Peggy Bechko’s World of Stand-up (Sit Down?) Writing

by Peggy Bechko

Sitting or Standing – oh, what the *&^%!

We’re writers. We end up sitting a lot.

We’re no doubt aware of the fact that sitting a lot isn’t really good for us. There are studies that claim to show how very, very bad it is by informing us all that it increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and of course cardiovascular disease. It also leads to obesity and back pain. In fact it could be killing us (duh – look at what sitting all day causes).

But wait. Now there’s a new study by researchers in the UK that comes at it from another angle and says long days of sitting doesn’t seem to be killing us after all. At least no faster than standing.

What? Oh, for crying out loud.

So what’s the basis for this?

Well, here’s a quote: “Our study overturns current thinking on the health risks of sitting and indicates that the problem lies in the absence of movement rather than the time spent sitting itself,” said researcher Melvyn Hillsdon from the University of Exeter. “Any stationary posture where energy expenditure is low may be detrimental to health, be it sitting or standing.”

Hmmm. Okay, writer, now what do we do?

I mean I got a standing desk and everything.

There’s a key here, right? Umm, yeah. It hinges on our daily activity according to these researchers (who, by the way, spent 16 years on their project). The extrapolation is apparently activity, every kind of activity.

Define activity I said to myself.

In general, it’s any sort of movement.

For example, the study took place in London which is a city that requires a lot of walking to and standing on public transportation to get places. So, the folks in this study had double the average daily walking time that most other folks there in the UK and I’m assuming in the US.

So, despite the fact that remaining seated for long periods is bad for your health, no matter how often you hit the gym, simple movement is big for health.

What is needed apparently is a bigger expenditure of energy in some form. Even fidgeting counts.

The take-away?

Well, I’m not getting rid of my standing desk. I like it and I actually think it causes me, personally, to focus better. If you want to see it you can check mine out at http://amzn.to/2mQU9NS – it’s a Varidesk.

I split my day between sitting and standing (standing with a lot of fidgeting). Now I’m adding to that a new focus on increasing physical activity. The fact is my standup desk does encourage more movement than sitting. I do fidget and I do move back and forth on my feet and I do tend to step away more often. So now when I step away, I walk up and down the stairs.

All that walking is good, and easy to arrange. My suggestion is that you make the commitment to walk more, to fidget at your desk more and to generally keep spending your energy.

After all, who needs the stress of worrying about the hours we spend at our computers, a situation that no matter how good our intentions we can’t change?

Now, get up, stretch, move around, then go on and write that award-winner. Your body may not be able to give an acceptance speech for your conscious contribution to a healthier life, but your life will speak for it, every moment of every day.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.

Peggy Bechko’s World of Character Names

by Peggy Bechko

Writing a script? A novel? A short story?

Then you have characters who need names, and not just any name, but a name that sticks, a name that echoes, a name that sounds good coming from an actor’s lips or on the pages of a script or manuscript. So, as with most everything, there’s a good side and a bad side.

The good side – you’re god when it comes to your story. You’re the one who creates the characters and tags them with the names that will stay with them…and with you throughout the process of writing said script or novel. Yay!?

The bad side – well, this can be a tough process. I mean what if you name a character Sally and she’s really an Imogene? Or a Charlie turns out to be a Theodore? The simple reality is that what may ‘sound’ good to you when you write it on the page might come across entirely differently to a reader or when an actor speaks the name.

As a writer, it’s important for you to choose a name appropriate to character and provides the best read…and listen for readers and audiences.

Here are a few simple tips to consider when determining a character’s name. First consider the alphabet. Yep, A through Z. If you name your main character Zelda then naming her side-kick Zed isn’t a good idea. Let’s not have Fred and Fredda either. Here’s why. In the beginning, the reader reading your script or manuscript is doing it fast, skimming, reading for content. You don’t want names tripping them out as that reader tries to keep your characters sorted out.

You might also plant the idea in your brain that it’s a good idea to avoid names that are androgynous. Why? For a script you want the reader to identify your characters clearly from the outset. For a manuscript you don’t want the editor going back and forth through the paragraphs to sort out who is who. So unless that particular name is an absolute must because of the story line, avoid names like ‘Pat’, “Jean’, “Robin’, Casey, Bobbie and others that could confuse the reader.

Think about your setting and the context of the story. Character names can tell us something about the character’s personality and ideally add some depth to the story. Think about stories you’ve read and movies you’ve seen. Have the names fit and perhaps even subconsciously touched a note for you? For example. The recent film, Passengers. The main character was Jim Preston. A straight-forward, down to earth name. The woman he awakens is Aurora Lane. That name hints at more. It brings lots of things to mind. It’s the Roman goddess of sunrise who’s tears turned into morning dew. It was also the name of Sleeping Beauty and it’s the scientific term for the Northern Light. This hints at a more complicated character.
And the bartending Android is simply Arthur. One name. One location. A friendly and simple name.

What I’m getting at is the meaning behind the character’s name can add a lot of personality. And, because of the ebb and flow of time and corresponding names it can even give an idea of the time in which the story is set and the location. That’s helpful for period pieces, space operas and the like. You can even consider calling characters by their last name alone if that tells the reader/watcher something about that character.

Finally, the more memorable the name of the main characters, the more memorable the movie or book and the more likely people are going to talk to their friends about it. Think about the last couple of books you read and movies you’ve seen – do you remember the name of the main character?

Character names are not just ‘labels’ hung on those moving elements of your script or story. Hook your readers and movie goers in all ways … and names are just one of them.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.

Peggy Bechko’s World of the Innocent, the Eager & the Doomed

“My hopes, dreams and aspirations were no match against my poor spelling, punctuation and grammar.” Red Red Rover

Okay writers, is that you? It might be, even if you aren’t aware of it. Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s the STORY that counts, right?

Hmmm, well, yes. BUT, if you can’t get anyone to read your story because you just can’t handle the basics then your STORY won’t mean much.

People are busy… editors and producers even more so. They don’t have time to mess around with your work if it’s littered with spelling errors, grammar that makes no sense and punctuation that throws everything into a tailspin.

You can sit there at your computer and argue with me all you want in your head, but facts are facts (no, there are no ‘alternative facts’). If your material is all but unreadable it won’t get read.

Readers for screen scripts don’t have the time to mess with it and it sure won’t reach a producer’s hands (unless you know him personally and put it in his hands, in which case he won’t read past the first few pages). An editor will pitch a fit.

So, what to do if your skills are lacking. You can take some courses, not a bad idea in any regard. But there are helps out there.

You can try Grammarly.  Sign up for an account and get the free version to test out. If it’s really helpful and you really like it, there’s a fee-based version you can go with

No, I’m not associated with Grammarly in any way. I don’t get paid. Your choice. I have used it and found it helpful. Be careful not to take what it tells you too literally as you’re writing fiction, not staid business correspondence.

There are some of my favorite books as well. They’re small, slim volumes by Karen Elizabeth Gordon. Picked them up while working in a college bookstore so mine are kind of old and battered hardcovers:

The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed

The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed

Both of these books are amusing and helpful and have been on my writing shelf for years. Yes, you read that correctly. I can still get myself into a corner when it comes to spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Despite the fact that it’s obvious and a lot of you reading this will groan, pay attention to whatever writing software you’re using.

MS Word, Scrivener (you can get a 30 day free trial on this one!) and most dedicated script softwares have features that highlight errors in some way.

I’ve just begun using Scrivener and despite the learning curve I’m coming to love it. And it even has a ‘script’ writing element. Check it out if you’re interested. (Again, I’m not profiting from mentioning it).

These are the tools I use. You may have discovered equally wonderful, or even more wonderful ones you use. If you have suggestions go ahead and post them in the comment box. It never hurts any of us to have new tools in the tool box!


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. blog. Learn more about her HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.

Peggy Bechko’s World of Writing Myths

by Peggy Bechko

Here’s the first writing myth that needs exploding – “Being a writer is a good way to get rich quick!”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA – need I say more?

Well, maybe I do. Yes, it’s true, there have been those rare souls whether through luck, talent, connections or some incredible combination thereof, have become ‘overnight’ writing successes in a big way. I guess that would be ‘get rich quick’.

But, TRUTH – that is so rare you might win the lottery first. Writing, whether script or novel or articles or anything takes time and disciple and it can take a while before the writer is paid anything! Submit, submit, submit. Look for an agent – convince him or her how great you are. Write more. Submit more. You get it and no doubt you’ve been there.

The ones who’ve ‘gotten rich quick’ have almost always taken years to do it. You’re a writer – so write. Write because you love films and want to be a part of it. Write because you love the well-plotted novel and creating one just as good as the best you’ve read is your ultimate goal. Don’t expect a nice safe life on either count and figure you’re probably going to have to have a day job for who knows how long.

Here’s another myth. “You don’t actually have to write that much.”

Really? How does that work? Okay, scripts look sparse, lots of white space and all that. That doesn’t mean the writer isn’t writing a whole lot. There are rewrites and notes and more writing. Ditto for writing novels.

On top of that, very short writing can be harder than writing long (sorry novelists, but I’ve done both and it’s true). Somehow, somewhere along the line almost everyone decided they could be writers. Yeah, well here’s a newsflash. Writers write. If one talks about it but doesn’t do it then one isn’t a writer. And you always have to ‘write a whole lot’. That’s just part of the gig.

Here’s the third myth I have to blast. “It doesn’t take all that much time to write a script. Not like a novel!”

Uh, well, that can be true. You can crank out a script quickly; there are a lot of folks who write for TV who do that, even some feature length writers. But let’s circle back to what I said above. You have to write. You have to write a lot. There are producers with notes. There are editors with revisions.

You think you’re done after you’ve slogged through your 6th draft? Nope. And if you’re on a tight schedule with a script because it’s actually sold – woohoo, yay for you! Go ahead now, make yourself crazy meeting deadlines. Seriously.

And all that is still time. You may be writing all night, all weekend, all month but just because it’s compacted into a tight time-frame doesn’t mean the hours weren’t put in. And, if it’s a novel, oh, boy. Yes, the rewrites and then the re-reading of the galleys takes plenty of time. Writing is one of the biggest time sinks of your life – hope you really love it.

Oh, and in the ‘time’ category, don’t forget the rejection. All writers get rejected – mostly over and over again. And, while that isn’t actual writing time, it is, nonetheless, career time. After all, getting drunk after that last painful rejection takes a chunk of time away from your writing.

So, my advice? Don’t even think about all those myths floating around out there.

Are you a writer? Then focus on your writing and get it out there.

The rest will, with considerable work, get taken care of.

Or not.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. blog. Learn more about her HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.

Peggy Bechko’s World of Time Management for Writers

by Peggy Bechko

Managing your time. Making time for your writing. Finding time.

Whatever you call it, it can be tricky while juggling kids, relationships, job, whatever else you’re involved in that you can’t really give up or set aside.

So, in the spirit of my back to basics mood at the moment, here are a few ideas ( 5 tips) to help things along.

  1.  I always suggest keeping a notebook or notecards with you. That way you can jot whenever something occurs to you or whenever you observe something that needs to be remembered, even if away from your writing place.

Or take notes on your phone or record messages to yourself on the phone if you can.

There are also great tiny recorders you can use to capture notes to yourself then plug into your computer and transfer like the Yoday voice recorder.  Inexpensive too!

  1. Set priorities and do your darndest to stick to them. Talk with your spouse, your kids, whoever is going to be around and work at getting them to understand how important this is to you.

You have to let others know that at times you’re going to have to say no to things that drain away your time minute by minute and that you must stick to your ‘to-do’ list to keep things moving. Remember to do the most important first. Plainly, there will be bumps in this road.

  1. Creating goals that are good for you is a great help. Decide perhaps you’re going to create a certain number of pages or words during a session. Maybe go with an amount of time. Or best yet, set a goal of how many words you want to get down on paper during the amount of time you have available. Stick to it!

If you do this you’ll minimize distractions and get a lot more done. Remember – the world of social media is out to get you and rob you of all your productive time!

  1. Dedicate a writing space, no matter how small. Even if it has to do double duty. If you have to write on the kitchen table, do it at a time when you can clear the table, set up your laptop and do nothing but write at the table. It helps train the mind that this is the time for writing. If you can convert a closet or set up a small desk somewhere, so much the better. If a sit/stand desk like what I use from Veridesk is good for you and in your budget, go for it. Work with what you have.
  1. Finally, don’t put enormous pressure on yourself. If you’re forcing yourself into doing something you don’t want to do you’re not going to get very far. If this is something you want to do you WILL begin to set your parameters and goals. If that doesn’t happen then perhaps writing isn’t for you and it’s time to move on to other things.

 


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. blog. Learn more about her HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog, which is where this post first appeared.

Peggy Bechko’s Approach to Making Your Fiction Writing Real

by Peggy Bechko

Suck ‘em in. Don’t let go of their eyeballs – whether they be script reader, editor or reader, that’s your goal as a writer. And I know you’ve all experienced it yourselves. That film that’s fantastic, the book that draws you in until you forget where you are. Some writers have a native ability to paint those characters and backgrounds in such a way that they feel real.

So how do they do that? How can the rest of us writers do the same?

One way is to add realism.

And, a way to do that is to get really involved with your characters; wrapped up in their psychology. Get that movie going in your head and project yourself into whatever situation you’ve created for your character. It seems simple, but it isn’t because you have got to go deep.

You really need to find that quiet place or maybe take a long walk in a distraction-free zone. You may even want to physically re-enact some of the story scenes with conflict to get in touch with what the characters might actually be feeling.

If mental alone works for you, great. Examine the emotions and consider the physical reactions. If someone is getting beaten up, they’re in pain, could be gasping, maybe yelling. They could also be fearful, furious, contemplating revenge or whatever else the scene you’ve created might contain.

Discern what emotions, physical feelings, etc. actually apply to your characters and press them into your writing. Don’t disconnect and write like a god observing; instead, dive in and write from the inside out. Feel everything even as your characters do. Do this right, feel yourself, and your readers will feel along with you. Empathy is a major realism adder!

And don’t stop there. Human beings are complicated.

Your scenes aren’t simply going to be about someone getting beaten up, or climbing a mountain, or finding romance. The inner workings are very important. People have motivations, weaknesses of various varieties, flaws, knee-jerk reactions.

Think about it. If your character has a fear of flying how will that affect everything else in the story? If a character faces problems with a defense mechanism of denial then that’s a part of the character’s inner workings and will affect every decision he or she makes.

Those flaws or quirks or whatever we want to label them make characters even more interesting for readers to identify with. The script reader can identify. The novel reader is immersed because he or she can identify with the character’s flaw.

The list goes on. Your characters swim in a lake of psychoses, phobias, syndromes, behaviors, childhood baggage, failed relationships and more. People are colorful, horrifying, sweet, timid, and a myriad of other things. Cash in on it, don’t hide from it and leave your reader out in the cold.

Another way to add realism is obvious – research. Doesn’t matter what you’re writing, you’re going to research. When I wrote my novel Cloud Dancer I was immersed in the history of the Southwest in the 1600’s. When I wrote the script The Three Piggs I buried myself in research on werewolves and vampires and their origins intending that research to offer different branches on the already well-explored paranormal tree.

When you set yourself to researching the way people dress, the languages they speak, the setting they live in, the social customs, occupations and other details for a story it gives the story a feeling of real. Doesn’t matter what you’re writing, dropping in bits of research that are solid is a great way to bring the whole thing to life.

Visit places if you can (this probably won’t work for a story set on Mars…yet). For that you’ll need to research all that’s known about Mars and maybe visit a planetarium. Otherwise going there can help tremendously. When I wrote western adventure long, long ago, I vacationed in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. I took pictures everywhere (with a film camera) and created scenes using markers from those photos.

If that’s not in the cards for you there are travel books, guides, and don’t forget YouTube where you can find info on almost any place on the planet. Historical societies have a lot to offer as well. Maybe tours and if that won’t work, visit websites. It’s not hard to dig in these days with the web and, yes, libraries in full throttle.

Collect photos as you go for inspiration and detail. Check your sources. Be accurate.

Plainly the writer can add much more color and texture to a story with detailed descriptions (but don’t get too carried away) than the screen writer. Still, that knowledge, judiciously sprinkled throughout a script, will give it the feeling of reality.

And that’s what we want our readers to have. Reality.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. blog. Learn more about her HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.

Peggy Bechko’s World of Backstory

by Peggy Bechko

Backstory can be a very important part of your novel or script, or it might not be needed at all at times. It depends on the scene and the characters involved. It’s something the writer needs to give attention to and think about.

If the backstory ties directly into the scene then it’s needed and will give the reader or watcher even more to chew on than the action directly in front of them. Or perhaps your story contains backstory that provides the reader information that will result in the reader gaining a deeper understanding as to what is at stake in the story you’re creating. Or, maybe the information in the backstory that’s being provided adds such punch, such power that the scene in question will be greatly diminished by the simple leaving out of that backstory information. You don’t want to leave out important information any more than you want to put in what isn’t important.

This is where the thinking about it comes in. Whether in a novel or a script, are you, as a writer, simply throwing in backstory detail to pad the story? It’s easy to do, and if you find you are doing it you need to go back, review the story and determine what really meaty information you’re leaving out only to fill with unneeded backstory detail. Or have you, as writer, created a backstory you find so attractive and interesting and maybe amusing that you are loath to dispose of it and unable to ‘kill your darlings’? If that’s the case you’re going to have to get much tougher with yourself. Really.

Another question.: are you sure your backstory detail is pertinent to the story? If you have a murder mystery going on and you suddenly begin giving detail about the detective’s 3-year-old daughter, it better have a strong bearing on the plot. Otherwise it’s just filler. And nobody likes filler. This goes back to my original statement that the backstory needs to tied directly back to the scene it’s in or the story overall, preferably both.

The overall take-away here is backstory isn’t always needed. BUT, when you feel it is, as yourself these questions:

1. Would the scene suffer if the information was left out altogether? And are you sure the colorful information you’ve put in gives new life to the scene?
2. Will your reader or watcher gain a deeper understanding (or some kind of understanding) of what the stakes are in your story by virtue of the backstory you’ve added?
3. Finally – does your backstory tie directly into what is going on in your scene at the moment?

Whatever you do with backstory remember to be sparse with it. You don’t have to TELL your readers everything. Some backstory can be inferred. For example, if the main character is an operating room nurse the audience can pick up on the fact that she has a great education, she’s professional, no doubt very clean, Most likely very dependable.

Oh, and backstory is meant to evoke emotions. So don’t hold back.

A final “Oh, and….” Remember I said above sometimes it’s needed and sometimes it’s not? A great example of the ‘needed’ in a recent movie is Dr. Strange. I very much enjoyed the movie. However I hadn’t read a lot of the comics and only knew I’d like to see the movie based on the general story. I wasn’t aware of the cape’s backstory though comic readers were. It would have been great for the movie to have provided just a nod to the cape and it’s attachment to Dr. Strange before the cape beating up on the bad guy scene.

Do some thinking and studying before you toss in your backstory. Make sure it lends your script or novel that extra punch that drives it to the top.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. blog. Learn more about her HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.