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Michael Thompkins
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Shelly Frome Returns on the Writer's Art: the "What-if?"

by Michael 2/18/2011 8:50:00 AM

 And here's a new article by an old friend, fellow writer, and New Englander Shelly Frome about the by now classic in the Art of Writing--the "What-if?"  Shelly's bio can be found in the archive under Shrinking Character--Shrinking Fiction: Meet Shelly Frome.

Stalking the springboard for a crime novel  by Shelly Frome

            Someone once told me that you don’t have the necessary ingredients of a good crime novel unless one of your basic assumptions is threatened or, at the very least, you  have to come to terms with some facet of ongoing reality that’s really troubling you. The noted screenwriter and novelist William Goldman put it another way: “You write for revenge.” Be that as it may, though it may have a lot to do with the aforementioned comments, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what sets me off. Take my antic, edgy Hollywood novel. While staying at the Avalon at the corner of Olympic and Beverly Drive doing research for my book on screenwriting, everyone behind the reception desk was quick to note they were really actors or would-be screenwriters; the waiters and waitresses told me they were actually undiscovered talent. In no time, a short walk up the street revealed a paunchy middle-aged man standing in front of Al’s outdoor news-stand yelling into his cell phone, “Listen to me, Harry!  I’m telling you the me you think you know has breached the barricade. I’m gonna be taking a meeting, pitching a sure-fire idea for a vampire flick. I kid you not!”  And this, as they say, is just for openers.  

While all this was going on, despite the countless pipe dreams and illusions I encountered, there were signs that something approximating reality might be percolating beneath. At the park fronting the Santa Monica Pier, a shaggy-looking drifter in his early thirties was telling a well-tanned homeless man, “I tell you, you better watch out, you know?  It’s going down tonight.” And though she was reluctant to talk about it, my sister, who has a home just off La Cienega and Orlando, had bars installed on her windows after someone hot-wired her car while it was parked in her driveway and drove away into the night.  In addition, my mother’s house, about ten miles east, had been fitted with iron bars that were even more foreboding.More...

Shrinking Writing: More from Shelly Frome

by Michael 3/16/2009 9:00:00 AM
Turning Personal Experience into the Hollywood Crime Novel 

by Shelly Frome


            It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what prompted me to write an antic, edgy novel about L.A..  I could start with Oscar Levant’s vintage remark:  “If you keep peeling away the tinsel, you can finally get to the real tinsel.”  In my case, I found myself stripping away  the illusions I encountered wondering if there was some way to get to something that actually mattered.

As for the illusions.   Once, when visiting an executive I knew at Paramount, she became antsy about moving her pricey sports car.  It seems the vast parking lot doubled as a pond and waterway; a situation she accepted as routine under the near-drought conditions and blazing sun.  At the same time, the mother of my nephew’s best friend was busy a few miles south stalking the sidewalks of Melrose.  This too was routine, trying to waylay Jay Leno and talk him into putting her on his show as a brazen housewife.  Either that or, if worse came to worse, getting him to feature her son Howie who, well past the age of thirty, still hadn’t been alone with a woman.  Anything to connect to the entertainment industry.   My brother-in-law, the pharmacist, was not only impressed by her dogged pursuit, he was still brandishing photos of a movie star who’d seen better days, one he’d corralled a few years back while filling her prescription.  It soon became no surprise when staying at the Avalon at the corner of Olympic and Beverly Drive, everyone behind the reception desk was quick to note they were really actors or would-be screenwriters; the waiters and waitresses undiscovered talent.  It goes without saying that most of those congregating around the adjacent pool were flaunting an outlandish outfit and hawking their charms and winning smile or a script or a new wrinkle for a project.  In turn, the object of their affections was trying to convince the hawkers and flaunters that he possessed an untold pipeline to instant success.  Later on, a short walk up the street revealed a paunchy middle-aged man standing in front of Al’s outdoor news-stand yelling into his cell phone, “Listen to me, Harry!  I’m telling ya the me you think you’ve known has breached the barricade. I’m gonna be on the back lot taking a meeting.  I kid you not! All this, as they say More...

Shrinking Writing: Meet Shelly Frome

by Michael 2/22/2009 3:00:00 PM

With the help of the writer conferences I teach at and this blog,I have a habit of picking up new author penpals at a regular clip; my newest pal is Shelly Frome who is a retired college professor from back east. He is just launching his newest book on screen writing and sent me (prepub) the Introduction for the ShootingShrink blog.

The Art and Craft of Screenwriting.  North Carolina & London:   McFarland & Company, Inc., 2009 by Shelly Frome.  Advance copies available at Amazon.


            Dateline Hollywood:  First impressions.


Among the magazines and newspapers that line Al’s open-air newsstand on fashionable Beverly Drive, arguably the most prominent are preoccupied with the entertainment industry along with screenwriting ploys to breach the barriers.

            A featured article in one issue of Los Angeles declares that L.A. is the mecca of movies and television, “the two most powerful cultural forces of the last hundred years.”  It also underscores the city’s preference for pop culture over high culture.  For those who are adept at networking and trying to get an edge, there are the trades like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.   Here you will find the daily changing currents: which company is buying what kind of scripts and who brokered the deal, the movements of various development execs and story editors, a list of films that are going into production.  For the seasoned veteran, these are clues to current trendy material.  

For the hopefuls that are not in this league, Fade In magazine is available, touting yet another annual Hollywood Pitch Festival where, for the price of $400 dollars, starry-eyed screenwriters from all over the country are given a chance to be one of the first in line outside the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel (not far from Al’s newsstand) to give  a seven minute pitch of a sure-fire “high concept.”  Those on the receiving end of each face-to-face encounter are Hollywood buyers and brokers, scouts from top talent agencies like Endeavor or management firms, studios and production companies.  Aspirants who arrive later than 6:30 a.m. may find themselves pitching to lesser lights:  younger agents and junior executives from second-tier outfits who, as a rule, don’t accept unsolicited ideas or scripts.  Though only a small percentage of those who have spent hours rehearsing their notions are deemed worthy of follow-up, everyone in line appears optimistic. More...


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