Have an idea for a franchise character? Ever wonder how to execute that idea? How to create that series character?
Me too. Here’s what I have learned from…
Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series of books:
“You can’t design a series character to be successful. Let the character be himself and hope for the best. Don’t worry whether the character will be liked or disliked.”
On character development, Child believes his readers are looking for the same character in different situations. “Series characters don’t even have to age.”
Barry Eisler, author of the John Rain series of books:
“First, you have to remember that when we experience a character in a novel (film), we experience him or her not in isolation, but rather by reference to his or her surroundings.”
Add backstory that makes your protagonist much “…more real to the reader (the audience). Real means understandable, and understandable means, possibly, sympathetic.”
Also, “…explore the character’s inner world. Open up aspects of your character’s psyche that readers (the audience) can relate to.”
So, go ahead, create that franchise.
Not much has been happening on the writing front. Oh, I have plenty of ideas, two partial scripts and just completed a review/rewrite of my previous twelve screenplays.
Now, like most of you, my one or two faithful readers, I’m certain you have hit the proverbial writing wall yourselves. Some might call it Writer’s Block (but, I don’t believe in writer’s block). For me it turns out to be my method of writing. At my most prolific, I was writing everything out in longhand on yellow legal pads, then transcribing to the computer. Lately, in my not so prolific period, I have been writing directly into Final Draft. What’s the difference you might ask? Well, after careful consideration I have come to the following conclusion:
Writing longhand allows for more creativity, flexibility, and brainstorming. Here’s why.
Writing in longhand on yellow legal pads allows me explore alternatives to dialogue and theme and plot. I can draw arrows between lines to emphasize connections, doodle in the margins, explore characters, plot and theme more thoroughly. Then as I input those hand written words into the computer I can do more editing, revising, etc. Two drafts for the price/work of one.
Writing directly into Final Draft makes my writing appear, well, more final. Once it is in the computer all creativity ceases because I’m on to the next line, the next scene, the next sequence. Blahh!
So starting today, all my writing will be on yellow legal pads, revising as I enter the script into Final Draft, and getting my writing MoJo back where it belongs.
This is a great resource or all writers. Check out the following videos:
Andrew Stanton: The clues to a great story — Filmmaker Andrew Stanton (“Toy Story,” “WALL-E”) shares what he knows about storytelling — starting at the end and working back to the beginning. Contains graphic language.
Rob Legato: The art of creating awe — Rob Legato creates movie effects so good they (sometimes) trump the real thing. In this warm and funny talk, he shares his vision for enhancing reality on-screen in movies like Apollo 13, Titanic and Hugo.
Check out the many other talks.
Learn. Teach. Do.
2013 can’t come soon enough.
2012 was not good year, for me at least. I know I have about, oh, say, two readers out there in cyber space, but I truly hope it was much, much better for you. At least it will soon be over and we all can look forward to a clean slate in 2013.
Some of you know, but most don’t, that my lovely wife spent 184 days in the hospital during 2012. She’s had a tough row to hoe, as they say, and, although her prospects are good, the road to recovery will be long and bumpy.
2013 can’t come soon enough.
For myself, the screenwriting suffered, along with my wife. I completed zero; zilch; nada; original scripts, struggled to revise one of my older screenplays, and started to work on another (18 pages and counting… whoopie!). For someone who is in the habit of creating two new scripts each year, not being productive was very painful.
2013 can’t come soon enough.
What are your goals for 2013? Was 2012 a good writing year for you? I hope things do go well for you all (all two of you) and that 2013 is your break out year.
If you get a chance, stop by Schmucks With Underwoods (our screenwriter’s message board) and say HELLO, get involved and follow our motto: Learn. Teach. Do.
Here is the trailer for my spec, Turnabout, previously known as BLACKOUT. Here’s the logline:
An alcoholic ex-Marine, arrested for a series of murders, escapes from the FBI to prove his innocence and prevent the assassination of a man he hates.
December 8th, 2012 in
Huh? You say. It’s true. My current project has an Evil Twin who/which keeps rearing its ugly head and confusing the hell out of me. Very frustrating. Very annoying. Very draining.
Did I mention it was very frustrating?
BACK STORY ALERT!
My script had been in the hands of a production company for many months and, for many months, I had not heard a word from them until…
Out of the blue I receive an email explaining they had been evaluating the script, passing it up and down the ‘food-chain’ and after much careful consideration decided to…
But, they did have some extensive notes for me. Great! Love notes. I read those notes and decided that I agreed with most, hated some, would ignore the rest and began a rewrite the project.
I started by tweaking the existing script here, improving characters there, adding more action, dropping some dialogue, etc. But interesting ideas kept popping in my head and the next thing I knew I was doing a complete rewrite of the script. Now that, in and of itself, ain’t a bad thing, but my other rewrite, the one started earlier, kept tapping me on the shoulder and whispering: “Hey! What about me? I’ll be good.” I agreed. Why reinvent the wheel. And then…
The second rewrite taps me on the other shoulder, The Evil Twin, and yells: “Hey, Dummy! I’m a much better script ‘cause we started from scratch.” I would agree. Why not start fresh?
So I did.
One day I would work on the “Hey, Dummy/Evil Twin” script, feel guilty as hell, put it away, and continue working on the “What about me script”.
Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth.
It was driving me bonkers!
After much soul searching, the Evil Twin script won out (“that would be the ‘Hey, Dummy’ script), but it leaves me wondering: Did I make the correct choice? Has the Evil Twin duped me? Out of jealousy is it distracting me from the better script?
Only time will tell.
So, when I find out I’ll let you know.
Once in a while you come across a gem of a book and you have to ask yourself: do I keep this to my self, or share with my competition? Well, we’re all friends here – the four of us – so… I’ll share.
I discovered a little bookstore – The Drama Book Shop — several years back when the wife and I took a few days to enjoy New York City and while the store mostly caters to playwrights and actors they do have two or three shelves dedicated to screenwriting. One particular book caught my eye: The Dramatic Writer’s Companion, by Will Dunne. The subtitle is: Tools to develop characters, cause scenes, and build stories.
The book is chocked full of tools and exercises to help any writer create compelling stories. This weekend I devoured the book, highlighted it, placed little white plastic tabs at every useful chapter – there are twenty-seven (27) of the little buggers.
Just to wet your whistle, here is a sample from the table of contents on character:
DEVELOPING YOUR CHARACTER
Stage I: Fleshing out the bones
Basic Character Building
What the Character Believes
Where the Character Lives
Where the Character Works
Into the Past Defining Trait
Stage II: Getting to Know the Character
Better Allies: Then and Now
Adversaries: Then and Now
Characters in Contrast
Finding the Character’s Voice
Three Characters in One
The Secret Lives of Characters.
And then this on creating scenes:
CAUSING A SCENE
Stage I: Making Things Happen
Basic Scene Starter
Where in the World Are We?
The Roots of Action
What Does the Character Want?
What’s the Problem?
How it Happens
Scene in a Sentence
Stage II: Refining the Action
Seeing the Scene
There and Then
The Aha!s of the Story
Heating Things Up
The Emotional Storyboard
In the Real of the Senses
The Voice of the Setting
Thinking in Beats
Stage III: Refining Dialogue…
Whew!…. tired of typing. It would be so much easier if you just went on line and look inside the book for yourself. Check it out here at Amazon – and know, I am no way affiliated with either Amazon or the author:
Get it – read it – let me know what you think.
Found an interesting article at http://www.aliciarasley.com/art13.htm. Always good to get another author’s perspective on writing, don’t you think?
1. Plausible plotting starts with cause and effect: Use cause and effect. No random actions and insure your character actions are driven by a motivation that affects the plot.
2. Your protagonist should save the day (or destroy it): Your Protagonist should be the one who resolves the conflict. No one else should solve the mystery, or discover the secret, or arrive just in time to save the day.
3. Give the protagonist a goal, then take it away: Don’t let the protagonist achieve his goal, you’ll have a linear plot. Have him lose the goal, or sacrifice it, or achieve it or realize he doesn’t really want it.
4. The point of plot is change: Events should cause a change in the protagonist’s inner life. Resolve the protagonist’s Arc.
5. Lead readers to the story, but don’t drag them: Set up your opening scenes so readers are led to ask story questions. Give your readers the need to find the answers and to keep turning pages.
6. Make the internal come external: Show how external events cause internal changes in your protagonist. Internal changes cause new, external events.
7. Twist a cliché: Do something new with the tried and the true.
8. Coincidence kills plausibility: Don’t let a one-in-a-million event rescue your protagonist from trouble. Readers will not believe your story.
9. Exposition is ammunition: Tell the readers what they need to know, but only when they need to know it. Ask: “What should the readers know, and when should they know it?”
10. Less is more: Don’t dilute the power of your story by layering on too many conflicts and motivations. Focus on strengthening what you have.
11. Center each scene: Build each scene on some irrevocable event that changes the plot. Readers won’t be able to skip pages because they’ll miss something important.
12. Find the excitement in every scene: Aim for the strongest, most dramatic events that are plausible within the world of your plot and your characters.
13. Always go back to character: Plot should show how characters react under stress when pursuing a goal. You’ll lose readers as soon as they sense you’re forcing your characters to behave in a way that fits the plot instead of their personalities and needs.
Wanted to throw this topic out for your feedback…. What is your favorite screenwriting podcast?
For my money it’s John August’s podcast — Scriptnotes — with Craig Mazin. Two of Hollywood’s better screenwriters will give you solid advice on the business of screenwriting, how things work in Hollyweird, and all with a sense of humor and no BS.
Give it a shot at: http://johnaugust.com/ … I don’t think you will be disappointed.
Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I began my writing career turning out short fiction. I quickly published three short stories and thought to myself, “Hey, this writing shit is easy!” NOT!
Fast forward to today.
I still only have three published credits (haven’s submitted anything in, like, forever), but along the way discovered screenwriting. Twelve scripts later, I’m returning to my fiction-writing roots to discover techniques that will enhance my scripts and a great resource for me has been a series of books written by author Holly Lisle (http://hollylisle.com/). It is from her I have learned what conflict truly is and the types of conflict.
Conflict is, simply put, change. And, according to Lisle, there are five (5) different flavors:
• Implied conflict hides critical information from your audience. In her example you have a scene where blood drips through the ceiling and runs down the wall. Somewhere something or someone is bleeding and your audience wants to know who and why.
• Omniscient conflict allows your audience to see important changes take place (the conflict) without knowing who will be affected by the change, or what dominoes the change will knock over.
• Internal conflict forces your character to suffer. Your character wants something and can’t have it, or has something he wants to get rid of, or wants to do something he can’t, shouldn’t, or won’t and… he is tormented by these issues.
• Interpersonal conflict involves your character interacting with at least one other character. Your hero and that other character want things that get in the way of each other’s wants. Think, Protagonist -vs- Antagonist.
• External conflict forces your character to face impersonal, external forces that endanger, frustrate, or impede him, someone close to him, or the world.
Emerse your characters in conflict. Make them suffer. And always,