Stel Pavlou: Never Give Up

by Stel Pavlou

When I was 12 or 13 years old, I visited a subterranean salt mine in Germany with my class. The weird geologic formations and strange colors lit a fire in my imagination. I remember there was a lake, and we all had to climb aboard this old wooden boat/floating pontoon contraption which ferried us across the Styxian water in complete silence.

The story of Daniel Coldstar was born that day, a boy trapped in a mine, yearning for freedom and adventure. Though he didn’t have a name yet and it would take many years and many false starts before the book would emerge fully, Daniel Coldstar has now been published, just two weeks shy of my 47th birthday. If life has taught me anything, no matter the obstacles placed in your way, no matter the trials you go through, persistence is worth it.

Never give up on a good idea.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to know what was over the next hill. The appeal of a new vista, a new experience, has always energized me. But by the same token, as someone who thinks deeply on just about everything, mulling through the permutations of consequences have often tempered my more impulsive instincts. Often, but not always.

Don’t be fooled, this wisdom, if you can call it that, has come through experience, not some innate ability to see the future. I’m the kid who tried doing “dangerous tricks” walking along the back of the sofa and banging up his ear spectacularly when he fell off.

I’m the kid who lost two front teeth riding too fast down a hill and a week later landing upside down on his head when he tried to launch his bike off a ramp with a flat tire. I’m the kid who poked jelly fish with a stick at the river’s edge and stole apples from someone’s yard, angry cries and stones whizzing past my ear chasing me back out fast.

I’m the kid who got caught doing a balancing act on a neighbor’s fence and having that same neighbor grab me by the ear and marching me back to my parents demanding I be punished. I’m the kid who would roll under the heavy iron gates of a nearby metal working factory, and run to the guard hut, hit the window and run back out, just to see if I could it without getting spotted.

My parents knew that all of these antics were caused by insatiable curiosity, and that this curiosity had to be channeled. Hence the trip to the mine. And the trip to the middle of the Sahara desert in southern Algeria the year before, and the trip to the Parthenon in Athens the year before that. In future years I would visit Jerusalem and Bethlehem on Christmas Day, I would visit the pyramids of Egypt.

And the thirst for adventure would continue, until as an adult I would voluntarily enlist in the Greek army without being able to speak a word of Greek, rather like Daniel surrounded by kids in the mines speaking Jarabic, a language he too does not understand.

But I’m also the boy who was bullied. Relentlessly. And betrayed by friends because I didn’t see the scheme behind the lie. I’m the kid who was accused of doing things that I didn’t do, by teachers who knew better. I still carry all those scars. They shape me, and serve as warnings, and impart one very valuable lesson.

Never give up on life.

All of these themes shaped the story of Daniel Coldstar, a boy who never gives up, who tries when everything around him urges him to give up. Daniel doesn’t know the answers. He doesn’t even know himself — quite literally, yet he finds his way, journeying through a galaxy filled with danger because of his sense of adventure and his sense of justice. He has an idea of freedom and he never gives up on it. He reminds us all of the value of possibilities.

Life got better for me.

It gets better for Daniel.

Life will get better for you too.


TVWriter™ friend Stel Pavlou is a British author and screenwriter now living in Colorado. He is the author of the bestselling novel Decipher, as well as short stories based on the TV series Doctor WhoDaniel Coldstar: The Relic War is his first book for young readers.

Visit Stel online at www.stelpavlou.com and at www.danielcoldstar.com.

Diana Black: Compelling Characters Make a ‘Real’ World

by Diana Black

Lulu: “Honey, so sorry, can’t make it tonight… no, it’s not my, ‘I’m washing my hair’ night …I’m just busy… No, you’re wonderful but.…”

A great story idea, well-written script, skillful cast and crew with an intelligent director and showrunner at the helm – surely the recipe for a winning TV Series, but what ‘essential ingredient’ compels us to ‘tune in’ religiously?

Is it the hooks and plot twists, the lighting, sound, mis-en-scene? What makes the fantasy drama, Game of Thrones, now going into its 7th Season SOOO interesting and compelling to watch? And not only by adolescent nerds but by, for all practical purpose, everyone?

According to A.G. Walton – a contributor to Forbes, who in turn is commenting on the findings of Josue’ Cardona of “GeekTherapy.com”, it’s a range of elements that include the following attributes: intellectually challenging and multiple plots; unpredictable twists; an intricate and elaborate story world, and dramatic events that border on the visceral.

But what of character?

In this epic panoply of political manipulation; one which would be right up there with Rome under Caesar, it is according to Walton, the creation, destruction, and resurrection of archetypes. So what is an archetype and why, having been ‘done to death’ long before Shakespeare took up a quill, are they still so useful?

Aspiring TV and screenwriters may think long and hard before referencing them – the Queen, the Trickster, disgruntled Prince, foul-mouthed Washerwoman etc. But they work, precisely because they’re ‘character’ in a neat package.

We instantly ‘get’ them. They come into ‘our space’ with their over-night bag stuffed with accouterments that we instantly recognize – greedy, debauched, vile, manipulative, pure, sweet etc.

But is that all there is to the Game of Thrones characters? Are they merely just a bunch of one-dimensional archetypes? No – in our jaded world of hardened, cynical ‘little box watchers’– it requires more than that; as the revolving door of short-lived TV shows attest.

The secret to these guys is that they not only shamelessly embrace their archetypal nature, to the hilt, everyone one of them has a level of complexity that makes them seem real and as a result hated, feared, loved, reviled etc.

We’re left seriously wondering what word or deed they’re going to express next. ‘Warts and all’ they reflect us mere mortals – who will no doubt have to deal with the same, albeit modern-day equivalent conundrums, issues, and angst, tomorrow or next week, come Tuesday.

And the moral of my story here is….drum roll…invest like hell in your character/s if you expect your actors to lift them off the page.

The quickest, surest path to having those words and deeds appear perfectly natural and justified is for the writer, as well as the actor, to get under the skin of the character; to become that character, for better or worse.

The old adage still and will forever apply, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”


Diana Black is an Australian actress and writer who frequently contributes to TVWriter™. (She used to contribute more frequently, but then she moved to Hawaii. Go figure.)

Have You Been Watching ‘The A Word?’

Christopher Eccleston is more than just a former Doctor on Doctor Who. He’s also one of the finest actors in the English speaking world today.

For the past year, he’s been one of the stars of BBC’s The A Word, a series about an autistic young boy and his family. The show, also available on the Sundance Channel, is, in a word that starts with ‘E’, enlightening. Here’s a clip:

Here’s the entire first episode (at least until it gets yanked off YouTube):

And, for the trifecta, here’s an interview with Chris by a Gerard Groves, a filmmaker and journalist at the BBC, who also is on the autism spectrum with Asperger’s:

Why are we devoting so much time to this show? Well, one reason is that somebody all of you TVWriter™ regulars know – or feel like you know – is also on the spectrum.

A certain LB.

Your thoughts about this series are most welcome. So let us know what they are!

Writing Meme of the Week

When you’re about to quit for the day but you remember a crucial detail you need to add to that last scene you were working on:

Okay, so this really is a sort of “pseudo-meme.”

Because believe it or not, this pic wasn’t always about writing. In its previous form it’s been spotted out in the wild many times. But our hats are off to the blog that transformed this into pure, writerly magic – TheHonestAuthor, which you can find right HERE

Peggy Bechko: Overcoming Brain Fatigue, Stress & Overdoing It – For Writers

by Peggy Bechko

Alrighty folks, time to put it on the table. Writing takes a lot of brain work, and brain work takes focus.

Consider this: There’s research to squeeze the brain, plotting to squeeze it harder, and just plain thinking about everything else related to your writing project. And that doesn’t include the acttual writing.

So, today I’m going to talk a bit about brain fatigue, stress, and just plain over-doing it.

Now immediately there are lots of folks who’ll think the younger the brain the better because the younger brain can stand long periods of demanding work much better than the older…but know what? It ain’t necessarily so.

And working for very long stretches doesn’t cut it either. I’ve known folks who put forth their insanely long hours at the keyboard like they’ve gone to war and somehow won something. Like it’s some kind of badge of honor.

Just because you’re twenty-something, work all night, then crash, doesn’t mean you’re putting out a better product or that you get more done or that you’re super cool.

Seriously.

While it is true that while in our twenties our brains can process information more efficiently, that doesn’t mean it works more effectively. The folks who do best with inductive reasoning, verbal memory and vocabulary are somewhere between forty and sixty-five according to research. (Take that twenty-somethings!)

What’s the key to overcoming brain fatigue? Turns out that it’s taking breaks. Yep, you overdoers probably don’t want to hear it, but people perform at their best, with middle-agers out-performing younger folks when breaks are planned.

Again, research tells us our minds and bodies have natural rhythms. If you’ve come this far and haven’t figured that out in life what rock have you been living under?

Dream cycles flow in ninety-minute cycles so it’s not too far a stretch to presume (correctly) that waking cycles and rhythms are pretty close to the same as those sleeping cycles, about ninety minutes to two hours.

What to do? Take a break. Yes, it’s time we all realize life is not a race. You’ll produce much better material at a more efficient and quicker pace if you take breaks. This applies to writing, creating, pretty much any kind of work one pursues.

How long should these breaks be?

Twenty minutes seems to be ideal (again, according to our friendly neighborhood researchers). And, stepping completely away from the work environment is best. What that means for  writer is that you – and I – should step away from the desk. Avert our eyes from the computer screen. Go outside for a few minutes if we can. Grab a cup of tea or coffee.

If you can take a short brisk walk, all the better. If you can take a moment to watch the interplay of sun and shadow on a sunny day (or enjoy some flowers, or watch the ducks fly, whatever) great!

We may want to think we’re superhuman and we can do this writing thing straight through, powered by caffeine or whatever, but it’s not true. To sustain your level of production give yourself a twenty-minute break. Now.

Get in tune with your natural rhythms and you’ll outstrip those driving all-nighters who believe they’re really punching it.

Writing is brain work. And the brain wants to rest. And to play. Surely you’ve noticed that when you step away from a story sometimes that’s when the best ideas hit for its continuation or revision.

Set a timer if you have to. Give yourself a break…and take a break. You want to give your brain a chance to forge new neurons no matter your age.

Your writing will improve and so will your mood.

Which reminds me. Time to stand up and walk around the house. I’m starting to feel grumpy.


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

Larry Brody’s Poetry: ‘My Mother’s Last Words’

NOTE FROM LB

No Navajo Dog today. No showbiz. No philosophy or religion. Just a remembrance not of but from years gone by.

Mothers! Ya gotta love ’em, right? And they’ve gotta love you.

And yet….


My Mother’s Last Words
by Larry Brody

My mother’s last words to me were,

“I love you,” over the phone. She spoke liltingly,

As though singing a song.

My mother was in Chicago, getting ready to die,

And I was in L.A., trying to live.

Both causes seemed vain. My mother had been

Whole and hearty only weeks before, with a

Suspicious spot on her lung, no more,

And I was in a city and a business and a way of life

That already had dropped me down for what I’d

Thought would be that last shovelful of earth.

But, “I love you,” she sang, and she meant goodbye.

In spite of all the motherly years, all the motherly deeds,

Good and bad, appreciated and resented, wanted and

Refused, I never had really felt loved by this

Cigarette-voiced, overwhelming woman.

No hug, no gift, no sign ever meant anything to me

But her own overpowering needs.

This musical “I love you,” though, was different.

It struck a chord that resonates within my body

Still. It bounces and swings and rocks like the

Best gospel song. It celebrates a whole world,

And gives a Mahalia Jackson soul to both the singer

And her audience of one. I didn’t know she could

Do it. I didn’t know she had that sound inside.

I didn’t know I could enjoy her music so much.

My mother died three days after singing that melody.

I live on in L.A. As I rise and scramble and

Seek my own song, I know at last that she loved me,

And as I feel the elation of the music, I know I loved her.

###


Larry Brody is the head dood at TVWriter™. He is posting at least one poem a week here at TVWriter™ because, as the Navajo Dog herself once pointed out, “Art has to be free. If you create it for money, you lose your vision, and yourself.” She said it shorter, though, with just a snort.

TVWriter™ Don’t-Miss Posts of the Week – November 13, 2017

Good morning! Time for TVWriter™’s  Monday look at our most popular blog posts of the week ending yesterday. They are, in order:

LB: First Thoughts on the PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 Writing Competition Entries

Empty Promises: My experience submitting scripts to Amazon Studios

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

8 Tips for Writing for Children’s TV Shows

Peggy Bechko Ponders ‘High Concept’

And our most visited permanent resource pages are, also in order:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

The Logline

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 Writing Contest

The Teleplay

TVWriter™ Contact & Email List Info

Major thanks to everyone for making this another great week at TVWriter™. Don’t forget to click above and read what you missed and re-read what you loved!