…Especially if you’re as impatient and demanding as we are!
by Sian Beilock
It’s well known that there are circadian or daily rhythms in basic physiological functions like body temperature or digestion. Interestingly, these circadian rhythms extend to our psychological abilities too. Simply put, we tend to have more brainpower at our peak circadian arousal time, which leads to success on activities that require us to concentrate and mentally ‘buckle down.’
Morning types (i.e., people who are most alert in the morning) excel on a whole host of cognitive tasks when they complete these tasks early in the day. This is especially true for tasks that require working memory, like systematically reasoning through a problem or juggling numbers in your head. Working memory is our flexible mental scratch pad. It’s the brainpower that helps us keep what we want in mind and what we don’t want out. On the other hand, evening types, those who are most alert at night, tend to perform at their best on demanding cognitive tasks later in the day.
But not all tasks require working memory for success. In fact, sometimes people’s ability to think about information in new and unusual ways can actually be hampered when they wield too much brainpower. This means that what we think of as our optimal time of day, may not be optimal for everything.
If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It – by Michael Michalko
Walt Disney was a high school dropout who suffered several business disasters and bankruptcy. He overcame his personal and financial challenges by using his imagination to create an entertainment empire that has touched the hearts, minds and emotions of all of us.
He summarized his creativity in one word: Imagineering. The term “Imagineering” combines the words imagination and engineering. Imagineering enabled him to transform the dreams, fantasies and wishes of his imagination into concrete reality.
Disney’s thinking strategy involved exploring something using three different perceptual positions.
An insight into these positions comes from the comment made by one of his animators that: “Disney’s thinking technique synthesized three different strategies: the dreamer, realist, and the critic. A dreamer without a realist is often not able to translate fantasies into tangible reality. A dreamer and critic become engaged in constant conflict. A dreamer and realist can create things but find that a critic helps to evaluate and refine the final products.”
LB HAS A GIFT FOR YOU
SPEC SCRIPTACULAR & PEOPLE’S PILOT CONTESTS OPEN NEXT MONTH
TELEPLAY TIPS & TRICKS #9
TVWRITER UNIVERSITY UPDATE
EDITED TO ADD: The “LB Has a Gift for You” article was posted yesterday, as an announcement about how you can get a free Kindle copy of LB’s book, Television Writing from the Inside out. We want to remind you that you can still get that free copy until the very last minute of, um, today.
LB HAS A GIFT FOR YOU
A couple of weeks ago we announced the publication of the revised and updated Kindle version of the boss’ best-selling how-to-write book, Television Writing from the Inside Out. It’s a great book. We love it. And so have thousands of readers and reviewers over the past few years.
Because we value this book so highly, we want it to get into the hands and e-readers of as many people as possible, and in order to do that, LB has decided to make the Kindle version available for nothing – that’s right, absolutely free – today, December 5th, and tomorrow, December 6th. As the man himself put it:
“Today (the 5th) is my birthday, and I’m a big believer in birthday presents. But since I’ve already have a hell of a lot more birthdays than I expected, and received far more presents than I deserve, this year I’d like to do the gift-giving thing instead of gift-getting. So if you hurry to Amazon.Com before midnight on December 7th, your free Television Writing from the Inside Out book will be waiting.”
This offer is good for 2 days only, so we suggest you click HERE and take advantage of the best deal ever on the best television (and screen) writing book you’ll ever read!
Lest we forget: You’ll find several reviews of the Kindle version at the link above. And if you want to get more opinions, check out what readers have said about the trade paperback HERE.
And if you love the Kindle version when you read it, please write a review!
PEOPLE’S PILOT & SPEC SCRIPTACULAR CONTESTS OPEN NEXT MONTH
Yep, you heard it here. The exact date on which we’ll start accepting entries is January 1, 2013, and we’ll have a short period – probably that magic number of 2 months – in which you can do the Early Bird Entry thing for $30 instead of the usual $40.
Although the PP and SS web pages don’t yet show it, LB has decided to provide free feedback in the form of sending out the judges’ scores and the criteria for those scores after the Winners are announced to all entrants who request it. We believe this will be a huge benefit to the writers and a big improvement to the contests.
We’ll also be changing the PP page to reflect our newer, fairer category system. No longer will we have only one overall winner. Instead there will be separate 1-hour and half-hour categories, each with its own set of Semi-Finalists, Finalists, and Winners. We think this will be a much simpler and fairer system for everyone…and, hey, more people will be able to win more prizes. You know that ain’t bad!
The People’s Pilot is here.
The Spec Scriptacular is here.
Or just go to TVWriter™ and click on the contest of your choice in the righthand index.
TELEPLAY TIPS & TRICKS #9
Raise the Tension
A story can’t maintain reader or viewer interest if it doesn’t build. In other words, to stay interesting it has to become MORE interesting. Upward and onward should be your catch phrase, in the sense that the tension has to increase as you race to your climax.
One way to increase the tension is to keep raising what’s at stake. You say that the people your gutty heroine has learned to love are going die if she doesn’t succeed in solving their problem? How about if as she goes along she learns that she’s in danger of losing everything she has as well? Ditto her boss. And then…? Then cause even more rain to fall, raising the tension still more – to the very breaking point. ala ERIN BROCKOVICH. Oh, those poor people. Oh, poor Erin. But look how she fought on!
The trick here is to let your main character start to triumph only to find that the odds against him or her have just become even greater, so that each triumph ends tragically. Two steps forward and one step back all the way to the climax, when at last your lead wins the overall victory he or she has been after since the first reel. If things have constantly gotten tougher, the audience will still be there to cheer.
TVWRITER UNIVERSITY UPDATE
The current Basic Online Workshop will be ending next week, but we’ll be holding another one starting at the end of March instead of waiting the usual year. If you’re ready to take the first big step toward becoming a superstar showrunner or film writer, this is – for reals – a must-do.
The next TVWriter™ Advanced Online Workshop starts December 12, 2012, and will meet for 2 weeks, then take a couple of weeks off for Christmas and New Year’s, and then return in January for the final 2 meetings. As of this writing we have two openings. (Yesterday there were three.) The Advanced Workshop always fills up, so we ever-so-respectfully suggest that you hurry to:
Larry Brody – Head Dood
Tim Muncher – Keeper of the Faith
Various Volunteers – Mucho Appreciated Scapegoats
Gwen Brody – Beautiful Dreamer
We writers create people (fictional ones) and we can kill them off as well. We can kill off characters that just hang around the edges of the story (remember the new guy on Starship Enterprise who you knew was going to get it? I mean, really, who didn’t know the new guy was toast?) or we can kill off a main character. Heh heh heh.
Yep, we’re god-like beings in that regard. We can create ’em and we can squish ’em like bugs.
But wait, hold on. There’s more to it than that. When we use our keyboards to kill off a character we better have a darn good reason or be read to duck that tsunami of frustrated hate mail that’s sure to come your way. Swept up in all that power of being a god-like writer I bet you didn’t think of that.
Yep, the death of a character, most certainly a main character appears to be a great big turn off to readers or film-goers, and it can be, hence the hate mail writers can receive. But, it can also add unmeasurable power and drama, pathos and empathy to your story lifting to from ordinary to extraordinary.
Still, again, beware the frustrated, infuriated reader.
Despite the fact that it is your story you’re writing.
So, you figure your story demands you kill off a prominent character. Nothing else will lend the pathos and power your story needs. How do you accomplish that and yourself live in writer world to tell another tale to that reader who might well hurl your book or script across the room at the character’s death?
Well, there are some things for intrepid writers to keep in mind.
For starters foreshadow the character’s demise in your writing. This can be tricky, but it’s necessary. Readers in general expect a happy ending, so killing off the character you’ve gotten them to like, identify with and cheer for is a jolt. Not that the end of your story has to be shown from the beginning or that your readers should expect the character to die. But it should make sense in context. It should, upon reflection, make sense to the reader. This hinges on your skills as a writer.
Another note. Above all, make sure the death of that character matters, that it’s not just for shock value. When a character gives his or her life to benefit something greater, when a life is given in service to something worth even more than a life, then the reader resonates with that and the writer is victorious. It creates a situation where the reader can cheer even while the character is mourned. Can feel triumphant even while shedding tears. Do not make that death for nothing.
And finally, while that story may not have the usual happy ending, that doesn’t mean you can’t end on a positive note. We humans crave that ray of light even in the midst of the worst disasters, the most mind-numbing catastrophes. Think about books you’ve read, movies you’ve seen. For example the movie 2012. It’s one disaster after another. People are dying by the millions. The spunky Russian lass is killed (thank god the small dog survives), but in the end there is hope and her death was in order to save others. Sacrifice.
Killing off a character, one you’ve created to be a three-dimensional character people care about, is never a decision a writer should make without carefuul consideration. But if you’re there. If you’ve decided you can’t have the kind of story you want to write; that your story demands the loss of that character, then consider my previous suggestions to make it powerful, poingnant and satisfying for your audience.
And I’d very much like to hear about your momentous decision to kill a character in a story you’ve written. What made you decide that character was fated to die?
Three Helpful (I Hope) Writer’s Decrees Readers May Find Interesting – by Peggy Bechko (Peggy’s Blog)
Your Space, Research and Revision
There are a whole lot more than three of them, but well, I don’t have the time to go into all of them right now, or the space on my blog, or the typing finger (I just sliced it open while prepping food for Thanksgiving and the finger really hurts when I hit a key). So, at great sacrifice I’m typing this up for your reading pleasure, edification, education, whatever you choose to consider it
Decree number one. You, as a writer, must find your space to write, daydream and create and you must shut the door. It doesn’t have to be a large space, perhaps even a closet with a good light and space for a small desk (hope you’re not claustrophobic).
Depending on circumstance it might not even have a door in the physical sense, but you have to create one for yourself anyway. A means to shut out the world and yourself into the world you’re creating. Somehow you must arrange it so you’re not constantly interrupted or distracted. You have to shut off your cell phone, the land line, the TV, any distracting video games (you might consider not having these on your work computer) and make sure your internet access is something you have to go to, not automatic running in the background. You might need it for research, but your don’t want it constantly clamoring for your attention. And if you’re not actively engaged in research, shut it off. Email too.
Give yourself a break. If you seriously want to write, you need to commit to the environment that allows you to do so to avoid frustration, self-anger, and never getting anything accomplished.
Decree Number two: research. You know, that thing I just mentioned above, the reason you might have your internet access running. You’ve read lots of books (um, at least I hope you have). You know there are writers who do a heck of a lot of research and then create page after page in their story parceling that newly discovered information out. Some do it well. Some not so much.
Research is a tricky devil for writers. If you’re writing about something you know little to nothing about then you’re going to have to research. But, once you’ve done the research pick out the plums and spice your story with them. Research always must take a back-seat to the story. The story always comes first and should never be overwhelmed by all that great research you’ve done. All that stuff you found out is really cool. And you may have waded through a morass of text to extract exactly what you need, but don’t let that become the star of your show.
Story always comes first.
Decree Number Three: Revision. Ah, yes, the biggie. The one writers really don’t want to face at all and yet it it is at the heart of good story telling. It’s part of the process.
And the process for me, is this: slap the story down on paper, writing unleashed, not editing! Put it away, let it rest. Later, come back with pen in hand and start reading and making notes. Look for character discrepancies, large logic holes or plot gaps, whatever jerks the reader out of the story. Then open the door to my writing room a crack and slip the manuscript out to First Reader. Get comments and reactions. Then revise some more.
Now this process can be different and take different amounts of time for every writer. The first part can be hardest for people who can’t resist editing as they write. It’s a matter of style. I highly recommend not editing as you go, but some must. If you MUST, then do so, but try to keep it minimal and in the background as the story goes up on your computer screen.
The waiting period can vary wildly as well. Writer Stephen King says leave it marinate/fester/mold/whatever for a minimum of six weeks in that drawer or on that shelf. Really? Six weeks? I can’t wait that long, but if you can perhaps while you get some new ideas down on paper or crammed into your computer, then have at it. If you have to get to it sooner, then do it, but do give it a rest between finishing the first draft and thinking about revision.
Oh, and when you come across all those ‘mistakes’; plot gaps, character gaffs, logic jumps, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re a writer, you can fix it, and your readers will be all the more thrilled for the flotsam they never saw.
And that First Reader, that ideal reader you hand your manuscript to trustingly for opinions and input? By all means, listen to the suggestions and comments, digest them and make adjustments, this is your trusted reader, the one who’ll give you the most honest input whether you want to hear it or not. But don’t think you have to respond to every little thing the reader suggested. Work with it and you’ll come up with a better manuscript or screen script.
Who’s your Ideal, most Trusted Reader?
Have you over-researched?
Do you have an unusual or beloved writing space?
I’d love to hear about it. Put it in the comments below.