Saturday, February 16, 2013

New website!

I have my own website now.

Please bookmark and visit for information on my books, humorous columns, theatre education, and more. I'll also be transferring some of the content on this blog gradually, in addition to plenty of new material over time.

Thanks for looking.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Writing to direct

Continuing the series on theatre education for high school students...

So you’ve decided you want to direct a one-act your senior year, and you search and you search and you search, but you just can’t find the right script for you.

In that case, you might want to consider writing your own play. That way, you customize the show for your performance space, your available casting pool, and your overall comfort level. Basically, you choose your own directing adventure.

If you opt for this route, only a handful of limitations stand before you: any guidelines of appropriateness required in your school, budget constraints, your school’s stage, and the laws of physics and reality. Still, you’ve got tons of freedom.

You want to do comedy? Drama? Romance? Sheer absurdity? The choice is yours.

There are many different facets of playwriting I could talk about, but let’s focus on just one for now:

When writing a play, consider movement.

This is especially useful if you’re writing this play for your directorial debut and you’re still learning the ropes about that side of the operation, too. If you incorporate movement into your script, that’s less you’ll have to figure out during the rehearsal process--and more that will organically develop on its own. But the key here is to incorporate movement that needs to happen, as opposed to arbitrary movement for the sake of movement.

I wrote my first play my senior year of high school for the purpose of having something to direct. Without even consciously realizing it at the time, I incorporated a simple set-up that generated tons of action throughout the show.

This one-act was based on my senior Homecoming dinner experience, and therefore, I called it “The Play About Homecoming.” I was part of a group of six. The three girls were friends of mine, and the other two guys didn’t even go to our school...and those two guys were a little on the unusual side. Or a lot on the unusual side. One thought he'd impress the girls by trying to resuscitate his chicken dinner, for example. So, there was plenty of fodder for comedy there, especially when you have license to exaggerate things to absurd proportions. (This is playwriting, not journalism.)

Dinner, of course, is a somewhat static activity. People just sit at the table and talk. While you can develop some fun dialogue in such a situation, it’s not very visual. And theatre is in large part a visual medium. If I just had everyone sitting at a table for 15-20 minutes, it would have dragged.

So, I placed the women’s restroom to one side of the table, and the men’s restroom at the other. I couldn’t build those sets, so I simply established them with signs and had the actors pantomime opening the doors and washing their hands. This gave the girls a place to run off to when they needed to vent about their horribly awkward dates. And I could also have the dorky guys act all goofy while admiring themselves in their bathroom mirror.

By giving a place for the actors to move to, a snowball effect occurred. I kept thinking of more pieces of action and comedy to incorporate into the script.

Movement helps the overall flow of a show tremendously. When you first begin writing your script, figure out a basic set for the show and have it be a functional set. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, and it probably shouldn’t be. I used little more than a table and two invisible bathrooms, and with that, my cast generated tons of laughter from an appreciative audience.

Remember, movement can help actors keep their energy up. Sometimes, it provides memory cues for lines. Most importantly, it gives the audience something dynamic to watch.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

RIP teaser: "Touch"

RIP is coming this March.

But it's still only February, so what ever will we do in the meantime? I know! Let's have a preview!

First, the basic idea of the series, again, is:

Opening yourself up to a whole new world can leave you vulnerable—but it’s the only way to grow. That’s what Rip Cooper has to do when he learns he can perceive ghosts with his five senses as if they were flesh and blood people, and he’s just as solid to them—in fact, the only solid thing to them. This young loner has to overcome his fears and kill dead people to prevent them from corrupting the living. He works alongside an impure angel and his ex-best friend’s ex-girlfriend as they teach him how love can conquer fear.

You can find more information here.

RIP tells one big coming-of-age and redemption story over a series of novelettes...e-novelettes, that is.

The first installment is titled "Touch."

I've posted the teaser below. Other excerpts might find their way onto my Facebook page from time to time.

Text copyright Daniel R. Sherrier. Do not reproduce without permission.


Rip Cooper never forgot the haunted house in which he spent his early childhood, though no one else seemed to notice its condition. Did he imagine it? No, he remembered the day all too well, and every memory earns its place.

The Cooper family lived in a tiny home, a quaint box with two tight floors and a creepy basement. The front lawn was always kept trim, though there was too little lawn to qualify that as a feat of any proportion. The real selling point was the in-ground pool in the backyard. A lovely pool, indeed. Its square footage nearly rivaled that of the house itself. The quaint box’s age spanned decades, thereby qualifying as ancient to its five-year-old resident.

The kitchen had a decent stretch of smooth, tiled floor—creaky, like the rest of the place, but excellent for rolling around toy cars. Rip gave one a hard push, and it raced away.

“Ripley, don’t leave any of those toys lying around when you’re finished, please,” his mother called out from the living room.

The die-cast metal car careened across the kitchen floor and through a crack under a door, the most horrible door in the whole wide world—the door to that creepy basement. He shouldn’t have pushed so hard.

Rip scooped up his other cars and dumped them in their box. Just one more to claim, but it had escaped his view. He inched toward that looming door, stopping as soon as his arm was within reach. Leaning forward, he stuck his fingers in the crack and pulled the door out, hoping that would reveal the wayward toy and he could grab it and close the door just as quickly.

It didn’t. All he saw was a deep, dark gulf. And somewhere down there in that foreboding abyss was his car.

His crawling skin suggested he stop right there, and a newly unsettled stomach seconded the motion.

His mother wanted him to pick up his toys, all his toys. She always warned that people could trip on them. Therefore, he had no choice. He needed to enter the basement.

He trembled as he crept down the wooden staircase into the chilly depths. Each step laughed at him with a creak.

The light from the kitchen shined a perfect path to the stray car. There it was, overturned near the shelves. He just had to follow the light, grab the car, and leave. Why did it have to be so far away?

His foot touched down on the smooth, rock-hard ground. He quivered as his courage faltered, and he began turning back to the kitchen…No! He had to get his toy. His mother said so. And you always do what your mother tells you, especially when she says please.

He took a few more steps toward the car, trying his best to resist the shiver sent from his brain straight down his spine.

Then he made the mistake of looking up.

Gleaming jack o’ lanterns lined the shelves up and down the wall—and that was just in the parts he could see. They weren’t there a moment ago, were they? He forgot all about a moment ago, because big ugly pumpkins now grinned at him, each one carrying a small piece of hellfire inside.

Rip screamed. He spun around to escape—so quickly that his legs tangled his feet, causing him to trip and crash to the floor.

He buried his face in his hands. He should have covered his ears.

“My, aren’t we a brave little one?”

A man was in his basement, and it wasn’t his father; wasn’t any relative. The voice was unfamiliar, new. It didn’t belong.

Rip sprang to his feet and froze. The jack o’ lanterns had vanished, and in the middle of the lighted path appeared a gaunt old man with wizened skin, disheveled silver hair, and no smile. Nice people smiled.

Rip had never seen him—not a moment ago, not a month ago, not ever. Sure, those hideous pumpkins were gone, but a strange man in raggedy clothing now stood in his basement. At least he could run away from pumpkins…they couldn’t reach out and grab him…

The old man’s jaw dropped. “You can see me, and hear me.” His voice was gravelly, but the chuckle that escaped his throat was worse. “I see. You’re one of the Seven, aren’t you, boy?” He stepped toward young Rip.

The boy instinctively shielded his eyes, muttering, “No, no, no…”

The old man began, “Do you know how long—” and Rip heard nothing else.

He opened his eyes and peered around. The man had disappeared.

But the jack o’ lanterns were back. This time, they cackled at him.

Crying piteously, Rip booked it up the stairs to the safe haven of brightness above. He slammed the door behind him with enough force to rattle the kitchen window.

What Rip hadn’t realized, and didn’t dare contemplate just then, was that the old man hadn’t gone anywhere. He was still there, lurking in the shadows of the basement, just as he had for years.

“Just a little boy. A little coward,” the old man said, letting out a wheezing laugh. “Good.”

He strolled over to the abandoned toy car. He knelt and held his hand over it. The die-cast metal, untouched, began to vibrate.
          “I’ll have nothing to fear from a coward.”

Friday, February 8, 2013

RIP -- what it's all about

Opening yourself up to a whole new world can leave you vulnerable -- but it's the only way to grow. Rip Cooper, 24, may be a successful freelance photographer making a name for himself in a new town, but personally, he's in a rut. No friends, no goals, no greater purpose. He's going through the motions...until the “angel” Serissa informs him that he's “one of the Seven.” That’s the starting point of RIP, a series of e-novelettes that blends drama, humor, action, and the paranormal.

At any given time, seven individuals throughout the world are gifted with the capacity for extraordinary perception. They can see, hear, touch, smell, and even taste ghosts. The flip side is: Ghosts can do the same to them.

Most people who die go either to Heaven or Hell, depending on how they lived their lives. But some are on the fence. These people linger around the Earth as invisible, inaudible, intangible ghosts, and each one has a choice to make -- become a better person and earn a place in Heaven, or give up and settle on Hell. The former are considered angels, and the latter tend to become demonic. It is, however, possible for a ghost to shift back and forth before finally being summoned to either place.

Rip is not Mr. Action-Hero. He’s a decent fighter, but he initially has no incentive to fight.

The series is about Rip coming to terms with his place in the world. He must choose to embrace his new role and excel, or turn his back on it and slide into a life of untapped potential and mediocrity. He's a loner who yearns to be a part of the world -- and being a freelance photographer, he’s often on the outside looking in. Also, he was never a brave child, but as an adult he must resolve to cultivate his courage.

Serissa serves as Rip's angel guide and steers him to where he's needed. But she's also a recently deceased, sociable young woman who misses life and interacting with the living. Rip is the only solid entity she's ever encountered in her afterlife, the only living person who can even acknowledge her.

She's an angel, true, but in this world, angels are merely flawed people working their way out of purgatory and trying to avoid an eternal sentence in Hell. Rip fears becoming separated from the world, but Serissa already is. She's a fun angel, and her colorful personality serves as a contrast to Rip's more subdued nature. However lively she seems, she’s always just hanging on by a thread. After all, there’s no proof there actually is a Heaven, and when you’re an intangible ghost, it’s hard to hold on to anything.

RIP is coming to a digital device near you in late March.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

It began as a teleplay...

RIP, my upcoming e-novelette series, began life as a TV pilot script.
It was a semifinalist in the 2011 PAGE International Screenwriting Contest in the TV Drama category and a finalist in the 2010 People’s Pilot Competition.

A Hollywood producer, in passing on the script, said it was “a fun idea” but he “would prefer to see this show executed in a more episodic/procedural way...”

There you have it. RIP -- not formulaic enough for Hollywood!

(The producer was very nice, I must say. He certainly did not have to read my script. His comments merely demonstrated why this story is a better fit for books than TV. So, you get to read it soon!)

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Continuing the series on theatre education for high school students...

Casting a show can be fun, but there’s one potentially stressful part. For most school one-act festivals, you’re competing with several other directors for the same pool of actors. You probably won’t get everyone you want. You have to realize that going in.

As I said last time, you need to consider alternative cast members before you meet with the other directors. That way, if one actor isn’t available, you have someone else in mind you’re comfortable with.

Here’s the tricky part here...Unless you’re doing a one-person show, no actor gets cast in a vacuum. You’re looking for talent in each individual actor, yes, but you also want to make sure these people have some chemistry with each other--that they look and feel right together.

For example, if your script calls for three girls who all need to be the same age and who appear together frequently, you might not want to cast one senior and two freshmen. Unless she looks as young as the freshmen, the senior might stand out in an awkward way. They might all be great individually, but something could look a little off when you put them together.

It’s easy to get so focused on each individual role that you forget about the larger picture.

Of course, you’re not going to get your ideal cast. You’ll have to make concessions, just as the other directors will make concessions that will work in your favor.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Announcing a new series...

Coming soon...

Opening yourself up to a whole new world can leave you vulnerable -- but it’s the only way to grow. That’s what Rip Cooper has to do when he learns he can perceive ghosts with his five senses as if they were flesh and blood people, and he’s just as solid to them -- in fact, the only solid thing to them. This young loner has to overcome his fears and kill dead people to prevent them from corrupting the living. He works alongside an impure angel and his ex-best friend’s ex-girlfriend as they teach him how love can conquer fear.

Look for RIP, an episodic series of ebook novelettes, this spring.
Let the teasing begin...