The Past

As I write, I find myself thinking of something that’s been on my mind for weeks now: backstory. Or more specifically, what should I include and not include.

Let me explain it to you this way: You know the Star Wars prequels? A series of movies that I consider the most hated things on the Internet from what I’ve seen? I think that the reason that they’re hated is, among other reasons, they gave an explanation to The Force and gave Darth Vader a backstory. The Midichlorians destroyed any mysticism The Force had to some people, and Darth Vader wasn’t the mysterious badass people had come to love for decades. Personally, I haven’t seen the prequels, but I know enough Star Wars to understand where the anger was coming from. George Lucas messed with perfection according to some people, and two of the greatest things in science fiction lost their luster to them.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to the point where I’m that big, but I hope to get something resembling a following. When that happens, I may get questions about my inspirations or something resembling sequels…or prequels. I’ve thought of this when thinking about my screenplay Wrath and while writing my book Welcome to Life in California (a writing process I can say is going pretty well at the moment), and I think that the idea of a backstory could make me think that too much stuff explained could ruin anything. I’m a guy that likes to read fanfiction and look at good fan art on occasion, and I think for some fans, the fun is creating their own lore. I’m not good enough to create headcanons as intricate like that (such as explaining why one character is actually another character’s father), and I think that destroying that possibility could hurt my work in the long run.

I guess the main point of what I’m trying to say is that the idea of explaining and giving a backstory is a tool for a writer, just like whatever a writer writes on, be it a laptop or a typewriter. And while the questions and fan community may not come anytime soon, I’m just thinking that maybe a sense of mystery could help my characters and my worlds (that’ll probably be set in something resembling reality) resonate and make people think “hey, this story by this Martin White II guy is pretty awesome.” Let’s hope there are people that think the same.

End Of The Road

This past Tuesday, my screenplay Wrath was named one of the top 6 screenplays for the action adventure category of the Las Vegas International Screenwriting competition. And yesterday, the category winners were announced that would go on to be in the running for the top 5 overall feature screenplays to compete to be the overall winner.

And the winner of the action adventure screenplay is…not me. That honor went to a screenplay called The Devil’s Gun. I didn’t make one of the two runners-up positions either, which went to the screenplays Black and Blue and Devil’s Valley Justice. 

The one thing that was noted was that in each and every one of the categories, the difference between top and bottom was separated by only a few points. In the action adventure category I was in, the difference between number one and number six was 3.5 points on a 100 point scale. That means, for example, that if the winner got 100 points, the #6 winner got 96.5 points. But that’s just an example. I have no idea what the actual scores are and I just wanted to give an idea of how close the scoring is. And while I have no idea what the winning scripts are about, I have no doubts that they are incredibly good.

So, what does that mean for me? Well, I feel pretty good about my performance in this competition now that it’s all over for me. I went a lot further than I thought I would. And what does this mean for Wrath? Well, I’m going to finally get a chance to look at it and see if I can apply some feedback that I received from another contest to fine-tune Wrath, though my thoughts on that endeavor could be another blog post entirely.

Anyway, I would like to sincerely thank every single person who has congratulated me and supported me throughout this entire contest. It feels great to have people who think the stuff I write is really good.

And now, I return to working on other projects.

My Process

As the months change, I think that it’s a better time than ever to talk about something some may be wondering: My writing process. It’s not that elaborate or anything. It’s not like anything you see in the movies, so if you’re wondering if I go to some cabin in the mountains, prepare to be disappointed. Anyway, here we go.

At the start of the month, when I write for the first time, I get everything I want to work on in a composition notebook. Just a simple composition notebook you can get for dirt cheap. And then, I pick one to work on. It could be a short story, or a chapter of a novel that I have in my head. Although recently, I’ve gone on to work on notes for my stories because I feel I need to streamline the bigger things I want to work on because it would help me figure out the story and where I want to go with it. While I have a lot of ideas for writing that could take me months to develop, write down, and edit, when I start writing something, I won’t write anything else until I finish that thing I commit myself to writing. It could take a few days for me to complete a chapter or a short story.

After I complete the writing, I take the day after completion as a breather day. What do I do? Watch TV, do laundry, just do anything except writing so I can recharge and think about what to do next. For now, at least. I think that once I have to deal with deadlines and release dates, I won’t have these breather days. At least I’m appreciating not having to deal with deadlines and release dates because I won’t have to deal with the worry of rushing something out, and the only expectations I have to meet are mostly my own.

And finally, one thing that I may do that’s a cliche writer thing: yes, I listen to music when I write. My choices are either the music on my phone or a channel on my Pandora account. If I use my phone, I arrange the songs that are in the “Up Next” section of music so I can just write without having to fight the urge to just pick a song every few minutes. As for the Pandora situation? I just pick a station and write with the only choice to be either be listening from my phone or my laptop. In either scenario, the only thing I listen for is if a song particularly catches my attention, which will lead me to looking to buy it on iTunes, either after I finish my writing session, or when I’m about to go on vacation.

And then I write until I’m done. Or if I’m tired. Or if my laptop’s battery life is low and needs to be connected to the charger immediately. Whichever one of those things comes first.

As for what I’m writing currently? Well, that’s kind of top secret at the moment, and the only time you’ll hear about details is if I talk about it in a “What Am I Working On?” update. Or if I announce the completion of a project. But, I will tell you this: when I finish a long work, be it a novel or a feature length screenplay, I’m going to make plans to go to an anime convention to celebrate. I went to one in my junior year of college, and it’s a great way to forget about the thoughts of an editor you hand your work to.

I hope that this post was informative and helped you understand how I write. Thank you for reading it.

 

Vegas Update

Hi, everyone. Remember when I said that my screenplay Wrath was selected as one of the Top 100 screenplays for the Las Vegas International Screenplay Competition? Well, the next threshold of achievement has come: the top screenplay in each category. And now for the point you’ve been waiting for with this post:

I have been named one of the top screenplays in the action-adventure category.

Yep, I have moved on to the next round. All that’s left in this little adventure is hearing if I won my category and if that happens, I’ll be waiting to hear if I’m one of the top five overall scripts in the feature division.

So what happens now? The category winners will be announced on Saturday, and in the meantime, I’ll work on my other projects.

If you want to read the story that’s making a path for itself and actually holding its own pretty well in Sin City, you can buy a copy of Wrath on Amazon.

 

As always, thank you all for your support! And I guess I’ll see you guys as soon as I hear about Saturday’s results.

State of my Short Stories

So, this past Sunday I put another one of my short stories up here. And while I haven’t heard much reception, I’ve heard people close to me say that I need to be careful when it comes to putting my material up here basically letting people read it for free. Going through this blog, I have published just about five short stories, and altogether I’ve written less than ten. If you ask me, that’s not enough short stories to do anything with.

That being said, I guess that if I have any short stories that anyone with something resembling professional clout could consider “good”, I could go down the route of selling my stories to magazines and the like, and then put them here once it’s painfully clear that publishing them on my blog is the only way I can hope to have my short stories exist somewhere other than my hard drive. Even then, my blog is currently in a state where the only audience I have to speak of is mostly family and friends.

So, where do I go? If I have an idea for a novel or a feature screenplay, that’s not going up here because of just how much effort I have to put into it. Exceptions are:

  • If I write a short story and I post it here to gauge interest in the prospect of the concept being expanded further.
  • If I start a long work based on a short story I write, and the long work differs drastically from the short story. The amount of difference is at my discretion.

This isn’t me saying that I’m stopping the posting of short stories here. I’d say it’s me saying that short stories are probably going to appear here probably less frequently.

Thoughts?

 

Vampire Dinner

And here’s something special: The first short story I wrote after I graduated. It was just a few months after putting Drexel behind me and a month after I volunteered at the Philadelphia Film Festival. I think I got the idea for this story from checking the architecture and old feel I got from hanging around Old City for ten days as a result of being a film festival volunteer. Anyway, I hope you guys enjoy.

 

VAMPIRE DINNER

 

Zach walked down the street. It wasn’t too bad; he was no stranger to the streets of Philadelphia. He knew which neighborhoods to avoid, and which parts of the city were seemingly asleep during the nighttime hours. It was just that the whole time he was walking, he was just lamenting that he could save some time and be on a bus if it weren’t for the birdcage in his hands, and the bat inside said birdcage. “What are you gonna do? Risk freaking out a bunch of commuters and risk incurring the wrath of SEPTA? Fucking bastards. ” Zach thought. Zach continued to walk down the streets adorned by rowhomes and illuminated streetlights until he found the one he was looking for.

“Is this it?” the bat asked. “Yep, this is the house,” Zach answered, inspecting the house. “Eagles flag, old Phillies flag, this is it.”

“Come on, Zach. You’ve been here too many times to count. You ought to know what the front of my place looks like.” Zach looked up to the voice that broke his inspection. It was Claudia, sitting on a broom, floating in the sky.

“How long have you been up there watching me?” Zach asked. Claudia looked at the streetlights. “About…five minutes, or however long you started walking down the block,” Claudia answered. She adjusted herself on her broom and flew down to the street, jumping off the broom as she was at Zach’s level. “Anyway,” she replied. “My mom and grandma are home. Hope you brought you brought an appetite.” Claudia looked at the bat in Zach’s cage. “You got a new pet? And you didn’t tell me?!” Claudia hit Zach on the head with the end of her broom. “About that,” Zach replied. “Can we go inside? It’s kind of cold.” The two walked inside.

Inside Claudia’s house, her mother Diana and grandmother Sarah were in the kitchen stirring a pot. The two didn’t flinch when Claudia greeted them with “Hi, mom. Hi, Nonna.” But when the two heard “Hi, Mrs. Agresta. Hi, Mrs. Dupont.” Diana turned off the pot to greet Zach. “Hi, Zach,” Diana said. Sarah eyed the bat in its cage. “So, Zachary, this is the bat you wanted to show me?”

“Yeah,” Zach replied nervously. He put down the cage gently on the floor, opening the door on the cage. The bat let its claws off of the cage bar, flew out of the cage door…and transformed into a girl before the eyes of the four people. “H…hello.” The girl said meekly. Sarah and Diana were mesmerized by the girl’s blonde pigtails, red eyes, and the small fangs protruding from the top of her mouth. Diana moved in front of Rachel, staring at the girl. “What is your name?” she asked. The girl shook where she stood, feeling the eyes of the short Diana stabbing her. “My name is Rachel, I’m six years old,” she answered. Diana looked further at Rachel, focusing on her eyes and fangs. “You’re not telling me everything.” She said. “Who are you really? Where is it that you hail from? What clan do you belong to?” Rachel began to look down at the ground, heart racing and on the verge of tears. “Mom, that’s enough!” Sarah interjected. Diana backed away from Rachel, and Sarah took her place and crouched down to be at eye-level with Rachel. “I’m sorry about my mother. What she was trying to get across was that we want to know some more about you so we can find out how we can help you get home.” Rachel looked up to Sarah. “You can trust me.” Rachel exhaled. “My name is Rachel Paoli Desrosiers. I am pleased to make your acquaintance, ma’am.” “What kind of name is that?” Diana asked. “ Are you some sort of Main Line girl? Does your have a secluded place in Rittenhouse Square?” Sarah shook her head and grabbed Diana’s arm, asking, “Why don’t we focus on dinner?” as she dragged Diana into the kitchen, with the short woman sternly replying with “Is that how you’re going to treat your own mother?”

Rachel turned to Zach and Claudia in confusion. “What does the short woman mean by Main Line and Rittenhouse Square?” she asked. ” The Main Line’s the place where people who got money live if they wanna get out of the city,” Zach answered. “And Rittenhouse Square is where rich people live if they wanna stay in the city. They also got some nice restaurants, a library, and a Barnes & Noble.”

“It’s basically Philadelphia’s Central Park,” Claudia added. Sarah popped her head out of the kitchen. “Zach, Rachel, would you two like to stay for dinner?” she asked. “The Phillies are playing tonight.” Zach lit up, and the next words were “Sure. We’d love to. I’ll just have to call my mom first and let her know I’m here.”

Sarah went backed into the kitchen and rejoined her mother at the stove. “Great, now you’re inviting her to eat with us?” Diana snapped. “What is with you?” Sarah retorted. “What drives you to scare a little kid? Why can’t you lighten up?” With her finger, Diana summoned a wooden spoon and hit Sarah in the head with it. “Ah! What was that for?” Sarah asked while rubbing her head. Diana simply answered with “Don’t ever question or backtalk your mother.”

Zach and Rachel sat down on the couch, seeing Claudia come to the living room with TV trays. “I don’t need any help with anything,” Claudia said. In response, Zach walked up to the TV, flipped through the channels until he saw Tom McCarthy and Ben Davis on The Comcast Network welcoming everyone to Citizens Bank Park. Zach muttered a simple “Got it.” before striding back to the couch, nearly hitting one of the trays. “Hey, watch the setup!” Claudia protested. Rachel simply observed and replied with, “This is a strange group of people.” The vampire serenely focused on the images ranging from shots of Philadelphia that signaled the beginning and ending of commercial breaks to the antics of the Phillie Phanatic. Her concentration was broken with Claudia coming onto the couch telling her to scoot over and Sarah putting plates on the trays. “Hey, Rachel, I hope you like Chicken Parm.” She said. Rachel thanked Sarah for the meal and looked at the plate, taking a sniff of the chicken and the spaghetti. “What’s wrong, little girl?” Diana asked. “Afraid garlic will get stuck in your fangs? Afraid you’ll get something?” Sarah looked at her mother with a glare that read, “Mom, please, for the love of God, don’t start.” which caused Diana to back off. Zach moved toward Rachel and told her, “Hey, if you eat garlic now, you can develop immunity to it. How much would it scare people to see that their repellant is ineffective?” Rachel pondered Zach’s statement, cut into the chicken, putting a piece into her mouth. After a cough and a breath, she took another bite. And then she smiled as if she was thinking, “Take that, nonna.”

Together, the five ate dinner and watched the Phillies play the Tigers. Midway through the game, Sarah asked Zach, “So, Zach, how’d you end up finding Rachel?” “Um, interesting story that,” Zach answered. “I found this bat twitching on the ground, so I took it home to see if I could nurse it back to health enough to a point where I can get it either take it to a vet or release it into the wild like some 90s movie.”

“And how did…well, you know,” Diana asked. “Hang on, I was just getting to that part,” Zach replied. “The bat was moaning and groaning, and when I put the cage away from the window, it just…stopped. And at about 7:00 that night, I hear this faint voice saying ‘Please open the cage’. So I do. And then…the bat flies out, and Rachel transforms and hits my floor.” Rachel looked down to cover her face after the last part of the story was said. “ And I gave her some snacks to nibble on to do something to get her strength back, but she just said that being away from the sun would be enough for her. All I gotta do is cover her cage with a blanket when she has to sleep during the day.” Zach composed himself. “And the reason why I’m here tonight is to ask if Rachel can stay with you guys.” Claudia, Sarah, and Diana all stopped in shock. “Why would you wanna do that?” Claudia asked. “What’s wrong with your place?”

“Well”, Zach replied, “I’m not sure how long I can keep Rachel under wraps from my mom. And I’m not sure how she’ll take a vampire being under her roof. And I know that you guys have the attic that doesn’t get sunlight that only requires a good sweeping to not get stuffy. And two out of three of you seem to have already taken a liking to her.” Zach got blank stares, and Claudia would go on to break the silence, asking “Why are you worrying that your mom won’t let you take Rachel in?” “Because,” Zach answered nervously, “I think that, like your grandma, she’s worried that Rachel will bite her or me.” “Would you like me to help you?” Rachel asked. “It’s bad manners to just bite somebody if they don’t want to, and I’ve heard that when I get older, there are times when I really want to bite someone or something..” Claudia looked at Diana. “Nonna, does that make you feel any better?” Diana only replied “Baby steps. Go to your mother, and then there’s a chance we can talk, Zachary.” Claudia looked at Zach “You hear that? You got my grandma on the path to liking a vampire. I think that you can convince your mom that Rachel won’t be a menace.” Zach sheepishly smiled. “Thanks,” he replied. “Now weren’t we watching a baseball game?” With that reminder, everyone refocused on the TV and cheered wildly at the ensuing Phillies home run. As cheers and high fives went around, Rachel simply focused on the illuminated Citizens Bank Liberty Bell as it rocked back and forth, back and forth. Back. And forth.

When the game ended in a 5-3 Phillies win, Rachel had turned back into a bat and was in her cage and Zach was ready to head home. “Well, guys, I’m off to try to convince my mother why having a six-year-old vampire won’t be a terrible thing.” He said as he picked up the cage. “Well, if you keep Rachel in the cage, you could spin it as convincing her to let you keep a very special vampire bat as a pet,” Claudia replied. Zach simply smiled and gave Claudia a simple “I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.” And with that, Claudia, Diana, and Sarah wove goodbye as Zach and Rachel walked out the door into the Philadelphia night, with Sarah telling Rachel to come back soon, and that hopefully, she could convince her mother to let the attic be open for her.

As Zach and Rachel walked home, Rachel hummed to herself in her cage, comfortably in her bat form. “Your friend and her mom are really nice,” she said. “Glad you think so,” Zach replied. “Sorry about Grandma Diana, and I think that maybe either I or Claudia should have warned you beforehand. You’re not too upset about that, are you?” Rachel shook her bat head. “No, I think I’ll be fine. Hey, remember when you said that if I eat a lot of garlic, I’ll develop immunity to it?” “Yeah,” Zach answered. “Do you think that there’s any truth to it? Because I know that garlic can’t kill a vampire, only keep them away.” Zach looked at the moon for a moment. “I don’t know,” he replied. “But I can get some food from the restaurants in Little Italy and test your theory. If you’re right, you can really scare the socks off of Claudia’s grandma.” Zach brought the cage to his face so his face could meet Rachel’s. “But if you’re wrong,” he added, “I don’t want to deal with a severe case of vampire indigestion, okay?” Rachel. Hanging from the bar inside the cage, only answered with, “No promises.” Zach simply sighed, put the cage back by his side, and walked home with Rachel.

What Am I Working On? July 12, 2017

Welcome to another edition of What Am I Working On? which will probably end up being the only thing resembling a recurring thing on this blog. Anyway, I just finished writing the latest chapter of Welcome to Life in California, which I talked about in the last time I did this kind of thing. Aside from this post, I’m not going to work on any writing for today, mainly because I feel the need to spend a day off for a breather and spending time recharging before I tackle some more writing. (Isn’t it great not to have any deadlines?) Anyway, I’ll throw you all a bone and show you what I’m going to try and accomplish in the next few months.

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So what is this you’re looking at? Well, I’ve already talked about Welcome to Life in California enough already. Daggerhead is a western story I’m working on and is still in the VERY EARLY stages. The “Ice Princess” refers to a story that I thought of after thinking about what I did with The Swordfight In The Snow. I’ve written the first chapter already, but that’ll also take some time. Steve and Sakura refers to the bigger story I want to do featuring those I featured in Sirens and Answers. I haven’t started planning that out but the thing I CAN tell you is that my ideas for that are very different from those two stories, at least to me at this moment. “Funeral” and “Stars” are a short story and short script I’m thinking of for those two respective things, and those words are the keywords from some prompts I found on Tumblr. The chapter length you see is more for me. I’m not going to strictly adhere to those lengths if I feel like it’ll just lead to padding, but if anything they’ll help me to adhere to something that can be called a three act structure and tell me to hurry up and advance the story if I’m staying in a specific spot for what could be perceived for too long. Also, mainly because I’m not having to worry about a deadline, I can actually have the luxury of not telling anyone when a story’s going to be one so I won’t have to rush, and like I said earlier in this post, I can spend the day after finishing a chapter away from writing so I can have a breather, do things other than writing, and plan out what I want to write next.

Let me know if you want this to be a recurring thing. At the moment, I’m thinking that this’ll be done whenever I’m going to be gone for a while and writing won’t be one of the things on my mind, such as a vacation.

On another note, that photo? I honestly thought I could do all of that in one month. Yeah, I have a lot of things I want to do, and apparently not enough time to do it. The month isn’t over yet so there may still be a chance.