How to tell a story

How to tell a story

Thursday, June 27, 2013


One of my grad students totally "gets it" with regard to a new narrative in the Overdrive series. Readers need to love it, of course. Early reviews are encouraging.

posted from Bloggeroid

Saturday, June 22, 2013


MEETING NICOLE KIDMAN:(a very short story from 2004 ... click to read entire story)

"He will meet her in the reception line. There will have been earlier opportunities but he’ll have missed them. There especially would have been an opportunity for a quick introduction before the film began had he been available but with lingering weakness from the recent flu, and the special honor this year of having the festival named after him, so that he too is a star of the occasion (in his own less glamorous way, as befits a professor emeritus), he will have his wife drive him to the university auditorium only moments before the film starts, letting him join the audience anonymously as people are taking their seats and saving his own dramatic introduction for later in the evening during the awards ceremony. Sandwiched between the film and the dinner, at the insistence of the student group that has done most of the festival’s grunt work, there will be a reception line at which Miss Kidman can be greeted and touched by her many adoring student fans, and it is then when he finally will meet her."

'via Blog this'

The two modes/moods of writing

My writing process goes forward in two very different movements. First is creation: you start with nothing and end up with something. Second is revision: you start with something that's a mess to varying degrees and try to make it as good as you can by your own aesthetic values and literary skills.

The first movement is difficult. Fragile. I'm hard to live with, the slightest distraction can lose a thought not quite articulate in the mind. I belong in complete isolation during this phase.

The second movement is fun, a great joy. I get to show off my craft. Nothing bothers me because nothing is fragile, it all exists on the page to go back to. This is the writer as a nice guy.

What is neat about the Overdrive project is that it's all part two. The difficult, fragile first step was taken care of years ago! The stories already exist! I'm simply recasting them, hoping to make them more accessible. Well, accessible from invisibility is not much of a stretch.

This is why I am loving the project. I get something without the pain of getting. I paid those dues already.

Also I am learning how to use search and replace in such a way that the computer does most of the re-formatting. Strange exchanges, like find 44 spaces, a carriage return, a tab, and two spaces and replace it with a single carriage return. Great fun!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Beating my head against the wall

Yet another attempt to generate a visionary energy from a young theater artist -- it only takes one!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Two more reworked novels

Here's one of the best passages I've ever written, Red's black friend explaining the logic behind the development of the LA freeway system in 1954:
Butch said, “If she wants to live in the best neighborhoods, man, the lady got no choice but to pass for white. Nobody’s gonna let Negroes move around at will. Why the hell do you think they’re building all these new freeways? Think about it.”
I don’t see what this has to do with freeways.”
Come on, Red, open your eyes!”
He pulled a ballpoint pen out from a pocket and began drawing on a napkin, all the while continuing with greater excitement.
What do the white City Fathers fear most of all? The expansion of Negro neighborhoods, man. The darkies infiltrating good white neighborhoods. I’m not jiving. Looky here.”
His diction was changing as he spoke, so that now he was sounding more like Lovin’ Dan the Sixty-Minute Man, with his hip vernacular, than like the cultured Butch I knew. He turned the napkin around so I could see what he’d drawn so quickly, a pattern of lines with a circle in the middle.
This is the Freeway Grand Plan, okay? They even published it in the newspaper. Now this here is Watts, man. So more Negroes have been moving into Watts, so it’s expanding to the west, right? Oo-ee, we got to head off them niggers at the pass! And so we start building this here Harbor Freeway to block them off, and this here Santa Monica Freeway to catch and trap all the ones that slip over the boundary before we can finish up the Harbor. But now Watts is expanding east, man, cause it’s got to go somewhere, and so we got to head off them damn niggers again, oo-ee, baby, let’s build ourselves the Santa Ana Freeway, only this time a whole mess of niggers got so far east we got to come down with another one, too, the Pomona Freeway -- look at it, Red. All these freeways ain’t nothing but fences to keep the niggers from getting too close to good white neighborhoods. You mentioned South City. Well, what’s South City, man? A town because people want it to be a town? Hell, no. It’s nothing but the part of Watts that got over the Santa Ana but got cut off with the Pomona. It ain’t a freeway system, Red, it’s the walls of a prison!”
I stared at the napkin.
You’re saying,” I began slowly, “That the purpose of the freeway system is to contain Watts?”

Butch laughed. “Shit, man, I think I’d better pay the check, you so dumb.”

The Writing Life II: Perverse fascination, or it didn't used to be this way

The Writing Life II: Perverse fascination, or it didn't used to be this way:

'via Blog this'

Monday, June 17, 2013

Repackaging, reworking

Dusting off the cyber cobwebs, giving a hose down, hoping for new life ..

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Advertisements for myself

 don't get a lot of reviews at Amazon. Never have figured out how folks get so many. I refuse to ask friends etc. At any rate, here are some I have received -- and a book plug while I'm at it. (Revisions are of Kindle books only, not paperbacks.)

Dead Body In A Small Room ... now Murder at the Black Cat B&B
A screenwriter recovering from cancer in a small Nevada town investigates the apparent suicide of a prostitute in a legal brothel and begins a journey of twists and turns suitable for a Hollywood thriller. Finalist, Mystery of the Year (ForeWord Magazine).
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book. Interesting. February 3, 2013
By Millie
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
Dead Body in a Small Room
Interesting story line, fast paced. A good read. I'd read more by this author.

Sodom, Gomorrah & Jones 
A short novel. In this dark comedy, a retired history professor struggles to live his last years with dignity in a corrupt world. 

4.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting February 17, 2013By LisselleFormat:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified PurchaseThis book surprised me. It is intelligent, funny, bawdy and real. The protagonist is such a likeable fellow adrift in an America he no longer understands, that one cannot help but root for him.
Later in the story, we realize that much about his life has already eluded the good professor just as the same thought seems to be occurring to him.
I read the story almost at one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Emmett"s Gift ... now A Gift Before Dying
On the day after the Bicentennial, the body of an old man is discovered hanging from a tree in a park in Hamartin, a small farming community in central Oregon. A homophobic note is attached to the man's body. The shocking story makes the national news wire. Shandy Anderson, a young artist, hears the story on the morning TV news during her move from Hamartin's small-town boredom to an exciting new life in San Francisco. She knows the old man, Emmett Hale, whose generous gift of money made her escape possible - and who had paid her for sex. But how can he be the victim of a homophobic crime if he isn't a homosexual? And why would he be murdered when everyone in town knew he had terminal cancer? Shandy decides to return home not only for Emmett's funeral but to find out what really happened. EMMETT'S GIFT is a literary novel of suspense, and the story of a young woman's coming of age against the backdrop of small town bigotry and personal sexual experimentation. 
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful January 15, 2013
This book captivated me from the start to the end. The vicariousness of individuals with different moralities, outlooks on life and ambitions make for a splendidly complex universe through which we are taken. Somehow it reminded me of college and endless days discussing 'character is fate' in english literature; that is not the whole story in Emmett's Gift though, there are emotional layers beyond the obvious.

Love At Ground Zero  ... now Wes & Hayaam
Love At Ground Zero is the multicultural love story of Wes and Hayaam, set against the backdrop of 9/11 and its aftermath.
5.0 out of 5 stars He Does It Again June 3, 2004
In Love At Ground Zero, novelist, playwright, and teacher Charles Deemer presents a haunting story in the style of Romeo and Juliet about the love between an American boy and an Indonesian Muslim girl during the aftermath of the World Trade Center destruction.
Deemer puts the tale in present tense, occassionally passing cynical asides directed at the reader, making the novel not only a well-written narrative, but a challenging interactive experience.
One not only feels for the star-crossed protagonists, but also sees himself and his prejudices as the families regard one another with fear in light of present situations.
This is a novel which requires a second reading before an analysis can be made. As a rule, Deemer writes deep, moving, complex fiction which challenges the reader to think about himself and his own place in this changing world rather than the escapist shallow stories which purvade (sp?) Popular fiction today.
However, this novel deserves that second reading. And a third. And a fourth.
Definitely something which belongs in classrooms in later years.

Forgive the Father's Day self-indulgence but my children rather demanded it.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

An experiment in narrative

I launched the first of a proposed series of 15 books called Stories In Overdrive. They are re-packaged screenplay stories but not novelizations. They use the same vertical writing style, in a novella, as in a screenplay. It's an experiment to see if readers will respond to a new narrative approach. Since the stories already exist, my role is more as transforming geek than writer.

And marketing. I've barely begun but nothing brings out the worst in American culture than dipping into the waters of marketing. It's all hype and bullshit, I swear. I don't know how much of it I can stomach.

My greatest commercial hit was my screenwriting tutorial. When it came out in 1997 it quickly sold well and was reviewed well. Everybody loved it. (See for yourself.) /And I did nothing, absolutely noting, to promote it -- except pitch it at my website, The Screenwriters and Playwrights Home Page. No doubt this worked because I was the first on the net, I had no and then little competition, and I was getting over 500 unique visitors a day, all of them wannabe screenwriters. I was in the right place at the right time with the right product.

This is the luck and magic I hope for with this project. The notion of storytelling and vertical writing combining to create a narrative aimed at smart phones and tablets. I've had this idea for five years and no one has run with it. I finally decided to run with it myself. We'll see what happens.

But I don't think I can stomach much of the usual marketing dance. The hype and bullshit make me sick in my stomach, just as the first Screenwriters Expo in LA, where I was on the visiting faculty, upset me so much I resigned from doing it again. Marketing is America at its worst.

So we'll see if this idea, like the tutorial, is in the right place at the right time. And I may also benefit by its size and consistency, 15 stories to come reasonably quickly, allowing for a sense of a "brand." Well, we'll see. I certainly am not going to enter the fields of shit just to make a buck. No fucking way.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Monday, June 10, 2013

Requiem For The Sane

You see the truth all around you
but how do you live with such horror?
murder, brutality, torture
rape, mutilation, genocide
there is no imagined horror unrealized
every disbelief becomes real

this is no age for subtlety
every government lies
every vote changes nothing
every ism is a sham
these chains that keep your mind imprisoned
every horror justified by security concerns

you see the truth all around you
and can't erase it with a Big Mac
double decaf wet soy latte
a trip to Maui sun and surf
the truth is making you crazy
they surely will lock you up

unless you become a good citizen
unless you buy instead of bitch
forget what you can' t change
happiness is masturbation
jack yourself off to sleep
peace is blindness, ignoring, forgetting


Lost Youth

These recent days I've lost the edge.
Maybe it's the grading. Maybe it's
the sunshine, a confusion about
where I am. Maybe it's another small
step of aging or the mind going.

Whatever it is, I already miss it.
Without it, I'm just another old man
rising after an unsettled sleep.
With it, I rise full of surprises,
energy that drives me into the day
like a boy with a secret plan
to find any hidden thing worth
finding. With it, I rise young.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Dear Celtx Androids

You love Celtx and write your screenplays with it. However, you'd like to be more mobile and are impatient with the development of a mobile app for android, like they developed for Ipad. Well, rest easy. I have a very simple solution!

Write your script as a text file obeying all the format rules of horizontal spacing and capitalization, but otherwise writing flush left. No tabs. A script would like look this:


Joe is on the phone.

Hey, sweetie, where are you? When you get this--

MARY (filtered)
I'm here! I--

Mary? Mary!? What's wrong?

Nothing. He hangs up. Worried.


Get the idea? You can write a text file like this virtually anywhere, with any device. Save it as a .txt, a text file. When you import this into Celtx, it becomes perfectly formatted! Is this liberating or what? Not as sexy as an app but it works.

You're welcome

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Old School

Old technology can be liberating.
I sit on the deck, writing a letter
on my Alpha Smart keyboard, old school
device from the early 90s, which
reminds me of a typewriter with its
hard action and clicking keys,
and I love this, I love the nostalgic
memory of writing on my portable Olympia
on a bench in a campground, I could be
camping this very moment, here on my
own deck, a homeowner, I could be
homeless in a campground and would
love every moment of it, especially
the clicking keys on the Alpha Smart
as they use just a small tad of the
700 hours they have on 3 AA batteries--
up yours o laptop universe!--and I
remind myself that something new is
not always something better, and
count myself as one of the lucky ones
liberated by old technology, including
myself, I suppose, old school human.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Worse Than War

Started this doc film but an hour at once was all I could take. Subject is genocide. First rate but difficult to watch. See the rest tomorrow.

posted from Bloggeroid

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Summer project

In about 10 days I should have my Stories In Overdrive project in, well, overdrive. I want #1 published before mid-July. I am quite intrigued and curious about this attempt to redefine narrative. I also plan an essay on the theory, the approach I took with hyperdrama. Ready to rumble.

posted from Bloggeroid

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


My old AlphaSmart got the cobwebs dusted off the other day. It works like a charm. 700 hrs on 3 AA batteries! Easily transfer up to 100 pages single spaced text files to PC or netbook. What a tool for writers in the boonies, traveling light, and so on. I should start using it again because I also like the FEEL of it so much. What a tool!

I thought they'd closed it down but it has been sold and now re-invented as Neo-2, aimed primarily at young school kids as before, and now there is is router for wireless connection to Google Documents built in, a convenience indeed, and still under $200. I swear, a mobile writer can't find a better tool than this, especially when away from power for long stretches of time.

Also the ASmart is much easier to carry around ... and I've been thinking of a special project to write on it, maybe the posthumous project I keep having trouble with. More about this later.

It's the last week of classes! Today I show the doc "Dreams On Spec," easy day. Collect project Thurs, most of which I just read, for a grade. Collect finals in a week. So the end is near, in 10-2 days my grades will be in. Summer begins!

Two BIG summer projects. 1. Downsize the house, starting in the basement. Get rid of 75% of what we own. 2. Get the "Stories in Overdrive" project going, publish at least the first, preferably the first two, and start laying a groundwork for small income after retirement.

This is pretty damn exciting, all these changes. Really! Old man, new tricks.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Goodnight, Sketch

I'm moving slower tonight than
on most nights, sore from yard work,
mentally exhausted from reading
student work, caught in the flow
of a term's ending, aware that
next year will be my last.

Teaching has been a security
blanket. Already my fall class
is full with a waiting list, four months
before the first day of class.
Soon I will exchange this token
of existence for another - and
without getting paid for it.

My life, which must seem simple
to others, is much too busy and
scattered for me. I am not yet
close to simplicity but I strive
to get there. I think I will succeed
with Sketch as my mentor.

Brooding past midnight

Not sleepy, though I am exhausted. Should read papers but instead I've been tweaking the course  online.  And brooding about my post-teaching life, which I very much look forward to. I have a lot of energy to develop my idea of a new narrative form and to put it out there to see if anything happens. I may be fooling myself but I think something will happen. Nothing huge but enough to satisfy me that my theory is correct.

I need to stay busy. It's the only way I keep sane.

Really have come to enjoy the audio on Fire lately, news and podcasts, audio books. I like listening to baseball on the radio better than watching it on TV. So the MLB app is a gift from heaven for the likes of me.

Google Play rejected the app, something wrong with its packaging, but it works perfectly fine, so I'm not spending money just to get it there. Amazon  may reject it for the same reason. Man, it strikes me as very complicated to market apps! I'd never do it. Have to be more of a geek, I suppose. Books and video were really easy to do yourself but not apps.

I don't remember my class filling up with a waiting list this early before. Also, my fall classroom is in the same building, one floor down, a very easy walk for a change! That winter walk across town to the bank building was something else.

Well, I'd better try and get some sleep. I do have five scripts to read tomorrow. Goodnight.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


 End of term, a time when my energy goes to my students. In two weeks my grades should be in and my summer begins.

LATER. My fall class is already full with a waiting list of 8.