Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Mystery Man? More like Mystery CHILD..."

Hey guys,

Below is just a portion of a recent TriggerStreet review I wrote for a story called Aliens Don't Make Crop Circles. Hope you enjoy it.



So Kevin and I have "a history."

Over a year ago (has it really been a year?), I reviewed an earlier draft of Aliens Don't Make Crop Circles. Kevin had written in his production notes that he didn't want to bothered by complaints about format, which set me off. In my review, I took the most logical approach to this kind of situation - I ONLY talked about format and refused to provide analysis of story or character or anything else until he cleaned up his script because it looked like @#$%. I believe that was also the review where I had written, "Take heed my advice or fail. I am Mystery Man. Hear me roar."


Ahh, good times, good times.

So, of course, I received an email from Kevin. The subject heading was "Aliens Don't Take This Lying Down." He wrote: "Mystery Man? Mystery Child could be closer to the mark... I have to say that I did read your review from beginning to end and it was full of wisdom. But what on earth (no pun in this case), are you on? Or, more to the point, what medication are you not taking...? I will explain why I have specifically asked for a no comment on the formatting in the past. It is because some people get so anally fixated with dots and commas that they forget the whole point of the site, to review stories."

And this is true - to a point. Some people certainly can be this way. But to refuse to hear feedback about grammar and format is just beyond absurd. Call me crazy, but "writers" should care about these things. In fact, a writer ought to know how to write, and a screenplay ought to look like a screenplay. The competition is brutal. You're not only competing with thousands of other writers trying to break in but you're also competing with the professionals. You have to excel on every single level. You have to make every scene, every detail, and every word count. You cannot ever and I mean EVER give anyone an easy excuse to dismiss your story or you as a writer. And there's no question that the quickest way to undermine a reader's confidence in you is a wildly gross display of incompetence and ignorance when it comes to format and grammar. In past reviews, I have quoted industry insiders who implore writers to master the craft and study Trottier's Screenwriter's Bible.

Even on my blog, I'll review a "pro" script like, say, "The Transformers," and you better believe that, no different than my reviews here, I'll take them to task for not knowing how to format a screenplay. It's ridiculous that some of these guys get paid gobs of money and they don't know any better than to use archaic techniques that were abandoned four decades ago. Scripts should reflect twenty-first century formatting.

Truth be told, there are a lot of hacks and con artists out there pretending to be "real" screenwriters and they actively bamboozle producers and studios out of enormous amounts of money. They will get hired, write steaming piles of crapola (or get hired to do a rewrite job, change two commas, and turn it in), and then they'll quickly bail when the heat gets cranked up for more rewrites. There's a lot of mistrust on both sides of the fence. Grammar and format is just a first step in a thousand toward proving your sincerity, worth, and legitimacy as a screenwriter.

Okay, okay, stepping off my format soapbox...


James said...

The problem is that most people don't know how to spot, constructively criticize, and offer solutions to story problems.

Gramtical errors are easy to spot. And fix.

With the proliferation of screenwriting "How to" books it seems everyone is an expert on writing screenplays. They boil writing down into a paint by numbers methodology that makes everyone think that reading a book and following the instructions is all it takes.

Which makes format easy to spot. And fix.

Story is still a mystery to most. Those that have it figured out, tend to be getting paid.

I can see his point.

I will have to agree with you, though. If you put your work out to the masses, you are going to get it from all angles. And the majority of the masses really don't have the tools to evaluate story on a level more than like or dislike.

Ann said...

Signing in here from my non-stop party in Houston to say, rock on MM! I hope you appreciate the sacrifice I've made to even come in to say that. I mean, cover models are WAITING!

Anyway, YES. Don't give them a reason to reject you. EVER. If you've got their attention, keep it. Editors say this all the time. And the best way to make any industry professional read you is to make what you've written perfectly formatted and gramatically correct, on clean white paper (not pink), sans confetti, free Ginsu Knives, and To Whom It May Concerns.

If you want to be a professional, act like one. Consider your formatting and grammar as your suit and tie, or skirt and pantyhose. Your white paper is your coiffed hair and the cleaniness is your fresh breath.

Your product is their ONLY impression of you. And if it's flawed...Next!

BTW, MM. I'll be posting pics of me in my Moulin Rouge costume. Pink corset, black frilly skirt and garters.


PS--Second attempt. Word veri still hates me. Where are the dirty ones you promised?

Mim said...

Huzzah! MM tells it like it is again.

What always gives me a chuckle are the ones who are working with an older version of the Bible, or an even old format guide, and constantly hammer you on things that are outdated.

Too cute.

Ann said...

I can understand what you're saying, James. I've certainly had my crit partners do passes just for story and nothing else. The thing is, many times you can't see the story through the mess of bad grammar. Also, to me, it's insulting to send something to a critiquer that'll take so much energy and time to wade through because it's so poorly formatted/written.

Your critiquer's time is as valuable as anyone else's. The story and presentation should, at the very least, be at the best of your ability before asking anyone to do you the tremendous favor of reading it, in my humble opinion. Because it IS a favor. Not a privilegde.

Carl S said...

I've hear it all before:

"Format? I don't need no freaking format!"

If it were only true. You go, Mystrery Man!

Mim said...

Ann, if you don't mind, I'm going to quote your comments on format and grammar being like your suit and good grooming on the TS message boards.

Unknown said...

A misspelled work is like having a scratch in your old 33 and a thirds. Nice, nice, screeeech!.
Some of you still remember those, right?

Ann said...

Mim, I'm honored! You may quote me anytime you like.

~Ann, off to another party. *sigh*

PS--second attempt. Still no dirty words.

Mystery Man said...

James - I agree with you. Not everyone's cut out for story analysis, but at the same time, I'd be happy if people tried and were at least open to being wrong. That's certainly better than saying nothing at all. I also think stories have to be judged on an individual basis, period. I think you have to look at what is and what it's trying to be and then take it from there. Sometimes formula helps, sometimes it doesn't. It's complicated, you know? Great comment.

Hey, Ann! I hope you realize I had to put off the Swedish twins to respond to your comments. Hehehe... Can't wait to see the photos. I always thought grammar was the flesh and bones of a writer...

I love ya, Mim.

Carl - So glad you're back. Guys, Carl's going to be a guest speaker at a B Movie Convention. He's going to steal the show...

Bob - I think my Dad had some of those. Hehehe... I'm so kidding.