Fiction Punchlist for Writers


Avoid cliches like the plague? Check.

The following punchlist was originally intended for use in the Vision & Revision Workshop when rewriting novels. There’s nothing quite as embarrassing as opening a copy of your book fresh from the printer and finding that something vital has been left out or neglected. But the list also has applications for scripts and other writing. Notice that there are seven different Continue reading

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Focus KISS: Barri Evins on Story Simplicity

There’s a wealth of screenwriting advice on the Internerd. Too much, if anything. Every once in a while, something gets posted that’s really important and very well put. Check out the article by Barri Evins at Script:

“Tell the damned story.” — Tom Clancy

“[That] has certainly been on my mind lately as I read scripts…and can’t tell you what they were about. I’m supposedly a pitching expert…and yet I couldn’t pitch some of these stories to you if my life depended on it. Coming up with a logline for them is nearly impossible.” Continue reading

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Bulwer-Lytton Contest Entry

From her high-up window in the attic of the old Suggins home, a run-down, ramshackle, hodge-podge of add-ons, lean-tos, and converted outbuildings that mercifully obscured the original structure, now devoid of paint these many decades, Becky Sue Suggins looked out at the manure pile, the hen house, and, beyond that, the odoriferous pig sty, and wondered if it were true that she’d never own a brick privy, the dire fate often predicted for her by her unsympathetic father, Lafcadio Suggins, a man who knew the value of hard work and avoided it at every opportunity, but esteemed it highly in others.

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20 Scriptwriting Tricks from an Actor’s POV


The first play I acted in was a high school production of Our Town. During one performance, “Mrs. Webb” recited the first of two moderately long lines. Both lines started with well. When she reached the second line, she said “Well,” slipped a mental gear, and Continue reading

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Repost: My Awful Christmas Poem

[NOTE: This poem will be a ‘sticky’ until after Christmas. New posts will appear below it.]

Over the years, I’ve received Christmas letters with an enclosed poem, most often parodies of “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” The meter is faulty, the rhymes wretched. One year, quite a while back, I was inspired by another famous poem which I doubt had ever up to that point been used as the basis for a Christmas poem. ©1984, 2012 J. Guenther; visit

A Visit From the Christmas Maven

Once upon a midnight jolly,
weary from the Yuletide folly,
–decking halls with plastic holly,
rushing ‘round from store to store,
attending parties overlapping,
present buying and present wrapping–
I sat down and started napping
‘midst the holiday decor.

As I nodded, slowly slumping,
suddenly there came a bumping,
as of someone gently thumping,
thumping at my condo door.
I stood at the peephole, peeking.
“‘Tis some drunk a party seeking,
with his breath of eggnog reeking,
this it is and nothing more.”

On my doorstep stood a geezer:
hollow cheeks and purple beezer,
looked like he’d been in the freezer–
a hippie, from the clothes he wore:
Faded lavender serape,
walking stick and sandals floppy,
purple hat, and whiskers, sloppy–
all Salvation Army store.

Laughing, I flung wide the portal,
prepared to have a little chortle
at this poor, unfortunate mortal
standing at my condo door.
“You’re a little early, Santa!
Come, I’ll get out the decanter…”
‘Fore I’d time for further banter,
“Santa” passed out on the floor

Moistened washcloth on his forehead
brought him to, his cheeks much more red.
He then, sitting on the floor, said:
“Nick’s my name. In days of yore,
Bishop Nick. Though now quite seedy,
I was rich, but never greedy,
gave my money to the needy,
presents to the very poor.

“Famous, once, from Bay of Fundy
to Cape Horn and back to Dundee…
oh, sic transit gloria mundi!
Saint Nicholas you now ignore.
Santa’s known to every Hotten-
tot and Chinese, Indian, Scot, an’
Filipino–I’m forgotten!
It’s “Santa Claus” you all adore!

“To the rich go Santa’s presents,
spending little on the peasants,
thus you’ve lost the Christmas essence,
chasing after more and more.
That fat guy in the red suit, he
pushes toys and other booty,
furs and gems and fashions snooty!
Gucci! Saks! Christian Dior!

“Beamers, boats and electronic
boxes blaring out moronic
network tripe in stereophonic!
Knick-knacks, junk, and stuff galore.
Once a year I have a mission,
‘fore the world goes to perdition,
to restore the old tradition,
make it like it was before!

“More religion and less business!
Put some Christ back into Christmas,
on each continent and isthmus,
that’s my self-appointed chore.
Now I think that I had best be
off. Thanks for the chance to rest me.”
Nicholas got up and blessed me,
strode right through my condo door.

I awoke to sunlight beaming
on the decorations gleaming.
Surely, I’d been only dreaming,
dreaming of St. Nick, I swore.
Glad that we’d not been hobnobbing,
to relieve my headache throbbing,
I began my forehead swabbing
with the washcloth from the floor.

J Guenther

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Books From Long Ago

Jodie, over at Words Read and Written, posed the question today, “Which book has been on your shelves the longest? Which book has survived all your clean outs, trips to the second hand bookstore, book swaps, and garage sales?”

This could take hours, but I limited my search to a brief trek around the house, and found: Continue reading

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Twenty (20) Interesting Films

We saw some of these in class, some we viewed as homework or for special projects. You may find them amusing.

  1. American Beauty*
  2. Pay It Forward
  3. Almost Famous*
  4. The Abyss
  5. Lantana
  6. Bandits
  7. The Man Who Would Be King
  8. Ararat
  9. Matchstick Men
  10. The Village*
  11. Bullets Over Broadway
  12. Groundhog Day*
  13. Garden State
  14. City Island*
  15. Sunshine Cleaning
  16. Scaramouche*
  17. Ordinary People
  18. Cinema Paradiso
  19. Cabaret*
  20. The Book of Eli*

* my favorites

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Book Look: A Serial Killer in Nazi Berlin

SerialKillerNazi“The chilling true story of the S-Bahn Murderer.”

This book gets a strong rating of ☆☆☆☆ ☆☆☆☆,  and is recommended particularly for amateur criminologists and fans of WWII history.

Scott Andrew Selby’s account of the S-Bahn Murderer is a fast read, a fascinating study in how the Nazi regime’s absolute control of the press and love of appearing all-powerful interfered with the most important criminal investigation of wartime Berlin. Continue reading

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Screenplay, Part 8

film-145099_150I’ve completed the first step in adapting my screenplay, In the Mouth of the Lion, to novel format. I took the simplest approach: converting the script into a text file, then removing sluglines, and so forth. In essence, I’m using the screenplay as an outline.

But why am I doing this? Continue reading

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Can you write when you’re tired?

If I write when I’m tired, often the work isn’t my best. Still, there will be some useful sections at the end of the day, or at least a good start for the next, though I’ll have to do more rewriting than usual. [Pages have to be extremely bad before I’ll discard them. Sometimes, lurking in the thought processes that led to them, there’s Continue reading

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