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Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ll know September 2017 saw the launch of my new B2W book, Writing Diverse Characters For Fiction, TV and Film (Creative Essentials). Marginalised characters have been a focus of B2W for years, so it made sense that I finally pull all my resources and experiences with this important element together, in one handy guide.

So, from talking to the Bang2writers, a common cry is: ‘I want to write diverse characters … but I’m SCARED of getting it wrong!‘ So, how DO we avoid ‘getting it wrong’? Here’s my top tips:

1) Understand your genre/tone and your audience

This is the thing. If you don’t know what your genre is, or what tone you’re going for – or what your audience wants from it – you’re at a mega disadvantage when you try to create diverse character/s.

The reason for this is obvious: there are certain types of story and audiences that prefer MORE diversity and others that prefer LESS. Now, this may mean the time is ripe for a lady gangster film or a TV series about BAME pensioners … Or it might be that no one is bothered. Which is it to be? How can you find out?

Understanding which is which will help you pinpoint the threats and opportunities that may present themselves to you as you draft. It can mean the difference between creating a tokenistic, try-hard character that feels out of place and one that feels authentic and real!

KEY QUESTION/S: Who is watching this? What do they want from this type of story? Historically, has this genre had much diversity? Does that mean it’s missing, or that this audience doesn’t want it? Who can I ask/ where can I research this?

2) Understand what’s gone before

Once you’ve pinpointed your genre, audience and the type of story you’re going for, NOW you need to do some hardcore research!

The great thing about movies, TV is that it’s very easy to spot patterns straight away when it comes to ‘types’ of characters. For example, I love the action-adventure genre and spotted the so-called ‘Expendable Hero’ is very often cast as a BAME actor (most often male!). This leads to this character also being called ‘The Sacrificial Minority’. Which is it to be? We have to decide as individual writers how we will tackle this.

It’s important to know the types of character role functions that diverse characters may appear in, historically. Female characters are often mothers and carers; BAME characters may be drug dealers, terrorists or – conversely! – chief of police; LGBT characters are often only in Romantic Comedies, coming out or transition stories; plus disabled characters may be suicidal or missing altogether.

Until recently, it was very unusual for a diverse character to occupy the protagonist’s role, plus sometimes a character’s ‘difference’ would be ‘enough’ to make them the antagonist.

Ugh! No thanks, this is 2017.

KEY QUESTION/S: In the type of story I’m writing, what patterns are there? Which diverse characters appear in which role functions most often? How can I twist this?

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3) Find out why people don’t like certain tropes

Tropes get a bum deal in the age of the internet … It’s thought that automatically ‘Tropes = bad’ but this is not true. Fact is, ALL stories have tropes, we need that recognition to figure out the type of story being told …

These are the facts: we LOVE a fresh take on a trope; we hate it when the trope is ‘the same-old, same-old’. What that means may range from being simply boring, stale and cheesy as hell (people have seen it too many times!), through to stereotypical and downright offensive (which may lead to trouble and finger pointing, especially online).

It’s important to note that writers don’t have to AGREE with identity politic, or even whether a trope is ‘bad’ or not. However, if people are complaining in large numbers about certain tropes for some reason, it’s a good idea to listen. You don’t even have to stop using it – just twist it and subvert expectations. This actively helps writers avoid CLICHÉ, which has to be good!

KEY QUESTION/S: What do audiences think of these tropes? Is it good/bad? Why? What can I do to bring a fresh take here, or subvert my audience’s expectations?

4) Consult experts

There are some people who say writers should stick to ONLY writing what they know in terms of diversity; but then those same people often say there should be more diversity too, so I think we can safely say there are lots of mixed messages flying around!

I say writers can write whatever they want … BUT individuals must do their due diligence. By this, I mean writers should not just consult secondary sources like history books, biographies or museums; nor should they rely on simply their OWN interpretation of  people, events, issues, etc!

When we write a character that is not like ourselves, we should also seek to find at least one person LIKE our character (though preferably two or more). This doesn’t mean hassling that real life person to read drafts or answer questions either; that is not cool.

However it’s easy now to follow marginalised people online via their own Twitter accounts and blogs, etc. Some will be happy to speak with you, or even offer their own consultancy services. Crowdsourcing answers to your questions via Q&A sites like Quora can also take the emphasis off – people can choose to answer if they want to.

5) Let it go!

Once you’ve exercised your due diligence and tried to ensure your diverse character is an authentic portrayal as possible, that’s all you can do. The bad news is, some people may hate it and tell you you’ve done it ‘wrong’ regardless. But the good news is, if you’ve done your due diligence and consulted people ‘like’ your character, as well as found out what’s gone before and twisted it? Then that’s JUST the haters’ opinion!

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BONUS TIP!

6) Identify Representations That Need More Variety

Did you know that approximately 19% of both the US and UK population have a disability of some kind? This means disability affects nearly 1 in 5 people in these populations … Yet we see a complete underrepresentation of this is storytelling, prompting disabled people to call themselves the ‘largest and invisible minority’!

Of the stories that DO include disabled people, nearly all of them focus on wheelchair users, especially with reference to suicide. Politics aside, is it any wonder that audiences are WEARY of this story?? We need more VARIETY — and with almost 1 in 5 people living with disability, there’s plenty of story potential out there that could include diverse characters like this.

Good Luck!

This post first appeared on Script Angel. See the original post, HERE.

17761123_10154582559506139_691836916590645085_o Want more about diverse characters?

Then check out my book, Writing Diverse Characters For Fiction, TV & Film, out now from Creative Essentials. Available in paperback and ebook, from Amazon and all good book stores. Click on the link or the pic for more info.

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Flight Over Fight

As every Bang2writer knows, I spend a lot of reading specs and unpublished novels through The B2W Scriptreading Consultancy – but I also consume A LOT of published and produced content, as well. I try to read at least one book a week, plus I’ll watch a minimum of two movies and probably about 6-8 hours of television (especially continuing drama). I’ll also consume easily 50 pieces of content a week from the web (stories, transmedia and fanfic as well as investigative journalism, craft articles, profiles and case studies etc).

So, as I’ve written many times on this blog, I’m uniquely placed to notice the various familiar patterns and ideas that turn up AGAIN AND AGAIN in spec and produced/published content. Just recently I’ve been researching for Book 3, so I’ve been concentrating on thriller. Given this includes ‘flight or fight’, these stories will obviously include characters literally running for their lives (before being forced to engaged with the antagonist).

As a result, I’ve noticed A LOT of samey escapes that turn up again and again. A lot of the time, this is because writers have painted their characters into a corner, so they feel they have to fall back on tried-and-tested methods of escape for them.

The problem is, lots of these escapes are cheesy and familiar! UGH. Here’s some of my LEAST fave methods of escape for characters on the run … Enjoy!

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1) Escape by fire extinguisher

I’ve read three books and watched a whole raft of movies lately that include this tired and very inauthentic trope. Basically it involves a character being confronted with a locked fire escape, usually with a padlock and chain. Said character will grab a fire extinguisher off a nearby wall and bash the padlock two or three times with it … and VOILA! The padlock will break and allow the character to escape via that fire exit.

JUST NO, writers. Have you ever picked up a fire extinguisher? They’re bloody heavy. What’s more, large padlocks are NOT easy to break. AND ONE LAST THING: in a world in which Health and Safety has apparently ‘gone mad’, I don’t think I’ve seen a locked fire escape in well over a decade!

So on every level, this cliché does not work. It is movie logic and it sucks, but more importantly it is OVERUSED. Avoid, avoid, avoid. MORE: 15 Cheesy Writing Fails To Avoid In The First Ten Pages 

2) Escape by random passer-by

Whilst it’s true passers-by may rescue people IN REAL LIFE, fiction is a representation of real life. Novels *may* be able to pull this off, but it’s rare that movies or television can get away with a random rescue without that character seeming like a Deus Ex Machina.

Note the use of the word ‘random’ here … This does not include characters who are actively LOOKING for said character who is on the run (I’m thinking secondaries like Kyle Reese in Terminator here, ‘Come with me if you want to live’). MORE: Top 10 Spec Script Clichés From The Shore Script Screenwriting Competition

3) Escape by helpfully placed keys

Hey, remember when you last broke into a car and the keys were handily under the sun visor or the ashtray so you could start it without hot-wiring it? No, me neither. (Hey, misspent youth okay).

Also, while we’re on this subject – does anyone leave their key under a stone or in a plant pot by the front door any more? IF they ever did, movies have put paid to this stupid practice.

If your characters live a safe place, far more believable that the door was left unlocked, frankly! If they DON’T, then it’s more believable someone would climb up and get in through a window on the first floor or above because someone’s underestimated people’s determination to get in. MORE: 4 Ways Samey Stories Happen … And What You Can Do To Avoid Them

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4) Escape by getting lost in a handy parade

It would appear that the whole point of parades is so fugitives like Richard Kimble in the 1992 movie can hide in them. Look, it worked once upon a time but has become so overused generally that it’s just boring now. Can we just retire this one altogether, please? I’m not saying you can’t lose characters in crowds – just find a new way of doing it! It’s not like the ONLY time crowds happen is during parades, FFS. We’re writers, be imaginative!! MORE: Tropes Versus Clichés – A Storyteller’s Guide 

5) Escape by non-starting car

Don’t you just love it when you’re trying to escape zombies, werewolves, serial killers or shady government operatives and you find a car … and it DOESN’T START??

Again, this was a great device once upon a time but has been over-used to all hell. Unless you can think of a way to incorporate a delicious new twist – I’m thinking the epic reversing limo escape in Logan (2016) here – then really: DON’T BOTHER. MORE: 11 Expositional Clichés That Will Kill Your Story

6) Escape by air duct

Air ducts are used in so many movies that I honestly grew up in the 80s believing EVERY building in America had them. And like many of the things on this list, once upon a time they worked – especially in sci-fi future worlds, like in Aliens (1986) – but now just feel cheesier than an old sock that’s been left under the bed for 200 years.

Consider all the things you could use INSTEAD, whether your characters are in modern buildings or old ones, private dwelling or not: windows, roofs, iron fire escapes (!!), lifts and lift shafts, back staircases, attics, crawl-spaces under houses, cellars and coal chutes, laundry chutes, those weird big chutes builders use, even priest holes. There’s an EMBARRASSMENT of riches to be had in terms of escape possibilities! MORE: 7 More Epic Fails To Avoid In Your Writing

Concluding:

If you write your characters into a corner, consider the storyworld and your character’s own worldview in terms of how to get them out of it. WHERE your character is and most importantly WHO s/he is will  enable them to escape. Don’t be inauthentic, but most importantly don’t leap for the first same, clichéd methods … Twist it!

Good luck!

Take Your Writing Craft To The Next Level:

https---cdn.evbuc.com-images-29888419-3773478736-1-originalWe all know format is the LEAST of our problems as screenwriters … but *how* do we improve our writing craft?? My course with LondonSWF, THE CRAFT CRASH COURSE runs for the first time this year, Nov 11-12th, at Ealing Studios, London. Over two days, we will put writing craft under the microscope & you will learn tricks to elevate your writing to the NEXT LEVEL. Don’t miss out!

CLICK HERE for full details of the course (or on the pic above). We expect it to sell out, so act now to avoid disappointment. See you there!!!

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Too many ideas? Too few? Blank page syndrome (hair-tearing optional)? Mojo gone AWOL? Sometimes even Jack London’s otherwise sound idea of ‘going after inspiration with a club’ doesn’t even get the words flowing!

While there is a lot of valid advice out there on how to beat writer’s block on a project, we can also get stuck in a creative quagmire. To drag ourselves out of there and get that hunger for storytelling back, a writer’s detox in 5 easy steps can help cleanse the mind. Here goes:

1)  Ask yourself the crucial question

You’ll kick yourself, it’s simple … That crucial question?

“What do you really want to write?”

Sit back, close your eyes, or rifle through your notes, and clear your mind until you can pinpoint exactly what project really gets your heart racing. Screenplay, novel, short story, poem, anything goes. Just shelve everything else until numero uno is done. Got the idea? Hold on to it! Here’s what you do next, coming in at number 2. MORE: The 1 Sentence That Will Kill Your Story DEAD

2) Detox your mind

Something is holding you back. Self-doubt, fear of running out of ideas, harsh critique (or any critique at all) – tell those suckers to leave you alone. Make a list, naming the enemy, and then BURN it.

3) Declutter your workspace

You could easily write your masterpiece, if only … you had space for notes, mood-board, reference books etc? Then clear the desk of all the junk, or move to the kitchen table, the floor, whatever gives you the feeling of a clean, clear working space. MORE: 10 Quick Tips To Get You Inspired 

4) Be nice to yourself

A shiny new project deserves a treat. A new pen that begs to be used, a pretty notebook, a scented candle if that floats your boat and fits into your budget– anything that makes the writing joyful!

5) Feed your senses in the REAL world

Ideas, and characters are everywhere. Go to the cinema, the theatre, a museum, an art gallery. Any place where you will be surrounded by inspiration. Take it in, file it away for use in your heart’s project. MORE: The Habits Of Successful Writers 

Concluding:

While this sounds simple (and it is), consider it as part of your prep. Notes and research are invaluable tools, but getting into the right mindset when you battle with blank pages, a relentless inner critic and the rollercoaster of elation and despair is just as crucial if you want to make it all the way to the finish line and stay sane.

And now stop reading for goodness’ sake. Go and write!

BIO: Carmen Radtke is a screenwriter and novelist. Her debut novel is The Case of the Missing Bride (Bloodhound Books), an historical mystery set on a ship en route from Australia to Canada. She also writes under the pen name Caron Albright. A Matter of Love and Death will be published on 29 November by Bombshell Books. Follow Carmen on Twitter: @CarmenRadtke1.

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Mild Spoilers

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Box Office Whoa

In a week in which *that* news broke about movie mogul Harvey Weinstein broke, you’d be forgiven for missing that BLADE RUNNER 2049 apparently bombed at the box office.

Of course, this may not be that big a deal in the long run … After all, the original also bombed back in 1982. What’s more, apparently the original didn’t review well, unlike 2049 which has that hallowed FRESH rating on Rotten Tomatoes (88%, no less). Once Awards Season and ancillary markets are factored in, there’ every chance 2049 will earn its place in popular culture – and the KERCHING! that involves – just like the original.

But this article is not about the shortsightedness of relying solely on box office tallies to prove ‘success’, especially in the transmedia age. It’s not even about the marketing fail of the BLADE RUNNER 2049 campaign, which relied on Geek nostalgia over a strong story hook in its trailer (which, btw, was a bad move).

Instead, it’s about the female characters in BLADE RUNNER 2049. Ready? Then strap yourselves in. Let’s go.

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Femcrit Backlash

Almost as soon as the positive reviews rolled in for BLADE RUNNER 2049, a flurry of femcrit thinkpieces exploded all over the interwebs. You may have seen them: Why Blade Runner 2049 is a misognistic mess wrote Vice; The Daily Dot called it ‘Subtly SexistBlade Runner’s Problem with women remains unsolved in sequel wrote The Conversation; Blade Runner 2049 may be set in the future, but its treatment of women is stuck in the past wrote The Telegraph; and The Pool asked us to ‘Imagine a future in which women are *still* sex objects’. There are plenty more where that comes from, too.

All of these thinkpieces – and I’ve had the pleasure of reading all of them listed here (and several more besides) – have the following issues with BLADE RUNNER 2049:

  • The female characters – including peripherals – are overtly sexualised
  • The male gaze is employed (Don’t know what this is? CLICK HERE).
  • The death of the newborn replicant
  • The notion ‘real’ women give birth
  • The female characters are bought and sold quite literally, like Joi the digital girlfriend or Mariette, the sexbot replicant
  • The female characters are not holistic

Perhaps you feel similar? Whatever the case, I will address all these points, next.

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Where We’re Headed

It’s true that BLADE RUNNER 2049 is a dystopian future in which the female form is currency. It’s a startling reflection of the world in which we live in NOW, where women are routinely objectified and this is passed off as ‘normal’.

The fact our protagonist K and all this story world’s inhabitants walk around almost blind to GIANT NAKED FEMALE STATUES AND PROJECTIONS tells us so much about the state of the world today. That’s what good science fiction does – it holds up a mirror and says, ‘This is where we’re heading, if we continue the way we are now.’ 

That’s why an article like this one in The Pool misses the point royally when it says:

“If you want to show us a future dystopia where sex work is prolific, show men selling their bodies too. That wouldn’t be a utopia, but at least it would show that you’re not thoughtlessly exporting sexism into the future. All these visions where women’s bodies are still objectified – literally, in Blade Runner, with those statues – and where sex is still commodified, but only by those presenting as women and apparently only for men, shows a startling lack of vision and imagination.”

What’s ‘startling’ for me is the ‘lack of vision and imagination’ the Pool critic is displaying. The idea presented in BLADE RUNNER 2049 here is NOT just that ‘sex work is prolific’. It’s that we live in a patriarchy NOW and if it goes on unchallenged, it’s going to get worse and worse … So by this time, thirty years from now, this – depicted by BLADE RUNNER 2049 – is what we’ll end up with.

It’s chilling and truly dystopian – a warning, if you like. Again, something Sci Fi does frequently when envisaging bad futures. We don’t watch stuff like The Handmaid’s Tale or Mad Max Fury Road and think of it as a ‘How To’ Guide, FFS! We don’t require Margaret Atwood or George Miller to overtly state that sex slavery is bad. Le duh. We all know this.

Of course, some would argue that Blade Runner 2049 is almost indiscernible from ‘normal’ sexism – but then couldn’t that also be argued an EPIC SCORE in the movie’s favour? Maybe all the more reason to listen to BLADE RUNNER 2049’s warning, then!

Male Ally

Again, it’s true that a masculine POV is employed at the heart of BLADE RUNNER 2049. Most movies have male leads (who are also white, able-bodied and straight), so it is unsurprising that we ‘see’ the Blade Runner storyworld from K’s POV. This is in part responsible for the sexualisation of the female characters – we’re seeing the world via patriarchal norms and values.

It’s possible we could have had a female Blade Runner at the heart of this story. Luv, our female replicant antagonist is as hardcore as K and able to carry out all number of unpleasant duties. So it’s not outside the realms of possibility that she (or one like her) could have been in K’s place – and perhaps this is what is at the root of many of the femcrit pieces: disappointment.

However, would Luv’s viewpoint as protagonist instead of K have made a significance difference to the dystopian landscape? Since the filmmakers want to make a commentary on patriarchy and debunking male superiority, it would seem a bit strange to have a female lead. Swapping K out for Luv would literally interfere with the storytelling here.

What’s more, some of the strongest scenes in the movie are between K and the women on the ‘good’ side, who counsel him on how he needs to reject his replicant-slave roots, signified in his ‘baseline’. That ominous test with the repetition of the words CELLS and INTERLINKED said – to me, at least – that K is just a cog in the machine. By rejecting his baseline, he is standing up at last: a true ally.

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Born To Die

The birth – and slaughter – of the newborn replicant has proved to be one of the most controversial scenes of the movie and for good reason. The scene makes use of what Hitchcock called ‘the unstable space': the audience is a voyeur and it is very uneasy, unpleasant viewing. It’s literally meant to be.

Every effort is made to present the newborn replicant as almost calf-like: from the awkward way she lands and lies on the ground, through to her wet gasps for air as she fights to breathe. Yes, she is naked, but she is also covered in goo. She has no flowing locks; no fluttering eyelashes; nothing that says to me we are supposed to find her sexy or alluring … ‘Cos literally, WTAF. She’s just been born! Even the way Wallace handles her – pulling back eyelids, pushing on her neck – is what farmers do to ‘test’ livestock for hardiness.

And this is what replicants are … Livestock. Property. Slaves. That’s always been at the heart of this story and it’s no wonder Wallace is so cold. He kills the newborn because she is disposable. Also, her gender is a major signpost for something else in the story, which comes clear at the end.

Lastly, the newborn is also a warning. Without her death, Luv’s own motivation for pleasing her master makes no sense. She will do everything to do be ‘The Best One'; she will NEVER be the one bleeding out on the floor at his feet. That’s why Wallace named her.

Real Women

Femcrit is always leery of any female character giving birth, wanting children, being a mother or any other ‘traditional’ emotions and elements associated with this idea. We saw the biggest backlash recently over Black Widow’s ‘monster’ comments in The Avengers: Age of Ultron … So I’m only surprised this part of the debate burned out so quickly.

Or maybe not, when we consider this part of the ‘debate’ is pure unadulterated BS. There is no suggestion in the movie that ‘only’ real women give birth. Instead, the notion is that replicants who can give birth have added value.

Think about it: replicants are slave labour … and slaves who can replicate themselves bring more slaves! This is great business: no wonder Niander Wallace is so keen to track Rachel’s baby down. Alternatively, it could be argued Wallace is concerned about fertile replicants rendering his models obsolete. Either way, he needs that baby – either to monetise the new line or to suppress it. Helen Lewis at The New Statesman nails it when she says BLADE RUNNER 2049 is about ‘controlling reproduction‘, something we can see today when right wingers try to withhold abortions and even contraception from women.

The notion of fertile replicants also brings with it yet more troubling questions of a philosophical nature. These ponder not only on the nature of the replicants’ humanity, but also what bringing replicant-kids into the world would mean to the replicants themselves. Sitting in the audience, watching that scene, I was thinking of Toni Morrison’s Beloved when protagonist – and slave – Sethe feels compelled to kill her children to protect them from slavery.

I would wager the confusion about ‘real women’ comes from the fact the word ‘real’ is consistently employed throughout the movie – not just with reference to birth and women but to EVERY part of the storyworld.

There are multiple allusions to Pinocchio: ‘Just like a real boy/girl’. K asks Deckard if his dog is ‘real’ (‘I dunno. Why don’t you ask him?); plus Joi and K, ‘I want to be real for you’/ ‘You are real to me’; or K’s memories ‘I KNOW it’s real!’… Right through to the tree K and Mariette talk about on the photos, which is one of my favourite moments in the entire film:

Mariette: I’ve never seen a real tree before. It’s pretty.

K: It’s dead.

It’s all there. It’s applied to every last thing.

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Disposable / Indispensable

There’s been a lot of commentary about the nature of the female characters and how they’ve been cast as sex workers; or asking how we’re supposed to feel about a character like K who BUYS his digital girlfriend, Joi.

Again, it’s true that sex worker characters are overrepresented in the thriller genre – but then so are addicts, megalomaniacs, murderers, hitmen, cops, henchmen and government agents. If we’re going to complain about overused tropes, then at least bring some equality to the debate.

Similarly, sex worker characters are often disposable: brought in to stories as bodies or eye candy only. It’s fine to have a problem with that, but to discount sex worker characters as standard makes no sense, especially in the case of BLADE RUNNER 2049. Mariette, a sex worker character (denigrated as a ‘marionette’ in some femcrit) displays her own mind from the offset. When her colleagues give K a wide berth on account of being a Blade Runner and warn her off, she tells them she knows what he is. Similarly, she tells Joi something similar about her in the apartment.

What’s more, Mariette is absolutely INDISPENSABLE in the plotting; without her intervention K would be left for dead at one point. The rest of her people, though peripheral and existing on the fringes of society, have a key role to play, with the Madam delivering a key element of exposition.

Lastly, when it comes to Joi, the virtual girlfriend, I saw not in K not a man who buys sex, but a tragic love story. It’s key that she’s a GIRLFRIEND, not merely a sex object. She asks him about his day, brings him his dinner, tries to get involved in his actual life and mission (but can’t, blinking off at inopportune moments).

Like K, I wanted her to be real so badly. ‘I’m so happy with you’/ ‘You don’t have to say that.’ K tries to give her autonomy via the emanator, but succeeds only in signing her death warrant. But also, what is real? Is Joi just a chat-bot? Is she down the scale, lower than a replicant? Or is it all just an illusion? I keep changing my mind … which shows what a great idea, philosophically, this was.

Ciphers For Theme

Finally, it’s true that the female characters are not holistic in the ‘classic’ sense … That’s because they are thematic. The entire movie is thematic, so this includes the likes of K and Deckard too.

Everything here is about that meaning I have already described: the notion of ‘what is REAL?’, bringing forth other powerful ideas of a dystopian future brought to us via the objectification of women and crushing men into their ‘place’ in the machine. We are ALL slaves to the patriarchy and only by making a stand against it and throwing off our shackles can society move on.

So if BLADE RUNNER 2049 is a thematic movie, rather than a ‘classic’ story, it’s unsurprising some people failed to ‘get’ what it was about. Once you understand the nature of what it is, you can see ALL the characters within it are ciphers for that meaning. Nothing more … but nothing less, either.

Concluding:

Some might reflect on all this I’ve covered and say they found BLADE RUNNER 2049 wanting because it should have been both a thematic AND ‘classic’ story. After all, a movie like Mad Max Fury Road is both thematic and a classic chase thriller: you can see its layers, or simply enjoy the ride.

But then the Mad Max franchise is known for its chases and epic set pieces, plus the original movie helped kick off the fascination with the revenge thriller. But then thirty years passed and revenge is now pretty hackneyed by 2015 standards. A radical overhaul was needed, but Mad Max Fury Road still stayed true to its roots.

In the same way, BLADE RUNNER 2049 stayed true to its roots too. I loved that BLADE RUNNER 2049 was unafraid to bring forth big ideas on the nature of humanity, with a side-order of commentary on the ruins of patriarchy for both men and women. Whilst it was arty and ponderous, the original was both arty and ponderous too.

Had they turned BLADE RUNNER 2049 into a hardcore blockbusting rip-roaring thrill ride, there would have been some very angry geeks and cinephiles – the core demographic the movie was literally aimed at. What came before helped inform what came next … because that’s the point of sequels! 

So by all means dislike BLADE RUNNER 2049 for being too long or too slow … The run time of 163 minutes was madness (I feared my kidneys would explode Grampa Simpson style for the last forty five minutes, I needed a pee that bad).

Dislike it for the sudden leap in logic when Deckard hunts K for seemingly no reason at the midpoint other than as an opportunity to have a big macho fight.

Or dislike Villeneuve’s fancy-pants direction; Ryan Gosling’s rubber lips, or the fact Harrison Ford is revisiting all his classic roles as a wizened old geezer.

But disliking it for sexism, on the basis of feminist ideals? That’s an own goal.

17761123_10154582559506139_691836916590645085_o For more like this

Then check out my book, Writing Diverse Characters For Fiction, TV & Film, out now from Creative Essentials. Available in paperback and ebook, from Amazon and all good book stores. Click HERE or the pic for more details.

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The Finish Line Script Competition recently announced its winners for the 2017 season with a drama pilot by R.B Ripley taking Grand Prize and two screenplays by women, M. Colleen Burns and Helen Darvall winning runner-up awards.

Finish Line is a bit of a different competition by design because writers can submit their scripts and then continue to work on them throughout the competition and resubmit for free. Here is some insight into what works for us:

1) Know your story

The scripts that stand out for us are ones that feel understood by their writers. KNOW YOUR STORY. Whether this means you have to outline or just have a very clear idea of what you write about – get there. An idea for a script is not enough – this isn’t a pitch fest. We’ll help you if need be but in the end, only you can know. Our winner this year is a fully formed and clear pilot for a TV show. We got it, the judges got it and mostly and most importantly, R.B (its author) got it. MORE: How To Win At Screenwriting Competitions

2) Characters matter more than story

There are only so many ‘stories’ to tell. Theme is important but revenge, woman in peril, justice in all its forms, and all the other tropes can only take a script so far. It’s what fills the scenes and most importantly who fills them that matter. Characters with layers of complexity, relatable characteristics, flawed, funny yet sad – real people.

Try not to resort to obvious characters like the cop who lost his family and has a sad look in his eye, or the woman who is beautiful, but underneath has seen hell. These are not characters – they are descriptions of a caricature. Don’t just insert people to fill the pages. Create them. It will make all the difference in a thriller whose story may be familiar if the protagonist is not.

3) Don’t write a road movie

Road movies are not that exciting and are usually rather trite: I am going to pick on this genre. The majority of readers I know groan when they open a road script. Again, it comes down to character in these scripts but the journey better be awfully interesting and original and the dialogue Aaron Sorkin style fantastic for us to be surprised by this genre. Some do work, that’s for sure – but there is usually another genre thrown in to cushion the boredom of two or more people on their way to Place A who discover X,Y,Z along the way. MORE: Top 10 Spec Script Clichés, according to The Shore Scripts Screenwriting Competition 

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4) WE don’t care where you live

We have designed our competition with the international writer in mind as well as our fellow Americans. Four of our mentors this year were from outside the US (UK and Canada), plus we will add Australia next year. Good writing is not an American trait, it’s a human trait.

Television writers are more likely to find their careers in Los Angeles or major international cities but screenwriters, if willing to travel, can be located anywhere. Is a non-American speaker at a disadvantage? Yes, obviously they are, but if this is what you want for your career, we will help you get your craft in the best shape possible. Craft is craft. Doesn’t matter what language it comes through in.

5) Find the magic in what your writing

This may be the most important thing about our script competition as opposed to others. Granted, everyone likes a good, magical piece of writing but we’re not stuck on the whole most commercial script aspect of many other competitions. The mentors we have every year are a mixture of producers, executives and representatives who have worked in various indie and studio/network positions. They have breadth of imagination. It’s important to us that they do.

While our Grand Prize Winner this year happened to write a commercial pilot, first and foremost it was one that we couldn’t stop thinking about. That’s key. What is it that, while reading 1200+ scripts brings us back to a handful over the months? It’s something distinct, something magical, something we hope will be new and original in the eyes of those who read it in the industry. And it’s writing that we feel proud to have been sent and that will represent us well. MORE: 8 Useful Tips To Win Screenwriting Competitions

Concluding:

We read many scripts this year that stuck with us. But our winners all wrote something we couldn’t shake. They touched our heart, they made us think, we could visualize the script and not only because it was full of action and explosions (though when written well those can be magical as well), we could see actors fighting over the roles and we read them over and over and never got bored. That’s what wins with us.

BIO: Jenny Frankfurt is a former literary manager and the co-founder of The Finish Line Script Competition, which will begin again January 2018. In the meantime, for comprehensive script consultation please email info@finishlinescriptcomp.com

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more typewriter keys

Many writers have unspoken struggles. One of them is staying focused. There always seems to be things that compete for a writers’ attention rendering them completely unable to focus. But good news! You can improve this – and here’s 8 simple steps how. Ready? Let’s go …

1) Set An Achievable Goal

The ability to set a goal and doing all it takes to reach it has a great impact on your overall focus. You can start by setting a goal of writing 500 words every morning. This is an achievable goal. If done every day, one could even comfortably write a whole book without much struggle. The premise here is setting small achievable goals and meeting them. This will build your confidence, so you will improve your writing focus. MORE: How To Set Meaningful Goals And Stick To Them

2) Create a Daily Schedule

Anything that’s left to chance can only get worse. So make a point of creating a daily schedule for writing! It should be custom-made to suit your needs. Just schedule some time to write at each point of the day. For example, in the morning, you could write for three hours; in the afternoon, two hours; then in the evening, one hour. During your weekends, you could schedule about four hours of writing.

Perhaps you don’t have as much free time as this? That’s fine too. Anything is better than nothing! You can choose any schedule provided you stick to it.

You can also write about anything, provided that you write. The premise here is to write regularly on a set schedule. The bottom line is that you’re better placed to improve your writing focus if you create a writing schedule and better yet, stick to it!

3) Have Breaks

After writing continuously for about two hours, always give yourself a break. A 20-minute break can be refreshing. Ensure that you break away from your computer screen and do something unrelated. You can have a snack; watch a quick episode of your favourite show; call your best friend or even simply take a stroll. Take your mind completely off work issues. Taking breaks enables your mind and body to rest and rejuvenate. It enables you to fight fatigue and burnout. This postures you for better focus once you resume, thus improving your writing.

4) Make sure You Exercise

Exercise has many benefits to your health. It improves your overall health, while keeping your body fit. It also improves your blood circulation, which improves the functioning of your mind and body. This translates to a better focus on all your daily activities — writing included!

Exercise also relieves stress and is linked to better sleep patterns. All these are vital to improving your focus. You could join a gym for regular workout sessions. You can also do some low-impact exercises like swimming, walking, and jogging. If you’re fit enough, run regularly. Participate in marathons if you think you can.

The reason why you may lack focus in your writing could be due to a sedentary lifestyle. Therefore, make a point of exercising regularly. The benefits will be immense on your health as well as with your writer’s focus.

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5) Stay Away From Distractions

Distractions are real, and they are effective in making writers lose focus. To remedy this, simply remove all distractions. Yes, this is obvious – but difficult!

Different distractions may affect different writers. For example, there are those which are tied to hobbies. They may include cooking, gardening, socialising, sports and travel. There are those which present themselves as unavoidable tasks such as home chores, fixing stuff around the house, etc. There are those which are more connected to lifestyle. For example, the internet, smoking, alcohol, etc.

So, use your phone only when it is necessary – hide it or leave it out of reach if you need to! Avoid using the internet, especially social media – you can turn this off via apps like Freedom. Always do your research before you start writing. Gather all the information that you may need to write and after that, switch off your internet connection until you’re done with writing.

6) Refrain from Editing as You Write

Writing and editing are two different activities that need different sets of skills. They should not be done concurrently. The reason why some writers lose focus as they write is that they edit as they write. This may have devastating implications such as losing a trail of thought or messing up with the flow of the writing. It also takes much of your time hence leading to late submission of work. To avoid this, simply write uninterrupted until you finish. Do not even try to edit while you’re writing! This will significantly improve your focus when writing.

7) Write Less but Frequently

Many writers write for more than four hours in a single sitting without a break. This might seem like a good idea, but many professionals believe this is an unhealthy practice that leads to reduced productivity in the long run. Writers should work in spurts of 1-2 hours at most. In a day, it is better to write in short spurts but more frequently. It significantly improves your focus and aids your creativity. MORE: 43 Famous Writers Share Their Secrets On How To Be Happy

8) Avoid Stress

Stress destroys focus. In fact, mental health and productivity experts  believe stress is detrimental to creativity and productivity. Stress has a negative effect on one’s cognitive ability which significantly reduces their focus. So do whatever it takes to reduce stress in your life!

Concluding:

So, as a writer, your aim should be to reduce stress to improve your focus. You can reduce stress in the following proven ways:

  • Engage in stress relief activities. They include meditation, yoga, massage therapy, aromatherapy, pet therapy and also martial arts. Take long walks and dedicate time for rest, daily.
  • Stay positive. Positivity has been proven to counter stress. One way of staying positive is by having gratitude. Make a list of everything that you think you should be grateful for before you start writing. Show others gratitude.
  • Don’t spend all your time writing. Take a book and read too. Reading has been found to reduce stress considerably. Try reading for about  10 minutes before writing. It will reduce stress and ultimately   increase your focus.

Conclusion

If you are struggling with focus when writing, apply any of the tips discussed above. They are proven to be effective and will assist you immensely to improve your focus.

Having problems writing any type of essays? You can get help here.

BIO: Lori Wade is a freelance content writer who is interested in a wide range of spheres from education and online marketing to entrepreneurship. She is also an aspiring tutor striving to bring education to another level. If you are interested in writing, you can find her on Twitter or Google+ or find her on other social media.

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B2W_RIGHTWORDS

1) TIP: Never Use Boring Words!

First up, the obvious … And one that some say is the ONLY rule every writer should follow‘Don’t be boring!’ Novelist Bang2writers obviously have the strongest burden in NOT being boring. In comparison to screenplays, every single word of a novel is accessible to a reader.

That said, script readers have to read a screenplay first, so it’s still not wise to be repetitive and write ‘flat’ and flabby prose. This infographic from Custom Writing breaks down some common and frankly DULL words, plus what ALL writers can use instead.

Remember, just because you’re a screenwriter does not mean you can get away with being boring though! If you bring a fresh quality to your screenwriting, even in the scene description, you’re far more likely to get noticed in the spec pile. MORE: Top 10 Killer Words That Make Writers Switch Off 

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2) TIP: Identify Which Words You Tend To Misuse Most

Lots of writers seem to believe they’re at the mercy of a bad prior education or other problems when it comes to misusing words. This is not the case. EVERY writer, including those with additional learning needs like dyslexia, can improve their writing.

But how? By identifying those words that are problematic for you. Why not keep a notebook or journal and record those words tend to give you a headache? From there, you can search out ways to remember and improve, such as quick tests online LIKE THESE.

But you need to commit. Just ten minutes a day could help you keep the spell-checker and red pen away! FURREALZ. MORE: 10 Common Errors In Your Writing You Need To Fix Right Now

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3) TIP: Get Down With The Kidz

Sometimes novelists and writers will include things like text speak and social media in their writing, especially if they have teen characters in their scripts and books.

Shockingly for us oldies (ie. anyone over thirty!), the first cheat sheet on text speak is already pretty obsolete … After all, abbreviations are SO NOUGHTIES and some acronyms like LOL and OMG have pretty much passed into ‘normal speech’/typing in 2017! Eeek!

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Besides, no teen would be seen on Facebook … or rather, they may well be there BUT ONLY SO MUM AND DAD CAN SEE THEM and *think* they’re monitoring them!!

In real terms, teens and young people are far more likely to be elsewhere online, such as intagram, making use of  popular hashtags like these:

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So, the moral of THIS story?? Make sure you know WHO uses WHAT platform and HOW … Then you’ll find the authentic words to describe their online antics in your novel or screenplay! For more on this, check out How To Write Young People That Are Actually Realistic.

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4)  TIP: Avoid Weak Words

It might sound weird, but certain words can actually make your writing SOUND WORSE. These ‘weak words’ weasel their way into sentences and can be a real problem in terms of so-called WAFFLE.

Bang2writing novelists in particular must stay vigilant against these weak words, though screenwriters will also want to avoid them – especially in cover letters and query emails. MORE: Top 1o Words Or Phrases Storytellers Gave Us

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5)  TIP: Favour EMOTIONAL Words

All good writing should inspire some kind of emotional response, for good OR ill. Screenwriting in particular should use short, snappy words at the expense of all others.

HOWEVER, even if you’re writing literary fiction, you don’t want your novel to sound like some kind of stuffy manual! By all means use more ‘fancy’ words, but make sure you utilise at least two emotional ones for every highfalutin’ one. MORE: 8 Weird Book-Related Words You Need To Know

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6)  TIP: All English is not the same!

An obvious one maybe, but one issue I see all the time in the spec pile. Spec screenwriters frequently write their scripts in Standard American English – even if their stories are set in the UK and Europe. I don’t think this is a great idea. Stick with English-English.

If you’re trying to write the Next Great American Novel however, DO try and write it in American English! Same goes if you’re writing a screenplay set in America. JUST MAKE SURE YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.

There is really nothing worse than UK/US clangers, especially characters saying things they’d *never* say. Do your research! MORE: Top 5 Research Mistakes Writers Make 

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7) TIP: Remember SYNONYMS!

Repeat after me:

Repetition dulls the read and bores the reader.

Repetition dulls the read and bores the reader.

Repetition dulls the read and bores the reader.

Haha! But seriously. It does. Make sure you make use of that thesaurus!! MORE: 12 Quick Tips To Improve Your Writing Right Now 

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8) TIP: Be DESCRIPTIVE (without being ‘flowery’)

Description is brilliant … but not if it TAKES OVER. Same goes for novels and screenplays – LESS IS MORE. ‘A picture paints a thousand words’ so choosing your words carefully and being economical is the key. Expand your vocabulary and think about HOW you can do this. MORE: How To Write Tight And Visual Scene Description (screenplays) and 8 Ways To Jump-Start Your Description (novels).

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9)  TIP:  Don’t forget sound

Novelists and screenwriters alike can be so concerned about visuals, they sometimes forget SOUND – yet this can be a really potent way of getting certain feelings, thoughts and pictures across in an efficient way.

HOW you present the sounds will depend on what medium you’re writing in, but consider how words like those listed below can help you get across your story, your characters’ reactions to what’s happening and set up what’s coming next. MORE: Writing Adages Explained: ‘Show, Don’t Tell’

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10) TIP: Bring ‘colour’ to your writing

Just as description is important, so is what I call COLOUR – ie. things like slang and jargon in your characters’ dialogue; particular ways of describing things in your story world; or even your own writer’s voice on the page. Like I’ve said before, lots of times: we don’t want any more vanilla writing!!!

So, whatever you’re using to bring ‘colour’ to your writing? Make sure it hits the BULLSEYE. Movies like Sexy Beast and Dog Soldiers were cult films because they made use of particular Brit ways of speaking, as well as the actual stories themselves. Same goes for novel writers like Irvine Welsh.

One caveat though – if you’re going to do something outlandish? Do your research and do it WELL. There are no half measures. MORE: 8 (More) Infographics That Will Help You Improve Your Writing 

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Good luck!

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So, I’ve got Nelson Nutmeg‘s Jan Caston on B2W today … As well as being a producer, Jan’s also a screenwriter and a novelist, so be sure to listen to her GREAT advice! Enjoy …

Are You Ready To Commit and Submit?

WELL DONE! You’re trained, getting a name, have your script, and you’re ready to hustle for a sale that will earn you money.

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Stop right there!

Your script may have been written with your heart, but it will always be sold by your head. Curb your excitement – you still need to eat – so don’t rush to submit.

Here are some DOs and DON’Ts that will assist you in becoming a professional writer. Selling any script is sensationally life-affirming, so it’s not an experience to waste with ill-preparation. Common sense maybe, but it’s funny how this can be lacking in the spec pile and at networking events …

So make sure you …

  • DON’T GET OVEREXCITED. Get loads of opinions before you submit. Hesitancy always tells where you need to do more work. Release the power and pressure of HESITANCY – both the expert’s and your own.
  • DO TRUST PROFESSIONALS: – particularly editors – their knowledge can get you out of some very tight corners. Be prepared to pay the going rate for their work. Ours is a business, not a charity.
  • DON’T BE A PEST: Research and understand your market. People and companies specialise. Read the trade news, network and find out who does what. Don’t submit where there’s no chance of success. It makes you look an idiot.
  • DO WORK WITH YOUR MATES: Getting a script to screen involves many people with different skills working within tight deadlines, so filmmakers naturally go to trusted colleagues first. Become part of, or form your own trusted network. Make indie film.
  • DON’T MISS DEADLINES – no one wants to work again with people who do not deliver, do a bad job, or cost them money. This is a breach of trust. (In the same vein, respect competition closing dates and rules.)
  • DO TRUST YOUR OWN CAPABILITIES. You’ve told the world you’re a writer – now go out and prove it.

So, after you receive the response to your submission:

  • DO ACCEPT what you are told as the truth. Great if it’s a sale, but if not:
  • DON’T GET ANGRY! Rejection happens far more than acceptance, even to the most successful writers. Have other proposals in reserve.
  • DO BE POLITE but follow up any openings that are offered. Producers may not be in a position now to put any money into this particular project, but if they like what they see, they won’t forget you for the future.
  • DON’T BE A SNOT (s’not fair!). Moaners really are a pain in the butt.
  • DO KEEP RECORDS – when, to whom and the outcome – a simple spreadsheet is enough. And unless invited, only submit once.
  • DON’T EXPECT A CAREER, expect to sell projects. Writers go in and out of fashion. Very few make a good living over a lifetime’s career.

So, you want to be a professional?

Then act like one. You’ll need to be tough – and that means on yourself too.

Plus, of course, you WILL need that little extra smattering of luck.

Good Luck!

BIO: Jan Caston is a screenwriter/producer with www.nelsonnutmegpictures.com. Her latest novel – Normal Dating, a contemporary comedy romance, comes out on 9 October 2017. Details www.brackenbraeandashby.com or www.jancaston.com

More on this blog about writing careers

10 Ways To Kill Your Writing Career DEAD (And 3 Ways To Improve Your Chances)

4 Simple Reasons Many Writers Don’t Succeed 

4 Things Writers Should Stop Expecting (And 1 Thing You Can Do About It)

It’s Time To Quit Stalling And Make That Jump

How To Build Your Writing Career From Zero

WARNING – This Is Why Your Writing Career Is In The Crapper

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WARNING: Spoilers

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In my occasional Movie Lessons For Writers series, I put a recent or classic movie under the microscope and draw attention to what writers can learn, for good or ill.

Since IT has been lighting up screens all over the world – surpassing the hallowed £500m mark, no less! – then whether we loved or hated it (or loved TO hate it), we can agree this remake has *something* to impart.

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What’s Working

Obviously, plenty is. Rightly or wrongly, movies this popular will always have their detractors, but overall we can discern that the filmmakers definitely got something right … More than one thing, in my opinion.

I’ve always thought of Stephen King’s IT as the Evil Twin of The Body (aka Stand by Me as the movie version). So I was delighted to see what I felt was this kind of ‘tone’ reflected in this movie version. IT was a hugely influential book to me as a teen, I must have read all 1300+ pages of it two or three times. Though I enjoyed the original TV mini series for Tim Curry’s performance, I felt it was otherwise lacking in pretty much other area (especially that lacklustre resolution with the decidedly UNscary spider).

And holy shit, that clown. Stephen King destroyed my entire generation’s love of the circus, I swear. If you’re scared of clowns – and who ISN’T, if you’re born after approximately 1980?! – then this version has terror written all over it in the form of Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise. Just the sight of him sends a shiver down my spine OMFG.  Hell, that Skarsgard Pennywise smile is just as bad WITHOUT makeup! If he doesn’t get an Oscar nod, there’s going to be a swarm of angry Horror nerds lighting up the internet very soon.

Skarsgard’s is a very different incarnation to Tim Curry’s and this is a wise choice. Not just because Curry’s is iconic, but because what was terrifying in 1990 is simply not that frightening now. Though we may remember Curry’s performance fondly, it looks dated now because time moves on. Back then, what was scary was simply the SIGHT of an otherwise nice-looking clown with dagger-like teeth. But we live in a different world now, where clowns with scary teeth are no longer, well – scary!

This is an important realisation for writers to make: when it comes to horror, audiences’ tolerance for gore, scares etc only goes UP. What once was an 18, is now a 15 … and we see much more, such a poor Georgie’s arm actually getting bitten off (not present in the original movie).

In fact, there’s much more ‘risky’ horror throughout: Pennywise probably has twice as much screen-time as in the original, plus there are more jump scares and general weirdness. Pennywise has a jack-in-the-box quality, he could literally spring from anywhere and frequently does. A stand-out moment for me is when he’s revealed in the forgotten fridge, unfolding himself like a contortionist. YARGH!

There’s also more peril for the children generally. There’s also much more disturbing imagery: Beverley’s father is genuinely frightening (some might say more frightening than Pennywise). Plus the little boy who played Dead Georgie was absolutely brilliant and chilling. His yelling ‘YOU’LL FLOAT TOO!’ made two teenagers behind me in the cinema literally scream and run out (furrealz!).

So, I’m not surprised people were shit scared of IT. I know I was, at least while watching it. The storyworld is one of the ‘unstable space’ – anything can happen. Pennywise can follow them anywhere he wants, even into the hearts of their homes. The subtext here is that the children are never safe. Dread and darkness are employed to show this is a dangerous storyworld, plus there’s no point in telling the adults, who are far too wrapped up in their own worlds (at best).

What Needs More Development

As I suspected for a movie in which the characters are crammed into a ‘chapter’, some of the ensemble are totally underwritten – Mike and Stanley were really surplus to requirements altogether for most of the scenes they were in (bar their individual scare sequences). Richie makes a valiant effort, as does Henry Bowers, though this narrative thread is missing all the internalised homophobia of the book between him and Patrick, which was a shame.

But most pressingly, holy crap what did they do to Beverley??? She was my favourite character as a teenager (the less said about *that* 11 year old gang bang the better – WTF Stephen King!), she was totally badass. At first, the movies seems to capture her essence well. She was easily the most interesting character in IT and the actress playing her, Sophia Lillis, was an absolute revelation. She has a BIG future ahead of her.

But despite starting her character arc amazingly well (her scenes with her father were just fantastic, as were THOSE scenes in the bathroom), the movie then seemed to go: ‘Hang on a minute – DAMSEL IN DISTRESS!’ She was even saved with a kiss like bloody Snow White by Ben. Even worse, she became a reward to Bill at the end. C’mon filmmakers – it’s 2017!

But scarily, I kind of expect this shit. So irritatingly, I discovered something that bothered me even more. Even in the midst of watching IT’s scenes are frequently that little bit *too* long for my tastes. This had a knock-on effect to my enjoyment of the film, because it created a number of narrative logic issues for me. I’ll explain.

Obviously, it is no secret we open with that infamous scene in which poor Georgie chases a paper boat down a drain in which Pennywise is lurking, ready to bite his arm off. This scene is efficient, bloody and damn creepy … It’s somehow EVEN WORSE (in a ‘good’, Horror way) for being spoilered by both a bestselling, seminal book AND an iconic movie of nearly three decades. So I was both delighted and appalled – tick that satisfaction box, baby!

Yet, as Pennywise’s attacks grow in number, I found myself increasingly dissatisfied. Though his torture needs to grow and present more obstacles as the narrative progresses, the too-long scenes presented questions, such as:

If Pennywise kills Georgie straight away, why doesn’t he kill the **other** kids straight away?

At first, it’s apparent that Pennywise’s powers need to grow. We see him interrupted in both the library going after Ben, plus in the alleyway going after Mike. Okay, I can go with that.

There’s also a half-hearted ‘explanation’ that the reason Pennywise doesn’t kill them all in the garage is because they’re grouped together too. Again, I can go with that.

Lastly, Pennywise also can’t kill Beverly because she’s not scared of him (though he does subject her to the deadlights). Again, fine.

BUT-BUT-BUT …

Take Eddie, an an example (and he’s not the only character where this applies, by the way). He should have died at least TWICE if we subject his character to the same logic as Georgie – first outside the spooky house when the leper chases him (though Pennywise mysteriously lets him escape through a hedge); then again at the house when he falls on the table.

It’s not like Eddie needed scaring either (Pennywise’s fabled ‘salting the meat’ idea), because that little guy is ALWAYS scared! Grrrrr.

What Writers Can Learn

But a shitty end for a great female character and too-long scenes dipping the jeopardy and introducing narrative logic questions aside, IT is still a great movie that I had a lot of fun watching.

Also, as someone who reads screenplays for a living, I think there’s a number of takeaways spec screenwriters can take from the movie, especially when it comes to that subtext I mention earlier in the article.

Subtext is always something writers want to get a handle on – what we DON’T actually SAY can sometimes be our most powerful writing.

Not once do the children in IT make any sort of appeal to their parents or authoritarians in their worlds – teachers, doctors, police – to protect them. They know there is no point, but what’s more important: we, the audience, know there is no point.

It is presented to us, over and over again that this story world is dangerous, via two things: imagery and behaviour. Consider how everything looks in the actual frame, such as the looming portrait that Stanley is afraid of, so he walks past it hiding his eyes with his hand. This is a masterly portrayal of child logic, ‘I can’t see you, you can’t get me’.

What’s more, it feeds so well into HOW the kids can defeat Pennywise, too – if they’re not afraid of him. After all, the adults cannot save them; only the kids can save themselves … and the fact NO ONE EVER SAYS THIS makes the movie all the more potent.

Good luck with your own subtext!

 

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SCENE DESCRIPTION is scene action_tip

Did you know?

The one craft element Bang2writers struggle with – probably more than anything else, in fact – is (wait for it) …

… Scene description. 

WTAF! I hear you say. Surely character and structure are more problematic?? Well yes, I’ll give you that – especially when we’re talking HOLISTICALLY.

But when we’re talking about looking at elements IN ISOLATION – as in literally looking at the page in front of us, in order to try and improve our actual screenwriting craft generally – then it’s scene description all the way that causes the biggest headaches for writers of ANY experience: newbie, seasoned or pro. YES REALLY!

‘Description’ is the wrong word

I’ve long said this to my Bang2writers, but  ‘description’ is really THE WRONG WORD when it comes to those pesky prose bits of our screenplays. This wrong belief that we have to DESCRIBE everything in a scene (via what I call ‘set dressing’ when it comes to the things physically in it, or ‘false movement’ with regards to characters’ moving body parts) is literally holding us back!

‘Description’ makes sense as a word for novelists. After all, we DESCRIBE the story world *with* actual words, that’s how books work. Even if we’re listening to an audiobook, 9/10 out that book is probably unabridged and literally READ OUT to us. The novelist might be painting a picture with words – but crucially that picture ends up in the reader’s MIND. *Not* REALITY.

If ‘what we SEE is what we get’ in scripts (and it is), then in real terms we need to think ACTION. Because in contrast to novels, in movies and TV shows, we are literally SEEING characters and events PLAY out in front of our EYES.

This means as screenwriters, we should be thinking NOT of scene ‘description’, but SCENE ACTION when it comes to writing our screenplays.

Get Visual!

Lots of screenwriters complain that if they can’t write what’s PHYSICALLY IN the scene in terms of set dressing, or how characters MOVE their body parts (like winking, eyebrow-raising, smiling, loving across the room etc!), then what the hell ARE they supposed to write??

The answer? VISUALS. Le duh!

But okay, okay — HOW to do this? Well, why not check out the very beginning of THIS scene from the examples in a previous B2W article ‘What Script Editors Do AKA 5 Tips To Edit Your Own Screenplay‘ when it comes to visual writing: Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 11.04.13

Here’s the issues with the above:

Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 11.04.49

Here’s how you *could* make it more visual:

Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 11.05.14

You can see the difference. Here we have imagery that SHOWS US who these characters are, right off the bat. Ryan is getting ready at work, so he’s probably not been home, but he’s humming, so he’s not stressed or worried or running late. This suggests the idea he’s a ladies man … But the fact he has his razor at work and a pressed, clean shirt means he does this sort of thing all the time, so he’s PREPARED.

Similarly, Andy ‘swaggers’ in – this word hints at the notion he’s very sure of himself, plus he’s not surprised to see Ryan doing this in the police bathroom. Also the word ‘superior’ suggests Andy is older than Ryan and probably more experienced. We can then back this up in the way they behave next in the scene and what they say.

In other words, we have visual writing in that last scene excerpt … which gives us SCENE ACTION.

So, stop believing it’s about DESCRIPTION

It’s not! The best screenplays do NOT contain ‘description’ … This leads to ‘set dressing’ with the all extraneous detail that entails, plus ‘false movement’ where actors are moved around in scenes like wooden marionettes. BORING.

So let go of this wrong belief and you will embrace VISUAL WRITING, which means your screenplays will be full of SCENE ACTION. Good luck!

SCENE DESCRIPTION_VISUAL_TIP2

More about visual writing:

How to Write Tight And Visual Scene Description

How To Make Your Screenplay Visual

10 Of The Worst Screenplay ‘Fillers’

10 Ways To Revitalise Your Scene Description

Top 5 Craft Mistakes Writers Make

Top 5 Reasons Parentheticals Are Useless

The B2W Screenplay Format One Stop Shop

What’s The ‘Right’ Length For A Screenplay?

Are You Making Any of The 20 Killers Errors In Your Screenplay’s Scenes?

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