Category Archives: Writing

Senior Project | In the Immortal Words of Tom Haverford…

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I passed my roommate in the hall on my way back from the gym this morning. We shared an awkward, “Oh, haha, you’re going to the gym? I just went to the gym!” exchange, and then she mentioned that I’d lost a lot of weight. I’m never quite sure how to react to these kind of comments, so I laughed a little and gave her a confused “thank you” before ducking back into my apartment. She’s right, though. I recently started running, I’m generally more active, and I cut soda out of my diet (for the most part). I’m doing the work and seeing results. Feels good, man.

What does this have to writing? Quite a bit, actually. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been integrating some better habits into my writing routine. I say “writing routine” like I had one before. Writing 20 pages the night before a deadline definitely doesn’t count as a “routine”. For one thing, I started blocking out time in my schedule to work on my script, usually one or two hours a day. If that time is in my Google Calendar, I’ll usually stick to it, regardless of where I am that day. While I still enjoy the occasional page dump, it’s a lot less stressful to chip away at a script a few pages at a time. I also find it much more productive to work at a desk or table rather than splayed out on my bed. When your bed is the centerpiece of your tiny room, it’s pretty hard to ignore the temptation to get under the covers and write. I for one can’t sleep and type at the same time, so my bed isn’t a particularly productive place.

The most important part is just doing the work. I know that sounds pretty obvious, but scripts don’t write themselves. There are some days when writing is fun and some days when it feels like a chore. I’m learning to power through those crappier days. I never quite felt like I deserved the grades I got in high school and college because I didn’t feel like I was working hard for them. In a lot of ways, I was skating by on natural talent. I can’t really do that right now. I’m happy with my first drafts of my episodes, but they’re far from done. Rewriting isn’t always fun, but it’s necessary.

46 days til graduation. YIKES.

Senior Project | One Draft Down, Many More to Go

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There is no better feeling than completing a draft of a project. Even if you know it’s going to need some a lot of revision, it feels really nice to just finish something. I now have a full first draft of my pilot. It may be a hot mess, but it exists in some completed form, and it’s much better than the tons of abandoned projects sitting on my hard drive at the moment.

Of course, I’m nowhere near finished with my senior project. I have another episode to write, then a ton of revisions to do between now and June. Despite the amount of work ahead of me, finishing this draft has really motivated me to keep working to make this project something special. This idea has moved past the brain crack stage and into something real that I can actually show people (other than my professor). Whether or not I actually want to do that remains to be seen.

Something I’ve found out in this last writing push is that I can actually write to music with lyrics. Usually I find music with lyrics too involving and I get sucked into the story of the song. This time around, I kind of tailored my playlist around the content of my script. I used those lyrics as inspiration for certain scenes or as a way to better get into the heads of my characters. One song I’ve been listening to a lot is “The Woodpile” by Frightened Rabbit. I had it more or less on repeat as I wrote the last scene of the pilot between my main character, Lily, and her overwhelmed boyfriend Jim. I don’t want to give to much away (ugh, I know, I hate me, too) but the song is kind of perfect for that scene. Who needs a music supervisor when you have Spotify? Just kidding, music supervisors are brilliant humans. I’ve included a Spotify playlist of some of the (non-embarrassing) songs on my writing playlist if you’re interested in that kind of thing.

I also strayed a little from my treatment in this draft. I made certain characters more pivotal to the plot, which means I may need to go back to the drawing board for this next episode. Sure, it’s more work, but I feel a lot better about where the story is going than I did when I wrote the first treatments. Things are looking up!

Senior Project | Winter (Break) is Coming

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We’re nearing the end of term and by some miracle I have almost half of my pilot script written. I really didn’t think I would pull it off with everything going on this term. I was way behind deadline-wise for most of November. I got hit by an avalanche of work once Godzilla closed and of course my senior project work fell to the wayside.

I’ve never been particularly good with these independent study style classes. If I don’t have to physically go to class once a week, I tend to push that work to a dark, dusty corner of my brain, only to stumble back into that corner when I have a deadline approaching. This project requires a fair amount of self-discipline and time management, two things I’ve never been particularly good at. However, I think I made some strides in that department over Thanksgiving break. I went into the (all too short) break knowing that I had some pages to deliver in a few weeks time. I made it my goal to set aside an hour or two a day to just sit down and write. I wrote at Panera Bread, in my room, in the car home from Long Island, wherever I happened to be at the time. Even if I just wrote a page or two in those sessions, I still made progress.

My goal for the next few weeks is to finish my pilot script. I’ll be writing over my winter break, so this could be really easy or really really difficult. Sure, I won’t have any other schoolwork to worry about, but it’s so easy to get distracted over break. I’ll be traveling, spending time with family, doing Christmas shopping, and hopefully picking up some part-time work. I’d better start scheduling those writing sessions now. Luckily, I have some really cute coffee shops and a newly-renovated library in my hometown, so I can escape the holiday madness at my house and hang out in the world of my script.

Anyway, on to finals week. If you couldn’t tell, I’m about ready for this term to be over.

Senior Project | A Balancing Act

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Sometimes I look at my friends and wonder how they’re still upright. They do so much more than I do and I feel like I’m about to collapse into a pile of creative project-induced stress. This could also be because I’m fighting off a cold and I walked a 12k for the first time in…a while yesterday, but I do have a lot going on at the moment. On top of my senior project (which should be commanding most of my attention), I have 18 credits worth of classes, a play opening in a week and a half, and my own creative endeavors to worry about. Oh, and my social life and health. Those are important, too.

What I think may be the key to doing my best work on this is blocking out time every day in my crazy schedule to put all the other distractions away and just spend some time with my story. The first deadline for my project was last Friday and I’ll be honest with you all, I was not prepared. I came up with a pretty detailed treatment and bio for my main protagonist, but I definitely need to spend some time creating the rest of the ensemble and tweaking my treatment before I’m ready to write. Luckily, I have a little more time for development.

“Why does that document you’re working on look more like an English essay than an actual script?” you’re probably [not] wondering. That, my friends, is a treatment. A treatment is essentially a detailed outline in prose of the script. I find them to be very helpful because they help me figure out what I want the tone of each scene to be, which doesn’t always come across in an outline. Prose helps me fully flesh out each moment before I actually write it. Plus, I enjoy writing prose. Makes me feel smarter or something.

My goal or this week is to keep working on my characters and outline my second episode. It’s going to be a tough week as I’m just a few days away from Godzilla’s tech weekend, but if my crazy friends can still do all that they do, I think I can make it out alive. As a wise Tumblr post once said, “You have as many hours in the day as Beyonce.”

P.S. If you’re in Philly, come see Godzilla. We open on Halloween!

Senior Project | Thundercats are GO!

I didn’t eat a lot on Friday. Most of my day was spent putting the finishing touches on my pitch for my senior project, the culmination of four years of work on my Screenwriting & Playwriting degree. Anxiety turned into hyperfocus which turned into forgetting to eat which turned into stuffing my face with pizza upon release from my pitch meeting. Pizza is everything. Pizza is the essence of life.

I share that anecdote with you, dear blog readers, as a way to announce that I will be blogging my way through the process of writing my senior project throughout this school year. In these senior project posts you’ll hear about each step of the cycle, my struggles to get things done on time in the midst of my already mad schedule, and hopefully a little bit about the stuff I’m actually writing. And then you will probably run away from the world of screenwriting screaming with your proverbial tail between your legs. If you’re like me, though, you’ll continue down this masochistic path because you just love it so much.

“So, Charlotte, what the hell are you writing this year?” you ask. If we were talking face-to-face I’d probably avoid this question like the plague and say something like, “How about that government shutdown, eh?” However, for the sake of transparency, I will fill you in. I’m working on two episodes (a pilot and second episode) of an hour-long drama with a working title of “The Middle Space”. It centers around a young woman who wakes up in a world occupied by people who are currently in comas back on earth. They support each other while they wait to wake up in the world of the living or enter the world of the dead, not knowing when they’ll move along. It explores themes of bodily autonomy, reinvention, community, and of course death. And yes, I know that pitch sounds depressing as hell. I’m still in development.

That brings us to…development! I’ll spend the next few weeks writing treatments and character bios for the pilot and probably sending a ton of emails to my advisor (sorry in advance). I’m really excited about this script, so my first instinct is to just dive in and start writing. I’ve got some things to work out before I can, though, and I’m learning to love the development process. It’s easier to start writing when you have a clear understanding of who your characters are and the world they live in. So that’s my goal, and I’ll be updating you weekly on my process. If you want to follow my process, you can sign up on the left side of this page or follow me on bloglovin. Let’s get writing, shall we?

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The Post 9/11 American Girl Doll

Whenever the time comes for American Girl to make a new historical doll set at the turn of the 21st century, they should totally base that doll off of my 9 to 10 year-old-self.

I’m not trying to say that I was the perfect representation of the average American girl at the time. But my life did follow the natural progression of an American Girl book series. Each doll had their own series of books, each book featuring the same theme as those of the other dolls to show how they were each similar and different. I could certainly find a way to fit moments of my young life into the themes of these books.

Meet Charlotte – Meet me! I’m fun! And 9 years old!

Charlotte Learns A Lesson – Math is designed specifically to make me cry.

Charlotte’s Surprise – We’re moving to Pennsylvania! Yay?

Charlotte Saves the Day! – A book of blank pages.

Of all of the books in my non-existent American Girl line, I think the most important would be Changes for Charlotte. My life as a 10-year-old almost seems too much like a cookie-cutter American Girl Changes For… book. In these books, some major event (bringing a family of former slaves back together, trapping season) in the featured girl’s life coincides with a major event in American history (the end of the Civil War, Manifest Destiny, etc.). For me, these two events were my move to Pennsylvania and 9/11.

The first few days at my new elementary school were all right. My teacher was nice, I met a few nerdy girls who unfortunately were not in my class, and I was starting to get the hang of things around there. I was particularly looking forward to going back to my old neighborhood in New Jersey to celebrate my 10th birthday with my friends. I mean, I was having a freaking gymnastics party. How cool is that?

I don’t remember much of my school day on 9/11. It was awkward and unremarkable like the rest of those early days. Everything seemed all right until I noticed that my dad was home early from work. And my parents had made chocolate pudding. You know something’s up when the Dows break out the pudding.

Mom and Dad sat me down at the kitchen table and we dug into our pudding. They explained what had happened earlier in the day as calmly as they could, given the situation. They’d had a few hours to process it by then and I applaud the way they handled breaking the news to me. Had I found out on the news or at school, I would’ve panicked. At that point a good portion of my family was working or living in Manhattan. My aunt was actually one of the survivors of the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. The fact that my parents weren’t panicking told me that everyone in the family was safe and that I could rest relatively easy.

I remember feeling a lot of emotions when I heard the news. I was mostly annoyed. How dare such a tragedy occur two days before my birthday? Once that wore off (it didn’t), I was worried. The first words I said to my parents after they broke the news to me were “I hope this doesn’t start a war”. In other news, yes, I am psychic.

More emotions followed in the next few days: relief that my family was OK, grief for people I didn’t know and a place I’d never been, confusion, the works. Mostly I just continued on with my exciting 10-year-old life, not thinking much about it because I didn’t want to.

And yet, every year on this day, I feel so attached to the event. Not because I knew anyone who died in the attack. Not because I was there. But because that day represents a very challenging, confusing, and upsetting time in my life.

I moved to Pennsylvania from a small suburb in New Jersey that just happened to be about 45 minutes outside of New York City. My parents and I went to the city often to see Broadway shows, visit family, and occasionally be big fat tourists. That was my city, is still my city. Leaving was difficult enough. Seeing the centerpiece of the skyline go up in smoke was almost too much to bear. It didn’t seem real at all. Sometimes it still doesn’t.

But back to the Changes. What followed that day were some difficult years of trying to find my place in a new school and town. My family and I were very much outsiders to the community. My parents didn’t meet and marry at Penn State, we weren’t the third generation of country club members in our family, and my mom worked. It was difficult to break into the crowd to say the least. Eventually we did. We carved out a place for ourselves in this community. My parents worked hard to hide their Long Island accents and people started calling my mom Catherine instead of Cathy. Our post 9/11 world was drastically different from our pre 9/11 world. And while I wouldn’t trade the life I have now for anything, I just wish that it hadn’t come at such a hard time for the country. The stress of my own little world was enough to handle.

American Girl would never publish that book. Way too depressing.

Thus ends everything I’ve wanted to say about 9/11 for the past 10 years but haven’t had the balls or the emotional depth to until now. Yes. That sentence makes sense.