Spirit Of The Spec: You Write Your Story

November 18th, 2015 by

I had a conversation recently with a former studio executive turned producer in which I found myself talking about the “spirit of the spec,” essentially when a person chooses to pursue a project or goal entirely on speculation with the hopes of some eventual payoff. Not everybody would make that choice. To many, with the odds so long against success, doing something on spec is not only illogical, it’s also seemingly inane.

And yet almost all screenwriters, TV writers, novelists, short story writers, playwrights, and poets have as some part of their creative self the spirit of the spec.

After my conversation with the producer, it occurred to me this is a subject we should discuss here at GITS because it speaks to the very core of why we’re here and what we’re about as people driven by creative impulses. So today through Friday, I will post something each day exploring what it means for a writer to have the spirit of the spec.

You Write Your Story.

Probably most people imagine that when a writer writes a story, they are seated at their desk, plunking away at their keyboard, hour after hour until they finish their opus.

Yes, there is a good deal of ‘butt on chair’ time involved in writing. But when you are moved by the spirit of the spec, committing yourself wholly to your story, the fact is you are never not writing.

You are writing your story when you drive.
You are writing your story when you eat.
You are writing your story when you shower.
You are writing your story when you fold the laundry.
You are writing your story when you exercise.
You are writing your story when you sleep.
You are writing your story when you are engaged in conversation with others.

This last point can be a particularly vexing condition for your friends, family and loved ones. They know they only have a certain percentage of your attention. That at any minute, you will be there, then not there. Your body present, your mind off with your characters somewhere.

But it’s not just somewhere, is it? No, when we write our story, we create a universe in which that story exists. The characters live and breathe. We may sit and write about them for a few hours at a time, but they go on with their existence, every minute of their every day.

And frankly that’s one of the most damnable aspects of the writing process: Knowing just what to pluck out of that universe to put into our story. To my knowledge, there is only one way to determine that, summed up wonderfully by my then three year-old son when asked his advice about writing: “Go into the story, and find the animals.”

We come up with an idea and test to see if it has merit.

We act on our idea by getting curious and following the path on our journey of discovery.

Then we write our story by going into it [immersing ourselves in that place and with those characters] and finding the animals [everything of substance that prowls there — moments, scenes, dialogue, images, feelings, and so on].

The animal allusion is particularly apt because stories are organic in nature and frankly rather wild, teeming with life which is both great in terms of the vitality that exists there, but also dangerous because there are times when we lose our way… as if in a jungle.

A thick, dark jungle with lots of creepy shadows, a multitude of trailheads — which ones to take?!?! — and a constant chorus of whispered voices: Go back! Who are you kidding? This story sucks! You suck! Why are you wasting your time? You’ll never make it to the end! You’ll be humiliated if you continue! Epic fail dead ahead!

On the whole, writing is not only a daunting task, it is also a frightening one.

But when you have the spirit of the spec, you have a card you can play to trump your fears, a simple and pragmatic one: “If you don’t write it, you can’t sell it.”

There is no way around that. It’s an inescapable fact. Truth with a capital “T”.

Thus when we struggle with our story, even to the point of feeling fear about writing it, the spirit of the spec reminds us we haven’t done squat until we have that finished manuscript in hand. Everything we do is just words vanishing into thin air, an exercise in vainglory… until we type FADE OUT / THE END.

But then a moment of true existential bliss: Printing out that final draft. Feeling the heft of those pages in our hands, their warmth as they slide out of the printer, one by one. We touch them. We hug them. We smell them.

This… THIS… is what it’s all about. We have gone into the story, immersed ourselves in that universe and with those characters, given ourselves over to an all-consuming creative process in order to craft something tangible, something real. Creativity incarnate. Our story. Come to life.

And now having written our story, we are ready for the next step on our journey.

Tomorrow: You Put It Out There.

Part 1: Spirit Of The Spec: You Get An Idea

Part 2: Spirit of the Spec: You Act On Your Idea

[Originally posted August 10, 2011]

Spirit Of The Spec: You Act On Your Idea

November 17th, 2015 by

As we progress through the Zero Draft Thirty Challenge, I thought it would be a good idea to reprise this series as it speaks to the heart of writing on ‘spec’.

I had a conversation recently with a former studio executive turned producer in which I found myself talking about the “spirit of the spec,” essentially when a person chooses to pursue a project or goal entirely on speculation with the hopes of some eventual payoff. Not everybody would make that choice. To many, with the odds so long against success, doing something on spec is not only illogical, it’s also seemingly inane.

And yet almost all screenwriters, TV writers, novelists, short story writers, playwrights, and poets have as some part of their creative self the spirit of the spec.

After my conversation with the producer, it occurred to me this is a subject we should discuss here at GITS because it speaks to the very core of why we’re here and what we’re about as people driven by creative impulses. So today through Friday, I will post something each day exploring what it means for a writer to have the spirit of the spec.

You act on your idea.

Yes, I know this line looks like it’s straight out of an early morning cable TV informercial, but there is a fundamental truth conveyed in it that every dream-selling hack knows:

In order to make it happen, you have to…
Make. It. Happen.

If all you have is an idea, you are little more than this fellow:


A man stands talking, people in groups behind him. Two born
like gadgets are attached to his shoulders; he's wearing a
bizarre space costume.

Right now it's only a notion, but I
think I can get money to make it
into a concept... and later turn it
into an idea.

You are the equivalent of 3rd Man in the L.A. party scene from Annie Hall, talking about making it happen instead of making it happen.

Fortunately for a writer, there is nothing mysterious about what we need to do to act on an idea: We need to figure out the story, then write it.

As we all know, this process is not easy. We know this not only from our own personal experience, but also from the very way we talk about it.

This is where we crack the story, we break the story, we nail the story, we wrangle the story.

Every single one of those descriptors suggests the same thing: It’s a struggle, a fight, a battle.

So much easier to just talk about your idea, like 3rd Man, rather than act on it. I know this. You know this. But let me lay two thoughts on you.

First if it was easy to craft a story, just imagine how many more people would be trying their hand at screenwriting. Or novels. Short stories. Plays. You think it’s competitive now? If writing was easy, the entertainment business would be utterly overrun by writers, a horde of chattering lemmings with stacks of three-hole punch paper jammed in their teeth, sputtering loglines along the way.

Worse imagine how shitty those scripts would be!

So yes, writing isn’t easy and that is a pain in the ass for those of us who write. But every time we take up an idea and go about the process of nailing the story, we play our small, but necessary role in proving Darwin’s theory: survival of the fittest.

Those with the spirit of the spec take up the fight. Those lacking the spirit, just talk about it.

Second I suggest you take those verbs I noted above — crack, break, nail, wrangle — and use them as scene description (they’re actually good, visual words). Instead in referring to your own process of taking an idea and crafting it into a story, try using this verb:

Find your story.

This way you re-frame the task. It’s no longer a battle, rather it’s a journey. A journey of discovery. And the essence of what you are doing is simply this: getting curious.

Curious about your characters.
Curious about who they are, why they are, what they want, what they need.
Curious about their interrelationships and their respective destinies.
Curious about their goals, particularly those that come into conflict with each other.
Curious about the story universe, the various dynamics and influences at play.
Curious about how this unique mix of individuals and plot elements will evolve into being.

Prepping a story is ultimately about the act of asking questions, each one another step on the path to finding your story.

Now think on this: If there is a path, that presupposes there is an end to the path. So instead of a battle over your story where some random barbarian can spring up out of nowhere and split open your meager confidence with a pole axe, if you are on a journey of discovery, it’s all a matter of taking the time, asking the questions, and walking the steps necessary to get you to that end point, where you do find your story.

And once there, you are ready to type FADE IN. Lights up. That compelling first sentence of your novel or short story.

If someone is truly infused with the spirit of the spec, they are not the 3rd Man at parties, talking about how they are going to take a notion into a concept into an idea.

Rather if you have the spirit of the spec, you act on your idea.

You get curious about it. You ask questions. You learn your way into and through it as part of your journey of discovery.

And miracle of miracles, once you reach the end of that path, you make the most profound discovery of all. That while you were trying to find the story…

The story was — all along — trying to find you.

Tomorrow: You Write Your Story.

Part 1: Spirit Of The Spec: You Get An Idea

[Originally posted August 9, 2011]

“I want you to write a theme”

November 13th, 2015 by

Check this out:

My guess this is a pretty typical reaction to anything having to do with the subject of Theme. Groan. Head shakes. Quivering stomachs. Loathing.

Why is this the case? In part, there is a lot of confusion about what Theme actually means.

What does theme mean? How should we understand it? How can we use it in our writing?

The ironic thing is theme is incredibly important:

* Important in helping us find the focus of our story.

* Important in mining the story’s emotional and psychological depth.

* Important in elevating the impact of the events that transpire in our story.

That is why I created Core VII: Theme. And starting Monday, November 16, I will be teaching this unique one-week online screenwriting class.

It’s one of my favorite courses and I hope you can join me for a fascinating excursion into a hugely important subject with what, I believe, are some revolutionary ideas.

Some tough love for procrastination

November 9th, 2015 by

Last week, at the request of some participants, I started a Facebook group for the Zero Draft Thirty Challenge. The response has been great! I’m also finding subjects come up there which deserve an airing here on the blog. To wit, here is a FB post from Janna Gummo:

Oh boy… Im procrastinating something fierce right now. Tough love me please.

Here is my response:

Janna, I’m going to GUILT you right now, okay? This is the stick, not the carrot. And I’m will try an approach which hopefully will get you to start writing right now.

Think about your characters. Think about how they WANT you to tell THEIR story. They can only share it with one person: You.

When you’re not there, their voices go unheard. Their interrelationships, trials, hopes, and dreams exist only in a vacuum.

They are DEPENDENT on you for their existence to migrate from their world into ours.

They are waiting.. waiting… waiting…

For you.
Only you hear them.
Only you see them.

Every hour you keep them waiting, their hope flickers.
Every time you write, you give them hope.

So go to them. Sit with them. By raising their hope…

You will raise yours as well.

[Did that help?]

Janna’s response:

Im sad for my characters all of a sudden. Thank you again.

That was my intent, arouse some emotion. Because one of the very best ways to break through procrastination of the writer to get in touch with some feelings and stop thinking so damn much! How did things turn out for Janna?

Thank you ALL for the incredible support. I wrote. 5 pgs. Which isnt a lot but its something.

5 pages may not seem like much, but it’s better than zero pages. And hopefully Janna can keep reaching out to her characters and use the emotional connection she feels with them to fuel her desire to write.

What do you think? A helpful way to approach procrastination?

If you’d like to join the 250+ members of the Zero Draft Thirty Facebook group, go here.

Writing Exercise: Imagine Another Life

September 10th, 2015 by

On Twitter, there is a tradition called Throwback Thursday in which people post photographs of themselves from the past. With that in mind, check out this poem:

Another Life

By Deborah Cummins

My mother, 18, the summer before she married,
lounges belly-down in the sun,
books and grass all around, her head on her hands
propped at a jaunty angle.
She smiles in a way I’ve never seen
at something beyond the camera.
This photograph I come back to again and again
invites me to re-write her life.
I keep resisting, certain
I’d have no part in it, her first born
though not exactly. A boy first,
two months premature, my brother
who lived three days, was buried in a coffin
my father carried. “The size of a shoe box,”
he said, the one time he spoke of it.
And my mother, too, offered only once
that she was pregnant and so they married.

Drawn to this saw-edged snapshot,
I’m almost convinced to put her in art school.
Single, she’d have a job in the city,
wouldn’t marry. There’d be no children
if that would make her this happy.
But I’m not that unselfish, or stupid.
And what then, too, of my beloved sister,
her son I adore?

So let me just move her honeymoon
from the Wisconsin Dells to the Caribbean.
Let the occasional vacation in a Saugatuck cabin
be exactly what she wanted. The house
she so loved she won’t have to sell.
Winters, there’s enough money to pay the bills.
There are no cigarettes, no stroke, no paralysis.
Her right hand lifts a spoon from a bowl
as easily as if it were a sable-hair brush
to an empty canvas.
And the grass that summer day
on the cusp of another life
is thick, newly mown, fragrant.

What a beautiful poem. Provoked a lot of thoughts including this one…

Writing Exercise: Find a photograph. An old photograph of you. Now imagine an alternate future. Where did you go? Who did you become? Consider the choices you made… only in another life, you made different decisions at various forks-in-life’s-road.

Create a short story which reflects your other life.

You may listen to Garrison Keillor reading the poem by visiting The Writer’s Almanac.

A great question to ask about your Protagonist

September 8th, 2015 by

In my workshops, one line of questioning I often pose to the writers I work with about their story’s Protagonists is this: Who would they become if your story didn’t happen?

If the specific events the Protagonist participates in and specific characters with whom they intersect in your story don’t play out the way you imagine… if the Protagonist goes on with their life unaffected and unchanged because they somehow miss out on the story you had planned…

What would happen to them?

This question actually arose for the first time in a workshop I led years ago at UCLA. We were discussing The Wizard of Oz, focusing on how at the beginning of the story, Dorothy feels a sense of alienation, like in some very real way she doesn’t belong where she lives:

  • She’s a young girl surrounded by people older than she (in the Kansas scenes, there are seven other humans and each of them is an adult).
  • Everyone on the farm — from Auntie Em and Uncle Henry to the hired help Hunk, Zeke, and Hickory — has a specific job or task. Dorothy does not.
  • Nor does she have anyone (other than Toto) to play with, one reason she gets into trouble while “walking along the railing between the pig pens” and falling in, necessitating Zeke to rescue her (this incident reinforces how she just doesn’t fit in with the ways of the farm).
  • She even dresses differently than everyone else in a crisp blue-and-white dress whereas the others wear dingy work clothes.
  • Perhaps the single biggest contributing factor for Dorothy’s sense of alienation is a fact we may tend to overlook: she is an orphan.

So we can say Dorothy begins The Wizard of Oz in a state of Disunity: She’s living in a home that doesn’t feel like home. She yearns to “fly away” to some dream-like place “over the rainbow” where she will find a sense of belonging.

Indeed it takes a magical trek through Oz with all its challenges and complications, allies and enemies to help Dorothy transform from an alienated girl into someone who by the end feels about the farm and its people — “there’s no place like home.”

But what if she had not gone to Oz? No running away. No tornado. No yellow brick road. No encounter with Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion. No realization that her home in Kansas really is a home.

As we considered that question, one of the writers raised her hand and said this: “I think she could have grown up to become Miss Gulch.”

Ooh. Interesting thought. With no Oz experience, Dorothy may never have experienced being a true part of a family with Uncle Henry and Aunt Em. She may never have felt loved and accepted. She may have developed a cynical view of life. Always different than other people. Increasingly isolated and bitter.

From that perspective, Miss Gulch represents a glimpse of Dorothy’s future… if she did not go to Oz.

Hence the value of the question: If your story does not happen to your Protagonist, who will they become?

In Citizen Kane, if Charles Foster Kane had not been plucked from his idyllic life in Colorado, he may have remained a perfectly happy fellow.

In Casablanca, if Rick Blaine had not reconnected with Ilsa Lund, he may have remained a broken cynic.

In The Apartment, if C.C. Baxter had not spent those few days with Fran Kubelik in his apartment as she recuperated from her suicide attempt, he may have become another corporate toady.

In Tootsie, if Michael Dorsey had not lived as Dorothy Michaels, he may never become a better man, still stuck with his sexist tendencies.

In Up, if Carl Fredericksen had not gone on his adventure to South America and found a surrogate family, he may have simply lived out his string of days until he died… alone.

The point of the question is this: What does your story mean to your Protagonist? It’s another way of asking my very favorite question of all:

Why does this story have to happen to this character (Protagonist) at this time?

It’s not an arbitrary thing. Their life leading up to FADE IN. The inciting incident. The world of adventure they enter. The many characters they meet along the way. The complications, roadblocks, and reversals. Everything that happens is part of the Protagonist’s narrative destiny.

And a great way to sharpen your focus on what that narrative destiny is all about is to ask…

Who would my Protagonist become if this story does not happen?

Here’s what I’d like to see in comments: Take one of your favorite movies and pose that question about the story’s Protagonist. See what you come up with.

Then try it with the story you’re working on now.

Black List writers on the craft: Story Concepts (Part 1)

August 3rd, 2015 by

Over the years, I have interviewed over 40 Black List screenwriters. This month, I will run a series featuring one topic per week related to the craft of writing.

Black List logo

This week: How do you come up with story concepts?

In this first set of responses, the writers take a more ‘naturalistic’ approach which is to say they wait for inspiration to strike them:

Aaron Guzikowski: “I don’t have a specific way of doing it. Something occurs to you while you’re driving down the street, and it just seems like a good idea. I think anything that presents itself in my brain as something that I’d like to see on‑screen, and then you just want to make it real so you can see it. It’s all very selfish.”

Michael Werwie: “I think the more observational you can be in the world, the more open you’ll be to ideas in whatever form. I often put ideas together in the shower, or driving, or random moments when I least expect it. I think when an idea has story potential, it’s something that sticks with you. I’ll often carry it in my head, sometimes for a few years before I actually get to breaking a full story.”

James DiLapo: “It hits me. I don’t go looking for them, they come looking for me. I find that the entry point for me typically, is the setting, and the world. Getting a chance to live in that place, and flesh out the characters and story within it, is where I get the most rush.”

Kyle Killen: “I wish I knew where I found things – I’d look there more often. Notions, ideas, thoughts, they just sort of come to you all the time and some stick around long enough that you decide you should try to do something with them.”

Eric Heisserer: “If I could figure that out then I would be able repeat that process ad nauseam until I had a giant library of ideas. I don’t know how they come or where they come from. Sometimes I’m seized by one in the middle of the night. Sometimes it’s a slow accumulation of different little pieces that Voltron up to give me a story. Sometimes it’s during a conversation or an argument. It happens at random times. They can show up in my brain fully formed, or I have to work long and hard at it. The end product is no better or worse, but there doesn’t seem to be one way to map the genesis of an idea. I guess that’s probably good, because if there were then a lot more people would do this, and I don’t need the competition.”

Stephanie Shannon: “I don’t have a set method. I’m trying to be better about actively looking, reading articles and listening to NPR, that sort of thing. I know people do that, and I want to do more of that. I find that if I try to think of ideas like it’s a job, then it’s more difficult. That’s one of the things I want to work on, being more attuned and open to ideas and paying attention to potential stories around me.”

We’ve all been there, I suspect. Standing in a grocery line. Driving in our car. Out for a walk. When suddenly – wham! We get an idea. Perhaps it’s a concept which immediately suggests a story. Or maybe it’s merest seed of an idea which requires reflection to grow into an emerging narrative. But this spontaneous combustion, if you will, is absolutely one way story concepts come into being, a spark of inspiration seemingly out of nowhere.

For some writers, this may be all they need. However in a world of entertainment with so many different narrative platforms — movies, TV, web, books, social media — and a voracious appetite for new stories, the competition for the Next Big Thing is fierce.

What if you are the type of writer who does not naturally come up with story ideas? What if that sudden bolt of illumination is a rare commodity?

Tomorrow and for the rest of this week, we will learn how other Black List writers I have interviewed take a more proactive approach to generating story concepts, and the variety of ways they engage in that practice.

Which writers deserve a Hollywood Walk of Fame star?

July 31st, 2015 by

Yesterday I posted this, a campaign to get Raymond Chandler a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In the process of researching this project, this shocking fact came to light:

How many “solely” novelists or screenwriters have a star on the Walk of Fame?

Answer: None. All novelists and/or screenwriters on the Walk of Fame are also producers, directors, actors, or animators.

No writer has a star solely based on their writing? How absurd! When I tweeted the post, Travis Larson suggested this:

Great idea. Which screenwriter, TV writer, or novelist would YOU suggest get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?

For background, the Hollywood Walk of Fame comprises more than 2,500 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street in Hollywood, California

As a reference point, you can go here to see a list of people who have stars, and here and here for some other websites about the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In another tweet, Travis suggested this writer: Dalton Trumbo. Check out his IMDb page, an astonishing roster of movies to which he contributed his writing expertise including Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Roman Holiday, The Brave One, Spartacus, Exodus, and Papillon. Plus he was one of the Hollywood Ten, blacklisted writers who were sentenced to one year in prison and forced to work incognito. There is a biopic coming out in 2016 called Trumbo starring Bryan Cranston at the writer. Yes, Trumbo deserves a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

39a) Older Dalton Trumbo photo

Dalton Trumbo

Here’s my suggestion: Anita Loos. She was the first screenwriter to emerge as an actual star, a darling of Hollywood tabloids. She has 137 writing credits on IMDb in a career which began in 1912 and spanned four decades. She even co-wrote a book on the craft called “How to Write Photoplays” (1920).

Anita Loos

How about you? Which writers should get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?

Help get Raymond Chandler a Hollywood Walk of Fame star

July 30th, 2015 by

I get hit up all the time to help promote a variety of causes. Normally the best I can do is offer a retweet. Otherwise the blog would become more like a clog… jammed with requests for money. But this one is different. Bill Boyle and Aaron Lerner have taken up a most worthy crowdfunding campaign: To get Raymond Chandler a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Some background from the IndieGoGo page:

The paperwork and approval process have been completed.  The Chandler Estate has given us their blessing, and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has approved a star for him.

It’s about time that Chandler was honored.  His private detective, Philip Marlowe, remains one of the archetypes of the hard-boiled crime fiction genre and has  influenced generations of mystery writers.

It could be argued that Chandler created the Hollywood mystique, and if it were not for him there may not have been a Hollywood Walk of Fame.  His novels are the engine behind what was to become “Hollywood Noir.”  Chandler had an immense stylistic influence on American popular culture and, in particular, the Hollywood style of film noir.

His books have been turned into eighteen movies to date and three television series.  Chandler’s screenplays were no less noteworthy. Double Indemnity and The Blue Dahlia were Oscar-nominated for Best Screenplay,  and the critically acclaimed Strangers on a Train remains his great collaboration with Hitchcock.


How many “solely” novelists or screenwriters have a star on the Walk of Fame?

Answer: None. All novelists and/or screenwriters on the Walk of Fame are also producers, directors, actors, or animators.

Let’s make Raymond Chandler the first. He deserves it.

Raymond Chandler (seated) from the movie Double Indemnity
which he wrote with Billy Wilder

During our conversations with Aaron and Bill, I was surprised to discover these stars require private benefactors. This from Bill:

Yes, every star is paid for except the 1,500 ones that were first laid in 1959 paid for by a $1.25 Million tax assessment. After that there was a fee which I believe was initially $5,000 and has progressively increased.

Rarely do people buy the stars themselves. They are usually sponsored and paid for by the studios, production companies, recording companies and the ceremonies are coordinated to take place at the same time as a film or television series is launching.

This is why no screenwriters. In fact there isn’t even a writer emblem. The five existing emblems are; Film, Television, Radio, Recording and Live Theatre. Studios and networks don’t get much millage out of sponsoring a star for the screenwriter thus they were again ignored as were the writers whose work has played a huge role in motion picture production; J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Ian Fleming etc.

Seriously, no writer has a star solely based on their writing? Preposterous. But of all the writers to be ignored… Raymond Chandler? Here’s a promotional video Bill and Aaron put together which gets at the utter inanity of this situation:

I have featured Chandler on the blog before. For example, you can go here to listen to an amazing conversation in which Chandler is interviewed by none other than Ian Fleming. Yes, Ian “The name is Bond. James Bond” Fleming. You can go here to read a 1945 Atlantic Monthly essay penned by Chandler about his experiences in Hollywood. You can go here to read a letter Chandler wrote to Alfred Hitchcock. But perhaps what could really help sell this idea is to provide a few choice quotes from Chandler’s writing to remind us all of what a unique writing voice he had:

“To say goodbye is to die a little.” — The Long Goodbye

“From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away.” — The High Window

“Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.” — The Big Sleep

“I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.” — Farewell, My Lovely

“He snorted and hit me in the solar plexus. I bent over and took hold of the room with both hands and spun it. When I had it nicely spinning I gave it a full swing and hit myself on the back of the head with the floor.” — Pearls are a Nuisance

“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen.” — Red Wind: A Collection of Short Stories

Perhaps no writer captured the atmosphere of Los Angeles from that era better than Raymond Chandler. Think of film noir without his contributions. It’s literally unimaginable. Plus he was just a damn fine writer. If anyone deserves a star on Hollywood Boulevard, it’s Chandler.

Hence my support of this campaign. Here is how your money will be allocated:

More from Bill:

If there were no Raymond Chandler there would certainly be no Philip Marlowe and if there were no Philip Marlowe there would arguably be no Hollywood Noir or Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Currently of the 3,000 stars on the Walk of Fame there are none for a writer or screenwriter.

Let’s change that.

Today we begin our Indiegogo Campaign to get Ray a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. We need to raise $54,000 in 40 Days. With your help we can do this.

Below is the link to the Campaign. Check it out and review the amazing perks that we have put together for those who donate.

Everyone who makes a donation of any amount will receive a personalized certificate with a mock-up of the star that acknowledges your support in this campaign.

Here are the key links to help make this dream a reality.




IMDb: Raymond Chandler

If you’re an L.A. resident…

If you’re a fan of film noir…

If you’re a novelist, screenwriter, or TV writer…

If you’ve read and enjoyed Chandler’s novels and movies…

Step up like I’ve done: Contribute some money to see to it Raymond Chandler gets a deserved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

There are 37 more days in the campaign to make this happen. Spread the word!

Go here now and make a contribution.

Do it for Ray.

Words of Wisdom from Hunter S. Thompson

July 23rd, 2015 by

July 18 was the birthday of writer Hunter S. Thompson. There were a surprising amount of tribute pieces and mentions of him on that day, among them an item which included a bunch of his quotes. Here are two I thought especially relevant for writers:

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’

When we type FADE OUT on a script after however many drafts it’s taken us to reach The End, I think we should feel something akin to what Thompson described above:

So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?

Oh, yes. If a person feels the Siren’s creative call, to do anything less than follow it, regardless where it leads, is a tragedy. We have one life. One. To ignore our Bliss is a loss. But to follow it is a gain… of limitless measure.

“Buy the ticket. Take the ride.” That’s not only something Hunter S. Thompson said, it’s the title of a documentary about the writer and progenitor of Gonzo journalism. To see the doc, go here.

For the article featuring a bunch of Thompson quotes about life, go here.