The One Question Every Writer Needs to Answer

reality

by Kathryn Graham

“Am I a real writer?”

There are lots of memes that float around facebook about what makes something ‘real’. They say things like ‘real women have curves’ or ‘real men wear pink’ usually typed over photographs of what some dingbat with Photoshop or MS Paint thinks represents reality.  It’s all hogwash. A ‘real’ woman or man simply is because they feel they are. There is no prerequisite to becoming what you already are.

The same goes for asking if you’re a real writer. It can be worthwhile to ask yourself just how passionately you feel about writing, in what venue, if you care about creating great television, being published, or any other number of things that come along with the business of writing. It’s worth it to ask yourself how much writing means to you because it will require a lot out of you. But asking if you’re a real writer?

I asked myself this question during a time in my life when I wasn’t writing as much as I would have liked. The conventional wisdom always came back to: “Real writers write. Period.” This bit of wisdom sounds all tied up with bow and a tag that reads “This is the final word”. In actuality, it’s probably just as worthless as ‘real men wear kilts’.

Let’s put it this way. If Stephen King stops writing for months, even years, and doesn’t put a word down on paper – is he still a ‘real writer’? Does he only become a real writer again once he commits to sit in front of a blank page on a computer screen and tap tap tap away at the keys?

I’d like to tell you that if you ask yourself if you’re a ‘real writer’ and you feel like you are, poof, that’s all you need. But the fact is you can think that you’re not a real writer and still be one. You can also believe that you’re a ‘real writer’ and spend your entire life never actually writing anything.

So you want to know if you’re a real writer? If asking yourself that question makes you feel good, reassured of your identity, and ready to follow through on your choices, that’s great. If not, try re-framing the question. How much do you care about writing right now? What are you willing to do or sacrifice to get it done? What kind of impact does writing have on your life and your well-being? Whatever the answers are now, you can always come back at another time and find out if your feelings or your circumstances have changed. The only thing being ‘real’ requires is being honest with yourself and making choices you can live with.


Kathryn Graham is a Contributing Writer to TVWriter™. Learn more about Kate HERE

Confessions of a Contest Script Reader

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by Kathryn Graham

For a brief time, I was one of those ‘gatekeepers’ who read movie scripts that were submitted to an online contest (no, not for TVwriter’s contest. You’ll have to ask LB about that one).

I was a woefully underpaid ‘script analyst’ who, in order to make a buck, slogged through 120 – 215 page scripts and provided notes for contest hopefuls. If you’re thinking about entering one of these, here’s a few things I gleaned on the ‘other side’.

The most important thing I learned was that good writing is hard to find but easy to recognize. Most scripts I read earned a C or D on their report cards. There was only one script that was better, and it earned a solid B. That B script was a godsend in a miasma of mediocrity.

Perhaps other contests attract a higher quality of writing overall, but the one I read for received mainly average submissions. It may be encouraging to you (as it is to me) to know that while this is a highly competitive industry and there are many excellent writers out there, they’re actually quite a small part of the population at large. Good writing is tough to find and great writing even tougher.

I’d further like to encourage you by letting you know that I really wanted these scripts to be good. I wasn’t trying to rip them to shreds. I didn’t look for every little nitpick as an excuse to toss them out. This may not be the case with everyone. Maybe there are some bitter failed writers out there who are hoping to tear you a new one, but I’d wager that the majority of the people who are reading your story want it to be good.

For me, it was because good scripts made my job fun. I had to be there reading your script. If you could make that experience good for me, I was profoundly grateful. For others, like agents or development executives, they want your script to be good because they want the next big thing. If you have that, that means they can get their hands on it and maybe a lot of money too.

The C level stories that I read had this in common: They were boring. Dull. Shoot the wall or claw your eyes out boring. I’m sure the people who wrote them are perfectly nice people. I don’t know them, and so I don’t care. It isn’t personal. All I wanted from them was entertainment. If I had been a reader who wasn’t paid or if somehow these movies were produced and I was a viewer, I would have been gone within a few pages/minutes.

You may think that’s unfair. How can I tell if a script is any good just by the first few pages? I may have thought the same thing once upon a time, but now I know that you actually can tell, in a broad way, if a script is worth reading by its first few pages. You can tell by how engaging the characters and dialogue are. This doesn’t change as you get to page 20, 45, or 109. It exists from the start or it doesn’t exist at all.

Because right at the start I can tell if you have two of the three elements that I need to be able to enjoy your script: character and dialogue. That’s it. Nail that early, and I know you’re two thirds of the way there.

I want great characters with fully fleshed out and unique personalities, fantastic dialogue that really draws out your characters and is amusing in its own right, and structure that allows me to follow your main character(s) to the ultimate point of your story. These are basic elements that can be combined for an endless number of memorable stories.

I fully believe you can improve on all of these things by studying your craft. I think most of the average writers I read just sat down and pounded on the keyboard with only a superficial knowledge of why they were putting anything on the page. I think that if I had asked them why their character did this, why they included that scene, or what they were saying with a particular piece of dialogue they wouldn’t have been able to tell me.

Make sure when you’re writing that you know why you’re doing everything you do, and if you can’t figure it out, find someone who can help you discover it.

No one aims to be average. Mediocrity is something that just happens. Greatness is carefully crafted.

On a side note? If you’re going to have a scene set in a diner, a bar, or someplace where your characters are all eating do not tell me what they are ordering. Of every television show I’ve ever watched I remember exactly three food or drink orders from characters:

JD on Scrubs orders appletinis at bars (because it’s a ‘girly’ drink and we can laugh at how unmanly JD is, hyuk hyuk). Everything Ron Swanson ate on Parks and Recreation from the entire breakfast menu to shrimp wrapped bacon (to prove how ‘manly’ he is and again for laughs). And lastly, Leslie Knope also from Parks and Recreation often ordered waffles with insane amounts of whipped cream (her entire town is addicted to sugar and is therefore obese).

See why I remember these? They had a point. They told me something about the characters. So unless your character’s bacon cheeseburger with a side of sweet potato fries immediately says something about them or ends up playing a pivotal role in the scene, I don’t care. You can skip it. No one will miss it. I promise.


Kathryn Graham is a Contributing Writer to TVWriter™. Learn more about Kate HERE

Care of the Writer’s Instrument

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Xena going straight for the instrument!

by Kathryn Graham

What’s a writer’s most important instrument? Is it a pen? A notebook? How about a laptop? Or is it your butt, the proverbial ‘butt in seat’ thing?

Bottom line, yourl butt is you, and you happen to be a physical body on a physical plane.  I know my body is my most cherished instrument because right now I have a crick in my neck that’s making this article tough to write. It’s like Xena cut off the flow of blood to my brain except that instead of Xena, it was a shitty mattress, a flattened pillow, and a 40 hour a week desk job.

Many people, myself included, don’t treat their bodies right. Writers are more susceptible to this because of the nature of writing. If you’re sitting for long hours pounding away at a keyboard, you’re likely hurting your spine, potentially not eating or depriving yourself of sleep, and any other number of vices in the name of the written word.

So how do we take care of ourselves while also devoting ourselves to this sedentary craft? Here’s a few things that I’m going to be trying:

  1. Get some sunshine. You need the vitamin D. You could also take supplements, but you might as well just take the laptop outside or sit near a window for a little while.
  2. Eat healthier. I know it’s easy to warm up a five minute hot pocket (and you need that time to write!), but heavy or bad food is harder to digest, makes you tired, and will make you less sharp. If you have no time or you’re in a groove, before you sit down, grab something quick that you don’t detest – an avocado, pistachios, a granola bar, an orange. Here’s some good ideas. (And more tips on how to be a healthy writer).
  3. Get good sleep. Invest in a good mattress and pillow. Make sure you have as close to ideal sleep conditions as possible (no light, the right temperature, nix the caffeine 5 hours before bed, keep a regular sleep schedule). Do your best to make sure that you get enough rest so that when you wake you’re alert and ready to write.
  4. Stretch out. Even if all you’re doing are chair stretches for ten minutes. Set a timer and do it regularly throughout your stint in the chair. (This one I can vouch for)
  5. Hey for that matter, get a good chair or a standing desk. Whatever works best for you. Nothing worse than a chair that gives you saddle sores or bends your spine out of shape.
  6. Walk around for a while. Bonus: This can help you generate or shake loose some ideas if you’re stuck. It’s as if physically moving helps you move through your brain.
  7. Stay hydrated. Don’t just drink coffee, tea, or alcohol as you write. Add a glass of water every now and then.
  8. Massage. We westerners filed this under a ‘luxury’ service because it feels so good. The thing is it feels so good because it’s good for you. All of those aches and pains you’re suffering can distract you in addition to making you miserable. Loosening up your muscles will loosen up a lot more in your head too. Massages are practically a necessity when you think about it.

It’s the usual sorts of things health experts and scientists say to do. I’ve just scaled it down to a minimum because that’s all I’m willing to do right now. If you have more to add to this list, I’m all ears. As you can probably tell, I’m writing this mainly for myself, but it will hopefully be of service to any of you other long suffering bodies out there.

Sure it seems self-explanatory, but maybe you need to hear it again. If you’re not feeling well, you’re less likely to be as productive, to have as much energy as you need, and to be able to write for as long as you’d like to. Breakdowns of the body can sometimes be pushed through, but they can also stop you cold. Why torment yourself when it’s so easy to do the bare minimum to keep yourself going?

So if you needed another reason to take some baby steps toward a healthier you, here’s another one: It will help your writing.


Kathryn is a Contributing Writer to TVWriter™. Learn more about Kate HERE

Writer’s Technique: Beyond Criticism

by Kathryn Graham

“Whatever you resist you become. If you resist anger, you are always angry. If you resist sadness, you are always sad. If you resist suffering, you are always suffering. If you resist confusion, you are always confused. We think that we resist certain states because they are there, but actually they are there because we resist them.” — Adyashanti

The most common answer I’ve seen on to how to deal with criticism is “Deal with it. Grow a thick skin.” The idea is that after a while of being insulted, criticized, or dragged over the coals, you develop a kind of emotional callous (‘thick skin’). Maybe this means that one day you wake up and you’re a-okay with someone trashing you and your work. Or you’re able to discern whose opinions matter and whose don’t. Or, at least, you get better at ignoring the pain.

But does that actually happen? Does the fiftieth time a person insults your work hurt less than the first? What about all of that time in the meantime while you’re ‘toughening up’? Many writers are sensitive people. That is not a bad thing. It’s a trait like any other, and oftentimes it’s quite valuable in creative professions. However, now more than ever you’re susceptible to thousands of people’s opinions about you and your work. What can you do about it if you’re not the sort who lets things roll off their back easily?

Some might say the answer is in looking to all of the positive feedback you receive. But praise can, sometimes, be just a damaging. Seeking out compliments, engaging in behavior to receive them, or indulging the need to live up to other’s expectations can throw you off as surely as negative attention can.

The thing to remember is: The value of your work doesn’t change depending on whether other people like it or not. As Ralph Waldo Emerson says: “…the sour faces of the multitude, like their sweet faces, have no deep cause, but are put on and off as the wind blows and a newspaper directs.” Neither praise nor criticism are particularly useful to you as a writer except insofar as you are able to hone your craft. Might as well just let go of both of them.

But how do you make yourself believe that in your still-bleeding heart? Here’s a tool that may help you to jump off the merry-go-round of other people’s opinions.

It’s a visualization technique that uses symbols to help you let go of both the desire for praise and resistance to criticism. The following comes from Phyllis Krystal’s Book/Website: Cutting the Ties that Bind.

  1. Imagine you are walking across a tight rope, carefully placing one foot in front of the other, and looking straight ahead.
  2. Hold your arms out to each side with the palms facing up.
  3. Imagine a black bird over to your left that you fear may attack you.
  4. Resist the impulse to push it away, which would cause you to fall off the tight rope.
  5. Continue to walk ahead, looking to neither the right nor the left.
  6. Imagine a beautiful gleaming white bird over on your right side.
  7. Resist the desire to reach out to take hold of it, which would again cause you to fall off the tight rope.
  8. Continue your way across the tight rope allowing either the black bird or the white bird to land on your up-turned palm whenever it wishes.
  9. Allow them to stay as long as they like in your hand, to fly away, and to return in their own time without interfering. Keep walking.

Try it as often as you need. If it works, it should help you to keep your eyes on your goal without external forces knocking you off your path.


Kathryn Graham is an aspiring television writer who recently made the leap to Los Angeles. Watch as she navigates the winding paths of television. Cheers are welcome!

What to Expect if You Move to LA

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by Kathryn Graham

If you’re looking to be a television writer, you’ve probably thought about moving to Los Angeles. With its sunshine and its promise of a better tomorrow, it is still the world’s major hub for television and movies. The City of Angels is home to Hollywood, but also hosts a wide range of culture and taste. Space-age glass and metal skyscrapers rise beside adobe homes and modern castles. World famous landmarks stare at graffitied storefronts. It’s like Los Angeles has a perpetual identity crisis, and maybe it should. Its primary export is dreams, after all.

Here’s a few major points about LA that you may find helpful to know.

People

Almost none of the trees in Los Angeles are native to the area. The same can be said for much of the city’s uprooted population. If you’re thinking about moving to Los Angeles to follow your dreams, then you won’t be alone. It’s commonplace to find people who moved here from any neck of the woods. (Also lots of people from Ohio. Is there a mass exodus from Ohio going on?)

Hollywood is a major draw for a large chunk of the people here. Ask someone what they do for a living, they’ll mention their day-job, but their eyes will light up when they talk about how they’re breaking into writing, acting, or stand-up.  It’s cliché now: the barista by day and aspiring actor by night, but that’s what Los Angeles is often like.

What this means is there’s a huge amount of competition for industry jobs. It also means that you’re in very good company. If you want to meet all kinds of people who love movies and television as much as you do, Los Angeles is the absolute best place to do this. Writers, development execs, animators, actors, the list goes on. Even if you plan on producing your work independently, be it a play, a web series, or a student film, this is where most of the professionals or aspiring professionals you’d need can be found in abundance. They say career is all about connections, and nowhere is that more obvious than Los Angeles.

Angelenos get a rap for being fake or superficial. I can’t say I’ve experienced this, but I’m likely too unimportant to schmooze. In my experience, the friendships I have out here are overall less substantial and not as numerous as the ones I had back east. As to whether that’s because more people don’t connect overall in the LA culture, I can’t say. I can tell you that getting together with people is less frequent no matter what for two major reasons. One is that what’s referred to as ‘Los Angeles’ and its surrounding area is quite large and spread out. The other is…

Traffic

Everyone complains about traffic. But the full impact of its horror will not wash over you until you realize you just spent 45 minutes in the car to go 20 miles. A good rule is to take however long google maps says it will take to get to your destination and then double it. 30 minute trip? Buckle up for an hour. I hope you like sitting in your car or that you can find a way to get used to it because Angelenos spend 70 hours in their car each year on average. Los Angeles is not a walking city, and its public transportation is atrociously lacking. Forget about trying to dodge around rush hour. When it comes to our major highways: every hour is rush hour. ‘Real rush hour’ is the punishment you receive in the fifth circle of hell.

For that reason and many more, people will tell you to live close to where you work. This is very good advice. It’s personal preference, really. If you’re willing to make the commute to live somewhere that jives better with you, then that’s what’s best for you. The one thing that’ll remain the same no matter what is…

Rent

It’s astronomical. Unless you live in New York City and its surrounding area, there’s nothing comparable. It’s so bad that even the rich people agree. I pay most of my paycheck into rent every month. There’s a lot of people on that same sinking boat. As we hear all the time now, wages haven’t kept up overall in the US, either. Unless you’re at or near the top of the chain, you’re likely grossly underpaid and overcharged. So much for saving for retirement.

If you leave the city, you can get more space as you move farther away, but the amount you pay will remain about the same. In a quest to find cheaper housing, I went north into the literal mountains (Pine Mountain) before I came across anything even remotely affordable. It snows up there. There are bears and mountain lions there. It’s freaking beautiful, but it’s a two hour drive to Downtown LA – without traffic. It’s not likely to get any better either. As Los Angeles spreads outward to feed its hunger for housing, rent is likely to just keep climbing everywhere.

On the upside, if you have any cash leftover (or just enough for gas money) there is so much to do in Los Angeles. Always new concerts, comedy clubs, conventions. Everyone comes here sooner or later.

Of course there’s more to LA, but these are the biggest points I would have wanted to know before coming here. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I’m no expert, but I made the leap from Connecticut to California. Was it worth it? Totally. But that’s a story for another time.

Showrunners’ Guide to Effective Apologies (Hi, Jason Rothenberg!)

by Kathryn Graham

The majority of the time showrunners don’t need to apologize for their creative choices. If a fan favorite is killed or a ship doesn’t come in, that’s just a product of the story being told. People may or may not like what they see, but that’s a given in a creative industry. Creators don’t owe their viewers the story they want, and if viewers don’t like what they see, they don’t owe creators their time and investment.

But sometimes the messages creators send are received in a greater social context that means they can cause active harm. If, as in the case with THE 100, the narrative of the show touches on a long and troubling history of stigmatizing a minority on television and taps into a cultural story that has real life repercussions, then creators may decide that apologies are warranted. In that case, I’ve written this guide to effective apologies to help.

This is for The 100‘s Jason Rothenberg and his writing staff as well as any other television writers who can use it, but the basic principles can be applied to any apology.

Let’s take a moment to remember that the same fans who are now knocking down your door are the ones who were most invested in this aspect of your story before this incident. You created something they deeply loved. These were the kind of fans who would stay up drawing breathtaking works of art, analyzing every detail of your scenes, and telling all of their friends to watch and support the show.

It’s also worth noting that ours is a socially conscious fan base, who (along with generous outsiders) have given over 110,000 dollars and counting to the Trevor Project to benefit LGBT youth. We were attracted to your show because of its story, its diversity, and because you and everyone working with you gave us a dream we loved and believed in. We were on your side.

Assuming that you care about this part of your audience, how can you make it better?

1. Apologize

You tried this in a blog post. You tried this on the panel at WonderCon (video). It didn’t have a generally positive reception. Why are so few people accepting your apology? Partly, because some aspects of what occurred with social media were not sufficiently addressed. In a more general sense, it is because, when it comes to apologies, explanations come across as justifications.

Your reasons for what you did mean a lot more to you than they do to the people who got hurt. Anyone who was hurt by this is going to hear an attempt to defend the indefensible. A simple apology acknowledges that someone else’s pain is valid, and you regret your part in hurting them even if it was unintentional.

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Nobody wants an apology that explains. It’s reminiscent of when the adults in your life forced another kid to apologize to you on the playground. They did it, sure, but no one was satisfied with the solution.

2. Be Humble

Most of us are afraid of making mistakes. Depending on the severity of our blunder, we’re subject to a number of consequences. Those consequences are often unpleasant and sometimes devastating. We want everyone to think we’re perfect, and we try to convey that in everything we do.

We’re so afraid that if people look behind the mask they’re going to see how weak and foolish we really are. Yet, we also know that not a single one of us escapes making mistakes. Owning up to them is a sign of integrity and authenticity. People have great respect for these two qualities, especially because they tend to be so rare.

If instead of insecurity, you carry pride, then you have a tougher obstacle to overcome. Pride will pretend to elevate you while taking you down. Pride sits on your shoulder, pets your head, and tells you that you’re always right. It will cast you as a misunderstood hero and your detractors as cruel and unyielding villains. Pride wants you all to itself. It will actively rob you both of your ability to learn and your ability to connect with other people.

Humility is the antidote to both. Humility is a gift to yourself. You allow yourself to be as you are, to not know everything, to be human. It’s too much to ask of anyone to be infallible. You’re going to fall short. We all are. Everyone understands this. We admire others for their virtues, but we connect with them through their flaws.

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3. Listen & Learn

Clearly, a disconnect occurred between the message that was meant to be conveyed and that which a large part of the audience received. Most people understand the reasons why these choices were selected. It wasn’t personal, but that’s what makes it feel personal.

That which was vitally important to someone else didn’t factor into your decision. If you want to learn from this, that need has to be identified and understood. For your lesbian and bisexual community, a large part of that was safety. We felt that we were offered a safe space and a place of honor at the table (both things we are rarely afforded). That was clearly not the case. Our needs were not as important as another aspect of the story.

The wheel has now turned in such a way that that which was previously ignored is now a defining feature of your show. What’s done is done. Now we can only move forward. Knowing more about the people to whom you are speaking by meeting us face to face (physically being with another person and reading their body language aids powerful connection), hiring writers or consultants from the community, and/or reading as many stories as you can only helps.

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To understand, you have to become one with your beloved, and also one with your so-called enemy. You have to worry about what they worry about, suffer their suffering, appreciate what they appreciate. You and the object of your love cannot be two. They are as much you as you are yourself.” – Thich Nhat Hahn

No one is required to make someone else’s truth their own, but it’s worthwhile to sit with what’s being said without immediately reacting. Writers are good at putting themselves in other people’s shoes. You may never fully understand what it’s like to be degraded, demeaned, and abused because of who you love, but that’s part of what stories are for: to allow us a brief window into someone else’s life and bridge the gaps between us. You have not been asked to tread the path we have. Now you have the opportunity to walk with us for awhile. The choice to come along is yours.

4. Atone

Taking everything you’ve learned and applying it to your work going forward is the truest test of sincerity. You’ve indicated that you will take the lessons from this with you when you write season four.

It’s worth asking yourself, however, are you doing this out of love for those affected or to protect yourself? Intention is important because it will show up in your work. The difference between a story told out of love and one told of obligation is immense. It shows up in a hundred subtle ways.

That’s why a truly effective apology is atonement without expectation of forgiveness or reward. The truth is, you have no control over whether anyone else forgives you or is willing to continue the journey of The 100 with you. That is up to each individual. You can only control why and how you proceed.

You are free to ignore this guide entirely. You’re free to come at your story from a place where you are thinking of yourself, others, or both. It’s a creative challenge to honor your vision and practical restraints while also prioritizing your directive to make amends. It’s in meeting these challenges that remarkable new stories can be told.

With that, of course forgiveness is possible. Love is a profound healer. There is freedom in saying “Whatever you think of me, I give my love to you.” That love can never be taken from you, whether the ones you care about spit in your face or walk away.

If you’d like to see all of this in action, I suggest watching Lexa apologize to Clarke on Season 3 of The 100. It’s a great example.

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The 100 and the Power of Story

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by Kathryn Graham

On March 3rd, an episode entitled ‘Thirteen’ of The 100 aired on the CW. Shortly afterward, the social media sphere blew up with enraged and heartbroken fans. Why? Here There Be Spoilers.

In this episode, an older male mentor and advisor, Titus, shot his commander and the only lesbian character, Lexa, with a stray bullet mere moments after her one and only love scene with the bisexual female protagonist, Clarke.

The showrunner, Jason Rothenberg, claims he decided to do this because the actress who played Lexa, Alycia Debnam-Carey, was signed to Fear The Walking Dead. You can read more about the entire situation and the social media debacle here: Why The 100’s Showrunner Jason Rothenberg’s Silence Sparked Backlash From His LGBTQ Fans. The results are the same regardless of intent, however. Of any outcome he could have come up with, Rothenberg landed on having Lexa accidentally killed directly after a romantic, touching sex scene with the girl she’d been pining for the entire season.

What’s the big deal? It’s ‘just a story’, right? Can’t the fans who are upset just get over it or go watch something else? To that last point, no, we really can’t. Due to a drought of LGBT characters on television in general, Lexa was one of a kind. More than that, however, nothing is ever ‘just a story’, and it is important to recognize and respect the way in which fiction intersects with the real world.

Lexa’s death on The 100 falls into an overall pattern in media in which lesbian, gay, or bisexual characters die for shock value or to further another character’s storyline. This is called ‘Dead Lesbian Syndrome’ or ‘Bury Your Gays’.

Again you may ask, who cares? It’s all fiction. The trouble is, this pattern of murdering LGBT characters on screen and The 100’s contribution to it is part of a much larger story our culture is telling itself about the existence of minorities, and in particular, LGBT people.

A story is never ‘just a story’. Right now, you contain within you the story of who you are, what the world is like, and your place in it. External events occur, but it is how you tell yourself the story of your life that dictates who you are, how you feel, and how you influence others.

We collectively create our world through storytelling. Public perception on a grand scale is shaped by stories that family members, religions, politicians, and media portray. This is undeniable. It is also why a ‘good story’ is the best way to create a movement for social change.

People like to dis television (aka ‘the boobtube’) as if it’s the cause for the dumbing down of society. This is an outdated and simplistic view. Television is undergoing a Renaissance. It is now being hailed as the new ‘visual novel’. And lots of us, all over the world, are watching. The Average American Watches This Much TV Everyday. That is to say: nearly five hours of television per day. In short, the stories we tell on television reach a lot of people, and they matter.

All writers of any stripe, including television writers, purposefully create their stories to connect with others. They invite you to invest a piece of yourself in their creations. They want you to pay attention so they can inform you. Change your mind. Make you see. Most importantly, they want to make you feel. The craft of storytelling is about selecting choices that support the impact you wish to make.

The storytellers of The 100 chose to include a compelling lesbian character. They also chose to kill her and the method of her death. While the intent behind this was not to say ‘being a woman and loving a woman will get you killed’ (it seems clear that the writer for the episode, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, did expressly not intend this result), it’s not hard to see why the juxtaposition of these two scenes would send that message. Lexa was not meant to die because she was a lesbian, but the story dictated that she died because she loved Clarke.

This message is not new to LGBT people. Right now, despite all of the progress that has been made, the story the real world tells LGBT people boils down to this: You should not exist. We are told over and over that we should change, be invisible, or just die. This story is woven into our society in many ways, but in television, people who wish us to disappear accomplish this mainly by keeping characters like us off the air or killing them when they do show up on screen.

If people want to make us invisible, they rail against including LGBT characters in almost any story where they might appear. They deny any romantic or sexual interactions between same-sex partners unless slapped in the face with evidence. Same sex couple’s interactions, no matter how tame, are given ‘adult’ ratings, while no one in their right mind would give a heterosexual couple a stricter rating for simply holding hands or a kiss.

Opponents of LGBT people make certain that children aren’t able to see people like us on TV. To them, our mere existence is presumed damaging to a child. So relationships like Korra & Asami on the animated Nickelodeon show Legend of Korra are largely relegated to a suggestion and an after-the-fact acknowledgment of their relationship, despite the creators’ own wishes.

Censors try to keep same sex relationships off the air precisely because they know it will change things. If representation held no power at all, there would be no need to bury it. But they understand the power of story well enough to know that showing two women or two men in love, or even the hint of it, can be a catalyst for change in the audience and society at large.

They know that seeing gay people represented as heroes or happily in love in The 100 or Star Wars or Xena will change everyone’s hearts and minds. They understand the power of story.

And largely, they have succeeded. This depressing statistic about sums it up:

“According to the most recent GLAAD study, only 3.9 percent of 813 characters regularly seen on prime-time network scripted series will be lesbian, gay or bisexual – a total of 32 characters.” (Cited from here: How the 100 Buried Its Gays and Almost Got Away With It)

What happens when those few lesbian, gay, or bisexual characters actually do get portrayed on screen? You guessed it. They usually end up dead. Here’s another sad and telling list: All 138 Dead Lesbians and Bisexual Characters on TV, and How They Died.

Invisible or dead. That’s the story lesbian, gay, and bisexual kids are told. Is it any wonder, then, when we’re afraid? That we’re heartbroken and tired? When we feel like no one cares about us? Is it surprising that so many of us take our own lives? It’s what the world has been telling us to do all along.

LGBT kids ask ‘Where’s my happy ending?’ Our enemies say, ‘You don’t deserve one’. Our allies say ‘Maybe some day’.

If we lived in a different world with a different story, then Lexa’s death might have been seen for how it was intended: an enlightened leader who chooses peace and love is cruelly killed by those who cannot see as well as she can. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), we live in 2016, not post-nuclear 2150, and the story we tell the LGBT community is still largely comprised of two tales:

Nobody wants to see you as you are.

You will die because of who you love.

It’s time to change the story. It’s time to make ‘some day’ into ‘right now’. And you know what? The fans are doing just that. Between their campaign to take down tone-deaf showrunner Rothenberg and the ongoing massive fan fundraising event that so far has brought in nearly 45,000 for the Trevor Project (support for at risk LGBT youth), The 100 fans aren’t going to let someone else tell their story anymore.

Bonus? Javier Grillo-Marxuach is determined to make amends and show his true colors too. He’s set to Explore Xena & Gabrielle’s Relationship in the Xena Reboot. Maybe some day is a little closer than we think.