Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I Needed a Hero, Part II

I’ve never really been an outliner. I’m pretty sure that it goes back to my inability to study. All through both high school and college, I never really learned how to study. I never had to. See, I’m smart. I say this not as a boast, or to impress, or even bludgeon lesser beings with my Khan-like superior intellect. (As with all things, I’ve met people so much smarter than I that they literally make rooms brighter with the luminescence of their big brains.) I say this to help illustrate this point. I’m smart and, unfortunately, also lazy. The former helps enable the latter, like the friend who orders dessert even though he totally knows you’re on a diet but will still eat half the damned brownie sundae just because its on the friggin' table. Taunting you.

If I was just smart, I’d be a millionaire by now. Seriously. (I know guys—okay, one guy—who was not all that sharp and just sold his internet company for millions. Plural.) But the lazy is my kryptonite, lodged about 17 inches up my arse. So, in school, I was smart enough to be able to just reread the notes I’d taken and pass almost every test. Not excel, mind you, just pass. I was a solid B– underachiever, which, naturally, annoyed my parents to no end. I didn’t study because studying was hard and, again, me lazy. (My father is an immigrant from the poorest country in the Western hemisphere who carved a very, very nice life for himself through a combination of smarts and ball-busting hard work. You can imagine how pleased he was with me...)

When I started writing, I never much dug the index-card method. My writing partner did, because he was both smart and not lazy. I’m pretty sure he’s running Houston right now. I was always more inclined to wing it, which explains why I always dried up at page 40. I had the good characters, the good beginning, and the kick-ass ending, but no way to connect the dots.

But for Hero, I wrote an outline. Sketchy, sure, missing a couple of whole scenes, definitely, but I knew where I was going and, more importantly, knew generally how to get there. And it made all the difference. Writing is a high-wire act, no doubt. There’s a ton of risk, up there. Plenty of ways to go awry, lose your balance. It also provides a terrific stage to show off with some ninja-like acrobatics. But it’s worth remembering, always remembering…

The outline is the wire.

So, I finished Hero Unlimited, the story of a private investigator and his hand-picked team of misfits and ne'er do wells, hired by humanity to find the alien bastards who stole our sun and bring it back. A big-budget, sci-fi action story that was just funny enough to confuse more than one studio exec. And writing the last 50 pages of that screenplay were more fun than anything else I’ve ever done at a computer. (Yes, including playing Doom. What four-letter word were you expecting, you preverts?) It was downhill racing through a trail that I knew well, the wind of story racing through my hair.

My last for-me revision was completed a week before my son was born. I brought it with me to that year’s San Diego Comic Con, knowing that I’d see John Rogers there, doing a little Global Frequency schtick at a Wildstorm panel. And I did; spoke to him before and after his panel and, like a dick, didn’t give him the script. (For a small but totally understandable reason: He didn’t want to carry anything. Having done that Con three times now, I know the feeling. I used to ask each and every publisher who wanted me to look at their product to drop it in the mail. Walking that floor is enough of a Bataan Death March without having to serve as your own pack animal, weighed down with pounds of comics.)

I probably should’ve pressed him, but didn’t want to come off like a pushy schmuck, forcing my one and only Hollywood contact to do something he didn’t want to do because I desperately wanted, needed him to read my script.

So I FedExed it to him once I got back home. And it got lost on his desk. Because that's what happens. But I finally managed to get it to him. Of course, I had to fly all the way to Vancouver to do it.

Next time: Why movie/TV sets are the most boring places on Earth and the Sutton Place Hotel is the nexus of the showbiz universe.

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