Monday, April 12, 2021

Advice from Anthony Hopkins

I stumbled across an entertaining interview with Sir Anthony Hopkins from Fox News. He shared some fascinating facts about his life and also provided some great advice.
Sir Anthony Hopkins discussed his battle with alcoholism in a speech to students at the University of California on Wednesday.
Hopkins, 80, was a guest speaker at the LEAP conference and addressed a crowd of about 500 students, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The Academy Award-winning actor told the crowd he was not the easiest person to work with.
"Because that's what you do in theater, you drink. But I was very difficult to work with, as well, because I was usually hungover,” Hopkins admitted.

“The Silence of the Lambs” star said he was "disgusted, busted and not to be trusted" when he drank. However, the actor said his life turned around in 1975 after a conversation with a woman from Alcoholics Anonymous.
“Why don’t you just trust in God?” the woman asked Hopkins.
The “Westworld” star said he did not have the urge to drink after the conversation.
Hopkins also told the crowd why he got into acting because he “had nothing better to do” and was “not all that bright in school.”
"I believe that we are capable of so much," he told the crowd. "From my own life, I still cannot believe that my life is what it is because I should have died in Wales, drunk or something like that." 
"We can talk ourselves into death or we can talk ourselves into the best life we've ever lived. None of it was a mistake. It was all a destiny,” he continued.
As for his advice to students, Hopkins told them to not chase money and success.
"If you chase the money, it's not gonna work. And if you chase success, it's not gonna work," he said. "You just have to chase whatever you want to be, but live it as if it is happening now. Act as if you're already there, and it'll fall into place.”

Is any of this information about Anthony Hopkins new to you like it was to me? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Originally published 7/30/18


Monday, April 5, 2021

Save the Cat: A Great Resource for Any Writer!

Save the Cat is a great book for any writer! Even though the subtitle is The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need, it's a helpful tool for any writer!  Check out what writer editor Tim Stout says: 

The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet is the best plot structure template I’ve come across.
It breaks down the three-act structure into bite-size, manageable sections, each with a specific goal for your overall story. It’s a great resource! 

Below is an explanation of each beat:

THE BLAKE SNYDER BEAT SHEET (aka BS2)

Opening Image – A visual that represents the struggle & tone of the story. A snapshot of the main character’s problem, before the adventure begins.
Set-up – Expand on the “before” snapshot. Present the main character’s world as it is, and what is missing in their life.
Theme Stated (happens during the Set-up) – What your story is about; the message, the truth. Usually, it is spoken to the main character or in their presence, but they don’t understand the truth…not until they have some personal experience and context to support it.
Catalyst – The moment where life as it is changes. It is the telegram, the act of catching your loved-one cheating, allowing a monster onboard the ship, meeting the true love of your life, etc. The “before” world is no more, change is underway.
Debate – But change is scary and for a moment, or a brief number of moments, the main character doubts the journey they must take. Can I face this challenge? Do I have what it takes? Should I go at all? It is the last chance for the hero to chicken out.
Break Into Two (Choosing Act Two) – The main character makes a choice and the journey begins. We leave the “Thesis” world and enter the upside-down, opposite world of Act Two.
B Story – This is when there’s a discussion about the Theme – the nugget of truth. Usually, this discussion is between the main character and the love interest. So, the B Story is usually called the “love story”.
The Promise of the Premise – This is when Craig Thompson’s relationship with Raina blooms, when Indiana Jones tries to beat the Nazis to the Lost Ark, when the detective finds the most clues and dodges the most bullets. This is when the main character explores the new world and the audience is entertained by the premise they have been promised.
Midpoint – Dependent upon the story, this moment is when everything is “great” or everything is “awful”. The main character either gets everything they think they want (“great”) or doesn’t get what they think they want at all (“awful”). But not everything we think we want is what we actually need in the end.
Bad Guys Close In – Doubt, jealousy, fear, foes both physical and emotional regroup to defeat the main character’s goal, and the main character’s “great”/“awful” situation disintegrates.
All is Lost – The opposite moment from the Midpoint: “awful”/“great”. The moment that the main character realizes they’ve lost everything they gained, or everything they now have has no meaning. The initial goal now looks even more impossible than before. And here, something or someone dies. It can be physical or emotional, but the death of something old makes way for something new to be born.
Dark Night of the Soul – The main character hits bottom, and wallows in hopelessness. The Why hast thou forsaken me, Lord? moment. Mourning the loss of what has “died” – the dream, the goal, the mentor character, the love of your life, etc. But, you must fall completely before you can pick yourself back up and try again.
Break Into Three (Choosing Act Three) – Thanks to a fresh idea, new inspiration, or last-minute Thematic advice from the B Story (usually the love interest), the main character chooses to try again.
Finale – This time around, the main character incorporates the Theme – the nugget of truth that now makes sense to them – into their fight for the goal because they have experience from the A Story and context from the B Story. Act Three is about Synthesis!
Final Image – opposite of Opening Image, proving, visually, that a change has occurred within the character.
THE END

I used the Beat Sheet method in writing my last novel and it was a big help! Are you familiar with Save the Cat? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!  

Monday, March 29, 2021

From Novel to Screenplay


Gone With the Wind is  a movie that's just as phenomenal as the book it's  based on. But have you noticed that's not always the case when  a novel  is made into a motion picture?

When I first posted this article back in August of 2018, I had just started adapting one of my novels into a screenplay. That task is complete, and it was quite a learning experience! Now I understand why some movies fall flat when compared to the novels they're based on.  

Forget about introspection and long descriptions, plus subplots have to be dropped and minor characters combined or omitted in order to condense a three-hundred and fifty page novel into a one-hundred and twenty-five page screenplay. If you have ever considered turning a novel into a screenplay, here's a portion of an article from Scriptmag.com to help you start the adaptation process:



First, make a list of the following:

  • The world and setting of the story.
  • The 5–8 main characters of the story including the protagonist and antagonist, what their respective back stories are and why/how they come together.
  • What 5 things about your main protagonist/antagonist are the most important for an audience to know.
  • The major core conflict of the story and why/how this occurs.
  • The most visual and key scenes in the book that connect to how that conflict plays out.
  • Your 10–20 FAVORITE lines of dialogue that drive the plot, are vital to the story or character development and that really shine.
  • The major overarching theme of the book.
Margaret Mitchell with her novel
Be aware that you will probably have to cut many supporting characters, subplots that don’t connect to your main storyline, and almost all of the description. Instead of two pages of character description, you only get two lines. Often, two or three different characters in a novel will be combined into ONE character in a screenplay. And what happens on the first page of the book may not be how you need to open the film. Try to nail the same tone that the original material had—as that is part of what built its fan base and that tone needs to translate on film. But the real key to adapting a book to film or adapting someone’s true story—is FOCUS and knowing how and when to take poetic license.
If you are adapting a true story, it becomes even trickier, but you need to know that changing the timeline of the original story is OK. Your primary job isn’t to be loyal to a book or to another writer or even to the main character—it’s to be loyal to the core story and yourself. You can’t show a whole lifetime on screen (except maybe in Benjamin Button), so you need to choose the most important, interesting, conflict-filled, character-building part of the book or the person’s life—and focus on that to create a tight story.
Or alternatively, if you’re adapting a small personal story, you may need to expand it to fill the screen. All those Nicholas Sparks novels are incredibly small and usually depressing, but the screenplays introduce more conflict and raise the stakes. Though not based on a book, let’s examine Academy Award nominated The Fighter, which was based on a true story. The screenwriters looked at all the material they had—all the characters, all the true things that happened, the time range of the real story—and then wrote what worked. The Amy Adams character wasn’t even in Mickey’s life at the time he won those fights. Many characters were combined and the time period was totally fudged so that the story became more cinematic and engaging but it kept the essence of the characters involved, the story and the emotion of it all.
That’s exactly what your job is when adapting a book or person’s true life story. Much like in life, learning to adapt is often a difficult process but can be one of the keys to success. Keep writing!
For the complete article, click here.

Have you ever written a screenplay or considered writing one? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, March 22, 2021

The Black Count

I knew that Alexandre Dumas was of mixed race heritage, but only recently learned about his father, who is profiled in The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss.

It's always fun to see what inspires a writer, and here we learn who inspired one of the greatest.  Through historical sleuthing, Tom Reiss has uncovered the life a forgotten hero who was the inspiration for The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.

The real-life protagonist of The Black Count, is General Alex Dumas.  Though almost unknown today, his story is familiar, because his son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas, used it to create some of literature's best loved heroes.

Not only does this book tell of swashbuckling adventures, it reveals a secret: the real hero was the son of a black slave.  He rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our current time.

Born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Alex Dumas was briefly sold into bondage but made his way to Paris. There, he was schooled as a sword-fighting member of the French aristocracy. After enlisting as a private, he rose to command armies at the height of the Revolution.


A fascinating story! Are you familiar with The Black Count?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, March 15, 2021

The History of Private Investigators

I've always been fascinated by the world of private eyes, but I didn't know anything about the history of the profession. Take a look at this article from North American Investigations at pvteyes.com: 

It should come as no surprise that the history of private investigation is an intriguing and colorful tale that dates all the way back to ancient Sumerian and Egyptian civilizations.

The first mention of espionage is even recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible in the Book of Numbers, when God told Moses to send some men to spy on Canaan. These twelve spies were the leaders of their respective ancestral tribes and were sent ahead by Moses to explore Canaan during the Jews’ long trek from Egypt to the Promised Land.

The Birth of the Private Investigation Agency

As a craft, private investigation has existed for thousands of years, for as long as people have required it. The first known private detective agency, however, was founded in 1833 by a man named Eugène François Vidocq, a French soldier, privateer, and criminal. Le bureau des renseignments, or the Office of Intelligence as it was called, was staffed by men of similarly patchy backgrounds with law enforcement. Most of these men were ex-convicts and, as a result, official law enforcement attempted to shut the operation down several times,

In 1842, Vidocq was arrested on charges of unlawful imprisonment and for accepting money under false pretenses after solving an embezzlement case. He suspected a set-up but was still sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and a 3,000 franc fine. The Court of Appeals later released him.

Vidocq was the one who introduced record-keeping, criminology, and ballistics to the field of criminal investigation. He pioneered the practice of creating plaster casts of shoe prints and is also the inventor of indelible ink and unalterable bond paper.

To this day, some aspects of his method of anthropometrics – the study of the human body and its movement – is still in use by seasoned private investigators and the French police. He was also a known philanthropist who claimed to never have informed on anyone who had stolen due to a great need.

Evolution of Private Investigators

The private investigation industry came into existence as a response to a specific need: in the olden days, clients went to private investigators with the expectation that they would do work and act as the police in matters where traditional and official law enforcement were ill-equipped or simply unwilling to do.

They were mostly employed by wealthy owners who effectively utilized and deployed them to resolve labor disputes. Their primary function was to control workers and keep the peace, especially those who had been inspired by the French Revolution. They also did mercenary work, as well as acted as private security.
Private Eyes in the United States

Meanwhile, in the United States, a man named Allan Pinkerton was making a name for himself as a criminal detective. After informing on a band of counterfeiters to the local sheriff of his town, he was appointed in 1849 as the first police detective in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.

A year after that, he partnered with a Chicago lawyer named Edward Rucker and formed the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, a company that continues to exist today under the name Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations. It is believed that the term “private eye” originated from Pinkerton’s choice of business insignia: a wide open eye with the caption “We never sleep”.

During the Civil War, Pinkerton became the head of the Union Intelligence Service – the predecessor of the United States Secret Service – and managed to successfully foil an assassination plot targeting Abraham Lincoln. He and his men often took on undercover jobs posing as members of the Confederate army and sympathizers in order to acquire military intelligence.

Today, private investigators fulfill an important role in society. Their services have become invaluable in everything from assisting crime investigations to finding missing persons. With the continuing advancement of technology, private investigation services are continually evolving to serve the public much better ways than ever.

That's your trivia for the day! Did you learn something new? Thanks for visiting an d have a great week

Originally posted March 18, 2019