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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    One Week Challenge    April, 2019 One Week Challenge  ›  The Libertine - OWC Moderators: Zack
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Don
Posted: April 19th, 2019, 8:54pm Report to Moderator
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The Libertine by Poe Lovecraft - Short, Horror - After purchasing some slaves, sailors begin disappearing on the journey home. Is it just plain, bad luck or is there something evil aboard? 8 pages - pdf format

Writer interested in feedback on this work



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TheUsualSuspect
Posted: April 20th, 2019, 1:26am Report to Moderator
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First one I read and I like it.

Very well written, shows the writer has talent. Visually striking imagery with his evil grin which becomes a red herring of sorts.

The horror was decent, would have liked a bit more from that department. The suspense was a little lacking for me though.

A solid effort though.


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DarrenJamesSeeley
Posted: April 20th, 2019, 3:39pm Report to Moderator
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Interesting. This must be the third script to my knowledge in the OWC that give Lovecraft easter eggs. It's also the second script in the OWC with a Lovercraft reference which has a character whose dialog is phonetically correct. I've never been a big fan of that, it's intentionally misspelling, and sometimes it could get distracting. Maybe even annoying. Looking at you Jerimiah.

Other than that minor pet peeve, we end in "OUT".  That's a minor thing still, it's just that I never seen "OUT" at the end of a script. Not without a FADE anyway.

Rest of the script is decent, This may be on my shortlist later on. I got to checkout the rest.
Nice job.


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RolandJ
Posted: April 20th, 2019, 9:47pm Report to Moderator
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Excellent story. A sort of fantasy reinterpretation of AMISTAD.
But only one thing makes it flawed: They are speaking to and asking the slaves questions in English. Yet seem surprised when they respond back in English. In truth, slaves were gathered from various regions in Africa, all with different languages that few if any slaves understood beyond their own. And they certainly didn't understand English. You would have served this issue better by having an interpreter on board.
Otherwise this was a unique cultural story that still resonates today with America’s brutal history of slavery and the legacy that infects society today.
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_ghostwriters
Posted: April 21st, 2019, 4:08am Report to Moderator
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-IN & Out, I hope that's a flash in the pan.

Truth be told; methinks this parenthetical (shouts against howl of the wind) should be in A/D.

You could punch up the suspense.  You made very good use of the vehicle.

Other than that, I liked it, didn't love it, it's solid and visual and interesting and certainly easy to read.  Not bad at all. -Andrea


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eldave1
Posted: April 21st, 2019, 11:52am Report to Moderator
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Top notch for me. Nothing to really add other than I would consider moving all the dialogue between the son and Jeremiah to between Christian and Jeremiah.

For example - the father is surprised that he speaks English (lived that exchange) - but the son was not????  

Great work here. Really liked it.


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Dreamscale
Posted: April 21st, 2019, 3:30pm Report to Moderator
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Hmmm, what's with the "IN:" to start?  Is this an effort to push the point, and not go along with norms?  I hope not, or it will be a long read for me.

Good job first identifying the name of the ship and then using it as your Slug!

So far, dialogue is good!

"captives" should be CAPPED.

Wrylies are going overboard.  Just not necessary the way you're continually using them.

And we end with a strange "OUT.".  Hmmm

Well, this is very impressive, IMO.  Well written, well conceived, realistic dialogue, and quite a scary premise.

For me, there are too many wrylies being used because the writer is in love with wrylies.  Most won't care and some will praise their use.  I'm not a fan, but the rest is strong enough to make this a mute point.

Although I'd say it definitely meets the challenge, for me, the outright horror and suspense is lacking throughout...and I'm not really sure why that is.

Maybe it needs an extra few pages to flesh things out early on.  For me, it jumps right into things too quickly...or maybe things all happen too quickly near the end.

Anyway you look at it, it's solid and a contender for sure.  Nice job.

****


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ericdickson
Posted: April 21st, 2019, 3:43pm Report to Moderator
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There are multiple characters here occupying a small space, in this case the slave ship.  It was a bit discouraging, going back to see which one was Brad, Christian, Hugh, and so forth.  And then Brad going below deck and somehow ending up in the ocean.  

What the heck is going on here?!  Could it be sorcery?  

And the Yes, suh, no suh talk seemed a bit much.  Sounds like they just came from the plantation.    

I get that the girl was a witch but there was never any real story to invest in here or any satisfying payoff.  

All style and light on substance for me.    



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Warren
Posted: April 21st, 2019, 7:55pm Report to Moderator
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Hi writer,

So they are in the middle of a horrendous storm where they need all hands on deck but they keep getting caught up and delving into conversations about how well they speak English, does this really matter? Especially now?

Why was she a witch? How did anyone know she was a witch? It all feels very coincidental to the story.

The writing is excellent, you paint a great picture, but the story is lacking in my opinion. You still had 4 pages to give it some depth and reason. It seems like a wasted opportunity.

I don't think the quality of the writing makes up for the lack of story.

All the best.


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PKCardinal
Posted: April 21st, 2019, 9:42pm Report to Moderator
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Mixed bag for me.

Loved the vehicle choice.

The witch thing felt like it came out of nowhere. "She's a witch." I feel like we should have seen her do something to indicate why they targeted her. To that point, it could have been anyone.

And, the smiles were too much for me. Jeremiah was all smiles and "suhs." I would have liked more dimension for this character.

Some really nice writing... though there are spots where you tell us things we can't see. And, it's borderline novel writing near the beginning.

Still, well done. Better than most I've read so far.


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DanBall
Posted: April 21st, 2019, 11:55pm Report to Moderator
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I agree with a lot of what’s being said about the witch aspect being a little undercooked. You could’ve used the weather to play with the audience. (“Is she, isn’t she a witch?”) Also, there had to have been chickens on board that ship. Chickens and witches are a classic pairing. That also could’ve been used to introduce some indication that witchy things were afoot.

The rest was pretty decent. The ‘horror’ part was there because you included a witch, but it wasn’t very suspenseful or scary. Then again, who’s really able to master that these days?

The use of the vehicle was different and original.

Muskets probably are too big to fit in a waistband. Probably should be changed to “pistol”.

Overall, good job. Congrats for having more writing to your name!


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Britman
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Strange use of "IN" for the opening. Never seen that before.

Loved The Terror, so let's see if we have zombie bears, giant squids or something else..

Okay, witches.

While I like the idea of a witch on a boat, I feel like it was underutilized here. Also too much dialogue in the first few pages eating up time that could be spent building suspense. I love the setting, the boat, the storm, just wanted more horror here.

Well written and great premise. Wouldn't mind seeing this fleshed out more into a longer piece.





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AnthonyCawood
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IN?

Intentional 'rule' break? Wonder if it'll catch on

This is well written and relatively well paced but some of the dialogue feels off and seems tainted with a more modern 'hope' that slave traders were sometimes nice...

E.g.
Ah, they charge more because you
speak English. Makes sense. Then I
owe you a thank you.

That just feels wrong.

Also... this is a slave ship, there's no way ther'd have so few people on board - it just wasn't profitable enough for them. They usually carried between 200 and 600 people.

Might also feel more authentic if Jeremiah accused her of being a Sangoma or Hoodoo Priest and then explain it's like a witch.

Decent effort.


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MarkRenshaw
Posted: April 23rd, 2019, 3:32am Report to Moderator
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That was good. Great writing, you really put me on board that ship in the storm and in that era as well. That takes skill. You kept me guessing as to who the real witch was.

The ending is a bit flat, the witch kills them all is classic horror but I think you can do better. Have a think and see if there’s something more you can do with this. The first one or two ideas are usually cliché, go for the third of fourth idea.  

She’s also screwed herself over as she’s now on a ship in the middle of the sea in a storm with no crew.  

Still, this scores highly for me from a writing persepctive, the story just needs more work. Well done writer.

-Mark


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Angry Bear
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Great story with a pretty authentic feel.

Great writing, except for I hate when I have to stop and look-up words.  

The suspense could be kicked up a notch IMO. Things happened too quickly for it to really feel suspenseful.

Not much more to add really. It's solid. Second best I've read so far. You should enter more often...  


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bert
Posted: April 23rd, 2019, 2:17pm Report to Moderator
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I'm torn on this one -- as the writing is good, and the setting unique -- but the story kind of collapses if you give it a moment's thought.

I mean, why is Mchawi after everybody, and if Jeremiah knows about it, what the heck is he grinning about all the time?

It is just kind of weird, with characters not acting rationally and mysterious missing motives that render the narrative pointless by the time we're done.

So I don't like it for that -- but it's also really good!


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Spqr
Posted: April 23rd, 2019, 2:34pm Report to Moderator
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Very good. A problem I had was with Brad last being seen going down into the ship's hold, and then being pulled out of the sea, dead. Is it likely no one would have seen him coming back up and jumping overboard? Aside from that, I thought it was a pretty tight script.
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stevie
Posted: April 25th, 2019, 1:25am Report to Moderator
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Sorry but I’ve read this twice now and it does nothing for me. Great concept and ambitious using a slave ship but the horror aspect was very awkwardly done.

Main gripe is the dialogue. Parts of it felt right for the period but others bits didn’t, leading to it sounding almost comical at times. I dunno, it just didn’t gel for me and I skimmed a bit


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Matthew Taylor
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Hello writer

Nice choice of vehicle - prominent - bonus points for you.

Writing seems pretty good - an easy read and good visuals. more bonus points for you


Quoted Text

CHRISTIAN
(shouts against howl of the
wind)
Make sure it�s tied tight.
Christian looks to his right and finds Jeremiah standing
next to him, his grin giving him the appearance of Death.
CHRISTIAN
Where�d you get to?
JEREMIAH
Been right here all along, suh.
Christian frowns and looks up into the rigging.


I found this confusing - why is he surprised he was standing next to him, he was just leading him somewhere.

OK - finished

Despite the good writing - I got a little jarred about where people were in relation to each other - not a problem on screen obviously.

I can imagine this to be quite scary on screen as well - so that's good. The misdirection of who was the witch was good.

Overall I enjoyed the read, i would enjoy watching it as well.

Few things:

Is this a slavers boat? Packing the bottom out with slaves would make it seem more authentic - Having only 3 feels too sparse. - wait - you said 6 slaves already died - still, 9 feels too sparse. Although, you use the word boat, not ship - so it must be small? and you haven;t actually said where they are sailing from/to - so are these slaves they have bought for use, not trade?

Why would the witch wait until this moment to kill? she could do this while still in Africa and never be taken into slavery.
Also, she just killed everyone, how is she planning to get the boat to shore?
These are probably not needed and I should just enjoy the horror for what it is.

This one goes towards the top for sure.

Matt


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Dustin
Posted: April 25th, 2019, 2:46pm Report to Moderator
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THE LIBERTINE

Nice, fairly subtle exposition dump at the start. It's digestable... just. Some clear misdirection. Is it Jeremiah or is it Mchawi? Well, the clue is in the name. A quick Google search reveals that Mchawi is Swahili for wizard, witch or magician... kerching.

So... skip to the end... Yes, it's Mchawi.

A good story, well written.


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James McClung
Posted: April 25th, 2019, 8:08pm Report to Moderator
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Solid entry. Clearly, the writer has more than a bit of experience. Well written, engaging, and atmospheric across the board.

Nice one on the title in particular. The word has such interesting implications, even as a simple name for a ship taken separate from the context of the story. Within the context, especially as a vessel for transporting slaves, it's even more loaded. Kinda nasty, really. I dig it.

Unfortunately, I do think this one falls flat in the end, which is a shame given it's a speedy read that held my attention 'til the end. The deaths of the characters are mundane, certainly not needing of a witch to carry them out, and don't live up to the portent that's been nicely set out, especially considering the pseudonym Poe Lovecraft (I did expect a grand-scale Lovecraftian climax of sorts).

The central dynamic of the plot is: "Is it Jeremiah, or is it Mchawi?" It's an effective dynamic, both in concept and as written, but doesn't amount to much in the end. Jeremiah struck me as a little too servile and one note, even for a slave character (I'm sure others have mentioned the ubiquity of the line "suh"), but I generally disregarded it as I assumed he was the bad guy and behaving as he was intentionally to deceive the other characters. Obviously, he's a red herring in the end and thus is too servile and one note. The fallout is Mchawi's reveal leaves one with an "of course" feeling, although her being a witch is inconsequential. Does she even do anything explicitly supernatural?

All in all, I'd boil the main problem of this one to everything serves the experience of reading the script but not the story in the long run. Of course, the former isn't an issue in and of itself, but both need to be served in order to stick the landing. Otherwise, everything feels too convenient. Mchawi has "eyes wide with terror" when it's convenient. Jeremiah "kneels in a corner, his hands to his mouth, attempting to stifle panicked sobs" when it's convenient. Again, of course you want to have an impact on the audience, but there needs to be an internal logic as well.

And again, I would've expected something more from the ending. You had a few pages. Could've kept it concise. I would've expected something to happen to the ship, namely the crew acting as a human sacrifice or something to forces below. Really, "forces below" would've aided the story. If not in the service of them, Mchawi is left to die on an abandoned ship (I mean, right?).

Lots of focus on the negative here. Figure that's what writers want the most, eh? Honestly, there's much to like about this one. Most of my gripes are related to disappointment; I really wanted to like this one more than I did (and I did) and think it could've been better.

In the end, though, it's a solid effort. You had a week. I didn't enter, so fuck me, right? I think a "good job" is in order.



Revision History (4 edits; 1 reasons shown)
James McClung  -  April 25th, 2019, 11:44pm
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Angry Bear
Posted: April 25th, 2019, 8:28pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from James McClung

Nice one on the title in particular. The word has such interesting implications, even as a simple name for a ship taken separate from the context of the story. Within the context, especially as a vessel for transporting slaves, it's even more loaded. Kinda nasty, really. I dig it.

Agree 100%.


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leitskev
Posted: April 25th, 2019, 10:10pm Report to Moderator
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Sadly, I think this is going to be my last review. No fault to the writer. This seems like reasonably good quality work. I just can't seem to read most scripts anymore. The format of screenplay writing results in a very unpleasing reading experience, even when the writer is gifted. I found myself rereading and rereading and drifting and drifting. But I think 98% of the problem is on my end.

I've read a handful of OWC entries this round. All were competent. Only one was easy to read. But it was not because the writing was that much better...it's the nature of screenwriting when combined with certain factors. In the one that was easy there was only one character. In this one there were multiple characters to track.

It doesn't feel like horror. If we didn't know this was the genre for this story because of the assignment, we would not suspect it til the very end. Yes, they think there is a witch on board, but there's no reason for us to think this is anything but superstition. Nine people perish before we join the story. I assumed it was disease. There is no atmosphere of horror. In fact, the authenticity of the writing almost works against this by making us feel we're on a slave ship that has been struck by plague or something, and the superstitious crew seeks to blame the cargo.

I probably missed some big things too because I'm a lousy screenplay reader. So the writer can probably discard my comments.

I used to take pride in being able to give helpful notes. Not sure I can anymore.

I guess I would suggest this.
1) begin with an opening which establishes horror. I realize the writer wants a bit of a misdirect. He/she doesn't want us thinking there really is a witch. So that makes it a challenge. But there needs to be something that SHOWS why they are afraid on this boat. Maybe they find one of the crew gruesomely murdered. Maybe they find some supernatural sign. Establish the genre, the danger and the tone. Maybe a hint of violence.
2) create some tension that holds our attention and then keep it tense. So for example, if the story begins with the crew finding a body, maybe there's a search going on.
3) maybe some other device can be used to get Jeremiah helping. Maybe they lose the captain and he's the only one who can navigate these waters. I can't really picture what's going on. A slave ship would be packed. If they let one go to help out there would be tremendous risk he would release the others. But maybe if he had some special knowledge besides his linguistic skill.

Again, I'm sure I screwed this up. Sorry. A talented writer for sure that attempted an ambitious concept.
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JEStaats
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IN: Interesting start….

Another interesting trend (I think the third or fourth entry) in that thunder is written before lightning. Just an observation....

(grunts acquiescence) How would that sound?

A musket from his waistband? A musket is a rifle; I'm sure you meant pistol.

"a silent denial of the undeniable." I know what you meant but it derailed me from the moment. How about "...shakes his head in denial."

Great setting and story. Your slugs for the Libertine could be more descriptive in nautical terms. EXT. LIBERTINE - DAY could mean many different locations.

Nice work; I liked it. Revisit it and it could be much better.
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Sandra Elstree.
Posted: May 1st, 2019, 3:24pm Report to Moderator
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This must have been a winning attempt at getting this:  

And I did:  

Let's look at the following:

Christian
Hugh
Brad
Jeremiah
Mchawi
Askari

Someone's outta place. Who could it be? Must be Brad!!! A Brad in the 1700's. That be some kinda wonderful.  

Let's return to my original notes, before I realized someone might have been sipping too hard on something when writing this.
This begins with In minus the Fade. Why not? Fade is so blasé.

It’s hastily painted. How so? Why so?

Hugh and Christian’s dialogue in the beginning had me with a big question mark hovering over my head.

HUGH
We need help, Pa.

CHRISTIAN
They cost too much to waste them. The good Lord will see us through.

It was only after I realized he was talking about the slaves.

When Christian says

>Leave the female be.

It sounds off, but it’s worse later when I find out that there are more than two females introduced:

Mchawi (19) and Askari (31)

*Afterwards, I learned Askari was a guy. It was the leather skirt that threw me.

Speaking of introductions: There are a lot of them crammed together before we understand much.
The following dialogue had me laughing. If it’s not your intent, maybe ask: With all the turmoil about, people dying an all: Would Hugh really say, “Your English is good.”?

HUGH
Your English is good.

JEREMIAH
I been taken before.
They... let me go. A free man, suh.

Out of the blue Jeremiah tattles on “the girl” (I don’t know which one) But apparently she’s a witch.
And Hugh says,

HUGH
Yeah, well we don’t believe in no witches. Not on this trip.

But that contradicts his belief in bad luck on pg 1

HUGH
Those slaves have been nothing but bad luck since we got ’em.

Boy ain't that the truth! or Should I say, Suh, ain't that the truth!

Well, I've got Jeremiah's grin permanently fixed on my face for the next bit so that
can't be a bad thing.

Pah, Pah... We need help, Pah!  



A known mistake is better than an unknown truth.

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ReneC
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I'm struggling to identify why I found this boring.

The writing is pretty good. Maybe it's the pace. Things should be happening quickly, but the overly wordy descriptions keep slowing things down. Word choice is another culprit, I think. What should have been tense just seemed to drag.

The first half page is really good. I was hooked. Then it goes into exposition, and we realize we're coming in on the end of a story. I'm less invested now. Jeremiah has "a smile permanently scarred on his face." Is that why it seems he's grinning throughout this? What does that even look like? Is he the Joker? You give great descriptions elsewhere but this is a crucial detail and I can't picture it, or why anyone else would think he's really grinning like he's guilty if it's just scarring.

The logic is a problem. Nine sailors lost, The Libertine is in a storm, and it seems nobody is really doing anything, the ship is sailing itself. Even the wheel is practically abandoned partway through, there's no struggle to fight the sea or anything. Do they really need help?

I doubt anyone who's buying slaves wouldn't know about English speaking slaves being more expensive.

Why did Brad go below again? Did he try to rape the girl? Is that why she's suddenly naked and afraid? How did Brad end up in the water? And ahead of the boat? They didn't have to turn or anything, just hook him up.

The strengths here are in some of the dialogue, in the setting, in the tone, and you do a great job making us wonder who is really behind it all. I was kind of disappointed that the answer was directly stated at the start, but the misdirect was decent, at least in writing. On screen, I'm not sure it would work.

It feels like a good writer didn't have enough time with this one. Good effort, it definitely has potential.


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Angry Bear
Posted: May 4th, 2019, 10:26am Report to Moderator
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I think Bert wrote this one. It screams BERT! If I'm wrong, well then he can take that as a compliment since I really liked it. It was my second favorite.  


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Dustin
Posted: May 4th, 2019, 10:38am Report to Moderator
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Nice work, Bert. This was my number 1.


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bert
Posted: May 4th, 2019, 10:50am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Angry Bear
I think Bert wrote this one. It screams BERT! If I'm wrong, well then he can take that as a compliment since I really liked it. It was my second favorite.  


Quoted from dustinbowcot
Nice work, Bert. This was my number 1.


I can only hope the true author realizes what a supreme compliment is in the offing here haha.

But alas, I did not play this time -- and when I do, I never "review" my own scripts because I can never find flaws with my own work! (Admit them, yes, but never find them...)

Oddly, given the slave angle, I pegged this as Dustin's.


Hey, it's my tiny, little IMDb!
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leitskev
Posted: May 4th, 2019, 1:47pm Report to Moderator
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A Bert imposter. That deserves a story of its own. Maybe not in a moving vehicle, but probably horror.
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Angry Bear
Posted: May 4th, 2019, 1:49pm Report to Moderator
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I'm gobsmacked! It had Tanis and Bert's style all over it.


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bert
Posted: May 4th, 2019, 1:53pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from leitskev
A Bert imposter. That deserves a story of its own. Maybe not in a moving vehicle, but probably horror.




Sorry, author, for goofing off on your thread.  Done now.  Good job on this script.


Hey, it's my tiny, little IMDb!
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Dustin
Posted: May 5th, 2019, 3:53am Report to Moderator
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Feel free to goof as much as you like, I don't care... this isn't my thread. It's just a thread that has my script posted within.

The first draft of this was 14 pages and in that draft was lots of exposition that explained everything. In the second draft (the only one I had time for), I stripped everything out that wasn't necessary.

The comment about slavers needing to ship hundreds of slaves to make it profitable is just plain wrong. Slaves were very valuable. A healthy male could fetch around $1500 which is around 40k today. Imagine having hundreds... the profits would be astronomical - even after deducting the original sale fee. One hundred healthy males would be worth 4 million in today's money. They were far, far cheaper than that in the African marketplace.

The characters in this story need help to work their land back home. To buy 12 slaves would not have been possible in the US. You'd have to be very, very rich to own 12 slaves. So they decide to travel to the source and buy direct from the Africans themselves. A bit like going to a warehouse rather than buying from the store... only slightly more dangerous and the savings are far better.

Trouble with all of that is that it's too talky for a short... and just not necessary for the viewer to know. All that is necessary is that these guys have slaves on their ship and one of them is a witch. I shouldn't have to educate.


Why did Mchawi attack everybody? Should she only attack the white men? That wouldn't make any sense to me.

As for being left on a boat on her own, well she's a witch, the boat would likely end up on land somewhere and then she'd be free.... fuck knows, that's not part of this story. This story ends with the death of Jeremiah.

Why does Jeremiah smile all the time? I think two readers mentioned this... in the initial description, it states that the smile is permanently scarred into his face. He actually can't help it.

I think this answers all of the sensible questions. If not, and you actually care, feel free to ask again.

I never revisit shorts to improve them. This was written for this OWC.

Thanks for all the reads. Especially from those that didn't have to.


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leitskev
Posted: May 5th, 2019, 4:44pm Report to Moderator
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I really struggled with this script. As I said, the problem could be on my end. I tried really hard too. I kept stopping and re-reading. The problem could be with my ability to concentrate, but it resulted in me stopping the read of OWC's for a few days. I forced myself to come back and the ones I read were comparatively easy to read. I love history, too, so I usually like period pieces. The writer could understandably dismiss my reaction to the writing, I seldom read scripts anymore, I stick to prose. But the writer might also consider that part of the problem might be the storytelling techniques employed. Not so he can fix this project, but something to consider in future work. This comment is intended to be constructive.
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