Peggy Bechko Wants Writers to Raise the Stakes & “Make It Kick!”

by Peggy Bechko


See what we’re doing here? “Raise the stakes…?” Sure ya do.

You heard me and you know what I mean. To make a story really jump, to grab the viewer’s or reader’s attention, you, the writer, have to get in there and raise the stakes. Make it really personal for the ‘hero’ or ‘heroine.” There’s no better way to really rope ‘em in.

So how, you ask, to you raise the stakes like that?

Ask yourself the question, what are the most personal things, things that affect the everyday lives of the people who’ll be watching that movie or reading that book, that can happen if the character fails at whatever his task is?

It’s so obvious I can make a list:

He’ll lose his job or his life savings or decimate his kid’s college fund, or all of the above.

His family or friends will think ill of him or be disappointed in him. He’ll never be able to face them or hold his head up again.

Something he does will trigger events that will crush someone else – and he decides to do it because the consequences if he doesn’t are too grave.

His reputation will be ruined.

He’ll lose someone he cares deeply about whether through disassociation or death. Whatever it is may cause a wife to divorce or a child to be lost because of lack of treatment for illness.

He’ll be forced to give up a treasured goal or position. He might lose his CEO position and his golden parachute if it’s discovered he’s been embezzling. He might lose his cherished school janitor position. You choose.

He could create a situation that could cause an innocent to pay for his mistake. Maybe he cares. Maybe he doesn’t. Could be a great story either way.

It’s possible he’ll find himself in a position where he has to take a big risk in order to right the untenable situation. It could be a physical risk, a financial risk, a lifestyle risk or a combination. Think of all the situations where taking the risk can result in the ultimate good or the ultimate bad.

Perhaps he forces another to take a risk as great as getting killed in his stead. Maybe he’s in the arm or the police or a firefighter. Perhaps he’s on a rescue team or a crew member on a cruise ship. There are lots of ways that can play out.

Those are a whole lot of the basics. No doubt you can think of more especially if you think back over the books and movies you’ve read (and don’t forget the history books!).

But the key component here is it’s very personal. And by virtue of that simple fact it becomes a much more gripping story element. It’s something the readers and viewers can identify with. All of the above are things people may have experienced in their own lives and if the writer is skilled enough to ratchet those stakes up high enough those kinds of things are what will keep people glued to the screen or turning pages.

The problem or the stakes s to speak, being real, are internalized and for the viewer/reader it turns into a nail-biting experience.

So don’t alienate the audience by putting emotional distance between them and the story. Make it very personal.

Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor.  Learn more about her HERE. And don’t forget Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle.  Grab your copy now!


Who says a parody video can’t be as funky as the original?

Longtime TVWriter™ pro visitor Matt Schwartz (formerly a – gasp! – Cartoon Network Creative Exec) hits it outta the park:

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Written and Directed by: Matthew Schwartz. Starring: Cody Beasinger, Jon Silva, Jason Beever, Kyle Beasinger, Yoko Mizuhara, John Hinson, and Gavin Richards. Produced by Matthew Schwartz and Mike Terrell.

Get the MP3 here: Check out the CLEAN + EXTENDED version here: Get the DIRTY LYRICS version here:…

How Interweb Criticism Reinvented ‘The Leftovers’

The days of the couch potato audience are over. Even major TV series creator-showrunners like LOST’s Damon Lindelof understand that audience interaction is now the name of the game. And all we here at TVWriter™ can say is, “About time:

maxresdefault2by Moze Halperin

Imagine if you could have blogged, “Let’s not determine Laura Palmer’s murderer right now” or “Patrick should give up on Spongebob, it’s never going to happen” or “He really needed to get eaten alive” — and had your opinion-dumps be taken for gospel, changing TV history in service of the greater good? 

Generally, before a new season, we can assume that producers and networks band together to assess critical and audience reactions to the former season. Rarely have these assessments seemed so visible, and so loyal to specific critiques, as the second season of The Leftovers. Watching Season 2, it seems less like creators Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta reimagined their show than that every critical blog post conjoined in a communal, idealized fan fictional doppelgänger of the original.

The process of constructing a new vision for the show based on accidentally constructive criticism could have gone completely awry, resulting in disjointed and excessive pandering, but the creators appear to have had an impeccably coherent plan for addressing the critiques: they’ve maintained a semblance of the show they first made while restructuring it on the most fundamental levels.

The Location

Criticism: Though few directly took issue with the show’s original setting of Upstate NY, there were elements of the location that bothered people: the rural colorlessness of Mapleton led to criticism about how “[the show’s] slowness can seem shallow, its artiness willful,” or how “bleak isn’t the same thing as profound.” The creators chose a setting to match the tone, not complicate it.

The Solution: Send the morose characters who mirrored their morose location somewhere more spirited. The new location — Miracle, TX — is also a small town. But as its name suggests, it is not supposed to be an American Anywhere, but a singular place that’s been heightened to the level of being an exalted symbol (Miracle is a nickname — the town is actually called Jarden)….

Read it all at Flavorwire

Is There Really Such a Thing as “a Shonda Rhimes Show?”

Or to put it another way, can TV really be a home for auteurs? Should it be?


by Chloe Gilke

Last spring, I enrolled in a class called “Hitchcock and Modernity.” I’m a certified Hitchcock fanatic and freely spend my time writing unassigned essays about “Vertigo” and the male gaze, so the opportunity to learn about some of my favorite movies in a class setting was impossible to pass up. Still, as I clicked the “register” button, something about the course’s title made my skin crawl. Hitchcock and Modernity. Like countless other English classes at the University, this course would be focused on a single author and his body of texts, noting repeated themes and language and analyzing their significance — but authorship in film is not as simplistic as this method implies.

Critics and academics have been looking at movies this way for over 50 years. Writers for a French film journal called Cahiers du Cinema coined the term auteur to describe a superior group of directors. Their movies would always be more interesting and deserving of analysis than those written by their second-rung (metteur en scène) counterparts, because these authors possessed more talent than just technical competence and the ability to tell actors to move around a room. An auteur imbued his films with his own personal touch, and each stroke of genius could be traced back to his other movies and the patterns analyzed for meaning. The theory was later adopted by American critics, who added a whole mess of qualifications to be an auteur: An auteur’s movies must get better and better for his whole career, he had to have a godlike command of how his story was told and surpass all the financial and creative difficulties that the other hacks working on his movie presented him with. At the end, the auteur’s movie would stand as a singular representation of his vision and innovation.

This theory began to lose steam in the years following the 1960s as other critics pointed out the flaws in the auteur logic. Choice directors like Orson Welles and Hitchcock didn’t make amazing movies for their whole lives, and any of the second-tier filmmakers probably could have made a film less bloated than Welles’s “F for Fake.” And what about the other authors of movies — screenwriters, who have just as much a hand in creating a film’s symbolism and meaning? What about women and filmmakers of color, who often aren’t afforded the same opportunities to rise above studio restrictions with their cinematic voices intact? And what about TV, where directors don’t hold quite as much esteem, and it’s anybody’s guess who will end up getting public credit for creating an acclaimed TV show? With all these inconsistencies, the auteur theory has died and been laid to rest in the pages of my film theory textbook. Well, almost.

Since “The Sopranos” kicked off the “Golden Age” of TV, the small screen has become the new hot spot for powerful cinematic authors. It’s the series’ showrunner who usually gets the auteur treatment, because he holds a role similar to the movie director. In most TV writers’ rooms, the decisions for plotting the season and formulating character arcs rest with the showrunner. Because many series feature the work of multiple writers and directors in a given season, the auteur crown goes to the person who sits on throne and makes everything happen. This logic isn’t without fault….

Read it all at Michigan Daily

When in Doubt, Blame the TV Writers

Okay, so nine times out of ten you’ll be right. Still, it hurts to be a whipping boy. Especially for actors. Even actors who do their thing on another continent. Sigh…

TV needs improvement in writing: Tarun Khanna

Ah, now we see where Tarun's expertise comes from - his 6 pack.

Ah, now we see where Tarun’s expertise comes from – his 6 pack.

Actor Tarun Khanna, who has been part of the entertainment industry since over a decade, feels TV shows as compared to previous times have improved technically, but they lack in terms of writing and hence need better writers.

“TV shows have developed in terms of grandeur. Quality of technique has also gone high. But we still need to look into the writing part. We need improvement there. Earlier there was Rahi Masoom Raza. There is nobody today in his comparison,” Tarun, best known for his roles in shows like “Chandragupta Maurya”, “Devon Ke Dev…Mahadev” and “Mahabharat”, told IANS.

He also said that certain actors “who flop on screen” become writers.

“Though we have some writers like Raghuvir Shekhawat, Amit Aryan. But writing is a specialist job. It shouldn’t be like if you did not become a successful actor, so you start working as a writer,” he added.

Tarun also highlighted the need to have writers like Gulzar and Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

“Gulzar sahab also must have thought once to act in a film. Today there are many directors, who have started acting. But very few like Gulzar and Sanjay Leela Bhansali understand their job. The kind of niche they have in writing, today’s writers don’t have. Today’s writers should look into the matter that they have scripted. We need more writers like them,” he added.

Tarun can currently be seen as Shamsher Devgun in new action comedy show “Police Factory”….

Read it all at Daiji World

Writers Don’t Get No Respect Department

It’s a bad day in Mumbai, but not all that different from conditions right here at home in beautiful Beverly Hills. What’s a writer to do?


Film writers’ body on pen-down strike
by Maharashtra

The Film Writers Association (FWA) on Saturday declared a ‘pen-down’ strike and called for action to association members and writing community at large.

Every five years, the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) signs a MoU with the producers’ bodies to ensure a wage-increase and improved conditions for workers. This year FWA and other talent-based unions including cinematographers, editors, art directors, sound recordists, etc, have decided to make the standards contract a part of this MoU.

The standards contracts includes clauses about working hours, basic pay, accountability of the producer, etc. This dynamic contract was presented to the Producers’ association in February this year and has still not been signed.

“We want our basic rights, we are not asking for anything over what we are due. The industry has a feudalistic mindset, it’s as though they say be grateful we are the ones that give you work. No one has even acknowledged the receipt of the contract let alone sign it and I have sent dozens of reminders,” says Kamlesh Pandey, general secretary, FWA, and president, FWICE.

The strike calls for writers to stop all work for TV and Film, this includes avoiding writing at home, attending meetings with production houses and working on ideas.

Originally published at The Hindu