Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thirteen Things about story prompts

Here are some story prompts to help get you going on a new story idea or fan the flames of your current project.

  1. 1. Your protagonist makes an unexpected stop at a hospital emergency room to have a sex toy removed from his or her body.

  2. 2. Teens making out in a remote area are interrupted by a child who has just murdered her entire family.

  3. 3. An envious, bitter woman whose sole goal in life is to make her sister miserable, runs away with her sister’s husband, unaware that he has just robbed a bank.

  4. The owner of a fast food restaurant, known for hitting on his young female employees, successfully beds his newest employee and quickly learns that she is from the Draconian planet of Keerbur and that he must now do her bidding.

  5. A man having an affair with his assistant goes to bed with her in a hotel room. He wakes up the next morning in the hotel room, but the woman next to him is his wife.

  6. A character obsessed with her tarot deck is shocked as the cards become eerie physical realities in her life.

  7. A physician who desperately wants to found a new research facility surreptitiously sells his patients’ healthy organs/tissues to finance it.

  8. A former movie star who thinks he’s still famous goes to an agent’s office which is really a front for laundering money from Russia.

  9. Prior to the dissemination of an annual bar examination, the proctor is found dead in the examination room.

  10. A former prisoner-of-war loses his job and has to find a quick way to support his wife and their four children.

  11. While out drinking in a small town cemetery on a hot summer night, teens are transfixed by a glowing light near one of the oldest headstones in the cemetery.

  12. A couple about to lose their home in foreclosure proceedings kidnaps the daughter of a local banker and quickly learns why her parents refuse to pay the demanded ransom money to get her back.

  13. A man on his honeymoon in Yosemite wakes up in the morning, sneaks out of his cabin to get some wood to surprise his wife with a fire and comes face-to-face with a bear.

What story starters do you want to share to get our creative juices flowing?

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Find of the Week:

Howard Hawks (1896 - 1977)

While at the library last week, I picked up a copy of one of the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest American Films, Bringing Up Baby, starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant , and was happy to discover a bonus documentary entitled, “The Men Who Made the Movies: Howard Hawks.” The film was based upon the book, The Men Who Made the Movies by Richard Schickel. It features film clips and interviews with the director and is narrated by director Sydney Pollack.

For years I’d admired Hawks’ flair for writing smart, rapid-fire dialogue that keeps audiences tuned into the story. Hawks said his trick to this was adding a few extraneous words to the beginnings and endings of characters’ sentences so that characters talk over each other while still communicating everything the audience needs to hear. This was demonstrated superbly in his film, His Girl Friday, also starring Cary Grant.

Bringing Up Baby, a film ahead of its time, was not successful during its initial release. It features a lot of double entendre, another one of Hawks’ trademarks, and also noted prominently in His Girl Friday.

Hawks said his preference in making a film was for scene over logic. He focused on the scene first, making sure that he liked everything presented in it, then worried about the logic. He noted the 1946 film, The Big Sleep, a Raymond Chandler novel adapted into screenplay format by William Faulkner, and how when actor Humphrey Bogart asked him about a particular killer in the film, they discovered that the killer Hawks had in mind was already dead at the time of the murder. While I don’t advocate logical inconsistencies in screenplays, his emphasis on satisfaction of each scene of the film is noteworthy since his films are still popular.

Hawks also noted that if he liked a character, he could make his audience like a character. He drafted the screentest scene for Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not, her first film. This included the memorable lines,

“You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”

He said that the scene didn’t really have anything to do with moving the story forward, but the studio executives liked it so much, they insisted that he work it into the film.

Hawks directed over seventy films. Others include: The Dawn Patrol, Scarface, Twentieth Century, Sergeant York, I Was a Male War Bride, The Philadephia Story, Monkey Business and Rio Lobo.