“The Fugitive Method” of Screenplay Writing

I recently sat down with a writer-director friend of mine who had offered to look over my screenplay for “Clive“. He shared a great anecdote from the 1993 film “The Fugitive” that I thought I would, in turn, share with you.

Remember that scene in the tunnel where Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones first meet, just before Ford makes the jump over the waterfall? The original screenplay contained twelve pages of dialogue between the two actors. Ford explained about how he came home, found his wife dead, one-armed man, etc. Jones replied how Ford’s purported innocence was of little concern to him; his job was to bring Ford in.

The two veteran actors, not wanting to insult the audience with exposition that they already knew, decided to pare the twelve pages down to two simple, compact lines:

Ford: “I didn’t kill my wife.”

Jones: “I don’t care.”

And thus, an iconic scene is born. Proving once again that less can be more. And that’s why I dubbed it “The Fugitive Method.”

See you out there!

If you’re a writer, write. And if you’re a reader, keep reading. We need you!

Author Richard S. Todd
Author Richard S. Todd

Richard S. Todd is a novelist, screenplay writer, and Social Media guy. Plus a few other things that get lost in the clutter. Visit him online at www.richard-todd.com.

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Introducing…Stefan Ellery

Why do we write? Is it a simple desire to tell a story? Does it keep our burdened minds focused and centered? Or do the fictional worlds we create provide a sort of therapeutic release?

In this installment of “Introducing…”, we speak to author Stefan Ellery, who openly shares what compelled him to begin his writing career.

Author Stefan Ellery
Author Stefan Ellery

1)    You’ve written several short stories and a novelette but have recently released your first novel, A Burden of Choice. How did you find the experience of writing a full novel in comparison to shorter pieces?

Writing a full length novel I found was much harder for me. Short stories you keep all your content compressed. The time line can be as long as a novel, but you have to forgo certain details to keep your word limit. With a novel your trying to hit that magic mark of a minimum of 50k words and I found that difficult. I had to make sure that I could keep the story flowing without ending it too early. It would have been nice to have doubled my word count, but then the story would have become boring.

2)    Tell us about your new book and what inspired you to write it.

This is the fun part, my son and I would have conversations about writing, he took an interest because of my short stories so he wanted to write something of his own. He came up with a scene and kept talking about it. He was twelve at the time. I told him to write it down, but he insisted that I write the story. I wanted to encourage him to do write it himself, however he kept at me for two months until I broke down and wrote it. His scene involved some death and I toned it down.

3)    After leaving writing behind for several years, what drove you to “pick up the pen” again?

I had a stressful year at work and I needed an escape, so I started writing again. I started with children stories and then some short stories. It was not enough to keep my mind occupied and eventually I broke down and had to go on stress leave. I still kept on writing to keep some bad thoughts out of my head. Getting sick was a partial blessing. It afforded me the time to write and gain tools to deal with my stress and use the tools to concentrate more on goals. My goal was to get out of the poor state I was in and write a novel. I succeeded and now writing is a big part of my life.

"A Burden of Choice"
“A Burden of Choice”

4)    How do you find the traditional publishing experience as opposed to self-publishing?

Having a publisher makes things so much easier. My Novelette Unfiltered was self-published. I designed the cover, did the editing converted it to the kindle format. From that experience I learned that I am better off going with a publisher. I am a lousy editor and had many mistakes in the novelette. I had to republish it several times, when mistakes were pointed out to me. Having a publisher makes something’s much easier. They hire an editor who keeps you on track and teaches you things that you did not know. I’m not an English major and I was never taught about things like a hanging participle and info dumps in my scriptwriting courses.  Because my publisher is independent I still had to promote my book, though I think even with the big five their authors do a lot of self-promotion. Still my publisher has an audience and a venue to share the work of the authors they publish and this is helpful.  I admire authors who do self-publish and do all the work themselves, but I don’t think that is for me.  If I do self-publish anything again it will most likely be a children’s story.

5)    Do you have a preference on where and when you like to write? 

I generally write at home in the evening. Sometimes there are too many distractions so I will pick up my laptop or journal and sit in a coffee shop or the library.

6)    What has proven the most effective way to reach new readers, in your experience?

So far the best experience I’ve had is with Facebook, word of mouth and of course interviews like this one.  I have still yet to reach enough readers and keep on looking for other methods that will hit my intended audience.

7)    If a new writer asked for your advice, what would you tell them?

I’d tell them to keep writing every day, never give up and develop a thick skin.

8)    What is the biggest challenge Canadian authors face these days?

I think the hard part about being a Canadian author is that the publisher’s in Canada are looking for culturally tied works. If you write fantasy, paranormal, romance and other popular genres you will have a hard time getting in with a Canadian publisher.

9)    You also write children’s books. Can you tell us about them?

I have written at least fourteen, none have been published. I hope they  get published someday. I have written about girl who lives in a noisy part of Toronto. She could sleep through all the noise, but when going about to the cottage, she had a hard time falling asleep so she searches for noises that would help her sleep. Another story is of a boy who breaks something and uses his imagination to explain out it had been broken. My favorite is a series of stories about Kalle Rabbit and Pelle Fox. My grandfather used make up stories for my aunt and mother about the two animals. My mom asked if I could write about them. They did not remember much about the stories so it gave me freedom to do my own thing. Because the stories were told in Sweden, I made sure that any lore I added to it would fit with the country they were originally told in. I have Kalle and Pelle encountering trolls, Hill giants and Tomton’s.

10) On a personal note, what frightens you the most?

I worry that I may stop writing and all the good things that I have achieved from it will go away.

11) Where can readers learn more about yourself and your work? 

People can learn about my writing at www.stefanellery.com and on my author page on FacebookI am also on Twitter.

I’d like to thank Stefan again for telling us his story.

See you out there!

If you’re a writer, write. And if you’re a reader, keep reading. We need you!

Author Richard S. Todd
Author Richard S. Todd

Richard Todd is a novelist, screenplay writer, and Social Media guy. Plus a few other things that get lost in the clutter. Visit him online at www.richard-todd.com.

Introducing…John W. Patten

Hey all! As promised, here is the long-promised reboot of my “Introducing…” series, which focuses on putting new Canadian authors in the spotlight.

Fantasy novels are hot these days. Not only have they gotten young people reading again, they have allowed authors to explore those dark corners of their souls and share them with the world. John W. Patten is one such author, and he spoke to us about his debut novel, Darker Than.

John W. Patten
John W. Patten

1)     Congratulations on publishing your first book, Darker Than! What inspired you to write it? 

Thanks, Richard, and thank you for this opportunity! The inspiration for the story behind, Darker Than, came from my knowledge of myths and legends that go beyond werewolves and vampires. I had always been fascinated by the unknown and the supernatural, even as a kid, and it was a lot of fun bringing a few of those mythologies to life in a unique way with Darker Than.

2)     Did you have a specific audience in mind for your book?

I didn’t know who my readership would be until I finished the first rough draft and did a read through. After that, I knew I wanted Darker Than to be for a Young Adult audience. My style of writing, mixed with the type of story I wanted to tell, helped to point the way for me. It was a great experience in self-discovery.

3)     What, would you say, separates your novel from other titles in this genre?

Just as the title implies, Darker Than delves into characters darker and more mysterious than your average vampire and werewolf. And while you will find vampires and werewolves in my book, it’s established early on that they are working as a team, as opposed to being natural enemies. Other twists and turns I have written definitely warrant the reader to give the book a worthy look.

4)     How was the self-publishing experience?

Self-publishing was new to me. I did as much research as I could before diving in, and I still felt it required a leap of faith on my part. Happily, for what it was, the experience went well. So far, there have been little to no surprises with the self-publishing company I chose, and I have been genuinely impressed with their book-crafting abilities. It also helped that I was able to see the quality of their product beforehand, so I knew what to expect.

"Darker Than" by John W. Patten

5)     What kind of promotional activities have you been doing to spread the word?

Social Media has been very effective for me to broadcast my first published novel; from Facebook to Twitter, and several other websites in between. I have also just completed my first public book signing, which took place on July 21st, 2013, at my local Chapters store. They like to support local authors and they were fantastic to work with. They helped greatly with promoting Darker Than to their fans and followers. I’m hoping to do the same with other bookstores in the future.

6)     Who are your favourite authors? Why do you like them?

I tend to like an eclectic mix of authors; from Stephen King to Patrick deWitt, to Erin Morgenstern and Neil Gaiman. I also enjoy a wide variety of comics authors, as comic books were the reason I became a reader at a young age. The authors I like best are the ones who can pull me into their stories right away, and keep me guessing as to what will happen next. I feel this is a style I have adopted in my writing as a result.

7)     Describe your ideal writing environment.

My private office! I’ve only just in the past year been able to carve out an ideal space for myself to relax in and think, and the results to my writing have been fantastic. With my office, I’m able to surround myself with my personal library, my notes, and assorted memorabilia from my childhood, all which help to make me comfortable while writing. Strangely, I find I can also write in complete chaos, such as my workplace’s crowded lunchroom, which is always full of conversations.

8)     Do you have another life, career, hobbies, etc?

Well, in another life, I’d like to think I was someone like Batman…but then, who hasn’t? As I mentioned above, I still work full-time. I enjoy reading when I can, and collecting old toys when I shouldn’t. Spending time with friends is also a must, as I feel every writer needs some time away from their craft in order to recharge and gain fresh perspectives.

9)     What can we expect next from John Patten?

Currently, I’m working on Book Two of my Witch Key Trilogy, which I hope to release sometime late next year. I’m also in collaboration with a couple different websites to help launch awareness of local literature by providing some original content. Networking and marketing my first novel almost takes as much time writing my second, and it keeps me fairly busy.

10)   Where can readers get a copy of Darker Than?

Darker Than is available through many online book retailers, including Chapters Indigo. You can order it through their website or in store at their ordering kiosk. Visiting my website will take you to several links for ordering Darker Than, depending on your format preferences.

I’d like to thank John for speaking with us today, and for enriching Canadian culture by releasing his book.

See you out there!

If you’re a writer, write. And if you’re a reader, keep reading. We need you!

Author Richard S. Todd
Author Richard S. Todd

Richard Todd is a novelist, screenplay writer, and Social Media guy. Plus a few other things that get lost in the clutter. Visit him online at www.richard-todd.com.