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communications Archives

Thursday
Jun 28, 2007

Re[6]: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0 posted by kza

Just a few quick responses while the baby’s waking up — more later.

If we define back as �back to life� you did. If we define back as �back to Earth�, which is what I was getting at, then I don�t think it�s there. But then, I don�t think Earth figured at all into your concept, so that�s splitting hairs.

Right right right. Gotcha. This is indeed the crux of the whole issue. If you need to go back to Earth for the revivication to work, then it ends on Earth. If you don’t, then it ends on the prison planet. We just need to decide which.

Silkwood

I’ve never seen Silkwood, so the allusion was completely lost on me. I mean, I know what it’s about, but not having an experience of it, it didn’t mean anything to me.

I’m still not sure what my two movie references are, but I’m leaning toward The Fugitive for one of them — that kind of energy and excitement and tension, but with that kind of cool smarts about the whole thing. Also, Speed didn’t make me think of “road trip” at all, and I think it’s kin to The Fugitive — keep it on the table. Also also, completely new pitch coming up. And finally, a critique of yours!

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Wednesday
Jun 27, 2007

Re[3]: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0 posted by kza

Waitaminnit. When you say the struggle is getting there, you actually mean that the ship is just there in orbit, and the trouble is getting into the facility, not what I said below — is that right?

(I’m not totally taken with that, but that’s 100X better than what I thought you meant.)

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Wednesday
Jun 27, 2007

Re[2]: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0 posted by kza

you have September Rose going to the Prison Planet to meet her husband. So, the struggle all takes place there.

Um, I always thought that was the whole idea. Remember when we were talking about it offline last year, and the idea of the power struggle between the three factions (September, Inmates, Warden)?

I picture her on Earth, and a large part of the struggle is getting there. And then getting back.

Are you saying the second act is mostly her journey there? If so, you’ll need to expand on that immensely. I don’t see that as a movie. No, that’s not true — it’s kind of a road movie, then. She goes X miles in space, meets someone or something. Goes another X miles, meets another someone or something. That may be a workable concept on its own, but I don’t see how it meshes with what we have of the Time to Die concept.

I say: okay, he can be brought back, but more importantly, can she get him? That�s the question we want to raise in people�s heads.

Honest to God, I thought I did this.

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Tuesday
Jun 26, 2007

Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0 posted by kza

Here’s my first try, and I’ve already failed, by the standards of the challenge: I’m pretty sure it’s too long, and there’s no blank meets blank statement. That’s what iterations are fer.

It also may seem strange, at first glance, that there’s no new information about the story. But again, that’s not what a pitch is. A pitch is an attempt to sell the idea of the story to someone who knows nothing about it. Or put it more bluntly, a pitch is an attempt to sell the sizzle, not the steak. It is not the place to tell the story — it’s simply the means to get your hook into someone so that they’ll want to read the story themselves (i.e., the screenplay).

Here’s my pitch:

What if death had a cure? What if there was a serum that you could inject into someone and, as long as they weren’t dead for more than an hour, they could come back to life, good as new? You could be with the one you love forever. September Rose has a love like that. He proposed to her on the moon, and they honeymooned aboard a personal starship, waking up each morning, literally amongst the stars.

But her husband has a job that keeps him away half the year: he works at a high-security prison on a desolate asteroid. Since no one can really die, the lifers here are more like forevers, and the stress of their existence is a simmering pot, always threatening to blow.

And then, the day September Rose arrives to pick her husband up, it does. And in the riot, he’s killed by one of the inmates. If his body is recovered, he can be revived… but the warden tells her: sorry, but I’m not sending in any more men, when the riot will burn itself out. My condolences.

Hell no. She escapes from the guards, arms herself, and ventures into the chaos of the rioting wing to get her husband’s body back and revive him within an hour. Little does she know that the body is being held by the man who killed him — the most dangerous murderer there. And he’s going to use the body as his ticket out of there.

Time to Die’s gonna be a tough one to pitch, I think, because I feel like so much real estate needs to be devoted to setting up the conflict that comes within the first ten minutes or so. To me, this feels even more like a tease than most pitches.

Then again, the pitchee — catcher? — doesn’t know that this is only the first ten or twenty minutes. But then again then again, it seems like a selling point that this is only the tip of the iceberg — that there’s more. How to get that across?

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Tuesday
Jun 26, 2007

Re [2]: Pitch by Example posted by kza

One thing he did well is make the reader / viewer complicit in the story. He says:

We�re gonna send him down to South America�

I think it could be a tricky strategy to do that, but it seems to have worked for him.

I don’t think that’s exactly what he’s doing here — it’s more like he’s speaking in the voice of Charlie’s church. It’s very difficult to translate into text — the use of quotations would make it more confusing — but I think it’s clear when you hear it.

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Monday
Jun 25, 2007

Re: Pitch by Example posted by Martin

I think that pitch is excellent. I think it totally carries through to reading, but I’m curious how his voice and energy made it better in person. And if Carrie Fisher didn’t snark at him, it must have been amazing.

One thing he did well is make the reader / viewer complicit in the story. He says:

We’re gonna send him down to South America…

I think it could be a tricky strategy to do that, but it seems to have worked for him.

As Shockah knows, I’ve been working on pitches lately, trying to hone the craft of them. I’ll have one for Time To Die up soon.

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Friday
Jun 22, 2007

Pitch by Example posted by kza

Here’s the pitch I was talking about in my last post. The pitch is by Andrew Hunt, and he was given the logline, “A priest meets the woman of his dreams before he is to be ordained.” I’m curious to see what you think, Burley. (I’m assuming that you haven’t seen the show.) Does it work only as text? Or does it need the excellent delivery to really make it sing? (As judge Carrie Fisher remarked aftewards, “You inspire confidence by being so confident.”)

Here it is, pretty much verbatim:

Charlie Potts has been raised through the Catholic Church in Boston, Massachusetts. This guy is gonna be the next big bishop — hell, this guy might be the first American Pope. We’re gonna send him down to South America, have him work at a missionary before we ordain him. But there’s this one girl, her name is Alex and she’s a pilot. She flies in and brings in cargo and supplies for this missionary. And what happens is Charlie and Alex start to develop this relationship. She’s wild, she’s crazy, she’s everything that he’s not. She’s teaching him things like how to dance for the first time, how to take shots of tequilia. And finally it’s getting to the point where he’s falling in love with this woman. All of a sudden it starts raining. Raining for one day, two days, three days, four days — boom! A levee breaks. A flood comes in and just rips through this village, Alex and Charlie are trying to grab all the different people and get them to higher ground. And as they’re doing it, they get separated. Next day, stops raining, everything is calm. On the roof, he sees Alex, she’s passed out, or she’s dead. He’s looking up, saying, “I have never asked you for anything, but I’m asking you for one thing right now.” And finally she coughs up water, she’s alive. We’re now in Boston, Massachusetts. A huge church. And we see Charlie standing there, about ready to get ordained. But then we pull back to see that it’s actually a wedding. We’re out.

Total time (assuming nothing was edited out in the broadcast; it looked “whole” to me): 1 minute, 13 seconds. Word count: 263.

I’ll provide some commentary on this pitch later. Right now, I’m more interested in what you (and the readers) have to say.

Anyway, I gots to get working on me own pitch…

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Thursday
Jun 21, 2007

RSS feed update posted by Martin

If you’re reading this via RSS, we’ve updated our feed to go through FeedBurner — please update your list to this address: http://feeds.feedburner.com/hellbox/UTIU

We thank you. We’re working on full-length feeds for those who would like to read them that way.

Other possible titles for this post: The Feed, the Feed, the Feed is on Fire. Or, Feed me, Daddy!

We’re making some other changes too. Have any you want? Fire ‘em off in the forums.

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Monday
Jun 18, 2007

Re[2]: Babies and Jobs posted by Martin

And I say, before we take another extended break, we have a first draft, however rough, completed. What say you, Burley?

I say yes. Good plan.

Last night we watched The Day of the Locust. Man, they would never make a movie like that today. Does anybody else wonder if the climax inspired Spike Lee and Do the Right Thing?

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Monday
Jun 18, 2007

RE: Babies and Jobs posted by kza

Hello everyone, and welcome back!

Yes, it’s true — I have a spawn. You can track her growth on a new blog I set up, The Laura M. Beeson of Western Civilization. (Oh, and while there is one picture of the Beard of Grand Proportion, I trimmed it down severely a few days ago — Mrs. Shockah demanded it.)

While time has become a serious constraint for both Burley and myself, we really can’t afford to remain motionless any longer. So, to that end, we’ll be putting up at least one post a day. And I say, before we take another extended break, we have a first draft, however rough, completed. What say you, Burley?

I’d say more, but the baby is waking up. Forward! One way or another!

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Sunday
Jun 17, 2007

Babies and Jobs posted by Martin

Hi there. I’m Burley Grymz. I have a day job.

That guy over there? That’s Shockah, and he and his wife made one of those really cute loud things that makes life worth living for. He also is growing a beard of grand proportion, that fits him very well.

That’s our excuse. Babies and Jobs. But the only thing worse than excuses is reading them. So, now the excuses stop. And this is a notice, for your attention, that Spitball! is officially open for business again. We’ve got a damn screenplay to write, and that’s just what we’re going to do.

So we hope you’ll join us as we get things revved up again. We may find the engine needs lube, but we’ll keep turning until it catches. We must make our babies proud, despite our jobs.

Forward!

(and Happy Father’s Day, Shockah! The first of very many…)

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Friday
Nov 03, 2006

Re[3]: National Novel Writing Month posted by kza

By my count, that�s 393 words you wrote about not writing 100 words.

Well, please note that none of those words had anything to do with plot, character, atmosphere, all that jive. If writing novels (or at least, what I consider to be a novel) was no different than, say, talking on the phone, I’d be set. I’d be Nicholson Baker.

That�s why a difficult deadline helps � there�s no time to pay heed to that voice.

Don�t let your fingers slow down to it. Just write. Even if it sucks and you know it, just write. Even if you don�t know where the characters are going, just write.

I really wish it worked like that for me. But it doesn’t. Especially in this case, where I’ve set up much harder goals for myself. Luckily, I think I have figured out what’s going to work for me, but even though I may finish the novel, I’m not sure I’ll finish NaNo.

Anyway, based on what you�ve posted so far, you�ve got nothing to complain about. I�m already hooked. I think it rocks.

Thanks. That’s appreciated.

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Friday
Nov 03, 2006

Re[2]: National Novel Writing Month posted by Martin

By my count, that’s 393 words you wrote about not writing 100 words.

In my view, NaNoWriMo is about learning to turn off the voice that is letting those doubts in. There will always be doubts, but critiquing a piece of writing before you write it (or critiquing your abilities to write before you write it) is cart-before-horse territory. That’s why a difficult deadline helps — there’s no time to pay heed to that voice.

Don’t let your fingers slow down to it. Just write. Even if it sucks and you know it, just write. Even if you don’t know where the characters are going, just write.

If you’re not sure what to write, follow the advice of my brother-in-law who told me to always find the bass-line in avant jazz when you don’t know what’s happening. Find the bass-line in your protag and start writing about that for awhile.

Too bad you’re not writing a post-modern meta novel. Your 393 words here could count towards your daily total.

Anyway, based on what you’ve posted so far, you’ve got nothing to complain about. I’m already hooked. I think it rocks.

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Thursday
Nov 02, 2006

Re: National Novel Writing Month posted by kza

Well, NaNoWriMo is a bitch this year. It’s only the second day, and I’m not going to make the 2000 word count — in fact, right now I’m just trying to put down enough words to bring my total to two standard days’ worth (3,334) and even though I’m only about a hundred words short, I’m not even sure I’m gonna make that.

Part of me is wondering if taking on Little Black Stray was such a good idea — part of the point of NaNoWriMo is to start a novel with absolutely no idea what it’s about or where it’s going to go, and clearly I’ve side-stepped that. I don’t know if I feel particularly weighted down by having some concepts worked-out (or at least pencilled-in) but this does create a kind of “fenced-in” mentality — here are the characters and concepts, and stray beyond them if you dare.

But still, that’s more a question of will and nerve than anything else. No, right now the big problem is realizing, once again, that I’m not a novelist. The canvas is just too big. It’s difficult to figure out just what I should be writing at any given moment — when you have the choice of describing what’s actually happening at that particular second in the story, or what happened five years ago, or what a character is thinking, or the shape and texture of a bed, or a million other different things… well, that’s too many choices for me.

If anything, I’m a dramatist, which is a completely different thing. I’m used to present tense and conflict. I’m used to imagining something happening now, something that I could witness right in front of me. I could use present tense in the novel, but it just feels wrong. And while conflict is the essence of drama, a novel can, for a good portion of its page count, get away without conflict altogether. In fact, I’d say that a lot of my favorite fiction is filled with pages of either mood or interesting information. Yes, I could go ahead and write the novel like I might write a screenplay or stageplay, but then I wonder, What would be the point? Isn’t the idea to write, you know, a novel?

Okay, ‘nuff ranting for now. I gotta try and get these last hundred words down.

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Thursday
Nov 02, 2006

National Novel Writing Month posted by Martin

Both Shockah and I are knee deep in our favorite November activity: NaNoWriMo. Shockah’s writing a novelization of Little Black Stray, and I’m doing a non-Spitball! story that is also a novelization of one of our script ideas, titled Third Eye.

To keep us honest, you can view our progress right here on Spitball! in this very post. Here is the current live word count for Shockah (NaNoWriMo user name kza):

Here are his in-depth stats.

And mine (NaNoWriMo username Mr. Lowry (Anybody? Get it? Too obvious?)):

And my in-depth stats.

We’re both shooting for 2000 words a day, a bit more than the needed 1700 or so, but I want to get ahead this time.

Anybody else doing NaNoWriMo this year? And refresh the page already, we may have updated our word count!

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Monday
Oct 30, 2006

re: Where Do We Go From Here posted by Martin

I too am happy with our final choice. It’s interesting how the option that I wasn’t the most passionate about is indeed the one I’m most excited about writing.

I like the idea of Points of Conflict, and I think we should incorporate that idea in our writing and outlining, but first I wonder if we shouldn’t do a brief one-page treatment each just to put some plot sketches on the table and see where we are.

At this point, I think it serves the story better to see it from the 10,000 foot elevation before we zoom down. Previously we’ve had character outlines that are not necessarily about the story itself. Let’s put some story on the table and see what happens.

Then, I would also like to have a discussion about mood and tone — what other movies feel the same? What’s the pace going to be like? I’m still all-for starting with a very violent opener where the husband gets snagged and killed. What say you?

Oh, and one last thing:

(apologies to the Alan Parsons Project, which I believe was some sort of hovercraft.)

Never apologize to the Alan Parsons Project. They should be apologizing to us.

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Friday
Oct 27, 2006

Where Do We Go From Here posted by kza

…now that all of the nominees have shrunk to one / and how do we spend our time, knowing we have to make something work?

(apologies to the Alan Parsons Project, which I believe was some sort of hovercraft.)

First, though, I want to mention how incredibly happy and relieved I was when we made our choice for the Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas. I only mention it because the feelings of happiness and relief took me by surprise — sure, I expected to feel some relief, but I also expected to feel a little bit of buyer’s remorse, the sense that “yeah, we picked a good story, but…” This did not come to pass. Instead, I felt an enormous weight disappear from my shoulders, a weight that I wasn’t even cognizant of, and there was a definite thrill, a giddiness, instead of the expected “whew, that’s over with.” After thinking about it, I realized that unexpected excitement came from the fact that we picked the right story.

But that was then, this is now. We have some decisions to make about how to proceed. What is the first stage of development of Time To Die going to look like? Do we begin to outline the story in more detail? More character work? World-work? When do we know we’ve done enough to actually start writing the script?

Of course, we’ll need all of the above — outlines, character sketches, world details — before and/or during the actual writing. But where to start? What kind of Needlessly Complicated Rules do we want to use to creatively constrict ourselves?

Here’s my thought: As Grymz (and possibly anyone else reading this blog) knows, I have a thing, almost a neurosis, about plot. “What actually happens?” is my usual cry. I’m concerned about it because I consider it, rightly or wrongly, my weakest point. Often, I try to work this problem out ahead of time by coming up with all the events in the story, from the beginning to the inciting incident (or whatever we’re calling it these days) to the rising action and all that all the way to the end. But as I’ve found out the hard way, a simple creation and recitation of Things That Happen In The Story simply doesn’t work. It reads flat. It’s missing something.

What’s missing is both character and conflict. Who is doing these things, why, and most importantly, what conflict caused these events come about?

As part of the process, I submit this idea: Points of Conflict.

A Point of Conflict is a sentence that describes how a character comes into (duh) conflict with one or more characters, or an inhuman obstacle (like a mountain or a storm). It doesn’t immediately resolve the conflict, although there can be a clear suggestion as to the outcome of the conflict. Points of Conflict are not scenes, however. The point of writing a scene is to answer the implied question of the PoC, and potentially set up the circumstances regarding the next PoC.

An example: “September Rose wants the Warden to release her husband’s body to her custody, but the Warden feels it’s too dangerous to try and get the body in the midst of the prison riot.”

Note that the PoC doesn’t immediately resolve the conflict, although there can be a clear suggestion as to its outcome. Nor are they scenes, per se — more like the seed of a scene. The point of writing a scene is to answer the implied question of the PoC, and potentially set up the circumstances regarding the next PoC.

The idea is to come up with as many of these as possible, put them in chronological/plot order, and have a kind of map of the story, expressed entirely through conflicts. This would not supplant a straight-ahead prose description of the story — that still seems necessary to me, at least to fill in blanks that might not be covered by a PoC list — and I see the list as continuously evolving; some PoCs would be discarded in favor of others. But it seems like a good way to capture potential good story ideas, especially ones that seem necessary or obvious but where it isn’t clear how they’d fit into the overall picture.

(Another example: While doing some preliminary work on my novelization of Little Black Stray, I came up with a character, a Ted Bundy-esque serial killer, the dark side of Griff, the protagonist. This character will take over as the eldest of the prisoners when Geezer leaves, and is one of the primary reasons that Griff wants to protect and hide Kamara. So how the fuck do I not include a scene where Kamara and this maniac are locked in a room together? I’m not sure at this point how to get there, but It’d be a betrayal of drama to avoid it.)

Anyway, while I don’t feel I’ve answered the question — Where do we go from here? — here’s a tool we could potentially use. What say you, Burley?

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Tuesday
Oct 24, 2006

Behind the Music...er, 'In A World': Time to Die posted by Martin

Wherein we investigate the history of our winning idea, a dark horse that kept the race slow and steady while others surged or faltered.

I’m honored to write this post, as I am currently the first official Spitball! Employee of the Month. I’d like to thank Shockah, my peers, and the readers who read what we write, which would be you right now, eh? I’m very much looking forward to my doughnut reward.

So, Time to Die: It made its nameless debut on January 21, 2006 as part of our synopsis inspired by random songs. The song that inspired this story is Charlotte Hatherly’s brilliant twisted pop masterpiece ‘Kim Wilde’, whose lyrics can be read to see if you can find the inspiration I somehow found in it. Mostly it was these lines:

I can feel my honey, oh yeah! Don’t fall under my wheels Run over, just like a juggernaut Oh yeah! send his body back to me

although there are others that led me to the story too. Here’s an iTunes link (full disclosure: we are an iTunes affiliate, but this link is not an affiliate link). I’m actually a little pleased with this story winning, because this song is one of my all time favorites. In a stroke of perfect pop irony, Charlotte Hatherley performed a duet of ‘Kids in America’ on Kim Wilde’s new album. We are, after all, kids in America.

Time to Die next appeared in a January 22 post, where it was titled and ranked (as Shockah mentioned, #10 for me). Shockah then voted (#6) for the story on January 23.

The initial playoff rounds were announced that same day, with Time to Die going up against a Shockah story called Reminiscence (#3 for me, #13 for Shockah).

Shockah delivered us a statistical analysis in which our winning story faired poorly, coming in at 12 out of 16.

We dug into the story first on February 12 with my pros and cons list in round six. Shockah offered up his on February 14.

We gave Reminiscence its fair due, at my insistence, in rounds 6.3 and 6.4, where both of us laid out potential plots for the story.

Shockah pushed a vote on February 18, voting (of course), for a story you all know now. I cemented its win later that same day.

Shockah named the Heat #2 stories, which were then ranked (mine and his) and Time to Die was pitted against Rasputin the Translator.

We picked up that round on April 11 with my character sketches. For Time to Die, I looked at Rose St. Germain, our protagonist. Shockah followed on April 24 with his character sketch of our antagonist, James Crowley Okkervil (bonus points for anybody guessing who Shockah was listening to at that time).

On April 24 I also posted to talk about a conversation Shockah and I had at a coffee shop about these ideas we had for Time to Die (and, I haven’t forgotten the essay yet, my friend). Shockah followed up with this post

On April 30th I had a crazy idea to enable both stories to move forward if they were so capable, and we discussed that idea at length.

Round 10 discussion on May 30, with the two stories once again pitted against each other. It continued, and continued and then we started to vote, and we both were in agreement that Rasputin and Time to Die should move forward.

Since the Summer and Fall have been slow around here, we decided to speed things up and just list our favorites in order, assign points based on order and then let the winner win. We had six semi-finalists, and after Shockah cast his votes, and I cast mine, pushing Time to Die into the winners circle.

Thanks for coming along on this whistle-stop tour. We hope Time to Die will make a fun story to watch progress on.

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Monday
Oct 23, 2006

Time To Eat Sugary Fried Dough posted by kza

You are the Spitball! Employee of the Month. I owe you donuts.

(Bonus trivia: the winning story idea was ranked #6 by me and #10 by you.)

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Monday
Oct 23, 2006

Burley Grymz votes with a rhyme posted by Martin

I read your post first, but I promised myself it wouldn’t make an impact on my voting. Am I right? You be the judge.

I asked myself which ones I really want to write. What I’m really excited about? Here’s my list: 6. The Atmospherist So yeah. My blog with Andre. This is where our rules and our head-butting encounter our patience. Guess which one won?

  1. La Commune Planet Good concept — it made it this far, after all — but we’re confused about it, I think, and the work toward creating it would be arduous, I think. I would rather have ardor.

  2. Rasputin the Translator I love this story. It’s a novel, not a screenplay.

  3. The Scabs I love this story. It’s a novel not a screenplay. I think I am going to attempt it as a novel.

Shit. Now I have a touch choice. I can tie us, or I can cast a vote that will put a clear winner in office and we will be on our way to writing. And writing this, I realize I know how I’m going to vote…

  1. Little Black Stray Sad to say, I love this story too fucking much to write it and release it into the public domain. I want to own it. Plus, I think Shockah will rock the motha in NaNoWriMo. Steve: do with it what you will, sir. I would like to read your version too. Which means:

  2. Time to Die Wins. This story is one I love and am interested in, but feel good about placing online for all to have. Out of all the ideas, though, the core of this one has never wavered, always been clear, and we’ve always agreed on it. I understand the motivation, it’s not overly tricky, and would make a solid action piece. I think we’ll be able to nail it, both the action side, and the character side. I’m thinking of Pitch Black in terms of pace and feel, but that’s a conversation we’ll start having now.

So, for the tally conscious, here’s the final points spread:

Atmospherist: 2 points La Commune Planet: 4 points Scabs: 7 points Rasputin: 7 points LBS: 10 points Time to Die: 12 points

Ladies and gentlemen — it’s only taken us 10 months. We have a winner. We will be writing Time To Die. Three cheers!

Comments (0) — Category: communications

Monday
Oct 23, 2006

Urban Shockah Votes With A Bullet posted by kza

I have a feeling this list would look different if I wrote it a day later, a day earlier, or even just at a different hour. An idea that sounds good in the morning looks uninspired in the evening, then looks fresh again the following day. So who knows what this list would look like a week from now? But as we have to check and see if the cat is dead or alive, the stories have to get slotted into an hierarchy. Here’s mine.

6. The Atmospherist. Basically, a joke entry. Potentially a good joke, or at least a fun joke, but I’m not feeling particularly funny today.

5. La Commune Planet. I like the idea of a cross-class comedy of unrequited love; I’m not sure this is the best place for it, ultimately. And right now, I’m wary of the challenges and hassles of “big concept SF” — a not very good name for the kinds of stories we’ve been coming up with, the really interesting world or concept (in this case, a Pleasure Planet that goes into revolt) that is waiting to be populated by characters, conflicts, and incidents. I’m looking for those kinds of things to be already there, up front and in my face.

4. The Scabs. And so The Scabs gets kind of a low rating as well, despite my fondness for the concept. As Grymz and I discussed offline, it’s a bit “thinky”, perhaps better suited for a novel — something that can accommodate all sorts of political and philosophical musings, while still telling a story. But a 120 page screenplay? Maybe, but I’m not ready for it yet.

3. Rasputin the Translator. I’ve surprised myself by ranking this one so high — IIRC, the last time we talked about it, we never came to terms as to what actually happens in this story. It’s still a pretty big blank slate. But we came up with some interesting characters (while keeping the Rasputin figure mysterious), and the basic situation is still intriguing. We’re still circling this one, and I smell gold at the middle — we just haven’t dug deep enough. (Mixd metaphorz rool)

2. Little Black Stray. Remember what I was saying about how capricious I could be about making this list? This was originally slotted at number one when I started this post, but I’ve had a change of heart. It’s still one of my all-time faves — in fact, I’m seriously considering using it as the base of my NaNoWriMo. I love the situation, the contrast between the hard machismo of the inmates and the soft, vulnerable woman, and the potential to flip those qualities. I really like my conception of the prison planet, and I like Grymz’s background for the woman, and the different plot twists that could come out of it. So why only #2? Well, I’m still having reservations about the prison planet itself — the “big concept SF” problem again — and how to incorporate that into the potentially explosive character relationships. And at any other time — like five minutes ago — it would’ve been #1 easily. But I feel like “up front and in my face” is the mood of the moment, and with that in mind…

1. Time to Die. One woman, one dead husband, one charismatic killer, one hard-assed warden, and one thousand rioting prisoners. See, the poster almost writes itself! I’m feeling this one is even more straight-forward than Little Black Stray — the goal of the protagonist is about as clearly defined as one would want — and isn’t as Big Concept as the others. (There’s a prison on a planet, and it’s the future so there’s lots of fancy gizmos, but there isn’t any real “paradigm shift” required on the part of the reader. If you know about prison movies, then you know about this story.) There’s still a lot to define here; there hasn’t been as much work done on it as Little Black Stray or even Rasputin for that matter. But with such a strong through-line (Woman wants to retrieve her husband’s dead body from rioting prisoners, and how do we make that hard for her each step of the way?), it seems like the ideal choice for this experiment.

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Monday
Oct 23, 2006

The semi-finalists posted by Martin

Herein lies the six stories that made it to the very end. My last post contained one mistake — I thought there were five stories. So, each story should be placed in order, and then assigned points based on their rank. #1 gets 6 points, #2 gets 5 points, and so on to #6 getting 1 point. Then we add them up and see where we are.

In any case, here are the six semi-finalists, listed in alphabetical order: The Atmospherist In a world where autistic youth believe they are not living on earth, one religion proves itself useless when the methane atmosphere changes into scientists. Also known as My Blog with Andre.

La Commune Planet In a world constructed for the pleasure of the ultra-rich, every vice can be had � for a price. But beneath the smiling exterior of the friendly staff, there lurks a growing resentment. When a group of ascetics destroy access to the planet�s hidden inter-dimensional gateway, the employees seize the chance to declare independence from the government and its backers. But as they take the profits and the pleasures for themselves, pressures and conflicting desires threaten to blow the planet to smithereens.

Little Black Stray In a World where violent male offenders are sent to labor camps on the remote prison planet, one crew of hardened men finds something impossible: a young woman in tattered clothes, mute and frightened. A small group protect and feed her, keeping her out of sight of the guards and away from those who would use her mercilessly. As she gains in strength it seems that she has an agenda — and the truth of what she was doing on a world where no women stepped before might be a big enough secret to shatter the whole planet of forced labor.

Rasputin the Translator In a World contacted by a sentient and potentially violent alien race, one man — bearded and wild eyed — is the only person on earth who can translate between the languages of humans and the language of the aliens. But this strange man is not only hostile to both sides of the debate, he is also untrustworthy, and possibly manipulating the negotiations to his own ends. With all of Earth being turned into a prison as the stakes, one government has a very limited time to not only unravel the mysteries of the alien language, but also the history of the interpreter.

The Scabs In a world designed by engineers to be a self-sufficient, endlessly exploitable resource for the rest of the known galaxy, robots toil tirelessly in the fields, the forests and the mountains, providing food and raw materials for a rapidly expanding market. But when a series of accidents destroys some of the mining robots, the rest of the metal workforce decide to strike and power off, leaving the humans that depend on the planet in the lurch. A taskforce is assembled to get the planet up and running again while a negotiator tries to get the robots back online. While the taskforce tries to relearn the long-forgotten principles of farming and manufacturing, the negotiator accidentally reveals the existence of the taskforce� and the robots, realizing that their existence could be usurped by the humans, decide to go on the offensive.

Time to Die In a World where death itself is beaten by genetic regeneration, a guard is killed during a riot on the prison planet. One woman — his wife — faces sure death to retrieve his body in time to bring him back to life. It’s a race against time, with one nearly resourceless woman willfully fighting like a juggernaut against the prisoners who are holding his body hostage, and the powers that be that think she should just give up. All to simply save the man she loves from eternal death.

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Sunday
Oct 22, 2006

Re: Two guys walk into a blog -- you'd think the second one would've ducked posted by Martin

Huh? What? Is this thing on?

Sorry folks — I was gorging myself in San Francisco last week, and I’m only now staring to move again, like a wet bug that needed to dry out before coming out of stasis.

Anyway, where were we?

What say you, Burley?

Right! I say that I vote for both as well, although really in my mind the two could be easily combined. Is that always my answer? Combine the stories?

Also, I have a challenge: since I want to dig in and start working on the actual screenplay we will be writing, I say we set aside needless complexity™ and we do a speed round to find our final pick. What say you to this?

I say we list the remaining stories in order of preference, and award them points based on their position on the list. So, the number one pick would have five points, the number two pick four points, and so on until the fifth pick with one point. Then we’ll add them together and see what the order is. If we agree on the outcome, then we’ll take the top story. What do you think?

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Monday
Oct 16, 2006

Two guys walk into a blog -- you'd think the second one would've ducked posted by kza

Hey everybody — voting time!

I, Urban Shockah, vote for both The Scabs and La Commune Planet. I’ll admit, I was a little sketchy about LCP coming into this — it was interesting, certainly, but it seemed like there were better ideas out there. But Grymz’s character sketch gave me a more concrete idea of what the story and the world was like, and I feel like my contribution helped me latch onto the concept more strongly. Don’t know about Grymz, but I like the idea of a cross-class unrequited romance on board a space station that’s quickly going to hell. I don’t necessarily think that this is what the screenplay’s about — it’s probably just one part of it — but it is, for me, the one tiny thing I can emotionally hold onto and will get me through the rest of the development process.

It’s interesting — for me, The Scabs was clearly a comedy, and LCP clearly wasn’t, but they seemed to have switched places. I’m still not entirely sold on The Scabs as a drama, although it’s coming more into focus. Again, the key for me was to find a human character with a conflict that wasn’t directly about the robot uprising (which, right now, for me, can only be Futurama-hilarious or Terminator-horrific) but about issues that orbited that: job dissatisfaction, dreams deferred, the character’s slow realization that he has more in common with the “cold” robots than the humans around him, despite his protests to the contrary. That’s all interesting to me, and that’s what I’ll be holding onto if and when this story is expanded upon.

What say you, Burley?

When I was born, the world was much different than what it is today. It was on the verge of collapse. There wasn’t enough for everyone. Famine killed millions. War killed millions more. Economies collapsed and even the mightiest giants were felled, a victim of their own excess and ignorance. It seemed like the end to my family, but I was a child, and the concept was foreign to me. I didn’t have any realization of death, really, despite the bodies we passed everyday on our journey towards our imagined safe destination. Death was an abstraction; the idea that I could’ve been one of those bodies never really sank in until I was much older, and it’s been difficult to dislodge ever since. Examining the historical record, it’s clear that my family’s survival was just as much luck as anything else; were we forced to travel for longer than we did, it’s likely I would’ve taken my place amongst the corpses.

But then the astronauts returned with word of a new planet, one that could provide what we had taken, used, wasted from our own. It was the promise of a new start, or perhaps more accurately, a blank slate that we could attempt to write a new story for our race upon. It would be decades before the world could lift itself out of the quicksand in order to take advantage of this new world — it was named “Miracle” by one of the astronauts, in a spontaneously display of awe, but quickly adopted by the sponsoring government as its official designation. But even though nothing could be done right away, just the appearance of this new planet was enough to get us through, it seemed. It brought us together, gave us something to focus on, work toward. Our world stabilized. Within fifteen years, the first colony landed on Miracle. I was eighteen years old when I saw the broadcast.

My parents were adamant about my career choice. Miracle opened up the need for new technologies and new people to administer those technologies. One of those technologies was in the field of robotics and artificial intelligences, and I enrolled, at my parents’ great expense, in school. I learned the language of robots and computers, how they were built, the things that ail them and the things that cure them. I was told, continuously throughout my four years, how much I intuitively understood the artificial mind. My career and future were secured, locked-in, like the graduation photo that sits on my mother’s nightstand, a frozen, uncertain smile on my face. If you didn’t know better, you’d think my photographic doppelg�nger could see the plastic frame that surrounded him.

The truth is that I dreamed about being a writer. I’ve kept a journal since I was ten, and found no satisfaction greater than putting pen to paper, creating and detailing the thoughts of imaginary people. Despite my successes at school, the notion that I understood the artificial mind was an insult. I didn’t really care about how the robots thought — how could anyone really care? The human mind was the one that was limitless, the one that proffered mysteries that beckoned to be solved. However complicated the AI may be, it’s still, at base, a series of gears and levers, a Rube Goldbergian simulacrum, as predictable as a light switch.

After I graduated, I was quickly swallowed up by the Miracle Development Project (Earthside), where I worked for several years, quickly moving up the ranks until I qualified for Miracleside and flown off to the planet itself. Despite the mythology built up around the planet — PR departments churning out poster after poster of Eden-like lushness — it’s really just a big mudflat, at least of what I’ve seen. The MDP have done their best over the years to make the place hospitable, but the priority is for the reaping the resources and sending them back — the staff is secondary, perhaps even tertiary behind the robots. Our quarters are cramped, the remnants of the original colony, haphazardly expanded as needed. (Everyone here can program in binary, but no one has the slightest architectural knowledge.) Privacy is difficult. I have plenty of “free” time, but the closeness of the quarters impinges on me, mentally and emotionally, and writing has been intermittent. Confinement creates two kinds of people: those who want to be left alone, and those who lose inhibitions and decorum like a snake loses its skin. The latter have only recently ceased propositioning me — they now know how I look down on them.

I’ve finished my letter of resignation, but it sits on my computer, waiting for me to release it. My parents would be quite angry if I quit; the pay is quite astronomical, and I’m guaranteeing the future of my children and grandchildren by staying on. But it’s become too much. I have enough to live on for several years, which should be plenty of time to find my success. I cannot let anymore time slip by. I must leave this place.

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Tuesday
Sep 19, 2006

Re: [6] Round 12, Part Two [La Commune Planet v. The Scabs] posted by Martin

In re-reading some of the posts in this thread, I don’t think I was being very clear about a few things, and I didn’t hear you strong enough when you asked me to define how this is a action-drama. I think it’s a good point that you raised, so I apologize for overlooking it, and I’m wondering if our balance over this is off kilter because of one word: action. In retrospect action was exactly the _wrong_ word for what I see in my head when I think of this movie. Drama? Yes. Action, no.

Where action = Bruce Willis, The scabs != action.

I’ve been wracking my brain today trying to come up with a movie or show that might give an idea of how I see it, but I’m drawing blanks so far. So, let’s say this: the mood is serious, and kind of dark. I see the events playing very straight: the robots shut down mysteriously. I imagine a scene of industry where the production line just stosp, and the effect is a little disconcerting, like a noisy factory that has worked noisily for many years just suddenly stopping.

The humans are so stuck in their concept that robots are only for their duty, that when they stop working, its almost as if they sun has stopped shining. The idea of robot sentience is so alien, it’s as if our toasters went on strike and we had to rediscover fire. As if our cars suddenly said “uh, sorry. Our wheels are tired _[err, no pun intended]_ and we’re not going to run anymore” and we had to rediscover walking.

In that, I think there is plenty of comedy, but I’m just not seeing it as character based, but instead faced with the absurdity of the situation.

So, that’s a bit more of a peek into what I’m thinking. I’ll try to elaborate on it more later, but does that help at all?

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Tuesday
Sep 19, 2006

Re: [5] Round 12, Part Two [La Commune Planet v. The Scabs] posted by Martin

I don’t think I can really add much to my vision of The Scabs at this point than I already have.

I would very much be interested in reading your character sketches from this POV. Maybe even skip La Commune Planet (my interest in which has waned), and give me a human and a robot? Or maybe a plot outline (if it differs from the one I suggested). I need to see the story from the inside. Since it seems that you liked my plot sketch, then the thing that differs is how we’re seeing the characters placed in that world. Leaving Arrested Development aside for now, give me your pitch.

I’d still like to hear how you see this as an action-drama.

I’d be happy to offer more information, but please give me some thoughts on how what I’ve already provided is lacking, so that I have something to address.

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Tuesday
Sep 19, 2006

Re: [4] Round 12, Part Two [La Commune Planet v. The Scabs] posted by kza

I don’t think I can really add much to my vision of The Scabs at this point than I already have. Again, I see it as a comedy, in an “Arrested Develpment” vein: fast, smart, layered, with characters that are kinda wacky, kinda venal, but still sympathetic. I see the humor arising out of the humans to attempt to learn stuff they had foolishly forgotten, thinking they had no more use for it, and from dealing with robots that use to be slaves, more or less, and are developing sentience and will. The humans in the story are ripe for a come-uppance, which the robots provide. I also suggested various “AD” characters as templates for potential screenplay characters.

I’d still like to hear how you see this as an action-drama.

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Monday
Sep 18, 2006

Re: [3] Round 12, Part Two [La Commune Planet v. The Scabs] posted by Martin

See, I’m a little worried about this one, because if we can’t agree on the tone, trying to come to terms on plot and character seems pointless.

I guess that would depend on your definition of pointless. Maybe the step forward is to define better our visions for it and see if they are, indeed, incompatible. Give me a taste of the comedy as you see it in a character sketch or overview and let’s go from there. You say Arrested Development, but that doesn’t actually give me a very good idea of your vision. I still stand by my original sketch, but I don’t want to be presumptuous in making arguments that don’t address actual issues on the table.

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Monday
Sep 18, 2006

Re: [2] Round 12, Part Two [La Commune Planet v. The Scabs] posted by kza

But despite the fact that I played with the humor a bit in The Scabs, I disagree with Shockah when he says it should be a comedy. I actually think this is an action drama, albeit with comedic elements.

See, I’m a little worried about this one, because if we can’t agree on the tone, trying to come to terms on plot and character seems pointless. Can you explain further how you see this as an action drama? From my POV, we’ve already established that one of the basic elements or themes is “communication”, and I get communication (the lack of it, misunderstandings, purposefully ignoring it, etc.) as the basis for comedy, but not for action. And what kind of action? What do we mean when we say “action”? I don’t see this as a story with derring-do, car chases, or gunfights, so you need to help me out a bit.

I don’t remember if I’ve said this before so explicity, but I see this as a full-length futuristic “Arrested Development” episode — Michael Bluth as the human negotiator, Gob and Buster trying to figure out how to farm, George Michael as the robot negotiator, that kind of thing.

(Not literally as an “AD” episode, just to be clear, just trying to describe the tone.)

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Tuesday
Sep 05, 2006

Re [2]: These two guys walk into a blog posted by Martin

We have a winner! According to the needlessly complex™ rules of Spitball! Little Black Stray moves ahead, and Terminal Connection is placed on the nobody-loses-in-our-world-but-you-didn’t-win-either pile.

Next up, a knock-down match. The last until we run into our final heats and whittle our ungodly huge list of ideas down to the eventual winner. It’s coming soon, folks, and then you know what happens?

We have to write the damn thing. Uh oh. Better make this next one last:

La Commune Planet v. The Scabs. Coming soon to a Spitball! near you. Like this one.

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Tuesday
Sep 05, 2006

Re: These two guys walk into a blog posted by kza

Dammit, Grymz, I told you to unplug the blog while we were on vacation! Geez….

So. Voting. Yeah.

I, Urban Shockah, vote only for Little Black Stray; while Terminal Connection is intriguing, I’m not feeling it enough to push it forward in the Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas. However, I am mucho interested in returning to it at a later date. (Or potentially cannibalizing it for other stories.)

Next up: Burley Grymz will introduce us to the final two competitors in this heat: La Commune Planet and The Scabs. It an SF class-issues smorgasbord! Be there or be crushed under the treads of history.

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Tuesday
Sep 05, 2006

These two guys walk into a blog posted by Martin

What? Is this thing on?

Is summer over yet?

When we last left you, (yes you!) intrepid reader, Shockah and I had laid out our bios for our concepts of Terminal Connection and Little Black Stray. Shockah’s can be found here and here, and mine here and here.

We both explained a bit about the choices we made and why we made them, which leaves us only with a vote. Here’s mine:

I, Burley Grymz, vote to move both stories forward at this time. There. We’ll let our future selves sort it all out.

Shockah? What say you?

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Wednesday
May 31, 2006

The State of the Blog: May 2006 posted by Martin

Human secularists, satanic majesties, crimson overlords and clarified-butter dharma dolls, welcome to the State of the Blog for May 2006. May was a month of 21 posts, an average of .67 posts per day, which is a sequential kind of number. A memory of the Summer of Love, in that number. A memory of a to-do list overflowing with actionable items.

The month began with the tail end of the Radical Idea approach to stopping an argument. In good form, we made some rules, and then discussed them for quite awhile to make sure they reached the patented Spitball! gold standard of needless complexity.

Once that was done, we finished up our Round 10 discussions about which stories to move forward, and then moved on to Round 11—which started by defining the �in a world� scenario that we never did define for Terminal Connection when we created it as a frankenstein story idea.

Starting this month, character bios for Round 11—which, according to our new rules will not be an either-or proposition, but instead a situation where both could potentially move forward.

I don’t know about you, gentle reader, but when I think of how close we are getting to actually starting the writing, I get a little excited, in culturally acceptable ways. Won’t you join me and let’s be excited together in culturally acceptable ways?

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Friday
May 12, 2006

Weekly Wrap-Up (5/6/06 - 5/12/06) posted by kza

So one thing and only one thing has crossed the lips of the Spitball! boys this week. Listen, and listen carefully, and you too might hear it. There it is! Can you hear it? Across the wind and through the trees, it falls upon your ears like the whispers of a long-forgotten lover. It says…

Terminal Connection.Terminal ConnectionTerminal Connection

Meaning: What the hell is this story, anyway? As Burley recounts, this was the first story that was formed out of the consolidation of two competing stories, and as such, never got a proper write-up. It was determined that, before Round Eleven began, it might be a good idea to determine just what Terminal Connection is before starting the bios. Then Burley provided a write-up, and Shockah found it just dandy. And unless Burley wants to expand on the idea further, Shockah will start with the bios… on Monday, that is.

Also this week: Shockah put up the link for the hilariously accurate Do It Yourself Giallo Generator, and Burley highlighted the fascinating (and to Shockah, somewhat unnerving) found (vintage) photo site Big Happy Fun House. Spitball! Sez: Check ‘em out.

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Friday
May 05, 2006

Weekly Wrap-Up (4/28/06 - 5/5/06) posted by kza

Hey there, loyal Spitball! readers. The Weekly Wrap-Up is back, after missing a few weeks. Don’t worry, you didn’t miss anything, unless you wanted to hear Shockah complain about people complaining and Burley complaining about his own complaining. Oh, Burley already made that joke. Nothing to see here, folks, move on.

The week began with an interesting question from Burley: Why aren’t there any big-budget epic movies about American Indian mythology? If the Chinese can mine their own history and mythology for kick-ass movies, why not one based on Northwest Native American folklore? (Shockah’s one word answer as to why we won’t be seeing one anytime soon starts with “r” and ends with “m”, but that’s the kind of answer one expects from Shockah.) Still, sounds pretty cool, and maybe one day someone will get it done.

Then Shockah finally posted his second bio, President Jones Alan Porter, for the idea Rasputin the Translator. It was… different, to say the least.

But then the Spitball! boys… excuse me while I get into my Dukes of Hazzard narrator outfit… but the the Spitball! boys found themselves in one dilly of a pickle. Seems like they both fell in love with the two stories, wouldn’t you know it, and couldn’t bring themselves to do the right and honorable thing and show one the door. So Burley Duke proposed a new way of goin’ about things: both stories in a round can move onto the final round, and a winner would be determined through the magic of Needlessly Complex rules. Now Shockah Duke, he aint the brightest bulb in the bottom drawer, so he had to have the new rules explained to him. Twice. But he finally got it figured out, and so it was then agreed that these new rules would be in effect for the rest of the heat. Until Boss Hogg got wind of the new plan…

Anyway, after a little bit of discussion, both Rasputin the Translator and Time to Die were voted through to the final round. Hooray! Only two more rounds until the moment America has been waiting for: the winner of the First Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas. Who will it be? Rasputin? Little Black Stray? The Scabs? Stay tuned as the competition is only going to get hotter!

Shockah out.

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Monday
May 01, 2006

The State of the Blog: April posted by Martin

Friends, paper monsters, chicken-sqwaking parakeets, and CIA agents who were working undercover in Iran on nuclear proliferation before being outed by the (as of this date) still unfired presidential monkey boy, welcome to the state of the blog looking back on April, 2006.

April is a special month. The showers bring flowers, the rain falls on plains (at least in Maine, so they proclaim), but here the great sickness of 2006 was just ending. I, a stalwart and upright fellow—sound of body and mind—not, pray tell, athletic per chance, but nor feeble or prone to sudden illness—I fell under the spell of one wicked and hideous influenza, passed to me by a globe-trotting photographer who is a good man, so shant be named here. On that first day of April where minds turn to fools, I turned mine to the simple task of walking (slowly!) four blocks for a taco. No metaphor lives here—a real, fresh taco, bathed in Blue Water and Chipotle salsa. I made it, this walk, with the accompaniment of my inspiring and faithful companion. It was she that bought me the taco, for indeed—and here’s where you’ll lend me your sympathies a mite—it was indeed the celebration of the day of my birth.

But let’s not dawdle on me—because this experience of Spitball! is about us. Our Google ranking fell, and then rebounded and we’re back on the first page—the only reference on that page not about baseball. If you feel that this Spitball! is more important then, say “Spitball: the Literary Baseball Magazine,” (which appears to be an Angelfire.com site), then please do link to us and help us increase our standing with the processes and bits of binary that we loving call Google. Which reminds me—big shout out to brother-in-law Ron for his new job, at the very same company.

And, I only bring up my illness and birthday because it is the bookmark at the beginning of this shelf of thirty upright days, and let us know run our fingers over the spines of the others and see what we can find.

There were 28 posts in April. We started finishing our decrepit and argumentative Round 9. Oh, Round 9! You bite and thrash when you should lay and drown. It was suggested that we kill both ideas that were bogging us down, but then it was agreed that we would move a proxy forward in place of a winner. We began Round 10 renewed, and energized by some very solid ideas, and both were tremendously inspired to write our character bios. Shockah, in particular, deserves recognition for his truly marvelous, bio-genre smashing sketch of our future fictional president, John Alan Porter.

The last week of April we broke away a bit, and complained about things, and even complained about complaining about things. We felt it dutiful to mention Jim Emerson, whom we both enjoy reading spectacularly.

We discussed, at great length, more needlessly complex® rules, which we love above all else. And now, we forge forward into May—expecting the flowers so promised to use in rhyme.

In the meantime, you might gander at Apple’s hilarious new ads. How is it that a company that size can keep the ads completely secret and launch them worldwide on national TV and on the internet at the same time? And, more importantly, did they use the genius Errol Morris again?

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Tuesday
Apr 25, 2006

More Meta Commentary posted by kza

Shockah? Did I forget something?

Don’t think so. I told you about the crazy opening scene of Sam Fuller’s The Naked Kiss and how I saw that in connection with the potential opening of Time to Die, with the brutal violence that starts without any context, but other than that, I think that was it.

One thing we did talk about that you didn’t mention (probably because I haven’t written my bio for it yet) is the stuff we discussed about Rasputin the Translator. Way back when, I mentioned how I didn’t want the Rasputin character to be an out-and-out Bad Guy, in the same way that I don’t want either Okkervil or the warden to be Bad Guys. But now that we’ve started on characters, we’ve hit upon an odd and interesting way of defining Rasputin: by who he isn’t. He’s not Jake, he’s not Jones, he’s not Cemile, he’s not any of the other characters. He’s defined by the negative space created by these characters. I even proposed that we not know (and thus, not define) anything about Rasputin except for what he wants, the major definition of a character in a mainstream screenplay. And because of this idea, I came around 180 on my position: I think it’s okay, perhaps even mandatory, that Rasputin be a capital “B” Bad Guy.

(Oh, and you had an idea where each character sees Rasputin differently, and thus his personality and even looks seem to change depend on who he’s talking to, which is a cool crazy-ass idea. Assuming I presented it correctly.)

This is interesting commenting on a different character and thinking about how they might dovetail with the character I did the bio for in the movie—this feels so much smoother than working on the same character and having to deal with the things that don’t fit in with your vision of the character. We’ll play it by ear, but I might just pick other characters than you do in the next round.

Good idea — I say we continue with this mode until we come to a situation where it doesn’t seem to work. It’s interesting: part of me says that we’re bound to come to a story where we severely disagree about the presentation of a character… but part of me says that the disagreement will be more about the kind of a story that character represents (like what happened in Round Nine) and not about the character per se. But, you know, keep writin’ them like you did for Round Ten and that’ll never happen.

So, what’s Round Eleven again?

(checks)

Little Black Stray v. Terminal Connection

Oh fuck me.

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Friday
Apr 14, 2006

Weekly Wrap-Up (4/7/06 - 4/14/06) posted by kza

Another pretty slow week at Spitball!, with only three posts, but that’s soon to change when the Great Spitball! Media Blitz awakens like the slumbering leviathan it is and begins its inexorable conquest of realities both physical and virtual. But until that moment, when all bow down before the might of Spitball! or else be crushed like bloated, overripe fruit, how about some links?

The week began with the tail-end post of the Tragic Round Nine Debacle, which ended with the two story ideas, The Atheist and Atmosphere, being combined into one idea — The Atmospherist — despite their incompatibility. Burley’s idea of how such a monstrosity might be summarized deserves to be quoted in full:

In a world where autistic youth believe they are not living on earth, one religion proves itself useless when the methane atmosphere changes into scientists. Also known as My Blog with Andre.

It was agreed that, despite the absurdity of the concept (or maybe because of it), The Atmospherist will be treated as a legitimate contender in the Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas. Heat #3 will be… odd, to say the least.

Then Burley gave us the rundown on March’s blogging. Short version: we wrote stuff.

Finally, Burley (it’s been all Burley this week) threw us the opening pitch of Round Ten, Rasputin the Translator v. Time To Die. It was so good that Shockah, off-blog, asked Burley if he could write some supporting material for the two character bios instead of creating whole new ones. He said yes. Look for Shockah’s post sometime on Monday, if not earlier.

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Saturday
Apr 08, 2006

State of the Blog: March posted by Martin

Citizens of the world, websurfing aliens, and sentient underwater overlords—welcome to the State of the Blog address for the month of March, 2006. We (we being I, as Shockah had nothing to do with it) apologize for the delay in posting this overview—it is my responsibility, and I fell behind. I accept any disappointment you feel in me, and will try to please you more next month.

We were happy to see a few more people popping up in the forums in this month, and we encourage all people reading this to go and comment on anything you would like, including comments like ‘You guys are really boring me,’ and ‘I thought screenwriting was supposed to be filled with buxom babes, perilous parties and more excitement than any reasonable person should be exposed to.’ Of course, we may be holding out on you and when you sign into the forums you will find those parties. That’s all I have to say about that.

Our Google ranking has remained about the same this month. We’re still a first page result for searching “Spitball”. We posted around about 74 posts in March, wrapping up the first heat of our battle in Seattle over screenplay ideas. Shockah continued his fine study into the Sequence method, to which I added nothing of value other than occasional quips. Shockah gets the gold metal for actual work this month.

We both became weighed down in minutia in round 9, which seems to be a bit dispiriting to us both, but I predict will be a minor hiccup in the road. From my point of view, when we get into the nitty gritty about something, it’s usually about something else—in this case, I think it’s about the weakness of the two ideas presented.

The last week of March saw a dramatic slowdown—first from my need to focus on work, and then from the flu which struck me down in practically biblical ways. Speaking of which, how about that Gospel of Judas? I’ll bet you gnostics are just psyched.

In any case, I predict April will be much busier as things pick up. We’re about to start round 10, and it contains two very strong ideas that we both have strong opinions about. Get ready for a smackdown.

Thank you for tuning in to Spitball!, the world’s only screenplay being written by blog. Memberships are still available for free. Hurry and sign up, before they are all gone.

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Saturday
Apr 01, 2006

91 Word Update posted by kza

Sorry ‘bout the lack of updates, folks — Shockah’s been busy with RL stuff, and Burley… poor Burley’s got the ‘flu. And not that boogie woogie ‘flu you might have heard about, but the other kind. So take a few moments to wish Tha Grymz a speedy recovery.

And while you’re at it… Burley’s one year older today. You know what that means folks — it’s paddle time! Give his buns a thwacking on the forum — he’ll thank you later. Or kill me. One or t’other.

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Sunday
Mar 26, 2006

Weekly Wrap-Up + 2! (3/18/06 - 3/26/06) posted by kza

Kinda like the Funky Four + One More… only, y’know, not.

So this week’s been full of discussion, if very little forward momentum. Sometimes that happens, y’all.

The big thing this week has been Round Nine, The Atheist v. Atmosphere. By Shockah’s estimate, this round probably would’ve been over by now, but Shockah and Burley got sidetracked by whether or not an autistic character is appropriate for the Atmosphere story, and other meta-discussions relating to such, even though it’s highly likely that we won’t be writing any autistic characters in whatever wins the Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas. Also, Shockah owes a story sketch of The Atheist, one that takes place on our modern-day Earth and not on an alien planet, and he swears he’ll have it done soon, but really, nothing’s gonna move forward until he does.

Then, there was some rules discussion about how to gracefully exit a Round for the time being if it looks like it aint going anywhere anytime soon, known by the more elegant name tabling. Unfortunately, that discussion also ground to a halt, which was so ironic that all the anemics in a fifty mile radius were instantly cured.

Also, Burley is getting ready to do a sequence method analysis of Blue Fuckin’ Velvet. He had a few questions, that Shockah, as designated expert (snort), answered the best he could. We’re all quite excited to see what Burley comes up with.

Finally, both Shockah and Burley posted their philosophies behind creating character sketches for the story ideas. Why? Because it’s fun. Burley, by simply explaining why he likes to name characters, has pretty much volunteered himself to name every character, as far as I’m concerned. (I hate doing it, y’see.) (Another aside: He credits me with “Valerie Plum”, but I’m pretty sure that’s his, too. He has enough names for both of us.)

Odds for next week:

Finishing Round Nine: 2-1
Figuring out rules for tabling: 4-1
Getting hung up on minutiae of space travel: Even
Someone suggests that the “Rasputin” character be autistic: 900-1

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Thursday
Mar 23, 2006

Re[3]: Motion: Rules Addendum posted by Martin

Sorry if I was unclear. Here’s what I think:

1. Anybody who wants to table a battle at anytime for any reason need only say that this is their desire and the battle is tabled.
2. The other person has the right to lodge an official approval or complaint about the lodging, but this has no bearing on the fact that the battle is tabled. It’s only for self-satisfaction and to allow a voice to the other party. There should never be any punishment for tabling a battle.

As for calling a vote, I think that a member can always call a vote at any stage if they really wanted to, and this could be an interesting thing here, but what if the tabling party refuses the vote?

The timing of this is all very funny in lieu of the fact that Christine and I went to go see the Seattle Rep’s performance of Private Lives last night, and the main couple forms a pack early on that every time they start fighting and bickering one of them calls “Solomon Isaacs!” and they have to stop talking completely for two minutes to cool down.

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Thursday
Mar 23, 2006

Re[2]: Motion: Rules Addendum posted by kza

REJECTED on technicality. I don’t like the idea of placing an arbitrary number of posts to tabling, I’d rather it be in human hands. What if we get up to 20 on a post, but are really digging the exchange?

Excellent point, and one I should’ve realized. Although I’m 100% sure that a twenty post battle is just going ‘round and ‘round, there’s always the chance that it isn’t, and we should protect that possibility.

The other member can respond that the tabling exists with their approval or veto, but either way the tabling will continue.

I am confused here, however. If I table a battle, it’s automatically tabled? And you can say you agree or disagree, but it gets tabled anyway? I think a battle should only be tabled with the agreement of both parties — or is that what you’re saying?

I’m also playing with the idea that if someone moves to table a battle, the other person may call for an immediate vote on the battle, but I’m not sure what I think about that yet.

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Thursday
Mar 23, 2006

Re: Motion: Rules Addendum posted by Martin

REJECTED on technicality. I don’t like the idea of placing an arbitrary number of posts to tabling, I’d rather it be in human hands. What if we get up to 20 on a post, but are really digging the exchange?

So, I propose the following:

Any member, for any reason without explanation at any time may table a round, which is then automatically added to the end of the queue. If the heat is at the end and the discussion is the lone holdout, then the discussion must continue until the issues are resolved.

The other member can respond that the tabling exists with their approval or veto, but either way the tabling will continue.

What say you?

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Thursday
Mar 23, 2006

Motion: Rules Addendum posted by kza

I move that when a Round lasts ten posts, five on each side, that said Round is immediately tabled, to be resumed after the next Rounds in the current Heat are dealt with.

What say you?

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Friday
Mar 17, 2006

Weekly Wrap-Up (3/11/06 - 3/17/06) posted by kza

Lots of activity this week!

First, Shockah posted the second half of his Jaws analysis. (Part One is here.)

Then, after the constipation of being unable to come up with a story for Rachel, My Dear, Shockah was forced to forfeit, the first (and hopefully last) such instance in the short history of the Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas. This meant that Burley could either pick his favorite (Rachel) to automatically move ahead, or he could pick Shockah’s (Methane Madness) and take a “trump card”, meaning he can force Shockah to write a 1000 word essay on a topic of Burley’s choice at any time. Do you even have to ask which one Burley picked? I mean, seriously.

So Methane Madness moved on, and Shockah requested that the title be changed to Atmosphere, in honor of his adopted cousin on his father’s side, the late great Ian Curtis. It was approved.

Then Round Eight, Cop on the Hunt v. The Scabs commenced, and it was kind of like a Yankees v. Devil Rays game — one of these story ideas just didn’t belong here. Maybe in some kind of Spitball! AAA club, but not here buddy — this is the major leagues.

So, Heat #1, where we pitted 16 ideas against each other to come out with eight, now becomes Heat #2, where those eight will become four. These battles will now include short, 600 word character sketches of each story’s protagonist.

Round Nine, The Atheist v. Atmosphere, will begin shortly. Today. I swear. On the grave of my late adopted cousin.

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Wednesday
Mar 15, 2006

Re:[2] The Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas -- Heat #2! posted by kza

My Top Four:

1. The Atheist
2. Rasputin the Translator
3. Little Black Stray
4. La Commune Planet

(Unlikely that anyone cares, but I did not look at Burley’s list until I composed my own.)

Thus, Heat #2 consists of the following:

1. The Atheist v. Atmosphere
2. Rasputin the Translator v. Time to Die
3. Little Black Stray v. Terminal Connection
4. La Commune Planet v. The Scabs

Round Nine (thought I’d keep the numbers continuous — it’ll make searches easier) belongs to me, and should make an appearance tomorrow.

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Wednesday
Mar 15, 2006

Re: The Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas -- Heat #2! posted by Martin

From most to least favorite:

1. The Scabs
2. Terminal Connection
3. Time to Die
4. Atmosphere

I accept all of the terms and conditions. Awaaaay we go!

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Wednesday
Mar 15, 2006

The Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas -- Heat #2! posted by kza

Now that Heat #1 has wrapped up, we’re now onto Heat #2, where things really start to heat up! Big Money! Big Prizes! I looooove it!

So, there’s gonna be two parts to this. First, we’re going to determine the order of battle. I’m going to take the first four winners (Rasputin the Translator, La Commune Planet, Little Black Stray, and The Atheist) and order them #1-#4, and Burley is going to take the next four winners (Terminal Connection, Time to Die, Atmosphere [mad props to my late uncle thrice removed], and The Scabs) and order them #1-#4, and the they will go against each other, my #1 vs. his #4, all the way down to my #4 to his #1.

(God, this heat’s gonna be trouble. I like all these ideas a lot.)

Then, the battles will be conducted as usual, with pros and cons, with one major difference: each of us will have to contribute a page-length character sketch of the protagonist for each story (thus, each story will have two character sketches of the same character, and each battle will have four character sketches total).

And that’s about it. Same voting rules, same tie-breaker scenarios, same penalties of forfeiture — unless Burley has some suggestions. Burley?

(Oh, and post your Top 4 anytime you’re ready.)

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Wednesday
Mar 15, 2006

Re:[3] Motion for Title Change posted by Martin

Um, no. That was my attempt at heart-tugging propaganda in order to get my way.

Sneaky. A little too sneaky. But, never let it be said that we—who are making up stories all the time—shouldn’t celebrate lying. Viva your fake-famial relations. Have I ever told you that Ambrose Bierce was my godfather?

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Tuesday
Mar 14, 2006

Re:[2] Motion for Title Change posted by kza

Holy shit, dude—you’re related to Ian Curtis?

Um, no. That was my attempt at heart-tugging propaganda in order to get my way.

And it worked ;-)

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Tuesday
Mar 14, 2006

Re: Motion for Title Change posted by Martin

Holy shit, dude—you’re related to Ian Curtis?

Well, motion passes. Joy Division got me through many a long dark night of the teenage soul. Or, maybe it put me there? In any case, motion passes, motion passes.

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Tuesday
Mar 14, 2006

Motion for Title Change posted by kza

I move that the title Methane Madness be changed to Atmosphere, in honor of my mom’s uncle’s cousin across the Atlantic, the late Ian Curtis (1956 - 1980).

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Tuesday
Mar 14, 2006

Re: Round Seven -- I Forfeit posted by Martin

Sir, I say to you: good try. I know this man well enough to say that if he says he tried, he went down fighting.

For that reason, because my decision was a difficult one to start with, and for a little essaytainment, I hereby declare Methane Madness the winner of this round.

For those of you not following our needlessly complex® rules, this means that I get the Trump Card, which is to assign an essay to Mr. Shockah, 1000 words, one week to finish, on the topic of my choice. I will be playing this card before too long, but for now I say with good cheer that it is time, dear time, to move on to the final heat of this round.

My hat is off to you, Urban Shockah. My hat is off.

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Tuesday
Mar 14, 2006

Round Seven -- I Forfeit posted by kza

Nope. Couldn’t do it. I tried, several times, but I simply can’t make a story about a woman trapped in a house work. (And by work, I mean come up with a second act, let alone a third.) I only had three requirements: that it be interesting enough that I’d want to spend time writing it, that it make sense (even if only in a poetic or metaphoric way), and that it be suspenseful. I could get one, sometimes I could get two, but never all three.

I thought I was maybe onto something with my latest idea (which was promising, I thought, because it went in a slightly different direction than what the original concept suggested — think a supernatural version of Primer) but a) I ran out of time, and b) my enthusiasm for it kept waxing and waning. If Rachel, My Dear survives, I’ll keep working on it and share it at some point.

So, it’s all in your hands, Burley.

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Monday
Mar 13, 2006

Re:[2] Structurally Speaking: Jaws (Part II) posted by kza

Lindbergh’s publicist or wife can now take center stage for awhile.

Dude, does it really say publicist? Before wife? If so, Howard’s book’s a lot funnier than I remembered.

Spitball! Tourney update: I apologize to everyone for the lateness of my reply. Things kept getting in the way of work and the Jaws thing took a little more time than expected. However! Because this train must roll, I’m giving myself a deadline of tomorrow at 8pm. Some kind of reply regarding Rachel, My Dear will be posted here at that time — I gare-un-tee it.

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Friday
Mar 10, 2006

Weekly Wrap-Up (3/4/06 - 3/10/06) posted by kza

Nine posts this week, but only two topics!

Earlier in the week, Shockah posted Part I of his analysis of Jaws, covering the first four points of the sequence method. Part II coming up soon.

Then the Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas came to a screeching halt, as the other eight posts were devoted to a drawn-out, slightly contentious and lovingly pedantic discussion about the penalties of forfeiture. (Yes, we make our screenwriting blog sound like tax law; y’wanna fight about it?) Last week, if you’ll remember, was the very first tied vote in the history of the Tourney. Our rules dictated that Shockah and Burley had to come up with a version of the story they didn’t vote for to continue the discussion. While Burley was able to do so for Methane Madness, Shockah wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to do the same for Rachel, My Dear. What would happen if he couldn’t fulfill his obligation?

After much, much discussion, the rule of forfeiture was agreed upon and there was much rejoicing. No, not rejoicing — something else. Now, the world waits with much anticipation to see if Shockah does indeed forfeit or pulls it together with a blazingly brilliant post about a story idea he ranked fifteenth out of twenty-five. Should be (better be) interesting — there’s a trump card at stake!

We’ll be back in two and two.

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Wednesday
Mar 08, 2006

Re: [7] Point of Order: Rules Clarification posted by Martin

in my mind, contradicts what you wrote previously about “reneging on the forfeiture”

Sorry if I was unclear. I meant that if you forfeited, and then later came back and wrote your response to Rachel, that would be reneging on the forfeiture and might confuse issues.

No worries, though, we’re on the right path, and your last paragraph and two points are correct. We are ready to move on. So, sir, I say to you: Play or forfeit the round.

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Wednesday
Mar 08, 2006

Re: [6] Point of Order: Rules Clarification posted by kza

I guess we’re talking across each other, because this—

As far as I am concerned, we’re still negotiating terms now, so the forfeiture is not officially on the table until terms have been agreed upon. If, when we agree on terms in the abstract (terms which, remember, I myself may become beholden to in the future), you decide to forfeit, then the terms will be enforced. Otherwise, you can decide not to forfeit and forward your ideas on Rachel, if any of this inspires you.

—unless I’m misunderstanding what you just wrote, is what I was arguing for, and in my mind, contradicts what you wrote previously about “reneging on the forfeiture”, hence my last post. Also, I never had anything against the terms of the penalty, merely about when they would be applied — that was my only issue.

So, to be clear:

1. We agree on the penalty for forfeiture, then;

2. I may either continue the battle as normal or forfeit.

And to be clear about your further explanation of the penalty, using this battle as an example: I’m the backer of Methane Madness, and you are the backer of Rachel, My Dear. If I forfeit, then you can either a) choose Rachel, My Dear and we move on to the next battle, or b) choose Methane Madness and you also get a trump card.

Is that correct?

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Wednesday
Mar 08, 2006

Re:[5] Point of Order: Rules Clarification posted by Martin

after all, if I knew what the penalties were going in, it’s possible I wouldn’t have forfeited in the first place. Right?

As far as I am concerned, we’re still negotiating terms now, so the forfeiture is not officially on the table until terms have been agreed upon. If, when we agree on terms in the abstract (terms which, remember, I myself may become beholden to in the future), you decide to forfeit, then the terms will be enforced. Otherwise, you can decide not to forfeit and forward your ideas on Rachel, if any of this inspires you.

But, to be very clear, I don’t see picking the winning entry as a reward, I see it as a necessary duty because the forfeiting party has, for whatever reason, given up or felt that they couldn’t continue their explorations. So, my evaluation will be not what do I personally desire, but what will be best for the (in micro) game and (in macro) eventual screenplay. If, for instance, I was to say that Rachel wins because it’s my favorite, then we’re going to run into an issue when Rachel, the winner of a round, goes up against whatever actual winner it goes up against in the next round—one that both of us chose— and you’re going to have to argue for Rachel which, currently, you don’t feel that you can do successfully, and you doubtfully will like as much as the other, which you had a distinct opinion on. So, the choice before me is a devil’s bargain: win and potentially make a weaker game, or give way to the other idea and keep the game strong but suppress my personal wishes to some degree. Since this position was not chosen by me, but awarded me by default by the forfeiting party, then I feel I should have a reward for being put in the position of having to choose.

My personal preference is always to argue it through, but if I have to make the choice and choose one, then I think the party who is taking the easier way out needs the penalty, thus the trump card essay. However, in the spirit of compromise and moving things forward, how about this:

If one party forfeits a round, the other party has the choice of which story to send forward. If the non-forfeiting party picks their own favorite, then the forfeiting party owes nothing more, but only gains a delay in their defense of that idea, for they will have to defend it in the next round. If, however, the non-forfeiting party decides to further the other idea, then they are awarded the trump card, which can be played for an essay.

This addresses both of our issues, I believe, and is excessively needless and potentially strategic. Do you like these terms?

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Wednesday
Mar 08, 2006

Re: [4] Point of Order: Rules Clarification posted by kza

Wait, just so I understand this correctly: you want a renegable forfeiture? Sir, I’m afraid I must say that forfeiting is forfeiting, and you accept the penalties. Otherwise, the can of worms is open. I started to give many examples, but then decided that I’d just say this:

Well, let’s be fair: I said I would forfeit, and the penalty would be the “automatic win” of Rachel, My Dear. You said if I forfeit, then the penalty would not be the automatic win, but instead you would get to choose the automatic winner and you would get a “trump card”. Since those are radically different terms, it seems fair that I should be given the chance to avoid these new, agreed upon and binding penalties of forfeiture if possible, as it is fair that I would submit to them if I feel I must, after all is said and done, forfeit. Yes? Or put another way: Just because I forfeit, doesn’t mean that you get to set the penalties and enforce them in one fell swoop — after all, if I knew what the penalties were going in, it’s possible I wouldn’t have forfeited in the first place. Right?

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Wednesday
Mar 08, 2006

Re:[3] Point of Order: Rules Clarification posted by Martin

First: TV Shows?

Oops—yes, for those of you who are confused, I accidentally filed my last entry into the category “TV Shows” of which it is obviously not. I am the first to admit that an essay writing TV show would be very boring. I have remedied this by placing this entry into the negative TV shows category, so everything is balanced out.

I only accept it on condition that I may rescind my initial forfeiture and attempt to try again, however futile that attempt may be.

Wait, just so I understand this correctly: you want a renegable forfeiture? Sir, I’m afraid I must say that forfeiting is forfeiting, and you accept the penalties. Otherwise, the can of worms is open. I started to give many examples, but then decided that I’d just say this:

I see the point of the forfeiture not as the forfeited party giving up, but as the other party simply gaining a bit of control. Remember, that should you agree to the terms, I can pick either story I want, so the point of re-writing later may be a moot one. The ability to make you write an essay (of which, I will mention, that I am not sadistic and will choose an appropriate topic intended to challenge, but not frustrate, the writer) may actually be enough payment for me to switch sides and start batting Methane Madness. One will never know until they agree to the terms fully…

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Wednesday
Mar 08, 2006

Re:[2] Point of Order: Rules Clarification posted by kza

First: TV Shows?

Second: This is a good plan. While you don’t think it should move ahead because I’m having trouble creating a vision of it, I don’t think it should be held back just because I’m having trouble creating a vision of it, and this is a good compromise. I accept this amendment.

However!

I only accept it on condition that I may rescind my initial forfeiture and attempt to try again, however futile that attempt may be. You think I’m just going to give you a trump card? Not likely, buddy. You’re too essay-crazed to be allowed to have one.

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Tuesday
Mar 07, 2006

Re: Point of Order: Rules Clarification posted by Martin

I’m torn about this. On one hand, I do want Rachel, My Dear to move forward, and also want to keep the competition moving forward. On the other hand, it seems that the argument is that Rachel should win because you aren’t finding it compelling enough to find your way into it. That tells me that it’s not a good candidate for moving on, since in the next rounds I want the competition to be stiff and full of it. Ideas, that is.

So, thinking about those things, I think we should establish the following rule: forfeiture. You forfeit the round if you feel that you can’t further the story of the disputed work. Forfeiture means that the other player gets to pick which work moves forward, and also receives a trump card.

What does the trump card do? Hmmm, since I’m about to receive one, I should shoot the moon. I think instead I’ll just say this: the trump card can be played at any time to make the other player write an essay. The essay will have to be 1000 words or more on a topic of the trump card holder’s choice written within one week.

If you accept these terms, we’ll move forward, and I will post which story I choose to forward this round.

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Tuesday
Mar 07, 2006

Point of Order: Rules Clarification posted by kza

Well, after spending several days on it, I’ve found that I simply can’t come through on my end of the tie-breaker round. Here’s how my Round 7.9 post began:

So, my big problem with Rachel was that, despite the interesting premise and all the notes and discussion on it, I still didn’t feel like I knew what happened in it. What were the Cool Scenes, that you might see in a trailer? How exactly was Rachel confined to the house? Does the house have some freaky supernatural powers, or is it simply constructed in a strange, but logical, manner? Why doesn’t she just break a damn window? There were still so many variables that hadn’t even been penciled in, that it felt like it was in a kind of holding pattern, and it really needs to move forward.

Yet, every attempt I made to come up with some kind of structure, some kind of skeleton that gave me an idea as to what actually happened in the story (i.e. the second act), was met with defeat. While I could’ve simply went with one of my lesser attempts, anyone who knows me knows I’m loathe to put up anything I consider shoddy or uninspired work — especially when the whole point was to give a version of the story that I could get behind. If I put up a version that, ultimately, I think is crap, then that’s a kind of cheating, I think.

The only way to resolve this, as I see it, is to simply move Rachel, My Dear forward, since I failed to adhere to the rules of the game. What say you?

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Friday
Mar 03, 2006

Weekly Wrap-Up (2/24/06 - 3/3/06) posted by kza

Stealing an idea straight from the Stranger’s Slog, we’re going to do a weekly wrap-up, covering every Friday to Friday. Although we don’t post as often as other blogs (nor should we, when there’s only two of us and the posts are part of a conversation, and not celebrity gossip or something stupid like that), there’s usually a lot going on nonetheless. To wit:

The Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas rolls on, as this week Burley and Shockah discussed Round Seven, which pitted Rachel, My Dear (a woman trapped in a crazy house designed by her mad fianc�) against Methane Madness (an inmate on a prison planet surrounded by a toxic atmosphere tries to escape by inventing, underneath the guards’ noses, a process to make the atmosphere breathable). After 7 posts of back and forth, we went to vote… and for the first time in the history of the contest, we voted for different stories. We’re now dealing with the post-tied-vote process, which means that each person has to spell out a version they like of the story they didn’t vote for. Burley has already put up a character bio for the imprisoned scientist of Methane Madness, while Shockah is preparing a post that will pitch a story outline for Rachel, My Dear.

Another continuing series is Shockah’s posts about the sequence method, a theory of screenplay structure that will probably be used to help shape the winner of the Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas. (“[H]e can give you a succinct overview of points of the sequence method better than the guys who write books about it” — Burley Grymz, Spitball!) Right now, there’s three posts about the subject: an intro, an explanation of the first four points of what I call “the story core”, and an explanation about the last four points. (Burley has a couple responses to these posts, here and here.) Coming up, Shockah will take an arty, little-known indie from 30 years ago called Jaws and break it down using the sequence method. Should be good for a few laughs; stay tuned.

(Oh, and in the Forum, Shockah and Burley posted their ideas for recasting a remake of Jaws and it’s totally awesome. Check it out and add your two cents!)

Finally, Burley is inventing his own theory of structure based around the game of cricket (which he knows nothing about), which goes by the name of… *sigh*… Tip Scum. See Shockah’s reaction here; and Burley’s reaction to the reaction here.

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Tuesday
Feb 28, 2006

The State of the Blog: February posted by Martin

Friends, Romans, lovers of monospaced courier 12pt typefaces. Welcome to the state of the blog for the end of February.

Spitball! is now officially two months old. If you search “spitball” on Google, we make the front page. This month there have been over 60 posts, mostly dealing with the ongoing plot battle. It started last month when Shockah suggested that we come up with 25 each “in a world” scenarios that revolved around the idea of the Prison Planet, which we decided would be our jumping off point.

After picking our personal 8 favorites, we paired them together to have blowouts. Currently, we’re on round 7 of 8, which has taken up most of the month. Although the going is slow, I think it’s very fruitful, with lots of good ideas being thrown around and lots of ideas being challenged. When this round is done, there will be four heats to pair the 8 down to 4, then 4 to 2. Then, the battle for the plot of the screenplay that we will write in full on the blog.

But, if that’s all you’ve read, you’ve been missing Shockah’s fine posts on the Sequence Method, which are worth a read for the simple fact that he can give you a succinct overview of points of the sequence method better than the guys who write books about it. If you know nothing about it, this is a great place to start. You’ll find them all in the Technique archive section. Also, you’ve missed my beginning’s in making the world’s first screenplay method based on pure farce, and stealing language from the upstanding sport of cricket (certainly a sport that deserves far better than my dragging it down). Our intention, both of us, is to better our craft, our writing, and our analytical skills. I can only joke about something I understand, so that’s my motivation in. Shockah’s motivation, I believe, is his love of figuring out systems and rules, arcane and otherwise. Both of us want to learn this stuff so that we can forget it and write better movies.

It’s been said, but bears saying again that the work is here is released into the public domain. We have doubled the number of people commenting on the forums on plot from 1 to 2. Like last month, I am once again reminding those friends of ours whose shows we have gone to, movies we have worked on, stories we have read, websites we have helped design, dinners we have cooked, shoes we have shined, and good times we have participated in to please get in to the forum and leave us comments. We know you’ve come to our readings and given us your time and effort in the past, but this is your last chance to solidify your relationships with us before we either become famous or social pariahs. If you’re lurking, feel free to de-cloak with some ridiculous anonymous moniker. The people here are named Burley Grymz, Urban Shockah, and Tippy Canoe. You’ll be in good company.

But, this is partially our fault, we have not done any hard promotion yet. During March and April these things will start to happen. In the meantime, you can have that satisfied feeling that comes from being an early member of the group of people, and have an active voice in shaping the way that the forums take shape.

Last month I said that January was the beta month. February was the month where we shook out the cobwebs, and have tested the word limit on this blog thing. So far so good, say I. As always, we’re interested in your feedback of all sorts, be it about the design, editorial standards or lack thereof, or usability issues. Log on to the forums and let it fly. In any case, even if you area lurker, we appreciate your time in reading. We hope you’re enjoying yourself.

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Tuesday
Feb 21, 2006

Hear ye, Hear ye! posted by Martin

Let it be known that on this day, the 21st of February 2006, our humble blog has broken the front page barrier on Google. We are currently 8th on the page for a search on spitball—one above the Wikipedia entry for Spitball!

Thanks to all of you that made it possible, and I’m a little shocked it happened so fast. The Google gods are good, indeed.

Oh, and tomorrow (February 22) is Shockah’s b’day. Make him feel good. Sign on to the forums and wish him a happy b’day in the comments for this post, which is here.

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What is Spitball!?

Spitball! is two guys collaborating to write about writing and collaboration. We're writing partners who have worked together since 2000, and placed in the top 100 in the last Project Greenlight for our script YELLOW.

Currently, we are both working on multiple screenplay, short story, and novel ideas independently and together, and collaborate on this blog.

What Spitball! used to be

Spitball! started as an attempt to collaborate on a screenplay online in real time. From January 2006 to July 2007 we worked on an interactive process to decide the story we were going to make. A full postmortem is coming, but you can find the find all the posts by looking in the category Original Version.

During this period, we affected the personalities of two of the most famous spitball pitchers from the early 20th Century. Look at our brief bios for more info about this, and so as not to be confused as to who is talking when.

We rebooted the franchise in early 2009 in its current form.


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Our Twitter account, where we note when longer articles are posted. While we're at it, here's Kent and Martin's Twitter accounts.

Kent M. Beeson

Urban Shockah pic

Kent M. Beeson (aka Urban Shockah) is a stay-at-home dad and stay-at-home writer, living in Seattle, WA with his wife, 2 year old daughter and an insane cat. In 2007, he was a contributor to the film blog ScreenGrab, where he presciently suggested Jackie Earle Haley to play Rorschach in the Watchmen movie, and in 2008, he wrote a film column for the comic-book site ComiXology called The Watchman. (He's a big fan of the book, if you couldn't tell.) In 2009, he gave up the thrill of freelance writing to focus on screenplays and novels, although he sometimes posts to his blog This Can't End Well, which a continuation of his first blog, he loved him some movies. He's a Pisces, and his favorite movie of all time is Jaws. Coincidence? I think not.

Martin McClellan

Burleigh Grimes pic

Martin (aka Burley Grymz) is a designer and writer. He occasionally blogs at his beloved Hellbox, and keeps a longer ostensibly more interesting bio over here at his eponymous website. You can also find him on Twitter.