Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sam & Jim Got Staffed!

If you've been following the adventures of writers Sam and Jim as they go to Hollywood, you'll be thrilled to know that they're on staff now at THE DEAD ZONE.

Their first podcast since starting work there is up now, and provides an invaluable peek at a newbie TV writer's first experiences inside The Room.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

ROME Vincit Omnes

Or vincit most, anyway.

I started watching season 1 of ROME on DVD a little while ago, planning to take in just an episode or two as tonal research for a new project I've started.

Well, an episode or two of this fantastic show wasn't enough, and I slurped down that first season in time for the season 2 opener last week.

It's amazing, Shakespearean stuff, as Alex Epstein has commented on a few times.

I particularly love how the writers imbue the characters with a principal trait that makes them who they are, and, as in Will's work, can be their downfall (some SPOILERS follow...).

For Luscious-- sorry, Lucius, it's his honor. It resides like a hard, battle-tested stone at his very center, and wins him respect and position in Rome but also costs him his wife and family. Not to mention the chance to knock sandals with Cleopatra.

For Titus, it's his easy skill with violence. It makes him a great soldier, but also keeps him, fatally, from finding his way in peacetime. It allows him to fall into seamy underworld assassinations and casual, unthinking murder.

For Caesar, of course, it's his pride. For Atia, I think it's her fear of being alone, which comes out as political and social ambition and her fierce if often twisted love for her children.

The treatment of Marc Antony's speech was brilliant, as Jane Espenson notes, and I also loved the "Et tu, Brute?" moment during the assassination. You're waiting for Caesar to say "And you, Brutus?" or something like it, and-- he doesn't. He opens his mouth, and Brutus, tormented, relates later that he thought he heard Caesar say something, but really the accusation was only in the dying man's eyes and face.

I'm very sorry that this is the last season for ROME, but apparently according to interviews that'll allow for some balls-out storycraft. Not that the show's pulled any punches (or gladii) so far.


Non sequitur postscript from The Boyfriend, who's watching BLOODRAYNE on TV as I write this: "Uwe Boll must be stopped."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

HEROES Picked Up

Excelsior! THE OFFICE and MY NAME IS EARL were also on NBC's shopping list.

In other news, a scuba-diving cat. Seriously.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Name Game

You want to do everything possible to make your characters memorable and compelling to readers and audiences, so why cram your narrative worlds with Johns and Susans?

Of course, you can go too far with this. I remember seeing a Julianne Moore movie in which her name was Telly.

Telly? Isn't that a muppet?

A device I often use is to take some key aspect of the character or their place in the story and let that suggest the name. Hell, any trick that's good enough for Dickens, the Restoration dramatists, and the makers of Max Payne is good enough for me.

Some examples from my scripts:

(Caveat: No disparagement meant for people who have these names but not these characteristics!)

Val, short for Valerie. Horror heroine. Valiant, valkyrie.

Bridget. A two-fer, since this character is inflexible (rigid, stringent) and sexually cold (frigid).

Lance. Easygoing guy, loose where Bridget is not. Also a little dreamy, not very grounded in real life.

Fay. Seductive world traveler. More dangerous than she first appears, like faerie, Morgan Le Fay.

Roger. A scoundrelly, womanizing Englishman. A play on the British slang meaning of the word.

Galen. A twist on Gawain, the knight. The character is honorable, noble, and plays fantasy games.

Neva. A similar twist on Guenevere.

Abigail. Buttoned-up, prim, religious.

Reyna. Powerful CEO. Reign, and reine is French for queen.

Clayton. A man of substance, figuratively and literally, but also weak, feet of clay.

This works with surnames and full names as well: I named a character Tim Pritchard because that suggested he was a little untrustworthy and kind of a dick, which he was. And Palmer Sykes just sounds like a child molester, doesn't he?

Other techniques...

Many BATTLESTAR GALACTICA characters have a regular-sounding name spiced with something more fantastical, often pulled from ancient history or mythology. Karl Agathon, Kara Thrace, Sharon Valerii, Gaius Baltar. A neat way to suggest sci fi without all those damn apostrophes that apparently we'll all be using in the future. Qapla'!

And for horror stories or thrillers, I'm reminded of the Bill Cosby routine where you should name your kid something that yells well down the block, that is, doesn't end in a consonant. Compare the bellowing-into-the-haunted-basement possibilities of "FRANK!" and "BILLYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!"

What are your own methods for naming?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Mac-vs.-PC style "ad" for There and Second Life.

The comparison to Macs and PCs, though superficial, works fairly well. The two worlds do a lot of the same stuff -- user-generated assets and events, virtual currencies -- but There is prettier, less flexible and customizable, and has less market share. Second Life offers more customization, is more popular, and erm, is ugly. In a number of senses of the word. ;)