Peggy Bechko’s World: Ideas – Cultivating the Twists and Turns

by Peggy Bechko

linear_chaos_symbol,_by_obonic on Deviant Art

Our favorite chaos symbol by Obonic

Ideas.

We all need ‘em, right? Writers are always open to and searching for ideas.

And they pop up everywhere – or at times, nowhere (the bane of a writer’s existence)

For me it’s not uncommon for an idea for writing the newest story to crop up when I’m reading the newspaper, watching some ‘out there’ show on aliens, maybe when I’m traveling or just taking a long bath.

Conferences can be another great resource for writers. Chatting with like-minded folks who write and create and the ideas just seem to flow with a back and forth, read to give birth to a fantastic idea (or many of them) to be written into exciting scripts, novels, short stories and even creative copywriting. Enthusiastic and creative people can spark like crazy.

These days technology plays a big role in drawing down an idea a writer could put to use. New discoveries happen every day, new technologies are being developed and writers watch in eager anticipation of what they might put to use next. Boring isn’t even part of the equation.

A woman crossing a street while texting is slammed by a van – she’s catapulted into another dimension instead of being killed (whohoo, string theory!). Is she solid on the other side? Can they (whoever ‘they’ are) see her? If she can get back will she be dead since her body was slammed? Cool, huh?

But, as with all ideas, it falls to the writer to create a world and the people in it so that they are believable. As a writer of scripts or novels it’s imperative that the new world doesn’t come off like some kind of , “wow, isn’t that amazing” type of world or it will probably turn off readers in every genre.

Characters have to be those who remain in readers (and movie watchers as well as script readers) long after the writing has been read. Throughout a story a character needs to change and evolve and the audience needs to see it happen. Writers owe it to their audience to do that. A story doesn’t move forward well when everything is left to the end.

Seriously, writers, in order to create the necessary tension from the first page of script or novel need to begin in the midst of chaos. It’s everything that swirls around the chaos (whatever kind it is – mental, external, something else) which captures the reader (or audience) immediately and causes them to engage with the protagonist’s struggles. The failures, the obstacles to be overcome, the adapting to circumstance to push on.

Take that fantastic idea that occurs to your writing self and slam it around. The idea of the woman texting above. What if the dimension she’s been thrown into exists, but only because she was thrown into it. Maybe the phone she’d been texting on still works and she can text with the dimension she’s left even from there.

The general world of the writer is to create a new idea, twist it, let it find its new track, then twist it again. In the long run this method of writing will create memorable characters who live in worlds that can’t be forgotten.

Writer? Then try creating and twisting until the story you’ve written becomes a smooth and wonderous world; stunning and unforgettable.


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.

John Ostrander: Writing Rules

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by John Ostrander

Recently on Facebook, a father asked me what advice I could give his 13-year old daughter who wanted to be a writer. I had to be succinct but I think my reply was moderately useful and I thought I’d repeat it here.

As I’ve done columns about writing before, some of this may be familiar but this time it will be the short form.

  1. Read. If you want to be a writer, you need to be a reader. Fiction, non-fiction, newspaper (or online news feeds). Read outside your narrow interests. You draw from yourself so you need to feed yourself. My late wife Kim Yale called it “re-stocking the pond.”
  2. Write. Seems obvious but it’s not. Write every day even if it’s only for five minutes. Get into the habit of writing. We all have a certain amount of crap we need to write out of our systems before we can do real work. A writer writes. Get to it.
  3. Live. Again, seems obvious but in writing we draw upon our own experiences. Live life. Learn from those experiences. It’s all grist for your writing mill, the good and the bad. If you don’t know anything about life, how will you get life into your work? If you don’t have any real life in your work, how will the reader connect with it and you?
  4. Write what you know. This combines 2 and 3 above. Write what you know from your own experience to be true. Not what somebody else told you was true. What you know.
  5. You have a right to make mistakes. Best advice from a teacher I ever got (Harold Lang at Loyola University Theater, Chicago). You have the right to try something and have it not work so long as the attempt was honest and that you learn from it.
  6. Make big mistakes. Again, courtesy of Harold Lang. Big mistakes are easier to see and correct. You learn as much – maybe more – from your mistakes as from your successes. A big mistake means you took a big risk. There is no success without a big risk. Try, fail, and learn.
  7. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It won’t be on the first draft, anyway. It never is. Write first, correct/improve/spellchek later. You need to put the story into words so you have something concrete from which to work. The first draft is not intended to be the final draft. Don’t get hung up on it.
  8. Don’t tell anyone your ideas before you write them down. You do that and you’ll release all the energy in the story. It wants to be told; you want to tell it. Speaking it lets the steam out of the engine. Let the steam out and the engine doesn’t run. If you speak your idea you won’t write it. Write it first. You don’t know what you have until you’ve done that; you just think you know. Do the work and then share.
  9. You are your characters. There has to be something of you in every character you write. That includes the bad guys, the villains, the psychotics. If you write a bigot, you have to find out where the bigot is within you. That’s not easy and it’s not comfortable. It still has to be done in order to write the character honestly.
  10. You are not your characters. You also have to separate yourself from your characters. They are not your alter-egos. You have to give them their own lives and then let them live their own lives.
  11. Don’t look down. You’re a tightrope walker with no net. You have to focus on getting to the other side; if you look down, you’ll fall. Translated from metaphor – don’t ask if you can write. Assume you can. If you have to ask, the answer is “no”. Don’t put the weight of your existence on your writing; that’s too heavy an existential load. Don’t pretend that asking these questions will make you more honest and thus a better person and thus a better writer. They won’t. They’ll just feed your neuroses and keep you from writing. Do the work.
  12. You have to know the rules in order to know which ones to break. A freeform jazz musician may appear to play whatever the hell they want but they know music, they know their instrument, they know what has been done before and they interpret it their own way. Learn the rules.
  13. Write questions, not answers. If you want to preach, get a pulpit. As my fellow ComicMixian, Denny O’Neal, once told me, “You can say anything to a reader but first you must tell them a story.” Pose the question, explore it, and – if you feel like it – give AN answer but don’t assume that it is THE answer. Some readers have come up to me and told me what they got out of a given story and character; if I’m smart, I listen and learn. They may have a better answer than mine. Assume your readers are at least as smart as you.
  14. There is only one way to write and that’s whatever way works for you. Anyone tells you differently is trying to sell you something. That includes me and this column. Listen to everyone and take the bits that makes sense to you. That way you come up with your own style, your own approach.

Now… go write something!


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. Don’t forget to read his most excellent blog at ComicMix.

Peggy Bechko’s World: Writers Talk about…yep, Writing!

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by Peggy Bechko

I’m a writer, a creator, but who doesn’t like to get the viewpoint of others? To listen in, via quotations as to how the minds of others work. In this case, writers.

Also in this case how to begin. It’s amazing when confronting the blank page. All writers know the feeling. Those who write fiction, non-fiction, articles and even business reports. What to write first? What words to put on that blank screen or paper?

It’s special and at the same time nearly terrifying. Oh, the heck with ‘nearly’ it is terrifying. And, since putting words to screen (ie paper) is pretty much the same for every writer, I located some basic tips from writers I particularly like.

So join me and let’s take that first step, often the most difficult, together.

Stephen King is one of my favorite authors. His position is “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” Hmmm, not to be difficult, but I’m not sure I agree with that one. For me the scariest is just after I hit those first key strokes and see what’s coming up on that white screen before me.

Louis L’Amour takes another tack. “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”   Yes! That’s always been one of my mottos. Do it already – you can always change it.

Famed Sci Fi writer Ray Bradbury has this comment, “Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.” That’s another one that should get you, the writer, moving – no matter what you write. Either that or send you running, screaming in another direction.

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Jack London says. He’s my kinda guy. Don’t sit there. Don’t wait. Go after it. Writing inspiration isn’t something that falls upon you like rose petals. It’s something you do. So do it.

Toni Morrison advises, “I always know the ending; that’s where I start.”  To which I say, well, it may work for you Toni, but not for me. I rarely know the ending when I start. It usually pops out at me somewhere in the first third of writing the book. That’s not to say I don’t plan and ideas don’t swarm, but I’m not certain about the ending when I begin.

Author Les Brown makes the statement, “You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great.” That truly hits it on the nose. For every type of writer. The simple fact is you have to start…no matter how scary that starting is. Doesn’t matter if it’s a business paper, a short story, non-fiction book or screenplay. It’s not going to get done if that blank page overwhelms and you don’t start.

Sweet Beatrix Potter takes the more optimistic view, “There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.” And I guess that’s what I believe – especially since I never know the end when I start. I just don’t know where it will take me until I get into the act of writing.

And one last comment by Nora Roberts, “You don’t find time to write. You make time.”  Take that one to heart. Write.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. This article first appeared on her great 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.

3 Script Development Truths Nobody Ever Reveals

Can you guess who the writers are here? Yeppers, thought so.

Can you guess who the writers are here? Yeppers, thought so.

by munchman

Gleaned by your fave munchamaniac from the mouths of experienced writer friends who actually pay attention to what works for them when trying to make a deal (and what doesn’t):

  1. Execs say they don’t care about our writing style but just want to read a “good” script. They’re lying – to themselves as well as to you and your agent
  2. True Hollywood definition of a “good script” – “One my boss will like”
  3. Alternate but equally true Hollywood definition of a “good script” – One that has a concept or storyline that will fill a gap in our development schedule and get me promoted”

Any other old pros out there with more to add? Yer friendly neighborhood munchman is eager to know!

David Lynch on Where Great Ideas Come From

Who needs a Ted Talk when we have David Lynch and The Atlantic? When this dood muses about inspiration, we listen:

More videos from The Atlantic

If RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK Got a Round of TV Network Notes

Jeez Jon strikes again, and you know we’re helpless to resist!

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by Jeez Jon

NOTE: The following contains spoilers for one of the most beloved action films of all time.  If you don’t want to be spoiled, please stop now. If reading network notes make you jittery, please have a martini.

—–

INDIANA JONES 101 “Raiders of the Lost Ark” FC1 NETWORK NOTES

Hello, team!  Great job turning our notes around so quickly.  While we are definitely making progress, the ship hasn’t been completely righted just yet.  We really need to bear down and focus on our strengths.  Right now, Dr. Jones is not as compelling as he should be. He has a history with Marion, but it isn’t fully explained. If we cannot be explicit about their relationship, how can our audience fall in love with them and tweet about them incessantly? Remember, if we tell the audience everything, they’ll be on our side! A bite pass is absolutely necessary. Also, the audience needs more take-away information from all of these places Indiana is visiting.  Right now, all we know of Nepal is one dive bar that gets destroyed; is there anything else to his mountainous country that our unsophisticated demographic could easily digest?  (In Episode 102, we at least learn that some people in India eat monkey brains.)  Let’s wring out as much drama and information for our audience to enjoy.  Once this happens, then we can give time-coded notes.

SOUTH AMERICA

While the location looks beautiful, we have a long section where we don’t even see Indiana Jones’ face, much less hear from him at all.  When the flunky tries to shoot Dr. Jones and gets unarmed by Indy’s whip, this is a great opportunity for a great big intro package.  Let’s kick it off with a bite like “Hi, I’m Dr. Indiana Jones. You can call me Indy.  I’m a college professor and a lover of antiquities.  I’m currently in South America looking for my next big discovery.”  Let’s cover this with home movies, photos of him as a child, etc.  If we don’t completely spell out who are main character is in the first 30 seconds of air, the audience will feel confused and worried.  That could lead them to change the channel and that is NOT what we want!

Why does Indy fill a bag with sand?  He doesn’t explain this; add a bite please.

Wow, so many booby traps in this tomb! I feel like I’m watching Wipe Out (but better)! Why are there so many booby traps here? This would be a great opportunity for a lower third infographic about how many ancient tribes loved trying to kill people who tried to steal their treasure.  We need to inform the audience without overwhelming them with information.  We can’t get too brainy; that’s what PBS is for!

Oh, THAT’S why he filled up the bag with sand. I completely forgot! Let’s add a flashback of Indy filling up the bag. Constantly reminding the audience what is happening is what we do best as storytellers!

Who’s Belloq? Why is he stealing the idol from Indy?  Again, we need another intro bite about him. If this is our big villain, let’s set up with with a big bite so the audience knows who to hate.  Even though it’s extremely obvious that Belloq is not a good person, we can’t assume that the audience will pick this up.  Add a bite and it will help immensely.

COLLEGE

Please make sure that the girl who wrote “LOVE YOU” on her eyelids has signed a release….

Read it all at Jeez Jon’s blog

Reality TV with Troy DeVolld – Podcast

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Funny and informative interview with TVWriter™ pal Troy DeVolld,  author of Reality TV: An Insider’s Guide to TV’s Hottest Market, and go-to guy for all things having to do with the reality TV storytelling process. (What? They tell stories?)

The podcast with Laura Powers is HERE


Troy DeVolld is a Larry Brody buddy and one of the masters of the reality TV genre. This article originally appeared on his Reality TV blog. And while you’re thinking about him, why not buy his book, Reality TV: An Insider’s Guide to TV’s Hottest Market?