Friday, May 28, 2010

Productivity Update and Thoughts on Screenwriting

Just submitted my espionage/SF short story "Picking Up Plans in Palma," which is set in my Afrikaner alternate-history universe, to Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show.  Made some revisions to it, including removing some passive voice where appropriate and toning down some of the language to meet IGMS's content standards.

Said content standards include no sexual content likely to garner more than a PG-13 rating and no language that would get an R.  There does not appear to be a content-standard for violence, which is probably where my story is the worst offender. 

(A character gets detained at gunpoint and tortured, shoots another character twice, gets in a running gun battle with some police, buries his thumb into an armed frogman's eye, and to top it off, is attacked by a bull shark.)

As far as sexual content was concerned, two characters being in a sexual relationship (but not married) was a major plot point but nothing is depicted (beyond them being in bed together), so there shouldn't be any problems there.  I replaced the F-bomb with some lesser profanities or no profanity at all to meet the language standards, which is probably where my story conflicted with the content standards the worst.

Response time: Three months.  The story had gotten rejected by several of the higher-end markets like Analog and Asimov's, but several of the rejection letters were personalized.  Getting better and better.   :)  It's the first time I've submitted a piece of short fiction anywhere since March.

Yesterday, I had the notion that Palma might make a good film.  It's got the best character development of all my short fiction, at least where the protagonist is concerned, plus it doesn't lob expository bombs at the reader to explain why this world is different from our own. 

The only problem I can think of is that it covers too short of a time period--around an hour of real time--to adapt directly into a film.  I'd probably need to write some additional material covering the relationship between intelligence-analyst Connor Kelly and his Afrikaner emigre lover Katje de Lange (which would take place before he goes in-country) and probably covering her unhappy familial situation back home (her brother has joined the ideologically-extremist group driving the Afrikaner Confederation toward the eventual World War III with the United States and her emigration has estranged her from other family members).  That'd elaborate on the other characters--one member of the Lawrenceville group said other than Connor, the characters were flat--and take up more running time.

Perhaps I should get hold of the film Fatherland.  It's an alternate-history film (based on a novel by Robert Harris, IIRC) that drops the viewer directly into a 1964 where the Nazis turned back D-Day and managed to turn the tables on the Russians and are now trying to make peace with the US.  That could help me figure out how to explain the world without boring the viewer to death with history lessons.

(Based on reviews on Amazon, it seems there's some kind of opening montage with a voice-over.  Perhaps I could do something like the opening map-sequence of Enemy at the Gates featuring the expansion of the Afrikaner Confederation as opposed to the expansion of Nazi Germany.)'s an outline.  The opening montage with the map and voice-over, then the agent Bernstein hiding the titular plans in a public bathroom in the city of Palma before being shot by Afrikaner security goons, Connor getting the assignment, Connor "visiting" Katje and momentarily discussing her familial situation, a scene showing her father arguing religion and politics with her brother back home, an Indiana Jones-style map sequence showing how Connor got into the Confederation, and then we pick up with him going into the bathroom (the beginning of the actual story).  No flashback sequences for expository purposes, unlike the short story.

Sound good?

Wrote some additional material for Escape from the Wastelands while waiting for a friend to pick me up for my church's retreat last weekend.  Most of it covers the beginning of Chapter Six, in which Andrew and some of his friends attempt to contest the Flesh-Eater entry into Carroll Town (at the cost of most of their lives).  There's some material I inserted into Chapter Five, which elaborates on the political situation in the empire of the antagonist Grendel and just how much of an SOB he is.

(Given how Grendel brought peace to an area torn by warlordism for decades if not centuries, I expect some readers will think him the hero and Andrew--who will eventually bring him down--as the villain, the way some people think the Rebels of Star Wars and the Varden of Eragon are jeopardizing the peace and well-being of the common folk and provoking atrocities by not submitting to the villain's rule.  Grendel pondering a plan to backstab one of his vassals and replace the man with his son with the captive sister of the former ruler of the area will be a nice "Kick the Dog" moment.)

I'm not going to inflict Chapter Five on my Kennesaw group a third time (we're discussing it on Saturday), but I'll probably send it to the Lawrenceville group, since they've only seen it once.  After tomorrow, I'll try to finish Chapter Six for the next Kennesaw meeting.

Fallen behind some on The Revenge of the Fallen Reboot, since Escape takes precedence over fan-fiction.  In terms of the story, I'm at the equivalent of the point in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen where Sam and Mikaela have their talk about how perhaps it's too dangerous for her to be involved with him.  This is even more blatant in this story than in the actual film, since Mikaela, her dad, and Agent Simmons were briefly abducted by Starscream, who hoped to use them as hostages.

(In the film, it was Sam on the receiving end of most of the Decepticon shenanigans, to the point of coming either close to death or being killed off for real and then being resurrected.  Mikaela got mussed some, but wasn't in the same kind of peril she was in my story.  Upping the danger to her makes it clearer Sam is unselfishly concerned for her well-being when he makes his remarks about her being with him being dangerous.)

Still haven't figured out how to get the the college-age cast (Sam, Mikaela, Leo) to North Africa for the final showdown.  I'm thinking that perhaps the attempt to defend the Fallen's tomb against the Decepticons goes worse than planned and so they have to rush the reinforcement of the site.  The kids could get bundled onto the airplane by mistake in all the hubbub and it wouldn't be implausible.

Hmm...Simmons, being primarily an intelligence type, shouldn't be there either, but I did want to keep the scene from the film where he calls in naval gunfire on Devastator.  Perhaps he sees the kids being dragged onto the plane and chases after them, only to get stuck on the plane himself?

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