Social Media offers up BRILLIANT opportunities to writers and filmmakers in getting themselves and their work known, but unfortunately there are still some out there dropping serious clangers and isolating their potential target audiences. Here’s a short but sweet post from Kateline, detailing the killer social media marketing errors she made when she launched her campaign, plus plenty of linkage to more articles on this subject. Thanks Kateline! Enjoy everybody and best of luck getting your work and message out there!

business man hand draws social media diagram

I’m a huge fan of social media marketing: it really IS a great, free way of advertising and getting one’s brand out there! But, like many, I began my social media marketing campaign with great gusto … Only to have it fall totally flat. I DIDN’T get tons of new customers! WTH?

It took a while to figure out where I had gone wrong, but here you go Bang2writers … Learn from these five killer social media marketing errors I made:

1. Focusing too much on “hype”

Sales, discounts, special offers and the greatness of my product was a huge mistake. My posts sounded more like testimonials than good information and/or education. As a result, I didn’t attract followers who then shared because I didn’t have any quality content to offer. When you post, be very careful. Your goal might be sales and profit, but their goals are to learn, be engaged and see creative writing that they really want to read and share with others! TIP: If you can’t be creative, humorous, and engaging, hire someone who can! MORE: You Get What You Give: Best Social Media Best Practices

2. Lack of Personalisation

My first efforts were really stale, cold, dry, and impersonal. I wrote very formally and didn’t reveal anything about my company, my employees, or my organizational culture. When you sound stiff and “standoffish,” you kill any interest readers may have in getting to know you, your brand, and your company any better. This goes for web content too, by the way. Followers really want to get to know you, so “let your hair down” without being offensive! MORE: Making Connections, Self Promotion And Building Relationships

3. Spreading Yourself Too Thin

When you start a social marketing campaign,  first pick two or three sites. Trying to spread yourself too thin in the beginning means that you won’t do anything really well. You can always expand once you get the hang of it all and you are comfortable with creating a lot of variety in your posts. MORE: 4 Indispensable Social Media Platforms For Writers

4. Posting the Same Content on Multiple Sites

You may have followers on several sites, so cross posting is fine BUT you will still have to learn how to promote the same products and/or services in many different ways. If followers see the same text on multiple sites, they’ll get bored with you and it all begins to look a lot like spamming! MORE: Congratulations! You’ve Totally Just Shot Yourself In The Foot

5. Never Asking Your Followers to Make A Purchase!

I loved posting fun stuff and I loved engaging in dialogue with followers … But there was a problem. I never presented any “calls to action” to my followers! Sometimes, simply asking followers to make a purchase is the quickest way to getting a paying customer! Doh! MORE: Connecting With Writers, Agents & Filmmakers Online

I know I am not finished making mistakes. However, I do know this much: I am getting better at this whole social media marketing venue and sales are increasing. My learning curve is getting shorter all the time and yours will do the same. Take these tips to heart and get out there!

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BIOArmed with a Master’s in Journalism and strong wanderlust, Kateline Jefferson set out to explore exotic places, financed by her freelance writing. She is now a regular blogger for Premier Essay and sells feature articles to English-speaking publications around the world.

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Biopics and true story dramas DOMINATE awards season, so with the Oscar Noms out last week it would seem that **this** year it’s all about the menz. As I always say though, the problem is not male-centric stories, but that there’s just too many of them!

<> on October 19, 2009 in Santa Clarita, California.

With it being a “man’s world” throughout history, one might be forgiven for thinking it’s all rather inevitable that the fellas will take over the true story genre … If it weren’t for the fact this is utter BILGE! There ARE amazing women of history and not just since women’s suffrage and emancipation either – there always have been.

In fact, there are SO many amazing women, I could have continuted this list right into the hundreds if I had time … But since the internet has been compiling their own lists of women who deserve their own biopics (thangyewverymuch) I stuck to those I didn’t see anywhere else, plus those whose stories I could “see”, concept-wise, in my head. Ready? LET’S GO:

1) Queen Zenobia (3rd Century)

Queen Zenobia was a warrior queen who conquered Egypt and challenged Rome, so it’s fair to say she was one kickass lady. What’s more, she was able to keep her head under pressure to such an extent that when her empire fell and she was held captive, she was even able to escape execution and make a new life in Rome! I’d say her life on screen would be FASCINATING. Of course, her tale will need an epic budget, so someone call Ridley Scott, yeah? READ MORE ABOUT HER.

2) Marie Curie (1867 – 1934)

The first woman to win the Nobel Prize AND the only woman to win twice, the medical world owes Curie’s work with radioactivity a massive debt. Her name came up again and again  when I asked the Bang2writers on Twitter which inspiring woman should have a movie of her own. It turns turns out there HAS been a biopic about her already, but in 1943! C’mon screenwriters and filmmakers, let’s get a new version off the ground. READ MORE ABOUT HER.

3) Hedy Lamarr (1894 – 1977)

Hedy Lamarr wasn’t content with just having ONE profession as a drop dead gorgeous movie star, she was an inventor too, helping with WW2 efforts and has been credited with basically inventing WiFi. You’d think a movie would have been made about her before, but SURPRISINGLY NOT, WTF?? (According to Google, anyway). READ MORE ABOUT HER.

Why hasn't there been a biopic of Hedy Lamarr??

Why hasn’t there been a biopic of Hedy Lamarr??

4) Hattie McDaniel (1895 – 1952)

Known best for being the first Black woman to win an oscar for her portrayal of Mammy in Gone With The Wind, Hattie McDaniel was also the first African American to speak on the radio. Of course, Hattie wasn’t even able to GO to the Oscars ceremony to pick up her statuette, so I’d love to see a modern take on that controversy.  READ MORE ABOUT HER.

5) Betty Boothroyd (1929)

You may know her as the ONLY female speaker in the UK House of Commons, but you may also be interested to hear she was also an Anti Apartheid campaigner, too. Betty is an outspoken member of the Labour party and has an acerbic wit, so I’d love to see her story as the flipside to Abi Morgan’s IRON LADY biopic about Margaret Thatcher. READ MORE ABOUT HER.

6) Angela Davis (1944)

Davis is a civil rights activist and feminist thought leader who was once on the FBI’s most wanted list in the 1970s. An icon for black rights, she was sentenced to death for participating in a fatal shooting, but later acquitted. In my mind’s eye, I can see her story as a courtroom tale, focusing on her trial and the international outcry that turned her sentence around.  READ MORE ABOUT HER.

7) Angela E. Oh (1955)

Oh is a (retired) lawyer, but it was her work as a commentator on race after the 1992 LA riots in America that helped her gaina seat on Bill Clinton’s race advisory board. This was such a tumultuous time in the country’s history, plus the lack of penalties for the officers who beat motorist Rodney King (even with videotape evidence) has parallels with the recent Eric Garner case, so Oh’s story could be powerful. READ MORE ABOUT HER.

8) Heather Whitestone McCallum (1973)

Heather Whitestone McCallum was the first deaf woman to win Miss America in 1995. She was feted by the deaf press for her win, though some critics said her disability made no difference, ie. all she had to do was look good in a bathing suit! I think her story could play on this element quite well with reference to equal opportunities and pursuing your dreams no matter what. READ MORE ABOUT HER.

Not suitably inspired yet???

No problem — check out ALL OF THESE AMAZING WOMEN:

The Decision – Celebrating Phenomenal Women

10 Most Badass Women In History

Top 1o Nerdiest Women In History 

100 women who changed the world

Women In World History 

15 Historical Queer Women Who Need Their Own Biopic

13 Black Women Who’ve Changed History 

130 Inspiring Asian Americans

10 Black Women who Deserve their Own Biopics

Disability Movies – Movies about and by people with disabilities

C’mon screenwriters and filmmakers, let’s get these inspirational women’s stories told and OUT THERE!

PsulitHyFor more on writing biopics and true stories, don’t forget to check out my new screenwriting book, Writing And Selling Drama Screenplays, which covers in-depth the true story of Mary Poppins author PL Travers’ battle of wills with Walt Disney himself in SAVING MR BANKS, as well as other case studies and information on getting your own story off the ground! BUY IT NOW.

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We’ve got a real shot in the arm from Dawn today – she learnt the hard way that if you act like Diva, you soon run into trouble, so she’s offering her tips and insights up so we can learn from her mistakes and observations. Thanks Dawn!!

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1) Listen to your agent/editor

So, you’ve sold your first book. Rejoice! Drink lots of bubbly! Tell everyone you know! Once the hangover wears off, it’s time for a long conversation with your agent (and/or) editor. This is your chance to list the questions you have.

  • What’s expected in the relationship?
  • What does s/he want you to do with the work they’ve just said they love and want to send out there into the wilds of the publishing world?
  • What kinds of help will they give you?

Make your list of questions, ask them, then shut up and listen. Take notes. If something’s not clear, ask again. Then listen. Don’t open your mouth. Listen. Do not argue. Do not complain. As Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

If they tell you they want a book “just like this one,” then take your book apart, analyze the pieces, put in different characters and circumstances and produce it. By the deadline.

Learn from my mistake: I wanted to write what I wanted to write. When my publisher said, “We’re going to make you a star,” I thought it meant I had free reign to write whatever I wanted. Not so. They wanted a “book just like this one.” But I didn’t listen, and I grew a very large diva head. Got bossy. Want to know what happened? They took that next book I wrote, which wasn’t “just like this one” and asked me what pseudonym I wanted to use on it. Huh? Want to guess what happened next? Nothing. That’s right. They dropped me. Learn from my mistake, people. Do what the editor/publisher/agent tells you to. MORE: Making It As A Writer: 25 Reasons You Haven’t Yet

2) Connect with other writers

If you’re not listening to other writers or reading magazines for writers or joining writers groups, you should be. Find the published writers in your area and buy a cup of coffee for them. Ask them how they manage their time, what kinds of conversations they have with their agents, how they deal with the changes editors want to make on their manuscripts. Ask them what the best books about editing are, whether you should use the latest marketing program, what they think is the one thing they would do differently.

If you become friends with one or two, recruit those writers to read your ARC (advanced reading copy) and provide a book jacket blurb for you. Secret: if they don’t have time to read the book, summarize it for them, earmark a couple of chapters that will give them the flavor, and offer a quick ‘book report’ for them to review. Plenty of blurbs are written for books that the author of the blurb did not read from cover to cover. Make it easy for them. They have their own writing to do! MORE: Connecting With Other Writers

3) Market your own work

Yes, some publishers send their authors on whirlwind tours, but 90% don’t. Be prepared to market your own work and to spend a lot of time doing so:

Connect on social media with everyone from your Great Aunt Tilly to that cute barrista at your local coffee shop.

Find the bloggers who are writing about books and befriend them (long BEFORE your book comes out!). Send them free copies to review.

Work on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, Vine, and the social-media-of-the-day sites DAILY in order to convince people to (1) read your book, (2) review your book, and (3) talk to their friends about your book. Then follow up! And do the same for them.

If you know of others who are publishing, the first thing you need to do is get off your ass and offer your help. Review their works. Post those reviews on your blog, on your Facebook page, on Goodreads, Amazon, Huffington Post, Barnes and Noble, all your independent bookstores’ websites, Weread.com, and any other book sites you can find. Once you’ve posted, then link the posts to an author or book page. Your friends will love you, others will read your reviews – and when you are marketing a book of your own, they’ll review yours. You gotta give some to get some. Remember that.

Three months before your book is published: brainstorm ideas for promoting your work. Be creative! YOU are the one who knows your book best.

Remember you have lots and lots of competition, so if you don’t get yourself out there and in people’s faces, it’s your fault. I knew a writer whose book was about having a fetish for guys who wore tasseled loafers (yup, I’m not kidding). Her way of getting people interested? She held book-signings at pubs and cocktail lounges and gave away chocolate loafers. I have no idea who made them for her, but years later, I still remember those chocolate shoes as the best gimmick ever to sell a book. Did she become famous? No, she didn’t, but she did sell more books than her publisher had planned!

If your book is set in a certain town, go there and hold court. Do readings at the library, at the local coffee shop and bookstore. Visit the schools. Do it for FREE. Free = book sales.

If your book features a dog character, volunteer for the local dog shelter and ask whether they can feature your book at one of their events. Then go to the event and step out of your comfort zone. If you belong to a writers’ group, offer to do a lecture on the craft or a seminar on your genre. Talk to everyone! In other words, do not be a wallflower. Now is not the time to act like a writer and hide behind the laptop.

And let your publisher know (in digest form, not in separate emails sent once a day) what you are doing and where you are going. That gets you points you would not normally get. Your eye should now be on the prize, and the prize is a second book contract. The only way you get the second contract is by making good on the first. MORE: 10 Tips For Authors Promoting Their Books Online

4) Meet deadlines

Simple. If the editor says, “I want the book by October 1,” then have it to her early. Period.

No excuses on this one. MORE: Creative Ways To Edit Outside The Box

5) Smile and say thank you

You may not realize it but everyone’s focus will be on you at those readings/meetings/events. Even if you ‘think’ you are being friendly, you might not appear that way to the shy book-nerd who gave up her Wednesday night to come see you. Unless you make contact (eye contact with a solid handshake and a SMILE), you may not build the image you wish to. Use the person’s name. Ask something personal about them. Make small talk. If you’re not good at this, practice beforehand. Believe me, those people who make time to come to the book-signing WILL talk to their friends and those are the people who will buy your next book. Smile – and thank them! A little bit of sugar impacts books sales in a big way. MORE: Give them what they want and get what you want

6) Keep writing

Do not sit on your laurels. (What are laurels? They are the moments when you realize that what you’ve written IS getting read and people do like it – or, at the very least, are talking about it.) This is not the only book you’re going to write, so by the time you’re out promoting it, another story should be already burning up in your laptop.

The best way to keep your career going is by talking about your next work when you’re selling your first one. Write a log line that easily rolls off your tongue. What’s a logline, you ask? It’s a one-sentence summary of your story. Here’s an example:

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “It’s the story of two young lovers whose warring families want to keep them apart.”

Get it? Do it for yourself. Once you think you have one written, run it by your friends and family. See if they get an image of the story. If not, back to the drawing board. Your logline CANNOT be longer than a line. It’s created for that moment when a person is standing in front of you (with a long line of other people behind them anxiously waiting to meet you) and s/he says, “I can’t wait for your next book. What’s it about?” You have 15 seconds to tell him/her. One sentence.

And, hey . . . good luck! Look me up when you make it to the bestseller list! MORE: Loglines Are Not Tagline

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BIO: Dawn Reno Langley’s published works include 29 books (novels, children’s books, and nonfiction); dozens of pieces of creative nonfiction, short stories, and poetry in literary journals; hundreds of articles in commercial publications; and dozens of theater reviews for Triangle Arts and Entertainment. Her blogs include one on writing and another on living with her Shichon, Izzy. She is currently at work on a novel entitled ELEPHANTS FOR DANNY. She holds an MFA in Fiction from Vermont College and a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from The Union Institute and University and is dean of general education and developmental studies at a small college in North Carolina.

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up

So I’m working on my writing style at the moment: what I want to write about; how I express myself; my worldview. I need to dig deep, identify those elements that make me and my writing unique … My “voice”, if you will.

It’s really hard

This is why so many writers don’t – or won’t – go through this process. ‎It HURTS and remember, we want to avoid pain. So instead those writers will tell themselves voice is about reader response, or even that voice is accidental; that there’s no real way of moving forwards and developing it actively. Craft can be honed, sure — but voice? Don’t be ridiculous!

Even I thought this.

I don’t now

You see there ARE ways of developing your voice actively. It’s not accidental.

Unfortunately, it’s different for every writer, which is why so many will throw their hands in the air and declare it a pointless endeavour because what works for one, won’t necessarily work for another …

… But when did that stop a writer?

Writing is tough because it is such a personal journey. But we are ALL united in one thing: whether it’s your career or a hobby (or somewhere in-between); whether you’re a novelist, a screenwriter or something else – every single one of us has to get words on the page.

So, if you want to identify and improve your writing’s voice, think: HOW do you do it? HOW can you make that style better? Here’s how I am trying these two things … By looking at my pages and asking myself:

  • WHO am I?
  • WHAT concerns me?
  • HOW do I do it already?
  • WHAT opportunities or threats am I missing?
  • WHAT is good about my work already?
  • WHAT can be improved?
  • WHERE do I want to take it and to WHAT end?

We spend a lot of time talking about the above, reading about the above or even moving words about the page with thoughts of the above. But If characters are what they DO, then we as their creators are not DOING enough to develop our writing.

We need to practice what we preach

So‎ whatever it is you intend to do with your writing, go one better. Don’t just look at structure, sequences, characters; put it right under the microscope. Make every single word count. Revitalise scene description in your screenplay ; or excise all those ‎”thought” verbs in your novel. Identify your strengths AND weaknesses … don’t just put every page under the microscope; or every line — make sure it’s every single word. And whatever you want to improve, don’t just aim for that; smash that target!

Always: go one better

It will be tough at first; it will feel like you’re walking on glass, or at least being buzzed by a really annoying bee. Remember that feeling; it means you’re on the right tack.

Do it as standard.

Elevate.

MORE:

Lucy V’s Wager: Build It And They Will Come 

Getting Rid of “Thought” Verbs – Great advice from Chuck Palahniuk on LitReactor

8 Ways To Jump Start Your Novel’s Description 

7 Ways Of Showcasing Your Voice

10 Ways To Revitalise Your Scene Description

Writers, Make A Choice

11 Things To Do As A Writer in 2015 

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Many thanks to Jonathan at WritersAndFilmmakers.com who’s got in touch with this fab infographic on the best screenwriting competitions and initiatives for screenwriters.

As you can see very obviously (and as I always go on about!), there ARE times of the year that are quieter than others, whereas there are other times that are VERY busy on the competition calandar … So, it really pays to get organised and get your writing done during the quiet times, so you can ensure your screenplay is ready to submit during the peak times!

If you’re wanting submissions tips for your screenplays, check out Submissions Insanity, my column on Scriptmag as well as the PDF Submissions Checklist on the B2W Downloads page. For more resources on submissions strategies and processes,  don’t forget there’s a “submissions” label on this site, as well as the B2W Resources Page. Good luck!

WritersandFilmmakers.com_-_Screenwriting_Circuit

 About WritersandFilmmakers.com:

Writers judge filmmakers and filmmakers judge writers. It’s that simple! We fund you to collaborate.

The writers review films and decide the best filmmaker. The filmmakers read scripts and decide the top 10 scripts. The winning filmmaker selects one of the top 10 scripts to shoot and we fund the production. The screenwriter gets paid and their script made. The filmmaker gets funded to shoot the script.

Imagine a community that reviews your work, provides you with abundant, meaningful coverage and provides the potential for your skills to be translated onto the big screen.

Writersandfilmmakers.com goal is to democratize film production and film funding.

Check out the website HERE, follow us on Twitter, HERE or LIKE us on Facebook, HERE.

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Many thanks to Insaaf, who left this question in the comments on the B2W resources page:

I am attempting to get my first freelance gig as a script reader. I have a BA in English Literature, but no previous experience or formal qualifications for Screenwriting. I wanted to ask, what would a potential employer look for, in my pitch to be a script reader for them, that would be more likely to result in a positive response?

films 2014

Here’s just some of the produced projects B2W has read or been involved in

First: the good news

The good news is, you don’t necessarily need screenwriting qualifications to become a script reader. It is an entry level job, so there’s a lot of learning “on the job”, whoever you are. There’s loads of things that will aid you in your script reading journey, such as reading lots of screenwriting books; going to seminars and short courses; but most of all, obviously reading all the screenplays you can (Scott Myers’ blog Go Into The Story has a GREAT round up of free, legal script downloads), plus of course watching movies and TV. In addition, talk to and learn from as many industry people as you can – Twitter is great for this.

Now: the bad news

You will need experience to stand any chance of getting a paid position! Interning is a great choice for those trying to break into the industry in this way, but the snag is you may have trouble finding a position like this if you are not a student, as competition is really high.

BUT …

… There are always ways of moving “sideways” to get what you want – for example, taking a script reading course* and/or meeting people who may refer you; volunteering to read for screenwriting and filmmaking competitions; or combing social media for writers who need feedback on their work, in exchange for them reviewing you on Linkedin. Or all three!

*Here’s a couple of online script reading courses (I haven’t done either of them, so can’t officially recommend, buyer beware etc BUT they do look pretty comprehensive):

The First Draft Doctor Online Course (UK)

ScreenplayReaderTraining.com (US)

Of course, being online it doesn’t matter which course you do BUT you may discover there are slightly different standards re: things like formatting in particular between here and over the pond.

What I reckon

In my opinion, ensuring you have a selection of PRODUCED projects is always the best way to becoming a script reader or editor: it validates you and helps writers trust you.

So even if you’re not interested in working in indie film like me (and perhaps would rather work in television or as a literary agent), I still believe the quickest way to establishing yourself as a script reader is by helping short filmmakers. Short filmmakers never have any money and always need help! But as the payoff for you, those filmmakers tend to get their work out there, at festivals etc … Plus the good ones “grow up” to be feature filmmakers and hopefully take you with them!

What’s not to like???

There’s lots more information in my post, How Do I Become A Script Editor or Script Reader? as well as what the difference between the two is.

Good luck!

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shakespeare_1758033b

I’ve said it, countless times now: I’ve seen NO correlation between gender of writer and how “well” s/he writes female characters. In my experience, a male writer is just as likely as a female writer to write a GREAT, complex, flawed character who just so happens to be a woman. ‘Cos that’s what we’re aiming for, right? RIGHT.

“Shakespeare’s a dead white guy, but he knows his shit!”

YES, Shakespeare is well old and NO, he’s not PC because he was writing a trillion years ago, but he STILL managed to pull of complex female characters who were a helluva lot more than wimpy damsels, hanging about in lovely white nighties crying, waiting to be rescued.

Were you one of those kids who hated studying Shakespeare in school? That’s a shame, ‘cos there’s plenty he could teach you about writing women! But no worries, ‘cos here’s my potted versions of five of my Shakespeare faves, just for you. I know, I know, I know … I’m too good to you all. No need to say anything my friends, your tears say far more than words ever could! Hang on a sec, WTF am I saying? We’re writers, we’re all about words! So:

Katherina: Miss Utter Bitch

DYK? You should obey your husband! (Hahaha yeah I just actually typed that. WHATEVS LUV).

QUIET BITCH

So I read the bitch character A LOT in the spec pile: she is probably the best represented female of all amongst spec writers, whether screenwriters or novelists! Whether she’s crazy, vengeful, ambitious, kickass — yup, you know it, she’s got a sharp tongue and she ain’t afraid to use it! And guess what: she’s usually one dimensional with it, as we’re meant to HATE her and sure enough, somewhere along the line she’ll get her comeuppance and HAHAHA SERVES YOU RIGHT, YOU WOMAN YOU.

Yes, yes The Taming Of The Shrew might well be a load of misognyistic codswallop in terms of plotting/story (and oh! that speech from Katherine in the end about obeying the man in your life! EEEEK!), but concept-wise it’s GOLD:  if you don’t know it, there’s two daughters and the youngest  can only marry when the eldest, Katherina does … but no one wants to marry Katherina because she’s so UTTERLY VILE.

Actually, by today’s standards, Katherina’s not that bad; she just knows her own mind and doesn’t suffer fools gladly … But in Shakespeare’s time she was probably enough to shrivel up any guy’s dick. In comparison, Kat Stratford in TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU was a masterly modern take on the “shrew”: she’s absolutely horrible, but SO horrible we kinda like her for it, especially because she’s FUNNY with it (something male characters are often celebrated for, especially if they’re written by Aaron Sorkin, yet we don’t see as many female characters tilling this ground).

Now, we can’t know for certain if Shaky meant *his* original character to be taken this way, but I would bet real money he did.

TO WRITE A BITCH WELL: Character and story are inextricably linked, so don’t just randomly make her a bitch; then we just hate her for it. Instead, cement her characterisation INTO the story, like Shakespeare does – you CAN’T have The Taming of The Shrew, without a shrew!! LE DUH. Oh and give the other characters a reason to interact with her too, otherwise we wonder why they don’t just avoid her. MORE: 10 Reasons Kat Stratford Should Be Your Number 1 Heroine

Cordelia: Miss Goody Goody 

Cordelia_Disinherited

Second to the bitch character in the spec pile, is what I call Miss “Goody Goody”: she’ll usually be in the hero’s corner, often facilitating his emotions or helping in some other way. She’s stoic, she’s dependable, she can be counted on in a crisis and goddammit, she is JUST TOO GOOD. I wanna vom, seriously!

Look, I get that you want more positive representations of women, but SERIOUSLY? Have you even met any women lately? We’re not bloody ANGELS, we’re real people with real problems and no, we are NOT perfect!! Even if we’re GREAT PEOPLE, we still have FLAWS.

So, Cordelia from King Lear is a VERY positive representation: she’s virtuous to a fault – literally! Even when it’s to her own detriment and gets her thrown out the kingdom (Thanks Dad!!!), she will still be honest; it’s a non negotiable with her. But crucially, though being honest absolutely ruins her, it also pushes the story forward: impressed with her honesty, The King of France marries Cordelia anyway and of course, in doing so, helps Cordelia lead the attack against her sisters. Okay she loses and dies and everything gets fucked up even more, but c’mon, it IS a tragedy, what did you expect??

TO WRITE A GOODY GOODY WELL: Just like we don’t respond to random cray bitches, make your heroine TOO good and your reader or audience will want to spew all over the joint. If your heroine is too good to be true, build it into the story somehow by making her PAY A PRICE for her virtue, like Shakespeare does. MORE: The Ultimate Miss Goody Goody: Elle in LEGALLY BLONDE, plus 5 Credible, Likeable Superstar Role Models

Ophelia: Miss Tragic

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So after the bitches and angels, in at number three in the spec pile are the Tragic Heroines …  Yes life sucks for these women and it’s usually a MAN’S fault!! (Quelle surprise). Goddammit marriage is miserable and women’s lives are one heartbreak after another and Ophelia is probably the epitome of this character. But in comparison, tragic heroines in the spec pile are usually barely peripheral: they’ll make various pleas to their male counterparts stand or sit around crying the rest of the time. WTF??? Remember, Ophelia was TRAPPED by the times and her potential marriage; she has no choice but stay betrothed to Hamlet even as crazy as he gets, which in turn makes her lose her mind as well: yet losing one’s mind can be an active state, it doesn’t have to mean simply sitting about sobbing in a supposedly “ladylike” manner! So Ophelia *is* tragic and trapped, but she has an air of the flamboyant too: she didn’t just kill herself, but floats off down a river!

HOW TO WRITE A TRAGIC HEROINE WELL: Tragic characters need depth and authenticity, not to mention motivations we can relate to and empathise with. MOST OF ALL though, we must leave them with NO VIABLE ALTERNATIVES, otherwise we just end up thinking they’re saps who deserve all they get. Take a lesson from Shakespeare here and remember how trapped Ophelia feels and how suicide seems her only escape. When drowning seems a relief from living … now that really IS tragic. MORE: How To Screw Up Your Characters With Tragedy, plus Misery Loves Company? 

Titania: Miss Mad

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So Titania was Queen of the fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and basically spends a lot of the play enchanted and behaving in a well, mad fashion: she even falls in love with Bottom, a bloke with the head of a donkey (it’s her husband’s fault FYI, but then that’s hardly surprising, arf). Anyway, Titania made such a splash that just about every fairy queen, ever after has been named after her! But then this is the influence The Bard has, reaching across the centuries of produced work.

Yet mad, mischievous female characters are in VERY short supply in spec work I find: men may be naughty, or funny, or flagrant – but women? HARDLY EVER. What the hell is up with that??? Instead, if a female character is mad at all, it’s usually in a very tragic, dignified and ultimately QUIET way, as mentioned already. Women should be SEEN and NOT HEARD?? Do me a favour. Boooooo! (Also, note the differences between “tragic”, “depressed” and “mad” – they are NOT interchangeable!).

Madness IS difficult characterisation to pull off, whether it is an enchantment (as in Titania’s case) or realistic (in the case of the representation of mental illness). When something affects a character’s psyche, their actions may be at odds with other characters’, or even their own, so they lack narrative logic; other times, writers may fall back on tired ideas to make their point.

HOW TO WRITE A MAD CHARACTER WELL: Shakespeare introduces us to a strong, powerful Titania at the beginning of the play; she’s quite literally an independent woman. Yet when she is enchanted and falls in love with Bottom, Titania becomes a fawning shadow of her former self. Often a sharp contrast in a character’s behaviour in the story can work wonders in making an audience appreciate a character is “not herself”. MORE: 6 Stock Characters That Need Retiring By Writers, plus The Top 5 Female Character Stereotypes & 1 Tip To Deal With Them

Portia: Miss Cleverpants

portiaPortia is from The Merchant of Venice and has everything going for her: she’s rich, beautiful and clever. In fact, she’s so clever she spends a good chunk of the play disguised as a boy and fooling everybody she’s a lawyer’s apprentice called Balthazar … Which is just as well ‘cos it’s she who rescues protagonist Antonio from the knife of evil Jewish money lender Shylock (ANTI SEMITISM KLAXON!). What’s more, Portia does this by entirely legal means, finding a LOOPHOLE: she discovers that whilst Shylock IS entitled to his pound of flesh from Antonio (as per the agreement they strike at the beginning of the play), Shylock is NOT entitled to a single drop of blood! Uh oh. Do not pass Go. Do not collect two hundred pounds. UNLUCKY.

Yet, clever women in the spec pile are AGAIN hard to find and it’s this I actually find most shocking of all. After all, clever women in real life are ten a penny: I can rattle off the countless savvy women I know and I don’t doubt the average writer (male OR female) can as well. SO WHERE ARE THEY???

HOW TO WRITE A CLEVER CHARACTER WELL: Female characters often have very familiar words next to them in their character intros, the most common ones being “beautiful” and/or “vulnerable”. A WORLD OF NO, WRITERS! Look, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being beautiful OR vulnerable, but we’re not going to get diversity by writing the same ol’ shit every time. It’s not rocket science.

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So, when you think “female character” simply add CLEVER and CUNNING and build that into the story!!! These are two words we never think twice of putting in a male character’s bio, yet for some reason don’t make it into a female character’s bio often ENOUGH. Don’t shoehorn it in for the sake of it, but do remember it’s one adjective that’s underutilised when writing women! MORE: 5 Ways To Write A COMPLEX Female Character, plus Lucy Vs. Gravity: Similarities and differences between two female protagonists

Concluding:

- Story and character are inextricably linked

- Great characters are part of great stories

- Don’t shoehorn stuff in for the sake of it

- Contrast can work wonders

- You’re going for authenticity and empathy, not necessarily “likeability”

- Don’t forget female characters can be HORRIBLE, FUNNY and CLEVER!

Now, go see some of these plays … What??? You didn’t think you would get away with it, did you! Call it research. BUT GO.

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This is the thing. Whilst it’s true some people are philanthropic, most people are not going to let you do what you want without you first giving them something THEY want.

This applies in all walks of life, from relationships and sex, through to the world of school and work, ESPECIALLY money. Life is a series of negotiations and compromises. That’s how human society works – and probably, a lot of the animal kingdom too. We certainly see this element of bargaining in our cousins in ape society.

But we all know this, really.

Yet, when it comes to creative endeavours, ego can take over. Ego in itself is neither positive or negative; we all need one, especially in the arts when we HAVE to believe in ourselves, especially when no one else will, or we begin a completely new project. Without an ego, we would quite literally never create anything, never mind get out there and peddle it.

Ego becomes a problem then when you feel you are owed something. This may happen because you feel you’ve been working for a long time (“I deserve a break”); or you feel your work is similar to someone else’s (“If they like X, then they SHOULD like my project”); or maybe it’s not like anyone else’s (“MINE is original!); or maybe you are underrepresented (“I am a woman/ disabled/ BAME/ LGBT – they SHOULD let me in!”).

I’ve got every sympathy with the above (I’ve thought some, if not most of the above too at one time or another; I’m only human!), but let me be clear:

No one owes you anything.

There are inescapable, universal truths no matter WHO you are when it comes creative works. Whilst SOCIETY marginalises some and champions others, the actual act of creativity is entirely democratic. It doesn’t matter who you are. If you can dream it, you can do it. 

Getting it out there can be another matter, it’s true. Yet my time in this biz has shown me:

- Talent is a given

- Concept is everything 

- Relationships are key

- If there’s a glass ceiling, smash through the f***er

In other words, if you’re a talented individual who has a great concept and cultivates those all-important relationships (and most of all KEEPS GOING), you WILL break in … You can’t not. Just remember:

Concept + Audience = Worth

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As creators, audiences make us live and die by the end product. That’s all they see and they might imagine all sorts of things about it that may or may not be true, but that’s the way it goes.

Yet it’s not about who we are as creators. It’s not even whether audiences LIKE our work!! Rightly or wrongly, the ultimate measure of worth for our work – and us, as creators – is actually MONEY:

Would audiences BUY tickets to this film?

Would audiences BUY this book?

If people in the know think audiences WOULD buy your work – great! GREEN LIGHT. And you’ll probably get to do more, too. (Remember, these people measure your work’s potential worth by its CONCEPT. This is why concept is everything).

IF people think audiences WOULD NOT buy your work – probably because the concept is not good enough, or does not grab them ‘enough’ – try again. (Note how a “great concept” can be anything; it doesn’t have to mean “selling out”!!).

It really is as simple as that.

It’s not just the industry itself that thinks this way, either. The general public do, too. How many times have you heard someone on Twitter crowing about a flop, or celebrating its success at the box office? They may even try and take credit for knowing about popular films FIRST; or they may try and keep others AWAY from films they deem “bad”, ie. “Don’t spend your cash”. It’s always about the money.

So, stop caring about who YOU are. THEY don’t care, ‘cos they’re interested in the money. Far from this being depressing, this is actually liberating, because you can now DO ANYTHING YOU WANT, as long as you give them what they want, which is:

A great concept, which is “worth” an audience. 

So, stop trusting to “luck” or bemoaning your shitty lot on social media. Instead, learn about your industry. Road test those concepts. And create great work, that the industry and audiences CAN’T IGNORE.

On this blog before, about concept:

4 Reasons Your Concept Counts Above All Else 

7 Steps To Road Testing Your Concept 

The Best Way To F*** Up Your Screenplay by @jkamalou

4 Ways Samey Stories Happen … And 1 Thing You Can Do To Beat Them

How To Make Your Concept Stand Out 

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I believe anything is possible.

Yet some people do not. It’s perhaps one of the hardest and surprising lessons I learned as a young adult. I didn’t understand why these people would resist. If they JUST TRIED to see it my way, they would be so much HAPPIER, surely??

Besides anything, can’t they SEE THE EVIDENCE: I didn’t have auspicious beginnings, yet I say we can – and I have!! MORE: I Am Not A Lucky Person

BUT:

“It’s different for you”

How I hate these four words. Let me cite the ways it was NOT different for me, how I too started from a place that was just as problematic as the next person’s!!

But that’s the kneejerk reaction, because really, it IS different for me – and others like me. We think anything is possible, remember? We think this, despite the numerous failures, rejections and downright unfair shit that has happened to us, don’t we? In a society that insists pessimism is “realism”, we refuse to follow that path. Instead, we see something we want, so we resolve to get it. No. Matter. What.

But we are the minority. MORE: It’s Not About Luck And It Totally Is

Life can be painful and totally unfair

Someone (I forget who) wrote once that life is about pain: dealing with it, or avoiding it; our lives will always come back to this.

Personally, I don’t believe avoiding pain is healthy or even possible. I think pain is omnipresent, all around us; even if we manage to batten down our own pain and hide it inside tiny boxes inside ourselves, the pain of other people will envelop us as a reminder of what we’ve refused to face.

Dealing with pain is not automatically the healthy path, either – because it depends HOW you deal with it. Many people think they are, but in reality, they’re simply airing their grievances in a repetitive loop: blame is assigned; loved ones promise to do better and then it all happens again … and again … and again. In addition, some people may use this process as a form of self harm, punishing themselves for various reasons, whether real or imagined. Sometimes one person will do ALL of these things (yikes).

But rather than process the above, the majority will believe they have to continue – they literally have no choice:

Psychologists call it “learned helplessness”

Yet we DO have the choice to say, “No – I will NOT do this to myself … OR let others do this TO me.”

Of course, it’s not simply as easy as that in practice, especially if your problem involves other people. Unlearning the habits of a lifetime is more than simply difficult; what’s more, letting go of injustices visited upon you can seem an absolutely gargantuan task.

How is it possible to NOT feel as bad as this, always?

MORE: The Best Worst Year

But this will pass

As writers, we may deal with pain via storytelling. By translating our thoughts and feelings (note: NOT transcribing, unless it’s an autobigoraphy!) into characters and their journeys, this may help us heal – especially when our readers or viewers tell us how our work has helped them, too.

However, writing can also have an adverse effect on us, too. When our work is rejected in particular, it is easy to imagine this is PERSONAL, especially if we believe we are our writing.

In addition, if we have writing success, it might be easy to forget where we come from as well. Suddenly our humble beginnings might seem very far away and it’s hard to relate to others still struggling behind us. Everything might seem very **obvious** to us and our empathy or even patience goes out the window. In cases like both of these, I like to remember this story:

The Sufi tradition tells the story of a king who was surrounded by wise men. One morning, as they talked, the king was quieter than usual.

“What is wrong, Your Highness?” asked one of the wise men.

“I’m confused,” replied the king. “At times I am overcome by melancholy and feel powerless to fulfill my duties. At others, I am dizzy with all power I have. I’d like a talisman to help me be at peace with myself.”

The wise men – surprised by such a request – spent long months in discussion. In the end, they went to the king with a gift.

“We have engraved magic words on the talisman. Read them out loud whenever you are too confident, or very sad,” they said.

The king looked at the object he had ordered. It was a simple silver and gold ring, but with an inscription:

“This will pass.” (original text, HERE).

MORE: Another short story with a great lesson, Somerset Maugham’s “Death Speaks”, plus follow @VeryShortStory on Twitter.

Failure can help us learn

Every time anyone takes a risk, failure is around the corner, waiting. It may strike us this time or next time, but it is ALWAYS there.

We tell young people failure is the WORST THING EVER, but it’s not. Everyone who tries something – at some point – fails. Absolutely everyone. Name someone successful, someone you admire totally and look at their career and/or private life … They will have failed at SOMETHING.

Failure is painful, especially when you’ve tried your best; it can be confusing as you try and work out what went wrong. But failure is NOT terminal. Failure can help us learn to do better next time. It is NOT time wasted. MORE: How Relationships And Teamwork Can Help You Succeed, plus Talent is great, BUT it’s relationships that get you hired

I believe life – and writing! – is the triumph of hope over experience

I have to believe this. Without it, I would be burnt daily and consumed by sorrow and rage. We teach young people we live in a meritocracy; that if you put the effort in, you will be rewarded. But we all know this is bullshit. There are millions of people out there trying their hardest and getting nowhere.

Besides, this can only be a Western, developed world thing anyway: have any of the millions of innocent people living in poverty and war zones done anything to “deserve” it? Of course not. What’s more, their “trying” can’t go beyond getting through the day ahead, a battle for their very survival and their families’.

So the world is NOT a level playing field. There are elements in place – some random, some on purpose, some a mad combo of BOTH – that means we can never ALL start at the same place. MORE: Lucy V’s Wager

So, I have conducted my life not with a “why me?” atttitude, BUT:

“Why NOT me?”

This works for the bad, as well as the good by the way. Just as there is NO REASON good stuff shouldn’t happen to you, there’s none either re: the bad stuff too. We all buy into this narrative where we will be rewarded for our good actions; sometimes we don’t even realise. When I had cancer, I will admit I found myself thinking, “Have I not been a good enough person? What have I done to deserve this?” But then that assumes anyone who is ill, disabled or afflicted must have “done something” (either in this life or “another”, as is popular, especially when children are involved) … And I simply don’t believe that.

Human beings like to find REASONS or PATTERNS where there are none. It helps us decode the world around us and yes, sometimes it helps us. But just as often, it can harm us too.

Sometimes, the harder route is accepting life is RANDOM and things don’t always work out the way we want OR need them to. Sometimes, you just have to start again, whether it’s fair or not.

So, if you want something? Go get it

You won’t regret it. Even if you fail, you’ll probably get something else … Better than nothing, right?

You got that already. Make 2015 YOUR year.

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This is me when writers want to rake over their protagonists’ extraneous childhoods

As a script editor, I spend a lot of time saying this to writers:

“Don’t worry about [that] … worry about THIS!”

But, WTF? Obviously we should worry about every little single detail of our stories and characters otherwise we’ll go straight to WRITING JAIL and everyone will think we suck!!!

Um, no.

Fact is, storytelling is not investigative journalism, it is a smoke and mirrors game. If we had to worry about every single little thing in our stories, or to do with our characters, we would soon tie ourselves up in knots … Cos that’s simply not the way fiction works!

Look. I’m not advocating we leave whacking great plotholes or FORCE readers and audience members to take massive leaps of faith trying to follow our work; that would be silly. We ALL want to be the best writers we can be, otherwise what’s the point (we don’t do this spec screenwriting malarkey for the money after all!!).

HOWEVER, we also have to recognise that chasing after every single detail merely hobbles us as writers. But yes, there ARE things we have to let go otherwise it takes us away from the matter at hand … which is, unsurprisingly, THE STORY and WHY an audience would get on board. The short version: spend too much on the “past stuff”, we soon get bored. We’re watching (or rather reading!) your story for the PRESENT STUFF (whatever that means).

So when it comes to certain things in your story, or to do with your characters, sometimes the answer *is* thus:

“It just is.”

This phrase may relate to character backstory or motivation (especially re: secondaries); it may relate to storyworld,  convention or genre; or something else entirely. Whatever. Probably the biggest issue writers have letting go is character backstory, in my experience. This is usually something to do with worrying about what potential viewers *might* say and most often affects the characterisation of female characters. That’s right! Howzat for a major own goal??? LE IRONY.

BUT “It just is” refers simply to the notion of hacking off a potential thread that could go off at a tangent and would otherwise serve to CONFUSE and/or DISTRACT from the “here and now” (ie. the story). However, many writers believe “It just is”  to be the cop out answer. They’ll say that if they don’t address absolutely everything they would be AWFUL WRITERS and “deserve” the plethora of internet critique out there ready and waiting to eviscerate every perceived writer failing …

But my answer to that is always:

a) You gotta finish your screenplay first (and get it produced!)

b) If people think your work sucks, it won’t be because we don’t know what happened to your protagonist, aged 6 before the ACTUAL story we’re supposed to be watching even began

c) If people like eviscerating writers’ work – and they do, everybody’s a critic now thanks to social media – then it won’t matter what you do (or not!), ‘cos those guys are NEVER happy!

Don’t believe me? Here’s a photogallery, dedicated to “24 Questions Disney left unanswered”. If you click through it, you’ll soon find your own response to those questions is most likely , “Eh? WHO CARES” – but only if you liked the movie. If you don’t like said movies, you may find yourself validated (though my counter point would be, if you don’t like the movie, why think about this crap at all?! But whatever floats your boat, innit).

Internet critique spends a lot of time pontificating on how writers and filmmakers apparently don’t think “enough” about [WHATEVER]. What’s more, as spec screenwriters, it’s very comforting to think how much BETTER we are than those who are actually making films – whether Hollywood or indie, THEY (whoever “they” are) are simply squandering their talents; rushing their work and releasing inferior work into the wild. Boooooooooo!

Yet, as writers, we should know better. We know how many hours we spend agonizing over various character and story decisions, so is it really likely that produced screenwriters haven’t done the same, at some point, re: their own work. Really??

Yes yes it’s true, hacks DO exist: they make creative work solely for money and don’t care whether the audience enjoys it; they just want bums on seats and to hell with what the audience actually think. But most creatives actually want to do GOOD work, work they believe in and yes, they want audiences to enjoy it! Quelle surprise. What’s more, for every hack I’ve met in this industry – and I remember every one – I’d wager I’ve met 50 of the good guys. That’s a very conservative estimate, FYI.

So guess what: spending 47 years over your character’s backstory (or whatever!) doesn’t separate you from said hacks. You just end up wasting time going around in circles rewriting, tweaking and having meltdowns.

You want to prove HOW MUCH BETTER you are than anyone else? Great! Go for it — but you have to get out there and get PRODUCED and get audiences in the theatres and yes, let Twitter call you a jerk for apparently not thinking about [whatever]. And trust me, Twitter is always angry about SOMETHING, so it might as well be your film.

So, cut the chains. Forget about worrying about every little detail in a bid to stop audiences and social media from getting mad at you. You haven’t got that far yet. You need to FINISH and you need to make sure you’re telling a GREAT STORY.

That’s it.

And hurry up. See you on the other side — here’s to 2015!!

LINKS

2 Things ALL Writers Get Wrong In Early Drafts

9 Ways To Write Great Characters

Is “Good” Characterisation Really About Change?

3 Issues With Casting Your Great Character In The Produced Version of Your Screenplay

9 Ways To Celebrate The Progress of Female Characters, Writers & Makers

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