Creating the Visions in My Mind: Write What You Know

As far back as I can remember, I’ve written and I’ve created stories. The stories were what would be expected from a child I suppose, knights and dragons and princesses…and usually I was the dragon or the princess.

But I couldn’t tell my family about that. They saw an average boy…who often cried. And as time passed, I was viewed as the Black Sheep of the family, the odd one, the weird one, the loser. My parents did a job on me, I’m not ashamed to admit it. I was raised in a very typical ultra-conservative family with a hint a religious zealotry on the part of my paternal grandmother who instead that being left handed was a curse from God, as if They don’t have anything better to occupy their time than cursing people for being lefties. We went to church only when she demanded, but the ultra-conservative home life remained. Gender stereotypes were enforced. Deviation was punished or ridiculed. Gender double standards existed. If I was late for curfew I got the belt while my sister got an extended curfew to give her more time to get home on time.

My father was an authoritarian who, as an attorney, enjoyed picking fights at the dinner table. Admittedly, getting my ass whipped in a debate whenever I disagreed with him (which was often) made me a better debater. I learned to anticipate most counter-arguments and learned to research and support my claims. My mother was the homemaker and worked part-time until we got old enough to be home alone. She also was a nasty drunk who created stories which were easily proven false, yet she still clung to the false narratives. My sister is not like either. She’s a spoiled brat. I’m not afraid to call her what she is.

All of these form the basis for the “villians” in my stories. Even when I was young, I’d create stories that included my every day demons–my grandmother, father, mother and sister. My father became the ogre, the troll under the bridge. Mother was the wicked hag, my sister often was represented by some oh-woe-is-me character, like a talking Weeping Willow. My grandmother…she was the ultimate villian, the one who judged everyone for their wrongdoings, who accused others of stealing when she had to proof, the one who forced people to do her bidding.

I kept a diary for a little while, but my mother was a snooper. As I grew I developed an infatuation with Prince and Ziggy Stardust. I felt connected to their androgyny. It was somehow familiar and comforting. And I realized how I felt about other boys and girls. I found no difference in my preferences. These feelings weren’t (and still aren’t) in line with the conservative view of people.

So I wrote about these feelings of difference, but at the time there were no words to fill in the blanks, but I wrote short stories, not very good ones though. I wrote about boys in dresses and with make-up on. I explored feminine undergarments too. I felt I should live my stories.

As a child, I couldn’t express myself openly. But now, as an adult, I write these feelings and lived experiences into my work. For example, my TV dramedy FALLING OUT mirrors my actual life, it’s semi-autobiographical and takes on gender and sexuality issues head-on while drawing viewers into the lives of a group of LGBTQ friends in New York City. My 30-minute comedy KUSHY’S draws upon my sexuality and my conservative upbringing,focusing on racist, sexism, and every other -ism there is.

While in grad school I was taught to write what you know. I’ve always done that and fictionalized it.

I think that’s what every writer does (or should do). Take the angst of childhood, of life, and create it. While most producers, managers, agents and directors might not understand the profound connection you have to the work–rarely do you get to explain why you wrote it, how it’s relevant to you, because it’s not about you, it’s about money and entertainment–creating characters based partially on your experiences. This will ensure you’re fully engaged in the show or movie or play.

In other words: Write what you know.

Moving On Up: My Coverfly Experience Thus Far

“Nothing short of wonderful.”

That’s how I’d describe my experience with Coverfly. It came recommended to me through a longtime Twitter follower. I’d only casually heard of it. But at her recommendation, I explored it.

It’s become my “go-to” for entering scripts into competitions. If you are a screenwriter for film or TV (though there are a few people with stage plays on the site), this is a must site.

Basically, what Coverfly does is combine everything related to scriptwriting into one site. That is, they have a list of screenwriting competitions. Entering into contests could earn you points to increase your Coverfly score.

By placing in a contest score goes up. By getting someone to read your script you gain points. This score is used by industry professionals to find new, interesting scripts. The higher the score for the script the more visibility you have on the site.

Coverfly runs The Red List, a list of the all-time highest scoring scripts, the top moving scripts for the month and for the week on their site.

My 30-minute comedy, KUSHY’S, made it to #11 (as of this writing it is at #17) on The Red List‘s weekly list just this week (July 28-August 3) after my score soared 36 points because of multiple readings and moving up in a competition and the next day soared 110 points. A bonus aspect of the List is that it is searchable by Genre, Format and Time Frame (Month, Week, etc.).

Seeing the score is thrilling. All too often writers don’t get feedback in any manner. The manager, agent, producer, or director simply reads and moves on. But on Coverfly you can get plenty of feedback too. It’s not limited to JUST submitting and seeing a score.

Several of the competitions offer limited feedback as part of entering. And the site has an added way for writers to get feedback: coverflyx. Coverflyx is their effort to get writers to read and review their peers. At any given time there are about 20 scripts on the list asking to be read and reviewed by peers. Readers earn a score for reading. And if your feedback is crap, well, they kick you off.

I’ve not yet tried the coverflyx experience, but I look forward to it soon. I have plenty of scripts that need reviewing.

If you’re a writer, I wouldn’t hesitate to explore this site. Post your scripts and see what happens.

***This is a personal review, not a paid endorsement (though I wish it were).