Free Write – 6/27/20


I finally sat down and did some writing yesterday, about 730 words worth. I wanted to avoid it, contemplated the pointlessness of the task, but in the end – I did it.

It’s easy to get bogged down during any first draft. The amount of elements we learn to incorporate in an effective story is never ending – create a sympathetic protagonist, inciting incident, conflict, need/wants… it simply never ends.

They say you’re either a plotter or a planner. I’ve heard the great Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) has literally every major beat plotted out before he begins writing his script. Stephen King, on the other hand, is a notorious plotter.

I have to say I’m more of a plotter. When I sit down trying to plan out the story, I find myself dumbfounded and unable to create a sequence that will work once the writing begins.

What I’d really like to do with these short stories is experiment with different effects. I want to establish a character who experiences a fundamental arc that resonates with the reader and leaves an emotional impact along with a lesson learned.

The story I’m crafting currently is about internet dating and how artificial it is compared to real, genuine relationships. I’m not a hundred percent sold on the concept but it’s simple enough that I feel I can write it quickly without a momentous struggle.

But since this post is about “free write”, let me spontaneously move to another thought that’s been nagging at me – we’ll call it “intrinsic attraction.”

I’ll define intrinsic attraction as a primitive curiosity that subconsciously prompts us to investigate an issue. When you look at videos that “go viral” or news items that generate massive public response, I believe intrinsic attraction is the culprit. I also believe that when producers and publicists refer to the strength of a story’s premise, they are referring to the level of intrinsic attraction.

I think this is what a writer should look for before they begin writing any story. Does the subject itself generate interest? We’ve all seen videos on youtube with millions of views that feature nothing more than a rock being microwaved for 10 minutes. Why do we watch these? Because we want to see what happens.

I feel it’s much more difficult to find as captivating a premise for a story, but that’s the key to gaining views. I think the more ambiguous you can make your stance as the story teller, the more intrigued the reader will become to find out what agenda is at play through the unfolding of your story. If you can find a controversial issue and keep the reader guessing at what you think, this intrinsic attraction will generate a viewer response to engage in your material.

I don’t think I’ve found the answer to this with my current story, at least not yet. I need to put a twist on it or else the reader will enter the story already knowing the answer – internet dating is not as true and reliable as a person in the flesh. I should also clarify what I mean by internet dating – I’m referencing the short term experiences made by online interactions that do not manifest into real world meetings.

I’m going to do more thinking in this area, but of course I’m open to suggestions. Thanks for taking the time to read this and feel free to share your thoughts.

Eternal Stagnation – 6/26/20


I swear that sock on the ground makes the whole room look 10X more sloppy

I’ve been stuck for a while. I’ve been lazy, weak, and mostly apathetic.

I have a one track mind and an extraordinarily difficult time focusing on tasks that are unrelated. My girlfriend and I have been actively searching for a new place to live for the past month. Finding the right location, price, and environment has proved an unrewarding and unending quest. I knew that if I began filming episode 4 before we made our decision I would get too distracted from this endeavor, so I put the project on hold. But according to my most recent findings, we won’t be able to move in to a decent apartment until August.

Another obstacle for me has been participation – I desperately want to begin making short films with real actors – people who show up, know their lines, and are inherently excited to be a part of the project. But to get real actors I have to market myself as a professional and reach out through some kind of casting website. Maybe even offer a daily pay rate.

So I signed up for Actors Access. I’m still not ready to cast any roles, so in the meantime I’m offering up my own acting services and submitting for some auditions. I’m hoping to work with other low budget creators and find out if they’d be willing to collaborate in my own projects. I don’t mind working for free.

But another item that has been at the forefront of my mind is money. I work a full time job that pays good enough. But I truly believe getting paid for your creative work is a huge separator between a hobbyist and a professional. I want to find ways to make money in this field. The major motivating factor for me is any funds I make doing film related work can then be dumped back into future projects. For example, a lot of roles on Actors Access pay $100-$200 a day. If I can get a role that pays $200, I could afford to pay 4 actors $50 each for my own low budget production. A more accessible way for me to make money would be to build film dollies that I sell for $100. I could sell them on Craigslist to start.

The third and final way that I’m giving serious consideration is short stories.  I could write 30 page stories and sell them on amazon for $1 each. I think that’s a worthy value and would be much less time consuming than self publishing a 350 page novel that sells for $2.99.

Anyways, these are my thoughts. I’m trying hard to get off my ass and create again. I’ve been consumed with work and picking up extra shifts. It’s funny, making money really isn’t that difficult if you make it your number one goal. But then, as I’ve found over the past month, you begin trading your time away. Time is really all we have here.

In all the hours that I’ve worked, I’ve never left with the high that comes from diving into the thick of an intuitive plot development, or finding a new chord progression on my guitar, or even editing a sequence for a short film. I guess what I’m saying is you suffer daily to buy yourself time to do what you want to do. We each choose how we spend our time and money, but somewhere in that freedom to choose there is a call to action. I think I’ve missed that call too many times too count, so this time I’m going to answer.

Hermeneutics – 6/8/20


I re-watched an awesome video that I’ve linked to below. It’s the first of a 3 part series concerning Christopher Nolan’s philosophy. How the creator knows that Christopher Nolan crafts his stories according to the philosophies he mentions, I do not know. Chris Nolan may not even know what Hermeneutics is, for all I know. Nonetheless part 1 has most captivated my interested.

Wisecrack, the creator of the video(more specifically written by Tommy Cook and researched by Austin Smidt), discusses a subject called Hermeneutics – the theory and methodology of interpretation. The video argues that Christopher Nolan applied this theory to films such as Following, Memento, and The Prestige.

Hermeneutics can be observed in regular life with regards to news articles, biblical passages, or honestly any form of information. We collectively interpret news articles with polar opposite degrees of satisfaction and disdain. According to the above video, Christopher Nolan applies hermeneutics to his films in a unique way – His protagonist changes his emotional interpretation of the same information at different points in the story.

In Memento, the protagonist views pictures with accompanying notes as clues he’s written to enable his damaged mind to hunt down his wife’s killer. At the end of the film, it is revealed that he created the puzzle of photos and notes to avoid feeling the pain of realizing that he was the one who actually killed her. That is emotionally impactful due to its irony. I feel this is genius, and an incredible tool to strengthen your storytelling ability. It is almost enough to build the foundation for a character arc all by itself.

Let’s create a 1 paragraph story to see how this might play out:

After the disappearance of his son, Bob discovers an ownerless dog who barks at him. The dog appears starving, homeless, and alone. Bob takes the dog in, feeds it daily, and gradually the dog transforms into a healthy, loving, joyful spirit. One day Bob walks the dog past his angry neighbor’s home. The angry neighbor’s jaw drops – he tells Bob he needs to give up the dog. Skeptical and cocky, Bob replies to him that there’s no way in hell he’d listen to his grumpy ass about anything. Then the neighbor tells Bob that the dog was formerly his until the day he found it tearing the corpse of Bob’s son to pieces. The neighbor left the dog in the streets and never spoke of the matter to anyone.

Do you feel how powerful that is? The dog hasn’t changed – it’s still as fun loving and playful as it’s ever been since Bob took care of it. But we desperately want to know what happens next. Why? Because Bob’s next decision will determine his character. More importantly, you are waiting to judge Bob based on what he does next. As a writer, here are the conflicts you will have to resolve –

1.) What do we do with the dog – kill it? Forgive it? Blow off this new information as nonsense?

2.) What about the neighbor? Call the cops? Kill him? Assume he’s lying? Investigate for the truth? Figure out an alternative reason he’s telling us this?

All of this conflict is strictly internal. Bob’s next course of action will determine his character – who he is. The heroic course of action depends on the viewer – It doesn’t really matter what Bob decides, his decision will ultimately alienate a certain audience while fortifying the support of another audience. That’s what news articles do – they are designed to showcase an event that will capture the judgment of our core values.

Anyways, I’m in love with this new writing tool. I hope you see the value in it as well, because I have yet to read about it in the many books on story telling I’ve devoured.  I can’t wait to incorporate it in my next episode of Mountain Cult. Play around with it and let me know what you think. In the meantime, feel free to check out episode 3.