REVIEW: “Beginnings, Middles, & Ends” By: Nancy Kress

As many of you know (because I won’t shut up about it) I’ve been writing a novel about my experience in SE Asia in 2017. As part of this process, I decided to take a novel writing class through the UCLA Extension. The class I got into is great but there was another class I couldn’t get into that recommended a book entitled, “Beginnings, Middles, & Ends” By Nancy Kress. Not only did I read that book, I really enjoyed it. If you are writing a novel/short story and want a great place to start, read this book. Or don’t, save yourself some time and just read this blog. Below is what I learned and would like to retain.

– English poet Robert Southey said, “Be brief; for it is with words as with sunbeams, the more they are condensed the deeper they will burn.”

– “…the credible writer doesn’t allow the writing to become self-indulgent. The focus should be on the story, not the writer.”

– “Many writers don’t think about aspects of credible prose at all in the first draft. They concentrate on the story the first time through, revisions to the story second time through, and prose quality in the third draft.”

– When having trouble deciding what a scene should be about. Always go back to: “What do your characters want?”

– Once you find out what they want, make a list. All of those wants can become scenes.

– “The story takes shape in your mind through the act of writing itself. Additional possibilities occur to you. Other slants present themselves at the edges of your consciousness. If you are rigidly committed to a point of view, you may not be open to the surges of imagination.”

– To make character changes convincing four things must happen:
1) The reader must understand your character’s initial personality, and especially her motivation.
2) The reader must see evidence that your character is capable of change.
3) The reader must see dramatized a pattern of experience that might reasonably be expected to affect someone.
4) The reader must see a plausible new motivation replace the character’s old motivation.

– “This is because stories grow out of what characters do, and, in turn, what characters do grows out of what they want.”

– “The problem of the human heart in conflict with itself-that alone can make good writing.” William Faulkner

– “It can be helpful to stop somewhere in the middle of your novel to list these motivation switches on a piece of paper. What did each character want at the beginning of the book? What does he want now? Is it still the same desire? Do you know? If you don’t, give it some serious thought.”

– “Do you understand what your characters want? Could they maybe want something else you’ve overlooked? What’s at stake in their story? Can you raise the stakes?”

– LOVE THIS: “If my protagonist were a radically different person, would this story still end the same way? The answer should be NO. If it’s YES- if the events of your book would be unaltered no matter whom they happened to- your ending will not feel convincing.”

– “Your ending grows naturally out of who your characters are.”

– “Mark Twain referred to the denouement at the “marryin’ and buryin’.”

– (when looking for feedback on a draft) “For this resonance to work you need a sensitive reader: one capable of making subtle connections between the world of the story and the world he lives in. Not all readers can–or want–to do that.”

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My Grandfather’s Watch

My Grandfather passed away this summer. He was my mother’s father. There’s something about your mother’s father that feels more intimate. He passed while I happened to be back home in Minnesota for five weeks. I was on my way to see him, when I found out he died. My mother called me while I was driving. She was hyperventilating. I had to pull over. My grandfather was 91 and had been sick for a while, so I could assume this was why she was so upset, but I didn’t know for sure. No one should ever have to hear their mother in that much pain. She wailed. It cut through me. I could hear her chest shaking. I knew after that moment everything would be different. I tried to be strong. She struggled for more than three minutes to get a word out. She was just sobbing. It was torture. I assumed she was going to tell me my grandfather had died, but she couldn’t say it. My mind was full of fear and started to create other scenarios. Maybe it wasn’t my grandfather, maybe something happened to my dad or my sister. I got mad; I yelled at her, pleading for her to tell me what was going on. She finally found the space to say the words, “Grandpa is dead.” The sobbing intensified. Hearing my mother cry that hard will stay with me for the rest of my life.


Over the last couple of years, I had been preparing myself for his death and in that moment I was, for the most part, holding it together; but once I got to the hospice center I lost control. I couldn’t even go in the room where he died without first asking everyone else to leave. I didn’t want to be on display as I was consumed by my feelings. There were numerous family members there. It was beyond intense. I couldn’t look any of them in the eye. I was crying so hard my vision was blurry. I had never cried like that before. My aunts rushed over to me. I heard my grandmother say, “He’s responding just like I did when my Grandfather passed.” I’m sure it was hard to watch. Everyone understood and left the room. I entered with my mom and my grandmother holding me. The room felt like a new, large hospital room but with carpet. It had a softness that was there by design. My eyes were filled with alligator tears. I stared at the floor, taking in slow, measured breaths. I finally looked up and for the first time ever I was in the presence of a dead body of someone I shared DNA with. Many have said I’m my grandfather’s twin, but now his skin had the yellow hue of jaundice.


His mouth was agape, as if he was still gasping for his last breath. I sat down and cried until I there was nothing left. Then I looked up at him and smiled. It terrified me, but I touched his forehead. Family members slowly made their way back in. After some time, my grandmother lifted up my grandfather’s arm and took off his watch. It was a simple Timex watch. White face with black numbers, silver colored band, with gold on the edges. She turned to me and said, “Grandpa would have wanted you to have this.” As she slid it onto my wrist the old-school band pulled on my arm hair. A tremendous sense of pride and responsibility came over me.

That was a hard day, but as we do, I made it through. I wore his watch to the funeral. The pastor gave it his best shot but it was clear that a stranger was speaking about my grandfather. The pastor was in his early 30’s, he wore black Oakley glasses and sandals. Yeah, sandals. Not cool Jesus-y sandals, but more like the type of sandals people wear when they go rock climbing. Combine that with his man-bun and I was less than impressed. His speech was as if he had filled out some sort of Mad-Lib about my grandfather’s life. Most people, even most of my family, didn’t mind, but to me his words lacked intimacy. I wanted to push him aside and say, “I got this one, padre.” But as a grandchild, I felt it wasn’t my place. When my parents pass you can be certain I will be giving the eulogy.

But, life goes on and now I wear a dead man’s watch. I keep it on Minnesota time as an homage to Theodore William Dargis Jr. Although he is not with us, his impact will live on. He continues, because I continue. We are all going to die and that is sad, but it doesn’t have to be tragic. Death is what gives life it’s value. I went home for five weeks to spend time with my girlfriend and her boys. We took her youngest boy to his first Minnesota Twins baseball game. My grandfather loved the Twins. We went to many games together.

Obituary:

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UNLIKELY ASSASSINS – A New Original Series

From the mind of comedian Nicholas Anthony comes an original series directed by the brilliant Nikolas Smith. A thriller in 5 acts. Starring the dashing Kash Abdulmalik & Nicholas Anthony. Written by Nicholas Anthony and Greg Berman

Unlikely Assassins – Trailer from Nicholas Anthony on Vimeo.

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Am I a racist? A white comedian asks.

This clip is from Jan. 2018 at The Irvine Improv in Irvine, CA. I’m proud of how I handled myself even though I disagreed with someone. I hope more conversation can go this way. Enjoy!

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Last night I opened for Dave Chappelle

When I was a kid I would listen to George Carlin and Eddie Murphy and as much as I loved their material I also loved listening to the audience. That wall of animated sound is so intoxicating. The power of being able to orchestrate a crowd that size in such a beautiful, pure manner still to this day makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I’ve chased that wall of sound around this country, hell around this planet, for years now and it lead me to open for a legend. Last night was the culmination of years of hard work and I’m so appreciative for the experience. Now, the rub…

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I should be the most happy boy in the history of happy boys but I must admit I feel like a fraud this morning. The comedian who wrote my act is not the same person who writes this blog post. I’ve been doing the act of a younger man for a while now. I’ve been stealing bits from a version of myself who no longer exists, a 25-year-old Nicholas Anthony. Now I can’t be too hard on my 34-year-old self because in the last few years I have kicked out many screenplays that do represent my voice. I’m very proud of those scripts and screenwriting is an integral part of my life but when it comes to stand-up comedy I still have a lot of work to do.

The plan:

I’m headlining Morty’s Comedy Club in Indianapolis Dec. 21st through 23rd and that will be the last time I do any of my old material. After that I’m going on vacation in Southeast Asia for most of January and then I perform on a cruise ship for 2 weeks over my birthday in February. During those 2 weeks at sea I will officially start the process. I need to start fresh. I need to be in this moment of my life. I need to reinvent and figure something out that’s 100% mine… at this point in my life. Sorry in advance for watching any complete nonsense. The process can be messy but I need to stop being afraid of it.

Many thanks to Dave Chappelle, Grant Lyon, Dave Waite, Andy Peters and to all of the good people at The Blind Barber. I feel like I’m at the bottom of a very tall hill, time to find that boulder and start pushing.

Click HERE for TMZ (video) on night 1 with Dave Chappelle at The Blind Barber

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How I got my 1st network TV writing job

There are more brain surgeons than there are professional television writers. I don’t know if that’s actually a true statement but it’s something I tell people and it sure does feel true. When I was 17 years old, in my mind, I decided to become a professional screenwriter and as crazy as it sounds, even to me, I was recently hired to write for a new show on CBS called, The Inspectors (which will air in the fall of 2015). The following is a brief story about how that happened.

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In 2003 I started doing stand-up comedy at ACME Comedy Club in Minneapolis, MN. During that time I had a feeling that as much as I loved stand-up at some point I would want more. So I enrolled into the well respected but affordable screenwriting program at MCTC in Minneapolis. While there I studied with the great and mysterious Hafed Bouassida who studied film at the famous Prague Film School in the Czech Republic. What I learned from Hafed is the foundation upon which every other aspect of my writing has been built. He hammered us on keeping our scripts visual and was a tyrant about structure. Although I wish our relationship would have continued past film school he was the mentor I needed at the genesis of my career.

While still in Minneapolis I wrote many scripts. The first one we produced was a Twilight Zone type story called, Breakables. With my fellow producers Wayne Johnson and Brendan Eddy the second film we created was the ambitious WWI short, The Nihilist. This film was the story of a depressed English soldier who had lost the will to live and decided to commit suicide by running into the middle of trench warfare. After producing that short and doing well in the independent film festival market, I decided to move out of Minnesota. First, to Chicago and then Louisville so that I could continue my career as a traveling stand-up comedian. Finally in the fall of 2010 I moved to Los Angeles to realize the dream I had since I was 17.

When I first got to LA I audited a class at Pepperdine University that was taught by the immensely talented and passionate screenwriter Randall Wallace (writer of Braveheart). During that experience I realized that my proximity to talented people had nothing to do with my own talent and as much as I knew I had taste I needed to start developing my own voice. I had already written my first feature length script and was writing a number of TV specs (Modern Family, 30 Rock, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) but now I needed connections. Luckily I was accepted into the Advanced TV Writing Program through UCLA’s Extension. There I met and worked with many TV veterans. They helped me polish my first pilot Never Famous which went on to win the Final Draft TV Pilot Writing Contest in 2014. After that I started working on a project called My Girlfriend’s A Doll and during that time I was offered a job on the CBS show, The Inspectors.

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Last month I finished my first script for The Inspectors. They gave me 2 weeks to write it and I was able to finish it in 3 days. What I leaned from that process is something that I was told as a younger writer but didn’t fully grasp until this experience. It’s quite simple: great screenwriting is the result of great outlining. I will say it again, OUTLINE, OUTLINE, OUTLINE! It’s easy to want to just start writing but the outlining process is how most professionals work. The Inspectors will shoot this summer in Charleston, SC and if I’m lucky maybe they’ll give me a cameo so I can have my Hitchcock moment. Stay tuned, I’m as excited as you are to see what happens next.

Links to the scripts that were mentioned:

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia spec

30 ROCK spec

Modern Family spec

One For The Road feature film

Never Famous pilot script

My Girlfriend’s A Doll pilot

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MY L.A. DIET: How Stress & Failure Helped Shed the Pounds

MY L.A. DIET: How Stress & Failure Helped Shed the Pounds!

We could all use to loose a few pounds. Well have I got the plan for you. First, quit your successful career path and put your entire efforts into becoming a STAND-UP COMEDIAN! This will involve confusing and disappointing most of your loved-ones, writing horse-shit material for at least 5 to 10 years and then setting up a travel schedule that will smother any chance of having a healthy relationship with a woman. Next, move up from emcee, to feature, to headliner, in clubs that actually talented people wouldn’t play if they had guns to their heads. After you have some experience, submit for a comedy festival or even better a comedy contest (those are even more fair). Keep working the road, dodging STD’s and DUI’s until you develop deep seated separation anxiety and minor drug addictions. “But Nick, I’ve done what you said and I’m still a fat fuck. Am I on the right path?” (smug laughter) Of course you are! As a stand-up comedian, questioning one’s life choices is the fruitless, lonely, meal that will consume your mind every single day. Then, and this is important: don’t kill yourself… years of entertaining mindless strangers and your drug addiction spiraling out of control will make you want to, but don’t. Now, gather your bullshit half-credits from a reality show, cable, and/or NACA showcases and MOVE TO L.A.

“Whoa Nick, I like where I live and think I can have a real career in show business from a secondary market.” Listen here you rube, unless your name is Chad Daniels, you’re lying to yourself. Stop being an asshole and pack your shit. Once you’re in Los Angeles contact all the people you met while working on the road and then realize that they have less of an idea of what they’re doing then you do. Now, go to the worst open mics you could imagine, surrounded by the shallowest people you’ve ever met, and try to develop material that you really care about. Lastly, set up meetings and showcases that all go amazingly well but you still don’t get called back and the pounds will start to shed off at once.

Follow these easy steps and you’ll be a shell of yourself in no time! And remember DON’T KILL YOURSELF. As shitty as L.A. seems at first, the whole thing is just a test to see if you REALLY want it.* And hey, when you can clearly see you’re own rib cage poking through your gaunt, emaciated body, then and only then do you truly know that you are living your dreams.

Nicholas Anthony
Written from the comedy
condo in San Antonio, TX

*Not hyperbole

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Season 2 CBS’s The Inspectors – The episode I wrote

Here is a link to the episode from season 2 of CBS’s The Inspectors that I wrote:

http://www.tvguide.com/tvshows/the-inspectors/episode-14-season-2/bribe-and-prejudice/834251/?video=26959408&source=264

 

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Screw you, 2016 was my best year yet!

For many people 2016 was a year to be forgotten. For me, it was my best year yet. As an ambitious person I often find myself so focused on my goals (what I don’t have yet) that sometimes I create depression in my own mind. So in an attempt to be more grateful for all of the amazing things in my life I went back through 2016, month by month, and documented all of the things I am grateful for. A lot of them are career achievements like: having my first network TV acting and writing debut and having our digital series The Post Post Apocalypse featured on FunnyOrDie, but there are also a number of personal milestones that fostered the relationships of both friends and family that really stuck out to me the most. If you’re reading this I hope you see the power of being grateful. I really helps me stay on track.

2016 in review:

JANUARY

I traveled to the Caribbean and got to perform stand-up comedy on my first cruise ship.

The Vikings were the NFC champs.

I started playing ping pong.

I booked my trip to Israel and Europe

I took a screenwriting class at UCLA.

Greg Berman moved out to LOS ANGELES.

FEBRUARY

I made my network TV writing and acting debut.

Greg and I drove to Mexico for my birthday and I went to a rub and tug and got no tug.

Bowers came to LA and I saw O-town perform.

Ethan came to visit and I really stepped up my ping pong game.

MARCH

3 year anniversary of The Secret Show at The Blind Barber

My Mom came to visit me in LA

Finished beat sheet for Disorder

Got my movie poster game on fleek.

Went to Israel

The Inspectors was nominated for 6 Emmys.

Went to Jerusalem and floated in the dead sea.

APRIL

Back was hurting started using yoga balls

Went to Amsterdam, Brussels and Prague.

Took mushrooms in Prague

Ate at my first at my first Michelin Star restaurant in Prague

Mom and Dad came to visit. Dad gave me my chess board

Started writing on Season 2 of The Inspectors

I was on LAUGHS on Fox

The Inspectors WINS 1 Emmy

Shot the first POST POST Apocalypse episodes.

MAY

Did the Gundo Comedy Festival w/ The Secret Show at The Blind Barber.

Started volunteering with the WGA

Got to see a Twins game in Mpls.

Prince died.

JUNE

We ended the stale mate with our land lord

My Always Sunny spec became a finalist in the UCLA writing contest.

Started boogie boarding

Cleveland won the NBA playoffs

Got to go to Minnesota and be on Lake Minnetonka

Mohammed Ali died

JULY

Spent July 4th at Manhattan beach

Grandparents came to visit

I was on LAUGHS on FOX again.

Finished first draft of Disorder script.

Saw Louie CK and the Forum

Shot a video for MGFAD for Sundance

Shot more episodes of POST POST

Saw PHISH at The Forum

Larry from Eagle Magic came out, went to Magic Castle

Went to Rain room at LACMA

AUGUST

Met Steven Knight writer/creator of Peaky Blinders at WGA in LA

Did a table read for DISORDER, 4 people cried

Became friends with Phyllis

Ellen Rock came from MN to live at our house.

Read Inside the Room

Did Laugh’s on FOX for a 3rd time in 1 year.

Booked my trip to S.E. ASIA

Re-connected with Mercies May

SEPTEMBER

Took my first Improv class at UCB

Started Golfing again

Spent lots of time at the beach

Did a bunch of re-writes on Disorder

Re-met up with Dylan Mandolson

OCTOBER

Released the POST POST and was featured on FUNNYorDie

Performed at The Laugh Factory

Went to a cubs / dodgers playoff game

Finished DISORDER and sent it to agents.

Went to the Tourbadour with Brian G. for the first time

NOVEMBER

Cubs won the world series.

Trump won the election

Watched the results at the official Hilary Clinton campaign party in LA. with Ken and Nogen and Mike

Went to the Magic Castle with Ted and his girl.

Finished outline for HEIST IS RIGHT

My buddy Robert Stevens came to town.

Read the book the Psychopath Test.

Saw Arthur Miller’s A View From a Bridge. Inspired me to want to write a play

Started writing Unlikey Assassins

Adam Quesnell stayed at the house

Did my first VR comedy show

DECEMBER

Donated blood, felt great to give back

Both Ethan and Bowers came out to LA.

Opened for Dave Chappelle at the Blind Barber

Told a girl I actually cared about her

Found Yin style yoga

Performed at The Icehouse

Met Ron Jermey

Got my recording equipment for Jokology

The punter for the Indianapolis colts (Pat McAfee) flew me to indy to do charity event

Performed at the new Morty’s in Indy

Met Ms. Pat in Indy at Morty’s

Got to go home to MN for Christmas.

Went to the Sun Shine Depot in Elk River with Tim Gabrielson

 

Looking forward to 2017!!!!

Meet more friends

Finish Heist Is Right

Figure out my relationship to stand-up in Los Angeles

Find lit manager/agent/lawyer

Travel to more places

Do more classes

Read more books

See more plays

Watch more live music

Finish projects

Shoot Unlikely Assassins

Relax more

Meditate more

Be more grateful, more often

Eat less shitty food

Be better to my body

Write a Play

Take UCB 201

Take a non-screenwriting writing class

Be of service to others

Find ways to give back

Get more family to visit Los Angeles

More blog posts

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The Post-Post Apocalypse: A FunnyOrDie Series

After the cure to the walkers virus was found people slowly started to assimilate back into normal life in the Post-Post Apocalypse… but for Rick Grimes this was a real struggle. Watch the entire Walking Dead parody below:

Episode #1: Rick Grimes Vs. Dominos Pizza

Episode #2: Daryl’s Confession to Rick Grimes

Episode #3: Rick Grimes on a first date

Episode #4: Rick Grimes Vs. Millennial

Episode #5: Parking Jerk Infuriates Rick Grimes

Episode #6: The Dog Walking Dead

Episode #7: Judith all grown up

Episode #8: Rick Grimes totally has PTSD

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How CBS had me write a Christmas rap

As an entertainer I have been asked to do many unusual things in my career. One time I got paid to perform card tricks in a park WHILE senior citizens played bingo. Another time I was in Iowa and as I walked on stage to do stand-up comedy, in front of a room full of employees whose job it was to make the pseudo-egg for the McDonald’s Egg McMuffin, they said, “You speak Spanish, right?” But recently I was asked to do a most formidable task, I was put to the challenge of creating a Christmas themed rap for a network television show.

I’m currently writing for a Saturday morning, family based, CSI type show on CBS called “The Inspectors.” Basically it’s a college kid in a wheelchair who helps his postal inspector mom solve crimes. Riveting stuff. Surprising enough, our first season was nominated for 6 Daytime Emmy’s (including best writing) and won for Best Lead Actress (kudos to Jessica Lundy). Now last year the show runners were nice enough to let me act in the episode that I got my first “Written By” credit on. During that time I met the cast and crew and had an amazing experience in Charleston, SC shooting my first S.A.G. TV role. I bring that up because I got to know all of the actors, that will come into play in a minute.

Cut to season 2 in the writers’ room and the show runners inform me that Bret Green (actor who plays the kid in the wheelchair) would like to do more ‘rap’ in the show. “Is there ANY rap in the show now?” I asked. “No, he just really wants to rap on the show and we want you to write it.” I must have looked confused, “But I’ve never written a rap in my life.” They hadn’t either so somehow I got saddled with the task. As research we watched a music video of Bret rapping to the casting directors of Los Angeles.

As we discussed the volume of ideas we had in response to Bret’s music video I decided to Tweet Bret. Now although I had been on set with him I was pleasantly surprise he Tweeted right back.

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So the writers’ all come back from lunch (at the historic Tally Rand) and they pitch me the outline and say, “Can you write the script in 2 days?” Again I must have looked confused but for some reason I said, “Okay.” How the hell was I going to write this episode in 2 days AND somehow come up with a ‘Christmas Themed’ rap that wasn’t complete shit? I really had no idea so like any good writer I procrastinated. I went to see the Jungle Book with my buddy Cory Jasin. As we were carrying on about how much we loved the movie I told him about my predicament and he reminded me that he was a song writer and that he had even written Christmas themed music:

Yes, Cory could totally help me. So he came over gave me 12 lines of a rap. I changed a few words here and there and added a bridge. I finished this at 2:30 in the morning. Rapped it into my phone and texted it to the show runners. The next morning I got a text back saying they really liked it. Cory was a life saver. All and all I feel like we came up with something that is pretty okay. You be the judge.

Stay tuned on CBS in the Fall of 2016 to see if they even keep the rap in the show.

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Internet Movie Database – Nicholas Anthony

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TV and Film credits are documented on IMDB.com. Below is a link to my first TV writing and acting credits.

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3256060/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

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