If you have yet to see La La Land with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, consider a trip to the cinema for an entertaining tale of two young people with Hollywood dreams. Set to music, the film is visually appealing and a nice throwback to the Fred Astaire – Ginger Rogers type productions of yore. The stars, box office draws both, convince the audience to root for them as they seek fame and fortune. Their path is not easy. We watch the protagonists realize their share of hard knocks and disappointments. Yet they triumph … sort of.  (Stop reading here to avoid SPOILERS.) By taking risks, they both end up with undeniable careerRead More →

I’ve been longing to attend a “Save the Cat” screenwriting workshop for many months. I’d heard great things about this disciplined approach to storytelling. I was not disappointed. The content was developed by the late Blake Snyder, billed as “one of Hollywood’s most successful spec screenwriters” and author of several popular “how to” books. My instructor was Ben Frahm, likewise a screenwriter with an impressive track record in the entertainment business. I have more to learn about creating a “beat sheet” that translates a three act piece into fifteen key events to ensure drama, pacing and appeal. I am still reading books and articles aboutRead More →

I took away lots of lessons from ThrillerFest 2016, including the need to spice up dialogue and emphasize active over passive. More than a few faculty members, bestselling authors all, went so far as to encourage attendees to learn about screenwriting techniques. Ever eager to learn, especially now at this early stage of my mystery writing endeavors, I signed up for the next Save the Cat workshop in New York City. For those who don’t know, this famed approach to screenwriting was created by Blake Snyder and described in a series of books he wrote prior to his untimely death in 2009. In a Writer’sRead More →

A recent trip to the beauty salon turned out to be an exercise in frustration. Instead of relaxing in between deadlines, I found it impossible to tune out two loud customers. Droning on for several hours, they chatted as if they were catching up on twenty years instead of just a few days. Believe me when I say I learned much more about their lives than I ever cared to know. What made things even worse was their nearly constant use of what speech professionals refer to as the “vocal fry.” If you aren’t sure what I mean, check out this two minute video starring comedian Faith Salie. Be warned. Your ears will hurt. AccordingRead More →

Poetry is the gift that keeps on giving in terms of inspiration and enjoyment. A personal favorite (and there are many) is “The Sun Rising” by John Donne. Poet Carol Rumens describes this work as “one of the most joyous love poems ever written.” In only three stanzas, Donne gives life to a “busy old fool” who should bother tardy students and leave young sweethearts alone to idle in bed. His words resonate so well that we see the pesky intruder in our mind’s eye and bid her a quick adieu. Margaret Mitchell was no less influenced by a poet’s pen. According to “10 Fascinating Facts aboutRead More →

No doubt you’ve heard the maxim that good writers need to be good readers. Stephen King goes a step further, advising that “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” In “How to Make a Living as a Writer,” James Scott Bell recounts how he read lots of books strategically in order to better understand plot points and know “when it might pay off to leave a ‘blot‘.” I agree with both gentlemen that it is important to read. Fortunately, I love books so reading to write is far from a dismal task. That said, as I stretch my creative wingsRead More →

Like anyone else, I have favorite movie categories. Besides legal thrillers, I enjoy films about investigative reporting, especially when I know they are based on fact. As someone who has testified as a forensic economist, my interest in solving puzzles no doubt accounts (at least in part) for their appeal. Lately though, as I write my own thriller book (with hopes of a Hollywood call), I have been thinking a lot about plot and pacing. Ever an advocate for good preparation, I have been reading books about writing. I completed several workshops and also took notes while watching high-rated movies spun from books or articles such as “The Rainmaker,” “The Insider” andRead More →