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 →

I’m just back from ThrillerFest 2016, raring to put lots of great ideas into action. Kudos to Kimberly Howe and her colleagues for producing an educational and inspirational event. Thanks as well to all of the faculty members who shared their wisdom and made themselves available for questions. As it turns out, one of the panelists, bestselling author Mr. Thomas B. Sawyer, is a favorite of mine although I did not know it until I attended a session entitled “Playful, Stern or Downright Rude? How Dialogue Affects Thrillers.” Introduced as the showrunner and head writer for one of my all-time beloved shows, “Murder She Wrote,”Read More →

I finally got a chance to watch the biopic about screenwriter and author Dalton Trumbo and am glad I did. Bryan Cranston served his real life model well by portraying this Hollywood blacklist member as a man of principle. While I disdain communism for lots of reasons, I do believe in free speech and understand that the politically charged era of the late 1940’s was beyond difficult for many who were ousted for their views. Regardless of one’s philosophy, an aspiring writer can readily look to this prolific artist for lessons about perseverance and discipline. According to Biography.com, Dalton Trumbo was “one of the mostRead 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 →

According to a recent email from the Authors Guild, there is a worldwide campaign to call attention to the impact of writers on the lives of others. Begun as the brainchild of the Writers’ Union of Canada, readers and authors are invited to reflect on this topic and then post their thoughts to #WhyWritersMatter. Coincidentally, I had already begun an essay about Mark Twain and his observations of the cultural zeitgeist of the late 19th century. The catalyst was my “eureka” moment during a tour of the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island. Until then, I did not know that Samuel Langhorne Clemens (his real name) had coined the term “Gilded Age” to decry his view ofRead More →

“The Meddler” with Susan Sarandon and Rose Byrne is not just a heartwarming tale of a widow and her daughter. It’s a sweet yet effective reminder that one is never too old to make a difference. The power of kindness is immense and the film’s screenwriter Lorene Scafaria does a terrific job in bringing that point home. Based on the true story of her mother’s loss and a desire to stay relevant and connected, this 2016 movie packs a lot into 100 minutes – humor, sadness, love, friendship, risk-taking, introspection and romance. According to an article in Variety, this screenwriter and director “wrote it as a way to process”Read 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 →

Seth Godin is one of my favorites when it comes to snappy punditry. In a recent blog post entitled “Hot: A theory of propulsion,” he wisely pens that “Words on a page or on a screen are asleep, inert, doing nothing at all until they interact with you, the reader.” He continues with two more pearls. “That takes effort” and “Without motion, the words get moldy.” The notion that promoting a piece of work is important is neither new nor trivial. However, this author of eighteen books reminds writers once again that it is our responsibility to advocate for our creations. The good news isRead More →

Entertainment media was abuzz this weekend about the end of one popular series and the next installment of another. After six seasons, loose ends were neatly wrapped up for the British upstairs – downstairs crowd at Downton Abbey. A few hours earlier, Netflix offered up another round of U.S. political intrigue in the form of a fourth season of House of Cards. (The original House of Cards was a shorter production about UK politics that debuted in 1990.) While both shows interweave complex plots that involve a large cast of characters, the material is by far darker in the case of House of Cards. Indeed, some might find itRead More →