Hey, Cyberspace Open Guys! Um… never mind.

On the Web site for the Cyberspace Open, it says “Judging is expected to take 3-4 weeks.” Now, I understand that’s not the same as saying “Judging will take at most four weeks,” but round two is this weekend and still no word on our scores from round one. It has now been over four weeks.

Note: Ooops! Looks like I missed one of the bullet points on the contest Web site, and the results are due by tomorrow at the latest. The rest of this episode was a bit of a rant (tempered with my belief that this is a cool contest), and at least part of what I said was unjustified.

Sorry, Cyberspace Open Guys!

Cyberspace Open Update

A couple of people have asked me what’s up with the ol’ Cyberspace Open. The short answer is that we’re in the waiting period while the judges wade through all the entries. You may have noticed by now that I’m rarely satisfied with the short answer.

The long answer is that last time the judges were a bit overwhelmed, and didn’t hit their deadlines. Being the clever humans they are, they allowed themselves more time for judging this spring. Round two of the contest goes from 5pm May 22 to 9am May 23. Or something like that.

Of course the added judging time gives me extra time as well, to go back over my entry and find more things I could have done better. Hopefully most of the other entrants are in the same boat. Time will tell.

I misreported about the contest format a while ago; while last fall there were three rounds, this time there are only two. In round two the remaining 100 contestants will have overnight to construct a dazzling scene. The top three of those scenes will be produced and put on the Interwebs for voting. To vote, one must subscribe to the contest sponsor’s mailing list, or something like that. If it matters, I’ll get back to you on that.

In previous years there was a third round with the top ten contestants, giving them 90 minutes to produce a masterpiece. I suspect that the quality of those entries was suspect, and that they went with the two-round format to have a better product to put on YouTube. Can’t say as I blame them.

Anyway, I’m continuing to cross fingers and toes and wait (mostly) patiently for the results. Will the judges like my work, or will they trip up on the parts I want to make better? Will they roll their eyes and say, “Vampires? Again?” (There are also four cash prizes for genre submissions, awarded based on round one entries. Unfortunately I expect that two-thirds of the entrants did some urban fantasy/horror thing, so the competition will be pretty fierce.)

I’ll probably be in Prague when my score comes out, but don’t worry, kids, I’ll be sure to let you know right away.

1

Cyberspace Open: Immortal Flesh

Time’s up, pencils down! The writing part of round one is over; now the waiting part begins. As I did last time, I have posted my entry below. As with last time, there are a couple of lines I’d like back. One of them I tweaked about a hundred times, read out loud in Igon’s voice, fiddled, twisted, and never got right. In the harsh light of morning I realize that when that happens it’s not usually the words causing trouble, but the idea they are trying to represent. Igon’s just not saying the right thing just then.

There are a couple of places where I flirt with As-You-Know-Bobs — things people say to each other that they both already know as an artificial way to inform the audience. They wouldn’t be necessary if this scene had the context of the larger story around it, but I think here they work to provide needed information about the core ideas in the story.

For your remindification, here’s the prompt that all challengers were to write to:

Your protagonist is crushed. His or her plans have been dashed; his objective now appears impossible. And yet if he throws in the towel, bad things will happen. Write a scene in which a mentor, friend, love interest or enemy rallies or provokes your protagonist in an unexpected way. Be sure to give us your best dialogue here as your protagonist comes around and rises – or falls — to the occasion.

And here’s what I did with it. Enjoy! (Warning: there’s a bit of foul language ahead.)

INT. DIVE BAR – LATE NIGHT
DEEK (26, slender, scruffy) slumps on his barstool, toying idly with an empty longneck. The bar is dim, neon lights splash reds and blues about. There is no one else sitting at the bar.
Deek catches the bartender’s eye and raises a finger. The bartender shakes his head.
BARTENDER
I think you’ve had enough.
DEEK
I’m not even buzzed.
The bartender glances at Deek’s tab.
BARTENDER
Dude, you’ve had ten beers.
DEEK
Then you better bring me something stronger.
BARTENDER
Tough day, huh?
Deek is starting to lose it, holding back tears, clinging white-knuckled to his empty. The bartender nods.
BARTENDER (CONT’D)
OK, gimme your keys and I’ll let you have another.
Deek snorts and reaches into the back pocket of his jeans. He pulls out a card and slaps it on the bartop with a bang.
BARTENDER (CONT’D)
What’s this?
DEEK
It’s my fuckin’ bus pass. I’m a fuckin’ superhero and I don’t even have a fuckin’ car.
The bartender steps back; the camaraderie he was trying to foster is broken.
BARTENDER
What’ll it be?
DEEK
You got any rat poison?
The bartender laughs nervously and wipes down a section of bartop.
DEEK (CONT’D)
Probably wouldn’t kill me anyway. Just gimme another beer.
The bartender pops a longneck and sets it in front of Deek.
BARTENDER
And for you, sir?
Deek wheels and discovers a man sitting next to him. A vampire. Igon is withered but healthy, impeccably dressed. Deek leaps off his stool, landing gracefully while the stool clatters to the floor.
BARTENDER (CONT’D)
That’s it, buddy, you’re done.
Deek is trying to control his breathing, never taking his eyes off the vampire. Igon touches the bartender’s arm. He looks directly into the bartender’s eyes.
IGON
It’s all right. I’ll have whatever passes for Scotch in this place. One for my friend as well.
(to Deek)
I’m just here to talk.
DEEK
I think I should be going.
IGON
Don’t be foolish. If you leave, you force me into actions we would both rather avoid.
Igon takes the two highballs and heads to a table in the corner. Hesitantly Deek picks up his stool and retrieves his beer. He follows to where Igon is seated. He hesitates.
IGON (CONT’D)
If I wanted you dead, you would be dead already.
Deek nods and slides into the chair opposite Igon. He accepts his drink, sets his beer next to it. They sit in silence for a moment.
DEEK
So, talk.
Igon smiles apologetically. His tone is grandfatherly.
IGON
Forgive me; it is easy to forget how you mortals hear the ticking of a clock in every heartbeat.
He sips from his glass, finds the Scotch adequate.
IGON (CONT’D)
I have two problems, Mr. Kramer. You are one of them.
DEEK
You have my sympathy.
IGON
You are also a potential solution to my other problem.
DEEK
Is your other problem a vampire?
Igon smiles. Deek has seen right to the heart of the matter.
IGON
Yes. A very old, very powerful vampire. My only true rival. I would like him dead.
DEEK
Why don’t you do it yourself?
IGON
We each have an aura, Mr. Kramer. A vibration. A smell. When you absorb the power of another vampire you inherit traces of that aura as well. I can hardly appear in council reeking of a vampire who has gone missing. I can already smell that French bastard Henri on you, and you still have a lot of him left to consume.
Igon leans in, a dangerous fire in his eye.
IGON (CONT’D)
Vampires believe they are immortal, Mr. Kramer, but you and I know the secret. We have taken the power of others and made it our own.
Deek’s eyes widen as he realizes that Igon has eaten the flesh of other vampires.
IGON (CONT’D)
Don’t look so shocked, boy. This is about power.
DEEK
If I kill this guy, what’s in it for me?
IGON
I will allow you to live.
Deek stares down at his hands on the table.
DEEK
You’ll have to do better than that.
IGON
Well, then, let us haggle. What would you like? Wealth? Power?
(pause)
Sex?
Igon grins and lowers his voice conspiratorially.
IGON (CONT’D)
Fernando has an impressive harem. Very talented. You could choose one for yourself, with my compliments. Your very own vampire concubine.
DEEK
I want Jody back.
IGON
The girl you killed?
DEEK
It was an accident!
IGON
It was careless.
Igon narrows his eyes, measuring Deek.
IGON (CONT’D)
How would you feel if your girlfriend were a vampire?
DEEK
You can –
Igon raises his hand, forestalling Deek’s question.
IGON
I don’t know. It has never been done before. But I am a man of science. The idea intrigues me.
Igon thinks through the intricacies of the operation.
IGON (CONT’D)
It would probably kill the vampire who attempted the conversion.
Deek’s new hope is crushed. Igon smiles and pats his arm.
IGON (CONT’D)
No cause for worry, my boy. I always keep an extra vampire or two around for just such contingencies.
DEEK
You would still have one problem.
IGON
A cogent observation. Luckily for you, I have many enemies. As long as I can trust you to kill only the vampires I specify, I can make sure you have plenty to eat.
DEEK
And Jody? You’ll help her?
IGON
What if I did? If your friend were hungry, would you help her hunt? Would you murder a human to help a vampire?
Deek swallows but finds the answer.
DEEK
Yes.
Igon leans back and smiles warmly. He raises his glass.
IGON
To a long and productive partnership.
Deek picks up his own glass, gestures, and drains it.
1

Home Stretch

I have my entry almost ready to submit, and I have to say it’s turning into a pretty powerful scene. I thought of submitting now to prevent myself from editing the soul out of the piece the way I did last time, but I’m going to read the critique I got last time, then go over the current entry once more with the specific goal of editing more soul into it. I think it still needs a little kick to put it into the top 100.

It’s in the verbs, baby. Soul is in the verbs.

I’ve received several notes of encouragement from hither and yon, including one offer to have a shot of absinthe on my behalf. Now that’s support! After time has expired I will post my entry here, to see what you all think of it. In the end I went with writing the scene my novel needs, and the twist I came up with this weekend to make the scene work also provides some excellent grist for the novel. So, even if I don’t win fame and fortune in the contest, my story will benefit.

Update:
OK, I’ve submitted! 14 hours early, in fact. That doesn’t earn me extra points with the judges but it does stop me from driving myself crazy over every damn word for the next forthour. Thanks once again for the friends who sent their support, and especially those who helped me decide which scene to use and provided helpful feedback. The result is solid, but does it sparkle? Does it change the way people think about film as an art form?

Well, no. But it’s not bad. I will post it here once submissions are closed.

Let the Writing Begin!

Here’s the prompt. Talk among yourselves. I’ll be brainstorming for a little while.

Your protagonist is crushed. His or her plans have been dashed; his objective now appears impossible. And yet if he throws in the towel, bad things will happen. Write a scene in which a mentor, friend, love interest or enemy rallies or provokes your protagonist in an unexpected way. Be sure to give us your best dialogue here as your protagonist comes around and rises – or falls — to the occasion.

* * *

Results of my musings, one day later.

I think one movie that captures this scene particularly well is Happy Gillmore, when his “Happy Place” is overrun by the evil forces that are dogging him. You have to appreciate a flick that can make that dark moment so entertaining. So far, my attempts to come up with a lighter scenario have come up empty.

Interestingly, this prompt is a scene that the novel I’m working on right now desperately needs. So there’s the whole two-birds-with-one-stone synergy going on. I’ll be drafting that scene tonight. What’s hanging me up right now is the word ‘unexpected’ in the prompt. I know when I find just the right button to push on the protagonist that it will be really sweet.

I just finished a rough draft of my other candidate and I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. Still needs some work, and this time I’ll pay special attention to accentuating the individuality and unique voice of each character. One thing about this idea – it would be really easy to pitch to a producer. I have a hard time summing up most of my ideas into and “elevator pitch” but this one summarizes so nicely into a shining nugget of marketability that I’m a little hesitant to let it out on its own just yet. We’ll see.

Hope everyone else is doing well!

1

Cyberspace Open: Countdown

Just a quickie while I take a break from work to remind anyone who wants to play along that I will be posting the prompt for round one of the competition here later today. It’s too late to register as an official participant, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play along! If you’re not formally entered you don’t even have to worry about screenplay formatting and all that folderol.

The prompts last time were excellent writing exercises in their own right, so pull up a laptop and play along!

Cyberspace Open II: Revenge of the writer

I had a great time participating in the previous Cyberspace Open. I didn’t make it past the first round but I participated in the second as if I had, just for giggles. Now I’m back to try again, a little wiser this time, a little more savvy about what they’re looking for. Will I be able to separate myself from the crowd, to elevate myself from ‘pretty good’ to ‘awesome’? We’ll see. I think I can.

The contest works like this: In the first round, a premise is published Friday evening. Everyone writes a scene based on the premise, due first thing Monday morning. No pressure! The 100 best screenplays move on. In the second round a new premise is given and participants have but one night to write their scenes. The top ten of those will be given a new premise and two whole hours to turn it into art.

Last time I did ok with the first round, but not well enough to distinguish myself from the pack. I did the second round just for fun, and though it was not judged, some bystanders thought it came out better than my first round’s effort. That may well be; I think my first round script lost some sparkle as I worked on it. I lost the original quirkiness as I polished the language. While writing a scene in a weekend may seem daunting, last year I think it was too much time for me. This time around I will concentrate on increasing the unique character of the scene as I polish the script.

As I did last time, I’ll be posting my work here, along with any observations about the contest in general. One fun side effect of last autumn’s effort was that this blog became, for a short while, a meeting-place for a few participants in the contest. It was an unexpected bonus that made participation all the more fun.

So pencil the weekend of April 17th, grab your word processors and gather ’round the ol’ Muddled Ramblins. It’ll be a hoot!

Or, just drop by to cheer me on.

Cyberspace Open Round Two

Although my first entry was not good enough to place me in the top one hundred, I decided before the competition started that I would do the following rounds whether or not I was still in the running. Tonight my resolve was sorely tested, but my head has been in geek-space too much lately, so the chance to do a writing assignment seemed like a good idea.

That’s not to say that I put a whole lot of effort into it, however.

Here’s the new premise:

Your PROTAGONIST’S allies have turned on him (or her.) His reputation is now in tatters, largely due to his own screw-up — which has been magnified and broadcast by the ANTAGONIST. Write the scene in which the protagonist tries to win the allies back. The scene should include a heartfelt mea culpa. You may use any setting, era or characters in addition to the ones indicated, as needed.

Although competitors have all night, I only spent a couple of hours on mine. While pondering what to write, I realized that I already have some stories that I intentionally don’t devote much time to. So here’s a scene from Allison in Anime, way out of sequence, pooped out in screenplay format for the sake of this exercise. (I played a little fast and loose with who the protagonist is, but in a good story everyone thinks they’re the protagonist anyway.)

For those who aren’t familiar with my little exercise in logorrhea, Allison in Animeland is a spoof of Japanese cartoons in which an American girl finds herself in a Japan where all the strange conventions of anime are actually true. In this Japan, transfer students ALWAYS turn out to be more than they seem, and the destruction of entire cities is routine, as are exclamation points. This scene takes place quite a bit in the future from any published episode and uses several characters who haven’t even been named in the main story yet.

INT. DOJO – DAY
Afternoon sun slants through high windows, forming shafts that reflect off the highly-polished wood floor. All is quiet. Suddenly the door slides open with a bang.
AZUSA (17,) slender and athletic, storms into the room, her red hair trailing behind her.
AZUSA
Damn that girl!
KIRA (17,) a tall and lanky boy, emerges from the shadows. His blond hair shines in a shaft of sunlight.
KIRA
Hello, Azusa.
Azusa wheels, her eyes wide with shock.
AZUSA
Kira!
KIRA
Were you expecting someone else?
AZUSA
The transfer student will be here soon. We have a training session.
Kira walks farther into the room. He is holding a sword.
KIRA
You were instructed to break her.
AZUSA
I will! She’s —
KIRA
She’s stronger than ever!
Azusa bows in shame, then raises her eyes, narrowed and calculating.
AZUSA
Her strength will be ours to use.
HAYASE (16,) buxom with a long black ponytail, emerges from another corner of the dojo. Her pretty face is set in a sneer. She too carries a sword. Azusa whirls to meet her. Hayase poses to emphasize how much more attractive she is than Azusa.
HAYASE
Ours… or yours? You’re planning something!
AZUSA
What do you mean?
HAYASE
You want to use her power yourself.
AZUSA
Do not accuse me of what you desire for yourself!
KIRA
You plan to overthrow the council! You plan to overthrow ME!
AZUSA
No!
From another corner NARUMI (14,) a geeky-looking boy, emerges. The sunlight glints off his glasses and off the blade of the sword he carries. His voice is thin and weak.
NARUMI
Tell us what you have learned. Tell us of her powers.
AZUSA
Her speed with a sword is uncanny. She can strike several times without stopping to talk.
The other three gasp.
NARUMI
Impossible!
HAYASE
What sort of demon magic is this?
AZUSA
She can even strike when her opponent is talking.
From the fourth corner of the dojo IRUKA (17, dark, mysterious) steps forth. He carries his sword casually. He speaks slowly, confidently, his baritone voice filling the room.
IRUKA
Not even demons and death spirits have powers like that.
Azusa turns as the four other members of the student council close in around her.
AZUSA
The transfer student is not a demon.
IRUKA
Oh? Are you an expert on the subject?
AZUSA
No.
Azusa raises her own sword, but tries to make it look casual. The others start to move in a slow circle around her. She tries desperately to keep an eye on all of them.
KIRA
What is she then? A robot?
NARUMI
Robots don’t generally fence. They prefer particle weapons and cannon.
AZUSA
I have seen her bleed.
HAYASE
She must be an escaped lab experiment, then, like I always said.
NARUMI
She is good with computers. We saw that the last time our school was blown up.
KIRA
Don’t forget what she did to–
Iruka slashes his sword.
IRUKA
Enough!
The group falls silent. Everyone stands frozen in place. Kira swallows nervously.
KIRA
Azusa, as head of the student council, I relieve you of your duties.
AZUSA
No!
Hayase shakes her pigtail and folds her arms under her ample breasts.
HAYASE
(to Kira)
You should have given me the job in the first place. I could break her in fifteen minutes.
AZUSA
You don’t understand! Allison is vulnerable! This is the key moment!
HAYASE
Allison? Ha! I thought so! The transfer student says you’re… friends!
AZUSA
You have to let me finish!
IRUKA
Finish what, Azusa? When the time comes, who are you going to choose? The Council, or your… friend?
Azusa lowers her sword and her head.
AZUSA
I… don’t know.
KIRA
You wish to rule at her side, don’t you?
Hayase smiles wickedly.
HAYASE
But which of you is the prince and which is the princess… or will you take turns?
AZUSA
I have always done my duty to the council.
KIRA
And you have always thought you would be a better leader than me.
IRUKA
Kira, we all think we would be a better leader than you. And we are all correct. But you have been appointed, for reasons unknown. Azusa.
Azusa turns to face Iruka. Even in the light he seems to have shadows cast on him.
AZUSA
Yes?
IRUKA
You have befriended the enemy.
AZUSA
Yes. I am sorry.
She drops to one knee and lays her sword on the floor in front of her.
AZUSA (CONT’D)
I have failed you.
IRUKA
Not necessarily. You said she was vulnerable.
Azusa hesitates. She knows what is coming.
AZUSA
Yes.
Iruka steps forward and places the blade of his sword against her neck, very gently.
IRUKA
You can break her?
AZUSA
Yes.
Iruka crouches down to look Azusa in the eye.
IRUKA
Then do so. Today.
AZUSA
Yes, sir.
The door to the dojo slides open with a bang. ALLISON (16,) perky and dressed for fencing, enters. She drops her bamboo practice sword with a clatter.
ALLISON
Oh! I’m sorry! Am I interrupting something?

The Waiting is Over!

I finally got my score back from round one of the Cyberspace Open and I think it’s unlikely that I will be (officially) advancing to the next round.

For reference, you can read my entry here. This is the review in full, with the reviewer’s ID and my email addy redacted:

Total Score–Calculated: [21+20+21+21]
Reviewer ID number:
Writer’s Name: Jerry Seeger
Writer’s Email Address:
Structure Score: 21
Dialogue Score: 20
Style Score: 21
Originality Score: 21
Judge’s Comments: The scene has a nice energy to it throughout, though the action feels a little hackneyed and familiar. The relationship between Tommy and Lenore is interesting but it never really becomes something easy to invest in. The dialogue is a little talky and the writing a bit wordy. Try not to open a scene with a large chunk of description – ugh! Apply the 4 line rule throughout (no more than 4 lines of description at any one time). A slimmed down writing style that shows rather than tells – using as few words as possible – would help to bring out the inherent drama and suspense. Less is often more! Good luck.

I knew some of this criticism was coming; the ‘hackneyed and familiar’ part was the subject of a previous lament in a comment somewhere. I failed to break the two out of the ‘modern Bonnie and Cyde’ mold and give the two their own identities. A pity. The opening wordiness demerit is a bit frustratiing; I had put in extra stuff to set the context of the scene better (in an actual script you’d know about the GTO already, for instance), and normally character descriptions would not happen there. They would have been taken care of long before.

As for the wordy dialog, there’s one phrase, “You got some drivin’ to do,” that I really dislike now, but I think the two are talky people. Once again without context the mercurial conversations don’t make as much sense. It goes back to me doing a better job establishing who these people are in the first few words. I failed at that.

Still, I think it’s a fair score and the comments are things I can definitely learn from as I work on other things.

Will I go on to round two? I have to admit that I’m pretty pessimistic on that front. I expect I’m firmly in the middle of the pack of competent entrants, but I think it’s going to take a little more than that to move on. Only time will tell, however, so keep your digits crossed!

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

As the end of judging nears, I still haven’t received my score. Is that a good sign? Does it mean they are holding back the top candidates so they can sort out the best 100 after their first pass? Do they want to announce the winning scores all at once? Or is it that since I submitted a long time before the deadline I’m at the bottom of the virtual pile, unread?

No way to tell.

However, while I can think of positive reasons my score announcement might be delayed, I can’t think of any negative ones — unless they lost my entry, but I think we’d be able to work that out. They’ve been quite reasonable with other folks who have fallen to technical glitches. So: only good reasons for them to delay telling me my score. Most likely they just haven’t got to me yet. No reason to fidget.

Except that I’m a writer, and I’m bound by the Writers’ Code to be neurotic about stuff like this.

Bad Judgement

I wrote this scene over the course of two days, and I stopped myself before I edited all the fun out of it. (At least, I hope I did.) Lenore and Tommy seem to be in a heap of trouble, but can they even trust each other? The scene that comes after this one is awesome, if unwritten.

As a reminder, here’s the premise:

Your PROTAGONIST is in a jam. He (or she) had been relying on deception in order to further his objective, but his ENEMY has figured out the ruse. Write the scene in which your protagonist’s LOVE INTEREST confronts him with this information acquired from the enemy – while in staging it in a tricky or dangerous situation.

I learned a few things while writing this… but let’s cut to the chase.

INT. GETAWAY CAR
LENORE (26,) a willowy blonde, is behind the wheel of a souped-up GTO, her hair blowing in the wind from the sunroof. She is grinning maniacally as she flies down a two-lane blacktop. Abruptly she cranks the wheel and the car goes into a sideways skid, kicking up a cloud of dust as she comes to rest by the prison wall. Sirens blare. She leans over, pulls the handle on the passenger door, and TOMMY (28,) tall and angular, jumps in. He is wearing orange prison overalls and his dark hair is buzzed short. Lenore stomps the gas pedal with her bare foot and the car leaps away. Up on the wall a few of the guards shoot at the fleeing vehicle.
Lenore is so excited she can’t sit still; she is bouncing in the seat.
LENORE
Hey, baby!
She leans over to kiss her boyfriend, almost driving off the road in the process. Tommy sits with arms folded, staring straight ahead. Lenore hesitates, then looks up barely in time to straighten the car before it goes in a ditch. Her enthusiasm is diminished.
LENORE
Ain’t you happy to see me?
TOMMY
Surprised you bothered to come.
LENORE
What?
Lenore slams on the brakes and the car comes screeching to a halt. Tommy bounces off the dash. Lenore glares at him.
LENORE
Just what are you insinuatin’?
Tommy glances back behind them. In the distance are the flashing lights of pursuing police cars.
TOMMY
Can’t we talk about this later?
LENORE
I’m not moving one inch until you explain to me what that remark was supposed to mean.
TOMMY
The cops are coming!
Lenore sits back and sets her jaw. A tear leaks from one eye.
LENORE
I don’t care.
TOMMY
You want to talk? Fine! Judge Hastings come down to visit me the other day.
Lenore pounds the steering wheel.
LENORE
(to herself)
That bastard!
TOMMY
He says you two been gallivanting all over town.
LENORE
Gallivanting!
TOMMY
That was the very word he used.
Lenore smashes down on the gas and the car rockets forward in a cloud of burning rubber.
LENORE
(under her breath)
I’ll gallivant his sorry ass…
TOMMY
So what about it?
Lenore picks up a pistol and puts on a bright smile.
LENORE
I got your favorite gun in the back seat.
TOMMY
Is it true? What he said?
The cars behind open fire, but with little effect.
LENORE
Can’t we talk about this later?
Lenore holds her gun out the window and fires a few shots. She pops the magazine from the gun and, driving with her knee, loads in another one. The car hits a bump and skids wildly. Tommy bounces off the head liner.
TOMMY
Dammit! Watch where you’re going!
LENORE
Tommy, we need drivin and we need shootin, and I got the only steering wheel.
Tommy sighs dramatically and reaches into the backseat and pulls out a wicked-looking automatic rifle. He caresses the finish.
TOMMY
Hello, baby.
LENORE
You two can cuddle later. It’s time to go to work.
Tommy works the bolt and takes a breath. He sticks his head out the sunroof and fires a few bursts with increasing glee. One of the pursuing cars skids off the road. Tommy laughs and sits down.
TOMMY
Whoo! Yessir! Tommy’s back!
He pops up and fires off another burst, spraying bullets behind them until he runs out. Return fire punches holes in the trunk. He sits down to reload. Lenore holds her gun out the sunroof and fires randomly. She swerves a little just for fun. Tommy looks over at her, grinning.
TOMMY
I love you, Sugar Pie.
LENORE
I love you too, Hunny Bear.
He leans over and kisses her hard, then turns back to the job at hand. He hesitates as he’s putting a fresh magazine into his gun, and pops out a cartridge. It has a dull gray case.
TOMMY
What’s this?
LENORE
What’s what?
He holds a bullet up in front of her, an inch from her face, blocking her vision. She swerves as she bats it away. He bounces off the dashboard again.
TOMMY
These cartridges have steel cases! You know Black Beauty here only likes brass.
LENORE
But the steel’s so much cheaper. Money’s tight right now.
Tommy stutters, trying to make sense of what she just said.
TOMMY
Money’s… what? Tight? We have thirty million dollars!
Lenore cringes and occupies herself with driving and shooting. A bullet come through the car, shattering the rear window and spidering the windshield.
LENORE
It’s just… not available right now.
Tommy is beyond words. More bullets hit the bodywork of the car. Tommy reaches up through the sunroof and fires, but his heart’s not in it. Lenore looks over at him and tries a feeble smile.
LENORE
It’s… invested?
Tommy points his gun at Lenore. He is shaking with rage.
TOMMY
Invested where.
Frightened, Lenore points her gun at Tommy. Ahead two police cars are blocking the highway; Lenore and Tommy don’t see them. After a momentary standoff the two begin to shout simultaneously, jabbing at each other with their guns.
TOMMY
Where’s the goddam money?
LENORE
Don’t be this way, Tommy. Don’t get all crazy on me now. Remember what the doctor said. You’re scaring me, baby.
TOMMY
Does Hastings have it? Hasting’s got our goddam money, don’t he? You gave Hastings our goddam money!
LENORE
No!
Lenore pauses and realizes that Tommy has handed her a convenient scapegoat. She “confesses” through her tears.
LENORE
Yes! It’s Hastings! He… uh… he tricked me, Hunny Bear. He said… We have to get our money back!
Tommy nods, suddenly calm.
TOMMY
You shoulda just said.
He gestures up the highway.
TOMMY (CONT’D)
Road block.
Lenore keeps the gas to the floor and braces herself. The engine is roaring and starting to smoke. The speedometer climbs. Tommy puts his seat belt on; ahead, police begin to scatter. The two face forward, their calm faces shiny with sweat.
LENORE
I’m sorry about the cheap ammo.
TOMMY
We’ll talk about it later, Sugar Pie. You got some drivin to do.
Lenore scans the scene ahead, concentrating, then cracks a little smile.
LENORE
Roll down your window.
Tommy works the window crank.
TOMMY
I love it when you smile like that.

Round One Complete

There are still several hours left before the deadline, but, well, I was done, so I submitted my entry. I just saw this message:

Seeing this screen means your entry arrived.

Finally, congratulate yourself for having the courage to say,
“I can create on deadline,” and then doing it. Yay!

There is nothing more to do; my fate is in the hands of the judges now. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for a top-100 finish. Think positive thoughts and all that crap. I’ll be posting my entry here in a while, but I’m going to reread the rules to make sure it’s OK first.

To the rest of you still working on the challenge: You can do it! Go Team Muddle!

Lost Weekend, Home Stretch

With nineteen hours before the end of round one in the Cyberspace Open, I’m feeling pretty good about the way it’s going, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. I spent last night working with two of the plots from the list above. I really like the idea with the multiple personality disorders, but try as I might I couldn’t come up with a confrontation scene that could stand alone well enough to not confuse the reader. In an actual movie the viewer would already understand things that someone reading the scene cold would not know. The light of my life had a bunch of great suggestions that make the idea really intriguing, though. I’ll file the idea away for another time, when I’m drinking beers with a producer. Green light by the third round, baby!

Meanwhile, God getting distracted while making the universe will probably end up as a short story. As a scene in a feature film it actually told too much of the story. (Unless God and his rival spend the entire time messing with each other’s universes, until one universe breaks quarantine… hmm.)

Similarly waysided are the demons/aliens/whatevers taking over the Earth. Some fun ideas there, but I never came up with that sparkling moment of conversation that sells a scene. It’s probably better as a short story, too. Finally, protagonist as a criminal is actually based on an idea my sweetie and I hashed out one night which will make a great screenplay someday. I couldn’t get all the pieces right in my head to work it for this competition, though. Later, the title alone will sell it.

In the end, it’s the car chase. I don’t know why, but that’s where my creative juices flowed with the lowest viscosity. Little moments all strung together into something fun (at least, I think it’s fun). Drivin’, shootin’, arguin’, fibbin’. Mortal danger and true love. Outlaws on a two-lane blacktop.

Meanwhile, fuego is over on his side of the Atlantic, writing away. I have no idea what he’s cooking up, but it’s sure to be good. It’s too bad he’ll have to settle for second place.

Thinking Out Loud

The Cyberspace Open has been going for six hours now, and I’ve got some ideas percolating. Round one, which provides an entire weekend to write a scene, may be the most difficult because there is time for over-thinking and over-editing. Then mix in the “I’ve got lots of time, I can watch cartoons” trap and there are plenty of potential pitfalls. I’m not too worried, though. I’ve spent the time since the premise was distributed (see the previous episode) coming up with different approaches. Deception, confrontation, difficult task, and somewhere in the background there’s a bad guy, pulling strings. Not bad.

I’ve spent the last few hours simply brainstorming, coming up with different ideas that are off the beaten track but contain lots of room for drama. Tonight is the night when any idea is a good one. Here are a few I’ve come up with so far, in no particular order. None of them are perfect, but they all have something going for them.

  • God is busy creating the universe when his girlfriend comes in to confront him about cheating in the universe-building contest. God has pulled five consecutive all-nighters and just wants to get the damn thing done so he can rest the next day. During the argument he accidentally creates man, or maybe the tree of knowledge. Strongly implied are ensuing hijinks.
  • Protagonist is a notorious criminal – her rival (ex-boss?) tips off her boyfriend, who is inconveniently a cop (or the father of kidnapped children?). (She spends a lot of time dealing with the police.) It turns out that this time she is trying to use her skills for good to thwart ex-boss, but that’s going to be a hard sell, (hostages at risk?). Boyfriend is plenty pissed off and not ready to provide any constructive conversation. Perhaps she’s defusing a bomb during the conversation?
  • Enemy and love interest are both the same guy – with multiple personality disorder. Enemy persona has been leaving clues for love interest persona to find. Protagonist is trying to hide the truth from the love interest persona while dealing with the enemy persona in a way that won’t harm love interest persona.
  • Powerful outsider (demon from hell, alien from outer space, whatever) has been sent to Earth to enslave humanity. All beings in the universe love hot Earth women, though (look it up!). Chance for gender bending since outsider can choose inappropriate disguise. Some swashbuckling Biff-type has tipped off the lovely Tiffany that her BFF is not all she (he/it) appears to be. Good chance for some space opera dialog.
  • Bonnie-and-Clyde-style car chase. Bonnie has just broken Clyde out of jail. While the outlaw couple are drivin’ and shootin’, Clyde mentions to Bonnie that the Sheriff told him that Bonnie’s been right friendly with a certain judge. They have to cooperate to get away, but that doesn’t mean they have to be civil about it. The argument and the chase peak when the car breaks down… and they roll to a stop just over a county line — into the jurisdiction of a friendly judge.

And there they are. They range from fairly mainstream stuff that provides a lot of room for style, to the rather ridiculous. I could have sworn there were more; I should have been writing them down all along. If I think of others, I’ll add them here. Most likely the idea I go with is one I haven’t thought of yet.

Here We Go!

The first premise is out:

Cyberspace Open Round 1 Premise

Your PROTAGONIST is in a jam. He (or she) had been relying on deception in order to further his objective, but his ENEMY has figured out the ruse. Write the scene in which your protagonist’s LOVE INTEREST confronts him with this information acquired from the enemy – while in staging it in a tricky or dangerous situation.

Have at it! Pencils down Monday at 9 a.m. Pacific Time.

Wish me luck!