most important character in every story is the audience. Always pay attention to the audience. Always be thinking about where the audience’s attention is at.
  • Structure your story for your audience.
  • How to engage your audience when they aren’t responding to the story you’re telling.
  • After you’ve sold your story stop talking.
  • Never bring notes to a pitch meeting.
  • Stories are about humanity.
  • Storytelling is about capturing the audience in a relationship with you that leaves the rest of the world out.
  • The audience lives inside your story. That’s why it’s so important to not have anything in the story that takes them out of the story.
  • The most important thing when selling your story is to keep the audience on the edge of their seat all the way through the pitch. If you can do that chances are very good story will sell.
  • Ideas themselves don’t make movies. Good storytelling makes movies. Writing a good story shows that you’re a good storyteller.
  • There are no new stories. It’s how you tell the story that makes the difference.
  • An idea can’t be protected. Only written documents can be protected. If you have a good story idea at least write a treatment of it so it can be protected.
  • The human race runs on stories.
  • Storytelling is a sacred vocation.
  • Before the written word storytelling was how civilization got passed down from generation to generation.
  • Storytellers were a protected class of citizen in ancient times.
  • Storytelling is our primary way of holding reality together.
  • The myth of the starving artist is just another destructive story we tell ourselves. It’s a story rooted in victimhood, and no good protagonist is ever a victim for long. Western culture prefers stories of heroes who overcome their obstacles.
  • Salvador Dali once said: The difference between a madman and myself is I am not mad.
  • The only difference between an artist who is seen as crazy and an artist who is seen as a genius in success.
  • The only way to combat the naysayers in your life is simply keep writing.
  • As a writer always remember that your calling is writing. Keep a sense of perspective when people try to tear you down.
  • Start writing more it will get rid of all these moods you’re having.— Ray Bradbury
  • You have to have the story you’re telling nailed down, but you also have to have your personal story nailed down as well.
  • Writers write. That’s what they do.
  • The only way to be sure they will succeed as a storyteller is to keep telling stories until you succeed. You have to persist as long as it takes.
  • The only way to fail is to give up. If you don’t give up you will eventually succeed, or die trying.
  • As a writer you’re living a dream life. Millions of people dream of having the courage to do what you’re doing. If you die without any external success, you still died in the middle of living a dream life. Is there anything better than that?
  • The sure fire cure for writers block: never sit down to write until you know what you’re going to write about.
  • The good thing about writing is that it’s a democratic art form. Anyone can write. It’s not limited to a specific social class or morality.

Basic Elements of a Hollywood Story

  • A protagonist we root for and identify with.
  • An antagonist for the protagonist to struggle against.
  • A visible goal that the protagonist wants to achieve.
  • Obstacles for the protagonist to overcome.
  • Follow the three act structure. Make sure your story has a beginning, middle and end.
  • Make sure that your story has a big climax. Hollywood movies need big climaxes.
  • Make sure your story has a satisfying ending. If the ending to your room a satisfying the moviegoer won’t care how much it costs. If the ending is satisfying to be saying to themselves, That was a waste of $12! 


Read more

Monday, October 24, 2016

Night Owl Reviews Story Merchant Books' Dragon Heart by Linda A. Malcor

 purchase on Amazon.com

Dragon Heart

Dragonlords of Dumnonia

This is a novel that took my breath and imagination away. Seldom do I enjoy a novel to the point I couldn't put it down for a moment. From the start there is a synergistic energy that keeps the storyline in place at all times. For once I wished I could ride a dragon! This story is intended for young adults, but I say it's for everyone. The characters were fresh and eager. The plot is an old one, but with many twists to keep the reader off their feet.

There is a scrap of a boy who dreams of riding a dragon, but he feels his dreams are far away, especially in the land of Drumnonia where there are dragons, riders, AND demons, gods, and elves. In the end, he becomes a dragon rider, and not just an ordinary rider either: he is the Dragonheart!

A dragonheart is a rider who is part dragon and part Drumnonian, and they are rare. They also do many spectacular things in their lifetimes, but this youngster, Shashtah, hasn't begun his journey to where the spectacular become normal. He picks as his first dragon an ancient who knows her time is up in five years. She is a dragon to teach Shashtah what he needs to learn as he has a mission too important to wait for him to learn all he needs to know prior to leaving.

This story takes the reader into the beginning moments of one young man's dreams and shows how incredible his rise to stardom is. There are many adventures and the author packs this story in so tight, it's a wonder if there is any more Shashtah can do in another novel. I'm very excited and hopeful that there is another novel with Shashtah coming soon.


Book Blurb for Dragon Heart

THE WIZARDS . . .
Life on Centuria used to make sense. Beings with special powers went to the School of Corin to learn how to control them. The more they learned, the more powerful they became. And the greatest Wizard of them all was the White Wolf.

THE WAR . . .
During their quests for knowledge, the Wizards accidentally opened a door to another dimension, where the Mirari lived. Beings of Light, the Mirari banished one of their rebels to Centuria where he became known as the Dark One. The Dark One took his anger out on the unprotected world, and the Wizards did not have the power to stop him. So the Mirari sent two of their own, the Winged Warrior Criton and the Elven King Farador to help. Their magic did not work properly on Centuria, though, and all they could do was keep the Dark One’s forces at bay.

THE DRAGONS . . .
An experiment begun by the Wizard Corin, the Bronze Dragons and the Dumnonians who care for them control a land rich in sand and so poor in everything else that not even the Dark One wants it. Caravans trade for supplies in the wealthy land of the Dragonslayers, Daethia, which supply the Dragons and Dumnonians with barely enough provisions to keep them alive.
THE PROPHET . . .

A caravaneer, Shashtah wants to Bond with one of the Bronzes and help the Dragonriders of Dumnonia carry “Eternal Death to the Dark One!” When demons capture and torture Shashtah, his powers awaken at the wrong time and out of control. The Dragons suddenly find themselves with a very dangerous, untrained Prophet rather than what they had really bred for: a Dragonheart.

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Romancing the ebook: A conversation with Book Riot’s Jessica Tripler by Len Edgerly


J Tripler

It turns out some of the first and most fervent adopters of ebooks still read more digital books than any anyone else.

Those readers are fans of the romance genre, and in this week’s Kindle Chronicles interview I gained new appreciation and respect for romance by talking with Jessica Tripler, who covers romance novels and other topics as a Book Riot contributor.

Tripler reads four to six romances a month, along with two or three novels in other genres. Married and the mother of two boys, she is a professor of philosophy at a university in Maine, as well as a clinical ethicist.

Romance is a $1 billion industry that accounts for more than 262 million titles sold each year in the U.S., Tripler told me. She described the genre as domestic novels that can be “very insightful when it comes to human psychology, in particular the psychology of desire, of love, of human relationships, of ethics.”
“I would stand romance writing against any other genres,” Tripler said. “Like other genres, you can have a terrific example of the genre and a terrible one. That goes for literary fiction—some literary fiction is just a real failure.”
What you won’t find in romance novels, according to a definition Tripler shared from Romance Writers of America, are pessimistic and emotionally unsatisfying endings. In a romance, you will root for the hero and heroine (or hero and hero, or heroine and heroine), whose love relationship will be central to the plot, which ends on an optimistic and emotionally satisfying note, she said.

Eighty-nine percent of all romance sales are digital, Data Guy of AuthorEarnings reported at the Romance Writers of America annual meeting last month. Tripler on August 11 wrote a BookRiot post suggesting the reasons for that dominance of the genre by e-books.

Among the factors she listed, the desire for privacy is important for some romance readers, Tripler wrote, but in the podcast interview she said that is not a big concern for seasoned romance fans.

“Maybe for the person that picks up one romance a year in an airport,” she suggested, “but most people who read it regularly don’t really care who sees them reading it.”

That’s not to say that privacy concerns don’t ever lead to a preference for digital reading, Tripler said, especially for edgy, more erotic romances which can be inappropriate for children or invite unwanted attention in public.
Other factors in the lives of busy, multi-tasking women, Tripler said, are price, portability, convenience, and the ability to hold so many books on an e-reader at once.

“One piece that gets under-emphasized in these discussions,” she added, “is that women who adopted digital reading early on were tech savvy. They were online. They were participating in discussion groups and felt very comfortable with that technology. And they had money.”

“Romance readers do quite well in terms of income and education, and they often tend to be partnered up, which usually helps with income,” Tripler said, “so they had the tech savvy and the money to go ahead and buy the Kindle or at least know how to get digital books onto their laptop.”

Of the 75 million Americans who read at least one romance novel a year, 16 percent or 12 million are men, Tripler said. As preparation for the interview, I asked her to recommend a romance novel that I might enjoy reading.
On her suggestion, my wife and I listened to the Audible version of Julie James’s Practice Makes Perfect, a hilarious and tightly plotted legal romance set at a big firm in Chicago. We both loved it.

Other contemporary romance writers that Tripler recommended are Nora Roberts, Courtney Milan, Molly O’Keefe, Beverly Jenkins, and Farrah Rochon.
As a philosopher and clinical ethicist, Tripler reads romances from a particular point of view.

“Looking at it from my professional background,” she told me, “there are always interesting questions about what is the good life, how do I move forward in an ethical way, what do we owe to each other, what does it mean to be vulnerable, dependence and independence—these are all ethical questions that have been interesting to me in my work, and they play out in very interesting ways in the genre.”

I like to think I went into this interview with an open mind regarding books of all genres, but I’m here to say that Jessica Tripler significantly expanded my understanding of why so many millions of readers, men and women, love a good romance—especially on an e-book.

Read more at Teleread


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dr. Warren Woodruff & Angelica Hale featured on ATl & Co.'s Proud Parent Show!

Dr. Warren Woodruff with a performance from singing sensation 9-year-old Angelica Hale on Proud Parent with Christine Pullara Newton!

Angelica sang "The Hills are Alive" from the Sound of Music to the piano accompaniment by Dr. Warren Woodruff.



This appearance was all about raising awareness for the December 4th Tower Of Talent benefit which raises big money for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta!

Atlanta’s most talented kids ages 6 to 18 will be showcased “with kids helping kids” in this inspirational concert as they perform, sing and entertain. This meaningful idea was initiated and created by businessman and philanthropist, Michael Greenbaum, who is dedicated to a legacy of love and support for medically fragile children.

Performance produced and directed by Lynn Stallings Of the Atlanta Workshop Players and Dr. Warren Woodruff, inspired by Dr. Fuddle and The Gold Baton.

Purchase Tickets!


Monday, October 17, 2016

Dennis Palumbo's Essay "Is Your Psycho Killer Just...Psycho? " Featured in Suspense Magazine September- October Issue


As some of you may know, I'm a licensed psychotherapist in private practice, specializing in creative issues. But I also write mystery fiction, both short stories and novels. Which means I also read a lot of mystery fiction, and have for many, many years.

And since I believe good crime fiction holds a mirror up to society -- exposing both its flaws and triumphs, dangerous excesses and moral ambiguity -- it doesn't surprise me that many contemporary mysteries and thrillers feature ever-more-violent criminals, ever-more-psychotic murderers, ever-more-deranged serial killers. As our world threatens to tilt into chaos -- social, economic, and political -- our crime fiction seems to traffic more and more in the realm of the psychologically-disturbed culprit, the villain whose heinous crimes appear totally random, totally senseless.

Which means, for today's mystery writer, I believe it's also a time to step back and reflect on how truthfully -- both in terms of believable narrative and real life itself -- a crime story villain is portrayed. In other words, is your psycho killer just ... psycho? Does your villain display the verisimilitude that all good fictional characters require -- or is he or she just crazy? Mindlessly, conveniently crazy?

Ray Bradbury once said, "There is only one type of story in the world -- your story." In other words, all writing is autobiographical. No matter how seemingly removed in time and space from the reality of your own life, you're writing about yourself. Even your impulse to tell a particular story arises from an aspect of your interior world.

Case in point: My series of mystery thrillers (Mirror Image, the debut novel, and Fever Dream, its sequel) feature a psychologist who consults with the Pittsburgh police. This character, Daniel Rinaldi, is Italian-American, was born and raised in the Steel City, and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh. As did I.

Of course, my crime novels are works of fiction, so there are definitely points at which Rinaldi and I part company. For one thing, he was an amateur boxer in his youth. The other, even more obvious difference, is that Daniel Rinaldi is a lot braver and more resourceful than I am. Most of the dangerous situations he finds himself in would have me running for the hills!

So Daniel Rinaldi both is and isn't me. As therapists, he and I are similar in our theoretical orientations and manner of doing therapy. His best friend, a paranoid schizophrenic, is even based on a patient at a private clinic with whom I was especially close. But, though we share these and other personal similarities, as a character Rinaldi clearly represents a fantasized version of me.

As do, I believe, all characters brought to life by their literary creators -- even those that seem totally removed from who we think we are. I'm speaking here about the writing of villains. Particularly those that are portrayed as crazy, psychopathic, criminally disturbed.

I can't tell you how often I've read thrillers in which the author's depiction of a "psycho" killer is pure boiler-plate: unconvincing, unmotivated, without psychological depth or realism. Why is this? Especially when the writer's other characters seem more rounded, realistic, subject to the usual panoply of feelings and motives?

In my view, it's because these writers are denying Bradbury's tenet about writing, which is that -- however disguised -- it is inevitably autobiographical. By that I mean, crime writers often see their monstrous, unstoppable killer as being "out there" somewhere, beyond the realm of normal human behavior. A caricature of evil out of a child's nightmare.

Or, even worse, they often conjure a conveniently "crazy" killer who commits the crime merely because he's crazy. Merely to horrify the reader. Merely as an excuse for gratuitous and graphic depictions of unspeakable acts. Merely as a bad guy heinous enough to have us rooting for the hero to finally stop him. In other words, the boogie-man.

I've often had writing patients, working on a violent crime thriller, complain that they just can't get inside the head of their villain "because I'm not like that."

Do you feel that way? Do you believe that because you're a nice, kind, truthful person, you can't really create a lying, vicious killer? A ruthless blackmailer? A greedy kidnapper?

Well, if so, I beg to differ.

For one thing, as a psychotherapist for more than 25 years, I've come to realize that people --common, everyday people -- have operatic passions. That stoic guy bagging groceries at your local supermarket, that helpful lady at the pharmacy, the janitor at your kid's school -- all of them, if given the opportunity to relate their life stories, would stun you with the personal dramas each has endured. The heartbreaks and triumphs, the yearnings and dashed hopes. The hurts and shame and missed opportunities they've obsessed about since high school. The deaths and financial losses and mental illnesses with which their families have struggled.

As I say, operatic passions. Great loves and hates. Maybe buried now beneath years of quiet, conventional living. Beneath years of daily toil, paying the bills, driving the kids to school. But those passions are there, trust me. Otherwise soap operas wouldn't be a staple of broadcasting in every corner of the world, in every culture. Otherwise viewers wouldn't be transfixed (often as a guilty secret) with reality TV, with true crime series on cable networks, with gossip in all its forms.

Which brings me back to the crime writer, and what he or she is willing to acknowledge and explore. And, make no mistake, there's a bottomless well, a fathomless sea, a boundless horizon available, if you just have the courage to accept all that it contains.

Deep within each mystery writer lies the seeds of every kind of human. From a nun to a serial killer, a corporate tycoon to a migrant worker, a life-giver to a life-taker. If you can feel, you can imagine. And if you can imagine, then the possibilities -- for good or evil -- inherent in that which you've imagined are available to you.

Here's an example, crude but illustrative. Let's say you've always had a secret yearning to be respected. Perhaps this yearning began in childhood, when your siblings got all the glory in school or on the athletic field, and you felt ignored. Discounted. Invisible.

Imagine, then, that your villain -- a terrifying serial killer, a sociopath who murders without remorse -- has felt similarly discounted and invisible all his life. Rejected. Ignored.

Well, if you're this guy, one thing that definitely gets you some attention is leaving a swath of mutilated bodies in your wake. And if you're clever enough to continually elude the police, you probably feel a sense of pride. Of gratification. Of vindication. Now the world's respecting you, even if it's a respect based on fear. You're certainly not invisible anymore. At long last, you're getting the attention you deserve.

Luckily, regardless of how we were treated in childhood, most of us still grow up to be sane, rational citizens. Maybe our feelings are easily hurt, or we succumb too easily to envy or jealousy, but we're probably not going to do much about it. Certainly nothing criminal.

But in our fiction, we get to act out these feelings. As writers, we get to create villainous characters who do all sorts of bad things -- and, I submit, the more relatable their motives, the more terrifying they are to the reader.

The cold fact is, even a psychopath has his or her reasons. David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, believed his neighbor was a demon, ordering him to kill through communicating via his pet dog. Mary Martin Speck, a nurse who killed 23 patients, claimed to be doing the Lord's work. Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer, felt a need to prove his superiority over those lesser beings trying to catch him.

As I say, the reasons may be irrational, based on delusional beliefs or unfounded grandiosity, but they're reasons nonetheless. At least in the killer's mind.

Which means the brave writer has to visit that mind occasionally. Has to figure out some way to relate to that mind's desires, fears, beliefs, pain, ego.

I recall a group therapy session years ago, when I was an intern in clinical training, in which one of the members got furious at another. Over some real or imagined slight. Regardless, she got to her feet and verbally attacked this second person.

After 10 minutes of vituperative rage and name-calling, the woman finally calmed herself. Then, turning to the therapist who was running the group, she said, sheepishly, "Wow, all that anger and rage ... all that ugly hate ... I'm so sorry. That wasn't me."

To which the therapist responded, "Yes it was. It isn't the sole truth of who you are, of course, but those dark feelings are in there. They're in everybody. They're as real in you as are your other feelings -- your compassion, your generosity, your joy."

As John Fowles once wrote, in his novel Daniel Martin, "Whole sight ... or all the rest is desolation." By which he meant that the totality of the human condition, the entire truth of our experience as people, has to be acknowledged if we're to live authentically. Just as, I believe, the totality of the human condition has to be explored and utilized by the writer seeking to create vivid, compelling, seriously terrifying villains.

So the next time you begin conceptualizing your crime story's villain, don't be afraid to mine your own feelings. Down deep, below the surface. It's where the motherlode of characterization, and all the narrative gold that results, lies hidden.

Just waiting for you, the writer, to bring it into the light.

***

(This essay first appeared, in slightly revised form, on the "Sirens of Suspense" website.)

Why Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize is the best thing that can happen to the book world Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan performs at Desert Trip in Indio, Calif. on Oct. 7. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)


Carolyn Kellogg

When the Nobel Prize was given to Bob Dylan this week, it seemed to many in the book world like a lost opportunity.

Each year, the bright light of the Nobel falls across our cultural canvas and illuminates the work of a major writer — and in recent years that’s usually been a writer who is little-known to American audiences.

If that meant the Nobel had been feeling increasingly remote, it was expanding our conversation. Sure, we might be raising an eyebrow and asking one another who the heck Tomas Transtromer or Svetlana Alexievich might be, but this was good – it asked us to consider the written words of the wider world.

Americans notoriously read very little work in translation; it’s only about 3% of our annual book-buying diet. A Nobel raises the profile of its author considerably.

Before their prizes, recent Nobel winners have mostly been published by small, independent presses here in the U.S. (afterward, they are picked up by major publishers). When the prize is announced, there’s a rush on their work, which means an influx of cash to a struggling small press and runs to the independent bookstores that regularly carry those books.

So there were murmurings of dismay in the publishing community when the Nobel  Prize in literature went to a Grammy-winning musician who’s been making headlines for more than five decades. There would be no fall Nobel bump.

But it’s not the job of the Swedish Academy to bolster American independent publishing. Really, its task is to award excellence in literature.

By picking Dylan, it made a bold gesture to expand the definition of “literature.” It has, in effect, thrown open the doors to popular culture.

And that is a huge opportunity.

The divisions between “high culture” and “low culture” are as archaic as the gramophone and 5-cent silent movies. We live in a world where people read books and comic books, watch films and television shows, listen to podcasts and pop music, with equal avidity and intelligence. And the Nobel, in recognizing Dylan’s work as literature, acknowledges that artists create works of popular culture with just as much care, control, courage and genius as Ernest Hemingway did sitting down at a typewriter.

Dylan experts can battle over whether or not he writes poetry; he wasn’t given the prize for that. He was given the prize for writing lyrics and music.

If music and lyrics can count as literature, as plays have done, could not other forms?

Could we, someday, see a Nobel in literature go to Art Spiegelman, Barbara Kopple, Alejandro Jodorowsky, David Simon, Ira Glass, Hayao Miyazaki, Beyoncé?

Wait, wait, hear me out. We are experiencing an undeniable renaissance in storytelling in traditional media like television and film, not to mention new Web series, podcasting and emerging forms like the visual album.

Although it could be argued that authorship is complicated when considering collaborative works like film, television and music, the Swedish Academy swept that aside by giving the prize to Dylan. No matter how many names you can find on his records, the Nobel went to him alone.

When I talked to former L.A. Times pop music critic Robert Hilburn about Dylan’s work, he emphasized the words. “He’s a great cultural figure because of his words and his ideas,” he said.

And for all the flash and bang of any performed art or filmed project, it’s the words that count. “Breaking Bad” didn’t exist without Bryan Cranston’s brilliant performance — but he couldn’t get there without the words on the page.

Dylan’s Nobel says that words don’t have to be bound within covers to be literature.  It’s possible the Swedish Academy will back off its radical choice. Who knows what kind of pressure it will be under to return to the traditional choice, to return to the poets and playwrights and novelists who have traditional publishers, traditional books.

But for now, literature is all around us. Read it or listen to it or watch it.

Dylan’s Nobel Prize is a wonderful moment — a wonderful moment for literature.

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Guest Post: Memo to a Successful Writer by Dennis Palumbo



Hollywood on the Couch

The inside scoop on Tinseltown, USA.

by Dennis Palumbo





How to keep making it after you've made it

Thumbtack Note Important Clip Art



I’ve heard from a number of my Hollywood writing patients who are new to the business, as well as some successful veterans, ask me to write a column about them. People who are doing well, having their TV scripts and screenplays produced, being offered good deals.
 


So here goes.

It doesn’t suck. When they option your work, when your film is opening or your pilot is picked up, it can be very sweet indeed.

There are still challenges, of course. Like keeping your focus on the writing, and not getting caught up in just having meetings and developing pitches. Not to mention the effort it takes, in the midst of all the business concerns, to remember why you wanted to write in the first place.

Success in the industry can be as terrifying as it is exciting, as complicated as it is gratifying. But it’s worth it. Seeing your words transformed into feature films and TV episodes, getting to communicate what’s in your mind and heart to countless others, is a profound joy.

That said, here are some things to remember to help keep you grounded...and keep you writing.


YOU ARE ENOUGH. You have everything you need—right now—to be the writer you want to be. As Emerson said, “To know that what is true for you in your private heart is true for everyone—that is genius.” Which means each writer has within him or her the entire range of human experience. If you feel it and think it, pretty much everyone else does, too. So keep mining your own particular thoughts and feelings, what excites or worries or intrigues you, and you’ll have an inexhaustible supply of things to write about.

STAY CURIOUS.
One of the great gifts that creative people tend to share is a sense of wonder. The best way to keep your writing fresh and your ideas unique is to be open to new experiences, concepts and situations. Moreover, smart writers are always reading new things, discovering new films or innovative TV programs—in other words, keeping their eyes and ears open to what else is going on around them creatively.

BE IN THE WORLD.
I don’t mean you have to watch CNN 24/7, but an understanding of the issues and stresses confronting the people around you is crucial to keeping your writing relevant. Whether you write the broadest of comedies or the most sober of dramas, the best writing is informed by the context in which it is created. Our own culture—political, social, economic—is and has always been the well-spring for the most creative story-telling. It’s what makes a narrative or a collection of characters—and their concerns—relatable to the audience.

DON’T PANIC IF YOU GET STUCK. What does it mean if, in the midst of a script or treatment, you get stuck? It means you’re a writer—and that’s all it means. Writing is hard (and good writing is harder!), so getting stuck, or having doubts about which direction to take the narrative, is just part of the job. Writers only get in trouble when they give their writing problems a personal meaning—when they think it’s evidence of some defect or inadequacy in themselves. It isn’t. In my experience, once I help patients challenge the notion that a writing problem indicates something deficient in them, they tend to be better able to grapple with the actual problem itself—and work through it.

TRUST YOURSELF. Your talent, instincts and hard work have gotten you this far, so it’s unlikely that this skill set will abandon you. No matter how things are going, trust yourself. Every writer, regardless of success, has to navigate the ups and downs of the business. This is a lot easier to do if you can trust yourself—creatively, professionally and personally. You’re the one knows best how to tell a story, craft compelling characters, build to a suspenseful moment or the pay-off to a joke. You know best how to thrill an audience, how to make them laugh and cry and think.

Which means, no matter what, remember who you are and what you can do






Reposted from Psychology Today

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Meg First Look Image: Jason Statham to Battle Giant Killer Shark



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The first production photo from MEG!

(Daniel Smith)

Jason Statham is gonna need a bigger boat.

The giant shark movie Meg began production in New Zealand this week, and Warner Bros. has released the first photo from the project.

Meg sees Statham as a rescue diver named Jonas Taylor. He’s enlisted to save a deep-sea crew left stranded at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean by a 75-foot-long shark called the Megalodon, a prehistoric creature he encountered before. Li Bingbing (Transformers: Age of Extinction) plays Suyin, the daughter of the oceanographer who recruits Jonas, and the two must work together to confront the beast. 






Ruby Rose and Rainn Wilson on the set of MEG


Thursday, October 13, 2016

‘Meg’: Filming Begins


It’s been a long road through development hell for Meg, a monster movie about a giant shark, but cameras have finally started rolling on the Warner Bros. picture. The project finally gained serious steam last year when filmmaker Eli Roth signed on to make his studio debut, but he dropped out over creative differences this spring. Warner Bros. subsequently set National Treasure and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice director Jon Turteltaub to take the helm, and now cameras have begun rolling in New Zealand on the science-fiction action thriller.

Jason Statham leads the film alongside Chinese actress Li Bingbing (Forbidden Kingdom)

Turteltaub is working from a script by Dean Georgaris (Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life) and Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber (Red), and the film is certainly being produced with an eye towards worldwide appeal. In addition to New Zealand, filming is also poised to take place in China, with Beijing Digital Impression serving as a producing partner on the film which already has secured distribution in China via Gravity Pictures.

The cast is decidedly international as well. Alongside Statham and Bingbing, the ensemble includes Cliff Curtis (Fear the Walking Dead), Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Page Kennedy, Jessica McNamee, Ólafur Darris Ólafsson, Sophia Shuya Cai, and Heroes alum Masi Oka.

Turteltaub has Clint Eastwood’s frequent cinematographer Tom Stern (American Sniper, The Hunger Games) handling the photography, and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of tone Meg strikes as Turteltaub’s previous output leans heavily towards the family/kid-friendly oriented.

Meg will be released in theaters on March 2, 2018.

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Story Merchant Books Releases Michael A. Simpson's Sons of My Fathers!

An evocative journey into the author's family history.The story follows the lives of the same family as they live in two eras that ripped their world apart at the seams: the invasion of Georgia during the American Civil War and the period a hundred years later during the civil rights era, the war in Vietnam, and the advent of a new alternative culture.

purchase on Amazon.com


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Hollywood High Concept

 
Studios today are producing, for the most part, two kinds of films. One type is pre-established franchises (comic books, TV series, famous novels, toys, such as Star Wars, Captain America, and The Hunger Games. The other type is high-concept scripts that are either conceived of in-house by executives, producers, managers, and agents who know what the market responds to — or by “spec” screenwriters determined to break the bank.
Writing even the greatest screenplay that isn’t high concept is choosing either the indie path or willful self-indulgence.
Dealing with “high concept” is one of the most challenging and frustrating tasks of the Hollywood writer, agent, or producer; reducing the story to a compelling logline is what high concept is all about. As a former academic not prepared for a world focused on marketing, it took me years to realize that the term “high concept” means almost its opposite. It means “simple concept,” as in Fatal Attraction: An innocent smile at a party turns a married man’s life upside down and put his family in mortal jeopardy.
Sometimes a title is its own high concept, as with Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling novel Gone with the Wind, the extended logline of which would be: “Against the backdrop of the great Civil War, a narcissistic Southern beauty obsessed with idyllic love struggles to reconstruct her life and finds that her true love is closer than she thinks.”
High concept is a story that will compel the broadest audiences to watch the movie after hearing a pitch of only a few, or sometimes even one, word(s):
Psycho
Sleepless in Seattle
Armageddon
Unwanted Attentions
Vertigo
Jaws
How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days
American Sniper
Unfaithful
Four Weddings and a Funeral
San Andreas
Black Hawk Down
Panic Room
Selma
Runaway Bride
Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead
Home Alone
Cabin Fever
Die Hard
Ex Machina

These examples of high concept are pitched by their very titles. It’s enough to hear the title—and know that Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson star—to compel audiences to the box office for Anger Management. 
Die Hard on a boat,” was allegedly the logline line that led to the sale of Steven Seagall’s Under Siege.
Titles like The Fisher King, Seven Days in May, Snow Falling on Cedars, The Shipping News may be evocative, but do not express a high concept that will instantly lure audiences. Though such titles may get lucky and become successful movies, in today’s blockbuster market they’d be swimming upstream.
Nothing is more important to marketing your story than a “high concept logline” that makes it immediately stand out from all those stories that are subtle, nuanced, and difficult to pitch, and that depend entirely upon “execution.” Here are some more examples that have led my companies or others to sales:
• “Jurassic Shark!” (the two-word description given AEI client Steve Alten’s Meg by ICM-agent Jeff Robinov, who spearheaded a “preempt” from Disney for $1.1 million; the story was then re-sold to Newline, and then to Warner Brothers)

• When the most obnoxious guy in the world realizes he’s become an asshole on a false premise, he makes a list of all the people he’s wronged and sets out to repay them one by one. (John Scott Shepherd’s Henry’s List of Wrongs, sold to New Line Pictures for $1.6 million).

Life or Something Like It: An ambitious and self-involved reporter is sparked into action to change the pattern of her life when she interviews a street-psychic who tells her that her life is meaningless—and that she’s going to die—soon.
The Madam’s Family: The true “Canal Street Brothel” story of three generations of madams and their battle against persecution by the FBI.

The Lost Valentine: A man and woman find the love of their lifetimes when they’re brought together to memorialize the bittersweet story of a doomed World War II pilot and the wife who promised to wait forever for his return.
Consider these further examples, grouped by “genre”:
A woman or a family in jeopardy
The Shallows: While riding the waves at a remote beach, a young surfer finds herself injured and stranded just twenty miles from shore on a buoy—as a great white shark begins stalking her.
Room: After being abducted, abused, and imprisoned for seven years in a small windowless room a mother devises a bold escape plan.
An ordinary woman in extraordinary circumstances
The Danish Girl: What happens if the husband you adore needs to be a woman?
Woman in Gold: Six decades after World War II, a Jewish octogenarian begins a quest to reclaim the artwork confiscated from her family by the Nazis and now proudly celebrated by the Austrian government—including a famed Gustav Klimt masterpiece.
Men on a mission
Saving Private Ryan: US soldiers try to save their comrade who’s stationed behind enemy lines.

Bridge of Spies: At the height of the Cold War in 1960, the downing of an American spy plane and the pilot’s subsequent capture by the Soviets draws Brooklyn attorney James Donovan into the middle of an intense effort to secure the aviator’s release.
Man against nature
The Martian: He was left behind—on Mars.
The Revenant: A frontiersman fights for survival after being mauled by a grizzly and left for dead by his own hunting team.
Man or woman against the system
Spotlight: A Boston news team sets out to expose numerous cases of child molestation and cover up on the part of the local Catholic Archdiocese.
Concussion: A pathologist uncovers the truth about brain damage in football players who suffer repeated concussions and comes up against the corporate power of the NFL.

People Vs. Larry Flynt: A pornography publisher becomes the unlikely defender of free speech.
Class Action: A female attorney finds that her nemesis is her own father, and must choose between her corporate client and justice.

A woman escaping from something or someone she loves.


The Perfect Guy: After breaking up with her boyfriend, a professional woman gets involved with a man who seems almost too good to be true.

Enough: On the run from an abusive husband, a young mother begins to train herself to fight back.

Sleeping with the Enemy: A young woman fakes her own death in an attempt to escape her nightmarish marriage, but discovers it’s impossible to elude her controlling husband.
Filmmakers long to spot in our onslaught of daily email queries a high concept logline that makes a story out of universal—

• human emotions: fear, love, hate, envy, etc.
• deadly sins: anger, greed, lust, etc.
• plot motivators: betrayal, vengeance, discovery, rebirth, survival, etc.
• virtues: loyalty, faith, responsibility, etc.
—and embodies those elements in characters we can care about, relate to, and root for to shape an “original story” that feels both fresh and relevant to today’s global market.
If you can do that, and your writing effectively expresses your vision, you’re only steps away from recognition in the toughest story marketplace of all.
Excerpt from my forthcoming Sell Your Story to Hollywood, at http://www.realfasthollywooddeal.com

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Breaking the Cycles Features Guest Author William G. Borchert Shining the Light on Family Addiction

Shining the Sunlight on Family Addiction by Willam G. Borchert


Having been sober for many years now, it continues to frustrate me no end that despite all those in the recovery field striving gallantly to educate the world about the fact that alcoholism is a disease, the shame and stigma remain. Too many people still consider abusive drinking a moral weakness or the lack of will power.

Sadly, I’m convinced that’s why so many alcoholics and drug addicts deny their addiction and why this denial keeps them sick, makes them sicker and kills too many.

I have felt this stigma more than once in my own life and still do on occasion. Even though I have become a rather successful author and screenwriter, I can still see people pause and reflect when, should the situation call for it, I mention that I am a recovered alcoholic.
For a long time I prided myself on being one of those people who was totally open about his sobriety—that my recovery was an open book and I was only too happy to offer you chapter and verse should you be interested. I didn’t realize I was practicing halfway measures until about two years ago when I was forced to come face-to-face with all the skeletons in my “alcoholic closet.”

Openness Can Help Reduce the Stigma

I was speaking at a large convention in West Palm Beach, Florida and, since there were many gray heads in the hall, I happened to mention the terrible relationship I had with a drunken father when I was a child. I had never done this before. Then I went on to say that my father also found the miracle of sobriety and how his recovery and my own helped heal both of our families.

After my talk, the convention chairman and I struck up a conversation about how the disease of alcoholism creates so much pain, despair and disaster in families, that it is truly a family disease and that so many don’t know how to break the cycle of addiction.

The chairman then suggested that since I had written eight books and several movies on the subject of recovery—including the most watched television movie ever made, “My Name Is Bill W.” —that I write a book about my father and I and how alcoholism affected our families.

My initial reaction was negative. I didn’t want to face all those skeletons again, all that pain and shame, reliving a past I had put behind me. I had always thought that being open about my own disease was enough. But the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize it wasn’t—not if I was sincere about helping people, including families, find a way out as my dad and I did. And the more I talked with close friends including my wife, the more they helped convince me it was a book I should write. I finally did.

How I Became My Father…A Drunk – a Book to Help All Who Are Affected by Family Addiction

 

I didn’t realize until I completed my research and put pen to paper that this would be a book that would help me come completely out of the shadows of addiction and into the bright sunlight of personal and family sobriety. I found joy and gratitude in places I had never looked before.

howibecamemyfather-adrunkI came to realize that there are millions of families trapped in the malady of addiction. Faced with a husband or wife or a son or daughter getting sicker by the day from abusive drinking or taking drugs, the shame and stigma only makes things worse. They don’t know where to turn or what to do. Hopefully, the experience of my family and my father’s family will help show them the way.

So I keep writing about how recovery from addiction can lead to productive and fruitful lives, hoping that somehow it might reduce the shame and stigma and that more people will come out of the shadows and into the sunlight.

I would like to believe that the more the world comes to know “the sober alcoholic”, the more the stigma will gradually disappear. At least that is my hope.


Guest author, William (Bill) Borchert, sheds light on the family disease of addiction in this post and his new book, "How I Became My Father...A Drunk."Guest author, William G. Borchert, is shining the light on family addiction. As readers of BreakingThecycles.com well know, this disease affects not only the person who has the substance use disorder (aka addiction), but it affects their families. Together, they represent approximately 120 million Americans – that’s roughly one-third the American population! So it is with great respect and admiration that I share William’s (Bill) guest post on this devastating family disease and the life-fulfilling recoveries that all whom are affected can share.

William (Bill) is a multi-published author, national speaker, and Emmy award-nominated screenwriter. In addition to his long career as a book and screen writer and movie producer, Bill is the author of the movies, “My Name Is Bill W,” starring James Garner and James Woods, and “When Love Is Not Enough,” starring Winona Ryder and Barry Pepper. His film, “My Name Is Bill W.,” has become the most watched television movie ever made. Bill and his wife, Bernadette, live in Stratford, Ct. They have nine children and 24 grandchildren. His latest book, How I Became My Father…A Drunk is available at Amazon.com. To learn more about Bill and his work, visit his website, WilliamBorchert.com

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Story Merchant eBook Bargains for Tuesday on BooksGoSocial!


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Brae MacKenzie, a successful San Francisco painter, is a woman who seems to have it all but who's felt a sense of loss and longing since childhood.

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To what lengths would the Vatican go to suppress the secret origins of its power? "...a unique combination of carefully researched material and breathless adventure story," Book, Bones & Buffy.