Lessons on writing from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air

For those that don’t know, Save the Cat is a book (and a computer application, an iOS and Android app, a set of workshops, and two other books) by screenwriter Blake Snyder. It’s aimed very firmly at other screenwriters looking for a bit of script-doctor type feedback on structuring their stories. Whilst it’s been criticised by some[citation needed] for its formulaic approach, and I wouldn’t advocate using it religiously to structure your work, I do recommend it (and the sequel, Save the Cat Strikes Back) both for a fun read and for providing a great vocabulary to use when talking about story structure… even if you’re only using it to talk to the nagging voices inside your own head.

What’s this got to do with Will Smith? Well aside from the fact that he literally saves some cats in his movies (the above shot is from 1998’s Enemy of the State, and the Internet[citation needed] pointed out that he saved the Scientist’s cat “from the demo-bot” in I, Robot), the theme tune to his 1990s sit-com, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, declares itself to be a story (“Now this is a story all about how, My life got flipped, turned upside down…”). So, I wondered whether the rousing ballad that Will wrote with Jazzy Jeff followed the “optimum” structure set out in Save the Cat.

In short, would Blake Snyder have thought the theme tune from the Fresh Prince was a “good” story…? Continue reading

Marshal Law (NiaD 2015)

September 1867. Marshal Ben Wright is forced to take extreme measures to take back control of Flintwood, AZ, a mining town overrun by rowdy frontiersmen and outlaws in the long shadow of the Civil War.

This book was written as a Novel-in-a-Day on October 17th, 2015. Three versions were produced (one called ‘Blue’, one called ‘Red, and one called ‘Yellow’’) each written in just 24 hours by 22 authors.




Get a free copy of all three versions here:
– epub (Blue)
mobi (Blue)
PDF (Blue)

– epub (Red)
mobi (Red)
PDF (Red)

– epub (Yellow)
mobi (Yellow)
PDF (Yellow)

Faster than an infinite monkey

I’m a little bit pleased with myself.

I was sitting at my desk earlier today — trying my best to focus on the work at hand — when the postman arrived with a package.

You might not be aware if you only know me through pigfender.com, but if you’ve been active on the Novel in a Day section of the Scrivener forum then you will probably know that last September I was badgered into promising to rustle up a t-shirt to commemorate our annual writing event. Several people volunteered design concepts, which I dutifully ignored in favour of a slightly obscure reference to the introduction from the original NiaD (back in 2011).

After months spent tinkering with the design, and plenty longer procrastinating over how to get them made, the postman finally arrived today with the very first Novel in a Day t-shirt.

I like it.

I’m wearing it right now.

In fact… I’d be half naked without it.

If you’re interested, you can get one here. It is an excellent way to solve your own partial nudity problems, and has a nice picture of a chimp on it.

8Qs: David Morrell

Eight Questions is an occasional series of interviews that I’m including on the site. Being a naturally gifted (read: lazy) interviewer, I will be using the same eight questions in every interview.

This time, the questions are being answered by novelist, David Morrell. As you might expect of the co-founder of the International Thriller Writers, David is widely considered to be a Thriller Writer’s Thriller Writer. His books have set new standards for combining high action / adventure plots with intelligently portrayed characters to produce some of the most compelling stories of the modern era, starting with his 1972 debut novel, First Blood(A), and continuing with the likes of The Brotherhood of the Rose trilogy(B) and many more.

David’s dedication to research and realism is evident in all his books (his website, davidmorrell.net notes that David has been trained in, amongst other things, executive protection, hostage negotiation, defensive/offensive driving, and ‘assuming identities’, and he earned his private pilot’s licence in preparation for writing The Shimmer. He is also an honorary lifetime member of the Special Operations Association and the Association of Intelligence Officers, which probably tells you everything you need to know).

In addition to his productive career writing novels (his thirtieth novel(C) is due to be published next month), David has written three non-fiction books, numerous essays and contributed to such iconic comic books as Captain America and The Amazing Spiderman.

Welcome, David! Continue reading

The mouse exclusion

About this time last year I wrote a post making fabulous (and ridiculously amusing) predictions about the state of publishing for the next fifty years. One of those predictions was a dramatic increase in the quality and variety of books available for free as a result of expired copyright.

Copyright law is one of those topics that I find it hard to stay away from when I hear it discussed. It’s often misunderstood, incorrectly interpreted, and / or taken for granted, but one part of the debate more likely to prompt me to get my trolling hat on than any other is expiry. Every now and again I’ll hear of creators and consumers complaining about the duration that copyright subsists after the death of the author, typically citing a certain American purveyor of theme parks and animated features as aggressively lobbying to get further extensions to protect their commercial interests (ie, their exclusive rights to use the Mouse and his friends). Those people are wrong.

And not “in my opinion they are wrong,” or “I can see where they’re coming from, but I personally don’t agree”. They’re just wrong. Continue reading

The devil and the dictionary

In the play by Christopher Marlowe, Faust sells his soul to the devil [Spoiler, sorry]. But like any sensible commercial operative, Faust does have the sense to do a little bit of due diligence before completing the transaction.

The exchange, if memory and Google serve me correctly, goes something like:

FAUST: So, Mephy-baby. I thought you were supposed to be in hell? They, like, let you out and stuff?
MEPHISTOPHELES THE DEVIL: Why this is hell, nor am I out of it. Think’st thou that I who saw the face of God and tasted the eternal joys of Heaven, am not tormented with ten thousand hells in being depriv’d of everlasting bliss?
MEPHISTOPHELES THE DEVIL: O Faustus! Leave these frivolous demands, which strike a terror to my fainting soul.
FAUST: Man up, dude.

Continue reading

Any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental

At the start of each of the Novel-in-a-Day books there is a disclaimer, not dissimilar to the one you see boilerplate to the credits at the end of (nearly) every movie you see: “All characters and events in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

I’ve been having a minor disagreement (all done very politely and respectfully, I might add!) with someone on the internet for a little while now about the value of first hand research in writing. The other person was advocating piggybacking on research done by other writers and, this being the internet, sensible points were made by several people on both side of the viewpoint. But a recent revival of the discussion got me thinking about that disclaimer. And when it comes down to it, I’m a little ashamed to have used it. After all, can there be any worse insult to someone’s writing to say that their characters and events bear no resemblance at all to reality? Or if it does, it must be a coincidence? Continue reading