Posts Tagged ‘Script Consulting’

NOW Pay Attention

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Hey campers,

My brand-new book on sitcom is now available. Here’s the blurb:

Writing situation comedies isn’t really that hard. So much of what you need to know is already defined for you. You know that your script needs to be a certain short length, with a certain small number of characters. You know that your choice of scenes is limited to your show’s standing sets and maybe one or two swing sets or outside locations. You know how your characters behave and how they’re funny, either because you invented them or because you’re writing for a show where these things are already well established. Sitcom is easy and sitcom is fun. Sitcom is the gateway drug to longer forms of writing. It’s a pretty good buzz and a pretty good ride, a great way to kill an afternoon, or even six months.

And now, thanks to comedy writing guru John Vorhaus (author of THE COMIC TOOLBOX: HOW TO BE FUNNY EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT), writing situation comedy is easier than ever. In THE LITTLE BOOK OF SITCOM, you’ll find a whole trove of tools, tricks and problem-solving techniques that you can use — now, today — to be the sitcom writer of your wildest dreams. Ready to write? Ready to have fun? THE LITTLE BOOK OF SITCOM is the big little book for you.

Tell your sitcommy friends: this is an ebook they’re going to want to have.

More later, -jv

Anchored Down in Anchorage

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

I’m having an odd sort of flashback.

I’m on a plane over Canada, flying up to Anchorage to address the Alaska Writers Conference. This plane is like many planes I’ve been on in my professional life, like any plane whisking me to Managua or Moscow or wherever. And, as usual, I have a laptop open on my tray table. I’m either working or not working. Knowing me, I’ve probably just finished playing a game, or just about to start. It’s how I fly: I should be working, and sometimes I am, but often I’m not.

Usually on these gigs in wherever, I’m arriving as the expert from out of town, the consultant expected to teach and train writers (possibly even enlighten writers) but not necessarily to be a writer himself. And there have been many, many times in the past when I frittered away all the hours on the flight doing two things: not-writing, and feeling guilty about not-writing. I understood that, as a hard working and dedicated teacher and trainer, I had a pretty damn good excuse for not, at that moment, being a writer. Yet I felt guilty. Down deep in my heart, I felt like a fraud, and simultaneously loved and hated having a handy excuse for not advancing on my own writing front. And felt guilty. Like I was letting myself down, and really not living up to my reputation.

I recognize in this moment that this feeling of guilt is gone. I have finally, finally, written enough, achieved enough as an author, that I no longer feel like a fraud to me. No one can doubt my body of work. It’s there. It exists. There’s simply no way they can pin upon me the label of “those who can’t do, teach.” I do. I do plenty. I teach, too. So as I sit on this flight, monkeying with my next novel, I need not fear flying into a situation where someone asks, “What have you done for you lately?” I’ve done plenty for me. I still am. I’m the writer I always wanted to be. It’s a pretty sweet feeling. It’s nice to leave guilt behind.

I’m finally starting to fill the bottomless hole. It’s not full, but it’s not empty, either, and I, at last, seem to recognize that. I’m either growing up or growing old. From here at 35,000 feet, it’s hard to tell which.

Anyway, Alaska. More writers to meet and teach, more pulp to push, more sights to see. I’ve never been to Alaska before. I hear they have moose.

More later, -jv

What Do You Think of This?

Monday, May 30th, 2011

I’m writing my memoir. It’s called BUT IT’S FUNNY IN RUSSIAN: A WRITER’S ADVENTURES IN TEACHING OVERSEAS. I’m posting the first chapter here, and I’m interested to know what you think. Do I sound snarky? Sincere? Is this a book you’d invest time and coin in? I welcome your comments here, or via email through the link you’ll find on this page. Tyty. -jv

ONE: MR. NEEDY

The story starts with a job I couldn’t hold.

It was the late 1980s and I was writing for a situation comedy called Charles in Charge, not the original network show but its reincarnated syndicated cousin, starring the estimable Scott Baio as a college student-slash-nanny to three problematic tweens. I had scored big with a freelance episode called “Dorm Warnings,” in which Charles gets fed up with family life and moves into a college dormitory with his buddy, Buddy (the somewhat less estimable Willie Aames), and hilarity – as it so often does in sitcoms of a certain ilk – ensues. I’d also written an episode called “May The Best Man Lose,” which featured, as God is my witness, a dunk tank. On the basis of these twin triumphs, I was offered a six-week contract as a staff writer for the rump end of the 1987 season, running from late October until the Christmas wrap. This was my first staff job on a TV show and I was agog at the pay: $2,000 a week, which was big money in 1987 dollars and not chump change even today. (more…)

Duffy of the Desert

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Maxx has reached the desert portion of her Indian sojurn. I’ll let her words and pictures speak for themselves.

March 9, 2011: We are now in the desert – Jaisalmer – which is in the northwestern part of  India, very close to the Pakistani border.   We are told by our driver that the desert road is of the highest quality (translation: it is a smooth road) so that the military can get to the border quickly if necessary.  For the political buffs, the tension between India and Pakistan remains at a 60+ year standstill over Kashmir.  India feels it is rightfully theirs as the ruler of Kashmir in 1947 when given a choice to become part of India or Pakistan, the ruler chose India, even though Kashmir consists mostly of Muslims (Pakistan is Muslim; India is mostly Hindu).  Pakistan claims that the ruler was unduly influenced and Kashmir should belong to Pakistan. Fast forward, in 1998, tensions between India and Pakistan increased after a series of nuclear tests.  It got worse in 1999 as hostilities flared between the two countries when India launched military strikes against Kashmiri insurgents. Today, I am told by the locals living close to the border that all Muslims (Pakistanis and Kashmiris) and Hindus (Indian) are living in peace though each country remains committed to Kashmir.

All I can tell you is this:  the Indian desert is beautiful — golden hues shimmering off sand dunes or buildings; camels lazily snoozing by the road, and people who have that look of contentment in the simplicity of their lives.

More later, -jv et al

Lost in the Past

Monday, March 7th, 2011

I’ve been writing a novel set in 1969. There’s no mystery about why: I’m stuck in that era; always have been. The music I listen to, the philosophies I believe in, the major discoveries I’ve made, the clothes I wear (I’m wearing an army jacket right now), my whole entire sense of self is rooted in the 1960s, and I do believe that the tragedy of my life — a thing that has haunted me from that day to this — is that I was just a little too young (and maybe a bit too scared) to be the hippie I wanted to be. So this novel I’m writing is nothing less than an emotional memoir, a wish-fulfilling journey down a path I might have walked. From time to time as I write it, I get very close to something I call “the bottom ache,” which, for me, is where the writer’s true emotions live. When I can get a bit of the bottom ache out of my heart and out of my head and onto the page with all its authentic sour sweetness, I feel like I’ve gotten somewhere with my work.

But there are unintended consequences of living in the past as I am. Melancholy frequently sweeps over me as I measure the distance between where I was and where I am. Rue slips in — damn, why didn’t I take the road not taken? Frustration dogs me, for even when I successfully catch a snapshot of the ’60s, I know it’s only a snapshot, a dim reflection, not at all the real deal. And when I miss — when my details are lame and my dialogue flat — when I try to convey real emotion and real event on the page, and know that I’m not coming close, I’m not only burdened by the time gone by but also by the time I’m burning through now, trying and failing, trying and failing again.

Well, it’s what writers do, one of the many things we do: We try; we fail; we try again. And when we succeed, we set harder targets for ourselves. That’s part of the paradigm, and I understand it well. Writing is a “have more, need more” condition. No matter what goals we reach, real writers always need new goals and tougher ones. In this novel, my goal is to go deep and go back. In my dark days I fear I’m missing on both counts.

But I soldier on, because that’s what real writers do, too. I feel like I’m participating in an experiment of a sort: how much melancholy can I stand to feel? At this moment, living in 2011 and trying so hard to live in 1969, I’m feeling it all, every single bit. I’m lost in the past. I put myself there, and now there’s no way out of it except through it.

More later, -jv

Guest Post

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

My lovely wife, Maxx Duffy, is traveling in India these weeks, and since fans of this blog seem to like trip reports from exotic climes, I thought I’d share a missive or two with you. Take it away, Maxx..

March 2nd: Tomorrow is the last day of the conference I am attending; I will then spend 9 days on tour.  I can already tell you that India is a land of opposites – the most striking being the wealth/poverty line.  I am currently immersed in an oasis of splendor on the campus of the Indian School of Business.  Just outside the campus’ gates (protected by security) are the slums that one hears about — but seeing those slums is shocking.  Though I have been to many 3rd world countries, I have never seen it is here.  The streets are lined with thousands of makeshift tents or tin huts (having tin is a step above). Children as young as 3yrs old begging; grasping your leg; adults with little to no clothing lying in the roadways with cars skirting around them. It is very difficult to absorb all this.

In my sessions at the conference, they admitted that India has no way of really knowing its population because those that live on the streets are not accounted for easily.  They also admit that while there are many initiatives from trying to get identity cards for slum residents (which can then help them get some financial assistance) to improving housing and healthcare (62 infant deaths for every 1000 births versus the U.S. statistic of 2 deaths for every 1000 births), those initiatives are only a drop in the bucket in terms of the long road they have ahead of them. In the days to come,  I will start sending photos of the sights …

And when she sends ’em to me, I’ll send ’em to you. More later, -jv

Tax Day

Monday, February 28th, 2011

My keyboard is getting wonky. It’s not the batteries; I’ve changed them and I know they’re fresh. It’s just that sometimes, for no apparent reason, the keyboard ssssssticks and ssssstutters. Perhaps it’s coming to the end of its useful life after nearly a decade of enduring coffee spills and many meals carelessly eaten over it (including my latest obsession, plain, dry oatmeal — go fiber! Kill that cholesterol!) Well, whatever. I’ll stumbbble along the best I can until the hardware absolutely and positively gives up the ghost. Man, yo spend eighty bucks on something in 2001, you really expected it to last.

Today is Tax Day. Maybe not where you live but where I live — at least where I live inside my mind. See, I’ve always had a problem with procrastination. I never got the hang of it, and have been obsessive about finishing things early for as long as I can remember. No, not, as long as I can remember; rather, exactly and precisely since fourth grade.

I had been out sick from school for a couple of days, and somehow it escaped my attention that my report on Ponce de Leon was due. (You remember Ponce – the fountain of youth guy — killed Indians, invented Florida.) So I missed my deadline. I was so mortified — truly psychologically scarred — that I’ve had great difficulty missing a deadline ever since. There’s just something in my neurobiology that won’t allow it. Thus my motto became, “procrastinate later,” and thus I’m doing my taxes on February 28.

Although, let’s not fail to note that I’m not exactly doing my taxes right now. I’m writing this post. Which is a form of… yes… procrastination. Interesting: I am now procrastinating by talking about how I don’t procrastinate. The human mind is a complex machine.

A machine, it should be pointed out, that would rather not be involved with taxes, or flossing teeth, or eating oatmeal, or many of the other mundane tasks that occupy our days, weeks, months, years. We’d rather have lives that were all highlights — or maybe that’s just me. But if our lives were all highlights, how would we ever recognize them? To quote Bill Shakespeare, “If every day were holiday, to sport would be as tedious as work.” Well, I strive to make every day at least a little bit of a holiday, but today is Tax Day, JV style, so I’d better get cracking.

More (and more procrastination) later, -jv

A Free Read

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Want to score a free copy of THE ALBUQUERQUE TURKEY? Just click below.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Albuquerque Turkey (Hardcover) by John Vorhaus

The Albuquerque Turkey

by John Vorhaus

Giveaway ends February 23, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Save Angel Hope

It seemed like a good idea at the time — well, it was a good idea at the time — a con caper starring Billy Boyd, who was a hobbit in Lord of the Rings but is taller in this. For reasons too byzantine to relate, the movie has seen very limited light of day. You can, for instance, download it from Russian pirate-video websites, but don’t expect to see it in your local redbox kiosk any time soon.

At least there’s a trailer. It’s kinda cool. Click to play.

Save Angel Hope trailer

JV on CNN

Here’s me being the sage of poker of our time, some time ago.