One of the remits of B2W is demystifying script reading, especially screenwriting contests, so I’m DELIGHTED to have Phil Gladwin of UK contest Screenwriting Goldmine back on the site. The contest is currently open for entries, so make sure you utilise Phil’s great insider info here before submitting your script. Don’t miss the extra links at the bottom, either. Good luck!

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1) Miss the early bird entries

A lot of contests, including Screenwriting Goldmine, reward early entries with a discount on entry fees. They do this because it helps them stagger the reading . If you miss out on these windows your entry costs can go up by 50% or more, which, if you’re entering a lot of contests (as you should be), can really add up.

Takeaway: Look out for discounts on script submissions and make sure you take them. If funds are tight this can mean the difference between entering one or several scripts.

2) Submit A Novel

A script and a novel are different beasts entirely, yet new writers often enter something that reads more like a book. . Pages of scene description, with dialogue that goes on for hours. Not good. In fact very bad. And then there are entries that read like bad poetry: all fancy polysyllables and no story. A good screenplay is light, sharp, fast moving and easy to read. It provides a well-structured skeleton that the director, actors and production crew can clothe.

Takeaway: If you’re not sure how dense is too dense, read some current movie scripts from www.script-o-rama.com, or the BBC Writersroom, to see how it’s done.

 3) Send a script that isn’t ready

The scripts that get listed as finalists in the Goldmine contest are all of professional standard. They stand up on craft, concept, and presentation. They feel mature, strong, and sharp. So before you enter, be honest with yourself:  is your script ready?

Takeaway: it’s rare for a first draft to win a good contest. Schedule the time to finish, let it stew for a few days, and then rewrite it at least once. Hiring a good script consultant is never a waste of money.

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4) Bank On A Golden Ticket

Winning a script contest is not going to lift you into the ranks of the constantly working. Hell, even winning a BAFTA doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily work again. Even if the first prize is an option, the chances of that script making it into production are low, and the odds of one contest win carrying you into a long term career are lower still. The industry just doesn’t work that way. See placing in a contest as a significant addition to a CV.

Takeaway: Never stop playing the long game. Don’t for a minute think winning a contest means you can sit back.

5) Throw Your Toys Out The Pram/Give Up When You Are Not Placed

All contests are just beauty contests. They have hundreds, even thousands of entries. Getting placed or winning depends on the opinion of a very small number of people. Opinion is subjective. The opinion of these people is in no way definitive. Never let not placing in a contest defeat you for long.

Takeaway: No one, two, or ten failures to place should come close to defeating your mighty desire to write. Remember, all it takes in the end is for one influential person to fall in love with your stuff!

Good Luck!

BIO: Phil Gladwin is a British screenwriter / script editor / entrepreneur, and is the founder of www.screenwritinggoldmine.com, a site for British TV writers. The Screenwriting Goldmine Awards is now in its sixth year and attracts significant industry interest for the finalist writers.

Previously On B2W:

Is Your Screenplay Ready? AKA 12 Qs To Ask Of Your Writing by Philip Gladwin

How To Beat The Gatekeepers – TERRIFYING infographic from Screenwriting Goldmine

Top 5 Story Mistakes Even Good Writers Make 

Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make Dealing With Rejection

6 Things Writer Just Don’t Get About Script Readers

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Female characters_Katniss & friends

So, with the recent Hollywood scandal, there’s been a lot of discussion online about how a greater variety of representations of women in fiction, film and TV is more important than ever.

As writers, we can do our bit by rejecting the ‘same-old, same-old’ when it comes to ALL characterisation, but especially female characters who are too often viewed through the male lens. Next time you’re coming up with a female character (protagonist, antagonist or secondary), consider these questions:

1) Does she have to be GOOD?

We’re seeing more and more female antagonists, especially in crime novels but more and more often in movies and TV, too. This is great! Less great is the fact nearly all female antagonists have a ‘good reason’ for being bad (losing babies/children top of the list, especially in films). More variety of bad girls, please! MORE: 5 Problems With Female Leads 

2) Does she have to be WHITE?

We’re seeing BAME characters more and more often now, but most of the time they’ll be MEN. White women shouldn’t stand in for ‘all women’. Not all stories with BAME characters need to be about race, either.

3) Does she have to be a CARE-GIVER?

When we see parents in books, TV and movies, we nearly always see MUMS – rarely Dads. Sisters will frequently be care-givers too to younger siblings and have to rescue them all the time. Why? By the way, ‘Warrior Mom’ was a brilliant representation, especially in the thriller genre — but it’s feeling a bit old now.

4) Does she have to be EXTRAORDINARY?

Very often, women in books, TV and movies are extraordinarily talented in some way. This is great when we’re dealing with *those* kind of characters in *those* kind of stories, but where is ‘EveryWoman’? We have EveryMan. Why do women always have to be ‘extra’??

5) Does she have to live in MAN’S WORLD?

Sometimes a female character will be up against a patriarchal system, so this can work well … But most stories reflect the world we ALL already live in. What if it was flipped and your storyworld was matriarchal, instead? What would you lose/gain? MORE: The 1 Gender Swap That Could Make ALL THE DIFFERENCE In Your Story

6) Does she have to be a WAG?

For the uninitiated, ‘WAG’ stands for ‘wife or girlfriend’. Now, I’m not one of those who says being a WAG automatically weakens a female character (here’s a couple of great ones), but they ARE overrepresented. Where are all the single laydeez? What if your WAG was the main character and your menz were HOBs (husband or boyfriend!) instead??

7) Does she have to be BEAUTIFUL?

DYK? The most common description of a female character in a screenplay (and often books too) is ‘beautiful’, whereas male characters will be described by their non-physical attributes. C’mon writers, this is an easy one.

8) Does she have to be SEXUALISED?

Again, plenty of stories in which sexualised female characters can feature – B2W ain’t no prude. Let’s just see a bit more variety … Plus, do these female characters have to be sexy 24/7??? Even the sexiest female character alive is still supposed to be a holistic character – let’s see her in some other poses too, for crying out loud.

9) Does she have to be a FACILITATOR?

If your female character’s sole role function is to BREAK OPEN a male character’s emotions, act as a sounding board, or simply react to what *he* does (usually by crying at the end of the phone!), then STOP RIGHT NOW. Whilst secondary characters always orbit round the main character, this is an epic fail. Reassess her function ASAP!

10) Does she have to be THE ONLY ONE?

Too many stories have a BUNCH of varied male characters, then what I call ‘the girl character’, creating ‘The Highlander Effect’ (‘There can be only one!’). Too often there’s NO story reason for this, either. Ugh, boring!!! So think about whether you can add more female characters to your group to improve that dynamic — we’re waaaaaay over just the one. MORE: Top 5 Female Character Mistakes

DOWNLOAD THE CHECKLIST AS A PDF:

Simply click on the pic below to download it. Enjoy — and please do share on your profiles and pages with writer friends.

Want more on female characters?

Then check out my new book, Writing Diverse Characters For Fiction, TV and Film. Hailed as ‘A timely guide to creating original characters and reinvigorating tired storylines‘ by Debbie Moon, creator and showrunner, Wolfblood (BBC). If you want to attempt to write a character that’s not ‘the usual’ but are afraid of getting it wrong, then this one is for you! CLICK HERE.

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TV writing is a major interest of the Bang2writers, so many thanks to Drew from FrameYourTV for getting in touch with this fab infographic!

Knowing about budgets – especially what is possible for what money! – is absolutely paramount for screenwriters. Not because they should write ‘for the market’, but because this will aid their story choices at foundation level. Too often a writer will blithely claim their screenplay or idea is ‘low budget’ when the reality is it’s anything but.

So this infographic makes for interesting reading, reminding us that stars are also likely to pick up massive pay packets in addition to the actual MAKING of the show too … Though of course Kevin Spacey might be feeling the pinch nowadays after getting House of Cards cancelled, thanks to the recent Hollywood abuse allegations! (Not Clare Danes though, she’s in Homeland! 😉 )

Which is your favourite of the shows listed below? Let us know in the comments.

More On TV Writing On B2W:

How To Write TV Series Bibles

5 Tips On Becoming A TV Showrunner

How To Write Daytime TV Drama

9 Steps To Get Your Spec TV Pilot Written, Edited & Sent Out

Spotlight On Sitcom Structure: 6 Tips For Writers 

How To Plot TV Series: ‘Story of the Week’ vs. Serial Element


The-Most-Expensive-TV-Shows-of-All-Time

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Male POV

In her Guardian article, Time To Make The Link Between Abuse And Film Content, actress and filmmaker Kate Hardie makes the compelling argument that men continue to hold the power on how women’s bodies are portrayed on screen:

“[Nudity] is nearly always decided upon and filtered through male eyes. Nearly every actress will tell you about scripts that included scenes of female nudity that seem to have no apparent reason for being there and that are often degrading.”

As any longterm Bang2writer knows, I have no problem with nudity on screen – in fact, I’m more likely to argue FOR more of it, especially when it comes (arf) to men and what I call ‘equal opportunities nudity’. Hell, if female characters are to get their kit off, then male characters  should too as far as I’m concerned!

And certainly, in the last fifteen years or so the ‘female gaze’ has been invoked via the likes of muscle-bound, naked men courtesy of Wolverine and his mates (other buff naked guys are available).

But outside the realm of characterisation (theoretical), there’s the PHYSICAL realm – i.e. actors have to *get* naked. So Hardie raises an interesting point about the ‘degrading’ nature of so many instances of female nudity for actresses.

Hugh Jackman let it all hang out at various intervals for nearly two decades as Wolverine

Nakedness and Power

So, what’s the difference? Well, this is the thing. Wolverine might be naked, but he’s still POWERFUL. There’s zero vulnerability there. We see nakedness in male characters in this way as STANDARD on screen.

It’s this automatic strength that’s missing in terms of female characters. Instead, we’ll see them naked/scantily-clad and:

  • Sexysee representations of sex workers, but also just women in general. (Women are far more likely to be represented as sexy as standard, clothed or unclothed for that matter).
  • Vulnerable – cue lots of female characters in the shower for no real reason, especially if they’re VERY SAD about something that happened in the story.
  • Dead – whilst it’s true many murder victims IRL turn up naked, the overrepresentation of female bodies (especially white female bodies that are somehow still beautiful and poised and even, ugh, sexy) on screen is waaaay OTT. (See the sexy, vulnerable girl who winds up dead, posed in an objectifying way for the UNholy trinity on this one!).

Note that I’m NOT being a ‘feminist killjoy’, calling for a veto on sexy, vulnerable or dead naked female characters by the way. There’s been plenty of stories in which the above have worked (at least for the first two, anyway). As ever, it’s not that anything *exists*, but that there’s not enough variety.

Atomic Nudity

Consider Charlize Theron’s character in ATOMIC BLONDE. The lead Lorraine IS impossibly sexy, but she’s also vulnerable *and* incredibly powerful. We see her naked in a myriad of ways in the story and none of this is a problem, because we’re seeing  hfer clothed and unclothed in various contexts, rather than just the one.

We see Lorraine bathing and tending her wounds in ice baths (to show what a badass fighter she is); plus she spends a lot of time in her underwear smoking and listening to tapped phones (what woman hasn’t done that?? That’s my whole weekend, right there).

Plus, as Theron herself says of *that* sex scene with her co-star Sofia Boutella: ‘I’m a dancer … She’s a dancer … Being naked is nothing‘.

Of course, Theron is a big star. She can presumably tell filmmakers to F right off if she feels the nudity is gratuitous, degrading or humiliating.

Many other – especially younger – characters don’t have this privilege and never will. So it’s up to the (predominantly male) creators to consider instead whether nudity is justified in their projects, as Hardie alludes to here:

“I wonder whether the powerful creative men making it so clear that they know that Harvey Weinstein is a sexual predator – and that sexual predators are wrong – will also take time to truly look at all the other ways, overt and subtle, in which their male power dominates our industry.”

It doesn’t have to be either/or on this one, either. Again, no ‘feminist killjoy’ stuff here, saying  no one deserves to get their rocks off. I know I did during ATOMIC BLONDE – the fact Lorraine isn’t *just* hot is the icing on the cake.

Aaah, internet. You’re always there for me. Love you, Charlize. (And Sophia! WOW!)

What Writers Can Do

Obviously there are limits to what screenwriters can do. 9/10 we don’t get to decide what even movies and TV *we’ve* written LOOK like. Despite our best efforts to the contrary, we may end up with something we don’t like in our stuff. Shit happens.

But there ARE story decisions we can make in approaching female characters that can at least HELP AVOID the obvious exploitative, male lens stuff like I’ve outlined above. In other words:

Don’t JUST write sexy, vulnerable or dead naked women please!!!

Oh and before anyone says it … This doesn’t mean *never ever* writing nudity, either. If it fits the story, write it. But for God’s sake actually make it count and remove that *automatic* male lens.

Politics aside, it’s dull seeing the same thing all the time! Let’s have a little more variety, yeah?

Want more on this?

Want more on writing a story that’s not the ‘usual’ or the ‘same-old, same-old’? Check out my latest writing book, Writing Diverse Characters For Fiction, TV & Film – I put gender, race, ability and LGBT characters under the microscope in probably the first book of its kind! ‘Lucy Hay nails it’ says BAFTA-nominated screenwriter and author Stephen Volk (Ghostwatch; Afterlife; The Awakening); ‘A timely guide to creating original characters and reinvigorating tired storylines’Debbie Moon, creator and showrunner, Wolfblood (BBC). GET IT HERE, or click on the cover pic for details.

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So, I did a blind-read on THE STOLEN waaaaay back in 2010 via an investment initiative — and I gave it a RECOMMEND. I wondered what had happened to it off and on over the last seven years … So imagine my surprise when the filmmaker Emily popped up in my inbox recently! It must be fate!

I’m DELIGHTED to hear how THE STOLEN has made it to screen and I’ll definitely be getting my tickets. Make sure you support indie filmmaking, female filmmakers AND female leads by throwing your weight behind it. CHECK HERE or click the below for cinemas near you and ENJOY!

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1) Thrillers grab distributors 

It wasn’t really until we started talking to sales agents that they flagged the word ‘thriller’ as it was so much more bankable than ‘Pianoesque-Western-but-not-really Historical-Adventure?’   And it was fascinating how much more pick-up we had from distributors wanting to read in advance when our script was pitched as a thriller.

Thrillers are probably the most commercial genre and wonderfully can be categorised against a number of sub genres; horror thriller, pycho-sexual thriller, mystery thriller and our case, a western-thriller. MORE: 10 Quick Tips About Writing Thriller Screenplays

2) The Devil is NOT in the details

Distributors like a clear through-line with the lead character, and don’t like getting too bogged down with ensemble.

This can be a challenge if you want your supporting roles to be fully formed people – but its once you must overcome, because those well written supporting roles (in our case there were at least six) not only add quality to the film, they allow for more potential casting of named talent.  So even if you need to cut back the foliage in your thriller script, don’t forget the supporting characters.

3) Your director will want to be involved in the script rewrites.

A writer does need to put their ego aside, each edit or re-write suggestion should be looked at from the point of view of its worth in improving the film, not whether it was your idea or not.

Yes, it may mean that you share a credit, which can be hard to swallow – but it can also mean that it improves the film so much that it benefits the writer enormously in the long run – or even in fact means that it gets made at all.=

If suggestions are made that seem fundamentally wrong they absolutely should be discussed heatedly, that’s the only way to ensure that both parties really can back up their suggestion with solid reasoning.  I believe a good ‘discussion’ emotional or otherwise does bring out the best in the re-writing process and can indicate that an exciting solution may surface which is better than both the opposing ideas. MORE: How To Write Action Set Pieces

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4) Sometimes things just don’t work out … which can be GOOD!

I wrote a wagon falling off a cliff. The Production Team and the stunt team were dying to chuck a wagon off a cliff. But when myself and the director discussed it, we realised that we just couldn’t make it look like what was in our heads.

So we had to find another way of killing off one of our supporting characters and the answer came from … Not me, nor the director/co-writer, but our very clever art director! She said simply, ‘he could drown’ …

… Well yes he could!!! Not only did that fit with what was historically happening regularly in that particular location, but drowning takes a while and we could make that seriously compelling!  This brings me onto the next point …

5) Filmmaking is a team sport

The crew and cast are collaborating with you to make the film, their ideas and improvisations and problem solving skills feed into the film and tinge it with a little bit more uniqueness.  If you allow people to blossom and breathe,  acknowledging and respecting their talent? They will give you their best.

Equally, one persons ‘blossoming’ shouldn’t take over another’s garden, so it’s a balancing act! MORE: 8 Mistakes That Will Kill Your Thriller Screenplay DEAD

6) It’s All In The Edit

We had an interesting experience, where we were pushed into screening the film early (code for “I caved in, and didn’t stand my ground”) and the distributors all came back saying it was 12 minutes to long.

We had done a series of test screenings previous to any cuts with an average audience who really liked it. But they do not buy the film – film distributors do and film distributors do not think like an average audience.  They dictate what the average audience (or niche audience) likes, even if they’re wrong.  So you cut your movie for the distributors, otherwise you won’t sell the fucker.

Back to the edit we went and the fat was sliced off, a smell of danger plopped in here and there in a glance or a close-up of a gun, the music tweaked and amped up and before we knew it – the stakes seemed higher, the danger more palpable and the whole thing more gripping.

So, maybe the distributors do know what they’re talking about!?

7) It doesn’t feel like you thought it would!

I was not expecting to be stressed up to the eyeballs juggling financiers, acting agents, lawyers, contracts, film commissions, fittings, corsets, egos, cash-flow issues, sleepless nights, family tension and an eight month old baby.  This was not how my big dream was meant to pan out.  And yet, that is how it has, and I’m not out of the woods yet.

I’ve had to really get over it not being how I thought it would, because I’ve not been able to enjoy what we achieved.  All I could see was the responsibilities, the debts, the still-being-broke-ness of it all and not that I’ve written, produced and acted in an epic, historical, western, thriller. Which is pretty extraordinary.

So although it’s easy for me to say in hindsight, try to bend like the reed when you make a film.  It will never turn out how you thought it was going to … and that’s okay! MORE: The B2W Ultimate Thriller Writing Cheat Sheet

Watch The Movie!

THE STOLEN is in Selected Cinemas Nationwide NOW! CLICK FOR BOOKING LINKS.
BIO: Emily Corcoran is a New Zealand-born, UK-based writer, producer and actress. She has made 12 feature films as a producer or writer and appeared in 11 feature films as an actress, alongside various TV and stage work.  She has won a number of awards and her films have had both BAFTA and BIFA nominations.

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Same-Old-Ideas

So, every now and again I will be on Twitter or Facebook and a writer will post about their work in progress, asking for feedback for their story/concept. It might be a novel or a screenplay and it might even be a half-decent pitch in terms of actual layout, language and The 3 Cs – clarity, conflict & characters.

Probably because of this, my heart will sink even further for them. Why?

Because the concept will be exactly like everything I’ve heard before.

Samey Samey-ness

You know the type: we’re talking the USUAL – vampires and werewolves; X Men-type super beings; a teen girl standing up to the system like Katniss in The Hunger Games or Triss in Divergent; time-travelling guys and their companions like Dr Who; duos investigating the paranormal like Mulder & Scully; Ken Loach-style teens destroying their lives; a disparate bunch going on a road trip like in Little Miss Sunshine to learn what’s important.

In other words, at pitch level it merely comes across as a REHASH of what we’ve seen before. Nooooooo!

Hard Sell

Even worse, those writers will agree when someone says, ‘This is a hard sell.’ Those writers will insist, ‘But mine’s different to that previous published or produced project.’ 

And you know what? It might well be, in the execution. But as every Bang2writer knows – it’s NOT the execution of the draft that counts. You have to get to the read first … And if your pitch sounds like a SAMEY REHASH, you’re not going to get that far. Sad but true.

Pre-sold Versus Same-old

In other words, if it sounds TOO MUCH LIKE a very famous published and/or produced property? Then this is serious threat to the success of your pitch and whether you’ll get a read request.

For some writers – the ones telling the truth about their execution being different, anyway – all their pitches need is a tweak to reflect HOW theirs is different. After all, pre-sold elements told a new way are highly desirable. HIGHLY. It turns ‘Oh god NOT THIS again’ to ‘why haven’t I seen this before???’

So, if you have a genuine NEW twist on the vampire, time-travel or werewolf myth? WE WANT THIS. But you have to let us know, right from the bottom up – and that STARTS with the logline. This is why pitching is so difficult.

Target Audience

But very often, it’s not JUST about the logline, but the target audience. If people have ‘seen’ this story before, there’s no reason to invest in it all over again. Those writers will have to own up to the fact that actually, their execution won’t cut it either.

But some writers never want to hear advice that contradicts with what they want to write, EVEN when it literally improves their chances in the marketplace. Instead these writers will doggedly insist they’re writing what they want NO MATTER WHAT, even when faced with questions like this:

‘How is this different to [published book] or [produced project]’?

The answer will invariably be:

‘It just IS – read it and find out!’

NopeNopeNopeNopeNopeNopeNope.

Same … But DIFFERENT!

We hear a lot about the idea that the industry wants ‘the same … but different’. This is true. But a lot of writers focus too much on ‘the same’ and not enough on THE DIFFERENT. As a result, their writing might be great, but at pitch level there’s no spark, no special SOMETHING that marks them or their project out … so they don’t get off the starter blocks.

This is sad because those same writers will be bewildered when they don’t get anywhere. Then they will repeat the cycle again. And again. And again. These same writers will get disillusioned and depressed and eventually give up on their dreams. I’ve seen it over and over. Supersadface.

But, if writers already know something is a hard sell, why the hell dont they go back to pitch level to make their story more genre-busting?  Because it’s a mixture of optimism, naivety and ultimately laziness. They want to do what they want to do.

The savvy writer needs to identify target audience – and if we’ve already seen this story, WHY would we watch another that’s the same? We need a REASON to get on board. Something being ‘well written’ is not enough. If you think it is, then think about the last 3 movies, TV shows and novels you consumed. Was it because they were ‘well written’? You can’t have known this in advance!

It was because the concept appealed for some reason, pure and simple. 

Pros Versus Amateurs

But THIS is the difference between amateurs and pros:

A pro writer will JUMP at the chance to hear advice that will stop them wasting hundreds of hours. So if you hear those questions that ask you HOW yours is different from a previous work and you don’t know? This is a red flag. You need to find out, reassess and if necessary, revisit your concept at pitch and/or draft.

Don’t be that amateur that insists it will all be fine, as long as someone will JUIST READ the draft. Because it won’t get that far if your story misfires at pitch level. Sad but true. Good luck out there!

Last Call for The Screenwriters’ Craft Crash Course

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 — THIS WEEKEND — which is 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, there’s only a few places left … CLICK HERE for full details of the course (or on the pic above). Act now to avoid disappointment. See you there!!!

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Friend of B2W, regular LSF speaker and Euroscript founder Paul Bassett Davies is on the blog today offering up some GREAT tips as part of our very popular ‘X Things I Learned From …’ series.

I love how Paul has linked writing tips with his new book, Dead Writers In Rehab (which has to the BEST novel title of 2017!). I have my copy ready on my TBR, can’t wait to check it out.

Remember, if you want to write a post for B2W? Check out the types of post we run HERE and get in touch with a pitch. Over to you, Paul!

2

Many of the deceased literary substance-abusers who appear in my novel, Dead Writers in Rehab, are among my favourite writers. The following are brief attempts to distil part of their appeal, and to suggest what they teach us.

1) Dorothy Parker

dorothy-parker-9433450-1-402Dorothy Parker shows us the difference between mere cleverness and real wit. Her legendary witticisms were as well-crafted as her stories and poems, and her genius was to allow us a carefully controlled glimpse of pain and heartache behind them.

That’s why her memorable aphorisms are far more than wisecracks, and her stories are so powerfully bittersweet: they resonate with the tender human heart we all share. Even when her comedy is at its most scathing it’s never brittle, and she wields her scalpel with smiling sorrow rather than cynicism.

KEY TAKEAWAY: The difference between a smartass and a wit is that a wit has a heart, and shows it. Every great comic writer knows you can’t be truly funny without acknowledging the pain in life, especially your own.

2) Ernest Hemingway

ErnestHemingwayHemingway’s distinctive voice seems easy to parody, because parody exaggerates superficial style. But it’s much harder to truly imitate Hemingway convincingly, because there’s so much going on beneath the surface. Similarly, some people assume Hemingway’s style is all about brevity (terse, clipped sentences, etc.) but really it’s about discretion: holding back. Everything is happening in the space between what he tells you and what he wants you to infer. He shows us characters who are reticent, trying to conceal or deny their true feelings, and at the same time he’s allowing us to understand what those feelings are. Perhaps for that reason, some of Hemingway’s dialogue reads like screenplay.

KEY TAKEAWAY: One of the best ways to show what people are feeling is by showing how they try to conceal it.

3) Wilkie Collins

Wilkie-collinsWilkie Collins is often credited with inventing the detective story, and he certainly established many of the elements that characterize the genre: the mysterious crime, the list of suspects, the clever investigator and the bungling local police. He definitely pioneered a particular way of telling a story: one that keeps us guessing, and which we would recognise as a ‘thriller’.

In his best-known novels, The Moonstone and The Woman in White he begins with a mystery, then complicates it. He uses plotting, differing perspectives, and unreliable narrators to baffle those trying to solve the puzzle. But when it’s finally solved, it turns out to be relatively straightforward. What made it complex was the duplicity of the characters, and the way Collins tells the story; among other things, he’s a master of the red herring. So, he takes a simple puzzle, and jumbles up the pieces.

KEY TAKEAWAY: The simpler the premise the more fun you can have complicating the plot.

4) Charlotte Brontë*

bronte-anneIf prose can intoxicate, Brontë’s great novel Jane Eyre is a drug of choice. Jane is full of magnificent, heady passion, but Brontë hems her in with constraints: social, moral, sexual, and personal. Self-described as mousey, plain and timid, and consigned to inferior social status, Jane nonetheless blazes with an inner fire.

And that’s the key: the fire is contained. In Wuthering Heights, by Charlotte’s sister Emily, her heroine Cathy’s passion is expressed wildly, as she roams the moors, wailing for Heathcliff in a drama that gives off more light than heat. But Jane Eyre’s passion burns in a closed furnace, not an open fire, and for that reason is all the hotter. Charlotte knew that the greater the restrictions you place around fierce energy, the more powerful and explosive it becomes.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Passion under restraint burns like fire in a crucible. When a character’s emotions are repressed, and their ability to express them restricted, eventually their feelings reach a spectacular boiling point.

(*BTW, Charlotte Brontë doesn’t appear in Dead Writers in Rehab, partly because rumours that she shared her brother Branwell’s weakness for laudanum have never been confirmed.)

5) Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter-S-ThompsonThompson created Gonzo, his very own brand of the ‘New Journalism’ in the 1960s and 1970s, especially in his hilariously deranged 1971 chronicle, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. His great achievement was to upend the conventional rule of journalism: “Don’t make yourself the story.”

Not only did Thompson gleefully insert himself into the narrative, he succeeded magnificently because he knew how to make it work: he treated himself exactly the way any good writer treats a character in a story. He gave himself goals, obstacles, and flaws. In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas the goal was how to survive in a ferociously conservative environment when you’re a zonked-out counterculture outlaw, and the obstacles were assorted rednecks plus the self-inflicted damage produced by a cornucopia of drugs and alcohol. And it was a blast.

KEY TAKEAWAY: If you’re going to be part of the story, give yourself  a character arc.

Concluding:

You may have noticed that the quality in each of these writers that I’ve focused on is more or less the same – restraint. Each of them knew that the most compelling way to reveal a character’s heart is to constrain their means of expression. It’s a pretty basic and universal idea, and one that’s as familiar to screenwriters as to novelists, but it’s an instructive delight to see how each of these writers uses in their own brilliant and distinctive way.

Dead_Writers_in_Rehab_CoverBIO: Paul Bassett Davies has written and directed for stage, page, TV, radio, and film. He began in multimedia theatre, and his subsequent one-man shows won awards at the Edinburgh Fringe. He’s written for many of the biggest names in British comedy, and had his own BBC radio sitcom. He’s also written radio dramas, short films, music videos, and award-winning short stories. Among other things he’s also been the vocalist in a punk band, and a cab driver. His first novel, ‘Utter Folly’, topped the Amazon humorous fiction chart in 2012, and his new novel,Dead Writers in Rehab has been published recently. Paul also writes a popular blog, The Writer Type, which you can read HERE.

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B2W_success vs doubt

If you’re a member of Bang2writers on Facebook, you’ll know the importance of your peers having your back … Especially when the DREADED DOUBT strikes! (And if you haven’t joined?? Click the link NOW — it’s free!).

In the meantime, here’s my top 5 tips to CRUSH that self doubt like a boss … Here goes (and if you like it, please pass it on!):

1) Make Yourself Feel Better (by whatever means necessary!)

Sometimes, when I’m feeling the twinge (or sledgehammer!) of self-doubt, I feed my inspiration by checking out the most UNLIKELY projects that ever got greenlit.

“A tornado full of sharks?? WHY NOT!” Someone must have said. And you know what, everyone’s heard of SHARKNADO, regardless of whether they’ve actually watched it or not.

Then let’s not forget just about everything Nic Cage has done in the last ten years including Ghost Rider 2 … This movie was backed by Marvel, yet was so odd I really thought it was a chemo-induced hallucination. Nic Cage catches on fire! Idris Elba turns to dust! That’s pretty much it for two hours! I described it on Twitter recently, only for one Tweep to obligingly say, ‘Oh no, that really is a movie.’ Huh.

It works for books, too. Today I was afraid my new novel was going to work, so I Googled ‘Weird Books’. Mental Floss duly obliged with a whopping 39 Book That Really Exist including How To Poo On A Date; Does God Speak Through Cats? (the answer is YES, obviously); and my personal favourite, How To Survive A Garden Gnome Attack: What To Do When The Garden Warriors Strike (And They Will).

SUMMING UP: Take solace in the fact someone is always working on a project stupider or more screwed up than yours. MORE: 4 Reasons Concept Counts Above All Else

2) Read about others’ failures

NEWSFLASH: no writer is simply ‘lucky’. Everyone on earth, including your favourite writer/s, has FAILED.

And the more successful someone is? The more EPICALLY they have failed somewhere down the line to get where they are today. We’re talking such bad failure, most of us would scratch off our own skin and then crawl into a fire ant nest and welcome THE PAIN of a katrillion sting-bites for all eternity. But no, they kept going. Because there is no alternative.

But hey, don’t believe me. Read about these famous failing writers.

SUMMING UP: Everyone fails. You might not fail, but you definitely will if you let self doubt kill your efforts.

3) Understand everyone goes through this

DYK? Self doubt is a rite of passage for all writers.

Or at least, all GOOD ones. Yes, even the multi-multi-famous bestselling/produced ones.

So you’re on the right track … The moment you stop doubting your efforts, the more complacent you will be – and guess what! Your writing will become pedestrian and dull. You’ll no longer have the edge and you’ll FAIL! Supersadface (but true). MORE: 33 Industry Insides On Success, Dreams & Failure

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4) Recognise you’ve a right to this

Very often Bang2writers will come to me, crushed by self doubt and the fear that their efforts will come to nothing. They’ll say they feel guilty, especially if they have young children. They will confess to fearing on ‘missing out’ – or worse, their kids missing out – if they don’t succeed … Their time away from the kids will have been ‘wasted’.

WHOA THERE NELLY. First off, even if you’re a parent, every Mum or Dad (or step-parent, guardian or something else) deserves time to themselves. Why shouldn’t that be writing or filmmaking!

Secondly, what is ‘success’? Making lots of money? Hah – good luck. Getting something published or produced? Okay, but then we can self publish too, or make stuff ourselves – we don’t need to be ‘picked’. Getting the damn thing FINISHED? Yes, why not. Lots of people say they’ll write something and never get round to it.

You are not wasting your time. You have a right to this, so do it!

SUMMING UP: You want your kids to follow their dreams? Then lead by example and follow yours.

5) Just write! (And have the guts to finish)

The best antidote to self doubt is writing. It can be hard to let go of the feelings of self doubt, but when they come DON’T succumb to them as this will only make you procrastinate. Instead, just plough on via any of these methods:

  • Brainstorming ideas with friends (2 heads always better than 1)
  • Read instead – articles, books, etc about writing
  • Try a spot of free writing
  • Don’t edit or read back, just write pages as they appear in your brain
  • Read novels and watch movies and TV (taking notes)

Notice I include reading as ‘writing time’. This is because B2W believes your best writing is done by THINKING. That’s why sitting in front of the laptop freaking out won’t work.

But more than any of this, you have to have the guts to FINISH. I see so many writers procrastinating by returning to their spec screenplays and unpublished novels again and again, rather than move forward. This stops them advancing in their craft AND careers. Awwww.

SUMMING UP: Onwards, ever onwards – write those pages, get feedback and edit as needed, THEN FINISH. Do not spend years on a single work or just a couple. Only through multiple works will you get where you need to be. MORE: It’s Time To Quit Stalling And Make That Jump

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 it — & don’t forget, as a Bang2writer, you get a whopping £40 off with discount code CCCSpecial at the checkout.

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!!!

For B2W offers and free stuff first, join my EMAIL LIST

One of the top searches on B2W is ‘How to get an agent or manager’ – so if this is you? Then make sure you check out this brilliant initiative from Coverage Ink! They’re a US company that offers quality screenwriting reports – I should know, ‘cos B2W reads for em (and so, incidentally, does B2W sistren Write So Fluid).

What I love about Get Repped Now is that it’s a win-win situation for writers: get that feted CONSIDER, a bona fide literary manager will check out your writing … But even if you don’t,  you get a detailed script report of things you can work on in your writing. What’s not to like??

So make sure you check out the list below, plus the other links from managers, agents and script readers (as well as B2W) on how to ensure you have your very best chance of EXPLODING out of that script pile. Good luck!

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Eight managers. Your script. Sound good? Of course, there is a catch — you have to get through the reader gauntlet first. Get Repped Now, a promotion from Coverage Ink, offers a panel of eight top literary managers who will read all the screenplays and teleplays which score a “consider” or better for script, submitted before Nov. 5.

Coverage Ink readers are a tough crowd.  In order to score that coveted “Consider,” you must demonstrate you’ve got the goods. Here are five things that can make a big difference in your writing and flip that “pass” on its ass. Effectively utilizing these five recommendations should turn even the grouchiest reader into a  passionate advocate. Let’s go!

1) Subtext is Your Friend

Story pros agree: the main way to add snap, crackle and even pop to your dialogue is to employ a second level of meaning — the words say one thing, but what’s REALLY being said is something else. One of the most recurrent problems we see in screenplays is flat, on-the-nose dialogue. But dialogue rich with subtext engages the reader on a whole ‘nother level and demonstrates you’ve got chops. Doing this well is deceptively difficult, and it takes practice to master. Here’s a great article to get started – READ NOW.

2) Don’t Forget the Ol’ Razzle-Dazzle

Know what’s really tiring? Reading a screenplay with a flat voice. Uninspired word and phrasing choices like “He stands and leaves. He walks down the street,” have a soporific effect. You’re a writer — show off! Where’s that panache, that sizzle, that je nest sais quoi or whatever? Turn a phrase and be a cunning linguist. One should ever “walk” — they should slink, sashay, saunter, sway, sally, swish, snake, and slither; never walk. And that’s just the esses.

3) Brevity Is the Soul of Wit

Another terribly common malady is overwriting.  So many scribes don’t properly edit themselves. Finished a new draft? Good. Now put on your editor hat and go through the script playing the “What can I cut?” game. Scrutinize every paragraph, every single line. If a sentence has 15 words, can you say the same thing in 10? Or five? Or cut it and just do it with a look? The more you tighten your craft, the brighter the sheen on the script.

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4) Complicate Your Characters, Not Your Plot

Alas, so often we see the other way around — underdeveloped characters, needlessly complex plots. Movie throughlines are generally pretty damn simple — somebody needs to do something urgently, but someone else is trying to stop them. That’s pretty much all you need. As for characters, shoot for dimensional and layered. So many writers forget to detail their protagonists in Act 1 and just jump right into the story, which prevents us from getting to know or care about them. There’s a reason why most books tell you to put the inciting incident between page 10-15.

5) Surprise!

By far the best way to win a reader over: have a surprise on every page. Think about it. Any time you can jolt someone out of their torpor, zig when they thought you were going to zag, you add a soupcon of awesome sauce to your brew. Think about the tropes, what’s expected — and then do the opposite. If you can hit the reader with something they didn’t see coming? You will win incredible goodwill.

GRN blue spalsh

Enter Now

Get Repped Now runs until Nov. 5, 2017. Visit www.getreppednow.com for more info and to enter your screenplay NOW!

More Links:

‘Why This Story?’ Or 8 Questions They’re REALLY Asking

7 Submission DON’Ts! From The Person Who Has To Read Your Script

7 Ways Of Showcasing Your Writer’s Voice In Your Screenplay

6 Things to NOT Do When Submitting Your Script

An Epic Rant On Writing Craft (And What It Means)

Top 5 Submission Mistakes Writers Make

3 Things I Learned From Literary Agent Fiona Kenshole

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Diversity_hands mutlicoloured

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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