Writing Tip: Steal Bicycles

Writing Tip: Steal Bicycles

In which my screenwriting professor gives me some interesting advice

I’m a writer with dreams of working in film, so I took a screenwriting course this past semester. In addition to working on our own screenplays, every week we watched a new film and read the screenplay. And every week, my teacher asked us the same unusual question: “What would you steal?”

The first few times she asked us that question, I was very confused. Was she really encouraging us to steal parts of the movies we saw? Wasn’t that, well, copyright infringement? Also, wasn’t the point of learning to be a writer to train our brains to be original? Shouldn’t we avoid what’s been done before, for fear of being sued by a film company or of coming off as derivative and cliché to your viewers?

To explain herself, my teacher told us a story about a trip she took to Europe. I’ve forgotten what city or country she was in, but one day she went to pick up a friend for lunch, riding a bicycle there. She leaned her bicycle against the wall, took a few steps away to knock on the door and shout upstairs to her friend, and then returned to her bicycle -- but the bicycle was no longer there. It had been stolen.

My teacher tried to find her bicycle, but she quickly learned that in this particular city, bicycle theft was incredibly difficult to combat. People would take a bicycle, and shortly afterwards that bicycle would have been taken apart and mixed up with the parts of other bicycles -- a wheel here, a handlebar there -- with the result that several people would now be riding on bicycles that included a part of her bicycle, but there was no way to prove that they had taken her bicycle. Her bicycle, effectively, did not exist anymore. What existed now were several “new” bicycles, which had been made possible by an old bicycle.

This was how she wanted us to look at “stealing” from other people’s work: as using something old to make something new, something that no one could look at and say, “That’s identical to this old thing I saw before,” but something that wouldn’t exist without that old thing. What could we take from a movie or screenplay and work with to make it our own?

Stories are bicycles -- metaphorically, of course. They are the result of a collective experience, one that’s built up since before copyright was a thing, or before we even had developed the letters used to spell “copyright infringement.” If a story is going to mean something to someone, it has to be relatable in some way. A completely new story, if it is to be understood, must in some way come from the already-understandable world. And the best way to learn what can be understood is to look to other stories that have made it big.

Writers steal all the time, both intentionally and unintentionally. We literally cannot avoid what has been done before. To illustrate, let me tell a story of my own. My family just read the screenplay I wrote this semester. Now, I knew that I’d stolen some things: the repeated “We need to plan; we need to think” from "Thelma and Louise," the dramatic all-revealing rant from near the end of "Chinatown," and the emotional rather than beat-by-beat description of the battle between Jack Sparrow and Barbossa in the screenplay of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl." What I didn’t see coming was that when I read aloud the part where my villain refers to the heroes as “meddlesome kids,” and my sister chimed in, off-script, “And their dumb dog, too!”

We all laughed, and I truthfully insisted that it wasn’t an intentional reference, but of course I had stolen it. Where else would I have gotten that idea? This movie, which no one would look at and think is a total ripoff of "Scooby-Doo" (it’s not a mystery, no one’s in a costume, and there are no goofy chase scenes), would nonetheless not exist as it does without that old cartoon. My screenplay is a new bicycle, with a pedal from "Scooby-Doo," accidentally stolen.

Cover Image Credit: Clipart Panda

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To The Senior Graduating High School In A Month

"What feels like the end, is often the beginning."

It wasn’t too long ago that I was in your shoes. Just a little over a year ago, I was the senior that had a month left. One month left in the hometown that I grew up in. One month left with the friends that I didn’t want to leave. One month left in the place that I had called “my school” for the past four years. You are probably thinking the same things I thought whenever it came down to only 30 days left. You’re probably scared, nervous, worried, or anxious. Maybe you’re like me and are dying to get out of high school, ready to start a new chapter. Or maybe you aren’t so ready yet. Maybe you’re wishing for a little more time.

As scary as it is, this month you have left will fly by. You’ll blink and you’ll be standing in your cap and gown, waiting for your name to be called to receive your diploma. You’ll look back on your last four years at your school and wonder why time went by so fast. It’ll be bittersweet. However, trust me when I say that you have so much to look forward to. You are about to begin taking the steps to build your future. You are going to grow and learn so much more than any high school class could teach you. You are going to meet amazing people and accomplish amazing things. So, as scared as you might be, I encourage you to take that first step out of your comfort zone and face this world head on. Chase your dreams and work towards your goals. You are smart. You are brave. You are capable of achieving amazing things. All your life, the lessons you have learned have prepared you for this point in your life. You are more than ready.

There are times when you will feel alone, scared, or confused. There are times when it won’t always be easy. But those are the times when you will shine the most because I know you will work through whatever problems you may face. Don’t think of the bad times as a terrible thing. Use them all as learning experiences. As author Joshua Marine once said, “Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”

You might think that this is the end. However, it’s not. This is only the beginning. Trust me when I say that the adventures and opportunities you are about to face are nothing compared to high school. Whether you are going to college, going to work, or something else, this is the beginning of your journey called life. It will be exciting, it will be terrifying, but it will all be worth it.

So, as you walk out of your high school for the very last time, I encourage you to take a deep breath. Relax. You’ll always have the memories to look back on from high school. But your time is now, it begins today. Embrace it.

Cover Image Credit: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1152445/images/o-HIGH-SCHOOL-GRADUATION-facebook.jpg

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A Beginner's Guide to Milwaukee Sports

Part I: The Bucks


Being a college student in Milwaukee has its perks, especially for sports fans. Now, while some may have brought their hometown teams to college, others (myself included) may have warmed up to the Cream City teams without knowing much about them. If this is the case for you, then these pointers can help you start enjoying Milwaukee basketball without looking and sounding like a bandwagon fan.

Quick History


Here are some facts about the Bucks that can make you feel more knowledgeable about the franchise:

- They have only won one championship (back in 1971) and have lost one NBA Finals series (1974) (Land of Basketball)

- They have only had one* MVP-caliber player in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (#33) during the 1971, 1972, and 1974 seasons (Land of Basketball)

- Other Notable Players Include: Oscar Robertson (#1), Sidney Moncrief (#4), Jon McGlocklin (#14) and Ray Allen (#34) (Land of Basketball)

*Giannis Antetokounmpo may win the MVP award this year

sited: https://www.landofbasketball.com/teams/milwaukee_bucks.htm

Gear Up


This one is a bit of a no-brainer. Wearing team's colors or spirit wear is a must, especially if you're going to a game. Most items like hats and t-shirts are perfectly acceptable, and these are great if you're not trying to break the bank. Buying your gear from a sporting goods store will usually be cheaper than buying them from the team store (the main one of which is located in Fiserv Forum). Most online stores like NBA.com, Fanatics, Fansedge, and sometimes even the team's online store will have sales on sports gear, so getting a good deal on team wear is always a plus!

A Word of Caution: Jerseys

All three of these players are not part of the 2018-2019 roster and #77 and #3 have been reused by current players Ersan Ilyasova (#77) and George Hill (#3)


If you're willing to go the extra mile, buying a jersey can really get you into locked in and pumped for the live action. However, it should be kept in mind that official Nike NBA jerseys range from $110-$250, so they definitely are an investment. While there are other options available like the FastBreak jerseys by Fanatics, they are a simpler (still official) knockoff of the Nike jerseys. Also; beware buying sale jerseys. There are usually three reasons why jerseys are ever on sale (aside from a storewide sale): a player is injured, a player doesn't play much and is about to be traded, or a player has been traded. While there is nothing wrong with having the jersey of a player who went on to another team (like Kareem and Allen), you are not exactly going to get brownie points for wearing a Jabari Parker or a Thon Maker jersey anytime soon.

Know The Current Squad

Fiserv Forum, Home of the Milwaukee Bucks


Everyone in Milwaukee has heard of Giannis Antetokounmpo, but who else is part of the supporting cast?

Starting Five for the 2018-2019 Milwaukee Bucks (Basketball Reference):

- #6 Eric Bledsoe at Point Guard

- #13 Malcolm "The President" Brogdon at Shooting Guard

- #22 Khris "Money" Middleton at Small Forward

- #34 Giannis "The Greek Freak" Antetokounmpo at Power Forward

- #11 Brook "Splash Mountain" Lopez at Center

Student Perk


Using your university email, you can get special discount ticket offers for home games by signing up for the Bucks' Student Rush Program. Tickets usually start at $15 per ticket, and the seats available may depend on who the Bucks are playing (and how well they are doing during the season).

Get Involved and Have Fun!

Mascot Crawl GIF by NBA - Find & Share on GIPHY Giphy

Don't be afraid to get into it! The Bucks are an amazing team to watch and they love Bucks Nation. In addition to cheering at games, going to team events and player appearances can be great ways to make memories and even get an autograph or two!

Are You a Bucks Fan Now?🦌


I think Giannis would agree!

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