Dutch Dreams

I have this fantasy about Elmore Leonard calling me and offering me a screenwriting job.

First, a little context.

Last year I ran across a screenwriting contest as part of the Elmore Leonard Literary Arts and Film Festival. You had to enter a five page screenplay written in the style of Elmore Leonard featuring a Michigan landmark. I had a perfect flash story I’d written years prior for the old Flashing in the Gutter website about two guys hijacking a cigarette truck only to find out it’s full of nicotine gum. I wrote the screenplay, passed it around to some friends, polished it and entered the contest. The finalists would be read by Elmore Leonard and the winner would get a chance to meet him at the festival and get some cash. I didn’t win the contest, didn’t even make it to the finals, but the fantasy remained because I thought it was a good screenplay with some nice dialogue. So I still have this fantasy that somebody at the festival liked the script and sent it Elmore anyway and he calls me up and asks me to write an episode of Justified that takes place in Detroit because they’re looking for local color and my script was just what he was lookingn for.

Sounds far-fetched, right? Not really. I’ve been a big proponent of writing and publishing stories without receiving cash in exchange for that nebulous reward of exposure. My thought is once you get it out there into a vetted arena, you never know who’s going to read it and what they might have to offer you. My friend Mike Maclean published a great story for free in the online zine Thuglit. An editor from Best American Mystery Stories liked the story and published it in their annual collection. From there, a scout for film legend Roger Corman read the story and asked Mike if he’d like to write some screenplays. Next thing you know the dude’s writing Sharktopus and other great movies. And just yesterday I read this story in Wired Magazine about a guy who posted some thoughts in a comment thread that were detailed and engaging enough to get him a gig writing a screenplay for Warner Brothers based on the ideas. Let me say it again. YOU NEVER KNOW WHO’S READING YOUR STUFF. This doesn’t mean you should post your stuff randomly to any old website. Do your research, it’s pretty easy to figure out the legitimate sites and the crap sites. But also make sure what you put out there is top notch because you may not get the opportunity for that exposure again.

Now, because I’m feeling generous, I’m going to let you read that short screenplay here. You’re welcome.


5 thoughts on “Dutch Dreams

  1. Patti, all the best people read your stories. I’m a fan. You pound out great prose, great characters, great plots.

    Bryon, nice story, but… I was waiting for the Michigan landmark – was it the Ambassador bridge that was mentioned in passing?

  2. Patti, I agree with Steven that you seem to have a nice collection of very impressive fans for yoru stories. You’re also a great advocate of the form in our community encouraging people to write. But I always believe having low expectations is a good thing. I wish I could do the same but I always set my sites too high for everything.

    Steven, yes the bridge was the landmark but it wasn’t very well integrated into the story and I think that may have been one of the things working against it in the contest.

  3. Those are a couple great anecdotes. I agree that writing doesn’t do any good if people don’t read it. At the same time, it doesn’t do any good if one becomes just an assembly line of mediocre stories blasted out into the wide world; the negative result can be just as likely. It’s a fine line, but damn if we don’t have to walk it.

  4. Chris, it is indeed a fine line and one I’ve not walked steady myself at times. I had a number of stories out there at one time I wish I could have pulled back, but luckily those sites mostly disappeared and I burned the stories. But there are even more stories than the two I mentioned of talented writers finding great opportunities based on work they put out for free. Granted, most of it is in the crime fiction world where we can’t seem to generate any kind of legitimate commerical online markets. But, eh, we take what we can, right?

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