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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Last of Us Novelization: An Example of Turning Your Screenplay into a Novel

I thought it might be useful to see the principles outlined in my book put into action. I'm going to novelize THE LAST OF US, from the video below. This is a work-in-progress. Who knows? Maybe I'll eventually end up with a complete novel!


Joel Shepard got home late. He pulled his beat-up Chevy pick-up into the driveway and turned off the engine. He sat for a moment, exhausted, under a full moon in the dead of a Texas night. He pulled the keys from the ignition and looked at the dark house before him. A two-story tract home on a half-acre lot with wood-siding. A rocking chair sat on the narrow porch by the front door. He grunted, opened the truck door and climbed out. Another red-letter day at the job site, he thought to himself. The crew was now down to five and was six weeks behind. And the client, now at the end of his rope, was threatening lawsuits.

As he walked heavily to the front door, his cell phone rang. He looked down, saw the number and veered away from the door. He lifted his head toward the heavens and shook his head. He answered it and said, "For chrissake. What now?"

It was his brother, Tommy.

"Just got off the phone with Lance," his brother's voice said. "Whatever's going around, apparently he's got it too."

"So," said Joel. He could feel his blood pressure rising. "No tile guy."

"No tile guy," his brother confirmed.

"That's just..." he was on the verge of swearing, but just didn't have the energy. He turned back toward the door, fumbling with the keys in his hand. "This whole job's going south, Tommy. And the goddamn contractor is nowhere to be found."

"If he's sick, he's sick," Tommy said. "Not much you can do --"

Joel opened the door to his house and stepped inside. "Tommy. Tommy," he interrupted. "He is the contractor." He caught his temperature rising and lowered his voice. "He is the contractor, okay? I can't lose this job."

"What is it about 'sick' you don't understand?"

Joel caught a glimpse of the ten year-old asleep on the sofa and his mood softened. "I understand."

"Look. I'll call around, find someone."

"Lets talk about this in the morning, okay?" he said. He flipped the switch by the door. The girl stirred as a soft glow of light filled the den.

"Hell, maybe I'll do it. How far along was he?"

"We'll talk about it in the morning."


"All right," Joel said. "Goodnight." He flipped the phone off and tossed the keys on the coffee table.

Yawning, the young girl sat up on one elbow. "Hey," she said, squinting up at him.

"Scoot," was all he could muster. She made room for him and he let his body collapse into the leather cushions.

"Fun day at work?"

Joel looked at her. She was in her plaid, thread-bare pajama bottoms and had one tee-shirt over another. Leather bracelets encircled her wrist and she wore a choker with beads around her neck. Her name was Sarah and she had a style all her own. Wheat-colored hair like her mother's - which she preferred to keep short - an aversion to make-up, to boys, and especially dresses.

Oh, and that Texas drawl of hers... That was all Joel.

Her father gave her a sideways glance. "What are you still doing up?" he asked, propping his head upright with tired fingers. "It's late."

"Oh crud what time is it?" She spun around and looked at the clock on the wall above the sofa.

Joel knew what time it was without lifting a muscle. "It's way past your bedtime," he said.

"But it's still today," she stated as an indisputable fact.

She always had a way of spinning things to her advantage, thought Joel, a trait she definitely didn't pick up from him.

With a burst of ten year-old energy, she scrambled to the far end of the sofa and began reaching for something hidden in the shadows.

Joel had a vague idea what was coming. He said, "Honey, please not right now. I do not have the energy for this."

Ignoring his plea, Sarah popped up and confronted him with an outstretched arm. "Here."

In her hand was a square gray box.

"What's this?" Joel asked, reaching for it.

"Your birthday," Sarah replied, again stating the obvious.

Joel glanced at her and opened the box. An overwhelming sense of appreciation swept over him at what he saw. He fought hard to contain it.

"You kept complaining about your broken watch," Sarah said. "So I figured, you know..."

He removed the watch and sat the box down on the coffee table. He was too exhausted to handle the emotion that threatened to consume him, and so to avoid it, he focused on fastening the watch to his wrist.

"You like it?"

The truth was he loved it. But life had taught Joel to keep his emotions at arm's length, and so the protective shield came up. He tapped the watch face and - making a face - said, "Honey, this is nice, but..."

"What?" asked Sarah. There was a trace of panic in her voice.

He held the watch up to his ear. "It's nice but, I think it's stuck. It's..." He made a helpless shrug.

Instantly Sarah panicked. "No, no, no..." she said. She grabbed his wrist as her face went pale. A second passed... a second she noted by the ticking of the hand on Joel's watch, and her color returned.

"Oh ha ha," she said, pushing his arm away. She stretched out on the sofa away from him.

"Where'd you get the money for this?" he asked his daughter.

"Drugs," Sarah responded over her shoulder. "I sell hardcore drugs."

"Oh good," Joel said, settling in and grabbing the remote. "You can start helping out with the mortgage then."

 "You wish," Sarah replied with a snort.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Halo 3: Insult to Injury

The great thing about playing Halo was being witness to countless displays of  honor on the battlefield. This short clip is a prime example! Enjoy!


Monday, March 13, 2017

A Novel Truth

Chris Gaines was a middle-aged teacher at a creative writing class back in Texas. Rumpled shirt, tan corduroys. Wore suede chukka ankle boots, had the customary Friday Night Lights beer gut. Gave us one of the best definitions of a novel I've ever heard. He even made us get out our pens and notebooks to prepare ourselves to record the most insightful truth for writers of all time. Are you ready?

Here is his insightful gem:

"A book (or novel) is nothing more than a bunch of pages filled with words."

I know what you're thinking. This is a joke, right?


Mr. Gaines was serious and in his own way, Gaines was a genius. He was trying to impart something important to the beginning writer. If you compare yourself to Stephen King, or John Grisham, you're dead before start. You'll freeze up and justly so. Your first-time attempt can't be as good as theirs because they're masters at writing. But your first-attempt might be as good as their first-time attempt. Maybe even better. But the real truth is, it doesn't matter.

He told the class this: "Pay attention to the student who drops on my desk a three-hundred page manuscript by the end of the semester. If I had to bet who out of the class will make it as a writer, he or she would be my number one pick."

How can he say that without even judging the quality of the work? Crossing the finishing line reveals more about the character of the writer than any specific writing sample ever could.

Mr. Gaines, with his down-to-earth logic was attempting to demystify the novel for us newbies. He was trying to get us to remove it from the lofty perch we had placed it upon.

Think about it.

If you were to make a decision to complete a marathon, would you go find one tomorrow and jump right in? No. You'd pick a date a year in advance, and then you'd start training, a little bit every day, or every other day. You'd start off running/walking a mile. And when your lung capacity increased, you'd stretch it to two miles. After several weeks, you might find yourself running five or six miles three or four days a week! Imagine that. Others would look at you and say, "Well, sure. He's a runner," much the same way we look at published authors and say, "Well, sure. He's a writer."
A first-time novel doesn't have to be good, it just has to be.
Become like a freight train and write with abandon! Write without looking back. Set a target for yourself, a weekly goal, something easy for you to achieve, then increase it as you gain proficiency.

Never ever judge the work as you go along. That's like starting your marathon training, and, after having to walk after the first mile, giving up. It makes total sense for you to have to walk, there's no shame in it. You simply haven't developed the lung capacity yet.

Writing is no different. You can't be expected to write like Hemingway the first hundred pages, because at that point, even Hemingway didn't write like Hemingway! What Hemingway did do, and you can too, is stick with it. That's the difference between a wisher and a doer.

It's easy to do if you keep the truth in front of you: A book is nothing more than a bunch of pages filled with words. You can write a bunch of pages, can't you?

Sure you can.

Halo 3: Challenge of the Katana

Years ago, when Halo 3 was first released, it came with a special bonus.

If you were a gamer extraordinaire, then the elusive and highly sought-after Katana was yours to proudly display on your Master Chief back. Securing this ultimate boon wasn't easy. You had to get every achievement, forty-nine of them in fact, and while most of them were fairly easy to achieve, there was one or two that were extremely difficult.

Among these was the "Two For One" achievement: Score a Double Kill with a single spartan laser shot in a ranked free for all playlist (online).

This one ate my biscuits. It was impossible. I spent more time than I care to admit trying to achieve that bugger. Then, a friend of mine from work told me he had gotten it easily. By cheating.

Apparently, there were enough frustrated gamers out there struggling to achieve this elusive task that they formed an alliance and talked of their plans on a popular message board. If you reconfigured the language on your xbox so that you were able to join them in a match, then everyone playing could 'assist' everyone else by achieving the impossible.

I did this, got the Katana, but felt terrible about it afterwards. The victory tasted like ashes. So, in order to redeem myself and restore honor to the Halo universe and the Katana which it represented, I proudly present my legitimate (and extremely LUCKY) securing of the achievement: Two For One.