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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Ryan Runs for His Life: untitled screenplay

In effort to re-ignite creativity, I’ve been rummaging through old story ideas — novels, short stories, screenplays — and found a few things I’d forgotten. Below is an excerpt from my first attempt at a screenplay. Might make good story fodder for another project in the works.

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Ext.Artist’s porch.Day

Sound of motorcycle roaring down the dirt road from the cabin to the highway.

RYAN, arms crossed, is leaning against the railing, his back to the view. He’s looking down at an old willow rocking chair; the tip of his boot on one of the rockers keeps the chair in motion.

Coffee in one hand, an old paint rag in the other, THE ARTIST watches him through the screen door, shakes his head, then pushes open the door and steps onto the porch, letting the door slap closed behind him. THE ARTIST steps to the rail, tucks the paint rag into his back pocket, and sips his coffee while looking out at the view.

THE ARTIST
Everything?

RYAN
(not looking up)
“Thanks for your loyalty. You’re the best person I know. And, oh, by the way, I hired the hitman.”

THE ARTIST
Yeah, but did you tell her everything?

Ryan looks aside, toward the dirt road. The motorcycle’s roar has faded almost to nothing. Shoving his hands into his pockets, Ryan steps to the side of the porch.

THE ARTIST
Clouds are more colorful than people think.
(gestures with his mug)
There’s white, sure, but then there’s blue, pink, gray, ocher…

Ryan looks up at the sky. It’s pristine, not a cloud in sight.

THE ARTIST (CONT’D)
…a little red, umber, maybe some green…

Ryan looks over his shoulder with a quizzical expression.

THE ARTIST (CONT’D)
…a hint of purple. And black. Definitely black.

Frowning a little, Ryan turns around, leans against the rail, wanting to ask what the heck the old man is talking about, but

THE ARTIST
Without the shadows, there’d be no dimension, nothing to give the clouds shape.

c2013, KB

c2013, KB

The artist sets the coffee mug on the top rail, takes a chunk of wood from a collection of rough shapes lining the lower porch railing, then pulls a folded knife from his pocket. He opens the knife, holds the wood close to his face, and starts shaving off pieces.

Ryan watches for a couple of beats.

RYAN
What’ll you do when you finally can’t see?

THE ARTIST
(chuckles)
Pottery.

He runs a thumb over a surface his knife has just smoothed, then he turns the shape, studying it, and starts carving again.

RYAN
How much do you get for one of those?

THE ARTIST
Fifteen, twenty dollars.

RYAN
A couple years ago, I bought one of your early landscapes. _________ Mountain. Quarter of a million.

THE ARTIST
I heard about it.

RYAN
Had to move a doorway to hang it.

THE ARTIST
You know where my money went? Everybody else. I drank. Gambled. Other stuff. Landscapes looked more and more like abstracts, and portraits could have been painted by children. I lost my family. But when I started losing my sight, that’s when I remembered how much I missed the details.
(a beat)
I came home.

RYAN
So going blind is a good thing.

THE ARTIST
(shrugs)
My hands still work.

Ryan strides to the opposite end of the porch and looks up the hillside. The peak of a weathered shake roof rises from the ridge: the old studio.

RYAN
If he’s anywhere around, he’ll follow the bike. He’ll know the rider isn’t me, but he’ll follow her anyway.

THE ARTIST
If he’s around, he’s probably up in those trees somewhere with a rifle, and you’re giving him the perfect shot.

RYAN
If he was here, he would have already done it.

The newspaper lays headline-up on the porch swing, forgotten from the earlier argument: “Playboy Billionaire Still Missing”, and a smaller headline, “No Ransom Demands”. The caption under a photo of Ryan’s distraught housekeeper includes the phrases “survivalist hike” and “presumed dead.”

He picks up the paper, looks up at the hillside again, drops the paper back onto the swing.

RYAN
Got any plans for that studio?

THE ARTIST
Give it back to the forest.
(pauses his carving)
Why?

c. KB

 

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“Lost” and Trust in Storytelling

Below is a re-post of something I wrote in May 2010, after the television series “Lost” completed its run. I decided to pull it out of the archives after reading a fellow writer’s comments on Facebook regarding flaws in the story. This post isn’t lengthy or particularly erudite, but springs from a writer’s frustration and a viewer’s disappointment.

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MV5BMjA3NzMyMzU1MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjc1ODUwMg@@._V1_SY317_CR17,0,214,317_I can hear the chorus: “All right, enough already!”

But here’s yet another commentary on the series finale of that crazy, mind-bending television series, “Lost”.

If you’ve never followed the series, nothing I can outline here can clarify the storyline in a succinct fashion. If you’re already a fan, there’s no need to rehash the series.

Shortly after “Lost” first hit the airwaves, I was at a writers conference and overheard a clutch of writers debating the series. They were gathered in an alcove, but the conversation was loud enough that most of us standing in the noisy hotel lobby could follow the debate with ease. One woman repeated, “They’re gonna write themselves into a corner! I tell you, there’s no way they can untangle it!”

I laughed to myself, and figured I was hearing the voice of someone who had never read fantasy or science fiction, or she just couldn’t let a story unfold without knowing all the answers up front.

Turns out, I was the naive one and she the sage.

For the first couple of seasons, I was an avid viewer then lost interest for the next two seasons, only catching an episode here or there, but returning at the end of Season 4 and hanging around until the end. I was re-hooked, you might say, but was waiting for the finale before deciding whether or not to add the series to my DVD library. After all, an excellent last chapter can mend a lot of ills in the preceding story.

The end matters. But the writers and producers didn’t bring it home. They didn’t fulfill the promises made by all the plot threads and secrets, and therefore they “lost” my trust as storytellers.

And then there were the last scenes, where they presented a mishmash of religious symbols — for intance, that ridiculous stained-glass window that someone, I’m sure, will applaud as being ecumenical. That amalgam of religions was weak, even offensive. The creative team should have stuck with a more science-related ending.

Until the final season, the story seemed pointed toward the genre of “hard science fiction” with a leavening addition of a little fantasy, but the final season tipped completely over into fantasy. Remember how a clanking chain sound or growling would signal the imminent arrival of the black smoke? There was a definite machine-like sound. Then a couple of characters confronted the smoke, and it reacted with a seeming intelligence of its own. Were we misled from the beginning, or was the smoke’s “intelligence” an accident of storytelling that was later used in the mythology presented in the final season?

Whatever the answer, I can’t help but think that the creative team should have steered clear of the soft, faux spirituality, and done the difficult work of writing an ending that was hard science fiction and truer to most of the extant material. By closing the story as they did, they essentially negated all the story that came before.

They made all the audience’s investment in the story pointless. In essence, they didn’t keep their promise(s). They didn’t play fair.

It’s probably needless to say, but I will not be adding “Lost” to my ever-growing DVD library.

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The whole post could be summed up in this bit of simple writing advice: Endings Matter.

So do promises. If you write the promise, deliver on it.

I wish the “Lost” team had remembered that.

(Now, I gotta take my own advice, and go rewrite a short story.)

 

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Brain. Needs. Food.

DF & AS (c2013, KB

DF & AS (c2013, KB)

This week, I navigated the mean streets of a new city to meet friends for lunch. By “mean”, I’m saying they’re potholed and narrow and crowded with businesses so close together sometimes that the sign of one establishment appears to be advertising its neighbor.

Which is how I missed the restaurant.

And why I saw more of the city than I intended.

Not a bad thing, but there was rain, traffic, too many lanes, hard-to-read numbers, no place to turn around and get back into the flow of traffic, that sorta stuff. Still, not a bad thing. But it meant time with old friends was too short.

I’m jonesing for writerly conversation.

Aaaauuuugggghhhh. (zombie walk)

Brain. Needs. Food. Must. Find. Writers.

 

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Wine and Dreams

April is here, spring is — well — raining, and it’s time once more for National Poetry Month.

I’ve shared this poem before, a year or two ago during April, but it was written a few years before that. It still describes me: reaching out, almost grasping, chasing elusive words and dreams.

via Wikipedia

via Wikipedia

Wine

What I want
I cannot have,
and most days I understand.
Today I tried
to take it–
or something almost like it–
but found myself
more empty
than before, and hungrier.

No substitute–
small, pale, cold–
ever embodies a dream
robust with life,
sweet and strong,
ruddy and just out of reach,
ready to fall
to waiting
hands working with patient care.

From my fingers,
fisted tight,
bleed clear juices of crushed dreams
harvested
too young to satisfy hope.

c. 2006, KB

As a friend wrote in e-mail today, “I remember writing this bit in a whirl of passion and excitement. It fell right out of my fingertips onto the screen. Where’d /that/ guy go? Why doesn’t writing come that easily to me anymore?”

I’m there. Everything I write lately is a struggle. It’s dull. It begins, and then I run out of words, and it remains unfinished.

Still, I get up, I turn on the computer or open a spiral notebook, and I write. One day, all those words, fermented together in the vast barrels of computer bytes and copious handwritten pages, will make a fine wine well worth imbibing.

 
 

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