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.

TVWriter™ Don’t-Miss Posts of the Week – Sept. 26. 2016

In case you’ve missed what’s happening at TVWriter™, the most popular blog posts during the week ending yesterday were:

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

Indie Video: Southeast Asia Animation Wants Your Opinion

Peggy Bechko’s World: Writers, Get Out of Your Creative Rut!

Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path with VJ Boyd

Cassandra Hennessey: Why I Stopped Watching Fear The Walking Dead

And our most visited permanent resource pages were:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT

The Logline

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT: Enter

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT: Rules

Major thanks to everyone for making this such a great week. Don’t forget to click above and read what you missed. re-read what you loved, and while you’re at it do yourself a favor and ENTER THE PEOPLE’S PILOT. (Yeah, we’ll be saying this till the contest is over November 2nd cuz we really want you to get your careers soaring!)

Cassandra Hennessey: Why I Stopped Watching Fear The Walking Dead

boat

Sinking ship?

by Cassandra Hennessey

Oh, it pains me to write this, it really does; but I have not watched Fear the Walking Dead since its return in August.

Yes! Me; The Champion of the show since Season One, Episode One! Me; The one who was giving people grief on Twitter to have patience and let the show develop before judging it as “boring” or “not having enough walkers to make it interesting”! To be honest, I haven’t had the interest or the unction to continue as an avid audience member.

I know, it’s shocking to me, too.

And for the passed few weeks, I’ve wondered why I’m not setting the carpet on fire on Sunday nights, running to turn on the TV and tune in.

The elusive “why” hit me just now, as I was mulling my malaise towards the series over my second cup of coffee.

It’s characterization– or the lack thereof– that has made me so antipathetic toward this show.

Fear the Walking Dead’s characters HAVE NO CHARACTER!

Wait. Hear me out.

I understand that the show has no source material to draw upon like its predecessor; but that’s no excuse. With as popular a genre as zombie fiction is, there’s more than enough material out there to siphon from.

In Season One, the story was gripping in its realism with what I like to call the “small touches of 21st Century Tropes”– the YouTube video of the walker attacking the EMS worker; police shootings of walkers causing civil unrest for being mistaken instances of “excessive force”; missing children posters gradually appearing near the playground at the onset of the outbreak. These drew the viewer into the story with that sense of “What If?” realistic circumstances…

…And then they got to the boat. Once they got the cast onto the Abigail, I believe it was all bets off.

What could have really played as a “Twelve Angry Men” dramatic scenario with a ragtag group of perfect strangers in the confines of a vessel out to sea surrounded by unknown threats fizzled. I believe there could have been more tension on board– especially between Strand, Maddie and Salazar, who have the Type A personality traits of the cast.

This takes me back to my original thought about how characterization has been handled on both The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead. Let’s examine the subtle and not-so-subtle nuances, shall we?

On The Walking Dead, we know Michonne is a badass with an eclectic appreciation for the arts. Remember the multi colored cat statue she just had to go back for, or the house where she removed the tarps from the hanging paintings, to peruse the artwork? We know she has a silly side and a penchant for Crazy Cheese.

Or how about Andrea’s  moral dilemma of taking the mermaid necklace from the mall to give to her sister, Amy? We found out three things in that scene very subtly; A) Andrea was tentative about taking the necklace without paying for it B) Rick realizing that on any other day, it would be considered larceny to simply take the necklace, but now in the Zombie Apocalypse, all societal norms have been cast aside and condoned Andrea’s taking it for her sister; and C) Andrea has a sister who really, really likes– and at one time collected– all things mermaid-related.

Or how about Carl? Growing up in the Zombie Apocalypse must suck. This kid has had to learn to shoot efficiently to survive while still being a kid enough to enjoy chocolate pudding and read comic books.

We could go on to discuss at great length Daryl’s relationship with his brother Merle, his dysfunctional childhood, and finding a sense of family in Rick’s group.

These nuances, these sprinklings of humanity are what Fear the Walking Dead sorely lacks.

We do know a few things; Daniel Salazar has a dark, sordid past. So does Strand. And that Travis is a pretty good mechanic in a pinch.

But do we care about these characters? About what happens to them? No, not really.

It’s disappointing, because I really was intrigued by Nick in Season One. I was like, “Wow, what an interesting angle; a junkie in the Zombie Apocalypse. Someone who’s wily and streetwise, manipulative and self-destructive. It’ll be interesting to see how he redeems himself and others during this ultimate test of endurance and struggle to survive…”

…And then, it seemed the writers simply FORGOT that Nick was a junkie. Gone were the withdrawals, the trawling for a fix. Not only that, but it seems that lately, they’ve tried to morph him more into Murphy from Z Nation. They’ve made him into the Walker King.

And can we talk about Maddie? You know what– never mind. Maddie spent most of Season Two berating Strand about what to do and where to go with HIS OWN BOAT after he was gracious enough to let her and her family come along to escape L.A.

So, there’s a two-fold problem here– not enough characterization and not enough likability. I know I wouldn’t want to be trapped anywhere with any one of these characters. Okay, maybe Travis. But that is it. I think that’s because Cliff Curtis is doing an incredible job portraying the Every Man character the best he can despite the material he’s been given and well, Travis for some odd reason reminds me of Chief Brody from Jaws. Just saying. He’s got a “Roy Scheider circa 1975” vibe going.

The other day when discussing the show, I couldn’t remember Ophelia’s name. I literally blanked on it. I’ve never done that with The Walking Dead. Even with minor characters.

And therein lies the problem. That’s HUGE. Not to remember a name of a character that has been there since Season One.

I remember Carol’s husband’s name. Ed was a piece of trash. Shane pummeled said piece-of-trash how many seasons ago? And how many episodes was Ed in?

That’s what I’m saying, folks. Characterization. Believe-ability. In Ed’s case it wasn’t likability– because he was a wife-beating, belligerent scumbag– but it was the sympathy for Carol and Sophie and giving the nod to Shane meting out an appropriate punishment that made him memorable.

If you’re wondering why I haven’t touched on the metamorphosis of Carol as a character– THAT is for an entirely different article. Actually, I would write about that in an entire chapter of a book!

As viewers, we were told that we were going to witness how a “21st Century Family Unit” was going to weather the storm and survive the Zombie Apocalypse.

But, by the Season Two mid-season finale, the family had been split up– Madison and Alicia escaped with Strand, Travis decides to stay behind with a gone-off-the-deep-end Chris, and Nick– who ventured off on a solo adventure in the wilds of Mexico, covered in entrails, masquerading as King of the Walkers …

That was the mid-season finale. And frankly, I wasn’t intrigued enough to watch what happened next upon its return. It wasn’t as gut-wrenching or emotional to provoke a “OMG, I can’t wait to see what happens next!” reaction. In fact, after Daniel Salazar’s apparent fiery demise, it was almost anti-climatic.

Now, I’m not going to merely bash the show without offering some thoughts of how to resolve this glaring problem with the writing, so here it is: MAKE US CARE ABOUT THESE CHARACTERS. Let us be able to identify with them more. You don’t have to show us the skeletons in their closets; just let us in on what makes them tick.

So far, they haven’t really had to struggle for food or water. Hell, they’ve been on a YACHT for a whole season. Alicia is a privileged, spoiled brat who appears freshly styled and caked with cosmetics; Chris is an emo-turned-psychopath. Madison is a bossy shrew. And Ophelia is underused and uninteresting. Have I missed anything?

Evidently not, because its viewership has been steadily on the decline since its return from Mid-Season Break. I’m not the only one who has opted out. Fear the Walking Dead has gone from premiering with 7.61 million viewers in 2015 to only 2.99 million viewers (September 4th, 2016’s episode). They’ve got to step up their game. The numbers should be a startling eye-opener to AMC that something is very wrong.

Some have speculated that it’s because there is no definitive “villain” on the show, but I don’t think that is necessarily the case. The problem goes much deeper than the introduction of a “discount Governor” or “Dime Store Neagan” could resolve. Again, if we don’t care about these characters, we won’t root for them as they struggle against whatever or whoever the obstacle is.

I’m not saying that we should know what Alicia’s favorite color is (though, in a purely psychological character-study sense, it might have embellished in the scene when they were rummaging through the luggage from the doomed Flight 462 to show some preference for color or style). It would have added to the “teenager” aspect of her character and maybe sparked some telling dialog between her and her estranged brother, Nick.

We see that Maddie’s a heavy drinker. Have her mention what her favorite beverage of choice is. Maybe mention that she used to raid her dad’s liquor when she was Alicia’s age. We get the feeling of her being unconventional and on the cusp of being inducted into the Hall of Badassery, but we’ve got no backstory to base our intuitions upon.

We’re fast approaching the conclusion of Season Two and have not gotten to truly acquaint the main characters to appreciate their personal plights.

I’m not going to be crass enough to suggest that there needs to be a change of command at the helm of this ship, but perhaps AMC would do best to find another showrunner who may correct the course and steer this vessel into better waters.

That being said, AMC has greenlit the show for Season 3 to air in April of 2017.

If you’re a fan of the show, what’s your take? How do you feel the show could be improved? Do you feel there’s a need for improvement at all? I’d love to know your thoughts!


Cassandra Hennessey is a TVWriter™ Contributing Writer. You can learn more about her HERE

Web Series: DAVID

Now this is what we call goddamn fucking funny:

Yeppers, kids, it’s true. We luvs us our disgusting decomposition.

In the series premiere of ‘David’ starring Nathan Fielder, David is told he has five weeks to live. Watch all five episodes here: http://sprdlx.co/David-Series

Super Deluxe is a community of creative weirdos making videos that are (we hope) more substantial than much of what you see on the internet today.

Written & Directed by: Dean Fleischer-Camp
Starring: Nathan Fielder, Jenny Slate, Chris Jonen, Nelson Cheng, Brandi Austin, Sally Berman, Noel Arthur, Tony Cronin, Savannah Zapata, Raquel Bell, Victor Carrera, Bill Walton
Production Company: MEMORY
Executive Producers: Riel Roch-Decter, Sebastian Pardo, Dean Fleischer-Camp
Produced by: Rachel Nedervel
Director of Photography: Lowell A. Meyer
Production Design by: Almitra Corey
Costume Designer: Natasha Noor
Original Music by: Will Wiesenfeld
Sound Design: Tim Korn & Keller McDivitt

FACEBOOK: http://sprdlx.co/1lMtTTs
INSTAGRAM: http://sprdlx.co/1YWKySU
TWITTER: http://sprdlx.co/1YWKHFW
TUMBLR: http://sprdlx.co/1Uk5jaQ
SNAPCHAT: https://www.snapchat.com/add/superdel…

Posts TVWriter™ Wishes We’d Published

This week’s collection of recent articles from other websites about TV, TV writing, etc., etc., etc., including a couple about writing for television in places we in the U.S. don’t normally think about.

The plan here is for you to click on their headlines and visit the sites and read the posts in full…and is anybody asks, tell ’em TVWriter™ sentcha, okay?

Taking poetic license with AI personalities
by Elizabeth Dwoskin

ai-writer

Until recently, Robyn Ewing was a writer in Hollywood, developing TV scripts and pitching pilots to film studios.

Now, she is applying her creative talents toward building the personality of a different type of character – a virtual assistant, animated by artificial intelligence, that interacts with sick patients.

Ewing works with engineers on the software program, called Sophie, which can be downloaded to a smartphone. The virtual nurse gently reminds users to check their medication, asks them how they are feeling or if they are in pain, then sends the data to a real doctor….

Former Dallas lawyer David Hudgins now ‘Game of Silence’ producer
by David Martindale

davidhudgins

 

Two decades ago, David Hudgins was a successful but unfulfilled Dallas trial lawyer.

Today, he loves his life as an in-demand TV writer and producer. His new series, a twist-filled thriller called Game of Silence, premieres at 9 p.m. Tuesday on NBC.

Hudgins’ journey of reinvention — how he got from Point A to Point B — is a remarkable and poignant story….

Boothbay-based TV show gets off ground
by Matthew Stilphen

ryancrew

After a few technical issues, the second episode of “Era Man,” Boothbay’s one and only scripted television production, is finally available online through video hosting site Vimeo.

The brainchild of Boothbay natives Ryan Leighton, Cody Mitchell and Brian Papineau, the show is described as a surreal social commentary on the trials and tribulations of growing up in a small coastal Maine town, sort of the “Wonder Years” meets a “Murder She Wrote” fever dream.

The non-linear story arc and clever camera work aspire to higher artistic standards but Leighton keeps the operation simple….

A Female Producer Explains 4 Ways Women Get a Raw Deal in Hollywood
by Mynette Louie

ryancrew

By this point, it’s been well established that women who work in film have a tougher time of it than men. Even so, when the Tumblr account Shit People Say to Women Directors recently debuted, it quickly went viral. Many of its crowdsourced anecdotes involved terrible tales of extreme sexism and harassment, but just as eye-opening were the smaller stories, the more common microaggressions that female directors (and producers like me) must deal with on a regular basis. These minor offenses are often committed by people who have no idea that they’re doing it, but they can add up,…

John Ostrander: Writing Rules

ostrander-close-wasteland-3-d

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.

TVWriter™ Herbie J Pilato has a New Website

by munchman

4629759070_843x423TVWriter™ Contributing Editor Herbie J Pilato, known far and wide as, well, as Herbie J Pilato, has himself a new website, featuring everything from his authorized bio (written by famous Classic TV biographer Herbie J Pilato, no less) to a complete list of (and links to) his interweb work, books, and everything else you can think of – including all there is to know about the Classic TV Preservation site and even a link to TVWriter™.

It isn’t precisely a party in our pocket, but we definitely want y’all to come. (Herbie J may be the expert on Classic TV, but yer friendly munchamaniac still knows his Classic Underground Rock.)

Congrats on your grand opening, Herbie J Dood!

Get thee over to the man’s delicious new moonfruit That’s kind of an inside joke that’ll be part of once you click here: http://herbiejpilato.com