WIP It Good–September 1 to January 1

old typewriter

So I’ve written love letters to editors (The evil secret to ALL WRITING – editing is everything) and taken my red pen to the first page of many novels. Three favorites:

And here’s a little secret I’ve never talked about before: authors have randomly hired me to bleed red on their pages. It’s a crazy amount of work–and an insane amount of fun.

Just like editing (a) the first page of a famous novel or (b) dissecting the latest blockbuster, structure is the most interesting, complicated and entertaining aspect of writing to wrestle to the ground. How is it built? Where are the setups and payoffs, the reversals and revelations?

Now I’m going to do this random editing thing, at least this one time, in an organized, non-random way.

September 1 to January 1.

Four months to go from the spark of an idea–or a half-formed WIP-thing from NaNoWriMo sitting around–all the way to something complete, with strong bones, big muscles and sharp teeth.

If you’ve already written a 145,000 epic about elves with lightsabers riding spaceships, and want somebody to proof your masterpiece, I’m not your guy. I’m a different Guy, who’ll send you to one of the many great line editors and proofers out there. Those folks are golden and worth every digital dollar you send by PayPal via the interwebs.

Story editing (or developmental editing, just to add more syllables) is a different animal that works best when you get in at the very start, like an architect drawing blueprints long before the men and women in hard hats start hammering and sawing. Have you ever spent six months slaving away to write 6.52 gazillion words only to hold them over a trash can, knowing starting over on page 1 is easy than trying to perfect that hot mess? Then you know what I’m talking about.

Sentence by sentence, the words in flawed drafts are just as pretty. It’s always the structure that’s toughest to fix, like a building that falls apart when you nudge one brick.

demolition

Things in the works may keep me busy for next four years. May not do this again. Might do it next September. YOU NEVER KNOW. So I’d like to make this count and do it right.

Up for it? Get in touch via secret emails and we’ll chat.

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More posts for your amusement and possible education:

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This is Guy Bergstrom the writer, not the Guy Bergstrom in Stockholm or the guy in Minnesota who sells real estate or whatever. Separate guys. Kthxbai.

Guy Bergstrom. Photo by Suhyoon Cho.

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

3 Comments

Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday, Fiction, Red Pen of Doom, Romances; also, novels with Fabio covers, Thrillers and mysteries

Why WATCH ME by Silento is simple and viral

Now, music majors and people with taste around the world will sniff that this song is far too simple and boring. Give us something complex and interesting, a song that’s less repetitive and more complex.

I agree with that criticism. It’s a very simple song and not really meant to crank up on your stereo as you’re driving around.

As a dance song, though, it’s beautifully done.

Here’s why: Continue reading

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by | August 17, 2015 · 5:00 pm

Why this lost trailer for FANTASTIC FOUR in 1994 is better than the turkey now in theaters

Why is this cheap, terrible trailer from a movie that was never released 8,594 times more entertaining than a modern film, released in 2015 with a huge marketing campaign and enough CGI to turn your Toyota Camry into a silver Aston Martin with an ejection seat?

1) This trailer is so bad, it circles back to good

You’d watch this. I’d watch this.

It’s insanely bad enough to turn into a cult classic, the kind of thing where people dress up in horrible costumes and sing along to the bad dialogue.

This trailer alone could give birth to 29 different drinking games. Think of 120 full minutes of this on a big screen. We’re talking comedy gold.

 

2) The special effects are extra-special

Put a gun to my head and I would’ve said this movie was made in 1964.

Put another gun to the other side of my head and I’d say they borrowed the 2nd unit special effect apprentice for the Star Trek series. You know, Assistant Prop Master for Styrofoam Boulders and Green Lizard Alien Masks.

But no, this was made in 1994, when the art and science of special effects had already given us STAR WARS (in the ’70s!), ALIEN, TERMINATOR 2 (liquid metal! Come with me if you want to live!) and JURASSIC PARK (lifelike dinosaurs!). So yeah, you have to try hard to be this bad.

 

3) It jumps the shark, then dives into the ocean and rides that shark all the way to Loony Land

Everything you see violates seventeen different laws of screenwriting, dialogue, storytelling, cinematography and acting. This thing is amazing.

My favorites: (a) the CU of Dr. Doom’s gloved fingers doing the “I’m a diabolical villain” dance, (b) the Invisible Woman turning invisible right before minions smash into her, except she’s invisible, not a ghost, so they should’ve still smashed her and (c) the random man with a hat and eyepiece who thinks this movie is Shakespeare and recites the deep, deep dialogue in the grandest possible way.

I want that Shakespeare man in more movies, because every good villain needs a minion that, instead of shooting people, tries to make grand statements about profound things. Reminds me of the announcer character in MAD MAX: BEYOND THUNDERDOME who kept saying things like “Two men enter, one man leaves” and “Break a deal, face the wheel.” Beautiful. Somebody find the man in a hat.

 

4) This trailer leaves you wanting moar, moar MOAR

And that’s the whole point of a trailer, isn’t it? Teasing you. Making you want more.

Raise your hand if you’ve been in the local megaplex lately, or flipping through YouTube, only to see a trailer that seems to last for fifteen minutes and gives every twist of the plot away.

Yeah. Happens all the time. They gave away the big surprise in the trailer for the latest TERMINATOR movie, and when that didn’t satisfy their inner spoiler, they splashed that plot twist all over the poster for the movie. I believe the director of that film is in jail now for punching five different studio execs.

This trailer, now, is confusing. Can’t really predict the plot from it. In fact, I bet you’d couldn’t you’ll fully understand the plot of this classic without watching it three times with a yellow legal pad to take notes, then tracking down the screenwriter to find out the exact drugs he was taking in 1994.

It’s a brilliant piece of trash, wallowing in its pure trashiness, and to whatever studio has this unreleased movie, please release it. I guarantee more people will pay to watch it than the current FANTASTIC FOUR flop.

Note: No, I haven’t watched the new movie. Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent. After every living critic spat upon it, kicked it to death and set it on fire, I took that as a sign. You couldn’t pay me enough to watch it. Okay, that’s a lie. I think $985 might do the trick, and I’d go as low as $817 if there was dinner and drinks beforehand. But no lower than $817. Life is too short.

More posts for your amusement or education:

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This is Guy Bergstrom the writer, not the Guy Bergstrom in Stockholm or the guy in Minnesota who sells real estate or whatever. Separate guys. Kthxbai.

Guy Bergstrom. Photo by Suhyoon Cho.

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

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Filed under 3 Tinseltown Tuesday, The Big Screen

The simple story of a dog–and why it makes you cry

So there’s something stuck in your eye, right?

Let’s talk about why this works, as a story, and how it could be even better. Because I’m not adding value by simply sticking funny or heartwarming videos in your feed. We have to dissect them and learn a little. SCHOOL IS IN SESSION.

Why this works and how to make it better:

 

1) The mangled start doesn’t matter–yet fixing it would’ve made it even more viral

This video works even if you read the story on Huffingtonpost or wherever, and know all the story beats, before you watch the thing. That’s how good the story is.

HOWEVER: Starting out a video with text screens like this is almost always a mistake. Cramming all the text in the beginning slows it down and I bet a good percentage of people bail in those first few seconds instead of sticking with it, which is a mistake.

How to fix it: Start with video of the dog chained up. We don’t need any text to understand the problem, to get that setup. Then if you really have to, add a little voice narration. I’d kill the text screen entirely.

 

2) Our narrator takes risks and is a hero

The narrator keeps the focus entirely on Rusty the Dog, but he shows real heroism, taking time–and risks.

He spends time to get to know this dog, repeatedly risks getting bit and confronts the owner, saying he’s not leaving without the dog. That took guts.

And all the while, he knows his family can’t adopt the dog, that he’d have to find another home for it.

Everything the narrator does is unselfish, and while he doesn’t focus on it, or take credit, this makes the story better.

 

3) The biggest possible gaps 

Conflict and surprise comes from the biggest possible gaps between expectation and result.

  • You expect the chained up, aggressive dog to bite his hand.
  • You expect the owner to laugh at him when he says he’s not leaving without the dog.
  • You expect the narrator to adopt the dog himself, not search for a home.
  • And you expect the dog to be timid and afraid when finally free, not friendly and joyous.

This is a little story, a tiny snippet of life. But it made me feel more than most of the action movies that I’d happily paid money to watch and wouldn’t see again.

I’d see this again. I’d smile to see a follow-up, to find out how Rusty is doing.

And I’d want to shake the narrator’s hand for taking some risks, and doing the right thing, for an old dog most people would avoid and forget.

 

More posts for your amusement and possible education:

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This is Guy Bergstrom the writer, not the Guy Bergstrom in Stockholm or the guy in Minnesota who sells real estate or whatever. Separate guys. Kthxbai.

Guy Bergstrom. Photo by Suhyoon Cho.

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

6 Comments

by | August 8, 2015 · 11:50 am

The most epic and hilarious Crime Stoppers in history

Why is this so funny and perfect? Let’s take it apart and see why it sings.

1) The sheriff deputy is from central casting.

If there’s a factory where Hollywood makes police officers from small towns, Lt. Higgins is the man they use as the mold.

Even without the hat and the uniform, Higgins would look and sound like an officer of the law. It’s in his bones.

Also, his accent and the cadence of his speech is mesmerizing. I could not, and would not, improve it. And his name is perfect.

2) Telling details about the crime and the suspect.

Show somebody the surveillance video without any narration from Lt. Higgins and they’d be all, “Yeah, it’s some kid in a hoodie. Good luck figuring out who.”

Lt. Higgins doesn’t see grainy film and a kid in a hoodie.

He sees a six-foot-tall suspect in a camo hoodie, a man with a distinctive lanky gait.

If we gave Lt. Higgins more screen time, I bet he could dissect every frame of this surveillance tape. And we’d be educated while entertained.

3) Son, I’m gonna have a cheeseburger here, with fries and a coke

The beginning is good. The middle is interesting.

But the last two-thirds is the climax, and that’s what makes this little bit of YouTube footage into viral gold.

This is what slayed me: “Look at me son, I’m talking to you. The sheriff likes Stelly’s restaurant, and so do I. The food is good, and the folks are friendly. We’re gonna identify you, arrest you and put you in a small cell. After that, I’m gonna have a cheeseburger here, with fries and a coke, and leave a nice tip for the waitress. Meanwhile, your next meal will be served in a small door through a cell door.”

Then Lt. Higgins gets all CSI, talking about his detectives “harvesting DNA from the rock you used” and the perfect bootprint on the door.

The kicker: Lt. Higgins doesn’t need all that science evidence, because the suspect’s friends, they don’t like him much and will go for the reward money. Oh, that stings.

Verdict

Lt. Higgins should have his work duties changed so he records Crime Stopper videos all across America.

 

More posts for your amusement and possible education:

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This is Guy Bergstrom the writer, not the Guy Bergstrom in Stockholm or the guy in Minnesota who sells real estate or whatever. Separate guys. Kthxbai.

Guy Bergstrom. Photo by Suhyoon Cho.

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

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by | August 6, 2015 · 12:12 pm

This is where you stop

image

On the way up, a man and his family said, “You’re almost there. But don’t go on the ice. We slipped and it was nearly fatal.”

This would be why all the people on the ice field in this photo are roped up and wearing crampons. It’s the way to Camp Muir and the summit. You don’t walk out there in shorts and hiking boots.

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Snowy volcano of beauty and doom

image

Halfway up Mount Rainier.

7 Comments

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