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Beat Board

My custom made beat board sits on my wall next to me, waiting. I didn’t design it, that was my wife’s idea. She specifically bought a fairly pathetic painting from the thrift store just for the nice frame, along with two other paintings that were really good. Paid very little for them.

Then we checked them out. The two good ones turned out to be worth several hundred dollars each, once we traced the signatures.

So I looked at the truly terrible painting of a Hawk or falcon we’d bought. “Um….” With the way things were going, this probably was the first painting by some unknown painter in the 70’s who would only paint on battlefields in Vietnam or Laos, and it’s probably worth a thousand dollars. Or a hermit who only left his beach hut in Normandy, France, to sit on the beach on the full moon and paint.

But it’s horrible, so skip it. We put cardboard over it, stapled the cork roll right over the probably priceless and irreplaceable painting, and now it serves to hold the thumbtacks as I mercilessly drive my 3X31/2 cards into the cork board. Mwahahahaha!

Apparently, there’s now a science to cork boards. You split them in fours – Act one, Act two, act two, and act three. Yup. Act two is there twice.

So, I took my latest project, wrote up my turns and points, and plugged them in. Then I took the rest of the beats from Final Draft and plugged them in.

Um. That’s a lot of empty corkboard staring at me.

My outline sheet was roughly about 21 beats. The Save the cat beat sheet gives you about seven crucial points.

That’s 28. you need 40.

IF you can fill up those other 12 beats, you’ve got a movie, or a TV movie. If you can’t you don’t.

Now, there’s also the issue of those scenes you think of. I mean, writing is visceral. I don’t truly know if it’s the most difficult job in the world as one professional says, but certainly it’s not the walk in the park you think it is. I have TONS of ideas. And one thing I’m really good at is realistic dialogue. Which is why I’ll fight to the death over some of my dialogue.

But you’re not there! You’ve got to come up with 12 GOOD ideas. And some of the ones you write and you’re looking at and you think, “Ummm….”

Those go in an overflow area. I’m redoing my beat board today so the lower third of the beat board is just an overflow area.

Why do you do all this?

Because if you’re a planner and not a pants-er (almost every writer knows those terms), you can’t WRITE until you can SEE the movie. Blake Snyder of Save The Cat fame tells of his incessant fiddling with his beat board. He’ll hold cards, take them down, juggle them, staring at the beat board. I’m not that bad, but there’s a lot of LOOKING at the thing. And during that whole time, you’re getting your movie INSIDE you. Once you KNOW it, it’s INTERNALIZED…

Now you start writing. Hold onto your hats, because you’re about to knock out the movie in less than two weeks. At least, that’s how it is with me. Once I KNOW it, it’s INTERNALIZED, buddy, step aside!

Blank Page

Yup. blank page.

I don’t often see that. I open either of my writing programs and I’ve got so much scheduled to write…

So I open my blogging program and…

Blank page.

Staring at me.



Take an index card and clean cat hair out from under my keyboard. Huh. Little bits of brown peanut skin under there too. Inspect the edge of the card.

It’s getting frayed. Better stop.

Blank page.

I haven’t cracked my knuckles yet. Take care of that.

There must be an obscure sea shanty I could whistle to myself right now. Except I have a limited whistling range of about 5 notes, and the rest comes out as puffs of air at a musical pitch.

Blank page, waiting patiently.

Hm. Let’s see. I had a Ford Mustang, a Pinto, a Honda Semi-automatic (no kidding! a Civic with a choke but no clutch), a Toyota of some kind, a Mazda… what was the station wagon?

Blank page, staring accusingly.

“You don’t have any ideas today, do you?”


“Come back tomorrow.”


Difference Between…

There’s not a whole lot of difference between having a blog on writing, and having a newspaper article. You have to show you can write, write well, and you have to have enough ideas to write a month of columns in advance.

Mark Pantinkin. Funny guy.

I mean, there was Mark Patinkin’s column in the Providence Journal. He’d write about the weirdest things! And get paid to do it. I don’t think I ever missed a day of reading his column.

That’s probably where I picked up my “blogging voice” from. And yes, Mark would write about his cousin from time to time. It’s funny, but at the time, Mark was better known in Rhode Island than Mandy was. Yes, Mandy Patinkin.Also known to most of us as Inigo Montoya. Yup. I bet you all started saying it. “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

Mandy Patinkin is also famous among Model Railroaders. He’s a Lionel buff, but he was known to carry around John Allen’s 101 Track Plans book while filming movies and study it between takes.

So, I wonder – could I supplement my income by writing for the Providence journal a column, the way that Mark Patinkin used to?

I wonder.


Growing Up In Newport

Growing up in Newport was kind of odd in one sense. I mean, I walked past the spot where General Rochambeau surrendered to George Washington a million times! I don’t think I ever thought as I walked past it, “Hey! That’s a historical spot!”

Houses on lower Spring Street had those steps on them that went up one side and down the other. And of course, I’d walk up the steps and down them again instead of using the sidewalk… because I was a kid. You know, Washington walked past those steps.

Standing in the harbor, there was a recreation of the USS Rose, who actually took part fighting against America in that war.

Newport gets in your bones. There’s all that history there, a feeling, a vibe. While all of Rhode Island has a specific feel you can’t find anywhere else in the world, and you’re definitely aware in Rhode Island of history, Newport had a feel all its own. Especially with the truly bizarre history of Newport as you dig deeper.

While i aspire to owning a Rhode Island sized home in Exeter or Coventry where a one acre lot seems to be the status quo and 5 acre lots are common (there’s one for sale in Coventry with 95+ acres, and they’re throwing in the historic 1712 house on the lot for free) – I’d trade it all to live on Mill street in Newport, or perhaps Bull Street. Or any of the little houses lining the cliffs on Ocean Drive.

And I can say I was stupid enough to join the Midnight club in Newport – turning off the headlights on your car on Ocean Drive at midnight and driving based on memory and sound. No accidents, so I passed. Of course, an accident on Ocean Drive means going over the edge and landing in… the ocean, 30 feet below. That’s pretty stupid, but I’d say it’s probably the stupidestest thing I did as a teenager.

I’m so grateful I had the chance to spend my youth in Newport. I’m so grateful I’d spend hours walking around the city looking at it, instead of getting into the trouble most other kids my age got into.

The images, thoughts and feelings of growing up there couldn’t come from anywhere else, even if I’d grown up in Providence! What I experienced moving into a house with TWO stairways truly inspired me, and to this day drives me with enough atmosphere that I’d say I absolutely have no alternative than to be a writer.

Researching a Novel

Part of writing is that you often have to research. you can print things to PDF – I do that a lot. Another thing I’ve been doing is clipping things to Evernote.

The thing about saving things to PDF is that I can drag and drop the PDF’s to the research corkboard in Scrivener. You can also just clip it to Evernote, and you can actually just save the fragment you’re looking for.

Both systems have advantages. Because it always seems like there’s SOMETHING in every novel you stick in there that you don’t know about. People who know me are often amazed when I admit there’s gaps in my knowledge! Yes, I’ve learned (and can recall) a lot of facts about a lot of things.

I know a lot about Japanese swordfighting. I know a lot about Martial arts. I know a LITTLE about mountain climbing. now, see, that’s the kind of thing that creeps into your novels. I’m doomed that it’s going to happen. I know about freebase climbing, because it’s simple. Chalk your hands, grab a rock, put a foot up, and go that way (up).

I don’t know anything about crampons, carabiners, ropes, knots, or any of the other stuff. So i’m pretty much doomed to know that sooner or later there’s going to be a mountain lcimbing scene SOMEWHERE.

Boating. I know boats. They sit on water. If you’re lucky. Otherwise, they sink.

That’s it.

To write my first novel, I ended up learning a little about boats, waves, etc. I already knew about a lee shore from Moby dick, and from growing up in Newport. I mean, the Lee side of Newport has the big shopping street (Thames Street). The ocean side of the Island has… beaches. ANd NOBODY built on the beaches for a couple of hundred years – something Newport would do well to remember. The only stuff built close to the ocean was… the mansions, which were on Ocean Drive, and quite a height off the water.

so i had to learn MORE about follwing seas, confused seas, when you get your vessell to shore, how to survive a confused or following sea, wind speeds, wave heights, etc.

I had to learn how to build a buidling using natural materials found on site. How to build and construct a shelter you can hide. how many people it takes to make an effective settlement. Camouflage. combat patrols. survival foods and items.

sometimes it seems like you spend more time researching than writing!


Gojirasaur. No, really! There is one! No spines, and… a lot smaller. Only 18 feet long.

Godzilla. I’d say I’m a huge Godzilla fan, but actually, i’m a little under average height.

But Godzilla… I watched every movie of his I could growing up. He’s cool.

Godzilla is not green. He’s charcoal Gray. His name is Gojira, technically.

The Japanese movie placed him at 175 feet tall. The American edit with Raymond Burr puts him at 400 feet.

The Japanese ignored that error, and proceeded to keep making films of a 175 foot Godzilla. Should have adopted the American version.

Tokyo now is MUCH taller than 1954. Godzilla would actually be dwarfed by many buildings. So… they ended up having to redo the Godzilla series, the Hesei series (am I saying that right? Can’t remember). Godzilla is MUCH taller now. If they’d stuck with the American height, they’d actually never needed to remake the series. By the end, Godzilla looked a lot different, and behaved a lot different. The second suit actor was very difficult to work with, so the third one ended up being the best Godzilla.

by that time, a new company was making the suits, and made the spines out of fiberglass. You have to be VERY strong to work the suits.

The original Godzilla was Katsumi Tezuka, who fell over as they put the suit on the first time, and passed out while filming the first two scenes.




Haruo Nakajima took over filming, and so we count him as the first Godzilla. He remained Godzilla for years. Incidentally, Nakajima also was in another of my favorite movies, the Seven Samurai.


The second Godzilla Kenpachiro Satsuma, was the Godzilla of the last part of the 70’s, and early 80’s. Toho felt he was too difficult to work with (apparently, he wanted to be paid more, and was fired), and so, when the Godzilla series was done, they turned to the suit actor who played Mechagodzilla.

The third suit actor, Tsutomo Kitagawa,  like the others is slim (you lose 20 pounds a day filming in the Godzilla suit) and literally bulging in muscle by the end of filming.

Kitagawa, the New Godzilla

He explained in an interview the weight of the fiberglass spines on his back made him walk almost doubled over. He chose wide, crescent steps when walking as it gave Godzilla an impression of immensity. All the Godzilla actors keep to the Nakajima tradition of keeping your elbows close to the body in as many senes as possible. It disguises the fact you’re a man whose arms are longer than Godzilla.

The second Godzilla actor decided on making Godzilla whip his head when he breathed the fire, so Kitagawa kept to that tradition as much as possible. Nakajima was unable to do that, since he was unable to move Godzilla’s head.

In the Newspaper office scene in the 1954 godzilla, both suit actors (Nakajima and Tezuka) are present outside of the costume. The Newspaper editor whos barking orders is Tezuka. the reporter with the pencil behind his ear is Nakajima.

The classic Godzilla.. © Toho Co. Ltd. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Newer Gojira! Bigger, faster, meaner.

Best Godzilla movie? The 1954 Japanese original. 2nd best? Gojira vs. Destroyerah.

Fun fact – Tezuka and Nakajima routinely faced off against each other. Nakajima remained godzilla, but lighter suits were constructed, and Tezuka played Godzilla’s opponents. King Ghidorah, Anguiasaurus, etc.

Godzilla sets were contructed at a 1:25 ratio. They ended up in the newer moviers being reduced to 1:60, as Godzilla is taller. To put him at the American 400 feet, they would need to be reduced probably to 1:86, the same as HO scale trains.