Final Exam

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The lecture hall drained of students as though a giant plug had been pulled, chattering bodies sluicing through a doorway meant for half as many people. The dwindling echoes of students bounced off walls of silence as the doors hissed shut.

“Is there something you need, Miss Pepper?” Professor Kawai asked as he wiped the blue and red notes from a board that had long ago ceased to be white.

Jess stared intently at the open chemistry book before her, willing the sticks and letters to form the words she sought.

Kawai cradled the eraser onto the ledge and packed his belongings into an ancient valise. Stopping another moment to examine the lone tableau figure before him, he snapped his bag shut, the click reverberating off the walls.

As his hand depressed the door handle, he felt more than heard the words directed at him.

“You said something, Miss Pepper.”

Without moving, the words fell out of Jess’s mouth and into her book. “I studied.”

“Apparently, the wrong chapters,” Kawai responded without emotion, as though reciting a number from a phone directory.

The indifference drew Jess to face Kawai, her eyes registering something between shock and incomprehension.

“Perhaps you’ll do better on the final,” Kawai added, as if by rote.

“I won’t be writing the final,” Jess responded, slowly pulling her bag to the next seat and closing her text.

Kawai sighed and turned back to the door. “Then maybe next—“

Kawai was unable to finish his though, his focus drawn by the loud noise and the searing pain as two ribs shattered from his back to his chest, splattering the door with blood.

Kawai’s cheek slammed against the door, his knees buckling below him and he slid down the slick door.

As Kawai’s body flopped sideways and his head struck the floor, the lecture chamber filled with another explosion.

Other than the odd drop of blood, Jess’s mid-term exam paper remained largely unscathed, the purple “84%” clearly emblazoned in the upper right-hand corner.

Jess’s parents had sacrificed so much for her to succeed at school. Her failure in chemistry would be unacceptable.

(Image is property of owner and is used here without permission.)

For my friends who are parents

lynch

Ding Dong! The kid’s at school!

Oh, so cool that it’s a rule.

Ding Dong! The little shit’s in school.

Wake up, tiny fool.

Rub your eyes, finish your gruel.

Wake up, you snarky brat, there’s school.

Summer’s done, it’s time to go,

Grab your books before it snows,

Move your ass before the school bell tolls.

Ding Dong! And hidey-ho,

Sing it high, sing it low.

Let’em know, the little shit’s in school!

(Image is property of owner and is used here without permission because I’m old school.)

(Ab)Use your imagination

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Four more reps! C’mon, you can do it. Three more reps! Don’t quit now. Two more reps! You’re a champion. One more rep! Almost there. Annnnnd, you are done. Way to go!

Phew!

As you may be able to tell, I recently started a fitness routine, a boot camp if you will. The nice thing about it is that I can still eat and drink whatever I want and the only reason I break into a sweat is because Toronto’s experiencing a nasty heat/humidity wave.

Just over a week ago, I started a screenwriting boot camp of sorts called Screenwriting U, which is designed to teach you how to create the most stunning and saleable scripts that Hollywood will eat up. (My apologies if this sounds like an infomercial.)

All I know right now is the program—the ProSeries—is kicking my ass.

For the next six months, I will have an assignment practically every day (including weekends) that is designed to push me to excel at EVERY aspect of screenwriting; e.g., concept, plotting, character, conflict, narrative, marketing.

I won’t go into any detail as to what we are doing—that would be improper and unethical as the fine folks at Screenwriting U have to make a living—but I can tell you about the outcomes.

At the moment, we’re working on concepts.

Once most of us come up with a concept that really interests us, we typically start writing right away, whether actual dialogue or mapping out plot points. We’re excited. We want to see our amazing idea come to life. Tomorrow is too far away.

No such luxury here.

In the true Full Metal Jacket sense, the instructors are making us break our ideas down to build them back up. And once we’ve done that, we do it again. And again. And again. Each time with a slightly altered method and/or goal.

In nine days, what was six interesting ideas (to me, at least), has become 30 new ideas, some of which are completely lame whereas others are pretty damned good, and more importantly, a hell of a lot more solid that the originals.

It’s a brainstormers wet dream and nightmare all rolled into one.

No matter how thoroughly I think I have developed an idea, just a little more time (or time away) shows me that I can go a little further with the idea or take it in new directions. As with the writing process itself, it is the permission to fail spectacularly with an eye toward finding something truly amazing.

And like physical exercise…what, I did that once…it is painful as hell in the early going, but it does get easier. And when it gets easier, I’ve got to make it hurt like hell again. I’m building imagination muscle memory. I’m making these thought processes second nature.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go change…oh, wait, that would be telling.

PS Hal Croasmun, our drill sergeant, is nothing like the guy in Full Metal Jacket, unless you wanted to imagine verbal enthusiasm replacing verbal abuse.

(First image is used without permission because I like to push the envelope, or any other piece of stationery, for that matter. Clip art below clipped without permission.)

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