Practical Plotting Advice for Fiction Writers Everywhere

OMG! Can you believe it? A discussion of fiction writing first written over a decade ago and yet truer than anything we at TVWriter™ have read since? Teresa Nielsen Hayden, you are fucking awesome! (But you’re not from, um, that Nielsen family, are you?)

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The Evil Overlord Devises a Plot
by Teresa Nielsen Hayden

Start with some principles:

  • A plot doesn’t have to be new. It just has to be new to the reader.
  • In fact, it doesn’t even have to be new to the reader. It just has to get past him. (It helps if the story’s moving fast and there’s lots of other interesting stuff going on.)
  • A plot device that’s been used a thousand times may be a cliche, but it’s also a trick that works. That’s why it keeps getting used.
  • Several half-baked ideas can often be combined into one fully-cooked one.
  • If you have one plot presented three ways, you have three plots. If you have three plots presented one way, you have one plot. (I stole this principle from Jim Macdonald’s lecture on how to really generate plots, which is much better than my lecture on stupid plot tricks.)
  • Steal from the best.

Looked at from this angle, the Internet’s various lovingly-compiled cliche lists are a treasury of useful plot devices. The instructions that follow are one way to use them.

1. Below, you’ll find a comprehensive collection of the various Evil Overlord lists. Don’t go there yet. First, using whatever method pleases you, generate five random numbers that fall within the following ranges:

  1. 1-230
  2. 1-150
  3. 1-130
  4. 1-123
  5. 1-94

2. Now go to the Evil Overlord lists, which I’ve divided into five categories. Take your five random numbers and match them up to the appropriate entries in the lists:

  1. Lead Characters (Bad)
  2. Lead Characters (Good)
  3. Auxiliary Characters (Bad)
  4. Auxiliary Characters (Good)
  5. Further Evil

Alternately, you can go here and have them generated for you. You now have five juicy cliches.

You’re going to make a plot out of them. You’ll find it’s fairly easy to make a silly one, but it’s not all that much harder to turn them into a decent one. You’ve got a lot of potential story to work with.

3. You’re not done yet. Before you start writing, roll one die. Take whatever number comes up, and generate that many random numbers which fall between 1 and 141. Now go to Murphy’s Laws of Combat, which follow the Evil Overlord lists, and find the laws that match your numbers. These are plot twists. Use them as needed. If your story absolutely requires that Gareth go from point A to point B and drop off a package at the Post Office along the way, but you’re finding that part dreary, tossing in modifiers like “Every man has a scheme that will not work” or “If your attack is going really well, it’s an ambush” will suggest ways to liven it up.

Read it all

The rest is equally good reading. And we’re impressed by the fact that this article is actually is part of a site informing the world of the Viable Paradise Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop which will be held this hear in October on Martha’s Vineyard. The full scoop on the instructors et al is definitely worth looking at HERE. And munchman says he’s going to try and make it. (Undercover, he says. Ha! says we.)

ABC Season Finale Schedule 2013

ABC says good-bye for awhile but wants you to keep watching reruns anyway. Go figure.

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Wednesday, March 27
8:30 THE NEIGHBORS

Wednesday, April 17
8 pm SUBPURGATORY (one-hour finale)

Thursday, May 2
8 pm WIFE SWAP (premieres March 21)

Sunday, May 5
10 pm RED WIDOW

Tuesday, May 7
8 pm SPLASH

Sunday, May 12
8 pm ONCE UPON A TIME

9 pm REVENGE (two-hour finale)

Monday, May 13
10 pm CASTLE

Thursday, May 16
9 pm GREY’S ANATOMY
10 pm SCANDAL

Friday, May 17
9 pm SHARK TANK

Sunday, May 19
7 pm AMERICA’S FUNIEST HOME VIDEOS

Monday, May 20
8 pm DANCING WITH THE STARS (performance show)

Tuesday, May 21
8 pm DANCING WITH THE STARS (two-hour results show)

Wednesday, May 22
8 pm THE MIDDLE
9 pm MODERN FAMILY
10 pm NASHVILLE

Tuesday, May 28
10 pm BODY OF PROOF

The TVWriter™ March 2013 E-Newsletter

Last week’s e-newsletter for those who missed it in your e-mailboxes:

 

TVWriter™ Newsletter – March 2013
TVWriter™
https://tvwriter.com
https://tvwriter.comA WORD FROM LB
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SPEC SCRIPTACULAR & PEOPLE’S PILOT CONTEST UPDATE
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TELEPLAY TIPS & TRICKS #12
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LATEST NEWS ABOUT OUR WORKSHOPS
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A WORD FROM LB
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Was it the U.S. Army that used to advertise, “We’re looking for a few good men?” I know I could get the answer with a little googling, but as I get older I find myself getting more impatient, so I’m not going to bother.

Actually, I’m becoming impatient about just about everything, even writing. Once upon a time – to use a writerly albeit hokey expression – I was content to sit at the keyboard and wait for the right word or words to come. Now, though, I get all crabbed out if the best expression of my thought doesn’t rush to my fingertips.

And when I say crabbed out, I mean it. I yell and shriek and rail about the same things I used to be grateful for. Because I don’t have time, dammit. Gotta hurry and get the ideas out while I can still remember ’em, you know?

The more impatient the act of writing makes me, the less of it I do. And while this may be a sad state of affairs for my self-image – and maybe even for my audience although I’m not going to presume – potentially it’s a good thing for all the writers who spend any time at the TVWriter™ site.

Because my current state of mind has forced me to not just want but actively need more than merely a few good writers. (And, believe me, you don’t have to be men.) I’m looking for as many good writers as I can find to fill TVWriter™ with news and opinion and unique perspectives on writing for television and the screen and books and magazines and blogs and everything else that people can watch/read/listen to.

So have no doubt about it. This is an open call for writers with the ability to sit in once place long enough to write articles that are clever and bold and filled with the kind of energy and knowledge that will not only move me but also the brilliant visitors TVWriter™ receives every hour of every day of the.

Let me say it again, before I get all grumpy and move on: I’m looking for writers who can deliver one-shots about what’s happening in the world of writing and TV and all that other stuff I mentioned above. And more writers too, who can reliably deliver weekly (or bi-weekly or semi- weekly, whatever) columns. And I’m prepared to pay…sort of.

By which I mean no, I – we, TVWriter™, et al – can’t pay money (because this site is a labor of love that just plain doesn’t make any, simple as that), but I can and will pay in services. Specifically, I’m happy to open my brain and all the experience, expertise, and just plain general knowledge contained therein, to those whose writings knock me out enough to give them space at https://tvwriter.com (and also https://tvwriter.com).

I’m happy to mentor qualified contributors to the site (that’s why we offer “Larry Brody’s 1-On-! Career Coaching” for a nominal price), and I’m hoping that so many of you will want to earn it that TVWriter™ will be the fattest daily read on the web.

One warning, though: I get just as impatient while I read as I do while I write. So write sweetly, write passionately, write provocatively, and, most importantly of all – write short.

Are you up for this? Email me and let me know.

LYMI,

LB

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PEOPLE’S PILOT & SPEC SCRIPTACULAR CONTEST UPDATE

Online contests working in the mysterious way they do, entries for our two contests are coming in steadily, preparatory to the barrage that always comes during the last week they are open for entries. That last week is the 6 days before and the day of June 1, 2013, because the PEOPLE’S PILOT & SPEC SCRIPTACULAR both will end at 11:59 a.m. that night.

A Combined $13,000 Worth of Contest Prizes Include:

  • 1 month (4 weeks) of Weekly Mentorship (by phone, e-mail, or, if possible, in person with producer-writer Larry Brody of TVWriter™
  • Individual mentorship sessions
  • Cash money
  • Free admission to the TVWriter™ Advanced Online TV and Film Writing Workshop
  • 1 year of Gold Plan Spotlighted Screenplay Posting Service at ScreenwriterShowcase.Com
  • Inclusion in the vaunted TVWriter.Com List of Recommended Writers
  • Winners will get really nice recommendations as needed (unless you act, you know, like a jerk)

And lest we forget: Free Feedback is yours for the entering. We’ll be sending out the individual scores and the criteria for those scores to all entrants after the Winners are announced. (And boy are we proud of ourselves for doing this.)

For more info:

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.

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TELEPLAY TIPS & TRICKS #12

Conflict!
by LB

In real life human beings strive to attain warm, comforting relationships. Friendships that involve supporting each other emotionally. However, I learned early on in my career that having your characters respond to each other this way on film or tape is—boring.

In comedy, sensitive people watching out for each other is death. Humor comes out of wit, out of people trading wiseass remarks, zinging each other whenever they can. In drama, the best way to get story points across is through conflict. Nothing puts a viewer to sleep like watching two characters tell each “the plan.” But if those same two characters disagree on the nature and efficacy of the plan and argue about it, then the viewer will watch, wondering who’s going to “win.” The truth is that the writer wins, by keeping everyone’s attention.

Think I’m being negative? That I’m telling you that all your characters have to dislike each other? That’s not it at all. Think of all the buddy movies you’ve watched and loved. Have there ever been two characters who cared about each other more than Butch and Sundance? But they hid their feelings beneath their quips. The same for Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Wouldn’t you rather watch those three friends have at each other than be in a room with Janeway and are nodding crew?

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LATEST NEWS ABOUT OUR WORKSHOPS

The next TVWriter™ Advanced Online Workshop, for writers who know a little something about teleplay/screenplay format and have either taken TVWriter™’s Basic Workshop or can show an example of their current work, starts Wednesday, April 10, 2013, at 6:00 pm Pacific (9:00 pm Eastern) Time and will meet for 4 weeks. As of this writing enrollment is wide open, but the Advanced Workshop always fills up fast so we ever-so-respectfully suggest that you hurry to:
Advanced Workshop info and sign-up form

The current version of Larry Brody’s Master Class will be over April 4th, and the next one will begin the 3rd Thursday in April. This is the online workshop for professional level writers who want to spend a very intense month perfecting your current work. 60 pages a week! Story, plot, and characterization analyzed by our Fearsome Leader, LB himself! He accepts a maximum of only 3 students at a time in this one so if you’re interested you definitely need to reserve your place ASAP.
Larry Brody’s Master Class info

Or find out more about everything TVWriter University is currently offering here.

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That’s it for now. In the words of the immortal Michael Knight of KNIGHT RIDER fame (AKA the equally or perhaps even more immortal David Hasselhoff), we’re “Outta here!”

Team TVWriter™

Learn what’s happening at TVWriter™ in real-time on Facebook.

Ditto by following us on Twitter.

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TVWRITER™ STAFF:
Larry Brody – Head Dood
Tim Muncher – Keeper of the Faith
Various Volunteers – Mucho Appreciated Scapegoats
Gwen Brody – Beautiful Dreamer
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Now a few words about folks we believe in:

SCREENWRITERSHOWCASE.COM

You’ve written your screenplay. Now get it sold. Subscribe to our promotion service and get…

  • Unlimited number of ScreenwriterShowcase.com webpages to promote ALL your screenplays.
  • Showcased on our Screenplays For Sale page.
  • View counters so you always know how many times your screenplays have been viewed.
  • Stat Blasts to announce your latest accomplishments.
  • Easy online submission so you can create and edit your screenplay webpages instantly!
  • A writer dashboard so you can easily manage all your screenplays.

Subscribe for just $9.95/month

For more information, please visit
Screenwriter Showcase

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HOLLYWOODLITSALES.COM

Daily spec script sales reports! Info on getting started as a screenwriter! Writers’ software! Literary submissions! See what’s for sale!

Hollywoodlitsales.Com is a full service website you don’t want to miss. Check it out here.

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Television Writing from the Inside Outhas been revised and updated. What more could any screen or television writer ask for?


Buy LB’s Book! (Every penny that comes in goes right back into TVWriter™)

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Be sure to check out TVWriter™ at https://www.tvwriter.com for all the latest news, products, and a wealth of info on screen and TV writing!

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NBC Season Finale Schedule 2013

Time to say goodbye to those NBC shows you watched so religiously this season. Oh, wait–

NBCLogo

Wednesday, March 27
WHITNEY, 8/7c (one-hour finale)

Thursday, March 28
1600 PENN, 8:30/7:30c and 9:30/8:30c

Tuesday, April 2
THE NEW NORMAL, 9/8c (one-hour finale)

Thursday, April 11
GO ON, 9:30/8:30c

Thursday, May 2
PARKS & RECREATION, 9:30/8:30c

Thursday, May 9
COMMUNITY, 8/7c

Friday, May 10
FASHION STAR, 8/7c

Wednesday, May 15
CHICAGO FIRE, 10/9c

Thursday, May 16
THE OFFICE, 9/8c (one-hour series finale)

Friday, May 17
GRIMM, 9/8c

Sunday, May 19
THE CELEBRITY APPRENTICE, 9/8c

Wednesday, May 22
LAW & ORDER SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT, 9/8c (two-hour finale)

Monday, May 27
REVOLUTION, 10/9c

Tuesday, June 18
THE VOICE, 9/8c

Thursday, June 27
HANNIBAL, 10/9c

In Their Own Writ Dept: Writers on Writing – Jack Kerouac – 3/24/13

 

Jack-Kerouac

“Begin not from preconceived idea of what to say about image but from jewel center of interest in subject of image at moment of writing, and write outwards swimming in sea of language to peripheral release and exhaustion-Do not afterthink except for poetic or P. S. reasons. Never afterthink to “improve” or defray impressions, as, the best writing is always the most painful personal wrung-out tossed from cradle warm protective mind-tap from yourself the song of yourself, blow!-now!-your way is your only way-“good”-or “bad”-always honest (“ludi- crous”), spontaneous, “confessionals’ interesting, because not “crafted.” Craft is craft.”

Jack Kerouac