Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Hey everybody! I’d like to announce my new class, Screen and Stage to the Page: What Drama, Movies & TV Can Teach Prose Writers. It’s a 10-week class that will meet Monday Mornings from 10:30 to 1:30 at Grub Street HQ in downtown Boston starting January 12, 2015. Here’s the official class description:

Some of today’s best writing in terms of theme, character, dialogue, and plot is being done by playwrights, screenwriters, and teleplay writers. In this class, a nationally syndicated film critic and multi-award-winning novelist will show students how to use the tools of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights and Oscar-winning screenwriters for their prose fiction stories and novels. Topics covered will include ways to rewrite real-life incidents into tight and compelling drama, how to streamline exposition so it doesn’t stop your narrative dead, how to crystallize character-defining moments into a scene, and how to use the context of specific settings to amp drama. Classes will consist of analysis of plays, teleplays, and scripts as well as some prose source materials, group watching of films and TV episodes, and in-class workshopping of students’ short fiction and novel excerpts with special emphasis on how the tools of screen and stage writers can be applied to these works. All genres and kinds of fiction writers are welcome.  

So, how will that breakdown? Here’s a tentative syllabus of the topics I’ll be covering and the materials we’ll be looking at.

1. Tapping Real Life

So, there’s this thing that happened… and you really want to write about it in a dramatic way. How do you take a “slice of life” that everybody can relate to, and still make it interesting and compelling? How do you avoid the dreaded, “Yeah, so?”

Materials Emmy winners Judd Apatow and Michael White’s teleplays for the high school comedy/drama Freaks and Geeks  and parts of renowned theater director Peter Brook’s essay “The Open Door.”

2. Awesome Exposition and Action

So, there’s all this stuff… background information… that the reader needs to know about in order for the plot to move forward. But to give that information to the reader, you can wind up stopping the plot dead in its tracks. Which can be close-the-book boring. We’ll look at ways to give the audience/readers the information they need while still making your narrative interesting and full of dramatic punch.

Materials Oscar-winner Paul Haggis’s screenplay for the James Bond movie Casino Royale,  with some comparison to Ian Fleming’s original novel. David Koepp’s screenplay for Jurassic Park with some comparison to Michael Crichton’s original novel.

3. Point of View and Emotional Development

OK… point of view is vitally important to telling a story. So’s character development. How does your main character’s emotional arc affect how you use POV?

Materials BAFTA winners Joel and Ethan Coen’s screenplay for True Grit, with some comparison to Charles Portis’ original novel .

4. The Scope of Time and Space and Hitting Emotional Beats

Let’s say you got a story that takes place over a long period of time, over a lot of geographic space. How do you keep a solid emotional core to something that takes place, well… all over the place, and for a long period of time? How do you pace out the emotional beats to keep that story going strong?

Materials James Vanderbilt’s WGA-nominated screenplay for the David Fincher movie Zodiac.

5. Creating Tension, Apprehension and Dissension

Ever find yourself amazed at how some playwrights can just have a few people in a room, and the emotional results are like a UFC Cage Match? We’ll breakdown how they do that.

Materials Nobel-winner Harold Pinter’s play, The Homecoming and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jason Miller’s play, That Championship Season.

6. Adding Dramatic Layers of Meaning to Your Dialogue

Wait! Did that person really just say that? Wait! Did that really mean what I think it meant? We’ll look at ways to load your scenes with different meanings and different emotional notes.

Materials John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer-winning stage play (and screenplay for) Doubt.

7. Using Place and Time to Define Drama

Drama and conflict and personal growth can’t exist in a vacuum. We’ll look at the specific ways the time and place of your story can and maybe should define its emotional impact and arc.

Materials Emmy-winners Matthew Weiner & Robin Veith’s teleplay for the Mad Men episode, “THE WHEEL” and either Greg Mottola’s Independent Spirit Award-nominated script for Adventureland or Alfred Sole and Rosemary Ritvo’s screenplay for Alice, Sweet Alice.

8. Putting Crystallizing Emotional Moments in a Scene

Sometimes, a dramatic moment can occur in a story that rips open a character so you can look deep inside to see what makes them tick. We’ll dissect a few of those scenes, to see how they can work in prose.

Materials Jenny Lumet’s screenplay for Rachel Getting Married  and Tony-winner Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

9. Adding Details to Make a Story Pop

The effect of little things can be huge in a story. We’ll look at ways to choose the right things to get the most dramatic bang.

Materials Brian Helgeland’s Oscar-nominated screenplay for Mystic River, with some comparison to Dennis Lehane’s original novel.

10. Mining Simple Conflict into Complex Drama

Sometimes, a really simple situation can be a really deep and profound exploration of the human condition. We’ll look at ways to use simple situations and conflicts to load stories with heavy emotional punch.

Materials  J.P. Miller’s teleplay Rabbit Trap and Paddy Chayefsky’s teleplay Marty .

To enroll, click here: http://tinyurl.com/3ctj92f  E-mail me at profmike AT mindspring DOT com if you have any specific questions or want any further information. Please note that scholarships are available for greatly reduced tuition. For more information on scholarships, please refer to the Grub Street page here. Deadline to apply for Scholarships is noon on DECEMBER 4, 2014.

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SLUMMIN' IN SOMERVILLE

 

Slummin’ in Somerville–Comedy
Wednesday, 9:30 AM CBS
“The Whirlwind Wednesday”

Wackiness ensues when Mike, kind of behind on the new novel he has under contract and trying to get back into condition for circus training after an injury, has to deal with Jim, his kooky new neighbor (Paul Sand), an aspiring songwriter who belts out love songs every night dedicated to his girlfriend Gladys… whom he’s only “met” over the phone after she dialed Jim’s phone as a wrong number! Tony Randall guest stars as Jim’s agent, and Doris Day has a cameo as the voice of Gladys.

Paul Sand Guest Stars with Mike Marano in SLUMMIN' IN SOMERVILLE

Paul Sand Guest Stars with Mike Marano in SLUMMIN’ IN SOMERVILLE

Hey, Everyone!!

Just wanted to let you all know about my NEW class at Grub Street, “How to not STINK! A Look at Bad Storytelling and What Writers Should Do and Not Do”

It will meet for 6 Wednesdays from 10:30am-1:30pm at Grub Street headquarters, (162 Boylston Street, 5th Floor Boston, MA 02116) starting on April 3rd.

Here’s the official Grub Street Description from their website: http://tinyurl.com/crswkzu

The most important thing a writer can do to become a good writer is to avoid being a bad writer. In this multi-week, multi-media class taught by an award-winning novelist and nationally syndicated film critic, students will autopsy a string of really bad examples of storytelling so we can all figure out why they’re bad and how not to be bad ourselves in the same ways. Strategies will be developed in class to make rotten books and films no longer rotten, or at the very least a little less rotten, so that students will develop a toolkit for writing fiction and other narratives that are … y’know … actually good. Students must be prepared to read some really bad fiction and watch some really bad movies. Class time will also be spent on in-class exercises fixing bad narratives, and on the development of a practical toolkit for actual good prose writing that will address issues such as world-building, character development, the right ways to apply background research to a story, and the application of sound logic to plotting. There will be workshopping of students’ fiction, emphasizing the application of good storytelling techniques from the toolkit we’ll be developing. For students with prior workshop experience.

Here are some of the topics we’ll tentatively cover:

*How to avoid clichéd characters.

*The importance of clear character motivation.

*How to structure plots that are logical.

*How to create conflict that’s meaningful, and not just an excuse to get your plot rolling.

*How to avoid bad imagery and mood.

*How to avoid terrible exposition.

*How to not cheat your readers with bad endings and resolutions.

*Does your protagonist really BELONG in your story?

*How to not use product placements in the place of real world building.

*How to not let your really awesome and fun research get in the way of your storytelling.

To sign up, click here:   http://tinyurl.com/crswkzu

If you have any questions, feel free to ask below!

Two years ago today, I wiped out on my mountain bike and broke my left elbow and smashed my right knee. This turned out to be a kind of happy accident on two fronts.

One: My left elbow had already been blown out for months from a weight-lifting injury (which was why I was exercising on my bike and not lifting on that day). Keeping the arm immobilized in a sling for two months actually healed the pre-existing injury.

Two: The elbow and the knee took a long time healing and getting back to 100%. To strengthen the ligaments and the tendons, I decided about a year ago to start going to circus school and taking trapeze, which has become an incredibly important part of my life, has become a new art form I have embraced and which has had the added bonus of helping me get over my heart-punching terror of heights. So, a lot of good ultimately came out the accident. It still HURT LIKE A BITCH. But I’ll take the rough with the smooth. Here’s a pic of the fracture. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Elbow

I have on a roughly 12″ by 9″ by 9″ area on my desk probably more computing power than existed in the whole world when I was a child (need to look that up, but I remember when a gigabyte was something possible in theory; the computer on the Lunar Lander had, I think 16 or 15 bits).  And what do I do with this power that had been unthinkable when I was a science-fiction-devouring kid?  Am I planning colonies on Titan? Am I figuring out ways to mine nickel and iron from the Asteroid Belt? No. I’m watching cat videos. Welcome to the Future!!!  Snow Cat

 

Peck_sy295

 

 

“I’m afraid the truth, to me as I see it, is more important than entertainment for its own sake. The unfortunate thing is, I suppose, I see a certain kind of truth only too clearly.” — Sam Peckinpah, in a letter dated May 13, 1969

I just found out that Janet Berliner-Gluckman died early this morning, October 24, 2012. If I factor in differences of time zones and what I know about the approximate time of her death, I am nearly certain at the very moment of her last breath, I was doing what she taught me to do: revising a manuscript. If, as she left this earth, she saw me at that moment among all the people whose lives she’d touched, I hope the sight of me doing what she guided through multiple times touched a smile upon her.

It is no exaggeration for me to say that I would not have a career as a fiction writer were it not for Janet Berliner-Gluckman. She was the first professional editor to solicit and to accept anything I’d written for professional rates. The story in question, “Winter Requiem”, was written as a work of mourning begun while my best friend was dying of AIDS. There were a number of issues with the work, and while there was pressure to remove the work from the anthology in which it was eventually published, Janet steadfastly stood up for my inclusion in the anthology and guided me through a series of rewrites that quite frankly I can’t remember the exact number of. She was a remarkable mentor, and what she has taught me about revision I have in turn passed on to people whose work I have edited at ChiZine and I have also in turn passed on what she taught me to my students at Grub Street.

Most of my fiction is about mourning in one way or another. I wrote “Winter Requiem” consciously as an act of mourning. It’s probably right that the work must now retroactively become a work of mourning for Janet. In this light, I hope she takes this as the Kaddish it is meant to be.

Posted: October 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

Another interview this week! Today’s is with Brian James Freeman of Cemetery Dance. Please check it out!

Brian James Freeman

Long time Cemetery Dance contributor Michael Marano took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to discuss ChiZine’s Signed Limited Edition Trade Paperback of his acclaimed collection, Stories from the Plague Years, which will be published in December.  (The preordering deadline is November 1st, so time is running out!)

BJF: Can you tell us a little bit about how you assembled Stories from the Plague Years? Was there a method to your madness when it came to organizing the table of contents?

MM: I assembled the collection in the way I did when I stacked my shorter works together and realized, within the larger theme of the Plague Years that holds the book together (the Plagues being the mental, spiritual, and physical sicknesses killed a lot of my friends in the 1980s and early 1990s, like drugs, urban blight, despair, AIDS), there were sub-themes. The section titled “Days of…

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Hey, Everyone! Please check out Jaym Gates‘s interview with me at SFSignal about the upcoming reprint from ChiZine Publications of my collection STORIES FROM THE PLAGUE YEARS. Chizine’s Brett Savory weighs in on the reprint, and you can preview some of the gorgeous interior illustrations by Gabrielle Faust, as well as the bitchin’ new cover by Erik Mohr. Please check it out and RT, if you get the chance! Thanks! Click here to read!

Hey, everyone! I will be reading from The Diaspora, the upcoming sequel to Dawn Song, Saturday, July 14 at 11:00 AM at Readercon along with other ChiZine Publications authors Gemma Files, Nicholas KaufmanNick Mamatas, Yves Meynard and Paul Tremblay. Please stop by! Thanks!!