Saturday, August 31, 2013

How to write a film synopsis

Writing a screenplay is tough enough, but now your agent/manager/whatever is asking for a detailed synopsis? Ugh! If you want an example of a professional synopsis, here is the synopsis for Ransom (1996) that Chuck Sambuchino published on Writers Digest.  Note that in the screenplay there were multiple villains, but in a synopsis, it is encouraged to simplify elements in order to tell the basics of the story. 

RANSOM synopsis by Chuck Sambuchino


TOM MULLEN is a rich businessman who made his fortune creating a successful airline company from scratch. While he and his family are in Central Park, his son, SEAN, is kidnapped. Tom and his wife KATE’s worst nightmares are confirmed when a kidnapper contacts them and demands a $2 million ransom. The Mullens call the FBI for help.
After being kidnapped, Sean is held in a basement. There are not one but five kidnappers, all working together—led by violent police detective JIMMY SHAKER, who resents rich men like Tom who can buy their way out of trouble and are oblivious to the hardships of those around them. Shaker tells his conspirators that Sean will be killed once the ransom is given. Shaker anonymously calls Tom and arranges a dropoff. Tom follows all directions and hands the $2 million to one of Shaker’s henchmen. When Tom demands his son in return, the henchman is confused. The henchman flees, but police swarm the area. Gunshots are traded, and the henchman is killed.
News of the shooting/ransom appears all over the NYC media, adding to Tom’s problems. Shaker sets up another drop, but Tom surprises everyone by appearing on live TV and saying he will pay no ransom. Instead, he offers the $2 million as a bounty on the kidnapper’s head. He says if Sean is released, he will press no charges. The bold move is met by disapproval by the media, the FBI, and most especially Kate, who screams at her husband to take back the bounty and pay the ransom. Tom explains that he would pay any amount of money if he really thought Sean would truly be returned, but he believes the kidnappers have no intention of giving Sean back; therefore, a bounty is his best option. Kate is unconvinced.
More Shaker phone calls come, and threats are exchanged. Despite the pleading of Kate and the FBI, Tom publicly ups the bounty to $4 million. Shaker calls and fires a gunshot, making the Mullens believe Sean is dead. Tom collapses from despair. Meanwhile, Shaker’s cohorts all want to abandon the plan, kill the boy, and leave town. Realizing his plan has unraveled, Shaker kills his remaining co-conspirators, under the guise that he came upon an apartment where the tenants opened fire. Sean is found and rescued, and Shaker is hailed as a hero cop by the media.
Soon after, Shaker arrives at Tom’s apartment to collect his $4 million reward. As Tom is writing the check, he notices his son in the next room urinate in fear (as the boy recognizes Shaker’s voice). Shaker knows the jig is up and threatens to kill everyone in the house, but Tom convinces him to go to the bank so the money can be wired. En route, Tom tips off police to the situation. Cops converge on Tom and Shaker outside the bank. Shaker panics and opens fire. A running shootout ensues, and Shaker is killed when both Tom and the police return fire on Shaker at the same time.
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Friday, August 30, 2013

3 Books Everyone Should Read by Chris Hager

Kansas City's Chris Hager, who writes fan fiction at The Unreadable Blog,  was kind enough to do a guest post for www.tloclub.com about his favorite three books. (PS: He's also going to be one of my Self-published Writers of the Week. Stay tuned in the next few weeks to read his interview.)

Three Books Everyone Should Read and Why by Chris Hager
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. A great tale of vengeance that also serves as a great example of how an overuse of descriptive writing can utterly break the flow of a story. I read this book once in eighth grade and the chapter describing the preacher’s pulpit still haunts me. Maybe I wasn’t old enough to appreciate it.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I was late to the game on this one, but grateful I read it before the movie releases this fall! This is a great modern sci-fi novel that had a unique voice and approach to story-telling. I now see why people told me I had to read it. I second the recommendation. Definitely read it before you see the movie.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. I have never understood the seemingly universal acclaim surrounding the movie Blade Runner. I will spare you my critiques but after repeated viewings, it simply has never “worked” for me. Philip K. Dick’s original novel, however, was a dark psychological delight, proving (as is often the case) superior to the movie in nearly every way. Like most great science fiction, I would recommend this book to readers of any genre.

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Five Nonfiction Books Every Writer Should Read 
Hell's Game by Teresa Lo: Excerpt of Chapter One
Should you self-publish?

Do you agree with Chris's list? Let us know in the comments!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Interview with male erotica writer, Efrain Nadal de Choudens

Efrain Nadal de Choudens
Puerto Rico-native Efrain Nadal de Choudens had a fascination for horror and science fiction before he added erotica to his already impressive portfolio. Efrain and I connected through Facebook, and meeting a male erotica writer was very fascinating to me. He was nice enough to stop by the blog and talk about writing.
TL: You attended a Creative Writing program. With student loan rates rising, would you recommend others enroll in similar programs? Why or why not?
EN: I always encourage attending college, but with the loan rates rising, we need to think very well what we are going to do. Liberal Arts, including Creative Writing, is a risk. My recommendation is if you are going for a B.A., takes the chance. You always are going to learn something new, and it is going to be beneficial being around people with the same interest as you. Plus a B.A. is going to help you to have other careers while you are working on your writing endeavors. But if you are thinking of a M.A., don’t do it unless you are planning to have a teaching career. The cost is too high, and you can learn what you need by just taking a seminar or getting a professional diploma. 
"If you are thinking of a M.A., don’t do it unless you are planning to have a teaching career. The cost is too high, and you can learn what you need by just taking a seminar or getting a professional diploma." 
TL: You are a very prolific writer and poet. How do you get your ideas? Do you draw a lot of inspiration from your Spanish culture?
EN: Most of my ideas come from daily situations. I only include a weird twist (or erotic) to the common life. Until now, I just used my Spanish culture background in a very limited way for my English stories and poems. But I found that horror, science fiction and erotica are finally being noticed in the Latin world, especially in Spain, and I already started a science fiction novel in Spanish plus some short stories. Also I have planned to write a biography of one of my French relatives. 
"Horror, science fiction and erotica are finally being noticed in the Latin world, especially in Spain."
TL: Name three things of yours that everyone should read and why. 
EN: First of all, my bio, because in that way the readers can see how twisted I am and they can have an idea of what to expect of my writing. In other words, they are going to have the chance to run away before is too late.

Second, my short story “The Sacred Earth” included in the Grave Robber Anthology is a good example of my grotesque writing. Also, the story will show how diversified the food is in some restaurants.

Third, I recommend my erotic flash fiction “It’s all about friends,” published in the Skive Magazine, because my erotica usually includes  more than two in the relationship. 

For more information about Efrain, please check out his website and social media:

OTHER POSTS THAT MAY INTEREST YOU

A guide to writing smoking hot sex scenes
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I'm a huge advocate of Do-It-Yourself, and I'm looking for other DIY-ers to share their stories. If you're a self-published writer, blogger, independent filmmaker, Youtube star, whatever, tweet me and I may feature you on my blog!

Monday, August 19, 2013

CHRISTIANITY IS A WAR--an interview with modern day Christian, Gregor Southard

Gregor Southard
Writer Gregor Southard and I are both proud alumni of The University of Kansas, and we connected online through the alumni group, Hollywood Hawks. Gregor is a poet, writer, and filmmaker and he often explores themes of modern day Christianity. He was kind enough today to talk to me about what it's like to be a Christian writer navigating the world of self-publishing. If you have any questions for him, tweet him @gregorsouthard


TL: You are a devout Christian, and your blog "Christianity Is a War" explores modern day Christianity. What made you choose that title, and were you concerned that the title would confuse people into thinking the blog was anti-religion?
GS: I see myself as a dude on a journey and that journey and faith form my writing and my outlook. I got the idea for the title for the blog while listening to a song called "Jesus Christ" by Christian goth band Savior Machine. Nothing in the lyrics in particular just a feeling that that was the right title for the blog even though I wasn't quite sure where I was going to go with it at the time. The process of writing the blog has helped me understand the meaning more. I think we, as humans, feel like life is opposing us a lot of the time. As a Christian writer I know that I'm being watched, as it were, "when will he say something that can be taken out of context and prove that Christians are intolerant?" Look at Tebow, now that guy's a devout Christian and look at all the hatred that gets thrown at him! As far as knowing going in that the title would confuse people, I have to plead "guilty." I'm not an evangelist, but I'm on a journey, and I want people to share in that journey because its a journey of discovering that we have a God that, yes has laid down some hard rules to follow but also loved us enough to die for us. I don't know that non- believers have really tried to understand this concept. In layman's terms, we have a God that gives a damn about us! What if that's true? Then we must be pretty important to inspire that kind of love. And as far as the title goes, that message is opposed by the world. I'm still learning, and I hope I haven't rambled on too much...
"As a Christian writer I know that I'm being watched, as it were, "when will he say something that can be taken out of context and prove that Christians are intolerant?""
You have self-published. What was your reasons for self-publishing, and do you recommend it to others? Why or why not?

As far as self- publishing goes, I think it can be rewarding if you know want you want to get out of it from the get go. If your goal is to see your creativity on paper and you can afford it, then go for it! It is rewarding on that level especially if you don't have access to publishers and/or agents. A writer friend of mine once said, "Honestly, Gregor, I've never been published by someone who didn't know me personally." Part 2, if your goal is to become a famous writer then maybe you should reconsider since there's a lot of competition out there. Of course, if you have the money to advertise your product then give it a shot!

What's the favorite thing you've ever written and why?
 My favorite work is a book length poem titled, "The Immortal Present." It's only 60 pages and is sort of a mythologized autobiography (I've never actually had animals talk to me!) My goal was to explore life, joy, and beauty in a series images and moments. Each of the four chapters has a seasonal theme, ie chapter 1, winter, chapter 2, spring, etc.
 "I write from a perspective I call "Art Before Artist," which basically means "Mankind standing before a creative God, offering His creativity back to God.""
Thank you so much for offering a unique perspective to the Christian fiction landscape. Anything you would like to add to my blog readers?
I write from a perspective I call "Art Before Artist," which basically means "Mankind standing before a creative God, offering His creativity back to God." That doesn't mean that a Christian writer must invoke Jesus on some level in everything he/she writes, it merely means that one of the things we share with our Creator is our ability, and desire, to create. This perspective was influenced greatly by the two works mentioned above as well as writers like William Blake, who referred to Jesus as the Poetic Genius, and the Gospel of John, which calls Jesus "the Word."

OTHER POSTS THAT MAY INTEREST YOU

Interview with Cynthia (cina) Pelayo, Horror Writer
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I'm a huge advocate of Do-It-Yourself, and I'm looking for other DIY-ers to share their stories. If you're a self-published writer, blogger, independent filmmaker, Youtube star, whatever, tweet me and I may feature you on my blog!

Monday, August 12, 2013

What can a self-published writer do to get noticed? Tips from from PenLane's Peter Shapiro

Creating one's own imprint is often a dream for many writers, so I was excited to interview Peter David Shapiro, a Boston writer and creator of PenLane Press. He and I connected through Twitter because of our interests in writing, and he provided a very informative interview, detailing how to create an imprint and how to get noticed by retailers and readers.

TL: Thanks for stopping by this blog. First off, please tell my readers a little bit about your background.
PDS: I’m from Montreal, Canada, and I currently live in the Boston area. I’ve always wanted to write novels. After college, I carried a small typewriter to Europe to realize my dream. After that didn’t work out, I toiled for several decades as a management consultant. Then I took it up again. Inspiration came to me for Ghosts on the Red Line when the title floated into my mind during one of my early morning walks. What would happen, I wondered, if commuters saw their Departed on Boston’s Red Line subway trains? After Ghosts on the Red Line was published and received gratifyingly good reviews, I wrote The Trail of Money, an international suspense novel about intrigue and revenge in Hong Kong, which also has been well received. Both novels feature Harry Forrest West, who by amazing coincidence is a management consultant. Currently I’m working on my third novel and trying to improve my flute playing.

TL: You created your own imprint, PenLane Press, to publish your novels. What motivated you to do so?
PDS: I believe that readers would notice if no publisher were identified on a book’s cover or if a publisher’s name were absent from the information provided by online retailers. Readers may not care who the publisher is, but they expect to see one identified. Also, a publisher’s name is requested when you register a book’s ISBN and when you upload a book file to a printer/distributor such as CreateSpace. So, out of necessity, lacking a legacy publisher, I created PenLane Press. 

TL: What do you think is the number one struggle that self-publishers face and what can they do to overcome that problem?
PDS: Getting your book noticed by readers.

This is a challenge for published but not-yet-famous writers whose publishers ignore them. And it’s even more of a challenge for self-published writers. As you quickly discover, there is a club, a legacy publishing ecosystem, and you’re not a member. Big newspaper reviewers refuse to read self-published books; Chain bookstores won’t stock them; Indie bookstores that do accept self-published books generally decline to promote them; Literary agents, bookseller event organizers, and others involved in the trade turn up their noses.

What to do?

I paid the MBTA (Boston transit authority) to carry a poster for Ghosts on the Red Line on Red Line subway trains, and I’ve placed ads for both of my novels on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Goodreads, and Bing. I’ve posted my books on an eBook promotional site. I’ve done book signings. I’ve given copies of my books to online reviewers who’ve written glowing reviews and to several very famous people who might (if they enjoy the books and if lightning strikes) share their delight with the world. Shameless opportunistic promotion is the name of the game (see my response to Question #6).
"Getting your book noticed by readers. This is a challenge for published but not-yet-famous writers whose publishers ignore them."
TL: What are you working on now?
PDS: A novel about a painting that was found after being lost for more than 100 years. Characters include psychics, con men, and as the main protagonist, Dr. Frances Gourmelon, a Boston psychic who is featured in Ghosts on the Red Line. It’s title, for now: Portrait of Ignatius Jones.

TL: Great information, and thank you for stopping by. Anything you would like to add?
PDS: Yes! Check out Ghosts on the Red Line to find out what happens when commuters see their Departed on the Boston subway. According to reviewers, it’s a “fascinating multi-level novel” and “altogether wonderful.”  If revenge and intrigue in Hong Kong would interest you, take a look at The Trail of Money, which one reviewer calls a “marvelously twisty thriller.” You can get more info about both novels, and about my modest self, at www.peterdshapiro.com.

Also, if you’re the actor/director known as Ben Affleck, you’d be excellent as Harry Forrest West. Have your people call my people about optioning movie rights for Ghosts on the Red Line (Ben, please note, it takes place in Boston) and for its prequel, The Trail of Money.

OTHER POSTS THAT MAY INTEREST YOU

Should I self-publish?

I'm a huge advocate of Do-It-Yourself, and I'm looking for other DIY-ers to share their stories. If you're a self-published writer, blogger, independent filmmaker, Youtube star, whatever, tweet me and I may feature you on my blog!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Preacher Samuel Ben White shares how he balances writing, his family life, and his mission to share the word of God

As my blog readers know, I am a huge advocate of indie writers because they have the passion and ambition to open doors when traditional outlets ignore them. Because indie artists are that--independent--they all have unique stories and tips on how to succeed and what to watch out for in the murky terrain of self-publishing.
Samuel Ben White (photo courtesy of author)
On Twitter, I have had the pleasure of connecting with many independent writers, and I was very happy to connect with Samuel Ben White (@garisonfitch). He is an author, minister, family man, and newspaper cartoonist; and he was kind enough to give me an exclusive interview.

TL: You're a prolific writer. Can you tell my readers a little bit about your background?
SBW: I grew up in west Texas, and I loved to read, write and play baseball.  I was never any good at baseball, so I threw myself into the other two.  As soon as I learned to spell, I  was fascinated by the idea that I could string words together and use them to tell stories like the ones I read in books.

Beginning in seventh grade (or thereabouts) I tried my hand at writing novels and submitting them to publishers.  There followed thirty years of rejection slips, but I believed in my stories, so I kept writing them, re-writing old stories, combining pieces of faltering ideas, letting friends and family read them and always trying to get better at the craft.  Finally, thanks to self-publishing and ebooks, I’ve been able to put my books out there and get them read by a few people.  All the while, I’m still writing and trying to become both a better writer and better storyteller.
"There followed thirty years of rejection slips, but I believed in my stories, so I kept writing..."
TL: I think it amazing that you serve your community as a minister, have a family, and still find time to write so prolifically. How do you manage to do it all? Do you have any tips for readers out there who struggle with their own time management?
SBW: I am blessed with a very short attention span!  Honestly, I enjoy all the things you mention (plus, I draw a comic strip for the local newspaper).  I am not good at sitting still, so I am very thankful for the things on deadline (sermons, comic strips), but then when I get stuck on one of those, I’ll work on writing some fiction just to “get the juices flowing.”  As I go through my days, I am constantly getting ideas that I can use in my novels, my comics, or my sermons (and, sometimes, I’ll recycle an idea and use it in all three.)

Above all, I have a wife and two sons and I make time for them every day.  That would be my advice to anyone looking for time management help: prioritize.  I have found that if I get the things I have to do done first, I have lots of time to do the other things.
"My advice to anyone looking for time management help: prioritize."
TL: You have written fiction in various genres, including western, sci-fi, fantasy, detective, and Christian. Did you find it difficult to switch genres, or is there a thruline between all of your work and if so, what is it?
SBW: The line that runs through all my novels is: average people who make their way through extraordinary circumstances.  Other than Garison Fitch, the heroes of my novel don’t necessarily change or save the world, but they wake up every day and face the life that comes at them.

The hardest thing in switching genres for me are the fantasy stories.  I have some license there in that wild and miraculous things can happen, but I still want it to be believable.  In the detective stories, for instance, everything has to follow logically and you don’t want a clue dropping out of the sky, as it were.  In fantasy, something can drop out of the sky, but there still needs to be a reason it dropped then and there.

TL: Do you have any advice for writers who would like to break into fantasy or sci-fi?
SBW: Be prepared for criticism.  Science fiction and fantasy are some pretty broad fields and your first thought may be that “I can get away with anything here” but that’s rarely the case.  If you write a novel with a Newtonian view of the universe, some sci-fi fan will write a scathing review about how that view of the universe has been discredited.  Then, someone else will write a response about how the Newtonian view is the only one that works but you’re still a moron because you did such and such here.  Fantasy fans can be just as meticulous, jumping all over you because you gave a fairy six wings instead of two.  (Don’t get me wrong: there are many wonderful sci-fi and fantasy readers, but there are some very passionate, very vocal … I’ll let you insert your own word here.)

So, my advice is: whatever logic you follow for your story, stay with it.  For example, when writing my Garison Fitch novels (“First Time”, “Saving Time” and “Lost Time”) I researched ideas about time travel.  One of the hypotheses held in the world of time travel fiction is that there are multiple timelines in the universe, so what happens on this timeline may or may not effect what happens on that other timeline.  I decided that I would write my time travel novels as if there were only one timeline and all events that happen in the story are logically consistent with that idea.
"Whatever logic you follow for your story, stay with it."
TL: Anything you would like to add?
SBW: Tom Bodett (known mostly for his TV commercials but also a very talented and funny essayist) once wrote that his greatest goal as a writer was to have someone read one of his essays and then say to themselves, “Yeah!  Life’s just like that.”

I don’t think any of us will ever travel through time, and I hope very few of us are involved in murder investigations, but my highest goal is for someone to read one of my books (or all of them) and, when they think of a character, think to themselves, “Yeah, I know that guy!”

For more information on Samuel and his books, check out his website: www.garisonfitch.com 
or his  Amazon author page http://www.amazon.com/Samuel-Ben-White/e/B003WQH0J

OTHER POSTS THAT MAY INTEREST YOU

Interview with Cynthia (cina) Pelayo, Horror Writer
What are some good websites to self-publish?
Should I self-publish?

I'm a huge advocate of Do-It-Yourself, and I'm looking for other DIY-ers to share their stories. If you're a self-published writer, blogger, independent filmmaker, Youtube star, whatever, tweet me and I may feature you on my blog!