The Plan

Shelton Bumgarner

By Shelton Bumgarner

Things are moving faster again with the novel. At the same time, however, I find lingering frustration. Something happened recently that left a bad taste in my mouth. I suddenly find myself interested in writing a screenplay. As such, I’m probably going to buy FinalDraft sometime in September. I also hope to buy a few screenwriting books as well.

In the past, my biggest problem has been thinking up plots. I have plenty — plenty — of great ideas for movies. But I’ve always struggled with plots. But using the skillset I’ve developed from working on the novel, I believe I have a better chance at writing a successful (relative to me) screenplay. Or two. Or three.

I’ve vowed to myself that whenever I finish a screenplay, I’ll give myself permission to head to LA for a few days to poke around. But I won’t do so without a least one screenplay I can show people. While I’m quite pleased writing a novel and that’s my main creative project right now, I want to at least attempt to write a screenplay as well.

The issue is I have numerous ideas for movies because they lend themselves to something visual, something seen on the big screen. Add to this that I natively have a very extroverted personality, I believe if I put in the hard work of writing a screenplay or two, I might have at least a slim chance of being able to find someone in LA willing to take a look at it.

But, of course, I realize this is being extremely naive. Given my age, where I’m from and pretty much everything else about me, the possibility I would actually manage to pull this dream of is, in real terms, slim to none. But, if nothing else, it gives me something productive to do with my spare time as I work on the novel.

‘Hobbs & Shaw,’ A Political Review

by Shelton Bumgarner

When I living in South Korea, I once found myself near the DMZ at a English Camp designed to give a young Korean the experience of living in an English speaking nation. While I was there, I saw in a waiting room a video of a kid’s show. What was notable about the cartoon was the name of the villain — Darwin.

This little bit of creatist propaganda has lingered with me over the years. That the show’s writer thought they could get young, impressionable minds to associate Darwin and by extension evolution with villany was both extremely annoying and impressive.

Before I begin, I would also like to note the “explanation” of Top Gun in the movie Sleep With Me.

Anyway, let’s get the point — the deeper political meaning in the otherwise summer popcorn movie Hobbs & Shaw. It has taken me a few days, but I feel as though there is a lot more going on with this movie than initially meets the eye. There’s a lot of sly politics in the movie that is so open to interpretation that it might leave one scratching their heads.

Let’s talk about the general plot. — spoilers ahead.

The plot, as much as there is one, is about a nebulous “deep state” type of company that wants to use its Snowflake programmable virus to kill off the weak and do a very Thanos-type restructuring of society. Two guys who ostensibly hate each other — The Rock (Hobbs) and Jason Statham (Shaw) join forces to defeat the bad guys and save the day. From what I saw of the movie, the only reason why I don’t think this movie’s politics is quite what you might this is comes from the people involved.

Given the fan service the movie does to The Rock’s WWE fandom, I’m led to believe the producers of this movie see its market as center-Right. At the same time, given how liberal-progressive Hollywood is, I am reluctant to believe that there aren’t air quotes around the movie’s superficial politics. I don’t know The Rock’s politics, but I struggle to believe he’s anything more than closer to center-Left than center-Right

Let’s break down some of the plot to see what’s going on.

The McGuffin is a woman — the sister of the Shaw character (22 years younger than he is, natch)– who has shot the virus into her bloodstream. If you REALLY wanted to get deep about the politics of this movie, you could say that it’s supposed to be, in a sense, about the “special relationship” between the United State in post-Brexit, post-Trump geopolitical world. I only say this because The Rock obviously represents America and Statham the UK. They are alone in the world and have to work together to save the day. (That a Russian helps save the day is an interesting twist to all of this.)

Anyway, there are some other things I noticed. That the programmable super virus is called “Snowflake” can be interpreted two ways. Either we’re meant to think of that obviously the Bad Guys are evil liberals (snowflakes) or we’re meant to laugh that the thing that could end the world is a bunch of snowflakes.

The reasoning that the villain gives for ending the world a very conservative-interpretation-of-the-liberal-worldview. Hollywood these days they find themselves having to square the circle. They want to appease a center-Right audience (to make money) but they also have to do so in a way that allows them not to hate themselves. That’s why, I feel, the politics of this movie are extremely muddled, but obviously there.

And, yet, I simply am not prepared to accept that this is Brad Bird Hollywood conservatism. For starters, Bird’s work is much more nuanced than this movie and has a stronger idology. This movie, meanwhile, seems to want it both ways. It wants to appease its center-Right audience, while at the same time looking slant eye at center-Left people in the audience in a way that suggests, “Can you believe what we have to do to appease the Right?”

I liked this movie because it did want it set out to do — entertain you in a cool theatre for a few hours on a hot summer day. I find it interesting, however, that the corrosive politics of the Trump Era has even seeped into what might otherwise be just a dumb summer movie.

Anyway, I probably will never know how close to the truth I am on this subject. I would like to believe I have dug up something interesting, however. There’s no way they would name the super virus “Snowflake” without there being an ulterior motive.

Shelton Bumgarner, a writer living in Virginia, is working on his first novel. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail (dot) com.

Well, At Least I Know This Novel’s Universe Really Well

by Shelton Bumgarner

The more I think about it, the more I really like the Hobbes & Shaw screenplay. I say this because it did was a screenplay is supposed to do — be invisible. Only the greats can write a screenplay that is conspicuous enough that the average person notices it. A screenplay, in my opinion, is simply the framework for the producer, director and actors to tell the story.

The more I write this novel, the more seriously I take structure, character and plot. Your job as a storyteller is to get out of the way. You lay out a universe with interesting characters and then smash them against each other in a way where you have increasing tension. If shit blows up and people have sex, all the better.

But the main point is that the audience cares about the characters. I cared about what was going on with the characters in Hobbes & Shaw, even though it was meant to be mindless summer fun. I thought there were some pretty big plot holes, but the overall effect was interesting and entertaining.

As I said, I liked the screenplay because I did not find myself thinking about it. Things moved along at a brisk pace. You meant interesting people with believable rationales. I did not want to walk out once, which is saying something for me.

Compare this to Booksmart. I walked out with the inciting incident occurred. Way too much screeching over things I did not want to sit through two hours worth of hero’s journey. I understand you’re supposed to give the Hero room to grow, but when all the screeching happened, I bounced. I had better things to do with my time.

But, again, I was not the audience. The audience seemed to be bi curious girls seniors in high school. Or something. Something I’m not. The thing about Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood was I really, really cared about the characters even though for much of the film they didn’t do all that much. That’s a testament to good writing, if ever there was one.

Anyway. I need to read more. And watch more movies. I need to hurry up and finish the first draft, if nothing else.

Struggling With The Romantic Aspect of The Novel

by Shelton Bumgarner

I am cruising towards having my Hero and Heroine hook up. I have a really cool way for this to happen. And, yet, I worry no one will believe it’s possible. I say this knowing that the scene I’m going to write is very possible because it happened to ME.

I have debated at length with myself as to when to have my two leads hook up. If I don’t do it right, women will be turned off. Since I want this at least _try_ to be a tentpole, I have to be careful of just that. I have already worked the plot some to tone down the male sex fantasy aspect of the introduction of the female lead.

But given that this is just a first draft, I’m going to just write it. If I don’t like it long-term, I’ll change it when I come around to the second draft. The key issue is to just keep writing.

As I have said before, you can’t edit a blank page.

Storytelling During Trump Time

by Shelton Bumgarner

As I’ve said repeatedly, the thing about trying to write the type of novel I’m writing is how up-in-the-air everything is. I have no idea what the mood of the nation will be whenever I try to sell it much less whenever it might be actually in bookshelves.

The story is meant to be timeless and yet timely, just like the movie Network. I want people to nod their head as they explore this fantastical world I’ve thought up. I want them to, in the back of their head, see the allegorical nature of the plot and universe.

Of course, there is a good chance this will piss MAGA people off. So much so, I continue to stress out about someone like Don Jr. telling his followers to hate read it. (Though that would be cool for the bottomline.)

But, really, I have to do the hard work. I have to flesh out the plot I have. I have to create a universe people will want to spend a few days in. It’s a lot of work. A whole lot of work.

And this novel is very autobiographical in a macro sense. I am using a lot of my personal life and personal history to tell this story. The better you know me personally, the more this will be obvious to you. I’m using a lot of my experiences in Seoul to tell this story. That is making telling this story a lot easier, believe you me.

I just have to keep writing. I just have to keep believing. I can’t get weighed down with insecurities. I do need to read more and watch more movies. I will admit that. I find myself studying popular movies to figure out what makes them a good tale and how I can improve my story from what I learn.

As I have mentioned, I found Hobbes & Shaw touched all the right bases of storytelling. And it doesn’t too much thought to see that through the use of subject, a lot of issues of the day were addressed. It was because of the complete lack of subtext that I absolutely hated Booksmart. That movie enraged me because I felt it was so eager to suck its own ideological dick that it miss the point of the whole endeavor: tell a great story.

Had Olivia Wilde leaned more into it being a homage of, say, Heathers, then I think it would have been a more popular film. And, yet, as I keep saying, I was obviously NOT the audience of that movie so I don’t really have much room to talk. But I felt it failed a story because of how ideological it was.

That’s a real risk for telling stories under Trump. Trump has made the political divide in America so taunt that it’s difficult to both tell a tentpole story AND use subtext to tell the audience what’s on your mind.

‘Hobbes & Shaw,’ ‘Network’ & The Novel I’m Writing

by Shelton Bumgarner

I saw Hobbes & Shaw today and I really liked it. It dealt with a lot of modern issues using subtext. I felt it had a deeper meaning if you gave it some thought, which is why I enjoyed it so much.

My novel is meant to be sort of “The Millennium Series” meets “Network.”

That, in a sense, is the high concept notion of it. I say that because this is a novel that really is meant to be a snapshot — in an allegorical sense — of American under Trump. The plot is just an excuse to explore the allegorical world. Hopefully, of course, I won’t come off as too preachy. That would really suck and hurt the chances of the novel being any form of a success.

I’m trying to write as fast as I can. I hope to finally, finally wrap up the first draft’s first act for real by the end of the month. I’m so desperate to move out of the first act, that if I can’t do it through rewriting, I’m going to do it be reusing much of what I’ve already written.

Once I get out of the first act and can successfully stay out of it, I think things should move a lot faster. I know the ins and outs of the novel’s plot like the back of my hand on a macro level. It’s the tactical stuff that is slowing me down at this point.

But, again, the point is to just keep going. I can’t choke or get discouraged by assuming someone is going to “steal” the idea or make it moot in some way. While both of those things are very possible, I have to keep writing until it’s actually proven to have happened.

Not before.

Sometimes, You Just Have To Believe

by Shelton Bumgarner

I find myself constantly assuming someone is going to steal a creative march on me. So much so, I feel myself just not wanting to continue with the novel. I’m that sure. I’m that absolutely sure that someone, somewhere will somehow “steal” my novel’s concept or otherwise make it moot.

And, yet, I keep going for a number of reasons. One is I’ve already invested a huge amount of time and energy into it. So why assume the worst until it actually happens? If something happens to negate my hard work, then we’ll roll with it.

But wait until it actually happens.

So, meanwhile, I’m going to keep going. I have a huge amount of work to do still. But I feel as though I’ve at least gotten out of the main part of development. I’m getting into actually writing the novel — or at least the first serious draft.

This is happening in large part to finally figuring out the basic structure of the plot and universe. The novel deals with “big ideals” in an entertaining fashion. I honestly can’t think of anything else I would rather be working on at this point.

Really, it’s a matter of not getting distracted by what “might” or “may” happen. The point is to keep writing, keep believing. Keep believing in myself that I can produce a quality product that will have mass appeal.

None of that can happen in the first place if I don’t believing myself enough to keep going.

A New Era For The Novel

By Shelton Bumgarner

I have sent the first part of the novel — 20 scenes — to a few people and now I’m waiting for some sense from them if the conceit is as good as I believe it to be.

Last night was kind of rough. I have thrown my whole life into this novel and people simply were not giving me the turn-around on what I sent them in the way I expected.

But in a sense, I guess it is better I realize that dynamic now. If I waited until the second draft was finished it would be a real let down if people acted this way then.

Today is going to be development day for the novel. I’m going to sketch out the second part of the novel — which the story really begins — and then probably start writing again no later this tomorrow, this Sunday. I believe this novel is really strong. Really strong. But the tough part is getting someone, anyone to be willing to take a look at it in the first place.

Anyway, I just have to keep believing in myself. I have to keep going. No one will help you while you’re struggling. It’s only after you’re a success that anyone gives a shit.

It’s All Been Done

by Shelton Bumgarner

I continue to think about the movie Network as I write this novel. It’s Network more than anything else that inspires me. I really like how that movie is so timeless and yet is a snapshot of America just after Watergate.

The novel I’m writing has the potential to be something of a Network for the Trump Era. That’s the absolutely best best case scenario. But I really have leaned into every possible zeitgeisty thing I can possibly think of while I develop this work.

But I do have pretty low expectations. I’ll be pleased if I simply finish something, anything that I can show people who think I suck. One interesting thing is I got as far as the second act a few weeks ago and the entire story fell apart on a tactical level. Strategically, it still works.

It really boils down to simply believing in myself. The thing is I really feel like I’m adrift in the middle of the Atlantic. I believe in my gut that if I just keep going I’ll reach the New World. But I have nothing my own ambition to guide me at this point.

I just feel like the Trump Era needs an easily accessible tale that explains to people who are as frustrated as I am. I still don’t have a canon for the work. And I still haven’t done character studies. Even when I do finally do those two things, I’m probably going to do it in longhand. What I need is a typewriter.

Anyway. I’ve finally managed to right myself after a few days of struggle. I’m feeling pretty good about what I’ve managed to come up with. Now, it’s just a matter of putting in the hard work.

Some Idle Rambling About The State Of The Novel I’m Writing

by Shelton Bumgarner
Insta: WriterShelt

I’m doing a lot of little videos using Instagram about the novel I’m writing. But here are some general thoughts. I’m about 40,000 words in right now and I’ve hit a moment in the early part of the second act where the sheer size of this project has begun to kick in.

I’m giving myself between 165,000 to 185,000 word to tell this story because I’ve been told anything past 200,000 won’t get published. The interesting thing is I finally am at a point in the novel where I rant about the Trump Era.

The entire novel is meant to be an indictment of the Trump Era disguised as a spy thriller. I’m really enjoying writing this novel. It’s just managing dates, characters and themes is tough when you’re doing it all in your head. I think once I finally finish the first draft things should move a lot faster. I’ll have the first draft to use as a stepping stone.

I have come up with a lot of ad hoc ways to manage development and writing, but none of them has come into any formal role yet. Again, I’m hoping it’s just a matter of time. In a sense, the novel is kind of Network if it was written as an homage to the Millennium series by way of James Bond.


There’s also a lot of Being There in this novel because it’s meant to be a snapshot in time. A time capsule of the few first years of the Trump Administration. Or, if you want to get rather dystopian — of the first Trump Administration.

I just have a lot — a lot — of work to do. A huge amount. It doesn’t help that I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m probably doing everything wrong. But the point is to finish something, anything that I can edit.

I have to believe in myself. That’s the chief thing at this point. I have to keep going. I have a really great conceit. It’s just a matter of fleshing it out over the course of nearly 200,000 words.

Wish me luck.