Hi Ian –
Just finished Ghost of Thalessa (promised I’d get to it as soon as the first polish was done on Vegging Out…which I finally whipped together on Thursday.) Here are my thoughts and notes, outlined basically the way I did with Planemo – overview first, and various lines that I particularly enjoyed or wanted to otherwise comment on at the end. Let me know if you’d like this posted to SS, and I’ll do that, too. Cheers, --J
Overview: Of the two (Planemo and Ghost) I think I liked G.O.T. more. Which is kind of surprising, since – as we’ve discussed before – I’ve got an SF background. And historical stuff tends to bore me to death. But it’s not the subject matter that made the difference; it’s the fact that Ghost was… more human and personality centric. There were more characters that I cared about in Ghost, that came across as distinct personalities. And that was particularly noticable in the “discovering the artifact scene” with the submergible. (Which of course had a distinctly James Cameron feel.) Griffin, Henshow and Mullen popped out at me at the most interesting and likeable characters in the script. I was actually disappointed that they faded so far into the background after the first act, in favor of *only* Jamussa, Celik and Dounias. (I’d actually urge you to integrate Griffen and Co. further, but more on that later.) As with Planemo, you’ve got a lot of solid good foundations here…political intrigue, chases, the supernatural, etc – and you’ve obviously done your historical homework. So kudos on all that. What I think you need to do (again, same as with Planemo), is make Ghost even more character focused than it already is. You’ve got a good start with these characters here… you just need to turn it up a few notches. (As an aside, I’m really sure I’m comfortable with one of the twists – eventually turn Constantine human. It… just doesn’t work for me; I’d rather he stay an enigma and a haunted soul to a certain extent. Having him mortal takes away some of the power and mystery, IMHO.
Re: the writing, BTW – what I mentioned previously with Planemo applies here as well. When you rewrite this (and I think it’s worth doing, btw), go for less description. Streamline the heck out of the descriptions, making sure that each action has its own paragraph, and that every verb is as active as you can make it. (For instance, storm across the deck vs. walk, etc.) Cut back on the “ing” and “ly” words, and keep verbs as active present to the extent you can… (ie: walks vs. walking.) Honestly, it can’t be done 100% of the time without somethings coming off as awkward. But do it to the extent that it still feels organic. Oh – and try to weed out the camera directions. IE: don’t have characters walk OS or describe them as being in the BG. That pulls a reader out of the story, and that is never good…
So – here are the detailed thoughts…
Don’t mention the title. That’s up to the director and cinematographer.
Certain things shouldn’t be capped. For instance, on page 1, you’ve got Constantine’s sword and movement both as caps. Really, only intros to characters and sound effects that are put in post-production should be capped. That’s the general rule, FWIW.
A few times throughout the script, you’ll refer to background characters by number. Goon #1 or 2, Soldier #1, etc. I’d avoid that as much as possible. It’s too generic. Pick out something neat and visual to refer to the character by. Say, the soldier has hulking shoulders. Then he becomes HULKING SOLDIER. Something like that. (BTW, didn’t really care for calling the other characters “goons” later on. It felt too cartoony to me. Though I’m not sure what the best replacement would be.)
Just only more comment about how things could be streamlined. On page two, you mention that “Constantine reacts to seeing a close friend dying.” That’s the sort of thing that can be completely cut out – just show him react! No need to tell the reader, too. ☺
P. 6 – I’m noticing that the battle seems to be going on too long. That’s one thing that I also noticed in this script overall. There’s an old, old writer cliché that one should come into a scene as late as possible, and leave as early as possible – and the reason why it is a cliché is because (by and large) it’s true. Brevity is good. It keeps the reader interested and reading. Chop absolutely EVERYTHING that isn’t necessary to shorten scenes. Three – Four pages per scene should be the rule of thumb, unless absolutely necessary.
p 7 poop deck? Isn’t that the wrong era? (I could be wrong)
p. 8 would the wood have lasted this long underwater? Of course, the reason could be supernatural. But if so, then the characters should be commenting on how odd it is that it’s still so intact…
As mentioned previously, I like these characters (Henshew, Griffin, etc.) I would REALLY love to see them play a bigger part overall. IE: have them dragged reluctantly along with the investigation. Maybe they’re somehow linked to Constantine due to the initial encounter on the ship – and they’re therefore needed. It’s just weird to see them disappear, just as I’m starting to like them.
P. 11 – It looks like a box. (Seriously?) ☺ Also, would Griffin even suggest opening it underwater, or want to wait until it’s onboard?
P. 14 – I’m feeling the scene drag a bit at this point. IMHO – you need to punch it up, really emphasize the danger in the submergible.
P 15 – here’s a good example of a scene that could be stopped earlier. One suggestion: end with Henshaw saying “we brought something up”, then cut to a quick shot of the box being lifted and placed on deck…
P. 16 – more description of Jane Mullen. Her age, too?
P. 16 – The paint’s still vibrant? Again – if it’s due to a supernatural effect, then the characters should definitely comment on it.
P. 18: Don’t have the characters AD LIB. Everyone GROANS would be fine…
P. 20: When Constantine “attacks” Mullen, it seems like everyone else has just disappeared… quick scene or two establishing what’s happening elsewhere on the ship may be in order.
P .26: I like the buddy-buddy relationship that you’re establishing with Dounias and Jamussa, but I think they need even more spark, conflict. The banter between them is definitely fun, btw – but really have these guys lock horns. The more conflict, the better. Despite their potential, these two sometimes come across as too flat.
P. 29 – Mullen’s in a nunnery?!? How long has it been? And – did she show any signs of being religious before..?
P. 48 – One thing I’m running across at this point: there’s just so much straight investigation of the incident after the fact and talking going on (mostly between Dounias and Jamussa.) We need to make a lot more of this stuff an immediate, present-day occurrence. Bring in more scenes with Constantine being menacing, for instance. Another idea I had later on: there’s so much talk of a potential war between Greece and the Turkey…which is great, bringing in potential political conflict is a terrific way to up the stakes. But not as discussion. Make it realer. More urgent. Perhaps…one of Jamussa’s superiors (a new character) is attempting to instigate a war due to his political beliefs. Have HIM responsible for the attacks on the investigative team. Bring in double-dealing, double-crossing, and scenes where the reader knows what’s about to happen, but Dounias, Jamussa and Celik are about to walk into a trap, unawares. BTW – I had a simliar problem with my first draft of Territory. I wanted it to be mystery/gothic centered, and – of course – keep the creature’s identity and actual existence uncertain until the very end. As a result, it came off too dry and talky. In the end, I added a lot of killing scenes that weren’t originally in there…though keeping most of it to the shadows to preserve the mystery. It’s a balance that one has to make. IE: keep it interesting, even if mystery is a priority…
P. 96 – I like how the conflict grows between Constantine and the priests. Two supernatural forces, battling it out? Nice touch.
P. 99 – Jasmussa’s attempted suicide – also a nice touch. Strongly made me think of Inspector Javier in Les Miz, btw – was that intentional? I think it would have an even more powerful effect if you made him more religious and neurotic throughout the script…leading up to this point.
Last act – As mentioned above, I’m kind of dicey on the idea of having Constantine turn fully mortal. My gut reaction is that he should stay a ghost – perhaps returning to take away Jamussa or Mullen – whoever he ends up bonding to the most (depending on the eventual plot point changes in the rewrite.)
So – to summarize: my five cents: I’d say – integrate Mullen and Griffin into the Act Two investigation. Create an even bigger political conspiracy with a new third character to “up the stakes” while the investigation is going on. Add in more supernatural scenes with Constantine – keeping his motives unsure until the very end. Just a few thoughts – to take or leave as you will! Hope this helps? I think you’ve got some really fun stuff to work with, here.
Lines/bits that I particularly liked:
P. 4 Are there no Christians among you who will take my head?
P. 6 The priests fade into the stone. Great! We need that touch of supernatural here. Nice surprise.
* In general, the indigo glow is nice, too…though perhaps used a little TOO much…
p. 10 – the back joke. Cute. ☺ As with Planemo, it’s obvious that you’ve got a knack for character quips and snarkiness back and forth. When polished with other bits of the writing craft, that’s definitely going to serve you well.
P. 12 – Bet you say that to all the girls
P. 13 – Bulges like a mini volcano (nice visual)
P 15 – I don’t know what it was, but it wasn’t luck
P. 17 – several centuries, in fact. Nice
P. 22 – cross between archeaology and a homicide scene
P. 27 – It was horrible. ☺
P. 31 More persuasive.
P. 33 – I know, it was boring. (Nice bring back on the presentation.)
P. 34 – The gutted fish analogy – very nice and visual.
P. 48 – Testicle comment. ☺
P. 56 – Next time, you sit in front
P. 57 – I can shoot back this time
P. 57 – Was getting shot part of the plan?
P. 58 – That is your opinion, not mine
P. 60 – Oh God, here we go again (Occam’s Razor – yay!)
P. 60 - Afoot.
P. 66 – If I die, you may have mine
P. 68 – He does (know how to use the weapon)
P. 76 – Did I swear in your mosque?