No Stone Unturned

Pretty straightforward episode I suppose.  It wound up having a little bit of an ominous feel, which was appropriate for the approaching holiday.  There’s lots of things to touch on right now and some more set up to do, which was largely what this episode was all about.  People have asked me “when are things going to start winding down?” Well, the truth is, they are winding down.  It just may not be especially visible to the reader.  Characters are having epiphany’s right and left, reflecting on their pasts and the things that make them who they are.  These are the things that I feel are important to closing down a series.   Of course there will be conclusions, revelations, reunions, and the like, as to be expected.  I think the finale will be satisfying to people who are familiar with the series.  But also, with a series that moves at the pace that The Blackthornes does, I can’t exactly start having people say their goodbye’s when there are still 4 episodes left! The action will take us through to the first part of the finale, which is going to be lots of fun to write.  I’m starting on it next week, actually.  Did I mention that?

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Mr. Brightside

So when I outlined this episode, I was high.  When I went to write it, I was not.  I wrote all the Moonshadows and serial killer scenes first and left the scenes with Brett till the end, thinking they would be a breeze.  Originally, I intended 3/4 of the episode to center on this story, drawing in a lot more past characters than I wound up using.  When I started writing those scenes, however, none of my outline made sense!  So in the end, I only used a few of those past characters, and in just a couple of scenes.    It was really disappointing that this “great idea” I had wound up being too ridiculous for words.  So I altered it quite a bit and I think what I was left with turned out okay.  Originally, there was a whole sub plot about Magnum and his parents.  It was basically a continuation of the story I did in early season 5 where Quinn faked Magnum’s disapperance so Eddie would come in and investigate.  Quinn just wanted to get close to Eddie, hoping he would fall for her and solve their family’s money problems.  Quinn and Magnum’s father had left their mother, leaving them broke.  In this follow-up to that, it was going to be revealed that their father left because their mother was having an affair with Van.  Thus the bigger motivation for Magnum to turn Van in to the police.  Instead, I took care of all that story in one or two sentences of exposition. 

In this episode, two characters that I’ve always envisioned as so minor that I never even bothered to make bios for, are featured fairly heavily.  Van Edgewater, who first appeared in episode 75 as a friend of Benji and Blake’s, has popped up now and then over the last three seasons, usually in support of Benji’s hijinks.  It’s a little late to give him a full fledged bio now, but I always envisioned him as the guy who played the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network

Next, his father, Deacon, has never really “appeared” on screen until the last episode.  His name has been dropped numerous times since the beginning of the series, though, as the CEO of Double Strike Studios, who produced some of Alex’s early films as noted in her StarLog page.  This is one of several characters that came about from my brainstorming names to plug into those StarLog pages (that haven’t been updated in forever, btw), without intentions of ever using them for actual story purposes.  (Others were Frank Dunning, Eric Autumn, Elana Hendricks, and Cassidy Solomon – who are coincidentally now all dead – LOL).  But here he is, making a real life appearance and a mini storyline of his own. 

While this little adventure of Brett’s is technically an extended way of solving his legal troubles with The Benefactor, it also has a couple of other intentions, which will be revealed in the coming episodes, and has a lot to do with how Brett’s character ends up in the series. 

I wanted to remind readers of Brett’s origins as an opportunistic con man, and as far as he’s come in six years, he’s still relatively the same.  I’ve said before that Brett is my favorite character in the series.  He’s really the one who was the most dispensible.  He has no real ties to anyone in the series (except for now that he has a daughter with Heather), so I always had to find ways to keep him around.  I like him because on the surface he’s this well-groomed, blue-eyed, blond-haired All American boy next door who looks like he could be straight from the Ivy League.  Inside, however, he’s devious.  But more than that, there’s a reason for his deviousness.  He has a daughter now whom he must provide for.  I did a flashback years ago that showed him at home with his father and his step mother and they treated him like shit.  He was young but had to leave home at an early age, resulting in him conning people to survive.  I like how far he’s come.  He took advantage of some people, but everything he has he’s earned.  He’s probably the most driven character in the series, and for the right reasons.  I’ll probably miss him the most.  One of my ideas for a new web series at one time was a spinoff featuring Brett working as a producer in the porn industry.  I don’t think that will ever happen, but I would have loved to continue writing this character. 

Lots of stuff to cover in the last 5 episodes!  But not so much that it will feel rushed or too bogged down.  I’m determined to have enough flexibility to really give everyone an appropriate send off rather than a rushed ending.   Back to writing!

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Damnit, Jim!

For as many Scream references as I’ve made over the years in The Blackthornes, I couldn’t not drop a Scream-esqe murder sequence at some point!  And no, the killer is not going to go around in a cape and hood all the time.  This was just a fun way to tie it into the sci-fi convention. Questicon was something I’ve always wanted to do, but never seemed like a good time.  It’s pretty stripped down here and doesn’t get a lot of focus, but it amuses me that there’s this sci-fi convention going on at the same time as all these other dramatic moments.  The lawsuit against Sunset Studios, Jack being murdered, and Moonshadows being shut down all at once.  Yikes!~ This could have easily been a mid-season finale.  Only it’s not.  🙂  The scene with Q&A from the audience during Nathan’s speech was based on a hilarious SNL skit I saw from an old episode with William Shatner attending a Star Trek convention.   It made me laugh so I wanted to reference it. 

Mason’s plan, revealed in this episode, is the epicenter of events that will lead up to the finale, so I’m excited. 

With Moonshadows being closed down, I’m left without a centralized meeting place.  This is something I’ve always included in the series because it’s a staple for soaps.  It’s always a fictional place that ties characters into one setting on a regular basis.  In season 1 it was Renee’s generic “Beach Club”, in seasons 2 through 4, it was Hotel Terranova, and in 5 and 6 it was Moonshadows. 

Episodes will be released every 10 days from now through December 10th.  I’ve written ahead quite a bit these past two weeks, so I’ll have a bit of cushion.  At this rate, I should be done writing in about a month, and on to some other projects, including writing a script for an episode of a webseries filmed and produced here in Nebraska.

Next episode on the 18th!

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A Tale of Three Cities

A challenge to get this one polished enough to post.  I was dealing with 3 time zones, one being clear across the world.  Without putting in a bunch of unnecessary scenes to balance things out, it took a lot of shuffling of scenes.  

I really wanted to revisit the origins of the series with James and his sister Georgie, and the whole Will Thomerson/Ethan angle, so I was glad I could do that here.  Not a huge story mover, but it’s a beat that I wanted to hit before signing off.   Plus it let me put James, Alex and Brooke in scenes together which they aren’t very often these days.  It harkens back to the beginning. 

The scene where Nathan and Victor get shot at very nearly went a different route.  I changed it at the last minute because I thought it was TOOO over the top even for The Blackthornes.   I won’t say how it was originally going to play out because I might still use it in the next few episodes.  I can’t even give an adquate hint as to what it was going to be without giving it away, but something about it seemed very right to me.   So who knows….

Crossovers material pretty much ends after this episode.  You have to read the next Nightingales to see the conclusion.   There’s a few clean up scenes in the next Blackthornes, and more fallout from Miranda being a lady pimp and disposing of Hugh’s body, but other than that it’s wrapped for me.  I’m determined to turn the whole debacle into something that Miranda can grow from, however, so I have my work cut out for me there.

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Mothers and Daughters

Hopefully this episode starts to put the pieces together in a lot of this Sunset Studios/Lamont 3 stuff I’ve been leading up to.  I don’t really consider this a “whodunnit” but more of a story that links a lot of characters together and pulls the Hollywood studio stuff into focus before the end. 

My favorite part of this episode was the scene with Alex and Miranda at the hospital.  There were corny parts, but in general, it really works to sum up the mother/daughter relationship of these two women.  That Alex and Miranda haven’t really ever been close, and that Alex was basically owned by three men for her entire life.  Jonas Lamont, Nathan Blackthorne, and James Blackthorne.  She really didn’t have time to be a real mother attending school plays and nurturing her children.  Not that they faired all that badly, as in the case of Heather & Benji, which was also mentioned here.  This scene also begs the question of why didn’t Miranda follow in her mother’s footsteps in the acting field?  Or even become remotely involved in the film industry.  I’ve never addressed it, and while I didn’t here either, it still poses the question, which reminds me that I might have to at least have a dialog about it at some point before the finale.  This was by no means the encapulation of Alex and Miranda’s relationship, but I think it was a good starting point if I’m going to try to address relationship issues between characters prior to signing off.  It also made me think that a similar scene between James and Stormy could also follow in the not far off future. 

Lots of returns coming up in the next few weeks.  They won’t all be big splashy returns with oohs and aahs that hinge the storylines together, but again, I do want to put some kind of punctuation point at the end of some of these relationships.  And aside from the psychos, squabbles, revenge plots, and affairs, that’s really what I want the ending to boil down to. 

Next week marks the last big episode (of mine) in the Nightingales crossover.  I’m excited to see it play out to the end.  Back to writing!   December 10, 2011 is just three months away!

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The Benefactor

On the cusp of vessel 18
A look of terror in our eyes
The moonlight licked the face of danger
Innocence made us like soldiers
Untouchable and golden
The quilt of darkness dotted with our teardrops

I know you’re sad i’m leaving
So this may hurt a little
But girl look from your window late tonight
You think my heart is frozen
While yours is slowly grieving
You’ll see the boy you loved start burning in the sky

We were a dozen to the project
With a galaxy of questions
And all we heard was lies about the truth
No choice but be obedient
Like prisoners of war
Caught on the wrong side of morality and youth

We thought about our loved ones
Tallied 50 on our foreheads
With the pen your mother gave me in the spring
The sun beat at the windows
Within an hour james had cracked
Left the ship and died still clinging to the wings

White Lies

“Fifty on our Foreheads”
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DD-5

This episode took a mere 3 days to complete from start to finish.  I wrote it in one day, edited it the next, and formatted it to the site on the third.  An unprecedented accomplishment.  I’m not sure what to credit the ease with which it came about, except that the stories are all flowing on a level that I am loving at this point.  I’m excited for what’s to come, which makes me want to write faster. 

By this time, you may be wondering what Vaughan hiding Victor in his basement has to do with Lola’s secret twin who she accidentally killed, or with the person leaving photographs of Lana with each attempt on Lola’s life, or with Vaughan arranging for his gay son Sheldon to go to Elana Hendrick’s film premiere with a girl, or hell, with the remake of The Benefactor in general.  The answer:  everything and nothing.  Cheap answer, I know.  But if you hold on for the ride, all will be clear soon.  Let’s just say for now that Victor plays an important part in the history of Sunset Studios. 

I’m enjoying the scenes with Nathan because he gets to be known as this matinee idol from the past who, despite his misdeeds of the past, is still popular among all ages.  Keaton Hartley, the director of the remake of Nathan’s film, is a prime example.  There are some definite differences with Nathan this time around.  Last time he was this villain who everyone feared or hated.  Things haven’t changed in that regard, but he’s less of a theat now. 

Miranda going into labor in this episode was kind of an impromptu decision.  I knew if I didn’t do it now, it would start to seem unrealistic.  Because of plans for the next few episodes, it’s the best time for it to go down.  I could see her pregnancy going till the end of the season, which by that time she’d be like a million months pregnant.  This means that next week I’ll have to tackle an unpleasant childbirth scene, which I am never good at writing.  Also, it’s D Day in terms of finding out who the father of her baby is.  Oh, also, what’s going on with David up in that clinic in SF?  So many things to wrap up!

An unexpected benefit from current storylines is that I get to pair Alex and Jordan in ways that they haven’t been before.  Their comedic routine while breaking into Vaughan’s house had me cracking up as I wrote it.  It’s refreshing to put their bickering and tumultuous past behind them for the greater good. 

Already hard at work on the next episode.  Just one more to go until the milestone of 150 episodes!  I can’t believe it.  I never thought The Blackthornes would have lasted this long, or that I’d get to write a proper conclusion for it.

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History Lessons

Now seems like a good time to start bringing a lot of things full circle in The Blackthornes.  Part of that is referencing characters from the past.  Some will be in big ways and some in small, like this week’s return to such gems as Denise Syswicki, the gatekeeper of archives for Sunset Studios; BJ Summers, who appeared in a few episodes in season 1; and of course Blake and Sheldon, who haven’t been seen since Benji’s funeral.  More surprises await in the coming episodes, as well.  As it is, my cast is growing more than I’d anticipated.  To pull off some of the storylines in The Blackthornes, it’s hard not to incorporate peripheral characters.  Still, my goal is to focus the stories on the main cast. 

Lola’s secret is revealed in this episode.  If this were season 3 or 4, I probably would have revealed it through lengthy flashbacks, but I’m just not interested in that kind of storytelling like I used to be.  Since we’re ramping up for the end, I need things to run at a faster pace, and flashbacks would slow that down.  Some other events coming up will have to be done through flashback, but this one didn’t require it and I think it worked better this way.  Also it should be noted that this twin business isn’t really the meat of this storyline.  It’s only a small piece of it.  Things will develop over the next few episodes that pull a lot of threads together, and I’m excited because it goes back to an original idea I had that I scrapped, but after giving it a second look, I finally found a way to make it work. 

A lot of references this week to Jonas Lamont.  That will continue, so I thought a brief history refresh might be in order.  This is information that’s been peppered throughout the series, and dominates much of Jonas’s bio on the StarLog website if you’ve ever given it a read, but here’s a Cliffs Notes version: 

Jonas started the Lamont 3 studios with his two brothers many many decades ago.  They tried to swindle him out of his earnings, so he had them strong-armed to other regions.  Jonas had several wives, the first being Jackie’s mother, and the last being Lola, who had a son named Troy with Topper Beauchamp, and Jordan with Teddy Rydell.  Before they married, Lola was a big star in Hollywood.  She, along with others such as Nathan, Victor, and Jack Childers were under contract with Lamont 3.  Nathan was a protoge of Jonas’s.  Alex in turn was a protoge of Nathan’s.  Lola and Jonas married around 1980 after working together for a very long time.  They lived at Jonas’s mansion in the Hollywood hills.  Jonas died of a heart attack in 1982 on James and Alex’s wedding day.  He left his mansion and his studio to James, who renamed it Sunset Studios.  

There’s a lot more details that I didn’t go into here, stuff with Royce Jenner and Jackie Lamont, as well as the early days of Suzanne and Jordan, but most of that was condensed into the 2-part American Star episode in season 3 that centered on Nathan’s rise and fall in Hollywood.  I know that was a few years ago, and I tend to drop information into episodes that seems trivial, and I don’t expect people to remember everything.  But now is the time that all of it will become relevant again.

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The Case of the Frozen Pimp

I was glad to be able to incorporate another murder mystery before the end of the series.  They’re fun to write, and while I may not be the most experienced or effective mystery writer, I think most of the pieces are there.  Obviously there’s no big loss over the death of Hugh Rogers – a character who started out on Guastic Cose and eventually made his way to The Blackthornes.  The real story is the culprit.  All of the suspects are major characters on either The Blackthornes or Nightingales.  Obviously someone is going to go down for this, and all bets are off as to who it is.  I’m not pulling any punches this year, as you may have noticed in the deaths of beloved characters like Benji, so I’m not above having Miranda be a killer and wind up in prison before the finale occurs. 

This episode was meant to include a couple scenes with Jordan and Lola, but I ultimately had to cut them.  They’ll appear next time and we’ll have a little more clarity as to what’s going on with these pictures someone is leaving of her. 

A bit more intersecting of storylines go on in this one with Mason pointing the figure of suspicion at Senator Nordquist in the death of Hugh Rogers.  It’s fun to put that spin on things once and a while so the reader (hopefully) gets the feeling they’re in a more rounded universe as opposed to reading a bunch of separate stories. 

Already busy working on the next episode, so stay tuned!

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Method to the Madness (Single Version)

I thought I’d share some secrets of how I produce an episode from start to finish.  Brace yourselves, it’s very scientific (insert sarcastic remark here). 

I start about 2 days after releasing the previous episode (I need a break for water and air).  I generally have the first scene already written by this time because I don’t like to end the writing process with the conclusion of an episode. (It helps me to pick up with the same momentum this way).  Then I number the scenes in the episode and plug character’s names in according to who I want to give the most “screen time”.   I try not to alternate characters evenly – I prefer to double up scenes so a character may appear in scene A and then again in scenes C and D.  This was a common primetime method.  I don’t think in terms of stories in this outline, I think in terms of characters.  Who should be paired with whom in what scene and so on.  If a character wasn’t used much in the last episode, I try to focus on them in the next.  I pretend The Blackthornes is an ABC drama where the actors compete for screen time, and I imagine who would get pissed because someone else got more scenes this week.  It’s stupid, but it helps to make it as realistic a “primetime soap” as possible. 

Here’s an example of what my initial outline looks like. 

Day 1:  Nightime

  1. Jane/Miranda
  2. Mason/Chip
  3. Brooke/Ethan
  4. Alex/Mackenzie/Mason/Vaughan

Day 2:  Morning

  1. James/Miranda/Stormy/Leilani
  2. and so on……

I have a general idea of what’s going to happen in these scenes, but they’re not carved out in stone.  And by no means do I stick with this outline in the writing process.  It changes.  Sometimes alot.  Sometimes I get overzealous and think I have time for more than I really do, so some ideas for scenes get moved to the next episode, and some that I’ve already written get moved to a “future” file.  Some of those don’t even make it into an episode at all.   And there’s always a scene that I think of late in the game and add in. 

Episode currently clock in at about 30 pages, type-written in MS Word, 1.5 spaced, Aerial 11, with standard margins.  They’re huge.  I’ve tried to cut them down but I think because of the number of characters I have to work with and the general format of the series, it’s impossible.  When I started the series, episodes were about 14 pages, so they’ve more than doubled in size of the years. 

When I’m through with the episode plus the first scene of the next,  I try to take a day off.  Then I read it through again and make changes, edits, etc.  Then I start the long, ridiculously archaic process of formatting it into my website.  The final step is to give the episode one final read through, which I speak aloud to myself, to see how it sounds.

Finally, I name the episode.  I hate that part.  I’ve mentioned before that rarely does an episode title have anything to do with what’s going on in the episode.  I use phrases or words that I like the sound of and stick it up there.  Sometimes they go with whatever’s going on in the episode, but most times they don’t.   New Order (one of my favorite bands) never named songs with titles that had anything to do with their lyrics.   I always liked this technique.  I thought it was mysterious. 

So that’s the “process” if you can call it that.

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