Show Don’t Tell

I + Love + You. Three words that can be pretty weighty in succession. But then again, are they ever really enough?

Would we believe in Forrest’s love for Jenny if he’d professed it once, then lounged on his couch eating cheetos and collecting unemployment checks for the rest of forever? No. No way. We needed to see him punch-out her boyfriends. To run across the country. And to wait patiently for her chaotic life of drugs and hippie-sex to come to a screeching STD-riddled halt.

When he said, “I love you,” we believed him. Because we knew the words were true well before they came out of his mouth.

Same was true of the Tramp, who boxed his way into the heart of the Blind Flower Girl in City Lights. Or the childlike Edward Scissorhands, who assumed the role of town pariah per instruction of Winona Ryder. Hell, the charm of Amelie was the fact that her infatuation was never stated outright. The whole movie was a series of elaborately planned gestures of love. A show of an emotion so BIG, it couldn’t possibly be tamed with words.

He's a lover, not a fighter.

Fighting for the one he loves… One hug at a time.

It’s true in the movies. And it’s true in real-life too. Because what is sex? A primal display of a feeling? The body’s way of showing love? Some might say it’s an extreme alcohol-inspired lowering of standards, but I digress.

Action, more than words, is essential for just about anything. Case in point:

I’m an astronaut.

You believe me, right? I mean, I did SAY it. So it must be true. Right?! Of course it is! So come on, fork over the paycheck. Move it, buddy. I’ve got planets to hop and people to see.

Hell no. Unless I’m wearing a space suit and touting a fancy schmancy NASA ID badge, I’m delusional.

Our dreams won’t define us until we live them. Nothing is really real until the world sees it. Furthermore, society’s all about boxes. Which is why we’re not actors without a stage. We’re not writers without a page. In the end, we’re not anything until the world catches us doing it.

So what are you waiting for? Get in!

So what are you waiting for? Get in!

This is partly why we find certain fictional characters so compelling. They live lives we don’t, and make the sort of choices we’d like to think we could make. Hard choices. Things like: should I blow up the other boat? Or just hope they don’t blow up mine?

All things I will consider when I bully my characters. Because, when push comes to shove, they are who I hope to be.

Back to my script. 50+ pages and still crawling to the end.

See y’all next week!

And in the meantime, here’s some more fun reading material:

A Fellow Writer’s Homage to Pulp Fiction

A Beautifully Written Post About Giving Yourself (And Your Characters) A Break

Quick Quote About Film As a Projection of Human Experience

Getting Started As a Screenwriter

Storytellers, Are You TV or Film? Also Details The Impact of China In Modern Movie Market

Recipes and Rituals

Rituals, Traditions, Ceremonies, Observences, Customs and exercises usually have a strong connection to food. Some exercise for certain foods, but I digress.

Spencer and I recently attended a writing workshop focused on rituals and here’s my experience.

The workshop was entitled:

For Love, Poetry and for Eternal Life
Understanding and considering rituals in your life through poems
Workshop #5 at the Stanley Kunitz boyhood homejohngaumond

This annual series is coordinated by Massachusetts-based visual artist and writer Judith Ferrara and hosted by Carol Stockmal, the owner and curator of The Stanley Kunitz Boyhood Home.  This workshop was facilitated by longtime teacher, poet and Kunitz docent John Gaumond.

Gaumond conducted all of his passions in a triumphant concert of advancement. He defined ritual as a word, developed ritualistic practices of learning and established repetitive movements of discovery (or practices) for this student. His careful and deliberate guidance moved ahead the strengths and confidence of each writer through exercises that opened our minds in ways that will not close.

He told us that our minds would forever change and implanted words that will always mean very specific feelings and emotions. Words that now call up specific memories. Rituals for writing were established and reformed. One of the exercises was to describe our ‘writing ritual’ using this list:

Words to think about when you write a ritual:

    • purpose
    • pattern (order of action)
    • progression
    • control
    • verbalization
    • objects
    • location or setting
    • garments

Each participant had a considerable awakening during the exercise. A few of us found that we use time constraints as a block rather than encouragement. One became aware that she cannot write without sturdy sneakers on her feet. Another that a Black Uniball Micro must be in hand, no other implement will do. For the established and award winning poet, all chores related to her family must be complete before productive writing can commence.  Today, I set a 90 minute timer and worked within the time to complete this post. In retrospect, limited-time will be my companion rather than a hindrance.

chocolate fudge brownies

Purpose, order of action/progression, control: “I baked!” Aprons are also essential for enjoying events with loved-ones. Quite often, cooking or baking some special type of food item is involved and tied to a rite, celebration or observance of an anniversary, birthday or life time accomplishment. Our heavenly manna ranges from my Mom’s Toll House Chocolate Chip cookies that no one can replicate, to your mother’s mac-n-cheese, aunt’s turkey stuffing, Nonna’s meatballs or Aunt Carol’s double chocolate fudge frosted moist and delicious brownies. Yes, I started and ended the list with my two favorite desserts. I did it. I have no apologies, either.

No matter the mix, method or menu, certain events are not the same without a specific set of people, table setting and menu. Workshops at the Stanley Kunitz House wouldn’t be the same without Aunt Carol’s brownies. They have consistently received rave reviews and part of their special-ness is that she makes the sugar free variety especially for me. One other part of the special-ness is that most quickly reach for another when they hear the key phrase “sugar-free.” The main part is the love that she puts into everything she does.

We celebrate rituals daily, weekly, monthly and every year with others and with food. Rituals are our actions and live-on in our expressions of our culture, ethnicity, family tradition and most importantly in our relationships. Rituals bring us – like food – a sense of happiness, health and security.

What are your food or recipe rituals? Share with a comment and Enjoy!

feature photo borrowed from

Screenwriters Unite! Blue Cat’s 30 Day Challenge

A week ago, I published a self-motivating post about the process of writing.

It functioned as a reminder of the fruits of labor that come from adapting a Nike “Just do it” attitude. My own virtual pep talk. And it was also an opportunity to promote another highly talented WordPress blogger.

I had fun writing it, and public reception was absolutely fabulous. Y’all responded so awesomely, in fact, it reminded me why it pays to set some time aside and do this ish. Writing isn’t really a solitary thing anymore. And let’s face it, we can all use that gentle nudge that says, “Keep going, buddy. You’re not alone.”

So now I’m about to put my money where my mouth is (figuratively of course, because as a banker-by-day, I truly know how gross money is).

Thanks to LA Screenwriter, it’s come to my attention that there’s an upcoming screenwriting challenge hosted by Blue Cat. The goal: To complete an entire script in 30 days. That’s a 3 page minimum per day for one month.

So that may sound totally scary – but here’s the thing. There’s no demand to pen the next Citizen Kane or Social Network (this generation’s Citizen Kane). The reason for taking part is to development a habit. A good habit. Because you need one, slacker.

As do I. Right now, I’m writing almost daily. Closer to every other day really. Sure, it’s not bad. But none of that work is going toward the thing I love the most: screenwriting. At the moment, I have a handful of short scripts, half of a full length, and a ton of unproduced ideas. Ok, not a ton. A few. But they’re good ones! (Denial’s a powerful thing).

Semantics! For the Fall Goalpost Challenge, starting this Monday the 16th and ending October 15th, I have my story. What is it, you ask! Well let me tell you: It’s part personal experience, part surrealist Jim Henson-esque fantasy. I want it to flow in the most fluid possible way, so I’m following the age-old advice of writing what I know. And I’m approaching it from the standpoint of: If it’s entertaining to me, fuck the masses.

I’m very pumped to start this. And I encourage any other screenwriters to do the same.

To assure that progress is being made, Blue Cat request that you check in at their Fall Goalpost Events Page on Facebook daily. Here’s a chance to not only share what’s written, but to also get inspired by everyone else who’s doing a way better job than you.

I kid of course. In the end, it’s about community. It’s about finding an effective writing ritual. And it’s about committing that abstract idea to the page. Whether it’s a first step to a long and prosperous career in screenwriting, or just a way to flex your writing muscles, it’ll be a fantastic exercise.

So get on it! I hope to see you at the finish line.

See you Monday!

A Real Writer Writes

In pursuit of inspiration, I uncovered this nugget from fellow wordpress blogger Amrit Sonya Bains at The Writer’s Expedition.

Screenwriting: Avoid Stagnant Screenwriters Like the Plague

She is fabulous. And she offers some pretty rad advice: Just do.

Inertia, noun [In-er-tia]

1. inertness, especially with regard to effort, motion, action, and the like; inactivity; sluggishness.

Inertia is the #1 enemy of creativity. Would-be writers hide behind its mask. They claim inspiration and thoughtfulness and depth, but those are just words. As fleeting and meaningless as a soft breeze. If you’re truly inspired, you let every letter sting like a yellow jacket.

By that I mean: you don’t just talk about it. Nor do you just mull over half-baked concepts or premises. You commit to your idea and put it on the page. Then you rewrite and edit and show it to other [brutally] honest people so they can tell you it’s shit. Then you do it all again. Over and over. Make no mistake: writing is a process.

Maybe you’ve got the gift of gab. Maybe you have a certain eloquence when it comes to stringing words together. That’s great! We could use someone like you. Chances are, if the above is true, you can also probably write. But is it who you are?

Is it maddening when you can’t find the right word to describe a lightbulb? Do you rewrite and edit and obsess over a single sentence till your friends stage interventions? When the world sleeps, do you come alive with an unignorable inspiration? If these apply, you’ve probably felt the sting.

One encouraging law of physics is that an object in motion will stay in motion. Getting started is the challenge. And for me, there was really only one thing that ever held me back. Scratch that, one thing that I ever allowed to hold me back. It was stupid, too. But it’s a simple way to justify any resistance to anything. Yep. You know it: Fear.

But here’s the thing, it’s just a word. A powerless one, if you want it to be. Words only become real when we believe in them. That’s why Middle Earth feels so authentic. Sure, only loonies and cosplayers actually think Hobbits exist. But that doesn’t mean us normies can’t buy into their journey. If we didn’t, Peter Jackson and J.R.R. Tolkien never would have become household names.

Reading Amrit’s post is a great reminder that you are what you do. If you devote time to writing, you’re a writer. If it absorbs you – daily, hourly, secondly – AND it excites you, you may one day achieve something great. But if you penned something in the past, you’re just a lady or a boy or a ladyboy who’s written. Nothing more. And frankly, what you have written probably could have been better, if you’d kept in practice. After all, you wouldn’t run a marathon without a few months (or years) of training. Unless you want a majorly death-tastic Charley Horse.

Beyond that, your world effects you. No artist can thrive in a vacuum. So choose your friends and collaborators wisely. The best fortune cookie I ever received heeded this warning:

“Enthusiasm is contagious. Not having enthusiasm is also contagious.”

I re-read this quotation almost daily. It’s so true. And it’s a constant re-evaluation. Am I the person I want to be? Are the people I’m keeping around enabling me to be that person? If the answer to either of these questions is “no,” something’s seriously effed. The world is what you make it.

So let it in. Let it inspire you. Volley with your ideas. Give and take. And if something ain’t right, move on. Do what you have to do, just don’t stop doing things you love. Keep going. The world will appreciate it.

photograph borrowed from Eloise Moorehead