The Smell of Things

On a recent vacation, my preschool-aged daughter protested (at length) the unfamiliar smell of her hotel pillow. Nothing like her pillow that we had left behind. Not at all what she had expected. A similar concern in films has piqued my interest.  How much we should meet an audience’s expectations in a screenplay? Should we […]


Great actors know this. So should writers.

Do you ever have difficulty finding the voice for characters? Wondering what the back story is, what they would say or do next? It might help you as a writer to try and think like an actor. Great actors know to dig into every piece of information on the page to flesh out their characters. […]


First Acts

I’m working on the first act of a new feature-length comedy screenplay, and my screenwriter’s group is going to take a look at it in a few days. I want it to be sharp, so I’m reviewing the elements of a first act. Of course, the most important elements to include in a first act […]


The Game of the Scene

In improv, the distilled premise that’s funny in a scene is known as the game. Writer and actor Brett Wean does a nice job in this Scriptmag article of explaining how the game and other improvisational tools can be useful to screenwriters. I agree that exploring one central idea is essential, be it in a […]

A dachshund puppy for Christmas!

Reading Between the Lines

I’ve been performing more frequently with some improv troupes, and the lessons I learn about story and writing are invaluable. The immediate feedback from audiences is so informative. It really helps me understand the kinds of plot twists and situation heightening that people enjoy. For example, a few days ago I was in a show […]


Intriguing Characters

I enjoyed the conversation between Jenji Kohan (Weeds, Orange is the New Black) and Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise, Nashville) on the “Heroine’s Journey” panel at the Austin Film Festival. Though known for their strong female characters, both writers said that they seek to create interesting characters of both genders. And to illustrate how deeply […]


Advice from Shane Black

Shane Black was full of tips and quips at his “Script-to Screen: KISS KISS BANG BANG” session at the Austin Film Festival today. He shared how his process for developing a film idea begins with envisioning the shape the film will take — keeping in mind the overall vision of the movie, how the trailer […]


AFF Comedy Tips

So I’ve been bustling around the 2013 Austin Film Festival, wishing I had either a clone or a Harry Potter-esque time turner so I could take in more of the conference. But I thought I’d take a moment to share some comedy writing insights I gleaned from “The Kings of Sit-Comedy” panel with Lee Aronsohn […]


He Said, She Said

Bad dialogue in a book or movie is like a sour note in a song. It separates you from the reverie of the story experience. So what is it about good dialogue that makes it good? A discussion on the Black Board forums got me thinking about this. Contributors to the discussion point out that […]


Tuning Up: Writing Voice and Opening Lines

Ahem. La la la la la la la. Pardon. Just finding my voice there — Good interview with Stephen King in The Atlantic about the importance of opening lines and having a unique voice. What is a writer’s voice? According to King, voice is more than style. It is what readers look for, above and […]