Cyberspace Open 2011 Under Way!

Here we go, writing a pivotal scene over the weekend! My history in the contest isn’t great but I keep doing it for two reasons: first, it’s good practice for the crucial moments in a story, and second, because it’s damn fun. This is a habit I enjoy.

As always, I encourage everyone to play along, even if they’re not formally registered. It’s good practice dealing with the moments that the audience will always remember. In previous contests I’ve given more advance warning, but this time, there were so many “This is the deadline for registering! We really mean it!” followed by “Deadline extended! But this time it’s the absolute last deadline!” that I wasn’t really confident the contest would actually happen even at the revised time.

But it has. It’s on, baby!

For those who aren’t paid participants, there’s nothing stopping you from using this as a writing exercise. As usual, the prompt is for one of those key moments in a drama that will make a story float in the starry heavens of genius or wash up on the shore of mediocrity, where it will be used as kindling by natives. The natives on the island of mediocrity have no shortage of fuel.

So, here’s the prompt:

Your PROTAGONIST and his or her LOVE INTEREST are at odds. One of the protagonist’s schemes has gone terribly awry, and the love interest has had it. Write a scene in which they have it out – but in an unconventional way. Their words seem measured and reasonable; but the subtext says another thing entirely. You may use additional characters other than the ones specified.

The prompt also comes with this note:

This is going to take some crafty, non-on the nose writing here. For example, they can talk about boiling water, but it’s clear they’re really talking about something else. Use sarcasm or body language or timing or other means to convey your true meaning.

If past history is any guide, I’d not get too caught up in the note. What they say they want and what wins are not the same thing. What wins is a scene that kicks ass. If you can kick ass and achieve the secondary challenge, great. But it is better to never have been crafty at all, than to be crafty and not kick ass.

So, go forth, nascent screenwriters, and kick ass! I shall endeavor to do the same. As always, I will post my effort here. As always, I will write to the round 2 prompt even if I’m not officially a contender any longer. This whole exercise is about recognizing the key turning points in a story and rendering them well. You can’t practice that too often.

8 thoughts on “Cyberspace Open 2011 Under Way!

  1. Man – the last two times I’ve done this, I spent Saturday coming up with three very different ideas. Not this time around. I had one vague idea, and after tossing it around with my sweetie it feels pretty solid. I’ve got a pretty good draft now, but I’ll come back to it later tonight and see if it still feels good.

    Lots of action this time! I just need to get a little stronger with the subtext of the dialog, and decide if I want to follow my own advice and try to provide more context.

    • I felt you could use the one from the first Cyber Open (the jail break). It’s almost there…with a bit of a shift in the dialogue, bingo!

    • Sent mine in last night. Felt pretty good about it in the end, thanks to some excellent suggestions from the light of my life. I’ll post my work here once the submissions are closed.

  2. I made it to round 2 last time and I feel even better about my scene this time around so we will see.

    My only concern is that, last year in round 2, my notes said something about the scene being excellent but the reader couldn’t imagine it being part of an entire movie. It sort of stood alone. I’m afraid I may have done that again.

    Anyway, good luck.

    • Good luck right back at you — though if your scene makes you feel that good, maybe you don’t need it. Talent makes an excellent substitute for luck, after all.

      Interesting to find someone who got downgraded for telling too much of the story – several of people were dinged in the past for not giving enough background.

      • Thank you. I always write comedies though and I get the feeling from last year that it may be easier to win with drama or action. That’s unfortunately not my thing.

  3. I love the concept of this competition but hate the d-bags running it. They emphasize how critical it is to write on deadline yet they extend their own deadlines at least three times then can’t even provide a solid announcement date (around March 21-24). That said, I apply every time (I’m weak and without pride) and always advance to the second round before I crash and burn. Hopefully, this time will be different. For this first round, I skirted the rules of the premise hoping the writing was solid enough to advance me then I found a typo right after I clicked SUBMIT. Let’s see how forgiving they are…

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