Dispatch From The Quest: Christian Fontenot

October 21st, 2013 by

For the last 14 weeks, the Questers have been sharing their experiences with us through weekly Dispatches. Now that they are typing FADE IN and plunging into the page-writing part of the process, I have absolved them of this responsibility in order to focus on the task at hand. If inspired, they may post an occasional Dispatch over the next 10 weeks… or not.

Today: Christian reflects on where he is as he heads into his first draft:

This week’s quest was discovering our Narrative Throughline / Outline.  As someone who gets paid for his project management skills, I see great value in planning.  In fact, spending more time in planning makes for the smoothest execution.  Through this process I have learned that the same is true for screenwriting. That being said, the final step in planning is the project plan or the outline.  Surprisingly, this has been the most difficult for me.  My left side brain feels like it takes some of the magic out of the process; but my right side brain loves having a road map.

My left side brain keeps trying to sabotage this process.  He really wanted to “zen” out; just “let it happen” and let the magic flow.  My right side brain isn’t any nicer to my outline.  He sits in his high pulpit judging everything I write down: “Is that a strong enough open?” “Does that capture the theme?” “Would my protagonist really do that?”  “Do you need that character?” “Is that funny enough?”

In the end, my arbitration skills failed miserable as I wasn’t able to get the brain halves to come to any agreements or compromises and so my outline is lacking.  SHIT!  New voices in my head, and now this; might be time to talk to my doc to up my meds.  So my only nugget of wisdom this week is to quote screenwriter Barbie, “Outlines are hard.”

All right, 14 weeks are in the books and “Fade In” starts this week.  This could be my last dispatch; unless of course there is some need to vent or share other random observations / pseudo-wisdom with you fine people of the internet.   Here are some quick hits for you before I disappear back into Shadowlands of the Ethernet:

+ Rereading my dispatches and according to my daughter, I sound like a drunk.  Truth is I haven’t had milk, caffeine, or alcohol in about 6 months, and honestly, milk has been the hardest.  Try drinking sparkling water with a brownie.

+ I got a lot of shit from my family about the “shanty” reference in my first dispatch.  So to clear that up, I was raised in a wooden townhouse about a mile away from a swamp, and actually, outside of the Audubon Zoo, I’ve probably seen maybe 4 alligators “in the wild” and maybe a couple were really a floating log or something.

+ I really do totally think that tubas rock!

+ And last, working with a group of writers and with Scott “work-shopping” my story has been an amazing process.  My story would not be a hundredth as good without these awesome people.  I’m looking forward to spending the next ten weeks writing with them.

Ready, set, “FADE IN.”

Thanks, Christian, for your Dispatches!

Tomorrow: Another Dispatch From The Quest.

About Christian: From Louisiana, now in Seattle. Turns off street lights with his mind. Regrets not learning the tuba – TUBAS ROCK! Storyteller. @cmfontenot.

Dispatch From The Quest: Christian Fontenot

October 19th, 2013 by

Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today: Christian confronts a nebulous Act Two:

Trust the process.  Trust the process.  Trust the process?

On the eve of “Fade In”, I doubt my ability to pull this thing off.  Don’t get me wrong; trusting the Quest process, I probably know more about my main characters and theme at this stage of the game than I ever have before. I also have a pretty clear vision of my “tent pole” scenes.  I even may have even finally cracked a true unique, narrative tone.

However, connecting all these dots into a Narrative Themeline has been much harder than I ever expected.   I have a rock solid outline for Act 1 and Act 3, but Act 2 is still in it’s Jell-O phase and could go in so many different directions, and the unknown of all that is causing an anxiety fueled explosion of great feels.  But I can hear Scott’s voice in my head (not that I need another voice in my old coconut)– “let your characters guide the way”.

So come on characters, tell me your stories.  Let’s get this going!  Time for a walk.

Trust the process?  Trust the process.  Trust the process!

It’s always Act Two. That’s the bear.

Anyone can write a first act. That’s primarily setting up the story.

Almost anyone can write an ending. The drive to FADE OUT can compel us to pound out those final pages.

But the middle of the story? That’s a challenge. All those scenes. Subplots. How to build and sustain narrative drive? How to handle cross-cutting the action?

Sometimes the middle of the story feels much more like a muddle.

So yes… trust the process. Reach out to your characters. See where they take you. It helps if you have a clear sense of the Protagonist’s metamorphosis as that can help steer the psychological arc of the story.

At some point, give yourself over to page-writing. The first draft is a journey of discovery. Commit to finishing that draft no matter what. Eventually the story will become clear to you.

Good luck, Questers, and everyone else who will be typing FADE IN on Monday.

Go wrangle some magic!

Starting Monday, the last week of Dispatches From The Quest, this to allow the Questers a chance to focus on their writing.

About Christian: From Louisiana, now in Seattle. Turns off street lights with his mind. Regrets not learning the tuba – TUBAS ROCK! Storyteller. @cmfontenot.

Dispatch From The Quest: Christian Fontenot

October 11th, 2013 by

Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today: Christian wonders about power points, bullet points, and pocket notebooks:

Do you ever have one of those weeks where you just have so much to do that you don’t do any of it and just play SimCity on your Mac until two in the morning every night?  WOW!  Me too!

When one has been a member of the corporate world for fifteen plus years, one will learn to think and speak in power-point-ese (also know as bullet-point-itis).  I could go off on a tangent regarding beginning, middles, and end in power-point-ese, but this dispatch is about how it can also help you to perfect short bursts and sprints of stream of consciences thoughts and that the best outlet for this is a small notebook that can fit in your back pocket.

Over the last 3 months, my back pocket notebook has become a treasure trove of fun, random thoughts both for my story as well as grocery and to-do lists.  This notebook is also my go to for information and ideas related to my weekly quest assignments.

This week’s assignment was to continue our outlining process by examining how our themeline traverses for the story opening to the thrilling ending.  I once again pulled from the chicken scratch in my handy, dandy notebook to type up my assignment, and some sort of witchcraft also once again happened.  Seeing the scribbling’s of a mad man presented in twelve-point “Cambria” font across an open MS Word document, actually revealed something cohesive and consistent.  A real theme was already there, and the flow of themes from Act 1 through Act 3 was really, really on point with my character’s hero journey. Yay me!

So moral of the story, seeing the smudged pencil ramblings from my notebook categorized together on one sheet answered questions that were starting to drive me bananas.

Back to “Titan Moon Valley”.  I’m thinking about building a town that specialized in garbage and churches.  Wonder if my notebook has a thought on that.

I’m reminded of an old Hollywood joke. A screenwriter always kept a pad of paper and pen on his nightstand in case he came up with a good idea in the middle of night.

Sure enough, he does come up with a killer idea.

Flicks on light. Bleary eyed, scribbles down million dollar idea. Flicks off light. Goes back to sleep, secure in the knowledge he has a story concept that will transform his life.

Wakes up. Grabs up his notebook. Looks at what he scribbled down. It reads:

“Boy meets girl.”

The specifics of what he wrote are less important than this: The notebook.

Whatever you do, wherever you go, always have some sort of notebook or recording device. You never know when you will hit on a fantastic idea. Horrible to lose those to the vicissitudes of daily life.

Record them on paper or digitally. That way, you won’t forget them.

Tomorrow: Another Dispatch from The Quest.

About Christian: From Louisiana, now in Seattle. Turns off street lights with his mind. Regrets not learning the tuba – TUBAS ROCK! Storyteller. @cmfontenot.

Dispatch From The Quest: Christian Fontenot

October 2nd, 2013 by

Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today: Christian reflects on reaching the midway point of The Quest:

“Truckin’ got my chips cashed in. keep truckin’, like the do-dah man
Together, more or less in line, just keep truckin’ on.” - Grateful Dead

As our Quest reaches the halfway point, I reflect on the long, strange trip it’s been. Through this journey, I have taken a 22-word logline and witnessed a story explosion resulting in rich characters, a quirky tone, a compelling act 1, universal themes, and a few surprising act break twists.  The Questers have been such an amazing resource in helping my story ascend to heights greater than I could have ever imagined, and would not have made it this far with out them.

This week expedition was to discover our four primary plotline points. This wasn’t the hardest week as I have had a mental TIVO recording of my Opening, Act 1 Break, Act 2 Break, and Final scene since a mindless 10-hour road trip through North California and Oregon back in July.  However, finally seeing it in writing revealed a consistent theme that will only make those scenes (and the story) better.  Also all the other Prep work has helped me to draw a pencil line to connect the dots through these plotline points, and now letting the characters retrace these lines in ink will be fun.

So, yeah, I’m the guy on day one of my vacation who starts to dread going home.  My story would not be where it is today without the suggestions, ideas, questions, and concerns from my fellow Questers.  Reaching the halfway point in our Quest, I’m already starting to dread the end of this wacky trip when my fellow Questers are no longer aboard the writing 18 wheeler of fun to help me navigate through the soul-crushing hills of rewriting. 3 more weeks to “Fade In”.  Wahoo!

There are many things we can say about writing, some of them even without resorting to profanity. But one thing is for sure: Writing an original screenplay takes time.

Some of you may have pounded out a first draft in a matter of weeks, perhaps even days. But would that take into consideration the prep-writing part of the process? Now you’re talking months, perhaps even many months from concept to FADE OUT.

That being the case, writers need to develop strategies to help sustain drive and energy throughout the process.

There is the story itself, of course, whatever emotional connection you find with it, but that can wane over time.

The Questers have the benefit of each other to rally their spirits and inspire them with creative suggestions. I do my part to support the cause.

How about you? How do you persist throughout the long process of writing an original screenplay?

Whatever tips and techniques you have, please post in comments.

Tomorrow: More Dispatches from The Quest.

About Christian: From Louisiana, now in Seattle. Turns off street lights with his mind. Regrets not learning the tuba – TUBAS ROCK! Storyteller. @cmfontenot.

Dispatch From The Quest: Christian Fontenot

September 28th, 2013 by

Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today: Christian’s workshop experience gets him all poetic:

My Dearest Fellow Questers:

Thanks for inspiring me this week and continuing to push me to write the best story that I possibly can.

To quote Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Some of that is true. BTW, what are you wearing?

Soldiering on with your support as the wind in my sails…

Christian.

This group of writers is doing some really hard work with equal weight to both parts of constructive critique: Definitely sharing their honest opinion about the story content, while also coming up with suggestions to improve each others’ stories.

At the end of the day, no matter the challenges, it is an inspiring experience. If nothing else happens, I have to believe these six writers will have improved their understanding of both craft and story exponentially.

Next week: More Dispatches from The Quest.

About Christian: From Louisiana, now in Seattle. Turns off street lights with his mind. Regrets not learning the tuba – TUBAS ROCK! Storyteller. @cmfontenot.

Dispatch From The Quest: Christian Fontenot

September 17th, 2013 by

Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today: Christian confronts the F-word:

FEAR.  Fear is one of the top 6 motivators governing human decision making since the existence of hungry sabertooth tigers trying to eat said humans.  It’s an “eat or be eaten” world.  Fear is the underlying theme for the first week of prep – The Protagonist Character Treatment.

As discussed in other dispatches, I have used the last 8 weeks of Core as an opportunity to experiment with my story and writing style.  I’ve written test scenes switch protagonist and nemesis, changing genders and ethnicity, playing around with backstories and motivations.  This week was time to commit, time to make some decisions, time to “poop or get off the pot”.  So what do I do in this situation, with the hopes of having some divine intervention providing answers, maybe a small brush fire with a character name or something, I waited until the last possible minute to decide on my protagonist.

What was really holding me back was the fear of commitment.  Developing your protagonist is kind of like getting married.  Up until now, I’ve played the field, exploring lots possibilities for my story’s hero, but it’s time.  Daddy-Scott’s got his shotgun, and this shit is going to happen whether I’m ready or not.  So literally in the eleventh hour (1 hour before our assignment was due), the magic happened.  My hero raised her/his hand and said, “Here I am.  I’ve been here all along waiting for you to see me.”

With that mega commitment out of the way, why do I feel even more anxious this morning? Hopefully, this anxiety is more of an excitement to get this mighty writing ship out to the sea of story and experience more magical moments on the Quest ahead.  Bon Voyage!

If you Google “writers fear,” a quite impressive list of sites appear… which suggests that anxiety about writing is a pretty universal thing. Take this site for example which lists “The 7 Deadly Fears of Writing”:

* Fear of Rejection
* Fear of Inadequacy
* Fear of Success
* Fear of Revealing Too Much
* Fear of Having Only One Book in You
* Fear You’re Too Old
* Fear of Too Much Research

I could add a few like Fear You’re Too Young, Fear Your Stories Aren’t Commercial, Fear Someone Is Going To Beat You To The Punch With This Current Story You’re Writing And Wouldn’t That Suck Big Time.

How about you? Are there any writing fears you would add to the list.

The thing is, if we can learn to flip our perspective, anxiety or even fear can be motivating. Like what Christian did: As soon as he stepped out of the fear and into the real world, where he realized, “Hey, the due date is going to hit no matter what, so I’d better get off the pot here,” he pounded out a treatment.

Here is one of the best anecdotes I’ve ever heard about how fear can serve as motivation. I recall reading it in a book by screenwriter William Goldman. It seems Goldman knew this professional basketball player, a guy who was a member of the New York Knicks. The dude was known for his work ethic, showing up well before practice, staying well after, practicing his shooting for hours on end.

Goldman asked, “You’ve already made the NBA. Why do you continue to work so hard?”

The guy turned to Goldman and said, “Because I know if I’m not practicing… someone else is.”

Acknowledge the fear. Make fun of the fear. Embrace the fear. Use the fear. Whatever works. Whatever gets our ass on chair and writing.

Because when we’re not writing… someone else is.

Tomorrow: Another Dispatch From The Quest.

About Christian: From Louisiana, now in Seattle. Turns off street lights with his mind. Regrets not learning the tuba – TUBAS ROCK! Storyteller. @cmfontenot.

Dispatch From The Quest: Christian Fontenot

September 6th, 2013 by

Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today: Christian does some ‘preaching’ about theme:

Theme is meaning.  Everything in my life is dictated by theme.  As a GU13 soccer coach, our 2013 theme is “Possession”. All of our practices are based on passing and movement and not just shooting.  A sub-theme could be “the best defense is a good offense” which leads back to “Possession”.  At dinner in the Fontenot household, Sunday is “Breakfast for Dinner”, and Tuesday is “Taco Night.”  These mealtime themes help us to narrow down decisions on what’s for dinner as well as set expectations so there’s no whining about wanting something else because you know what night it is and what’s for dinner.  Tuesday – tacos, damn it!

By my math, this dispatch will fall right between the eighth anniversaries of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.  A quick history lesson, Hurricane Katrina completely destroyed the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the southeastern parishes of Louisiana as well as flooded 85% of the city of New Orleans.  26 days later, Hurricane Rita struck land, wiping out the rest of the Louisiana coastline.  My real time blogging from these hurricanes can be found here.

In the aftermath of these hurricanes, I had the privilege of working with 10 of the smartest people in the world as well as a $100MUSD budget to help rebuild and transform education in the impacted gulf coast.  Beside the challenges of both physical and emotional damage inflicted in the region, our team was leaderless, or should I say that we were all leaders.  Theme was key to overcoming the kitchen full of chefs and improving our effectiveness. Our main theme was collaboration – collaboration between student, teachers, school districts and states.  Having this theme empowered each of us to make important independent decisions necessary for the program’s success.

All of our life experiences shape us as writers and as a writer I always start with theme.  Theme is the air that our characters breathe; it’s the water that our characters drink; it’s the unified field theory of our characters’ universe.  Theme is God.

Can I get an “Amen”?  CAN I GET AN AMEN!

Theme as God. How about theme as The Force:

“The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”

John August describes theme as DNA here.

God. The Force. DNA. Whatever metaphor or imagery we use, one thing is certain: Theme is a helluva lot more than simply a story’s premise.

Tomorrow: Another Dispatch From The Quest.

About Christian: From Louisiana, now in Seattle. Turns off street lights with his mind. Regrets not learning the tuba – TUBAS ROCK! Storyteller. @cmfontenot.

Dispatch From The Quest: Christian Fontenot

August 28th, 2013 by

Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today: Christian confronts the emotional maelstrom caused by confusion:

There are three little words that will crush a writer’s soul like my Uncle T-Boy with empty PBR cans against his oversized forehead. (There was this one time when the beer can wasn’t empty and who knew a head could bleed so much, but that’s another blog post.)  This life sucking string of words that you hope to never leave your reader’s lips is “I am confused.”

At home, effective communication is the key to my survival.  Being the only owner of a Y chromosome in a house full of X’s, I only get a small allotment of words per day, and I must make them count.  I also dabble in youth sports coaching and over communicate by strategy.  You don’t want parents getting time wrongs for practice or games, and you don’t want blank stares from players at half time.  Just ask my daughter what happened when I yelled “sit on the ball” to her in the final seconds of a very close basketball game.

At that thing that helps pay the bills and the taxman, misunderstandings can cost you millions of dollars.  We must be as explicit as possible with everything that we do, because confusion equals failure.  All of which leads me to…

This week’s Quest was all about the SCENE – begins, middles, ends; structural goal and emotional goal; character purpose; main conflict; and theme.  Our exercise was to write a scene from our stories identifying all of these scene elements.

As with all my past assignments, I put on my “Mad Scientist” lab coat and decided to experiment.  My goals were to identify all the elements of the scene before I wrote it.  I also decided that I was going to try my hand at a “Walk and Talk” as well as incorporating other tropes found by hitting the random link on TVtropes.com.  As an Act 1 “Walk and Talk”, I would have 2 characters walking through different rooms and hallways “gun hanging” while crazy sight gags (rhyme alert) went down in the background (yo).

On the positive side, my fellow Quester said my scene was “fun”, “crazy”, and “very visual”, but on the more important side, each one said it was “confusing”.  Wah-oh Shaggy! Few lessons learned:  #1. Translating from your head to the blank page is hard, and maybe that’s why I find writing dialogue easier.  #2.  Never submit something until it’s ready.  I knew that it was confusing but was so proud of this new born 6 page sequence that I wanted to post it’s baby pictures to the web as soon as possible.  #3. Smash beer cans on your head only makes the pain worse.

Okay, another blog down.  Did that make sense?  Are you confused yet?

Someone once asked me to describe the process of writing a story as succinctly as I could. I answered with this:

“Wrangling magic.”

We can try and make a formula out the process. Come up with repeatable strategies and patterns. But the simple fact is stories are mysterious… as they should. That’s where surprise comes in. Twist and turns. Big reveals. And magic. How in some unfathomable way, if we keep working at them, they come together in the end.

But to approach the story-crafting process, we have to embrace the reality of confusion. Think about it. The very first moment you come up with a story idea, you open up a floodgate of big fat question marks about a seemingly endless array of issues: characters, plot elements, themes, scenes, tone, atmosphere, place, and on and on and on.

It’s a whole lotta shit to deal with! And that can be confusing.

But if we can embrace that dynamic as a natural part of the process, then we are tacitly accepting the fact there is magic involved.

Confusion means we don’t know if there are answers out there.

Magic means there are answers.

So the next time you run into a confusing situation in your story development, take a deep breath, do like Christian did and admit you’re confused, then acknowledge this is all part of the process of wrangling magic.

Hopefully that little shift in attitude can help see you through the confusion.

If not, well… there’s always a can of PBR directed at your forehead.

Tomorrow: Another Dispatch From The Quest.

About Christian: From Louisiana, now in Seattle. Turns off street lights with his mind. Regrets not learning the tuba – TUBAS ROCK! Storyteller. @cmfontenot.

Dispatch From The Quest: Christian Fontenot

August 24th, 2013 by

Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today: Christian talks about The Quest as a Hero’s Journey:

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” – Joseph Campbell

When I received the email from Scott that I was selected for the Quest, my first reaction was that I was extremely lucky and the second was that this was an opportunity for me to participate in something bigger than myself. This journey would be shared (and maybe inspire) not only with you fine citizens of the global interwebs, but also with my two daughter.

This week’s Core topic was dialog. Coincidentally enough, the Quest has been a lightning rod of conversation in the Fontenot house. My kids have been in some ways taking the Quest with me. Both of my girls are very creative storytellers with a great love, appreciation for books and movies. My youngest has spent her summer reading (last count 15 books). In fact, she is dreading the start of school because she won’t have as much time to read.

What can be bigger than yourself than your children, and I do this Quest for them – my girls. On top of hoping for a “rub off” effect making them better storytellers, my other hope is showing my girls that dreams never die. Now, I just need to get them off their butts and go outside and kick a ball around or something.

“Tell me a story.” How many times in any given day do children all around the world utter those four words to a parent, a caregiver, a teacher? I cannot even begin to count the number of stories I have read, watched, heard or made up with both of my sons. Indeed a few years ago, I remember reading a startling statistic: By the time a person graduates from college, they will have been exposed to approximately 10,000 stories.

10,000!

So if Joseph Campbell is correct, that all stories basically tell one story, then it’s no wonder the Hero’s Journey is deeply engrained in our collective and personal consciousness.

Now here is Christian, giving himself over to The Quest, going on his own Hero’s Journey.

And here are his daughter’s going on theirs as well.

That makes me happy.

I mean what if everything that’s happened in my life… and everything that’s happened in Christian’s life… and everything that’s happened in relation to The Quest… was all meant in some crazy way to be about feeding the creativity of Christian’s daughters? That years from now, those two young women could become master storytellers?

That’s very much in the spirit of a Hero’s Journey with its twists and turns. You just never know whose Inner Spirit will emerge into the light of consciousness and propel them into the heart of the adventure.

For now, my focus is on Christian and his story. And Miranda, Paul, Sandy, Troy and Waka, and their stories. But if through their efforts, they inspire family members and friends to pursue their own creative ambitions…

Wouldn’t that be a great thing?

About Christian: From Louisiana, now in Seattle. Turns off street lights with his mind. Regrets not learning the tuba – TUBAS ROCK! Storyteller. @cmfontenot.

Dispatch From The Quest: Christian Fontenot

August 14th, 2013 by

Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today: Christian’s experience of a scene-writing exercise had a visceral effect on him:

This week, shit got real.  Even though I was geeky engineering major at LSU, I took great pride in all my hard earned A’s in my English Lit classes.  Before my last semester, I decided to try a “correspondence” English class (for you youngster out there, this was before the times of the interwebs and was a snail mail based way to get college credit).  I was really hoping on carrying a light load during my last semester giving me more time to focus on my kazoo translation of Van Halen’s Diver Down album (again for those youngsters, an album is fancy, old timey name for a playlist).  However, this “correspondence” class ended up being an epic fail.  My first assignment – I read the book, wrote my essay, mailed it to the teacher, and waited for her to tell me just how awesome she thought I was.  I got a “D” and preceded to drop that class like Van Halen drops lead singers (youngsters – VH has had 5 different singers if you count Dave Lee Roth 3 times).

This week’s Quest focused on finding our “Narrative Voices”.  After reading the lectures, I knew I had this – tone, style, and voice are all in my writer’s wheelhouse.  Our assignment was to write a scene for our stories expressing our voice in a manner consistent with our genre.  I made the descent down to my storage room / office to write an important Act 2 scene that I’ve been chomping at the bit to do for a month now.  After I finished, I sat back in my metal folding chair basking in the brilliance spewed across my computer screen, then I made a fateful decision and shared this genius with my wife. (nasally voice) “Is this a suspense thriller, I thought you were writing a comedy?”  OH SHIT! It’s Senior Year English lit all over again.  This ain’t as easy as it seems and/or I ain’t as good as I think I am.

I took another whack at my pages heavily abusing my online thesaurus.  Alas, this newer version read like a sexy tech manual, which I guess would be okay if I changed my characters into robots and set it in a strip club on the moon (hey, I’m generating story ideas).  I took one more pass, then just said, “fuck it” and posted it online to share with my sweet, clean fellow Questers.

The coolest thing about this week is that we, Questers, have gabbed about our story concepts and characters for almost a month now.  This exercise was great not only to find our narrative voices but to also get a better feel for each other’s stories.  Let me tell you what, these mofo’s can write, and shit’s getting real, yo!

Rubber meets the road. Petal hits the metal. Shit’s getting real. However you typify it, when you move from the theory of writing a story to the actual experience of writing it, that is a whole new level of reality.

Last week we immersed ourselves in screenwriting Style. As Chris notes, I directed the Questers to take on a scene from their story in part to test out their Narrative Voice, but also to get their feet wet with their characters in the context of their story universe.

Another metaphor: Putting flesh on bones.

Rubber. Petal. Flesh. That’s where we’re headed, beckoning us on the horizon. Still learning a character-based approach to screenwriting, then into Prep. But pretty soon…

The shit will be getting real, indeed.

Tomorrow: Another Dispatch From The Quest.

About Christian: From Louisiana, now in Seattle. Turns off street lights with his mind. Regrets not learning the tuba – TUBAS ROCK! Storyteller. @cmfontenot.