EDITOR’S NOTE: If you haven’t already read Part 1, now would be a good time.
by Diana Black
Let’s say you now have a motley crew with which to flesh out the story world… the latter can be achieved via the seemingly almost magical ‘What If’ – an outline/description of all the aspects of the story world you’re creating.
If you have a singular lead (not an ensemble cast) then the narrative will be seen through his/her lens, but regardless, it remains a work in progress as things come to mind. Do your homework on this from the get-go. It’s far easier if you set up a solid foundation, even if most of it is never used, than having to scramble to come up with something out of the box when the suit/s say, “Let’s talk.”
List every aspect you can think of via bullet points – the rules a.k.a. the modus operandi, including the geographical, social, and chronological parameters that govern or exist in this fictitious world. Work through the ‘5 W’s’ – the where, when, what, who and why for each of the major characters.
If you’re working on a TV series, you’ll get lucky with some of this material providing valuable insight into the ‘Legs’. If it’s a Feature; this effort could provide resource material for the ‘B’ & ‘C’ sub-plots.
Don’t hold back, be outrageous – you never know what ‘nuggets of gold’ you’re likely to unearth. You can then use a polished version of the ‘What If’ to help create ‘The Bible’ for the series.
For an extreme example of ‘outrageousness’ look at the television series, Shameless (Showtime, 2011 – 2018); what’s even more outrageous is the thought that this level of dysfunctionality could indeed be a ‘slice of life’ for some hapless people, here on American soil.
The antics of Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy) would make Homer Simpson blush.
For both the characters and the story world, they need to be larger than life. While the plot might be ‘slice of life’, the characters and their world can’t be – your creation isn’t a documentary (possibly a mockumentary).
Regardless, all three components cannot be the same – you either have ordinary characters in an extraordinary world where the weirdest stuff happens, or it’s larger than life characters, struggling to deal with an excruciatingly ‘ordinary’ world and failing.
Okay, now we’re about to enter the work in progress phase by entering this amazing world and giving ourselves permission to play… but just prior to closing the door completely on the outside and stepping ‘in’, I suggest you do the following…
This next step is onerous and time-consuming, but it’s an investment in the future – for the series and for you as the writer – you’ll look so awesome if you already have in place a detailed document for each substantial character, the In-depth Character Profile.
I’m currently writing a Telemovie/ Limited Series and for most of the leads (an ensemble piece) each profile is around 8 – 10 pages. Suffice to say, these documents take ‘forever’ to write, but once done, there’s LOTS of things you know about your character, which you can then draw upon, as need be.
I’d advise you to do this on computer – draw up a table with the following sections:
Narrative Arc (from their POV)
Specific ‘issues’ (they contend with)
Character arc (do they grow/change?)
Subtext logline (their essential character e.g. ‘damaged goods’)
Subtext (what’s really going on, are they cognizant about it or not)
Subtext identity (what drives them subconsciously)
Potential drivers to their subtext, that include intimate relationships – past & present, relationships with other characters, backstory of the character, world view, belief system/s, attitudes/convictions, source of passion -what do they care about
Attitude towards the natural environment
‘Life metaphor’ (code of ethics or lack thereof)
Rules they obey (or not )
Strategies they use to get what they want
Justification for the way they feel and act)
Character traits – physical and psychological
Character flaw (and why)
Paradoxes – personality and behavior
Source of vulnerability
Meaningful and difficult Choices including rising Challenges across the narrative arc
Know that in each category, you need to answer the above in relation to the premise, theme and story-world you have set up – just don’t make shit up – it must resonate with the narrative, and the other characters.
Now go a step further and develop a Character Web, as in how are the Characters and the incidents occurring in their respective back stories related?
This is mind-bending stuff, but it serves two functions – the characters, if they’re ‘real’, will evolve on the page – you’ll learn things about them you never knew existed.
I know this sounds ‘loopy’ – just get on with it. I’ve come from a scientific background where being analytical and detail-oriented, ruled supreme and in my humble opinion, if you want a really, rich story world and 3-dimensional characters, you’ve just got to do this stuff.
Also, because the characters are so tightly integrated, the narrative will be a cohesive whole AND it will make each character much harder to cut or merge… the actor who lands the role will thank you.
You won’t have these documents set in stone at the outset, but the dynamics between the characters and their interrelationships (the Character Web) will have begun to evolve as you set them on their narrative journey.
Trust yourself as the writer and trust the characters. Don’t forget they’re relying on you to serve them well. Don’t cheat them of anything less than your undivided attention, or they may just bite you on the butt and ‘stop talking.’
P.S. I’d also advise you work on these character documents – an hour on/fifteen minutes off, and so on.
See you in the next article… TV Checklist – Part 2
Diana Black is an optioned screenwriter who has placed in competitions with features and teleplays. She’s also a professional actor with a Bachelor of Creative Arts – Drama, Film & TV and a regular contributor to TVWriter™.
Everything you need to know about great writing. Especially if you’re Stephen King (“Stop watching television?” Oh noooooooo):
Renowned author Stephen King writes stories that captivate millions of people around the world and earn him an estimated $17 million a year.
In his memoir, On Writing, King shares valuable insights into how to be a better writer. And he doesn’t sugarcoat it. He writes, “I can’t lie and say there are no bad writers. Sorry, but there are lots of bad writers.”
Don’t want to be one of them? Here are 22 great pieces of advice from King’s book on how to be an amazing writer:
1. Stop watching television. Instead, read as much as possible.
If you’re just starting out as a writer, your television should be the first thing to go. It’s “poisonous to creativity,” he says. Writers need to look into themselves and turn toward the life of the imagination.
To do so, they should read as much as they can. King takes a book with him everywhere he goes, and even reads during meals. “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot,” he says. Read widely, and constantly work to refine and redefine your own work as you do so.
2. Prepare for more failure and criticism than you think you can deal with.
King compares writing fiction to crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub, because in both, “there’s plenty of opportunity for self-doubt.” Not only will you doubt yourself, but other people will doubt you, too. “If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all,” writes King.
Oftentimes, you have to continue writing even when you don’t feel like it. “Stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea,” he writes. And when you fail, King suggests that you remain positive. “Optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure.”
3. Don’t waste time trying to please people.
According to King, rudeness should be the least of your concerns. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered anyway,” he writes. King used to be ashamed of what he wrote, especially after receiving angry letters accusing him of being bigoted, homophobic, murderous, and even psychopathic.
By the age of 40, he realised that every decent writer has been accused of being a waste of talent. King has definitely come to terms with it. He writes, “If you disapprove, I can only shrug my shoulders. It’s what I have.” You can’t please all of your readers all the time, so King advises that you stop worrying.
Today’s earlier posts (just scroll down and you’ll see ’em) dealt with what’s happening regarding TV today. Now it’s time to stand tall and look the future right in the eyes:
by Lucas Matney
It’s been an interesting past few years for the virtual reality industry and while there is still plenty for insiders to pin their hopes on in 2018, it’s no secret that things have been progressing a bit slower than more bullish parties would have hoped for. Yet for all of what potential still remains unfulfilled, it seems fair to say that storytellers are still just as entranced (and occasionally bewildered) by the power of the fully immersive medium.
Penrose Studios has been one of the more shining stars in the narrative-based VR content space. Their work has drawn easy comparisons to Pixar’s and their efforts have seemed to influence other studios in the space as well.
The VR studio announced [recently] that they have closed a $10 million round of Series A funding led by TransLink Capital. Also participating in the round were Marc Benioff, Will.i.am, Korea Telecom and Co-Made with returning investment from Sway Ventures, 8VC and Suffolk Equity.
While some competing venture-backed virtual reality content studios may be focusing their efforts on creating streamlined processes to build fast and cheap stories, Penrose appears to be more squarely focused on reaching its creative visions first and foremost.
The company’s latest major project, Arden’s Wake, is one of the more captivating VR short films I’ve seen to date. The ambitious half-hour animated feature pairs a tightly scoped storyline with a highly polished design that is whimsical and delightful in a way few other studios have managed to figure out. The startup began development of Arden’s Wake 18 months ago, sharing the finished product, which features voice acting from Alicia Vikander, at the most recent Tribeca Film Festival….