Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cyberspace Open Top Ten + Top 3 - Coming shortly...

Hi folks, the team has finished reading and grading all the scenes from Round Two of the Cyberspace Open, and we have sent the results along to Creative Screenwriting to post. As soon as they do, we'll put them up here also.

Couple of comments. This time out, I deliberately made the scene prompts as difficult as I possibly could to really put everyone to the test. Both the Round One and Round Two scene prompts this year required the use of subtext in the dialogue. This is something I really struggle with personally as a writer. Recently, my own agent and manager sent me notes on my new spec, specifically singling out chunks of on-the-nose dialogue. I should know better, right? And I do. Boy, it's one thing to be aware of it but another thing entirely to do it. Since then of course I've been especially sensitive to on-the-nose writing and try to steer way clear of it.

In round one especially, I'd say probably a third or more of the submissions had no subtext of any kind, even though the prompt specifically called for it. That tells me that many of you guys have the same difficulty with it that I do, or maybe you area bit fuzzy on what it is. Subtext is, of course, saying one thing while meaning another; having a conversation on one topic, but we know that's not ALL that's going on there. Many of the entries simply gave us two people arguing. That's not subtext. Subtext is a lady grumbling about a cold cup of coffee, when what's she's really talking about is her husband. Or having a conversation about gardening but what we really know is that they are specifically NOT talking about that Renee was just diagnosed with Rigellian toe fungus. That sort of thing.

For some reason, TV writers really get, and thrive on, subtext, but it seems much more elusive on the feature side. So this little exercise was meant to force a whole lot of you, myself included, to really, really think about subtext and your dialogue.

Round Two was interesting because the use of subtext was more consistent, although still curiously absent from quite a few entries. But the prompt proved quite tricky, even for some folks who made it to the top ten:
Your PROTAGONIST is desperate and mulling a risky proposition. Taking action could result in a personal gain to the protagonist, but at great potential cost in the form of a relationship(s). Write a scene either before or after the decision has been made, addressing it in whatever manner you like. You may use any number of additional characters you desire, and again, keep in mind SUBTEXT when writing dialogue.

One other thing: your protagonist is *crazy*.
So what happened here is, quite a few folks left off the CRAZY part. That's kind of important. Others tried to Scotch tape the 'crazy' into their existing scenarios by simply making the protagonist difficult or combative, which didn't quite get it done. But at the end of the proverbial day, we have chosen three pretty cool scenes that we look forward to sharing with you when we video them and put them up on YouTube for all y'all to judge. And then you guys will pick the winner.

One note about the judging: as we've done for the past nine years, the top ten are chosen by single readers, but the top three are based on the averaged scores of the entire Coverage Ink team. Last year, this was not clearly posted (it is now) and a few people's feelings were hurt (rightly so) when they got high scores in the top ten yet did not make the winner's circle. Once again this year, a few high-scoring top tenners did not make the top three. We're really sorry about that and hope there are no hard feelings.

Congrats to everyone for participating, and I hope the experience has been a fun and exciting one. And if you haven't seen your round One feedback yet, it's posted on the website at

And now... it's on to Writers on the Storm 5, which begins on the 25th. Yeah, baby!

Jim C.

1 comment:

J. Parker said...

The suspense is killing me!! But hey, thanks for the post. Of course, I am now having (even more) doubts about my entry. LOL. Regardless, the feedback and insight into the selection process has been great. This has indeed been a fun contest no matter what the outcome is. Best of luck to all the semifinalists!