The Mynerthins – Part 2

Read Part 1 Here

Brent returned to work but had a difficult time concentrating. Durk had expressed relief that Assistant Plethor was dead. It was wrong to feel this way, as Assistant Plethor was an appreciated instructor who always kept the Mynerthins hard at work. Plethor made certain they did not deviate from their assigned informative discussions. As a matter of fact, Brent felt he achieved more when Assistant Plethor was actively encouraging him to complete his duty faster!

Brent paused his typing. Something was terribly wrong, he realized. For some reason, Brent was feeling more happiness at Assistant Plethor’s passing than he was supposed to. For the second time that day he wondered if he should seek out a medical evaluation. He searched the room and found the two men with dark sunglasses staring back at him. They approached.

“Brent,” the tall, slender one said. “Come with us.”

Brent followed the two men out from the main work area and into a compact, dimly lit private room. The shorter of the two men secured 2 bolts and a padlock after they shut the door. Brent noticed Steve placed what was called a “handgun” beside himself on the table. Brent had never seen a real one before.

“Call me Steve,” said the tall one, before thumbing toward his stockier, mustached counterpart, “This is Horatio. Do you’re know why we brought you here?”

“Yes,” said Brent. “Director Limely informed us you would help us engage and sort out our feelings toward Assistant Plethor’s death.”

“Great! Now let’s get started.”

Horatio clicked a pen and prepared to scribble notes on a piece of paper. Steve pressed a button on a recording device and a light began to blink red.

“It is a tragedy and something worth feeling sad about,” said Brent. An unsettling image flashed through his imagination – it was Assistant Plethor, only he was screaming and had the head of an axe wedged into his skull.

“It certainly is,” Steve finally said.

“Assistant Plethor always helped us get a massive amount of work completed. He was one of the best at ensuring our productivity.”

Horatio spoke with a chunky, burly voice. “I figure Assistant Plethor won’t be barking orders at you anymore. You must feel good about that at least, huh?”

“Yes,” said Brent. “Yes I think that is relief that I feel. How did you know that?”

The AC vent hummed as Steve scratched his chin. “What were you doing last night around the hour of 2200?”

“I took a shower and went to sleep.”

“Before the shower,” said Steve.

“I was either reading or writing.”

“Which was it?” said Horatio.

Brent thought about it for a moment. “I believe writing. I have been doing that lately.”

“About?” said Steve.

“I journal every night. It’s supposed to help organize my thoughts and feelings.”

“Did you murder Assistant Plethor?” said Steve.

Brent burst out in laughter and pounded the table with his fist. Sarcasm was a rarely acceptable form of communication for the Mynerthins, but one that he secretly enjoyed. It was believed to be a reflection of negativity and passive aggressive attacks, but Brent always found it to be more of an intellectual inflection.

“No, I did not murder him. Would you like to see my journal?” said Brent.

Steve leaned heavily onto the table as he tapped his fingers against his cheek. His eyelids squeezed together as he kept his gaze firmly trained on Brent. “Are you lying to us?”

The smile disappeared from Brent’s face. Being honest and truthful at all times was the most important virtue of the Mynerthins. Their purpose to human civilization was centered on the knowledge that they were the truth-tellers, provided with the authority to correct wrongful thoughts and dangerous opinions. A Mynerthin that was a known liar was better off dead.

“You have disgraced me,” said Brent. “You have not relieved my grief but sorely aggravated it. Assistant Plethor’s death was a tragedy and worth feeling sad over. I beg you to perform a lie examination on me and grant me the opportunity to redeem my integrity. I demand it.”

Sometime went by before Steve finally exhaled a heavy sigh.

“Horatio, go with Brent to his quarters. Check out his journal. And take pictures. I’ll bring in the next grief-stricken warrior.”

Horatio smiled as he stood. “You’re a natural therapist.”

“I demand a lie detector!” said Brent.

“You’re not getting it,” said Steve, before turning to Horatio. “The title’s Grief counselor, and you’re goddamn right I am.”

Brent felt as though his face were boiling as he watched Horatio unclasps the locks.

Walking Faster

Part of my research into filmmaking financing and distribution has educated me on the ideal expenses of a legitimate production. Jeff Deverett, an experienced filmmaker with a background in distribution, suggested that the marketing for a film should equal 60-100% of the overall budget. This is a much greater percentage than I ever would have guessed. Other estimates give marketing a much smaller figure. Given Deverett’s experience and knowledge of the film market, I trust his opinion more.

I don’t, however, have the income to match my marketing expenses with the budget my short film costs to produce. Working on such a small scale means that I’m already only spending a buck when it’s absolutely necessary. Though I may not be able to match that percentage financially, I may be able to compete when it comes to time and effort.

I’ve been putting in work this week to research topics that are discussed in my short film. That’s why you’ve seen posts about Alaister Crowley, Uri Gellar, and the Ganzfeld experiment. In truth, I’ve greatly enjoyed the research. I would like to further my understanding of parapsychological history to create short documentaries for my youtube channel. My theory is that this will attract an audience for the subject matter my film contains.

I plan to launch my kickstarter campaign in January. I was hoping to submit the campaign for review already, but I recently concluded Episode 5 could really use a series recap that covers the major events in episodes 1-4. I’ve been editing that video the past 2 days.

Move fast and break things.

That’s the premise of the marketing plan I would like to implement. It essentially suggests “throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks.” I don’t think I could ever publish writings or videos that I am not proud of – but I did spend 2 hours yesterday remastering 1 scene of dialogue from Episode 4. All those changes make a difference, but there will be a music track playing over that conversation during the series recap anyway.

I’ve got to improve at time management. By setting aside 30 minutes a day to simply publish updates across social media platforms I feel I may begin to reach a more sizable audience. Pissing away time hunched behind a computer screen tweaking the velocity an animated arm moves at is a comparatively wasteful undertaking.

I plan to release 5 “behind the scenes” videos from the making of Mountain Cult in January and 3 short documentaries. I’ve wasted so much time figuring out how to move ‘X’ just to get started on ‘Y’ it’s embarrassing. I’ve got to accept the pangs of building a youtube audience – despite having no desire to be a fucking youtuber. I don’t think many people do. But by building an audience there I can make great strides towards securing finance and distribution for the types of movies I do want to make.

If you haven’t seen the trailer for my upcoming short film, feel free to check it out below.

Harsh Reality

I am relieved to have finished the first trailer for Mountain Cult this week, but time remains crucial. I am determined to launch a kickstarter campaign beginning January 1st, but I have much preparation to do from now until then.

The greatest obstacle I face is the lack of a true audience. All the theorizing, contemplation, and deep thought in the world can never substitute for a marketing campaign. If I were to release episode 5 today I am certain it would receive a maximum of 100 views by midnight.

I feel that I can look within the subject matter of the episode to discover my audience. Episode 5 deals with Astral Projection, Cults, and brain waves/radio frequencies. I feel that if I create a short documentary on the areas of interests I can find my way into attracting viewers for the subject matter I am offering.

That would make for 3 youtube videos I can release in January. Beyond that, the amount of behind the scenes footage and stories about the films development are ample. I can create a youtube video summarizing the struggles, prop development, and even editing that went into the various days of work. That would give me 8 separate videos I can release next month.

I messed around today with Episode 1 – which I created over a year ago. My skills with audio and video have drastically improved. I am considering re uploading each of these former episodes leading up to the release of Episode 5. As I’m writing it I find myself more intrigued by the idea. By pumping out frequent youtube videos, the algorythm may assist me and I may naturally attract more viewers for the films release.

I stumbled across an independent filmmaker today who was releasing a short film with an asking price of $3. This naturally caught my attention, as it is what I would like to do. I did, however, notice he has a miniscule following, despite a handful of affirming supporters. I couldn’t help but see myself in him, and simultaneously judge his actions independently. I think it looks silly to release a film with an asking price if you don’t already have an audience waiting for it. I haven’t come to any firm conclusion about Episode 5s release but this will definitely cause me hesitation in regards to releasing it as a pay on demand title.

Hoping to update here soon.

Filming Day 5 – Part 2

So I arrived late and we began preparing for the “Edward Youtube Video.” The idea for this scene was that my character would be browsing his wife’s facebook and come across a man he recognizes – Edward. In episode 4 of Mountain Cult, my character meets Edward during a quest. Edward offers my character a drink that was roofied, resulting in my character to failing to reach his destination.

So I had to make a youtube video and a facebook page for Sebastian Sage (Edward). Sebastian brought along 3 different button down shirts and we intended to take some creative pictures with each of them. In the end, we didn’t have enough time for a single picture.

The youtube video was fun because we didn’t have to work off a script, but there was still a few rehearsals to be done. The most important thing was for Sebastian to remember each ingredient and mix them in a creative way. In one instance, he spills salt all over the counter top then brushes it into the mixing bowl with his barehand.

At noon Piper Supplee (Shiloh) arrived. She had 2 lines offscreen and one onscreen. She enters the kitchen after I leave and asks Edward who the visitor was. He avoids the question with a witty response and the scene ends. Much thanks to Piper, she helped me realize that their interaction at the end was lacking any true punch. She came up with the idea of recommending Edward expand on the flavors he offers beyond simply vanilla. One of my favorite characteristics of “Edward’s Tasty Cream” is that Edward is obsessively fixated on vanilla being “the only real flavor”. Piper adding this button to the scene allowed him to end on a comically infuriated note.

We filmed with Piper until 3 pm, which took much longer than it should have. She did a great job but during her time there I was not being frugal with the sunlight we had. As an example, I recorded her voice over lines from the kitchen, outside the bathroom door, and inside the bathroom door.

During the previous days of shooting, all of which I intend to recap here, I began knowing sunlight and time would be a major issue. During day 1 I used my folk’s house – and only had 3-5 hours to get it done. Day 2 was at the antique shop, where the business owners were waiting to close up for the night. Day 3 was with Katie, where we raced against the sun in exterior shots to avoid the camera overheating. Day 4 was with Patrick – filmed guerilla style in a seldom used parking lot behind businesses. For day 5, we were using Pat’s kitchen – Pat is a member of my filmmaking group and a strong supporter to all filmmakers. She was willing to give me as much time as was needed.

So now it’s about 3 o’clock and we are FINALLY getting to page 1 out of the 4 we still have to shoot. Fortunately I had to set up the set before we filmed Piper’s sequence. This involved: A table mat, the ice cream cartons, the sign for his business, the mixing ingredients, the lights, and the potted plant. It never ceases to amaze me how lengthy the list of props becomes prior to shooting. Nothing is more aggravating than making a 30 minute trip to a store the night before because you don’t own the measuring cup that you need after the 6th line on the 3rd page.

It’s so funny how the minor considerations never end. As we prepared for take 1, I recognized a potential issue – the blinds. Pat’s blinds were rather transparent. That means as dawn sets in it will become obvious that the time of day has changed when the scene is meant to portray only a five minute interaction. I decided the blinds would be visible in the first shot, but the set up later on would exclude them. This produced another minor consideration that I swear stumps me every time I film.

There is a 180 degree rule in filmmaking that is simple enough for a child to understand. Whenever you flim something, create an imaginary line between two points in the room. Pick one side of that line and film every take only from that side. You can’t go wrong.

What tends to happen is you find your best angles and framing in a room and wind up with a list of 3 – one of which breaks the 180 degree rule. What I like to do is organize my shot list so that the 180 degree rule will be broken during specific moments of the scene. In the kitchen scene, I stand up my chair and address Edward Directly. At this point the imaginary 180 degree line falls directly behind us. Prior to that, when I am seated and addressing Edward who stands near the counter, the imaginary line is drawn from my left shoulder to his right. It is only when I stand up to intimidate him that the line is reset.

Once the takes get rolling (my favorite part of filmmaking) we come across a few obstacles. 4 pages of dialogue can be lot to remember. One missed line, or out of place line, can corrupt the entire take. Because the script calls for Shiloh to interupt us from off screen, we had a difficult time remembering when and where she interrupts us. Remember now, Piper left hours ago.

Thankfully, Pat was more than willing to assist us. She remained seated off camera and would provide the verbal cue to let us know Shiloh had a line. Another minor consideration – the script. Modern day microphones are amazing and pick up sounds and noises that you may not even hear during filming. Because Pat did not know the lines, she would need to hold the script in her hands and discreetly turn the pages to know when to speak. I forget my solution to this, but I’m pretty sure she tore the pages apart and taped them to her wall. I can’t emphasize enough that I couldn’t do this without Pat.

<— That’s Pat

Finally, we were getting all the shots that were needed just as the sun was setting. And it was setting fast. But there was another reason I meant to arrive much earlier than the actors that morning – I needed a shot of me breaking and entering into the residence.

With the sun disappearing so rapidly I didn’t even have enough time to think about it. I knew that it was too dark for the shots to be believable but I still wanted to get them. You see, Pat lives an hour away from me – and I vehemently detest reshoots.

So I ran outside, opened the aperture to 1.4, and took one take of each of the following – myself walking through the backyard, opening the gate, and parking on the street. Each take required me to set up the tripod and find an angle that worked. Lastly, I got a clip of me grabbing the hammer from the passenger seat. It was pretty funny to edit this material because I had my lav mic running and later on I got to hear myself cursing angrily. It felt like getting gas when you’re already 10 minutes late to work and traffic is gridlock.

In the end, it all worked out. Because this scene occurs early on in the episode, I realized in the editing room I was able to make it appear that I arrived at Edward’s place so early the sun had not come up yet. It is only at the end of the scene that we see daylight burning through the blinds.

The lav mics that we used worked great – they blocked a lot of the echo in the tiled floor environment. I’m grateful I placed my light were I did because it was difficult to tell the time of day during my shots of Sebastian. Piper did an outstanding job and her appearance got a good laugh out of one of my coworkers. The point of her role was comic relief, and it worked.

Today I’ll be working on a trailer which I hope to publish here shortly. If you’d like to view the final edit of Edward’s youtube video, you can do so by watching the video below.

Filming Day 5 – Part 1

Day 5 of shooting Mountain Cult presented its own unique challenges. This is the one day that I felt would be the easiest to shoot – and I was wrong big time.

Pat, who I met through my Meetup group and cast as the voice on the phone, agreed to allow me to use her kitchen for the shoot. Sebastian Sage returned to play his beloved character of Edward.

Before the shooting even began, I needed to put together the props. In this Scene, the character of Edward demonstrates his new found passion for baking Ice Cream. He is so passionate about ice cream, in fact, that he actually launched a Facebook business and began selling it from his kitchen.

When we met Edward in Episode 4, he tricked my character into drinking a roofied beverage. Edward is part of Mountain Cult and admitted that he was blackmailed into joining. I thought it would be funny to have my character confronting a cult member in their home only to discover him selling home-made ice cream.

But how do you even make ice cream? I didn’t know. That’s why I had to make it myself several weeks prior to filming; in order to add a sense of authenticity. I discovered that I could purchase a simple mixer for $20. The main ingredients to vanilla ice cream are sugar, evaporated milk, cream, vanilla, and a pinch of salt.

But how would I make Edwards Ice Cream mixing appear more as a business than a hobby? Decoration. I ordered a chefs robe and hat. I used my experience applying graphics to T-shirts to attach logos to the uniform. I found a still from Episode 4 of Edward that I felt would work and photoshopped it for his graphic. Even the font for a his business had to have a personalized feel to it – so I created a new font at fontstruct.com.

The chef’s hat did not arrive on time so I stopped by a Halloween shop and found one there. Unfortunately the hat was not adjustable and after applying the graphic I realized it might not fit Sebastian’s head. I ordered a second, adjustable Chef’s hat and made the entire thing again.

The script calls for a character who is heard off screen during my scene with Edward. She appears briefly at the end of the scene. Because I would have to cast another actor for the shoot, I decided to axe this character. After speaking with Sebastian, however, he convinced me that including the character would add the extra layer of comedy to the scene that was needed. I ultimately did cast the character, but only sent out for demos and auditions 2 weeks prior to our shooting date.

I used the logo I designed for “Edward’s Tasty Cream” and applied it to ice cream containers and an ornamental fence thing. I purchased all the ingredients for ice cream and brought my mixing bowls and mixers out for the shoot. I stopped by Pat’s the week before filming and took pictures all throughout the kitchen so I could get a grasp on which angles would play best for the scene. I realized early on that the kitchen features a hollow echo – so utilizing lavalier mics the entire day would be wise.

This shoot was the first time I slept the night before. I intended to shoot 4 pages plus some bonus youtube content and knew it was going to be a long day. Piper, who played the role of the offscreen character “Shiloh”, would be arriving at noon.

I intended to arrive at Pat’s at 7 am, 1 hour before Sebastian. This would allow me time to set up and rehearse my lines.

I woke up feeling a little to comfortable. I think it was a result of being sleep deprived and overworked for 7 straight days. Whatever the case I just moved slowly that morning. I wound up not leaving my place until 7, despite its 45 minute drive. I would rehearse my lines on the way to Pat’s.

Then, 30 minutes in, I realized I had forgotten one very important prop – the plant! During the scene at the antique shop, my character arrives with a potted plant that he claims is a gift from Edward. This does not make sense if my character does not leave Edward’s place with that plant in hand.

I stopped by a lowes to pick up a clone of it. But they didn’t have it (!). I would have to stop at another Lowes, and I did. They had it there. Not I was going to arrive at 8:30. Sebastian informed me he was running late as well.

For some reason that I will never be at peace with, google maps directed me to take side roads the remainder of the journey. I honestly don’t know what the hell happened, but I wound up way behind my initial forecasted time of arrival. To make things worse, I needed ice, gatorades and water to supply the actors with. How in the hell there was not a single gas station in my vicinity for the next 20 minutes I will never understand. I stopped by a ultra small liquor store and picked up 4 gatorades, 4 waters, and a pack of ice.

Finally, at 9:30, I arrived. We still had two hours until Piper arrived. If I moved fast, we could get some quality takes. But there was a dilemna – remember that bonus youtube content I mentioned? The script called for my character to find a online video of Edward mixing ice cream. I only had enough ingredients to make one batch of ice cream.

I didn’t have a choice – I had to start the day by filming Edward in a different shirt mixing the ice cream ingredients. We only would have one take to get this right. I instructed him the proper way to make the ice cream, set up a single microphone, and filmed the scene on my cell phone. This felt like it would add a layer of authenticity to a person making youtube videos for their home ice cream business.

By the time we finished these takes, it was already noon. Piper arrived and we had to set up for her shoot without doing a single take for Edward yet. I think we began filming her at 1 pm all the way until 3. I probably took more takes then necessary, but I always seem to do that during the beginning of filming. Time feels infinite when it is early. It’s not until the sun starts going down that I start racing.

Time to go to work but I’ll try and post part 2 tomorrow.

Influencing Value

It takes less than 5 seconds to gain access to a free song or a free movie. We all have Netflix, Youtube, and Amazon. On these platforms you can casually stream content that required millions to manufacture. You pay in other ways – your privacy data, your subscription fee, your viewing of advertisements.

How do you begin making a dime creating what you love in a market like this? There is endless advice, insights, and “shortcuts”. But no matter which way you look at it, your success relies on unknown strangers willing to risk their time viewing your creation.

My mind has been running in circles trying to figure out my next step. My goal for 2022 is to secure funding and distribution for a feature film. It is no small task, but it is possible. If it were not possible, then nobody would do it.

I have a plan of action for how to do it – film a sizzle reel for story I like, put a 5 page treatment together, and begin making phone calls. But nothing can help my chances with investors better than demonstrating I was able to turn a profit during my latest film production.

I am constantly weighing methods to generate revenue for the short film I have just created. The only clear answer is to launch a kickstarter campaign, likely in January. The important aspect of this campaign is to succeed. I must hit the ground running with impeccable organization, an enticing trailer, and consistent updates. I have many of the rewards prepared that I will offer during this time. Obviously, supporters of the kickstarter campaign will have free access to viewing the episode on its release.

I cannot rid myself of the desire to place a paywall before the episode for a general audience. I am completely aware of how limiting that can be for a film of this magnitude. The issue I have is that artists today are so hungry for fame and recognition that they’ve devalued their own artwork. Imagine a hundred strangers have surrounded you to view, judge, and survey the artwork you’ve poured your heart, soul, and blood into. Is it really fair to any artist that they receive only a handful of pennies? It is the platform that is reaping the reward, not the artist.

But I get it… nobody wants to throw a dollar when there is much better, social-proofed content available for free in the blink of an eye.

This is where I feel you must cease viewing your work critically and instead view it as a salesperson. If someone wants something, they are not going to hesitate to fork over a buck to receive it.

The key to successful advertising is to create a need that wasn’t previously there. But why in the world would any person feel the need to view your artwork, poetry, or story?

There is a youtube channel called “Mr. Beast” that routinely features outlandish giveaways and enormous cash prizes. It is incredibly successful at generating views and sponsors. Its success is largely, if not entirely, due to the engagement of their fanbase that hopes to win this sort of lottery.

It seems that by upgrading my wordpress to a paid account, I will be able to offer a giveaway with the assistance of a plug in. Now if I am able to offer a $100 cash prize to one lucky viewer, I feel that my odds on receiving a $3-5 payment for viewing episode 5 improve drastically.

Another option I have is my youtube channel. By regularly uploading content that speaks to the behind the scenes efforts of “Mountain Cult” production, I feel I have a free method of generating interest for viewing the episode in its completed form. If I can build a fanbase for the show, I can also offer merchandising in the form of Coffee Mugs and T-shirts.

I know from experience that the effort to convert your work of passion into a fruitful pursuit is the greatest undertaking an artist can pursue. But I have also learned that the same steps and plateaus that cause you to stumble will also trip-up those around you. It is only by standing and learning to climb a different way that you will continue on your journey. Many will lack that fortitude. By educating yourself, taking action, and putting forth consistent effort any obstacle can be overcome.

Master of Composition

Ivan Kulikov,  1904, Oil on canvas, Gemäldegalerie der Stadt Murom

I am plagued by an unusual curse in life that to a large extent has limited my efficiency of output in my journey of story. During each occasion that I apply processes and habits that are tantamount to purposeful action and positive results I am bombarded with imagery and memories from my formerly successful past – my dreams morph into the passion of my youth. It isn’t until my eyes creep open that I must self-inflict a painful reminder that my former dream is now dead and the passion I once had is a crop that can only grow but never produce. This cycle is debilitating, anguishing, and demoralizing. The common solution to this problem is to engage in behaviors that will distract the mind – behaviors that do not hammer a single nail in the foundation of success.

But tonight I stumbled on a realization.

The successful behaviors I employ today run along the same wires that propelled me to perpetual improvement during my youth. It seems that running current through the “success” channels of my brain may be what is prompting the vivid memories that I’ve spent so much effort to contain to the past.

Successful behaviors will produce the desirable result across different fields of application.

Our tendency to produce work that passes our highest degree of scrutiny will dictate the quality of our artwork. The determination to shape each plot point to its proper timeline, each character change to its newfound obstacle, each word to its speaker, and each action to its motivator will all work in tandem to deliver a story that resonates with the viewer. The same characteristics of tedious effort carry over to music, to painting, to family, and to life.

Now what if in God’s hands we are no different than one of our works? What if our ability to shape our thoughts and actions toward unrelenting focus on a singular goal is what enables Him to make us that artist we seek to become? Perhaps by undertaking the same processes, disciplines, and habits we know are required to deliver masterful compositions we are enabling ourselves to be shaped into a master of compositions.

I’m sure these connections may be obvious to most, and to others unconnected, and to still others uninspired by any deity, but to me this has been a light-bulb revelation.

I find it ironic that my previous post was making a mockery of the need for an exemplary script prior to moving toward production. I have spent the past 2 days ceaselessly sharpening my story to the point that it will puncture the mind of the viewer. Despite the likelihood it will not achieve any great recognition even when it has been completed, that is not going to stop me from trying.

The composing of art to the highest level of personal achievement is both fulfilling and self-developmental. Any artist on the bottom is not creating to be heard, recognized, or profitable. We are creating because every object of creation competes with every other object of creation. Each individual has the right to compose their piece with a masterful stroke of brilliance should they reach high enough to grab it. The ability to acquire these skills is a God-given right, and for me that is a most tremendous blessing.

Editing & Premise

This angry Chicken has nothing to do with the rest of this post.

Now that I’ve got a working draft for the episode, it’s time to edit. Editing is, by far, my favorite part of the creative process.

Think about any competition show you’ve ever watched. American Idol, Forged in Fire, Hell’s Kitchen – doesn’t matter. Chances are you’ve been entertained by a competition involving a skill that you know nothing about. I’ll bet that lack of trade knowledge didn’t stop you from judging the competitors!

Editing is the same way. Often it’s easy to know when something doesn’t read write or seem interesting. Fundamental understanding of story-telling elements will enable you to make corrections that fix the problems you find. If you try and make corrections sorely based on feel, there is a chance that you continue creating the same problem in a different way.

Writing is no different than any other skill-based task that we perform in our lives. Your story is an engine. The knowledge you attain pertaining to writing is your tool set. The more engines you build, the more likely they are to work better and more efficiently.

Each scene, no matter how mundane, will always incorporate and be judged by the following categories: Premise, tone, conflict, character arc, plot points, formatting/grammar, and dialogue. There are probably more, but these elements come to mind.

Your premise is the heart of your story. It’s the little description you read about a movie on Netflix before you decide to watch it. There are premises that are universally appealing, and there are premises that fall flat and die before they even get out of the gate. When you pitch a publisher or an agent, they want to hear about your premise before you submit the body of your work. If the soul of the story doesn’t appeal to their interests/market, they will not ask you to submit your story.

A lot of writers make the mistake of thinking that you can write a great story first and then find a way to summarize the plot into an intriguing premise later. This generally doesn’t work.

The most powerful tool I’ve found to grade the strength of your premise is to verbalize it to people close to you. The first time I tried to write a book and tell someone what it was about verbal diarrhea spilled from my lips. You will be able to tell instantly by the expression on another person’s face whether your idea has some legs or whether it was born with a debilitating genetic defect.

The premise is the question. It’s the driving force behind the story and should contain the major story-telling elements within a single sentence. The conflict should be inherent and natural, the tone should be felt, and the genre should be evident.

My premise for episode 5 is this:

Ryan discovers an anonymous love note hidden by his missing wife and learns some secrets are better left unknown.

It raises questions: Who wrote the note? Was his wife unfaithful? Why did she hide it? Was the writer responsible for her disappearance?

The conflict is inherent and the plot can be assumed: Ryan must confront the writer of the note.

The genre is all obvious: Mystery. A sense of danger is implied by the act of the note being hidden.

Anyways, this was sort of a rambling post. But today I get to edit and play with colors that are already on the palette. I enjoy that much more than staring at a blank canvas.

Have a wonderful day creating and pursuing the premise that consumes your own life.

When Problems Beget Problems

I’ve finally begun a draft that I’m confident can turn into a solid mystery story. Working out the kinks to the plot has definitely been a challenge, but for the first time I’m beginning to have a solid grasp on “how to plot”. The key is that problems beget problems.

My natural inclination as I’m forming a plot is to think in a series of attempts and failures. For instance, the main character in episode 5 narrows down a suspect to 3 different characters. My first thought was to have him rule out different characters 1 by 1. He anticipates the suspect will have brought a red household item to a meeting and have been married twice. I initially thought my character could rule out a suspect by identifying the color of the item the character brought, and rule out another by directing inquiring about previous marriages. But that is boring, plain, and obvious.

A more entertaining method would be to have each of the characters describe the item they brought without holding it. Perhaps by describing it by its meaning to the rest of the group. Instead of asking the characters directly about previous marriages, maybe my character argues passionately that marrying more than once is a sign of immorality. Though this is a more creative way for him to hunt for the suspect, I still feel I can do better.

When problems beget problems, the attempts my character makes to grow closer to the truth may actually set him farther away. Perhaps when the characters describe the items they brought to the meeting, they instead describe something unusual they’ve used the item for. Maybe when my character makes a wrong guess about what the item is, the character describing it tosses the actual item in a storage bin and it is no longer allowed to be guessed, and no further attempts are permitted. When he begins an argument about the immorality of multiple marriages, he is discovered to be the husband of a recently deceased group member – outing his identity and becoming the subject of persecution by the group. These obstacles make his chase for the culprit more difficult and therefore more entertaining.

I will spend the morning writing some pages and am seriously hoping to have a working draft done by tomorrow. Once I am comfortable with the story and its characters I can send out for casting the roles and begin purchasing the necessary props.

I’ll keep you updated.