Peggy Bechko’s Writing Tips: Writing Without Emoticons

yolks-emoticonsby Peggy Bechko

As writers we think about many things, many aspects of the tales we’re telling, many details.

But, do we think about the face? It’s the first thing we notice when we meet someone, or catch someone’s eye across a crowded room. It’s what we focus on when we have an exchange of words. Whether acutely aware or not, we note smiles, eyebrow quirks, white or not-so-white teeth, frowns, lips compresses or purses, forehead crinkles and smile lines.

So what about our writing? Well, plainly when tackling a script we toss in a few simple directives or notes about what a character is feeling and doing and it’s up to the actor/actress to take it from there. We can try to be clear, but it’s still up to the actors. Hope you get someone really good to play a pivotal part. Sometimes something so subtle and simple as eye-widening will add a whole dimension to a character. You, as the writer have little control over how the actor/actress chooses to interpret what you’ve written. What sort of expressions are chosen to depict what was written on the script page.

Novel writers have another problem. Why doesn’t a writer focus in on the face when writing an engrossing novel when it’s what people zero in on in everyday life?

Easy. While someone’s face offers a continuing kaleidoscope of emotions and micro expressions they all happen in a split second. Often times one after the other. As writers all we would be doing is describing the next wink, crinkle or smile.

On balance, the face is still important to the novel writer. Plainly when a new character enters there are usually expressions described or eye color mentioned or shape of the face or how the eyes twinkle mentioned. All of that creates a picture in your readers’ minds.

You’ll notice though that these are physical things being described, not emotional ones. Emotion must be conveyed by writers through body movement and dialog. The movement of the body, what’s going on there, is key to demonstrating to the readers what the character is feeling.

Think about it. We all read body movement and facial expressions every day when we interact with others. What is telegraphed to us by them influences us in how we feel and how we respond. This being the case when the writer lays description of body language onto the page the reader becomes more empathetic toward the characters. Toss in dialog that conveys what the character is feeling along with the added advantage the novel writer has of getting inside a character’s head and the writer creates a very engaging, emotional moment on the page.

Why does all this work? Hey, you already know the answer if you pause to think. The reader, guided by the writer, isn’t focusing on the rapidly shifting facial shifts, which is largely a visual task, but rather on body motion and internal feelings which trips the imagination of the reader so they create their own movie in their heads and are right there watching the characters interact. So while noting a smile or other ‘large’ movement of the face works well in addition to the body language mentioned above, beware, they’re frequently used to the point of (in the reader’s eye) disgust. Be sparing. Less is more as I’ve frequently been told.

So what to do? How to handle this as a writer? Ponder body movements coupled with emotion like fear or joy, or stress. What do they look like? What have you looked like when experiencing those emotions?

Take a field trip. Observe other people in public.

That couple over there is having a fight. Oh! What are they doing? Waving their arms? Frowning? Standing stiffly? Leaning toward each other – away? Pointing a finger? Add to any of that a few inward thoughts about what they feel such as holding back tears, choked up throat, a rising heat within, and you, as writer, can create very powerful scenes.

Okay, writers, shift mental gears and express those emotions. Let’s get the whole body into it.


Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™.  Learn more about her HERE. And don’t forget to visit her sensational blog.

The Humanitas Prize is Looking for Entries

Speaking of writing awards, here’s a lovely press release for one of the most significant awards out there – the Humanitas Prize. (Sigh, remember the day when LB came ohsoclose to, like, getting one? Anyway:

Humanitas Prize Capture

by Team TVWriter™ Press Service

Yeppers, it’s another press release – or to be precise, another worthwhile one:

CALL FOR ENTRIES for the 41st Annual HUMANITAS Prize
Submission Deadline is August 31, 2015


For over four decades, the HUMANITAS Prize has empowered writers with financial support and recognition to tell stories which are both entertaining and uplifting. HUMANITAS encourages writers who create contemporary media to use their immense power to:

* Encourage viewers to truly explore what it means to be a human being.
* Challenge viewers to take charge of their lives and use their freedom in a responsible way.
* Motivate viewers to reach out in respect and compassion to all their brothers and sisters in the human family.

“HUMANITAS exists to recognize, encourage and empower writers who teach us how to embrace our common humanity by way of their unique and powerful voices. It is a noble mission. We believe film and television have tremendous power. By bringing into our living rooms human beings who are very different from ourselves in culture, race, lifestyle, political loyalties and religious beliefs, we can dissolve the walls of ignorance and fear that separate us from one another.”  – Cathleen Young, HUMANITAS Executive Director

The winners receive both a trophy and a cash award at our annual HUMANITAS Awards Luncheon, which will be held in January or February 2016. The total annual amount of the awards is $80,000 and is divided up into the following eight categories:

* Feature Film Screenplay
* Sundance Feature Film Screenplay
* 90 minute Teleplay
* 60 minute Teleplay
* 30 minute Teleplay
* Feature Documentary
* Children’s Animation
* Children’s Live Action

Eligibility Guidelines:
* No entry fee nor limit to the number of submissions
* Teleplay must be written and produced in the English language for U.S. Television (Broadcast, Cable, Internet and Satellite)
* Teleplay must have had a national release on Television (Broadcast, Cable, Internet and Satellite)
* Feature film screenplay becomes eligible in the year in which it receives a U.S. theatrical release
* Teleplay or film must be aired or released between September 1, 2014 and August 31, 2015

Click HERE to submit.  Please help us celebrate what is right with television and film.

To learn more about the HUMANITAS Prize, please visit our website at http://www.humanitasprize.org

Deirdre Dooley, Program Administrator
Deirdre.dooley@humanitasprize.org 310-454-8769

The WGAW is Getting Ready for the 2016 Writers Guild Awards

If you’re a member of the Writers Guild of America, either West or East, it’s time to nominate yourself for the next batch of WGA Awards. If you aren’t, well, now you have something to aspire to. Either way, here’s the info you need:

Awards2016-email

2016 WRITERS GUILD AWARDS
by Team TVWriter™ 
Please note the changes to the eligibility criteria
for some of the Writers Guild Awards categories this year.

 

(1A) Long Form–Original and (1B) Long Form–Adapted categories now include “limited series”

  • Programs eligible to compete in these categories are now defined as follows: “A long form television or new media motion picture is a motion picture, over one hour in length, including MOWs and limited series.”
  • A limited series (including miniseries) is defined as “at least two but not more than 13 episodes with a total running time of at least three broadcast or exhibition hours that is based on a single theme or story line which is resolved within the piece.”
  • In addition, the WGA has eliminated the rule prohibiting series with a “Created by” credit from competing in this category.
  • Programs that meet the WGA’s new “limited series” definition will not be eligible to compete in the WGA’s Drama, Comedy or New Series awards categories.


(5A) Comedy/Variety (Including Talk) Series category has been split into two separate categories: (5A) Comedy/Variety Talk Series and (5C) Comedy/Variety Sketch Series

  • Weekly sketch shows, which predominately consist of scripted sketches, will no longer compete against nightly talk shows, which may feature occasional sketch elements but are primarily composed of monologue jokes, desk segments and guest interviews.

 

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

TV-Radio-New Media Script Submissions
http://www.wga.org/wga-awards/rules-tv-radio-newmedia.aspx
Submission deadline: 5:30 p.m. (PT) on Friday, October 9, 2015

Drama, Comedy and New Series

http://www.wga.org/wga-awards/rules-series-submissions.aspx
Submission deadline: 5:30 p.m. (PT) on Friday, October 9, 2015

Paul Selvin Award
http://www.wga.org/wga-awards/rules-paul-selvin.aspx
Submission deadline: 5:30 p.m. (PT) on Friday, October 9, 2015

Original and Adapted Screenplay
http://www.wga.org/wga-awards/rules-theatrical-submissions.aspx
Submission deadline: 5:30 p.m. (PT) on Friday, November 13, 2015

For specific questions about the Writers Guild Awards submissions process,including which category to submit your program in,
please contact WGAW Awards Administrator Jennifer Burt
at 323-782-4569 or email: jburt@wga.org.

Steven Spielberg Tells Us Why He’s a Great Director

dream

We enjoyed this revealing talk by Mr. Spielberg more than we have many of his movies. Because this one’s personal. Self-revelatory. And carries with it a simple message:

Steven Spielberg Dreams for a Living

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Hollywood Generosity

You don’t know the true meaning of generosity until you go into business one way or another with a genuine Hollywood studio. And then – ah, then you wish you didn’t.  By which we mean:

mashboxsetHollywood Generosity (an oxymoron)
by Ken Levine

Not to be a name dropper but (okay I am a name dropper) I was having lunch with Shelley Long and grousing that I had to buy the CHEERS DVD set. Paramount didn’t give me one, which would have been nice considering I wrote a lot of episodes and my royalties from DVD sales are a fucking joke. I was amazed to learn that Shelley wasn’t provided a complimentary copy of the collection either. You’d think as just a common courtesy the studio would give the cast DVD’s.

When a recording artist makes an album the label generally gives him a copy or two. When an author publishes a book he usually doesn’t have to go to Amazon and order a copy.

But we’re talking show business and a mindset where if they don’t HAVE TO do something for you they won’t.

20th Century Fox did not offer me any DVD’s of MASH, despite my involvement. In this instance, I even called and asked. I was told giving away free copies, even to members of the creative staff, was against company policy. Like it would break News Corp.

Read it all at Ken Levin’s blog

Taste – Well, Read – a Sample of Peggy Bechko’s Romance Writing

Why? Well, how about cuz she’s a Contributing editor to this very website and has, in fact, written many of TVWriter™’s most popular articles?

Or cuz one of our most important editors – we’re looking at you, munchman – has been crushing on Peggy forever?

Or this all-important little tidbit – Peggy Bechko is absolutely the best at what she does.

Witnesseth:

Cloud Dancer
by Peggy Bechko

Prologue

CloudDancerKindle Cover JPEGNovember 30, 1598

Beneath the vast expanse of the shimmering blue sky, Juan de Zalvidar and his thirty soldiers rode hunched against the biting cold of the New Mexican winter. The wind, relentless, blew out of the east. The rhythmic scrape and thud of the horses’ hooves was a familiar sound of comfort to the men as were the soft jingling of bridles and the clank of armor. There were no clouds this day, but already in days past the men had seen white patches along the river, and the smell of snow was upon the air.

As he rode at the head of the column, Juan de Zalvidar’s stature and carriage easily marked him as the leader. At twenty-eight, his air of authority floated about him like a cloak; there would be none who would dispute it. He and his brother, Vicente, had already done much to explore and begin to tame this wild land. They were backed by the power of their uncle, Governor Onate.

Juan’s thoughts strayed as he rode. His tanned face creased in a smile as he remembered the tales his younger brother, Vicente, had told of his own attempts to capture the buffalo herds in cottonwood corrals built near a river. Vicente had returned after fifty-four days of travel to and from the buffalo plains with none of the beasts. When Juan had taken his leave of his brother, setting out with his thirty soldiers to reinforce their uncle in the west, Vicente had still been good- naturedly swearing that he would not give up so easily; he would try again to capture the buffalo.

Putting aside the thoughts of his brother, Juan turned to the young soldier at his side. “We will reach the pueblo of Acoma soon. There we will get corn for our horses and meat for us. The people of these pueblos raise turkeys in great numbers. We may even have a feast!”

His companion chuckled against the chattering of his teeth. “I relish food in my belly,” he admitted, “but I relish even more the thought of being warm once again! I will barter for blankets and firewood as well! There is so damned little of it in this godforsaken country. I want a large, roaring fire. How these people can manage with such tiny fires to warm their homes I don’t know!”

“They are used to this miserable cold,” Juan de Zalvidar pointed out, bowing his head against the chilly breeze that had suddenly sprung up out of the north at cross-purposes with the wind from the east. “They were born here. They were not softened and spoiled by the gentler climes to the south,” he said with wry amusement at his own discomfort as well as that of his men.

He could afford to laugh, for soon they would know full bellies and warmth again. The Pueblo peoples were tame Indians, who would provide all that was needed. The king of Spain had ordered his armies not to steal from the simple natives, but to trade instead, so Zalvidar’s party had brought along plenty of items, hatchets being of particular appeal, to negotiate with the Indians.

But the Pueblos had recently begun to balk at trade. At first they had been open and friendly with the Spanish, but now they seemed reluctant to give up their corn, deerskins or blankets. Still, Juan was not worried. Should it become necessary he had a great enough force with him to take what was needed from the Indians. After all, the king of Spain was not riding at the head of a column of cold, hungry soldiers.

These Pueblo Indians were easy to manipulate or coerce. Onate’s colony had arrived too late in the year to build or plant in preparation for winter, so the colonists had traded for and taken what they needed from the Indians. Already they had dispossessed almost the whole pueblo of San Juan to obtain shelter from the bitter cold of the New Mexican winter. A few of the Indians of San Juan had stayed, making themselves useful in carrying wood and water for the colonists in exchange for being allowed to remain in their homes.

Juan knew that his uncle had stopped at Acoma on a past exploratory trip; the Kere of Acoma had been no more difficult than the other Pueblo Indians. And while Juan had no intention of bullying the natives unnecessarily, he and his men would have what they required to continue their trip to meet Governor Onate at Zuni.

“There!” The soldier beside Juan jabbed his finger in the direction of a great rock in the distance, thrusting into the sky. “There is Acoma! Soon we will be there.”

Juan laughed. “Distances are deceiving here, my friend. We will camp tonight at the foot of Acoma. Tomorrow we will climb to the heights and obtain our supplies.”

A wave of curiosity, excitement and apprehension swept through the Pueblo of Acoma when the report came that Spanish soldiers could be seen at the foot of the mesa. For months they had talked, planning what they would do if the Spanish arrived again demanding the food and blankets that the people of Acoma could ill spare with the long winter still ahead.

Standing with many of the Kere, Cloud Dancer peered down from the heights at the strangers. “They have come again,” she said to her sister, Woman of the West Wind, who stood by her side. “I had hoped they would not.”

Her sister nodded slowly in agreement. “I think we all hoped they would not come again.” She touched Cloud Dancer on the arm. “Come, we must move away from here. Chief Zutucapan and the men will handle the Spanish, and they have said we should not stay outside.”

Cloud Dancer nodded her agreement, but found she felt more than a little reluctance to be tucked away in a kiva or hidden inside one of the mud houses. Why must they always do what the men decided? She sighed and quashed the rebel­lious thought, returning with her sister to their home.

Both daughters approached their mother in respectful sience as they entered, for she was working the clay. Woman of the Willows smiled her greeting, her hands moving swiftly, dexterously about their chore, smoothing and shaping the clay into a vessel of great fineness and beauty. It was the Kere custom to work the clay in silence with respect for the spirit that it contained.

When Woman of the Willows finished, setting the pot aside to dry, Cloud Dancer informed her quickly, “The Spanish have returned.”

Woman of the Willows’s eyes darkened and her mouth set in a tight, grim line. Her eyes went to the small doorway open to the outside, searching. “Your father will be with the others. We must remain here.”

“But what are they going to do?” Cloud Dancer demanded, forgetting her woman’s place in her agitation.

Woman of the Willows smiled indulgently at her younger daughter. Cloud Dancer always had been the impatient one, always questioning, never satisfied with the way things were. “Your father has said it was decided we would give no more supplies to the Spanish. We will trade with a few old blankets and skins if they so desire, but they will have no cornmeal, pumpkin, pine nuts or other important stores. If we trade those, our people will go hungry when the deep snow comes. If the Spanish demand what we cannot willingly give, our men will attack.”

Cloud Dancer’s face glowed. Her older sister’s paled.

“Good!” Cloud Dancer exclaimed. “The Spanish must be taught they cannot take whatever they wish from us.”

“It is very dangerous,” Woman of the West Wind murmured.

“It is very dangerous,” her mother agreed.

You can find out more about Cloud Dancer HERE