Sunday, January 19, 2014

January 2014 Book Review

                                                          The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear Cover

The 13 1/2 lives of Captain Bluebear
Walter Moers

This book, excellently translated from the German by John Brownjohn, is a rollicking joyride through the absurd. A story filled with twists and turns and zany pen and ink illustrations reminiscent of the artwork of Shel Silverstein.

A blue bear in the land of Zamonia has 27 lives, but the book only tells us of 13 1/2 of those lives. Starting with Blue Bear’s birth in a nutshell and his first life with the mini pirates, which he quickly outgrows, to a period of domestic bliss and teaching at the Chromobears Academy.

This may sounds like a children’s book, and kids as young as middle school can read it and enjoy it, but there is a greater depth to the story than the title and back cover hints at.

Interspersed with the life story of Blue Bear are quotations from the Encyclopedia of Marvels, Life Forms and other phenomena of Zamonia and its Environs by Professor Abdullah Nightingale. Short philosophical or scientific treatise on uniquely Zamonian items.

My copy of this book is already falling apart as it’s been thoroughly enjoyed by more than one and if my offspring weren’t so busy with robotics, I’d have him write a review of the book too.

There are more books set in Zamonia by Walter Moers and each one is unique and well worth reading. The illustrations add an extra dimension to the story and show the imagination of a gifted artist at work.

I’m eager to read one that’s been on my shelf for a year now, The City of Dreaming Books, but my time is packed these days and reading is something I do less of than I’d like. Perhaps when I travel this summer I can cram a few books into my luggage to read during long flights or train rides.

And for those of you who might wonder ... yes, I have very eclectic tastes in reading. It just depends on what I’m in the mood for, or what I might be curious about. Mixed in with the classic novels, popular fiction, science fiction, superhero comics and books that defy categorizing, you’ll also find biographies, art books, history books, and an occasional book on physics on my overflowing shelves.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Screenwriting - Week 1

wide open with opportunities

I’d like to say screenwriting 101, but I feel I have to start lower than that, which is fine, because, as you know, I enjoy a challenge.

There are some distinct differences between writing a story and writing a screenplay. It may seem like a screenplay is all about dialogue, but it really isn’t. The visuals form the basis and dialogue fills in the blanks. If you watch many movies you’ll notice that, for the most part, the dialogue is limited. It may seem like normal, everyday speech, but again it really isn’t. Rarely does one person go on an extended monologue, usually it’s a back and forth between two or more people, and then not in very long sentences either. If there is an extended monologue it often becomes a voice-over as images of what the person is talking about flow past on the screen.

I’m not at the point yet in this screenplay project where I’m starting the actual script writing; I’m still in the input and learning stage.

First, I collect all the bits that have to go into the story, then I organize them in some order before I write an outline, which is really the barest of story structures. It’s where I’ll break the story into three parts, beginning, middle and end, and where I’ll note the major turning points or plot twists that keep the story moving forward.

Based on the outline I’ll write a treatment, which in essence is a short story and that’s where I’ll apply my short story skills. This I will send that to my client along with a list of major characters in the story and the names I will have picked for them.

My client will read these materials and make notes on them and suggest changes (hopefully not too many) and mail it back to me, at which point, if there aren’t too many changes, I’ll start the process of actually writing the screenplay. As in, the first draft!

And in my free time I’ll be reading 'The Screenwriter's Bible'  as well as actual scripts to immerse myself in the art of screenwriting, starting with the shooting script from Christopher Nolan’s film “Inception”. I’m sure this whole experience will change my movie viewing.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year

not a snagged kite, it's a leaping dragon!
 Wishing each and every one of you a wonderful, joy-filled 2014!

It feels like some shackles of the past year are falling away and new opportunities are opening up. That’s the kind of excitement I wish to take forward into the new year. Taking on new writing challenges and continuing to grow my art and my craft.

Stay tuned for more Tales from the Fountain Pen, as well as observations on the craft of screenwriting! I’ve been contracted to write a spec. screenplay. Can’t reveal more than that, but will say that I’m looking forward to learning and adding that skill to my quiver.

Make it a great year; live your dreams, be kind to each other, and try something new!