Friday, August 31, 2007

The older I get, the less I know.

When I was younger, I was filled with a grad student's certainty about how drama worked. I thought I knew all about this stuff, and was happy to debate it for hours. Now I find myself in a very different place. It's a lot harder to stand on my soap box. But it's a much happier, in-the-moment place to be (and to write from). I'm seeing screenwriting from so many perspectives these days that I can't help but stay in the moment.

I had a three-hour meeting this morning to guide the final stages of the edit on Mr. Gary. We're still finding new meaning and new questions in the script. We're forced to use what we have, even if a shot doesn't work the way we thought it might. The funny thing is that the solutions we're finding are usually better than the original script. Somehow you don't come up with the really genius answers until you're the protagonist, and the script issue is the invincible antagonist and you've gone through your midpoint, low point, and battle scene. It's like every moment of the script has a three-act structure leading up to its creation.

I'm teaching a class of college kids about screenwriting. They're mostly new to storytelling. Some of them aren't even interested in film. They're video game designers. I've spent the last two weeks figuring out how to condense and communicate the crazy, wonderful mystery of writing and the fairly practical ways to getting there. Screenwriting feels more like an instinct to me than a set of rules. But they want the rules, of course.

I showed them the first five minutes of Harold and Maude yesterday. It might not be the natural choice, but I wanted to push them a little out of their comfort zone. (And who knows -- maybe there's a video game in there somewhere..) One reason I chose it: the first scene has a pretty neat three-act structure itself. I could talk about every topic I'd be touching on for the whole semester.

I've got some pretty standard topics to cover this semester: loglines and synopses and treatments and beat sheets and all the story elements. And somehow it hit me all of a sudden. The three-acts are just the nature of events. It's how we perceive them. You've got a three-act structure in a logline. You break down each element of the logline into a three-act structure, and you've got a synopsis. Break down each of those beats and you've got a treatment. And so on. This stuff doesn't translate well to words. So many screenwriting gurus have tried to slap their bumper sticker on the three-act structure and call it their own. But the moment you call it one thing, you lose hold of what it truly is. There's something really beautiful here. There's something full of joy here. And I hope I find better words for it before I recklessly start blogging again.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Why Do They Do That?

I went to a poetry reading last night at the 3300 Club. It's one of those bars that are hard to find outside of San Francisco. It's a working class poets' bar in the middle of the Mission district. Everyone's welcome there -- from Mexican jornaleros to dot-commers to lesbian nature poets to retired teamsters. It just works. It's been working for fifty years.

Last night's reading featured "The Marin Traveling Poets". A haughty bunch. They all teach seminars on Rilke and lead weekend poetry retreats and so on. The men all dressed like they herded sheep in a scotch ad. The women had clearly been forced to dress themselves from Maya Angelou's hand-me-downs. The first poet intoned away with a dense web of someone else's imagery in someone else's voice. Everything about him said, "I am bringing the Word to you." And we'd heard it all before.

The host, who had noticed that the less sophisticated audience members such as myself had turned their attentions to the Giants game, offered us a summary of the imagery and what it meant. Then the next poet got up. In that very same practiced, serious, poetic tone, she read a series of affirming quotes about writing that made me want to take a steal brush to the bumper stickers that must surely grace her Subaru. Then she read some poetry. Then she told us what it meant. And then the host told us what it meant. There was nothing new all night.

Why do they do that?

I went down to meet the dean and administration from Cogswell for the first time last week. I haven't had a real boss in years. I left academia in a hurry twelve years ago. I literally remembered an hour beforehand that I can't just wear my regular T-shirt and jeans. I spent the day projecting calm professionalism to hide the screaming kid inside me. And I listened as all the correct phrases seemed to exit my mouth without my control. I knew how to hit the right notes. I just had to stay out of my own way.

How did I do that?

I am a big people watcher. And sometimes it's the most 'boring' people who are the most engaging people to watch. Why? Learned behaviors. Why does a poet wear tweed and read like Dylan Thomas? Because he's been rewarded for it for years. How do I suddenly remember behavior I forgot I knew? That behavior kept me safe and employed for years. Your head doesn't just lose survival techniques.

When you see two young urban professionals on a date, there's a script there. When a teenager talks to his mom, there's a script there. When a boss talks to his new faculty, there's a script there.

Those scripts are only boring if you don't bother to interpret them. There's a reason people become poets, and it's usually full of drama. It's rarely the same reason. Some relish the power relationship of reader and audience. Some are dressing themselves up to distinguish themselves. Some have been rewarded for this. And yes, many have discovered the power of words.

Two yuppie kids on a date talk about Cancun and wine country and their jobs. What are they talking about? It depends entirely on other circumstances. But one thing is certain -- if there's risk involved, if there are stakes -- the safe way to play the situation is to stick to the script. Stick to the learned behavior. We all do it.

What does this tell a screenwriter? Most of our dialogue in the course of the day is learned behavior. And our audience knows exactly how to interpret it. They won't suddenly lose this capacity as they walk into a theater. Use it. When you're writing dialogue, or just struggling with a scene, think of the learned behavior that would structure that scene in real life. The audience will know exactly what you're doing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mexican Idol!

I stopped off at my local taqueria on the way home the other day. The TV was blaring the Mexican version of American Idol. Quite a sight. There were twenty contestants of so -- ten teens of each gender, all wearing these quasi-prep school uniforms reminiscent of the Mexipop trainwreck known as RBD. You rarely see so many effusive, happy, blond Mexican 16-year-olds in one place, and the effect is somewhat disturbing, like a dream I had once after falling asleep watching a Kelly Clarkson special and eating a bag full of cheesy fried jalapeƱos.

As I sat down to my tacos, they were winding up the big group song -- all tweaked and tweezered -- singing like little angels, with all kinds of emotion 'n' stuff. Choreographed dance moves. Choreographed smiles. Choreographed good clean living happy teens. And then the winners were announced.

The winning teen boy burst into this almost breakdance-style victory dance. You knew this kid had Justin Timberlake's picture on the wall. When the announced the winning girl, she broke down into near hysterics, and was unable to sing. But they pulled her together, and the two sang a big duet finale.

This is where it got interesting. While American TV would have shunted the losers off to the side, or they would have forced themselves to wear smiles and look like good losers, here you had two singers, and a camera milling about the 18 losers, all with red eyes and tearful hugs. And jealous stares. And comforting hugs kinda going in another direction.

The entire taqueria was mesmerized. The servers stopped serving. The customers stopped ordering. The eaters stopped eating. We watched as these 18 visions of the ideal Mexican pop star of tomorrow all suddenly broke down and became real people. They became individuals, outside their set frame. They became full-blown characters.

Suddenly there was something interesting going on. The camera was clearing focusing in the losers. The winning boy kept jumping into frame and singing his little heart out. The winning girl was back up to speed, and they did their little safely choreographed mock-flirting as they grabbed for screen space. You could feel the taqueria turn against them. All anybody wanted to see was how these other kids they'd known all season really were. Did she just put her hand on his ass? Is he really crying? Score one for reality.

What does this tell us about screenwriting? Good writing resonates with the viewer by making sense, but surprising him. Good drama is not about imitating or representing. It's about doing. It's about real action. We put our characters through a lot, but too often we lose the audience by letting the consequences fit what makes it easier for us. Don't do it. Push yourself. Follow your characters. Don't make them follow you. They will always surprise you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Action Lines Are Lines Describing Action

No, really. I know you come to Scriptwrangler for these brilliant observations. You were probably just wondering what action lines are for, and there: I've answered it for you. Have a great day!

It's pretty shocking how many screenwriters, especially those from a prose background, think that the action lines are where you fill in the reader on all the amazing, intense things going on inside the character's head. To wit:

Beset by sudden and unexpected longing for Jared as the door swings shut, Lucy regrets her plan to make him see the errors of his ways and apologize to her.

What happens on screen? How does the audience know this? I'll point this issue out to a client. And I'll get back something like:

Lucy's face expresses a sudden and unexpected longing that fades under a wave of regret at her plan to make him see the error of his ways. The door swings shut, empty now of Jared.

This is great, except an actor isn't a puppet, and you're not the puppetmaster. This is great except your script is probably about lust and relationships and regret and stuff like that, and you're basically punting here. You're telling the actor how to do their job rather than doing your own.

You've got directors and actors and camera people and lighting people and sound people, and they are all trained to look for the dramatic beats. You don't have to describe each one in intense detail. You need to give them a clear set of instructions that everyone can roughly agree on. Which means the action line should look something like:

Lucy looks up as the door swings shut.

Depending on the context, you may need nothing at all.

We're working on the eighth rough version of Mr. Gary right now, and I'm realizing that I've never talked about one of the biggest reasons action is important.


When you shoot a scene, you probably shoot it from four or five angles. There's a master shot. There are POV (point of view) shots -- say Lucy's and the door's here. There are reverse shots. Cutaways. All this stuff. Editors make hundreds and hundreds of choices when assembling a cut from your footage.

One of the basic rules is that it's best to cut on action. In other words, you don't end a shot just before a character gets up. Make the cut *as* he gets up. That's the most comfortable way for the audience. And it doesn't feel stagnant or choppy. There's not real action to cut on in the first two action lines. Okay, you could probably do it. But there are better ways.

When you include an action, no matter how seemingly insignificant, you're giving the editor a chance to make an aesthetic choice. When they have a clear set of actions, they know what you want. They can work creatively and proactively, rather than covering up problems. When they don't have an action, they can get stuck in a shot
that is less than optimal. Or they have to rely on cutaways, which is another whole can of worms.

And of course, if your actor sucks, you're more or less sunk. If you make a facial expression carry the whole weight of the scene, you're pretty much stuck with the actor's performance.

It would be easy enough to say that a script full of facial expressions is not going to translate as well as a script full of clear action. But realize that it's also an easier film to shoot, act, direct, and edit. It's simply a more feasible project.

Monday, August 20, 2007

What Happened to the Pig?

Rafael and I went to see The Simpsons Movie last week. Eh. I laughed a few times. There were some great lines and decent moments. But I don’t really remember it that well, and there were long stretches that more or less felt like filler. I asked Rafael what he thought about it. “What happened to the pig?”

Rafael’s got a weird thing about that pig. The pig is Homer’s best friend and ally-in-crime in a couple episodes. He displaces Bart in Homer’s affections for part of the movie. He’s a nice tool for a writer to have -- humorous in a non-human way. He’s a good, safe addition to a series episode, because he can throw the family out of equilibrium, then disappear at the end when it’s time to get back to the square one.

But Rafael really likes that pig. He has a little smile on his face whenever the pig does something cute, or bristles at Homer’s stupidity. Any episode with that pig is a good episode. While I hadn’t even really noticed that the writers had failed to resolve the pig issue, it more or less kicked Rafael out of the flow of the movie.

Now I’m not going to criticize the writers for recklessly dropping the pig issue willy-nilly. But I am going to suggest that dropping the pig issue is at the root of a lot more problems than you might expect.

That pig is a tool for the writer. It provides a very particular kind of laugh. It frames Homer’s rejection of his son in a relatively comfortable way for the audience. He’s familiar, and so he frames the drama for us. And like I said above, he’s great in a half-hour episode, because you can easily subtract him from the equation. But a feature doesn’t work like that. You can’t just subtract. Viewers read characters in terms of their development. Even if that character is a pig.

While I watched, I didn’t really notice or care that the pig issue was dropped. But I did unconsciously go through a period of adjustment -- from watching for the pig to not watching for it. While I did that -- even if I wasn’t thinking it consciously -- I was reframing the story.

That reframing period is a very unstable one for the viewer. They’ve lost an anchoring point, and they’re looking for another. While they’re re-anchoring, they aren’t quite sure where to get the entertainment from. They’re looking for the pattern, and so everything that doesn’t fit stands out. What doesn’t fit? Plot discrepancies. Jokes that fall flat. Characterizations that fail. Soon your problems are magnified -- and the lack of pig is the least of your problems.

One of the main complaints about The Simpsons Movie is that it pretty much feels like three episodes pieced together. While almost no one is going to blame the problem on the lack of pig, I think the way they handled it drew our attention to the structural problems of the script.

The writers took great pains to frame the material for the audience. The opening is a clever frame for transitioning expectations to a feature. But they fell down on one really minor point here, and it may have cost them millions of dollars. One small chink in the armor can open up a whole host of questions that the writers do not want in the viewer’s head. Any writer knows just how difficult it is to anticipate readers’ questions. Many bristle at the idea that giving the audience that kind of power. “Who cares about the damn pig? Can’t you see I’m telling a drama about a family struggling for happiness in an unfair world teetering on the brink of ecological collapse?!” Yeah. We see it. Now fix the pig.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


I found out this week I'll be teaching a beginning screenwriting class this fall at Cogswell, which is a unique college in the heart of Silicon Valley. It's part engineering college, part art school. They've got a strong digital arts program that turns out filmmakers and gamers and artists and designers.

I start teaching in less than two weeks. I've been scrambling to put together a syllabus. What can I adapt from my mentoring and coaching experience? What textbook should I use? What the heck do 20-year-olds know? How the hell am I going to keep them happy for three hours?

It's turning into a pretty tremendous opportunity to look back at teaching tools I've used in other environments -- mentoring, coaching, or consulting. It's got me looking back at what films I'd use to talk about different aspects. Do I talk about Tarkovsky or The Big Lebowski? How do I communicate what I know to these kids?

If you've read my blog before, you know the importance I put on considering your audience. It's not just for the audience, either. It's a huge tool for a writer. It puts everything in a new light.

My new audience is undergraduates. They aren't all 19 years old, but they're younger than my typical client. The class is split between students in the Digital Motion Picture program and Digital Arts, mostly game designers. They have all taken basic core classes on critical thinking, art and music history, some literature. They know about aesthetics, and they are at Cogswell because they have a creative drive.

What does this make me think about? I did my undergrad study at Columbia University. The foundation of a Columbia education is the Core Curriculum, a thorough, mandatory grounding in literature, philosophy, art, and music of the past two thousand years. The education was invaluable to me. Having an entire community that knows all this history is incredibly invigorating.

Cogswell students have this base of knowledge, and a creative drive to apply it. Screenwriting invigorated my education for me -- it brought it back in a strong, real, practical way. I can only hope that I can share that with some of my students.

I've been looking for movies that will speak to this young audience. I've got too many options here. Too many choices from real geniuses of both screenwriting and filmmaking. I can't wait to point to Fargo and The Birds and Jesus' Son and give them the tools to create something like that themselves. I can't wait to show them how glorious it is to see something in a movie and then figure out what's behind it.

I also can't wait to tell them about how screenwriting works in the real world. How there are endless limitations and obstacles in front of you. And how you can turn each and every one around and use it as a tool if you have the right frame of mind.

The other day I was in a meeting with the editor and the director. We were talking about a vision of the moon that was both real and surreal. He created it in front of us. It's practically magic. It would have been mind-blowing twenty years ago, when I was twenty. These students take this power over image as a starting point, and it's incredible that I get to teach them about story at the start of their careers.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Urgent is Not the Same as Important

For the last couple months I’ve felt like a cartoon character dashing away inches ahead of the avalanche. My first thought on waking this Sunday morning was “gotta check my email.” I nearly jumped out of bed before checking myself. I tried to lay in bed, reminding myself I had a free day. Pretty soon I was strategizing how to exploit it fully. Get a jump on that new script. Email the guy about the job. Update the blog. Tweak the Google ad. Find the stock footage. I’m exhausted, and I can’t stop thinking about work.

Of course, there’s not a single thing there that can’t wait until Monday. There’s not a single thing there that shouldn’t wait until Monday. I’ve been going nuts to get back to my creative writing and my book for the past week. I decided there would be no email on this Sunday. No computer. Just my own script and Denis Johnson’s Fiskadoro.

If I’ve learned one lesson, it’s never to put what’s urgent ahead of what’s important. I’ve learned this lesson many, many times. I’ve also forgotten it many, many times. But inevitably when I do what’s important, the urgent takes care of itself.

What’s important to me is all about stories. You don’t hear good stories if you don’t listen. You don’t write good stories unless you listen to yourself. You can’t listen to anything without concentration. And real concentration requires peace and attention to basic needs. Real concentration is the only thing that overcomes resistance.

It’s way too easy to let your resistance guide you away from what’s important and right into what’s urgent. I know few writers who wouldn’t identify this as a major problem. I still fall into the problem all the time.

But I do manage to maintain for stretches of time. I spend enough time writing my own stuff. I get the joy out of it, and the spontaneous, visual answers that are always better than the carefully constructed dialogue. I sketch out the new ideas that have piled up in the journal. I see the movies and plays I want to see. I take care of my relationship. I exercise. I play. I cook. I’m energized at the end of the day.

The funny thing is that what’s urgent also works better when I have the focus on the important. My clients get better work. I meet other writers and filmmakers at events. I get new ideas. I’m happier sitting at my desk, and so I work more efficiently.

I wish I understood better why the urgent has such power over the important. It shouldn’t, but for me it does sometimes. For now I’m making a rule for myself. No computer on Sunday. One day a week just for what’s important.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Crutches and Assumptions and BS

The other day I got one of those infuriating "you've got to read this" emails that get forwarded to entire address books all over the place. It was a sincere appeal from an American Airlines pilot to Muslim Americans. He can't tell them apart from the terrorists. And he wishes he didn't feel this way, but the rules have changed since 9/11. And so he needs them to pledge allegiance to the flag.

Now I'm as susceptible to easy answers as anybody. And anybody who's seen the marvelous, undeniable success of George W. Bush knows that wrapping yourself in the flag is the answer to any difficult question. A drunk once accosted a dark-skinned friend of mine with this exact same demand for a pledge of allegiance at a Raiders game, so clearly the pilot was onto something. While we're at it, maybe we could ask all law abiding minorities to pledge not to mug nice upper middle class white people? Freakin' moron.

Oh yeah, screenwriting. If it teaches you anything, it's that characters rarely conform to what they want you of them. The answers will usually surprise you. The audience will ALWAYS question the assumption you're making. Even if your main character is a little blond-haired orphan who sings like an angel, you need to work hard to make sure the audience believes her, engages her, likes her.

In other words, the audience will always call you on your bulls***.

One of the fun parts of being a script consultant is that you have to work on a lot of stories that you would never write. You have to engage a wide range of assumptions that are not your own. I've worked on right-wing apocalypse militia type scripts. I've worked on Christian inspirational scripts for African-American audiences. I've worked on homophobic action scripts. It's my job. I need to put aside my own assumptions, and find what works for the client and the target audience.

One thing I've always found a little comforting working with homophobic scripts is that the opposite of the happy singing orphan problem is also there. The action lines invariably describe the bad guy as the gay homosexual leering at our hero. But simply being something, rather than doing something, won't make a character negative in a viewer's mind. The writer never tests his own assumptions, and so the negative character doesn't really come into focus. I'm thinking of a particular case where a poor, unsuspecting Christian teen accidentaly sits down next to a bisexual classmate. A fellow student shakes her head and mouths "No!" silently. But alas. The poor teen sits within easy grasp of the bisexual.

The writer doesn't actually give any visual cues for the movie audience to know that this character is bisexual, and the viewer can only speculate as to why this unnamed fellow classmate is so concerned about the seating arrangement.

Beyond that, the bisexual never quite gets around to doing anything that bad. There's an assumption on the writer's viewpoint that you simply shouldn't associate with homosexuals. I pointed out that this supposedly bad character was actually a better, more understanding friend than many of the character's assumed friends. If her message is that you shouldn't hang out with homosexuals, she was just going to have to dig a little bit deeper. I'd like to think that's why the relationship ended up being more complex, interesting and realistic in later drafts.

I'm gay, but I'm not what you'd call a gay writer. I just don't write many gay characters. It's probably for the very same reason. The assumptions around a positive gay character in "Queer as Folk" or the like are no more real to me than the assumptions around a negative gay character in a Christian script. I don't want to get locked into a particular genre read of my work. There's always something deeper, more immediate, and more compelling staring you in the face as soon as you get past your own assumptions. It helps you write more interesting characters.

And it keeps you from spouting embarrassing buls*** in emails that get forwarded to thousands of strangers.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

More Than a Feeling

I know a guitarist who refuses to learn Boston’s ‘More Than a Feeling’ because it would destroy it for him to know how it works. I can respect that. I’ve overanalyzed many favorite books and movies. There’s way too much good poetry that is forever tainted with the odor of grad school seminars for me. I miss it.

Yesterday I was rushing over to the studio to record some jingles and voice overs for Mr. Gary. The I Ching that is my iPod decided to play ‘More Than a Feeling’. Two days with an audio engineer and sound designer had me tuned into recorded sound, and I started pulling apart the recording in a way I never had before. I heard the overdubs. I heard the backing tracks. I could even figure out some of the lyrics!

And before I knew it, this song was separating out into its component elements. I saw how the bass line works with the guitars. I heard how all this was built around the singer’s voice quality and octave range. Half way through the song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” suddenly came roaring into my head, and I knew that Kurt Cobain must have heard this song when he was still a nice boy, and that it had percolated for years before re-emerging triumphantly fifteen years later.

The song came out in 1976. I was nine. It boomed all around me the first time I went skiing. I was in love with the sport. Everything about it. We stayed with some family friends at a little wooden sky house. All very standard, but all new to me. The whole house seemed somehow oriented to dumping people out onto the slopes. More Than a Feeling boomed from the older kid’s stereo. It played on the loud speaker at the bottom of the slope. It was in the wood smell of the walls, and the smoky smell of the fireplace, and the steamy humidity of just inside the back door, where you pulled yourself out of your ski boots.

Everything was about joy. The adults all acted different. And I’d learned how to fly. I didn’t know you could fall, or that falling might hurt. So I didn’t fall. I shot out of the house and down the slopes as much as I could. I slipped away and went to the harder slopes. I remember the top of the big hill. I remember seeing nothing but joy. I took off down the slope, faster and faster. I felt this joy rising in me as I went faster and my legs felt like they couldn’t touch the ground, but I couldn’t fall. I got to the bottom of the hill feeling like I’d never felt before. And I saw my friend’s mom giving me a look of disapproval mixed with a little smirking good-for-you. I pulled off my goggles and warm tears rolled out and down face. I was ashamed. I picked up a handful of snow and wiped it all over my face to hide the tears from her. She asked what I was doing. I didn’t know. I didn’t know you could cry tears of joy. But I did know what ‘More Than a Feeling’ was. I’ve been chasing after that moment for the last three decades.

This is a screenwriting blog, so I’ll bring this around to what this means to writing. The reason that song stands out so clearly in my mind has a lot to do with how it was constructed. It’s the perfect example of the conceit (i.e. concept) of 70’s American rock. You can analyze it in almost any way you want, and there’s that spark of genius in the composition. But it’s a simple thing. Many, many groups tried to capture it. Boston tried to re-use it. But it was no longer original. It was no longer simple, honest, straightforward. It took Kurt Cobain to find it years later. Fifteen years after that, it made me remember the smell of my glove as I wiped tears from my face with snow thirty years ago. This is the power of a good conceit.

Screenwriting is a huge paradox: visual writing. Writing about visual writing is necessary, but it’s a slippery thing. Just for today, remember that our world is full of conceits and tools and good and bad dialogue and second-act complications. You know it when you see it. Don’t worry about how to label it. Worry about why it matters, and how you can bring it to the screen.

Thursday, August 2, 2007


I don't feel right if I don't write every day. Somehow things start running in loops in my head. I got involved in script consulting because it's something I'm good at, I work at home, and there's a lot of flexibility. I can write every day. But sometimes I don't.

The last few weeks or months have been one of those times. I'm on a huge learning curve with film producing on Mr. Gary. I've got lots of clients with a lot of different needs. House guests. And then there's life.

Writing for other people is not the same as writing for yourself. It's easier, for one. You have a strong perspective and access to the lead writer. You break it down. you come up with a plan. You execute.

Not so simple with your own stuff. Now that we've got our post-production team up and running, I do have more time for my own stuff. I pulled out my own script, started digging through and suddenly had a huge realization about it. I saw where I was missing something incredibly obvious. For me, the story was about a boy exploring his fantasy world in the flesh. For my main character and the audience, the focus was on the fact that he thinks he may have caused his father's death. There's this huge layer of guilt and anxiety and his character completely stressed in every way possible. This is pretty much what a screenwriter wants. This is exactly what I wanted for the character. And I didn't see it. I was too close, and now I was writing off in the wrong direction.

The next day I had four meetings, two phone calls and dinner with a fundraiser. No time to write. I had three pens run out of ink on the same day. What are the chances? The next day I put the work ahead of my writing, and a pen exploded in my bag. Monday I was too exhausted to engage stuff deeply. You got it: my last pen ran out of ink.

There's no good explanation for this. I'm not the kind of person who dwells on weird coincidences. But it feels like my pens are rising up in anger. It's time to get back to work and really dig into this character. Working on your own stuff is harder, but it's why we write. No amount of futzing with structure will help me if I don't look at my work, if I don't listen to my work.