Maybe Yes No Dice Representing Uncertainty And Decisions

Learn from my mistakes, people …

So, this week I got locked in an epic four day battle over on that timesuck Linkedin where I discovered just about anyone can call themselves a “script mentor” it seems.

Now, admittedly I might be a teensy bit biased in my reporting of the event … But basically, I posted THIS STORIFY and said there were no writing rules. This awoke a hornet’s nest of of story-challenged people who in turn replied with, “ERM writing craft is an actual RULE and OMFG Lucy stop *TRYING* to be so f***ing EDGY, you will make writers go down the WRONG PATH and they will never recover!!!”

I know, right? ‘Cos that’s what B2W is all about. Eliminating the competition. OH NO WAIT: B2W’s remit is the exact opposite — empowering writers!!! But first, let’s unpack all the BS and get to the nitty gritty of this argument ‘cos TBH this notion that “craft = rules” comes up a LOT.

You don’t have to go far on the internet to find what I call the “Either/Or” people on most issues, but especially when it comes to writing advice. If you say:

“You DON’T *have* to do X, do whatever you want.”

The Either/Or people come back with:

“LOL that means you’re saying you *have* to do Y!!!”

Erm, no. It means you can do whatever you want. Fancy that! :P

So invariably, when someone like me says “You can write a story however you want” some nunchuck comes back with, “Then that means you think they shouldn’t use good craft! Fnar!!!!” As far as the Either/Or people are concerned, there are only TWO options: YOUR way or THEIR way. But guess what, when it comes to writing??

There is no WAY.

That’s the pointNow, as we all know, I don’t believe in writing rules, but even if I did, your language skills could hardly be called proficient if you believe “craft” and “rule” to mean the same thing. Don’t believe me? Take a look:

craft

Contrast with:

Rule

OH LOOK, the craft definition deals principally with the notions of SKILL and MAKING.

So if we apply this definition of “craft” to writing then, we can see it is about recognising the elements of STORYTELLING and people’s proficiency creating said stories: concept, structure, character, arena, tone, pace, dialogue and so on. And yes, we CAN do this however the hell we want, dependant on what our endgame is and what audience we’re targeting.

(As a side note, I love the idea of fashioning stories “by hand”, like they’re made of clay, wood or wax. What’s more, if something is not mass-produced but conceived and forged individually, we realise each one will be slightly, sufficiently or even radically, different.)

In contrast, there is a very telling word present in the “rule” definition and that’s REGULATION.The Either/Or Guys will no doubt tell writers that this is where “craft” and “rules” crossover, because:

- You HAVE to get past the reader (If we’re thinking about regulations, then we’re thinking about gatekeepers and how much power they might have to reject writers outright. But this forgets readers a) usually WANT to find great stories and b) would LOVE to find The Next Big Thing. But even if they don’t or are LOOKING for reasons to reject you? It’s not a real opportunity anyway, so what have you got to lose?).

Without “rules”, there is CHAOS (The notion of “breaking new ground = chaos” is not a new one, nor is it restricted to writing. People are AFRAID of new approaches and ideas. They’re prone to reject them outright rather than challenge themselves. But guess what happens if you keep on keeping on with those radical new approaches and ideas? It changes the world as we know it, whether it’s just our corner of it or EVERYWHERE.)

- There are things you HAVE to do, to get ahead (I have a certain level of sympathy for this one: sometimes it CAN be a good idea to pay lip service to what someone else wants to get through a door. So, generally speaking, yes: authors SHOULD probably use “proper” punctuation and grammar, but then the likes of Irvine Welsh have put paid to that always being the case.  When it comes to screenwriting, I would probably not recommend Bang2writers don’t follow industry standard screenplay format for their specs, either … But then again, based on my own script reading experience:

i) How many shitty-looking screenplays with great stories have I put through in the last decade or so? A LOT.

ii) How many fantastically formatted screenplays have I put through that have otherwise rubbish storytelling? ZERO.

‘Nuff sed, maestros.

- You HAVE to have a beginning, middle and end (But do you? What counts as the “beginning” or the “end”? Do they have to be in THAT order? What is backstory? What is “present” and what is “future”? Time is malleable in storytelling: prequels, origins stories and reboots demonstrate this even more)

- Anyone who says otherwise to the above wants to keep new writers out (A million times, NO: in an industry where unique and fresh voices are PRIZED, the worst thing a writer can do is play it safe and sound like everyone else in the spec pile).

So no, there are not RULES or REGULATIONS to writing and we cannot include “craft” in that either. It boils down to this:

Everyone wants a good story, well told.

Writers sometimes ask for “the recipe” for the above. But make no mistake: there isn’t one.

However, from chatting with industry pros, I’d say their wishlists for finding great stories in the pile are comprised of:

– A bombproof central concept

– Great characters

– Great structure

– Knowing who your audience is (and why)

– Plus the writer’s own unique way of telling that story.

THAT’S IT.

Oh – and don’t forget, you can do that however you want!!!

So, to hell with the writing “rules”. That’s the BS that will keep you down. Get out from under this illusion and kick some storytelling ass.

Don’t Forget …

The Early Bird* price has been extended for my next class at Ealing Studios this June (13/14TH 2015), BREAKING INTO SCRIPT READING.

This is an intensive two-day workshop that breaks down the art and craft of reading scripts to help improve your own writing, to also improve your feedback for other writers and most importantly, to earn you money as a professional reader. *Early Bird price of £89 ends April 19th, so hurry!!  BOOK HERE.

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

Manuscript on typewriter machine

1) Laurie Halse Anderson

“Revision means throwing out the boring crap and making what’s left sound natural.”

2) Neil Gaiman

“The best advice I can give on this is, once it’s done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes. Finish the short story, print it out, then put it in a drawer and write other things. When you’re ready, pick it up and read it, as if you’ve never read it before. If there are things you aren’t satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that’s revision.” 

3) Elmore Leonard

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

4) John Irving

“And I think what I’ve always recognized about writing is that I don’t put much value in so-called inspiration. The value is in how many times you can redo something.”

5) Dorothy Parker

“It takes me six months to do a story. I think it out and write it sentence by sentence–no first draft. I can’t write five words but that I can change seven.”

6) E.B White

“It is no sign of weakness or defeat that your manuscript ends up in need of major surgery. This is common in all writing and among the best of writers.”

7) Truman Capote

“I’m all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” 

8) Will Self

“Don’t look back until you’ve written an entire draft, just begin each day from the last sentence you wrote the preceding day. This prevents those cringing feelings, and means that you have a substantial body of work before you get down to the real work which is all in the edit.”

9) Isaac B. Singer

“The waste paper basket is the writer’s best friend.”

10) Roald Dahl

“By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed.”

11) Gloria T. Delamar

“Only amateurs don’t rewrite. It’s in the rewriting that writers bring ALL their knowledge – basic craft, technique, style, organization, attitude, creative inspiration – to the work.”

12) Stephen King

“Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%. Good luck.” 

Like This Post?

Lizzies_Story_Kindle_JPEGCheck out The Decision Book Series on Tumblr for scriptchat and links about female characters, as well THE DECISION: LIZZIE’S STORY (or click the pic).

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

Why Computer Keys Asking A Question Or Having Confusion

One thing that never goes away is the mythical notion that there are “rules” to this writing lark.

In fact, I got so annoyed I had a little rant on Twitter, which you can read HERE (I know, me ranting is a surprise: I am a retiring little wallflower and all).

Look. All I (or anyone) can offer is what we’ve seen work. In return, we also have to remember there’s always going to be someone who does the exact opposite (and it’ll STILL work!!). But this got me thinking … what would MY top tips, pointers, advice (even RULES! :P) be?

So here’s a round up of some of the insights and philosophies I’ve had rammed home to me (fnar) in my own career, time and time again. Do any resonate with you? Let me know in the comments. And remember, if you like this post please share it on your social media profiles and check out my screenwriting books.

1) Don’t be boring

We hear this is the *only* true rule a lot. Meh. This is more of a loose guideline really, cuz one wo/man’s “boring” is another’s AWESOME. What’s more, just ‘cos you don’t like it? Doesn’t mean it’s automatically shit, or the target audience is stupid. Forget this at your peril. MORE: All About Audience: Who Is Your Script FOR?

2) Great format/editing = great craft? NOPE

This is the thing. “Reader proofing” your spec screenplay or novel so it LOOKS great on the page is probably a good idea. There are work experience kids out there reading our work and those guys latch onto bad format like the proverbial alabama tick we hear so much about in movies. Fact of (writing) life.

But that said, GOOD readers don’t care what a script looks like if the story is a grabber. I know we *all* want to be the ones who found The Next Big Thing. So actually, it doesn’t matter how great your format is if your actual story and/or writing sucks. Sorry! (Not sorry). MORE: The Format One Stop Shop

3) Concept is Key

There are lots of great writers out there. Writers’ competition is MASSIVE. I can read great writing then whenever I want and more importantly, so can you. Go to your local bookshop or internet book buying site; turn on your TV; go to the cinema; or call up your VoD service if you don’t believe me. You’ll find great writing is EVERYWHERE: a veritable embarrassment of riches.

But guess what: the same is true of the spec pile. Sure, the vast majority of it is turgid crap, but as they say: where there’s muck, there’s brass. There ARE great writers in the spec pile and you are up against them, too. That’s why the odds of “making it” as a writer (whatever that means) are astronomical.

Yet in my experience it’s NOT **great writing** that catapaults those gems out of the spec, but GREAT CONCEPTS. We can argue the toss about what a “great concept” really means to a variety of target audiences, but ultimately it comes down to this: we don’t want stories that have already been told. So what have you got? MORE: Without A Great Concept, You Got Nothing

4) You CAN Develop Your Voice

So talent can’t be taught, even though no one knows exactly what it is. And apparently no one knows what a writer’s voice is either. Instead you’ll find others online pontificating HOW a writer writes is somehow accidental: that a writer’s voice can’t be moulded or shaped or showcased … You either got it or you haven’t.

But great writing is a result of craft, not MAGIC. Don’t listen to this utter BS. Know that you CAN identify your writer’s voice and what’s more, DEVELOP it. Don’t EVER listen to the naysayers. MORE: 7 Ways Of Showcasing Your Writer’s Voice

5) Your Writer’s Integrity is EVERYTHING 

So, what is Writer’s Integrity? Well, like Voice it can be hard to put your finger on and depend on the individual. But I reckon I can give you a pointer in the right direction (even if they boil down to string of cheesy clichés):

– Be true to yourself.

– Listen to your heart.

– Write what you’d want to read/watch, without fear.

Someone said to me once, “When it comes to writing, you can have money or kudos, rarely both.” But I think of money as a by product, a handy bonus if you like. I’m not into this writing lark for money (which is just as well ‘cos I’d be an epic fail if I had!).

But all that doesn’t mean though I ignore the marketplace. I want to know what sells and who’s doing it. I want to be involved in movies that make money. Why? Because I want to help do my bit in facilitating the making of MORE movies. Not for money, but for the people who want those movies. I LOVE it when I see people on social media expressing their enjoyment for a movie I’ve had a hand in. and I’m not talking about critics – they can go f*** themselves – I’m talking about the true target audience of that film. THAT is my reward.

So what’s YOUR reward? Do you even know? MORE: Writers, Make A CHOICE

6) There is more than one way forwards

Unsolicited review & recommendation of my drama screenplays book

Unsolicited review & recommendation of 1 of my screenwriting books

Once or twice a year the online world erupts with talk of how the writing world is full of charlatans preying on unsuspecting writers. This is never louder than when pro writers join the fray, saying the way they did it is “the best” and everyone who says otherwise is a liar, just out to get in the pockets of desperate individuals who want a quick fix or a short cut (because God Forbid new writers actually have agency of their own!).

Yet every time someone says *their* way is the only way and champions it as so-called “common sense”, this full on erases the experiences of countless others’, such as (but NOT limited to):

– You shouldn’t EVER pay for notes (yet people do AND use them to good effect)

– You gotta live in LA to make it Hollywood (pretty sure some of these ace screenwriters don’t; I can think of some others I’ve met and/or seen at LondonSWF too)

– Screenwriting books are full of crap (yet people tell me mine have actually helped them *shrugs*)

– Conferences, Courses & Pitchfests are a rip off (yet people do get reads, make powerful contacts and even sell their screenplays at them)

As far as I’m concerned, we’re lucky to live in an age where writers have a WEALTH of information out there, ripe for the taking, a huge mountain of it FOR FREE. Great. Start climbing.

Or maybe – just maybe – you can pay for a guide and not end up falling back onto the rocks. But it’s your call. That’s the beauty of it. MORE: Making It As A Writer: 25 Reasons You Haven’t Yet, plus How Do I Make New Contacts?

7) You gotta get out there 

Everytime someone says it’s ALL about the writing, I both agree AND want to stab my leg with a fork. Whilst in an ideal world pages should speak for themselves, the reality is, they don’t always. Sometimes how we’re perceived by others (both online and IRL) can make a huuuuuuge difference. This can either be a good thing – because you can forge those all-important relationships that help you progress forwards (as point 6) – OR you can burn your bridges before you even get off the starting blocks. Social media is great but you gotta use it for GOOD, rather than EVIL. MORE: 5 Ways Writers Kill Their Credibility Online

8) It gets worse before it gets better

My last word: writing is the ultimate conundrum. The more you know – or think you know – the LESS you’ll think you’ll know what you’re doing. But the darkest hour IS before Dawn (more clichés!) and you will get there in the end … IF you keep on keeping on. What’s the alternative? MORE: Lucy V’s Wager: If You Build It, They Will Come

So what are you waiting for?

Get Writing, Get Out There … GOOD LUCK!

thriller

CLICK HERE to read an excerpt from Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays about the iconic character of Driver in the movie DRIVE, courtesy of B2W friends Film Doctor. Click on the pic or HERE, to look inside in the front of the book.

 

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

If like me you’re struggling with an unwieldy first draft of your novel or screenplay right now, I thought you might appreciate some of these quotes from famous people on the process.

Some of the quotes are uber-famous (especially number 1), plus I don’t agree with all of them (number 8 can go jump in particular, I’d say it’s TORTURE atm!) but it’s definitely a useful exercise to remember ALL writers go through this.

So keep on keeping on, Bang2writers!

Need MORE inspiration? Then check out my screenwriting books and have a great Easter.

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1) Ernest Hemingway

“The first draft of anything is shit.”

2) Nicholas Sparks

“Writing the last page of the first draft is the most enjoyable moment in writing. It’s one of the most enjoyable moments in life, period.”

3) Judy Blume

“I hate first drafts, and it never gets easier. People always wonder what kind of superhero power they’d like to have. I want the ability for someone to just open up my brain and take out the entire first draft and lay it down in front of me, so I can just focus on the second, third and fourth drafts.”

4) Colm Toibin

“The problem is once you’ve written the opening paragraph and worked out how the rest of the story will go in your head, there’s nothing in it for you.”

5) Nora Roberts

“Just get the story down.”

6) Dean Koontz

“I don’t write a quick draft and then revise; instead, I work slowly page by page, revising and polishing.”

7) Anne Tyler

I would advise any beginning writer to write the first drafts as if no one else will ever read them – without a thought about publication -and only in the last draft to consider how the work will look from the outside.

8) Winston Churchill

“Writing is an adventure.” 

 9) Ken Follett

“The research is the easiest. The outline is the most fun. The first draft is the hardest, because every word of the outline has to be fleshed out. The rewrite is very satisfying.”

10) Michael Lee

“The first draft reveals the art; revision reveals the artist.” 

Like This Post?

PsulitHyThen check out my screenwriting books, available in eBook and paperback from Amazon and all good book stores. Click the pics or to look inside Writing & Selling Drama Screenplays, CLICK HERE.

 

thriller

CLICK HERE to read an excerpt from Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays about the iconic character of Driver in the movie DRIVE, courtesy of B2W friends Film Doctor. Click on the pic or HERE, to look inside in the front of the book.

 

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

It’s widely known that television is much more likely to be the female screenwriter’s stomping ground, with Tinsel Town in particular a super deluxe sausagefest. But I’m glad to say there ARE women in the man’s world of film! Whilst the likes of Diablo Cody and Nora Ephron may be two of the best known female screenwriters at the moment, I’m going to take a look at some of the female names we may not know quite as well …

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Let’s hear it for the girls!

1) Leslie Dixon, Limitless. Dixon has had a long and fruitful screenwriting career, but it was 2011’s Limitless that really caught my attention: I especially love the beginning. I think what I like about Dixon is her ability to write traditionally “unlikeable” characters, proving once and for all that getting on board with a character’s journey does NOT automatically mean condoning their actions. MORE: Top 5 Ways Writers Screw Up Their Characters

2) Kelly Marcel, Saving Mr Banks. British born Marcel has made quite the splash, no doubt giving hope to Brit scribes in particular. My pick *has* to be 2013’s Saving Mr Banks, a biopic of writer PL Travers’ battle of wills with Walt Disney over the movie adaptation of her novel Mary Poppins. I loved not only the movie, but the struggle behind getting it to screen, which is why I interviewed Kelly about it for my second screenwriting book. Kelly has made multiple appearances on The Black List and its UK equivalent The Brit List, showing she’s a screenwriting force to be reckoned with. MORE: Writing & Selling Drama Screenplays

3) Vanessa Taylor, Hope Springs. From her IMDB profile, Taylor seems to have had one of those blessed careers where she can mix mediums at will, jumping from hit TV series like Alias to mega blockbuster franchises like Divergent, back to even bigger TV genre hits like Game of Thrones. Yet it’s her authentic, touching and 100% honest drama about a couple trying a last ditch attempt to re-invigorate their marriage Hope Springs that gets my vote. MORE: Genre Vs Drama: The Difference Between Them

4) Callie Khouri, Thelma & Louise.  Besides being a great movie, Thelma & Louise on the PAGE is a masterclass in screenwriting – I always recommend Bang2writers read it, especially with regards to character introduction. Callie Khouri is one of those writers that, according to IMDb, seemed to do things once in a blue moon before going into television … But I suspect with that much talent she’s doing a lot more “behind the scenes” than she tells the internet about. MORE: How Best To Introduce A Character?

5) Jennifer Lee, Wreck It Ralph. Of course, Lee is now best known for Frozen, but it’s actually her earlier work for Disney Wreck It Ralph that’s my personal favourite … I believe Ralph is criminally underrated and every bit as imaginative as Pixar favourite, Monsters Inc. Plus it gets uber extra points not only for Sergeant Calhoun, but the fact it gets the words “pussy willows” into a kids’ movie! MORE: On structure and Pixar Movies

6) Jane Goldman, X Men: Days Of Future Past. Perhaps most famous for her work on Kickass or maybe Stardust, the new instalment of the X Men franchise was the one that got my attention, probably due to my Wolverine fixation. What I like about Goldman generally is she seems to work only on what she’s passionate about and its great to see another Brit breaking on through to the Hollywood big leagues. MOREDiversity Vs. Reality? 6 Questions For X MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST 

7) Amanda Silver, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. The 90s had some really memorable female antagonists such as Catherine Trammel from Basic Instinct and Hedy in Single White Female, but Rebecca Du Mornay as Mrs Mott/ Peyton has to claim a spot in this unholy trinity as well!! Amanda Silver has gone on to write huuuuuuge movies like Dawn of the Planet of The Apes, so I’m unsurprised to see she’s onto the Avatar franchise next. MORE: 5 Reasons “Missing” Female Characters Might Not Actually Be Missing After All (Plus What Writers Can Do Instead)

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8) Melissa Mathison, ET: The Extra Terrestial. Yes, THAT enduring childhood classic was written by a woman … Of course, you may know this already, but I remember watching the credits as a little girl and being amazed by this fact. So girls can make movies too??? Before this point I figured Steven Spielberg had done everything in his movies, so finding this out prompted me to dig deeper. Thanks Melissa! MORE: Women! Know Your Place (Everywhere)

9) Susannah Grant, Erin Brockovitch. Susannah Grant won an Oscar for the screenplay of Erin Brockovitch and rightfully so in my opinion; I’m not normally a big fan of Oscar bait movies because they’re so often vanilla, but Erin is a (real life) character that’s anything but. Far from peaking early, Grant has gone on to sustained career in TV and film. MORE: 8 Female-Centric Biopics That Need Writing NOW

Want more female screenwriters?

PsulitHyOf course, more needs to be done — we need more WoCs writing movies, plus other marginalised voices, too, as noted in Writing & Selling Drama Screenplays. But if you’re wondering how to ensure more female screenwriters get their due? Make sure you START by checking out and championing the work at least one of these nine phenomenal writers today. Enjoy!

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

Many thanks to Chris Ballangee, who has this question regarding conflict in scenes:

“I still have problems identifying exposition and the conflict in my own scenes. Somehow I still can’t always determine what the conflict is in each of my scenes. I only think that arguments between characters is exposition … Do you have concrete examples of the conflict that is not just an argument between two characters. This would really help me and probably some other writers.”

Chris is definitely not alone in thinking conflict automatically equals arguments between characters. This is because I’d wager MOST writers think scenes are principally about dialogue, which as we know is a HUGE problem for the spec pile and makes for highly theatrical, dialogue-led scripts.

We often hear the old screenwriting adage, “characters are not what they SAY but what they DO”, but writers  don’t always get what this means, or how to implement it.  So my advice is: think instead about how each scene takes your character towards a bigger goal, that “end point” in the story … Within that individual scene then, it has to have a point, ‎not via dialogue (though it obviously plays its part, where applicable), but ACTION.

Here are 3 examples of conflict within scenes and how they play out via ACTION, rather than dialogue:

1) GRAVITY (2013): Debris hits explorer

I picked GRAVITY to illustrate in the first instance because its central conflict is obvious: the story is about a character who must try and survive a space mission that’s gone horribly wrong. That’s it. No big secret. Ryan Stone must GET HOME: that’s the end point of the story and she must make her way through various obstacles in various scenes in order to do that.

So, ten minutes in, the catalyst: the Russians have shot down one of their own satellites which has accidentally set off a series of catastrophes, not least the destruction of space shuttle Explorer, as seen in the moving .gif above. Watch the clip, HERE. Here’s how it works out:

1. Houston: “Mission Abort”

2. “Stand down” – exposition re: debris

3. Debris hits / comms blackout with Houston

4. “Man down!” Third astronaut Sharif dies

5. Explorer is hit and spins

6. Hubble’s arm breaks off with Stone

7. Kowalski: “DETACH!”

8. Ryan Stone spins off into space / “I’ve lost visual on Dr. Stone“.

In terms of dialogue versus action, we should note screentime for this sequence is approximately 3 minutes; it’s slightly longer in terms of page count in the screenplay (hosted by Go Into The Story, HERE). This is not surprising considering there is a significant amount of exposition regarding the problem of the debris itself. This is warranted on the basis the “chain reaction” Houston talks about will sign posts the focus of the action and the adversity Stone faces in the REST of the movie. Also, don’t forget, whether 3 OR 6(ish) pages, the average SPEC screenplay rarely delivers a high octane sequence like this, even in TEN (or more) pages I’m afraid! What we can learn here is balancing exposition and action is tough, but it can pay dividends. 

MORE6 Things You Need To Know As A Screenwriter If You Want Your Scripts Made, plus find out more about writing and selling Thriller Screenplays like GRAVITY, HERE.

2) LIAR, LIAR (1997): Fletcher Versus The Pen

In comparison to GRAVITY, this sequence is not a high octane blast. Instead, it’s the exact opposite: one guy versus a pen of all things! Yet it’s still a great example of conflict in a scene that does not rely on two characters simply arguing. It should also be noted that like GRAVITY, Fletcher delivers sign posts via dialogue over what is going on, but crucially, these lines are MATCHED with physical happenings. Watch the clip HERE.

1. “I can beat this … it’s all a matter of willpower!”

2. “Focus!”

3. First try – failure.

4. Second try – failure.

5. Third try: “Rrrrrrrrroyal blue!”

6. Collapse in chair / exposition: “One lie and I can’t say it!”

7. “I’ll write it!” – but he can’t

8. Trash the desk / fight with own arm

9. The pen attacks!

10. Secretary comes running … Fletcher: “The goddamn pen is blue!

The sequence is approximately 2.5 mins long of screentime. I’ve written before the infamous “rrrrrrrrroyal blue” line does not seem to appear to be in the original screenplay, plus Jim Carrey is of course known for improvising and insisting on many, many takes so it’s difficult to know if ANY screenplay we can find online is remotely like the one they had on set. Even so, writers can still learn from this sequence, which is possibly the most famous from the whole movie and still manages to surprise us, when Fletcher’s head emerges from behind the desk. 

MORE: Movie Reversals: 6 Of The Best

3) NATURAL BORN KILLERS (1994): The Death of the Cook

As openers go, the diner scene in NATURAL BORN KILLERS sets the tone for what comes next: a rip roaring, violent gorefest of a ride. But it’s The Death of The Cook Mabel at the END of that opening sequence in the diner (just one minute approx of screentime) that actually sets up the characters of Mickey and Mallory as a unit: they’re ruthless; they’re crazy-violent and they’re hopelessly in love … Wait a minute, WTF??

Watch the clip, HERE.

1. Mabel, the cook tries to escape. MALLORY: “No! There is no escaping here!” MICKEY: “Who’s the lucky one …?”

2. Mallory plays eeny meeny miny mo with Mabel and the Fat Cowboy

3. Mabel thinks she’s spared … but Mallory isn’t finished yet

4. MALLORY: “You … are … it!” Mickey kills Mabel.

5. Exposition, links to beginning of scene: Mallory tells customary sole survivor Fat Cowboy to tell the authorities who did the diner massacre. He obviously agrees.

6. Young love: “I love you Mickey! / I love you Mallory!”

Again, the versions of the screenplay available online vary, so it’s hard to know how much of this sequence was reimagined on set. That said, the end result shows writers that a helluva lot can be established in just over a minute of screentime and the subversion of a child’s game like eeeny meeny can have horrifying consequences. But it’s important to remember  Mickey and Mallory ARE children, fucked up violent children for sure, but children nonetheless … So this dialogue in conjunction with their propensity for extreme violence works beautifully.

MORE: Why dialogue is your ENEMY

Concluding …

As we can see from these three examples, conflict in an individual scene needs to serve a PURPOSE, which is serving up exposition and taking us, piece by piece, towards the resolution. Writers need to do this in such a way that it’s not OBVIOUS. This is why it’s a great idea to ensure we use action, rather than simply “talk” (arguments or not).

But as we can see from these three examples then, it’s fine to use talk as well (and can even be advisable as “sign posts”) but dialogue hardly ever stands on its own. That really is the secret of writing great conflict in scenes. Good luck!

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

Need more inspiration? Then check out my screenwriting books.

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1) “If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.” H.G. Wells

This is the thing. If you don’t go for it, you can never succeed. So don’t stay down. GET UP! MORE: Making It As A Writer: 25 Reasons You Haven’t Yet

2) “Failure is a greater teacher than success” Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Often writers will say to me they’ve “wasted” time on various rewrites and drafts and even entire stories, trying to find out what works. But let me be clear: learning what DOESN’T work is more valid than hitting the bullseye first time. You’re becoming a better writer by design, rather than accident. MORE: You are not wasting your time

3) “We are all failures – at least the best of us are.” J.M. Barrie

That writer you admire, that’s where you want to be, doing what you want to do, having the life you dream of? S/he’s failed. Loads of times. ‘Cos that’s the way it works. MOREHow To Deal With Rejection – Virtual Writers Inc – Author Essentials

4) “The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.” Randy Pausch

I’ve said it over and over: you want something? Go get it. There is no other way and no short cut. MORE: How To Make Your Own Luck

5) “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” ― Samuel Beckett

Remember quote 3 in this list. Get better at failing, you get closer to success. Might sound screwy, but it’s true. MORE: It’s Not About Luck And It Totally Is

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6)“Life is full of screwups. You’re supposed to fail sometimes. It’s a required part of the human existance.” Sarah Dessen

I can’t promise you that you won’t fail … In fact, I can promise you that you probably WILL. But you’ve already got nothing. So you might as well give it a go, right? MORE: Build It And They Will Come: Lucy V’s Wager

7) “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” Maya Angelou

See quote 6 now, but also appreciate that you can’t sell out for success. You have to be true to who you are, otherwise any success you create will taste bad and not be worth it. MORE: How To Give Them What They Want And Get What You Want

8) “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” ― Truman Capote. 

In life, you gotta take the rough with the smooth. So stop focusing on the destination and enjoy the journey. MORE6 Ways YOU’RE Stopping Your Own Writing Success 

9) “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Winston S. Churchill

Professional writers know they will be rejected FAR more than they will ever be accepted, yet carry on regardless. This is not stupidity. This is necessity. MORE: 7 Things You Must Stop Doing If You Want To Be A Professional Writer

10) “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” Paulo Coelho

Too many writers tell me they’re worried about eactions to their work. My answer is always, “You gotta get it finished and out there first.” So get going! MORESuccess is more perspiration than inspiration, but sometimes it’s the inspiration that fuels the perspiration

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11) “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” Henry Ford

We all hear about the writers who hate notes and get nowhere because they listen to nobody, but there’s another kind of writer we don’t hear so much about … The type of writers who love notes and feedback SO MUCH they spend all their time ripping drafts to shreds and starting again. Though these two types of writer are on opposite ends of the scale, they end up in the same place. Now THAT’s ironic, Alanis. MORE: How Do I Become A Professional Scriptwriter?

12) “When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.” Ellen DeGeneres

Too many writers guard their work jealously to their chests and won’t share – ideas, expertise, even OPINIONS – for fear of getting stuff stolen or being taken advantage of. Yet you need to get YOURSELF out there and take risks, because this industry is about RELATIONSHIPS. Or you can sit in your bedroom in front of your computer moving words around on a page, convincing yourself you’re doing good work. Which is it to be? MORE: All about relationships and teamwork

13) “I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.” Amelia Earhart

OK ladies, here’s one for you: we gotta REPRESENT. Not because I think women are any better or worse than men at all this writing stuff, but because our numbers aren’t as high and we gotta carry the banner and shout louder, either LITERALLY, via our own voices, or via our characters. So get cracking! MORE: Women! Know Your Place (everywhere)

14) “Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.” Thomas A. Edison

Remember quotes 2 and 5. Again. Seriously, I can’t underline this enough. And also, quit whining about rewriting stuff and thinking you can do it right first time or I’ll give you a punch. MORE: 5 Ways To Keep Up Stamina For Rewrites (And How To Know When It’s Done)

15) “I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”  Ed Sheeran

OK Ed Sheeran might not be a guy you’d expect on a list like this, but he’s got a point here. Writers are too often scared of offending people (see point 10), or excluding people from their target audiences, saying their work is “for everyone”. NEWSFLASH: your work is not for everyone. It can’t be for everyone. That’s NOT POSSIBLE. So find out WHO you are writing for because if you don’t know? No one else will either. MORE: Understanding Audience

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16) “It’s our choices … that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” JK Rowling

This is the thing. As the old adage goes, one (wo)man’s meat is another’s poison, so it doesn’t matter how great or talented or SUCCESSFUL you are, someone out there is going to think you suck. You can let that paralyse you, or you can get going and do whatever it is YOU want to do, dissenters be damned. MORE: Writers, Make A Choice

17)  “Everybody said, “Follow your heart”. I did, it got broken.” Agatha Christie

Writing will break your heart. Why? Because for every success you have, you have your hopes dashed tenfold. Get used to it. So make the successes count and DON’T hide your light under bushel. You’re not boasting, you’re celebrating. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. MORE: Ashton Kutcher’s 3 secrets for a great career

18) “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

No failure is fatal, you can always turn this around. And things are probably not as bad as you think they are. Seriously. When you’re really dejected, for whatever reason, do an Ian Rankin and take some time out – remember WHY you love writing, rediscover the joy. MORE: Failed? Then Make like Jennifer Lawrence … Here’s how 

19“There is no failure except in no longer trying.” Elbert Hubbard

If you quit, you’ll never know how close you came. It really is as simple as that. MORE: The Habits Of Successful Writers

20) “Lucy: You learn more when you lose / Charlie Brown: Well then I must be the smartest person in world!!!” ― Charles M. Schulz

Writers ARE losers because they keep going when everybody else quit long ago … And that’s what makes them winners!!! MORE: 5 Ways To Stay Focused On Your Writing Dream

So keep on keeping on … what is the alternative? If you need even more inspiration, why not check out my screenwriting books.

See you on the other side!!

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

Video games don’t get much of a mention here on B2W, so I was interested to hear from Christina on her thoughts about gaming and literature, especially as they chime with our previous posts on transmedia. I agree mediums are NOT as far apart as writers might first think, which in turn enables a lot of NEW opportunities. Some good food for thought for Writer Wednesday … enjoy!

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With the world of paper books and print media crumbling all around us, it’s hard to believe that there will be an existing industry for publishing in a few years’ time.

Everywhere we look, the traditional paperback is being replaced with Kindles, smartphones and tablets. It’s no secret that these devices are also synonymous with the gaming craze that has taken the 21st century by storm – but the links between modern day gaming and literature are more intrinsic than we might think. Here are five reasons why:

1) Gaming goes back as far as Victorian literature

Back in the 19th century, big names such as Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll were storming the literary scene with their critically acclaimed novels such as Great Expectations and Alice in Wonderland. Both books covered a variety of themes, but one thing they had in common was gaming, whether it was a game of cards between Pip and Miss Havisham or the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. MORE: What Is Transmedia?

 2) Today’s console games are inspired by literature

In an article published at Euro Gamer, it was revealed that many of today’s modern day video games take inspiration from famous books. For example, the creators of Kentucky Route Zero cited Spanish literature as one of their influences.

Developers Jake Elliot and Tamas Kemenczy said: “Some of our first points of reference when sketching and imagining Kentucky Route Zero were in fiction – the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Márquez and the southern gothic of Flannery O’Connor.” MORE: The Transmedia Starter Kit

3) Films have been doing it for years

The parallels between films and video games are only too apparent, such as Angelina Jolie in TOMB RAIDER or Aaron Paul action flick NEED FOR SPEED. But it works in reverse too: for example, the popular horror franchise SAW brought out its own XBox game, so there’s no reason why books shouldn’t be inspiring their own video games. MORE: 5 Ways Transmedia Can Help Scriptwriters

4) It’s the future of gaming

While consoles continue to go from strength to strength, there has been a very noticeable increase in recent years of online gaming. Many of these games have become so popular thanks to their literary influences – Mr Smith Casino is already experimenting with themes that have been explored in some of the greatest novels of all time, such as Game of Thrones: the novel inspired the TV series that inspired the game! MORE: 5 Reasons Writers Should Consider A Transmedia Project

5) Authors are now writing about it

The turn of the century saw a plethora of futuristic books being released that deal with the theme of video games. While Iain M.Banks Player of Games set the tone in 1988, there were many other releases from 2000 onwards that heavily feature the effects of video games, check them out! MORE: 5 Indie Storytellers Who Are Doing It Right

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BIO: Christina Lewis is a freelance writer who specialises in all things literature from the classic to the contemporary. Her favourite authors are the Brontë sisters and Gabriel García Márquez, but she also has a secret passion for old-school gaming (which she would rather keep a secret!).

Pssssst …

Do you have a guest post idea on games/gaming and what this medium can offer writers? Then get in touch. Here are the B2W submission guidelines.

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

In my previous post on transgender representation, I spoke to a range of people – writers, journalists, filmmakers, activists – most of them trans, to find out their thoughts on how transgender people are represented* in Comedy and Drama, on television and in film, at the moment.

*Pics inspired by this post from the BFI: 10 Great Transgender Films, check it out.

THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT (1994)

To find out where we’re going, I asked people what they want to see next. This is what they said:

1) Jo Clifford, playwright/performer. Trans* characters who are just getting on with our lives. Where our ‘transness’ is not particularly an issue.

2) CN Lester, musician/writer/activistSome diversity! Some trans people aren’t men or women, and all of us have a lot more going on in our lives than ‘being trans’. I don’t want to see another character who spends all their time playing out cis cliches of trans lives – it’s as done as the ‘tragic gay coming out’ trope. Don’t focus on our genitals and don’t make us into a walking punchline. If your trans characters aren’t as rich and exciting as your cis characters, ask yourself why.

TRANSAMERICA (2005)

TRANSAMERICA (2005)

3) Morgan M Page, performance + video artist/writer/activist. One of the major problems of cis people writing trans characters is that we’re treated as islands. There’s only ever one of us, unconnected to any others. And this is just not the reality of our lives. What I want to see are explorations of trans social settings, in which there are many characters who are trans, who each have their own ambitions and compulsions. And that isn’t possible to do if the writing room only has cis people in it, because most cis people can only ever imagine a singular trans narrative. They can dress it up however the like, but it boils down to the same old, tired story in the end. It’s just these days that story is portrayed as touching and empowering, whereas twenty years ago, that story was lurid and sensational.

4) Elaine Gallagher, writer: I’d like to see trans* people portrayed as people, and not as vehicles for issues or the angst and misunderstanding of cis people, and not only in pieces about gender. Just as you see people of colour as characters in TV shows or films without comment on their race, I’d like to see, say, a trans woman working as a crime scene investigator or a political analyst. While there is drama in trans* situations and struggles and sacrifices, and that has to be part of their character to be valid, it can’t be the whole of the character, which it has been in everything I’ve mentioned above.

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BOYS DON’T CRY (1999)

5) Rose Marshall, community worker/activist: I think we need more non binary voices, more Queer people, more trans people of colour, more agender people, more trans masculine/men, to show both trans and non trans people there is no one way to be a human being. We need to be shown as people with capacity, with talents, skills, hopes and fears outside our gender, without shying away from the impact societal disapproval has on mental and emotional wellbeing. In other words, we need to be portrayed in the same rich and diverse way non trans people are seen.

6) Debbie Moon, writer. I feel like we’re seeing a lots of trans women in television and film, and not many trans men, so perhaps there’s a balance to redress there. There are also elements of the trans experience that aren’t yet appearing in fiction. For example, increasing availability of drug treatments is allowing trans teenagers to delay puberty until they’ve completed surgery and/or transition. This means that most of those transitioning in the next ten years will live their whole adult life as their corrected gender. The traditional ‘trans narrative’ that we know from movies – feeling unhappy, cross-dressing, agonising about whether to seek help, and finally transitioning in their 20’s or later – is basically defunct. Those decisions are being made not by adults now, but by teens and tweens. This is excellent for them – but writers have yet to catch up with that. That’s a whole range of new and exciting stories to tell!

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MA VIE EN ROSE (1997)

7) Caroline Clarke, Queer YA blogger. I feel there is a lot of ‘I was born in the wrong body’ type of stories where the vision of gender is very binary and where the characters wants to/will transition to the gender they feel on the inside. This is only one aspect of an identity within the transgender umbrella and I would very much like to see more shades of grey (aka non-binary characters and story lines) when it comes to gender as opposed to go from girl to boy or vice versa without nothing in-between. Gender identity is so much more than simply changing a person’s gender expression, the way they dress, the way they act.

I also want to see a lot more of light-hearted stories, maybe some comedy. We absolutely need to watch and hear about stories that shed light on how transgender people are perceived and how much misunderstanding and violence there is, but we also need to have stories featuring trans characters who just happen to be trans characters.

8) Fox Fisher, filmmaker. It’s about putting yourself out there and creating the content you want to see. [Lucky Tooth Films] are making a shift from empowering and fresh documentary to realistic fictional stories, both comedy and drama. I’ve been attending more acting auditions and many industry bigwigs are aware that it’s more about incidental trans* representation on TV and film (for example my friend Leng Monty, a transguy who was on Masterchef). I would like to see more trans* input into trans* characters during the development stage, as well as trans* people being cast in that role as well. I would also like to see more trans* people playing cis roles, which would be true progression.

Our documentary, featuring 7 stories of trans people living in the UK, is coming out on C4 this year, and we get to present it as well. Lewis Hancox (the other co-founder of My Genderation) is writing a lot of comedy at the moment and when he is commissioned, it will be a ‘coming of age’ story which everyone will be able to relate to.

The Trans* Comedy Award, which Clare Parker (trans-female comedian) helped organise, through the BBC, revealed a lot of interesting scripts and ideas. Lock Up Your Daughters’ short film, High Heels Aren’t Compulsory came out of that. The winning script for the competition, Boy Meets Girl, is nearing completion. It stars Rebecca Root, a trans-woman who is playing a trans* character.

Change really is on the up, although again, there is very little trans-male and non-binary representation in film and TV.

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PARIS IS BURNING (1990)

9) Lisa Williamson, writer. More transgender character (and actors) on our screens! I’ve very excited about the new BBC sitcom, also called Boy Meets Girl, which features a trans actor, Rebecca Root, in the main role. Although there has been a slow increase of trans characters on our TV and film screens, their storylines (with a few exceptions) tend to be one-note, or focus solely on ‘issues’ rather than everyday life. Putting a trans character at the centre of a rom-com is just one of the ways we can go about presenting a truer and less sensationalist representation of the trans experience. So more of that please!

10) Claire Parker, writer/stand-up/radio presenter. As the media becomes more aware of the trans narrative we are in danger of seeing a split in perceived acceptance. Traditional media loves pretty pretty sparkly people. This has always been an issue but when we look at a pretty man or women in the traditional sense you don’t tend to question the potency of their gender, just their eye candy potential.

With trans people coming into the media we will see the same thing happen. Unfortunately they will choose trans people who most closely resemble the gender they identify with, and the most beautiful. This disenfranchises the demonstrably trans and will send a signal that the media considers you less of a man/woman/GQ and by inference that you are more acceptable the more you look like Cisgendered people. A heterosexual love story with a demonstrable trans person playing the role would be a great start in moving away from stereotyping beauty/gender for starters.

11) Michael Richardson, writer. A lot of people mentioned “transface” – the practice of a non-trans actor playing a trans person, read more about this on B2W, HERE – as something they’d like to see the back of, and I agree. For me, representation is about changing hearts and mind and Children’s programming is where we really need to get things right. CBBC made a great start last year with the documentary, I Am Leo, about a 13 year old trans boy. I’d love to see gender explored and expanded in children’s Comedy and Drama, and incidental trans characters become par for the course.

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DID YOU SEE PART 1? The same experts here share their notable trans characters of recent years. Read it HERE.

BIO: Michael Lee Richardson is a writer and youth worker based in Glasgow. In 2013, his Young Adult comedy script, Real Life Experience – about a young trans man starting his last year of school and socialising as a boy for the first time – was ‘highly commended’ for the Trans Comedy Award. As a youth worker, he set up and runs Trans* Youth Glasgow.

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

2014 was – according to TIME magazine – a ‘transgender tipping point’. Increased visibility of transgender people in the media – Laverne Cox, Laura Jane Grace, Paris Lees – brought the trans community into the spotlight.

Here in the UK, transgender characters are starting to become a staple of our rich diet of cops and docs, popping up as bit parts in Doctors, Holby and Casualty with increased regularity. Last year, Hollyoaks introduced a trans character, Blessing, and Paris Lees became the first openly trans person to play a trans person on UK television in a cameo on the show.

Executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins recently announced that he intended to introduce a trans character into EastEnders, the first in the soap’s history.

In film, Eric Schaeffer’s film Boy Meets Girl won Best Feature at The Iris Prize, the UK’s biggest LGBT film festival. Read more, HERE.

Inspired by Lucy’s 33 Experts posts, I spoke to a range of people, most of them trans, some of them with experience of writing trans characters, all of them with an interest in how trans people are represented onscreen, to find out their thoughts on transgender people on television and in film: where we are, and where we’re going.

To get an idea of where we are, I asked people who they thought were the most notable trans characters in film and television in recent years. This is what they said:

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1) Claire Parker, writer/stand-up/radio presenterWhile not a big fan of the show, I think Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street is the most notable recent trans character. I’ve always advocated that if you look at trans characterisation over time, a large percentage of the storylines have fallen into what I call the “four horsemen of the trans apocalypse”. In other words, the stereotypes of sex worker, murderer, victim and drug taker, or all of the above. Those stereotypes are not the case for most trans people. Hayley is a real life trans character, a woman (trans) existing and functioning in a cisgendered world where her story is everyday and matter of fact. Shopping, holidays, cinema, home life. Real life.

2) Morgan M Page, performance + video artist/writer/activist. “Most notable trans character” is a different question from “best trans character”. Obviously, in terms of notoriety, the lead on Amazon’s Transparent, or perhaps Unique on Glee. But both of those characters suffer from two major problems: firstly, they aren’t played by trans actors; and secondly, their storylines don’t really have much to do with actual trans people. Instead, their storylines revolve around the reactions cis people have to them. So they don’t even count as trans characters, because there’s nothing trans about them. Personally, I was impressed with Harmony Santana’s role as Vanessa in 2011 American independent drama Gun Hill Road. Similarly, Laverne Cox as Sophia on Orange is the New Black was a revelation.

3) Lisa Williamson, writer. I think I’ll have to go with Sophia Burset (played by Laverne Cox) in Orange is the New Black. Although her role is not large, her impact is and having a trans character played by a trans woman feature in such a popular mainstream show feels very significant. It also helps that off-screen Laverne speaks so wisely and eloquently about trans issues.

4) Debbie Moon, writer. There have been some really great trans characters over the last few years, so it’s a difficult decision, but I’m going to plump for Venus Van Dam, the trans sex worker who’s a recurring character on Sons of Anarchy. Her introduction was humorous, as a hired player in a scheme to blackmail a local businessman with incriminating photographs, but she was never played for laughs. In subsequent appearances, she’s been presented as a tough woman who’s lived a hard life and suffered abuse, but who remains compassionate, kind and determined to walk her own path, however hard. Yes, the trans sex worker is a cliche, but the writers (and actor Walton Goggins) have worked hard to make her a person.

Venus feels important to me because of her context. Though the female characters in Sons of Anarchy have always been surprisingly strong, a testosterone-driven crime drama set in a male-dominated subculture doesn’t feel like a natural place to find a sympathetic trans female. There are people watching and caring about Venus who would never watch Transparent or Orange Is the New Black, and that makes her an important step forward for representation – and a great character!

5) CN Lester, musician/writer/activistI have a feeling Laverne Cox in Orange is the New Black is going to be a popular choice here – and is a total favourite of mine – but I’m going to say Bethany Black’s character Helen in Cucumber and Banana. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Bethany a couple of times, and I love that they got someone so smart and funny, and such an important community figure, to be the trans actress behind a relatable, real trans character.

6) Fox Fisher, filmmaker. In the UK, we are still working to increase this. Julie Hesmondhalgh who played Hayley on Coronation Street helped a lot of people because although it was a trans character played by a cis-gender person, she was very likeable and really helped to ‘normalise’ being trans, particularly for people like my mum, who is a long-time Corrie fan and took a bit of time to get to grips with my own transition. The guy who commissions Hollyoaks was telling me they had learned a lot from the Blessing trans plot-line and I am working with them to help find something more long-term, involving an actor who is very young right now. I think a focus on the youth is what’s required.

7) Rose Marshall, community worker/activist. I love the stuff produced by My Genderation because it reflects the wide diversity of the lived experiences of the trans community. People sharing their own stories is a powerful way to break down stereotypes. Also programmes like Transparent are really good at showing how a trans character fitted in to a family and that their ‘transness’ was not to be the most dysfunctional aspect of the family. Sophia in Orange is the New Black is a powerful voice for trans women of colour, and it was good to see her back story presented in a sympathetic way.

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8) Elaine Gallagher, writer: I don’t go out of my way to watch trans* people in film and television, in part because it is too close to home for me, so I am made aware of characters by comments elsewhere. I have seen Laverne Cox’s character in Orange is the New Black – who hasn’t? – and Jeffrey Tambor’s in Transparent. I have also heard about the cross-dressing villain in Boxtrolls, and thankfully before I saw the film, so I was able to avoid it. For me the standout recently has been the viewpoint character in the film Tomboy. The sensitivity with which their questioning of their gender was portrayed was wonderful.

9) Caroline Clarke, Queer YA blogger. The French film Tomboy is a fascinating study of gender. The director does not put a label on the main character Laure/Mikaël who could be trans or not. It focuses on who the character feels they are, as opposed to labels. The character of Max in The L Word was also fascinating. I think it’s a general misconception that L, G, B and T people all get along and understand each other’s sexuality and gender identity. Max was originally included in this group of lesbian and bisexual women on the assumption that he was a butch lesbian, but – after coming out – he was rejected by his girlfriend because ‘she didn’t want to date men’.

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10) Michael Richardson, writerOne of the best trans characters I’ve seen recently wasn’t on film or on television, but online, in the web series High Maintenance. If there’s a formula to the series, it’s the writers taking familiar characters and tropes and just turning them, ever so slightly. In Rachel, Dan Stevens plays a pot-smoking crossdresser. I think it’s what isn’t in there that resonates with me; his crossdressing isn’t played for laughs, and he isn’t crossdressing for sexual kicks but as something he does for comfort when he’s hanging around the house. When his wife arrives home to find him wearing a dress, I was so ready for her to be hysterical about it, because I’ve seen that story play out so many times. But she doesn’t – she’s only mad that he’s been smoking in the house!

11) Jo Clifford, playwright: Our absence. Far more noticeable, far more eloquent of the state of our culture, than our presence.

Next Time: 

Find out what our experts have to say about what they want to see next from trans characters! Read part 2, HERE.

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BIO: Michael Lee Richardson is a writer and youth worker based in Glasgow. In 2013, his Young Adult comedy script, Real Life Experience – about a young trans man starting his last year of school and socialising as a boy for the first time – was ‘highly commended’ for the Trans Comedy Award. As a youth worker, he set up and runs Trans* Youth Glasgow.

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

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