I hope that we have not too quickly forgotten that

The God of Abrahamic religions does not exist.  If God exists, then God is not of a human form.  I suppose that if penguins believed in God, then God would be in the form of a penguin.  We see God as a micromanager, a straw boss, a pissed-off feudal chieftain erasing the poor sinners from the earth like Clorox against cold viruses.

God, if She exists, doesn’t care about us.  Caring is a uniquely mammal emotion, and one evolved over the millennia to produce more mammals.  Fish, once they are hatched from eggs, have no use for their young.  A plecostomus will happily eat another plecostomus.

These are realizations in the process of being realized.

All God’s will, you know.  But God doesn’t have a will, or even a won’t; God is a mathematical abstraction like pi or e, but much less useful in the construction of MP3 players.  God won’t help you square a circle or figure out the frequencies present in a Lady Gaga song.  For that you gotta fall back on science.

As science grows, God shrinks; God is the collection of things we can’t explain by any other means.  How come the God-damn dishwasher keeps overflowing!  Well, that would be God’s fault.  God damned the dishwasher, you see, or else that Maytag would be running fine today.

It’s sad and scary, living a life without God present, in the same way I imagine it would be sad living without your parents.  God’s basically a surrogate for your dad and your mom, all rolled into one, the magical superparent looking out for your welfare at all times.  God is the Final Recourse, the one to complain to when no one else will listen.

Except of course, God doesn’t exist and therefore it’s only physics and your own capabilities of self-care.

God’s a complaint box stuffed to overflowing, letters and notes that will never be read, because there is no one there to read them.

We are all together, on our own.

Let us pray.

It is 5 a.m. and you are listening to Los Angeles

Telling a story good is hard.  Telling a good story is even harder.

You don’t grow up in the backwoods of West Virginia without being taught how to tell a story.  I remember my Uncle Masel regaling me at length about teaching junior high school class.  “And them kids in the back of the room would jest start talkin… and they’d get up and ornery… and I wouldn’t say a word, I’d jest open my little black book and next to thar names I’d jest wrat a little letters, I’d wrat D.M.”  And here he’d pause imperceptibly.

“Dahreaah of the mouth,” he’d say.  And the pause was always perfectly timed..

I read a lot of new material.  Now and then I judge the Orange County Playwright Association’s competitions.  I read a lot of new material for friends; I audition now and then for new plays and new movies; I listen to a lot of stories.

Most writers have script format down cold.  Most of them have nailed concepts of pace and tone, and many of them know how to create beautiful and compelling universes.  Many of them get produced and get their scripts made into films and plays.

What they don’t know how to do, almost to a one, is tell a story.  Telling a story is not something you can pick up at a tony conference, and it’s not something you can learn how to do by reading a book or two.  Almost anyone can tell whether a story or a song is good, but the ability to create compelling stories or songs is a gift bestowed upon the the very patient and the very industrious.

I hate my own work.  I retool it dozens, maybe hundreds, of times before it ever gets to a state where an audience might see it.  Every moment of a Byrd story has been milled over and retold and rethought and retooled until it resonates within the character of the entire piece.

One writer I know has written maybe a dozen full length plays in the time it’s taken me to write one.  In his case, he can’t get any of his shit produced.

That’s a problem, thankfully, I have never experienced yet.

Quality, quality, quality.  It all comes down to craft.  Are you willing to roundfile a thousand mediocre stories to find one perfect diamond?  Are you willing to retell and retell and retell a story, even before the first bit of dialogue ever hits the page?

Most writers are dreadfully, dreadfully lazy.

I have read far too many scripts of late where the payoff is the Reveal — the bit of story element that all the characters spend dancing and talking around —

He was really a robot all along!

He was really an alien all along!

He was really her father all along!


Failure to tell a story at a reasonable tempo does not constitute suspense.

What constitutes a great story really hasn’t changed very much over the years.  The best books I’ve read on the topic to date are Lajos Egri’s “The Art of Dramatic Writing” and Robert McKee’s “Story”.  Both books spend a considerable amount of time dissecting functional stories to figure out why they work.

I can think of no better use of one’s time as a writer than studying, and copying, the best of the best.

I believe strongly in emulating other successful storytellers and their processes.  The best professional storytelling today comes out of Pixar, which has a strongly collaborative writing process.  Every script out of Pixar has a dozen or so story artists working on the project.

It must be such a luxury having a dozen minds working together on a coherent set of story threads, trying to make sure that no pieces are left dangling, no bits of character are left over, that nothing is wasted, that every element resonates properly.

Story, dammit, story!

I’m the operator with my pocket calculator

This web site has just received a facelift.  It’s now running on a WordPress core instead of the ancient Nucleus blogging platform, and it’s running CentOS 7 on an Amazon server somewhere in Oregon.  Migrating all the old data to an entirely new architecture was quite an experience in SQL and PHP hacking.  Webmin helped glue everything together.  Here’s hoping this new architecture lasts ten more years.