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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Keeping it Organized--Stealing a Tool from Screenwriters


Like many people, I have a lot on my plate. Like many fellow writers, I hold down a full time job and write full time. Over the last year that balancing act between these two was upset by a parent's health.  My once disciplined writing schedule had been destroyed by a third full time job--family caregiver. The constant interruptions and tremendous squeeze upon my writing time was leading to disaster and I needed to do something. I had to improve my writing tools to help me with the constant lose of story line and plot, for my stories were becoming more of a mess than a ball of yarn played with by a litter of kittens. One of the tools I have been using to get and keep my writing projects on track is a tool used by screenwriters.  

Have you ever watched your favorite television series and wondered how the storylines could remain so tightly written and the characters so constant with so many writers writing the series? That thought came to me. The answer is that they use a tool called a "screenwriter's bible."  It is used to keep the stable of writers and freelance writers working together. The screenwriter's Bible is a small book that contains the universe of the story--the characters, settings, and all of the other elements. A version of the screenwriter's bible, called the show bible, is used to pitch the series to a network for syndication.  


These screenwriter's bibles can often be scrupulously maintained with everything that is established "on air" and (especially for science fiction shows) go into detail about the limits and advancements of the technology being used, the language (like in cop shows with cop and street slang), and the philosophy of the show along with what the creator is trying to show, and sometimes an episode by episode plot of the season. As you can imagine, no two screen bibles are the same. 

I read several screenwriters bibles and used two from favorite shows of mine (Battlestar Galactica (remake) and The Wire) to adapt this tool to my needs as a novelist. Now I have a single tool that will have my pitch to agents and editors, the universe of my story, description of my settings and characters, the plot lines, and the philosophy behind the story or series to keep it focused.
If you are interested in reading some screenwriter's bibles, or if you think they may be of help as a template and tool f you, please check these links out:

Thank you for reading and please visit www.davidalanlucas.com and www.thewriterslens.com. You can also follow me on twitter @Owlkenpowriter and the Writer’s Lens @TheWritersLens. Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.

Links are updated!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Defining Freedom


If any of my blogs ever gets me in trouble, it will be my “musing” or third Saturday of the month blogs. So, before I go any further, let me say I do not support any political party nor will I bash either one.  I leave that to the political pundits on mass media to do.  As a writer and a philosopher, I look at larger picture.  I am an acolyte of Freedom.

This blog entry has been inspired by a BBC interview of a Syrian protester whose name I did not catch. For more than a year, the world has seen an massive upheaval of society in Africa and the Middle East, as people protest and rebel against their governments to create a more free society and nation for themselves. Some of these have successfully overthrown their former dictatorships while others have not been successful.  Blood has flowed and missteps have been made—all in the name of freedom.  But what is freedom?  What are these people fighting for? Do they know? 

In the BBC interview that I listened to, the Syrian protester said that they were fighting to have a government that would give them freedom. I believe that this idea is the seed of all such revolutions’ destruction. This idea was held by many who fought in revolutions for freedom around the world.  It is not any one culture that holds this idea. In fact, I fear, that my own culture has fallen into this same trap as I listen to my political leaders (all parties) and the political pundits who try to serve the rhetoric to the masses in other ways. Whatever government rises from the ashes of a revolution, no matter how long ago that revolution occurred, will never give it’s people freedom. I have seen many of my own people sit back and be lassie-faire with their freedom and power to vote and have left the control of their country in the hands of those who do not always have what is best for the people in their agenda.  Then I watched as these same people who have been lassie-faire with their freedom wonder why things are a mess. Freedom lies in the hands of the people and it is the people who give their government and those who run that government power!

There have been many words that have been written as a result of revolution, but I dare say in all of my readings, no matter how hard someone has tried, there has not been any document that has defined freedom any better than these that I share:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”—The United States Declaration of Independence.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”—The United States Constitution.

The United States, rightly or wrongly, may not be seen in the best light around the world at this time.  Yet, it is the freedom that we Americans have taken for granted as much as the water we drink that the masses who are under the heal of countries where freedom does not exist and liberty is not granted are shedding their most precious blood for. Those people do not want to be “Americans” nor have our products crammed down their throats. They want the idea that created us—that we forged and hammered and tempered in the fires of Liberty for ourselves, first when we broke from Brittan and then when we fought among ourselves in our own front yards during the Civil War.

The people who are now fighting for their freedom, those who have succeeded and now forge their new governments, and those who have had to return to the shadows to try again another day, will create a government and a nation for themselves. These will not, nor should they be, clones of the United States. But, I pray they understand as they heal their wounds or stand bravely in the face of overwhelming hostility that their freedom comes from themselves.  No government will ever grant that freedom.  No religion or religious instruction will grant that freedom. No secular institution will grant that freedom. Only their own bravery and dreams of a freer tomorrow will grant it. Only they who have dared to do the impossible will grant it.  Only they who are building a world for their children and their unborn descendents will grant that freedom. They must have control over their laws and their government or they will fall back under the oppressive heal that they have struggled against.

This is a lesson that we Americans should listen to again. Our nation is of the PEOPLE for the PEOPLE and by the PEOPLE! It is up to us to control our government and to cement our freedom—with each generation. The Democratic Party will not give you that freedom. The Republican Party will not give you that freedom. No church will give you that freedom. No news party will give you that freedom. No Union will give you that freedom. No one should ever tell you how to vote nor deprive you of the information that you need to vote wisely.

If you do not act, others will act for you—and then you have surrendered your right and the freedom to make the future what it should be. Then, I must ask you, what did all of our ancestors fight and die for? What did our immigrant ancestors who came to this shore—and speaking for my own heritage—with nothing in their pockets, scratch and fight to create if not your freedom?

The power of freedom is in your hands and in mine. No dictator or invader can ever hold a population imprisoned forever by force of arms. There is no greater need of the human soul than the need for freedom. Against the power of the people who strive to throw off the yoke of oppression--though it may take generations--no government or army can stand.

Once freedom has been won and secured by the people and protected by the laws and constitution that they create, the struggle against despotism does not end. The new guardians of freedom and security—the people—must remain vigilant and take action, knowing that there will always be those who will try to act against that freedom through political maneuvering, deception, claims on authority that they do not truly have, and even force of arms. Freedom valiantly won can be meanly lost by the inaction and unwillingness of a people to act in their greater interest while letting others who claim authority tell them what they must do.

The struggle for Freedom never ends and the People must always struggle to hold the ideas of who they are as a nation and the freedoms they have to their hearts or it will slip as sand between the fingers of unclenched fists.

To those who struggle to make a truly free world, may you not be forgotten.

To those who have freedom and liberty—remember.

 Thank you for reading and please visit www.davidalanlucas.com and www.thewriterslens.com. You can also follow me on twitter @Owlkenpowriter and the Writer’s Lens @TheWritersLens. Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Writing the Fight Scene Part 3 (Understanding The Trained Fighter Part 1)


In the last post on “Writing the Fight Scene,” we entered into the mind, strategy, and fear of the untrained fighter. In these blogs, I admit that I am painting with a wide general brush. There are exceptions to what I am writing. But, generally to the untrained fighter, the fight or battle strategy to them is on the level of tic-tac-toe. The trained fighter has a strategy mentality that is on a higher level. In comparison to tic-tac-toe, the trained fighter’s strategy is much closer to chess or shogi or even three dimensional chess if they are very high trained. Before we can begin to understand the strategy of a character who is a highly trained fighter, we first must understand what their training is.

Trained fighters are trained to fight unarmed against a multitude of weapons from clubs to firearms. Most trained fighters are also trained to use some if not all of these weapons. Behind this training is a philosophy of movement, action, and thought regarding attack and defense. When a fighter is trained, he or she is trained in some kind of martial art. While the term "martial art" usually conjures the picture of Asian combat, my use of this term does not exclude other forms of fighting. By using the term “martial art,” I am also referring to boxing, wrestling, fencing, and everything else that requires the person or character to undergo training in how to fight.

With that said, let us look at who is considered to be a trained fighter, and then how they are trained. A trained fighter is typically:
Someone who is or has severed as a police officer;
Someone who is or has severed in the military; and/or
Someone who spends hours in a fighting gym (this refers to anything from a boxing gym to a dojo or fencing club and so on).

Each style of martial arts has a unique philosophy (or mental process) behind its development. For example, Judo or Jujitsu focuses on throwing, grappling, and holds. Whereas “European” fencing (what you see at the Olympics under the term fencing) is more focused on movement and striking with in a narrowly defined fighting area (the strip). Thus each philosophy has a set of “rules” that govern how the fighter thinks and there is a science of physics behind the fighting style.

In the next entry, I will begin to go into how Police and Armed Forces are trained and what the philosophy is behind their style of training is. Then I will go into martial arts and try to show the various different philosophies there. After that we will go into how fighters fight and then return to the chorography of writing the fight scene and understanding how the setting affects the fight.

Please leave comments with questions on this material. I will be happy to expand on an area in this topic or give everyone an answer to your question in the next entry. Believe me, if you have a question, so do a lot of people who may not voice it.

Thank you for reading and please visit www.davidalanlucas.com and www.thewriterslens.com. You can also follow me on twitter @Owlkenpowriter and the Writer’s Lens @TheWritersLens. Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Having Coffee with Poet and Author Catherine Rankovic


This week, it is my pleasure to present an interview with an amazing poet, author, and just an amazing person in general, Catherine Rankovic. Catherine, like many writers, wears many hats.  She is a poet, professor, journalist, editor, and author.  You never have to question where you stand with her and you can never have a bigger supporter in your corner for writers who want to make a living doing what we do.

Please grab a cup of coffee, or drink of your choice, and join me for a Coffee with David author interview.



David Alan Lucas: Why did you become a writer and poet? When did you know that was what you wanted to do?

Catherine Rankovic: I was born this way. I learned to read very early. I wrote my first poem when I was 5. Nothing has ever been able to break me of the habit.

DAL: What do you find the hardest part of writing?

CR: I enjoy the writing process, every bit. After age 45 I lost the desire to procrastinate. We each have only so much time on this earth. What I hate is the rigamarole surrounding publishing, which gets mixed up with money, taste, dumb luck and pride. I also don’t like neglecting friends and social life to keep writing as intensively as I feel I must.

DAL: Your writing always seems to try to make a point. What issues drive your writing?

CR: What is writing if it doesn’t make a point? The issue I am most conscious of is making the leap from blue-collar origins (my father was UAW) into the white-collar world of authordom and publishing. In this world I always feel like a foreigner and make a foreigner’s mistakes, and my modes of thought or expression sometimes seem far-fetched when I am just being myself. And to me, middle-class banter, indirection, irony and sarcasm are a fascinating foreign language I can use like Play-Doh. A professor once spent 30 minutes trying to tell me “no” without saying “no.” He wouldn’t have lasted two minutes on an assembly line. The classic rejection slip is another example of middle-class indirectness. Working-class people express themselves more directly, honestly, and vehemently. I sometimes think that middle-class people are just people who have never been beaten up.

DAL: How did you come up with the idea for Meet Me: Writers in St. Louis?

CR: In the introduction I explain that I thought these were amazing writers whose residence here showed St. Louis to be a literary center, and collecting the interviews into a book would prove that to posterity.

DAL: Was there anything that stands out as a surprise to you while interviewing for Meet Me?

CR: Yes. That the writers in St. Louis were so forthcoming, friendly, honest and polite, in contrast to Boston where I had lived and tried to join the literary scene. Reporters there were usually treated by interviewees as inconveniences or pests who might go away if we were bought off or barraged with public-relations material.

DAL: You are a veteran journalist. Do you approach your creative writing with a different mindset?

CR: Yes. A journalist starts with a question and seeks facts to build a case toward the answer. A creative writer starts with anything: a word, a title, an image, a fantasy, an impulse, and responds in a way that creates an answer out of thin air.

DAL: How easy was it to take the leap to become a serious writer?

CR:  First, my experience with journalists, creative-writing students and clients who are new authors makes me believe that every writer is a serious writer.

I wanted to write literature, but studied journalism because my parents could understand what that was and I would learn a trade. It turned out to be the best possible education. I entered the news business just as mergers and buyouts and technology were changing and squeezing everything. I did not know how to manage office life either. At age 29 I was miserably writing fluff for some magazine on Commercial Wharf. I gladly left Boston for graduate school to study creative writing. I hadn’t known there were such programs. It was my good luck to find out.

I became a professor by accident. In graduate school we got free tuition and a stipend if we agreed to teach two classes of Freshman English each semester. I had no experience but discovered I liked the challenge. (I think free graduate tuition is now extinct.) Because I came from so far back in the pack I believe that anyone willing to try can gain skill and confidence as a creative writer. Some of them will become great. All of them are happier. I know I am. A teacher’s work, like a writer’s, echoes through eternity.

DAL: In your journalistic career, is there any story that stands out?

CR: Not really.

DAL: What was your biggest fear when you decided to first be published? Do you still have those fears?

CR:  The most important thing I have ever learned is: If a writer knows the work is good there is no reason for fear.

DAL: If you could have coffee with four other writers, whom would you choose and why?

CR:  Sylvia Plath, because she’s such a mystery and so important to me as an inspiration. She would probably be quite hard-shelled and reticent. F. Scott Fitzgerald, because I would like to know the person who wrote so many effervescent short stories that in my view put Hemingway’s to shame. I wonder if he talked as fabulously as he wrote. Dave Eggers, to tell him it’s not news that life is hard. And I really must have coffee with romance writer Bobbi Smith, to ask her how she has written 54 novels. Such creative power awes me. She has no co-writer and isn’t on Disney’s payroll. Bobbi I could actually call.

DAL: Why do you support self-publishing?

CR:  Briefly, a writer wants love and money, but a publisher is the least likely source for either one. Along comes digital publishing and for the first time in history the writer has the power to determine publication and his or her own pay rate. What happens afterward depends on how carefully one prepares. Slap a novel together, be too proud to seek feedback, don’t proofread it, put a family picture on the cover, publish it on CreateSpace, and see how the world doesn’t beat a path to your door.

The problem with digital publishing is that somebody can pull the plug. Eventually somebody will. Then writers will secretly sell their work door-to-door like samizdat, and people will buy it.

DAL: How can people learn more about you?

CR: My writing is the best of me.

Thank you for reading and please visit www.davidalanlucas.com and www.thewriterslens.com. You can also follow me on twitter @Owlkenpowriter and the Writer’s Lens @TheWritersLens. Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

First of the Month Book Giveaway: Meet Me: Writers in St. Louis


In case you didn't know, St. Louis, Missouri is a blossoming hub for writers. Have you ever wished that you could sit down and talk to a group of great writers?  How about a chance to interview:
  • Eric Pankey: Poet
  • Harper Barnes: Novelist
  • Tess Gallagher: Poet
  • Jean-Claude Baker: Biographer
  • Carl Phillips: Poet
  • Donald Finkel: Poet
  • Ntozake Shange: Poet, Playwright, and Novelist
  • Eddy L. Harris: Non-fiction writer
  • John N. Morris: Poet
  • Gerald Early: Essayist
  • Kathleen Finneran: Memoirist
  • Qui Xiaolong: Poet and Novelist
  • Jane O. Wayne: Poet
All of these great writers interviewed by journalist, poet, writer, and fierce spirit Catherine Rankovic.

From Amazon.com about this book:
In "Meet Me: Writers in St. Louis, author Catherine Rankovic invites us into the intimate space of the personal interview with thirteen well-known writers who were living and working in St. Louis or visiting the city in the service of their art. Included in this collection are interviews with Carl Phillips, Kathleen Finneran, Gerald Early, Don Finkel, and Ntozake Shange, to name a few. Rankovic conducted most of the interviews during the 1990s while working as a journalist. The interviews, thus, form a record of the development of these creative personalities, a snapshot of a moment in their lives against which to measure current and future achievements. Recently Rankovic added interviews with three more acclaimed St. Louis writers, making the book a must-have resource for anyone interested in contemporary American literature. A photograph of each writer, a sample of the writer's work, and a biographical introduction precede each interview."

"Charlie Reilly, Professor of English, Montgomery County Community College, PA, Editor, Conversations with Amiri Baraka: Right from that eye-catching title, you can tell this book is special. Not only does Meet Me: Writers in St. Louis serve up that electricity which has always been part of the St. Louis literary scene, but its broad canvas and incisive comments provide insight after insight about the way literature is written and the way authors worry their materials into print. Want to know why Josephine Baker's adopted and not-quite-adoptedsons said their mother was afraid of love? Why Ntozake Shange, author of the Broadway hit For Colored Girls Who Have Committed Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf insists "I still say I'm from St. Louis and I'm very glad to be claimed by St. Louis"? Why Chinese poet and novelist Qiu Xiaolong worries about being arrested if he everv returns home? Why Jane O. Wayne's poetry has been influenced by her obsession "with not being able to find doors"? It's all here in a rich literary context, framed and focued by Catherine Rankovic's precise questions and enriched by her unfailing background materials. A worthy book and a fine job of it!

Don Marsh, Host, "St. Louis on the Air," KWMU, St. Louis Public Radio: I found Meet Me: Writers in St. Louis to be an interesting insight into many writers who are not household names to the general public. Of special interest is the peek we get into the creative processes during their most productive years. Of course, it was a pleasure to learn that St. Louis was such a positive cultural nurturing ground. It was also enlightening to learn of the people who shaped the writers' lives.

Lisa Ampleman, Associate Editor, River Styx Literary Journal: In Meet Me: Writers in St. Louis, Catherine Rankovic introduces us to thirteen writers whose work and lives intersect with the Gateway City. These lively conversations and profiles show us the active minds behind the poems, stories, and memoirs, and many explore the question: why write in a particular place? The picture of St. Louis that emerges is that of a city struggling, among other things, with its racial inheritance but feeding the creative energy of these writers who often work in more than one genre. A special gem: the interview of the late, reticent John N. Morris, who recognizes writing as a way of "drawing attention to yourself." The attentions Rankovic pays to him and to her other interviewees enlarge our understanding of the literary life in St. Louis.

"About the Author
Catherine Rankovic has a B.A. from Marquette University and an M.F.A. from Washington University. She is the author of Island Universe: Essays and Entertainments (2007), and Fierce Consent and Other Poems (2005). Her work appears in several anthologies including Are We Feeling Better Yet? Women Speak About Health Care in America (2008). Her prizewinning poetry and essays have been published in The Iowa Review, The Missouri Review, River Styx, 13th Moon, Margie, Boulevard, Natural Bridge, and many other journals. She has taught creative writing at several universities and in community workshops."

Personally, I have had the honor of know Catherine and the privilege of learning from her. She is a fierce personality and a fantastic poet and writer.

On March 3rd, I will post a Coffee with David interview with Catherine.


How do you win a free signed copy of this novel?  To enter the contest, simply leave a comment or question on the Coffee with David blog between now (March 1st) and midnight March 31, 2012. Please include your email so I can reach you if you win. The more comments you leave, the greater your chance of winning the contest. If you refer others to Coffee with David who mention your name in their comments, I'll enter your name again in our random number generator along with theirs, also increasing your chances at winning! The winner will be chosen after midnight on Saturday March 31, and the announcement made on Sunday, April 1st, when I will post the next contest. Good luck and comment often.

Next week, I will bring the next segment in the series "Writing the Fight Scene" blogs. Emails I have received asking questions have led to future blog posts.  So, keep the comments or emails coming and I will either answer you by email and/or make the question and answer a blog entry in this series.

Thank you for reading and please visit www.davidalanlucas.com and www.thewriterslens.com. You can also follow me on twitter @Owlkenpowriter and the Writer’s Lens @TheWritersLens. Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.