Thursday, August 27, 2020

On the Third Day...

I got a request from Rhyen, which is great because I still haven’t really hammered those ideas on endings or comedy quite into shape. So that’s still some stuff for the future. Or, y’know, somebody else could ask something.

Anyway...

Rhyen wanted to know about worldbuilding. Not just “our world, but with secret werewolves” but full-on, hardcore fantasy worlds, sci-fi worlds, and so on. How (and when) do you come up with histories, cultures, and all that other stuff?

Y’know what? Let’s make this post super-active rather than me blathering away. Right here, right now, let’s look at werewolf world. The other version of it where everybody knows werewolves are real.

Now, I know, we said we were going to do more hardcore settings but just go with me for a minute.

I’ve mentioned Charlie Jane Anders once or thrice before, and her little note that there’s no such thing as “a world just like ours, except...” because any noteworthy “except” is going to change everything. If there really were werewolves and everybody knew about them, so much would be different in the world. Tons of things.

Don’t believe me? Let’s go over a few things real quick. Just off the top of my head...

Here’s an easy change. There probably wouldn’t be any silver coins. In WereWorld anything with even a scrap of silver would’ve been gathered up and turned into anti-werewolf weapons or defenses. The government would be treating silver like uranium. 

Which, hey... how would warfare be different? Forget atom bombs... imagine if the Manhattan Project involved deliberately infecting a hundred or so troops with lycanthropy and then dropping them all on Nagasaki and Hiroshima on the night of the full moon. A hundred unstoppable killing machines running wild in each city. That’s a terror weapon, right there. And of course, if the Japanese capture two or three alive, now they’ve got their own werewolves.

But now without the US pouring all that money into nuclear warfare and missile programs... where does it all go? Infrastructure? Social programs? Schools? Would there be a Cold War? A Bay of Pigs? And if the Soviet Union leaned into werewolf warfare... what kind of arms races would there be? Would the USSR have financially collapsed?

And we haven’t even talked about dating or sex in WereWorld. Hunting laws? Home security? Profiling? Legal issues—if I kill someone as a werewolf, am I legally responsible? Is it murder, which requires a degree of forethought, since the werewolf’s essentially an animal (or is it?)?

And all of these assume we just “discovered” werewolves somehow back in the early 1940s. What if it was even earlier? How would global exploration and trade have gone differently five hundred years ago if ever twenty-nine days  one of your crew members might kill everyone on the ship? How different would the world map look right now?

Again, this is all off the top of my head. Seriously, I’ve spent maybe ten minutes on this. But I’ve completely rewritten the world, just by being aware that things would inevitably change in this situation.

So, with that in mind...

Creating a setting, any setting, is a lot like creating a character. I want to know them backwards and forwards. It’s fantastic if I have lots and lots of factoids about them easily on hand (you may remember that back before we all took the pandemic plunge, I talked about characters and their underwear choices).

I’ve mentioned character sketches once or thrice before, and I think worldbuilding can be approached the same way. We come up with the bare basics and then we start fleshing it out by asking questions and maybe following a few paths to their logical outcome. Like I did up above with WereWorld.

Or let’s do something even more divorced from our world. Let’s say it’s going to be a fantasy world, maybe one with some gearpunk elements. So, easy one—is there actual magic in this fantasy world? Is it kind of rare or very common? Does it need components? Are they rare or common? Do people have spell-component gardens the way we might have an herb garden?

How about the gear-tech? How precise is it? Do you need mathematically perfect brass gears or do lots of people carve wooden ones after dinner? What do they use for power? Springs? Counterweights? Two or three big guys turning a crank?

Does magic dominate the gear-tech, or vice versa? Is one notably newer than the other? Does either have detractors, vocal or secretive? Are magic and/or gear-tech novelties or parts of everyday life? Do they ever cross-pollinate, so to speak? Are they expensive or so common everyone has access to some aspect of them?

Considering all of this, now... is this mostly an agrarian world? Are more people farmers? Hunters? Are there gearpunk tractors or crossbows? Magic millstones or knives that can skin anything? And if none of this ever filters down to the common folk... how do they feel about that?

Has the magic or gear-tech made travel easier? Are people still isolated in villages or are there much bigger cities, made possible because of these advances? Do people know more about the world?

Heck, how fantasy is this world? Are there supernatural or mythological creatures? Are they common? Domesticated? Are there things we know or all-new creatures? Does the farmer have a six-legged hexox dragging his plow? Are there gods? Demons? How do they feel about humans playing with magic and gear-tech?

Or heck... is it even humans? Is this about magical halflings or gearpunk elves? I just pictured a gearpunk lizardman and that seemed pretty cool.

If you’ve answered a lot of those questions, I bet you’ve got the beginnings of a pretty solid world in your head. And probably spun off a question or three of your own. Enough so that you can start setting up your plot.

And one thing to keep in mind—just like with characters, this might change as I go along. As the story grows and progresses, I might change a lot. I might add even more. It’s an ongoing process. Halfway through my outline or my first draft, I might realize I need to address currency. And, hey,  maybe this world has a really crappy exchange rate, so it matters if you’re getting paid with glowing quartz or brass gear-coins.

Again, the world is here to serve the story. You’re going to change and tweak it as you go. Maybe all the way up to your last draft. And just like with characters, you’ll keep coming up with cool little details and anecdotes.

Now... there’s three key things to remember...

First, I know I talk about editing things down a lot, but we can all breathe a small sigh of relief here. If I’ve got a story set in another world—a drastically different world—most editors are going to give me a little bit of leeway, word-count wise. They understand I’ll need a few extra pages to explain why Yakko is riding a gearpunk tractor powered by magical crystals.

This doesn’t mean I can go crazy listing details. Or that I can be really blunt with them. No pausing for two pages to randomly describe the wooden sun-and-planet gears in Yakko’s trailer. Or the long history of the mining guild that provides those magic crystals. One more time—say it with me—the world is here to serve the story. It’s okay to have a little extra flavor here and there, but I shouldn’t lose track of what my book is actually about.

Which brings me to my second point. Whenever I create a character, there’s a lot of things about them that are never going to come up in the book. Or maybe they come up, but they’re never explained. I might have tons of rich backstory and weird little details, but a lot of it just never becomes relevant.

For example, in the Threshold books, I know a ton of things about Veek. I know why she’s abrasive with most people. Why she likes wearing men’s suits and ties over women’s power suits. Heck, I made a note of when/how she lost her virginity. But the truth is, none of this has been relevant to any of the books she’s been in. It’s stuff I know, and it helps me make her feel more three dimensional on the page, but ultimately... it’s all kind of irrelevant if it doesn’t have anything to do with this book—with the plot I’m telling and the character’s arc through that plot.

Worldbuilding is the same way. No matter how fantastic or amazing the details of this world might be, they only matter if they’re going to have some kind of impact. While it may be very interesting how this society ended up with a hexadecimal/base sixteen number system, do we need to know any of that history for this story? Yes, WereWorld does have eleven continents and there’s a fascinating story behind it... which has nothing to do with this book.

And even then, I’d argue that if there’s no real reason for something to be different... maybe it shouldn’t be. I think one thing that confuses some people is they see this rich, historied world that the story’s set in and forget the world only exists to serve the story, not the other way around. If you look back at my A2Q discussion about the world Phoebe and Luna live in, I made choices based on what would be interesting for the plot and story, not what would make for an interesting world.

So I shouldn’t be coming up with (and using) new things just to come up with new, different things. I mean George RR Martin just uses leagues for distance in worldbuiding heavyweight A Song of Fire and Ice (perhaps better known by it’s Hollywood stage name, Game of Thrones). It sounds good, a little archaic, and he doesn’t have to waste half a page explaining what hekkrets are.

Or heck, here’s another example... any of you remember that old 70’s indie movie, Star Wars? There’s a great scene where Ben and his would-be-protégé are trying to hire a ship from some lowlife smuggler. And Ben tells him “We can pay you two thousand now plus fifteen... when we reach Alderaan.” Remember that?

So... two thousand what?

No, no, no. Don’t run to novelisations or books or articles that retconned this. Right there in the movie you watched... two thousand what?

Truth is, it doesn’t say and it doesn’t matter. For this story, the type of currency’s irrelevant. I don’t care if it’s Imperial credits or Old Republic scrip or gold-press latinum or Jawa skulls. Okay, I might care if it’s Jawa skulls because WTF Kenobi why do you have two thousand of these laying around?! What the hell have you been up to out in your little desert hut?

Anyway... no, all we need to know is that two thousand is a good amount (judging off everyone’s reactions) and fifteen more makes it a very good amount. Past that, we just don’t need to know why Solo wants all these Jawa skulls Kenobi’s collected. It’s not important. The dialogue’s solid and sounds believable, which is far more important that a brief segue to explain the various types of Galactic currency and their exchange rates.

This brings me to my third and final point.

Worldbuilding is, in my opinion, a really easy trap to fall into. Because worldbuilding is fun. Seriously. That question game we played up above? We can do that for weeks with worldbuilding. Months. Maybe even years. My world is going to be so huge and so complex with so many races and creeds and economies and social structures and seriously we can spend so much time doing this instead of...

Y’know, actually writing the story.

And that’s how I generally approach worldbuilding. You may need to change this approach a bit, depending on your own story and the kid of setting you want for it, but hopefully this’ll get you a little further down that path. Or help you find your own path.

Next time... endings.

Maybe.

Until then, go write.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

An Old Favorite...

It’s Thursday morning and it struck me that I don’t have anything ready for the ranty blog. I’ve had a few different ideas rattling around in my head for posts about endings and comedy and jargon. But they’re all kinda big things and a bit... delicate? I don’t want to be giving bad, half-thought-out advice, and I’m not 100% sure that I have good advice on these precise topics quite yet. Thus all the rattling around in my head.

Or maybe those are LEGO bricks? Might be. Really, anything goes in 2020.

Hey, speaking of years and what’s possible and what’s acceptable, I realized I could babble on for a minute or two about a topic that pops back up every four or five months.

See, I recently watched an adaptation of something I loved many years back. And, being a proper nerd who read and re-read the original and then read it again a seventeenth time, I picked out little changes here and there. I mean, yeah, it’s an adaptation. Things are going to change. They always do because they need to. But these were different changes. A lot of them were in how people were addressed. How other people reacted to them. Nothing gigantic, but it stood out to me because—as I said—I was a big fan of the original.

Okay, fine, I was nitpicking.

Anyway, I can’t remember at what point in the movie it clicked, but it hit me that the movie had updated a lot of the original story’s views on sexuality and gender. Just little tweaks, nothing that affected the plot in any way. But the movie was a bit more modern, inclusive, and—in a few places—a little less mocking.

I thought Good on them.

But then, shortly afterward, I had another moment. Because, hang on a minute, I’d read this many, many times back in those formative years and I’d never noticed any places where people were excluded or mocked or anything like that. The book was fine. Was this movie overreacting? Were they just changing things in the adaptation to please a tiny, vocal minority?

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized ohhhhhhhh no. No they weren’t. I just didn’t notice because, at the time... I was cool with all of that. My views then echoed a lot of the views of, well, then. Just like the book did.

This book was big for me. If someone asked me, it’d probably end up on my personal list of “twelve most influential books/authors” or something like that. But... yeah, it’s got some flaws. The book is a fixed artifact of then and there are aspects of it that the world has moved past. And, thankfully, I’ve moved past.

It’s a rough thing to go back and realize things you loved in the past don’t quite measure up anymore. Sometimes in minor ways, sometimes in... well, really big ones. I re-read a classic sci-fi novel a year or two back and it terrified me with some of its views on sex. Re-read another formative series to my partner when she was really sick and discovered wow was there a lot of casual racism in it. Just a few weeks ago I watched one of my favorite comedy movies from my teens, one I must’ve seen this at least a dozen times (yay USA Up All Night) and holy crap that was just full-on, no question sexual assault, arguably attempted rape from the main character. That was seriously uncomfortable to watch.

And I get why admitting this sort of thing can be tough for people. To admit these early, formative works are flawed. That the people who made them were flawed. Because admitting this means opening ourselves up to the idea we might be flawed. We might’ve absorbed views and lessons that, in retrospect, were not good.  It’s painful to think the movie adaptation of our life might get that same horrified reaction.

The world always changes. It progresses, it moves forward, and hopefully... we move with it. We learn more. We understand more. This sounds really dumb to say, but I’m very happy my views have grown and evolved since I was five. Or fifteen. Or twenty-five. Not on everything, but on a lot of things. It’s not weakness to say I’ve changed my views—it’s growth.

This doesn’t mean we have to abandon those old, formative works or throw them on bonfires. But we need to be honest and acknowledge what they really are... even when it means a bit of apology and internal cringing on our part. I can say this book and that book are on my list of formative things because... well, they were. I can’t deny it. They’re part of why I’m a writer today.

But I don’t need to embrace them or constantly defend them. I can admit their flaws—some minor and some seriously glaring—even if it possibly means admitting some flaws of my own. Because in writing and in life, I can’t improve if I never admit that I need improvement.

Anyway... just some random thoughts. I know other folks have said similar things in a better way.
 
Next time...

Well, as always, if anyone’s’ got a specific question, feel free to drop it in the comments below. Or over on a Writers Coffeehouse video if you want to get answers from better writers. And if not, maybe I’ll sort out some of those bigger ideas to talk about.

Until then... go write.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Where B-Movies Go to Die...

And now for something completely different...

Everyone else is talking about how soulless IP is, so since that’s covered I thought instead I’d answer a question sent to me over on Twitter. Which was... 

“As a bad movie expert, where does one find the good b-movies that come out nowadays? Is there a modern day Roger Corman?”

Okay, first off, there are people who’ve put far more study and hours into B-movies (bad and good) than I ever have (seriously, check out Patton Oswalt’s Silver Screen Fiend). I watch a lot of them, yeah, but I freely admit there are some holes in my education. On the other hand, I also have a much more rounded film education than a lot of folks—being a huge fan, having worked as a film journalist, and having worked both above and below the line on film projects. I worked on a movie that spent three weeks at number one at the box office, another movie that’s considered one of the worst films ever made, and a double-handful of movies I guarantee you’ve never, ever heard of.

All that said, I think B-movies have a fascinating history, and I think we need to consider it—and how we define them—in order to answer that question.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin...

On the off chance you didn’t know, B-movies started out as the lower-billed movie on a double ticket. You’d go to the movies for your big-budget studio picture (sometimes costing hundreds of thousands of dollars), but the studio’d also tack on something a little simplistic and low-brow so you felt like you were getting your full 40¢ worth. Usually this was a genre movie—westerns, horror, comedy, early sci-fi stuff. Some of it was even based on hahahhahhaaaa comic books.

Double-bills became less common in the ‘50s, but it turned out there was enough of a market for these lower-budget genre B-movies to keep producing them and putting them out on their own. They were cheap, usually aiming more to entertain than artistically enlighten, and they tended to at least make back the meager investment in them (a winning formula by almost anyone’s standards).

Plus, this became an entry point for writers, directors, actors... Move to Hollywood, start with small positions on small projects, learn stuff, work your way up. Lots of film icons and heavyweights started out in B-movies. Seriously, pick your favorite actor/director/screenwriter and scroll down IMDb to their first few credits. There’s probably some B-movies there. Look—here’s a very young Leonard Nimoy in the giant ant movie THEM (1954).

Then came the 1970s. The 70s blew the idea of “B-movies” out of the water and upended the whole film industry. Jaws. Halloween. Star Wars. There was a sci-fi boom and a horror boom. Suddenly what had been B-movies were dominating the box office.

So we had an early 80’s rush of people trying to copy that success. Lots of studios tried to manufacture B-movies with the intent of them becoming megahits. And within just a few years of that we had even more radical changes in the industry. Cable television and home video. Now there was a desperate need for content. We need to fill video store shelves and tens of cable channels!

So this, in my opinion, is the second golden age of what we tend to think of as B-movies. Once again, we need stuff so people feel like they’re getting their money’s worth. Lots of cheaper movies aimed at pure entertainment more than art.

BUT...

It’s important to note these were all still people with a degree of training. They weren’t grabbing people in Tulsa to make these movies, they were grabbing people in Hollywood. Because Hollywood was where all the crews and actors and equipment were. And those cameras are super-expensive, so the studios weren’t handing one over to just anyone. They went to the people who were dedicated filmmakers—who’d moved to Los Angeles to be in the film industry, taken PA jobs so they could learn and office jobs to be near the decision makers. Yeah, sure maybe you had an 8mm camera at your home in Tulsa, but that just wasn’t going to cut it in the 35mm age.

(minor segue—go read Bruce Campbell’s If Chins Could Kill for a great story of him, Sam Raimi, and Rob Tapert trying to screen an 8mm print of their movie that they’d already blown up to 16mm and then tried to blow up again to 35mm)

(go on—support your local bookstore!)

So, in my eyes, this second golden age (silver age?) re-established B-movies as stepping stones. Studios were now willing to take some gambles on lots of lower-budget stuff, and there were a lot of films that needed filmmakers. And even if they were less experienced, they still had basic, baseline experience.

I also think this is why there are so many great B movies from this era. It was a perfect confluence of lots of experienced, dedicated people waiting for an opportunity and studios willing to take lots of chances. Or at least say “Yeah, sure, whatever... just have it done by the 15th.” Which also meant some people had a chance to slip in a little art after all...

But as studios evolved, we began to see less and less of these low budget B-movies as execs leaned more and more into what we usually now call “tentpole” movies. Things either got larger budgets or... got forgotten. Heck, there was a brief-point in the late 90’s when horror movies almost broke out of their low-budget niche and started getting $40, $50, and even $60 million dollar budgets. But it didn’t last long and that’s a whole ‘nother story.

And that brings us to what I think was the last big B-movie boom. Our bronze age. And this is an odd one, I admit.

SyFy. Or, as it was known then, the Sci-Fi Channel.

There was a solid seven-eight year period where SciFi Pictures put out a new original movie every single week. Plus a few multi-part miniseries. Remember that? It was one of their claims to fame. Seriously, go look up Sci-Fi Pictures and see how many movies they put out. And then they became SyFy and put out that many more again. There’s close to a thousand movies altogether on those lists, spread over a little less than a decade. Sci-fi, horror, fantasy. Were they all winners? Hell no. But even if we only say 20% of them are worth watching, that’s still around 200 solid movies. More importantly, it created opportunities again and gave a lot of skilled (and, yeah, some not-so-skilled) people the chance to move up a notch or three on the Hollywood ladder.

Now, with all that in mind, the original question. Where to find B-movies today.

I don’t think they really exist anymore. Sorry.

I shall now explain.

One thing that defined filmmaking for ages was a level of *gasp* gatekeeping. As I mentioned above, like most arts, filmmaking required a lot of rare, specialized equipment and the knowledge to use that equipment correctly. Plus I’d need to understand narrative storytelling and visual storytelling. One thing you’ll notice throughout this little history is that most B-movies, in all eras, came from people who already had a degree of experience. They’d been exposed to filmmaking. They understood concepts like framing, camera angles, coverage, crossing the line, and more. Yeah, we can always point to a few exceptions here and there, but the vast majority of folks making B-movies came out of Hollywood.

Today we live in a world that’s both wonderful and, well, a little troublesome. Today most of us are carrying whole camera/editing packages around with us. You might even be reading this on one. It’s ridiculously easy to shoot a movie today. Anyone can, experienced or not.

And on one level, that’s fantastic. I’m a huge fan of giving everyone the tools to do the thing they love. I mean, how many fantastic filmmakers did we lose because they couldn’t make it out to Hollywood? It’s a huge, terrifying leap—said as someone who did it!

On another level, I think this easiness encourages a lot of folks to leap ahead before they’re really ready. They’re getting stuck in, as the Brits say, without understanding a lot of the concepts I mentioned above. And again—on many levels this is great. You can try different shots, experiment with lighting and effects, and find out if Wakko can really act or hasn’t improved since that fifth grade play. And you can do all this for free—no worrying about the price of film or equipment rentals or truck rentals to haul around the equipment.

But I think for a lot of folks the current mindset tells us this isn't practice, it's the finished product. It's done and ready to go. And there are lots of studios and distributors who are fine with slapping a logo on those practice shots, FX tests, and audition tapes and putting them out there. Honestly, if the technology existed back in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, they probably would’ve done it then, too.

That’s why, in my opinion, we don’t see those kind of quality B movies being made right now. Not in any sort of quantity, anyway. Studio/ distributors aren’t dependant on the pool of people who already know how to make movies and just need someone to make an investment in them. Distributors can get lesser movies for pennies, fill all the empty spaces in those digital shelves, and easily make back the minimal amount they paid for it.

Again, for the people itching to fight—I’m not saying there aren’t any good movies made this way. But they’re very, very rare. Much rarer than they were when the requirements tended to favor filmmakers who already had a degree of experience. I’ve been doing this Saturday geekery thing for a little over three years now, probably close to 45 weekends a year, easily averaging three movies each time. And in all that time of watching “B-movies” made in the past twenty years I’ve stumbled across... six? Maybe seven where I said “Holy crap, you all need to watch this.”

And as far as being a stepping stone, well... This is already super-long, but let me close with a quick story.

Way back in the day, a friend and I had worked up a pitch for a potential series, and we were toying with the idea of shooting a quick teaser trailer for it. This was when “sizzle reels” were really common, to give producers a sense of what the finished product would be like. We talked about it with a producer friend of ours and she shook her head, vigorously, and told us it’d be a waste of money.

The problem, she explained (and I’m paraphrasing) is that the people who make the big money decisions rarely have great imaginations. They don’t look at something and see potential, they look at it and just see what it is. If we shot a super low-budget, semi-professional trailer for our high-concept sexy-vampire-wars series, they wouldn’t imagine it with better lighting or hotter actors or cooler stunt work. All most of them would see is... a super low-budget, semi-professional trailer.

Which meant we’d probably make a super low-budget, semi-professional show, right?

Which is why a lot of these films never really work as stepping stones.

And that’s waaaaaay too much about B-movies. But to be honest, it was something I’d been thinking about before the question was asked.

Take care of yourself, wear your mask, go write.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Right Way to Play Doctor...

I’ve wanted to talk about this topic for a while, and I finally figured out a really fun analogy for it. One that’ll be fun for everyone. Or at least, for folks with a certain degree of experience.

So, in this fun little scenario, you’re the patient and someone else is the doctor. Feel free to pick whoever you want as your doctor. The important thing here is their medical degree.

In fact, now I’d like you to imagine the medical school your doctor attended. One where students are never taught what to do when things go wrong. Nobody ever practices clamping off blood vessels. Restarting a heart. They never get quizzed on mystery symptoms or offered practical tips on “how to do this quickly.” At this medical school, every procedure goes exactly as planned every time, no complications at all.

How comfortable would you be with this doctor of yours? Do you really want them operating on you? Heck, does this sound like the best school? This really isn’t a great way to learn, is it?

The thing is, even those of us far removed from the medical field recognize that every patient is unique. There’s going to be a lot of overlaps and commonalities, absolutely—you don’t hear hoofbeats and assume zebras—but we’ve all got our own personal histories and conditions and tendencies and good doctors realize that. We want doctors who can think on their feet a bit and recognize that sometimes there’s a serious need to deviate from the standard procedures. Doctors who have an idea what to do when things go wrong and complications arise.

Which is why medical schools don’t do this. They teach the basics, sure, and show “perfect case” scenarios, but they also show prospective doctors all the ways things can go wrong. Going off one friend who went through med school, that’s most of what they do. They throw problems at students. They want to know how good doctors are at improvising and being creative. Because there’s only so much anyone can learn from clean, flawless examples. Eventually, if I really want to learn how to do stuff, I have to get messy.

Can you guess where I’m going with this?

Writing has a lot of overlaps and commonalities, too, but for the most part each example of writing is even more unique. We’re all individual people at different points of our lives. We’re at different levels of experience, different levels of development, different levels economically, and more. And we’re all writing different books in different ways, dealing with different structures and genres and expectations.

Now it’s not uncommon when we start out to copy writers we like. I’m sure a lot of people reading this made their first tentative steps into writing by copying the genres and styles of writers they enjoyed—successful writers who had published a book, or maybe multiple books. If any of my early writing was still kicking around, I think we’d find a lot of it bore a strong resemblance to Bill Mantlo’s plot structures, dialogue, and pacing... at least until I started reading some of the Doctor Who books Ballentine was reprinting here in the US.

And this is absolutely fine when we’re starting out. It’s one of the most common ways we all learn the basics. We just copy things by experienced artists that we already know work. Things that have already been through the editorial process and don’t have any major flaws or problems.

Because art is such a unique, personal thing, though, all studying and copying good art does is teach us how to be like that particular artist. At some point we need to grow past mimicking other storytellers, and I think this is when bad stuff becomes important. Because if a problem needs to be fixed, I’m going fix it my way. And you’re going to fix it your way. And they’re going to do it their way.

Thing is, I can’t learn what my way is if I never see any problems. Why would I need to? If everything I see if perfect, nothing needs to change. It’s why, back when I was working in the movie industry, I’d see so many directors come out of film school with lots of aspirations to be the next Scorsesee or Kubrick, but no idea how things actually happened on a working film set.

I’ve talked more than a few times about my weekend B-movie habits. And while the movies are almost always bad, I almost always learn something every weekend. Because I don’t approach them with the view of “let’s make fun of bad movies,” I look at them as “what is this doing wrong and how could I fix it?” Why doesn’t this reveal work? How could this pacing be fixed? What would make this character more interesting and get me invested in their problem?

There’s actually a whole industry for this in Hollywood. Script doctors (whoa, full circle). They’re people who come in, find the problems, and figure out how to fix them. And they get paid a lot, because that’s a very valuable skill.

A skill we can never develop if we never see any problems.

Next time...

I have no idea. Drawing a blank right now. Feel free to throw a suggestion down below, or if you’d like to see some more debate on your topic, drop a suggestion over on a Writers Coffeehouse video on my YouTube channel.

Until then... go write.

And solve some problems.