That Time I Optioned a Book – ADMISSIONS

Here’s a fun little Hollywood-type story. Back in August, I rented the rights to the novel, Admissions, from my friend Eric, in the hopes of getting someone interested in making a limited series, a la Big Little Lies. I was excited because I could see what the show could be, but because the book had a small publisher and little-to-know publicity, it hasn’t sold a ton of copies. And because I am unknown, my attachment wasn’t really a selling point, so I was having trouble gaining any traction. Somehow, though, I was lucky enough to gain the interest of a producing team, who talked it up at their meetings and sent out packets for a few months — but again, because I neither I nor the book or its author are famous, it was hard to gain traction. However, the book was at a couple places when the story broke, which suddenly made it more timely — and finally, we got an invitation to pitch!

Which was awesome.

And a little crazy:

I got the news that pitch meeting was five days away as I was driving to one of my non-writing gigs, telling myself that I hadn’t woken up that morning with a sore throat (I had). At that point I did not have a pitch, had not read the book since June, and needed to double-bag all the food in our house and move out because our building was being tented to fumigate for termites.  So that weekend was… remember when you spent a marathon weekend studying for a really important exam while coughing, blowing your nose and staying at a friend’s house because you and your boyfriend got in a fight?  It was kind of like that! But somehow — with the help of the producers, it came together and we had a pitch by Monday morning. So. Yay!

But all of that is basically a long intro to a topic that been on my mind on and off for the past year or more which is the concept of PARTIALITY.

However, since I’m trying to do this thing where I write posts that are less than 500 words instead 1000-1500, I’ll sign off here, and pick up the subject in another post, coming soon!

Jon Ronson and Jeff Simmermon

You know how on the podcast Scriptnotes, at the end of the main conversation, the hosts each share One Cool Thing? An app, a game, a book that is striking their fancy.

I currently have One Cool Thing X 2 — in other words, two cool things.

One is the book Lost at Sea by Jon Ronson.

The other is this story told by Jeff Simmeron at The Moth, heard by me on the radio on the way back from the gym, which also exists on video:

“sad King Arthur,” “pinballing,” “patina of sheer rage.”  So good.

Short Story “Tribe” in Turning Points Anthology

Mere hours after publishing my last post where I listed my difficulties receiving copies of the anthology in which I have a short story,  I received four copies in the mail, along with a lovely handwritten note from the editor explaining that since I’d paid full price, they were sending two copies instead of one — as well as my contributor’s copies.

Patience is a virtue.

Turning Points Front Cover

Here’s the back cover. My story, called “Tribe” is in good company. They came up with the description line, and in my case, did a better job than I think I would have.

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Character Need: What they don’t know that you do…

Warning: This is going to be a craft post, likely boring for non-screenwriting nerds.

I’m reading a new book by Yves Lavadier called Constructing a Story, and I’m reading about character arcs.  One thing that we talk about in drama is character want versus character need.  The want tends to be a tangible, external, and a conscious goal–to complete the mission, rescue the kid, win the girl, etc. The need tends to be internal, and unconscious–some kind of step toward growth that the character needs to take–like coming to terms with the past, letting go of judgement or rigid expectations, opening his heart.

Separate from that, there is a narrative tool called dramatic irony which is when the storyteller reveals information in such a way that the audience has information before the character does in order to create  suspense. The audience is waiting for the character’s knowledge to catch up with our own.  Like we know that there’s a dangerous intruder in our heroine’s apartment. She comes home and starts making dinner–unaware of the danger.  It creates a specific kind of emotional engagement.

Mr. Lavandier points out that once the audience picks up on the character’s need– it elicits a question in our minds. Will the character learn what we already know in order to emotionally grow? He notes that this is, in fact, a situation of dramatic irony.

This was eye-opening for me, because, although it’s completely logical, I’d never thought about waiting for character change in as a form of suspense, suspense that could be for an entire act or maybe more..  The audience knows something and is waiting for the character to catch up to that knowledge, for her unconscious to become conscious.

In life we do the same thing, kind of, but it’s less satisfying. We have friends or relatives with issues that seem obvious to us, but which said person cannot see, and we talk with or other friends or family members, about how it would be better if they could see.  In life though,  person generally don’t change that much, so after awhile, there’s not so much suspense. I suspect there are probably people waiting in vain for me to make certain discoveries in my life. They should probably go to the movies, which will be more satisfying, because in constructed fictional narratives,  people change.

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Science and Stuff

Saturday was Earth Day and March for Science day. I almost went to the march, but did not. It’s okay though, because I made it a point to like all the Facebook posts of friends who did go.  (That last sentence was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek but really just makes me feel sad for reasons I can’t unpack at the moment.)

It so happens that I am reading a science-type book during treadmill sessions at the gym.

It’s called How to Defeat Your Own Clone: And Other Tips for Surviving the Biotech Revolution. how to defeat coverIt’s written by some smart bio-engineers who know stuff and write well for the layperson, so I am enjoying it.

I have a special interest in clones of late, in relation to a project I’m working on, which is probably how I stumbled onto this book online, but I think it was not clones that inspired me to buy it.

Via Amazon’s “look inside”feature, I was able to read the first few pages of the book and can across this paragraph:

“Not infrequently, the answer to an innovation’s dangers is more innovation. When human beings first started to congregate in large cities, disease grew to be such a problem that there was serious speculation that living in large cities was unnatural and unavoidably dangerous.  People were not meant to live so close to one another. Cities were a disastrous and doomed experiment in living!

Then plumbing happened.”

This interested me, both at face value — and in how it views about science as a creative problem-solving process.

In creating narrative, there’s an idea that if you “paint yourself into a corner ” you’ll be pressured into finding some amazing way out of your predicament.  So in this way you can force yourself to come up with a more brilliant solution than had you played it safe.

Sometimes though, the brilliant solution takes too long to arrive, and you have a deadline, so you just have the crumple paper into a ball, through it away, and start from scratch.

So in honor of Earth Day, I wondered which way Earth is headed. Maybe, if we keep polluting, it will force our scientists to perfect the special bacteria that can eat all the pollution from the air, or fake clouds that can patch  holes  in the ozone layer.

Or maybe we’ll have to resort to the crumpled paper scenario.  I’m not sure what the Earth-sized,  metaphorical equivalent to that is, but it seems grim.