Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tools For The Writer's Craft: WORDPLAY-Screenwriting Secrets From Working Screenwriters

During a recent blog discussion a reader named BklynGirl mentioned a wonderful and helpful website called WORDPLAY-Screenwriting Secrets From Working Screenwriters at

While browsing the site, I've found references to helpful books explaining various aspects of writing good drama, such as The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri, and Making a Good Script Great by Linda Seeger.

For those of you who believe that good writing can only be done in perfect, "hothouse" conditions (not having to work a "day job," having a specially-designated writing room, etc.), I would remind you of our African-American ancestor, Dr. Martin Luther King. I would also suggest that you read his Letter From a Birmingham Jail!

I'm not talking about encouraging the children to get into the arts. We can't wait that long. African-American women and girls need new dreams right now. We can't afford to do our "business as usual" tradition of creatively listing all the perceived "reasons" why what we need is impossible. We also can't afford to follow our tradition of throwing our responsibilities off on the next generation. We can't wait any longer for the things we need in order to survive and thrive.

While we're waiting (stalling, procrastinating) the STIGMA that we have collectively attached to ourselves as African-American women is getting more repellent with each day that passes. I've noticed the trend that Evia described in her latest comment. This "We Are Dysfunction" banner that we've been waving for the past few decades is tightening into a noose around our collective necks. This noose gets tighter with each new foul image of ourselves that gets beamed across the planet. This movie "Push/Precious" sounds appalling. Right now, there's next to nothing to counteract that sort of madness.

I'm challenging all of us who are capable (that would be me, YOU, and others) to start meeting this need right now. Now. Not until after we have homes with specially-designated "writing rooms." NOW. If we are committed, then we will find ways to do what needs to be done. And not wait until it's totally convenient, comfy and cozy to do so.

Browse, learn, and enjoy!


foreverloyal said...

I'm in the middle of a ton of things right now. Moving to a new house. Ear-deep in bubble wrap. New place is in dire need of a deep scrubbing and I have lots of cleaning to do here. Bunch of lil kids that need to be fed, entertained, educated. Not to mention day-to-day laundry and pickup.

But two days ago I got an idea for a book. A book with an upperclass African-American heroine.

So I work on it a sentence here, a paragraph there. I have no idea whether it is feasible to go the traditional route to have it published. No clue if I'll be able to self-publish anytime soon. Only ideas about how to market it effectively.

But I've gotten started. After all, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"

foreverloyal said...

I'd also like reiterate (as you and Evia and Halima and others have said so many times!) that we need to support each other.

I bought Roslyn's first book (and I hadn't read a romance novel in close to a decade, had read maybe 10 total and generally only from the library, used bookstore, or borrowing copies) because I "e-knew" her and wanted to support her work. (Rock Star is a really good romance, by the way)

Just a general reminder to support the positive stuff we want. When you write your book I intend to purchase the first edition--no going to the local library!

Khadija said...


Good for you that you've gotten started. {raised fist salute} It's really up to us. Help is NOT on the way. Either we produce and support what we need, or we don't and continue to face the consequences of our mass negligence.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

roslynholcomb said...

Thank you Foreverloyal, I'm so glad you enjoyed Rock Star. That book will always be near and dear to my heart. I'm so proud that it's now available in mass-market.

Delishmish said...

I LOVE how you say HELP IS NOT ON THE WAY!...

May I be so bold as to add that in this journey of ours to find positive affirming images for ourselves, we must NOT lose our sense of joy and humor along the way. One person's writing style may not appeal to another (and that is OKAY) but we don't need to tear it down simply because in "your mind" (a general statement by the way, lest any one person makes the mistake of thinking I am addressing them in particular. I am not) it is not up to "par." Just as we do not come in one brand, neither does what we enjoy reading. Also, although we are dealing with serious assaults on our persons, we must not lose the ability to laugh from time to time. We must keep that lighthearted part of ourselves in play.

I know there are some "works" that I will never read. I would just be bored quite franky. I do not aspire to political correctness at all times. To do so would be to diminish the totality of who we are. We are a multifaceted group. We always have been and we always will be.

On another note, I recall "reading" that book Push ....or shall I say attempting to read it. It was so depressing, and I could barely understand the "language." I cannot see any circumstance which would compel me to see this movie. As I have said for a long time, my $$ have power, and I do not support movies that do not show me in a positive light (loved the new Star Trek movie btw) Why on earth would I want to see this? Who wants to be depressed when they leave the movies? Not I.

Khadija said...


You make an excellent point about the importance of joy and good cheer along the path. Which is something distinct from the manic, grin-frozen-on-their-faces, desperate-for-cheap-laughs, demeaning type of "comedy" that we tend to engage in.

It's interesting. While doing my research, I've come across writers and aspiring writers who dismiss the value of popular entertainment. It seems that to these people, anything that large numbers of people enjoy must be of no value.

It's similar to the "sick with envy and hateration" comments I've read from (self-proclaimed classical) musicians who are dissing the young ladies in the group Escala. [They're a British classical string quartet playing popular music. I strongly urge folks to check out the YouTube video of them performing the song "Children."]

I don't understand this attitude. As far as I'm concerned, providing wholesome, life affirming entertainment is a form of charity and a good deed!

I don't argue points of personal taste. That's for everybody to determine for themselves. My only issue is with degrading, demeaning material that does long-term damage to our collective interests. When an artist is doing damage to my people, then it's no longer a matter of personal taste. It's an attack that should be countered just like any other attack.

I don't care if the artist tries to hide under the cloak of "personal tastes" or freedom of speech. These same Negro artists who demean us know better than to say anything that could be in any way construed as demeaning a long list of other people: the Jewish community, the police [for an example, read up on the saga of Ice-T's song "Cop Killer"], 9-11 victims, etc.

I simply claim the SAME right to self-defense and self-protection for us that is enjoyed (and enforced by boycotts, blacklisting, etc.) by these other groups.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

g-e-m2001 said...

I'm de lurking after reading the last two posts and comments to say "Let's just do it."

I'm already moving in that direction and have been teaching myself 3d animation, and CG for the past six months. The program is free and its called Blender 3d. Look it up. Tons of tutorials on YouTube as well. Here is a sample of my work its rudimentary, but I modeled all of this from a cube. I suck at drawing, but I'm great at math and physics.

Now that I've mastered the terminology and tools, I am going to hire someone to do the actual animation.

But I'm going to do live action too. What I don't have is a story. Get me a screenplay and it will get produced. We can have a film making weekend in my home base since it is a guerrilla-film-making-friendly town. There is actually a 48-hour film making competition.

I think we ought to do it just to break a psychological barrier. This stuff ain't rocket science. the other side isn't smarter than we are... they are just more committed.

In any case I am overjoyed at this conversation.

roslynholcomb said...

GEM, what kind of story are you looking for? I'm in deadline hell until mid-October or so. (What was I thinking when I signed those contracts? :D), but after that I'm available to do a script for a short. I specialize in comic and adventure romances, but I can more or less write anything within reason. (Didn't you say you were interested in science fiction?) I plan to convert my book Rock Star into a screenplay, but it's a 90k word novel, I don't think I could make it a short. Besides, this is more as an intellectual exercise than anything else. I simply don't have the time, or quite frankly, the interest in, becoming a filmmaker right now, but I'd certainly be interested in a collaborative effort of some sort.

g-e-m2001 said...


I think that is the key. You don't have to be a film maker. Some people are gifted with the ability to write. Others are gifted with the ability to produce. Some people are gifted with neither, but they'll volunteer their time to hold a sound boom or a light or scout locations. I think out problem is that we try to do EVERYTHING and get overwhelmed. I can write, but I don't have the discipline to write in long form, but I'm a heck of a producer?

Something different, intelligent, yet funny where we aren't downtrodden, abused, struggling with crime poverty, abuse. Why can't we struggle with the Romulans or something. I would love to see a Black woman as a rocket scientist or something "different" Would LOVE some sci fi.
The main considerations are locations. The simpler the fewer locations, the better. The fewer actors the better. We have awesome parks here. lots of creeks, green belts, natural springs etc. Or something set in a home or some other facility that can be rented out by the day.

Green screen work is easy, that's just a matter of buying a blue or green table cloth from Hobby Lobby. I know because I've chroma-keyed before.

I completely understand the TIME situation. I made a vow to reorder my life after BWB. I've figure out that fiction is FAR more powerful than my blog will ever be. As long as all I am doing is complaining about other people's depiction of me, I am placing my fate in their hands.

After BWB, I'll organize something. As someone with a little bit of experience coordinating people online, I've found that lots of folks like to sign on to be spectators. The adrenaline of being part of something brings them in, but follow through is usually reserved for a tiny few. I'm looking for that tiny few :)

Khadija said...


I agree that it's way past time to "just do it." You're making your moves, I'm making mine, and others who are SERIOUS are making their moves. Right now. Without the need for any further prompting or pep rallies.

Anybody who's SERIOUS about writing a screenplay or who already has one in hand will contact you. Just like Roslyn did with her latest comment.

I don't want to listen to any more of our traditional excuses. That's why I'm debunking the endless list of "reasons" we create for believing that it's impossible to have what we need.

Dr. King wrote that letter. From. A. Birmingham. JAIL. CELL. What's our excuse? There is no legitimate excuse for our mass lethargy. I don't want to engage in more analysis of what went wrong UNLESS it's tied to an analysis of what we can do right. And what we can do right now.

We have to create our own solutions. Nobody else is going to do it for us. Those of us who are SERIOUS about this are already taking action in this direction. You've pointed to the next step: working together on various joint projects.

Thanks for the info about the Blender 3d program. I just love the possibilities created by all this modern technology!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Khadija said...

Everybody who is SERIOUS:

Okay, y'all. Gem2001/Gina just mentioned some different things that you can do to participate, like hold a sound boom, etc.

As she mentioned, none of us as individuals can do everything. Those of us who are already taking ACTION are often overbooked. [Let's see, I'm already: (1) working a job; (2) building a side business; (3) writing/creating information products for my business---I'm halfway through a book; completed 1st detailed outline for an accompanying course; (4) writing a novel; and (5) oh yeah, trying to squeeze in a social life at the same time.]

However, NOT everybody is overbooked in terms of this particular request from Gina for short screenplays/stories. Some of us are in a position to participate in Gina's project without being overwhelmed.

I'm especially calling on those of you who already have completed and partial screenplays/short stories in your hands (I'm not going to call your names; you know who you are--LOL!) to respond to the call and contact Gem2001/Gina.

I'm also especially calling on y'all stay at home mothers/writers (I'm not going to call your names--you know who you are-LOL!) to respond to the call and contact Gem2001/Gina.

There's time to consider all of this while Gina is working on her "Blogging While Brown" conference.

Think about it. Consider answering this call. Whatever you decide to do, it's time to make your move.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Miriam said...

I'm willing to help in whatever way I can. But I'm better at straight forward direct orders (like what the 'old gang' did with wikipedia during the whole dunbar business). So whatever I can do please let me know.

Khadija said...


THANK YOU for answering the call! Please contact Gem2001/Gina at her blog to confirm your interest in participating.


Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Khadija said...

Everybody who is SERIOUS:

As much as I enjoy hearing verbal declarations of support, I think it would be more efficient for those of you who are answering the call to contact Gem2001/Gina directly at her blog, What About Our Daughters [which is listed on my blogroll].

I would suggest that you go to her blog, hit the "contact us" button, and make yourself and your willingness to participate known.

This way she doesn't have to go back and forth with you over here to compile a contact list of those who are willing to participate.

THANK YOU in advance to all who choose to answer the call! {black glove salute}

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Sister Seeking, Miriam, Mary Ann said...

I would suggest that you go to her blog, hit the "contact us" button, and make yourself and your willingness to participate known.


I'm going to drop by Roslyn's blog.

Khadija, did you decide to go with Amazon?

Khadija said...


THANK YOU for answering the call!

You asked, "Khadija, did you decide to go with Amazon?"

I haven't come to a final decision about all of that. [I could have listed all of this as my Overbooked Activity #6: running this blog and reshaping the blog essays into book form. LOL!]

Miriam, THANK YOU you for your enduring support and encouragement! [For those who don't know, Miriam is one of the people who encouraged me to take a more active role in the struggle for AA women and girls in the first place. Doing so has been a life-changing decision for me. I've learned so much from all of this. I'm eternally thankful for that.]

Wa Salaam.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

DeStouet said...

Yes, SisterSeeking/Miriam/MaryAnn, I YOU are the bomb!

You're comments have helped me tremendously.

Thank you!

Sister Seeking, Miriam, Mary Ann said...

Thank you Khadija!


Thank you Destouet!



I'm grateful for your support, and all of the readers!

And since it's Friday, I'd thought I'd give a shout out to Jalil Master! I love your sense of humor! Seriously!

Have a great weekend!

LaShelle said...

I've just graduated with my Masters in Creative Writing and just finished up my book of poetry and young adult novel geared to black girls. I'm starting to work on two other YA novels and an adult fiction novel about the tie in of religion and domestic violence in our communities. I've sent out the first of my first query letters this week. Funny, in all of my classes my professor and classmates praised my strong skill in creating powerful dialogue. I have an idea for a screenplay, but right now I am on a one woman crusade to save black fiction.

Khadija said...


I'm happy to hear that there are more folks out there like you! Thank goodness.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.