B2W_thriller screenplays

While plot is important, any script will fall flat without the right characters to propel it forwards. Making the audience like (or hate) and care about the characters is extremely important, so you can’t just create a one-dimensional and bland template that you fit to every character. Rather, you should draw on inspiration to make your characters all as unique and interesting as possible.

Try these sources next time you need a new character idea:

1) Your past

It’s not a good idea to base a character directly on someone you know, as you might end up being sued for defamation if it becomes public knowledge. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t draw ideas from people in your past.

For example, take the two teachers you hated as a kid and combine them into one mega-evil teacher who stalks the students in your fictional school with a passionate hatred. Make a caricature of the best friend who made you laugh until you parted ways in high school. Use your past as inspiration. MORE: How True Can A True Story Be?

2) Real people you see

Finding inspiration in the real world is easy, and it just requires you to pay attention every once in a while. When you need to think of a new character, try going to a public place where they might hang out, such as a bar or a café. Wait around, look, and listen to the people around you.

What are they talking about? Do they have quirky mannerisms or a particular way of speaking? How do they look? Can you see their personality just by looking at them? What are they doing?

Use these ideas to form characters that are realistic and nuanced – the kind of characters that an audience might nod about and recognise from their own lives.

B2W_drama screenplays

3) Yourself

A lot of writers end up including themselves in their work, whether they mean to or not. It’s natural to write about what you know, and therefore it’s no surprise that your character might be a jazz fan if you know all that there is to know about the genre.

But you can also take inspiration from the person that you would like to be, or the person you could have been if life had gone in a different direction. Using your own character traits is easy, because you know them inside out. Just be careful not to do this every time, as your characters may end up becoming very similar. MORE: Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make With True Stories 

4) Other media

There are characters around us all of the time – in books, on television, in movies, and even in songs. With such a huge amount to choose from, you are bound to find some of them inspiring enough to want to create a replica of your own. Be careful not to copy a character wholesale – again, you are better off combining traits of several great characters to make one that works and is original.

For example, if you wanted to create a fantastic villain, you might give him Voldemort’s tenacity; Darth Vader’s terrifying power and mystery; plus Dracula’s invincibility. The resulting character is never too close to any of the examples, but instead has its own particular appeal.

If you throw in at least one unique trait, such as the character masquerading as someone normal, then you have the basis for a superb new villain that no one has ever heard of before!

5) Dreams

You can also draw inspiration from your dreams, if you remember them. Just as the plots in our dreams can often be interesting, you might also meet or speak to people who do not exist in real life. These people can easily become characters in your work.

Your subconscious has dreamed these people up, so chances are that they are unique and fresh, rather than being based on someone else’s work. Try describing them to a friend or two if you are worried that you might have borrowed them from somewhere. If you are able to use this source, make sure to jot down ideas as soon as you wake up, before the dream fades. MORE: 5 Ways Of Bringing Real Life Into Storytelling

Good luck!

BIO: Kate Thora is a Senior Content Specialist for Uphours, an online resource with information about companies. In her spare time, she loves writing and painting while surrounded by nature. Follow her on Twitter @katethora1.

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Whether we’re writing screenplays or novels, there are multiple filler words that take up unnecessary space. Chew on these little blighters that creep into our scene descriptions and novel sentences and make sure you CHOP THEM OUT today!

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1) Just

‘Just’ is actually a good word and has several functions, including time (as in ‘recently’) or to make sentences stronger (‘Just STOP!’).

Unfortunately, writers let it creep in so often it becomes a beat in the sentence and adds to flabby prose.

2) Really

This is a word that relates to certainty, but yet again, writers just use it randomly as a filler, so much so they may use two of them together! As Prince would say in Housequake, ‘I mean, really? REALLY.’

3) Very

This one is to add emphasis, as in ‘The situation is very serious.’ Immediately we know it’s not *just* serious (arf). But again, writers shove lots of ‘verys’ in, so dilute its power. As a result, it’s gotta go!

4) Ask

This word relates to either a question or a request, but turns up waaaay too often in novels – especially when we consider all its synonyms like ‘enquire’. Bleurgh. In screenplays, characters may talk about asking one another more than actually ask the questions in the first place! Ack. Cut, cut, cut.

5) Those pesky ‘ly’ words

Veteran writer and supreme wordsmith Stephen King said, ‘The road to hell is paved with adverbs’ and he’s not wrong!

Adverbs are those ‘ly’ words like completely, definitely, totally, absolutely, supremely, darkly, finally etc etc. Littering your novel or screenplay with them is NOT a good idea. So here is some custom writing help – take them all out. Oh look – better already!

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6) Some

This word is a ‘determiner’ which means how it’s used will give us an indication of what is meant by it. For example:

  • Some people don’t know when to keep their traps shut.
  • Wow, that was some party!

As you can see, one connotes anger and the other connotes the notion it was good. You know which is which from the context.

‘Some’ also may be used to give the impression of a ‘large amount’ of something too, ie. ‘It will be some time before I can face them’.

As ever though, SOME writers just shove it in cuz they feel like it!

7) Start

No novelist or screenwriter needs the word ‘start’, especially when it comes to the actions of their characters. If characters are not what they say, but what they DO, then they should just DO STUFF! (With this in mind, get rid of ‘goes to …’ as well – ta to fellow script editor @ellinst for the nudge.)

8) Shrug

A verb, the dictionary defines ‘shrug’ as ‘to raise your shoulders and then lower them in order to say you do not know or are not interested’. This is okay as an action goes, but is wildly overused. It becomes filler when writers shove it in to fill a line. If you find yourself using it every scene, you really need to take another look at your writing.

9) Then

This word refers to time, either ‘before’ or ‘future’ … but given our stories need to feel CURRENT and in the ‘now’ (whatever tense/person you’re using, whether novel or screenplay), it’s unlikely you even need this one at all. Try chopping it out and seeing what happens. Bet you don’t even miss it!

10) But

‘But’ is used to introduce an added statement, usually something that is different from what you have said before, ie.

  • She’s not a screenwriter but a novelist (= she is a novelist, not a screenwriter).
  • She’s not only a novelist, but also a screenwriter (= she is both).

BUT (!) it seems writers have a dose of the ‘Vicky Pollards’ – “Yeah … but … No … but … yeah … but!!” GET RID!

Which of the above do you use too much? Share in the comments!

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SUBMISSION FAILS

You have hundreds of pages of a shiny submission all ready to go. The words you’ve painstakingly churned out have been read and re-read and checked, edited, checked, tweaked and checked again!

So let’s try and give you and your script a fighting chance, here’s what NOT to do when submitting your script …

6)  … Ignore the submissions guidelines

I see you rolling your eyes at me. Yes, they must be read. Yes, they must be followed, TO THE LETTER. The first person who gets to look at your work will be looking for any excuse to throw it out and sling a form rejection at you. Follow the guidelines. It might take a lot of jiggery-pokery your end to faff around with formatting for every submission, but put your big kid pants on and do it. Ignore this at your peril. MORE: 29 ways NOT to Submit to an Agent by BFLA’s Carole Blake, plus How NOT to Pitch Agents: 21 Tips For Agents by NY literary agent Jennifer Johnson-Blalock

5) … Chuck your script at just **anyone**

These days there are a lot of places you can submit your script. The options are vastly improved compared to the old days. But with great opportunities, come the pitfalls. The old adage may well be old, but it’s still relevant – if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Don’t just sling your script at anyone because once it falls into the wrong hands, your chance of making money or gaining in any way from it is screwed.

4 ) … Show yourself up online

You know who gets submitted along with your script? YOU! In this modern online world, every social media post you make is a reflection on you. Remember people GOOGLE names! So, that tweet you sent months ago verbally bashing the place you just sent your script to? That sucker is gonna bite you on the backside. So don’t do it. Your online presence is your office, and if you gossip and bad-mouth around the office, management aren’t gonna like it. Be professional, your script deserves a decent human representative. MORE: 5 Ways Writers Kill Their Credibility Online

LIAR LIAR

3) … Lie your pants off

An extension of point 4, often you’ll be asked to provide a brief bio along with the script. It can be awfully tempting to make up stuff to over-sell your experience, but don’t. These things always get found out. Imagine you’re two steps away from signing a contract with a prestigious production company and someone stumbles across the truth behind that little white lie you added into your bio. If they can’t trust you to be who you say you are, then they won’t want to trust a business transaction with you.

2 ) … Be impatient

You know your baby is going to be the next big thing, so it shouldn’t take someone too long to find that out, right? Wrong. Don’t follow up your submission with phone calls and emails to check on the status too quickly. Some companies with online portals may give you a little status screen you can log into – but even then, you’ll probably log in once a day and only see “In progress” or something along those lines, for a couple of months. Sit on your hands, whistle a tune, do some knitting – do whatever, just leave it alone and wait your turn.

1 ) … Give up!

Be prepared for rejection. I always approach things hoping for the best but expecting the worst. You need a thick skin in this industry and rejection is a rite of passage for almost everyone, but try not to let it get you down. If you’re fortunate enough to receive notes with a rejection then take them on board, learn from them, adjust accordingly and move on. You are not a perfect script writer, because there is no such thing. But that doesn’t mean you should give up. Your piece may not be the right thing for that producer at this time, that doesn’t mean it won’t ever find a place. Keep the faith and don’t take it personally. MORE: Making It As A Writer: 25 Reasons You Haven’t Yet

Good luck!

BIO: E.C. Jarvis is a British author working mainly in speculative and fantasy fiction genres. Since 2015, she has independently published six books spanning two different genres and series’, and had four short stories published in a range of different anthologies.If you like action packed, fast-paced page turners, then try one of her books. There’s never a dull moment in those pages. She was born in Surrey, England in 1982. She now resides in Hampshire, England with her daughter and husband. For more information, visit her website HERE.

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If you’ve been hiding under a rock or been away in outer space, you may have missed that last year I launched my own author site for my novel writing at www.lucyvhayauthor.com!

I decided to combine my love of movies AND books and create a ‘Book Versus Film’ feature over there … So far we’ve had some BRILLIANT case studies and some surprising conclusions, written by moi and some other excellent contributors. If you want to read them, CLICK HERE.

Don’t forget to follow me as @LucyVHayAuthor on Twitter for interviews with crime writers, reading recommendations and round ups of reading-related products and other fun stuff. You can also join my ‘Criminally Good Book Club’ HERE for first notification of my novel news as well as giveaways.

By the way, if you want to write a ‘Book Versus Film’ for the site, you can find the details HERE. Look forward to hearing from you! Enjoy …

DON’T FORGET:

You can sign up for The Criminally Good Book Club, HERE.

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Aspiring Writer_B2W

It’s no secret writers need a way to stand out on all of their platforms. We only have a few seconds to convince readers to stay engaged, or they will find something else to occupy their minds.

One way to do this is create a compelling bio. It’s worth your time to craft an amazing bio, instead of just throwing one together, because your bio can help you gain more fans on so many different platforms!

Bios can be found on your website, your twitter profile, your Amazon book pages, your Amazon author page, your Facebook profile and pages, on blog posts if you’re guest posting, pretty much wherever people can find you or your writing needs a compelling and catchy biography.

Your bio should not be a shortened memoir. You need to put some serious thought into these 10 tips to create a short and sweet bio that represents you and resonates with the right people –your future fans!

1. Know what you write about

Whether you are a screenwriter or novelist, the first step to creating your online brand and finding your fans is to know what it is you write about. Among all the creative work out there, where does your writing fit in?

2. Know who you write for

Similarly, you need to be clear who you write for. Who are those people who are most likely to not just like, but LOVE, what you have to share with the world? Will those people want to know that you’re a credible expert in your area? Or will they be drawn to your spunky personality or unique viewpoint?

3. Keep it short

It will take effort and practice, but aim to include the most important information about you and your work in 75 words. The agreed upon best practice is a max of 150 words, so you have some wiggle room, but keep narrowing down to the most important details to keep it concise. Most people don’t want to read seven paragraphs of text.

4. Know which personality and tone fits

Keep your personality for your bio consistent with your work. If you write comedy screenplays, add a humorous tone to your bios. If you’re a thriller writer, incorporate suspense. Keep everything about the work you’re promoting and your bio united to create a memorable author brand.

5. Have a punchy, attention-grabbing intro

You may only have your first sentence to grab a reader’s attention, so make it punchy, like Lucy’s: “Straight talking script editor with an eye for structure. You know what you’re going to get there. If you’re interested in a no-BS script editor, then you’ll probably poke around to learn more. If you’re not, then you know right away you’re not in the right place.

B2w_Marilyn Monroe

6. Use third person

It might be awkward, but it’s best to write in the third person when writing anything, “About the Author.” Everyone knows you wrote it, but it sounds weird (and a little conceited) if you write I did this and I did that…

7. You are not an “aspiring writer”!

This one’s simple: do NOT include the words “aspiring writer” anywhere on your website, profiles, or bios. If you are writing, you ARE a writer.

8. Establish credibility, but don’t overly brag

Don’t be shy here. Unless you’re a household name, you need to tell people why they should read/watch/buy your creation over the millions of others. If you won an award or were featured in a bestseller list, share that! These things help people begin to trust you.

9. Use it to connect

Use your bio to share more about you and your work, as well as where people can connect with you. A bio on your website can include your social media links, while a bio on your social media profile should include your website. That way, wherever people happen to find you, they know where else you mingle online.

10. Finish with a call to action

At the end of your bio, tell readers what to do next. What do you hope readers will do? Buy your book? Visit your website? Follow you on social media? Finish with a specific call to action to help people stay engaged with you and your work, so they turn from your readers into your fans.

Here are some of my favorite  that model many of these tips for creating a bio that turns readers into your fans.

BIO: When Dave Chesson is not sipping tea with princesses or chasing the Boogey man out of closets, he’s a Kindlepreneur and digital marketing nut. Dave teaches authors advanced book marketing tactics at Kindlepreneur.com.

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9780857301178‘How to write diverse characters’ gets a whopping 13+million results on Google. Wow! This is why I’m currently writing a new writing book, Writing Diverse Characters For Fiction, Film and TV for Oldcastle Books, which is out September 2017.

But seriously, where do we start?!!

As any long term Bang2writer knows, I’m not a big fan of tests and whatnot. For me, story is king (or queen!) and if drama is conflict (and it is!), then box-ticking should NOT be on the agenda.

That said, for those writers who’ve never thought about diversity or representation and the challenges it can bring to writing before (especially for specific groups), then tests may become relevant as starting points we can consider.

Links & Tests

So,maybe the various tests, pledges and resolutions below will be illuminating, maybe they will be common sense. Like I said, they’re a starting point. Check ’em out after the jump. Good luck!

Stop saying ‘diversity’. Start writing VARIETY!

The 1 Gender Swap That Could Make All The Difference In Your Story

Top 5 Diversity Mistakes Writers Make

Top 7 Things Writers Can Do To Improve Diversity & Inclusion

12 Character Archetypes And How To Use Them

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The Bechdel Test

Sometimes called the Bechdel-Wallace Test, this asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women or girls who talk to each other about something other than a man or boy. The requirement that the two women or girls must be named is sometimes added.

As I’ve written before, I think The Bechdel Test is limited – ironically – because it is so broad. That said, again it’s a great starting point for those writers who’ve never considered the fact that we nearly always see stories from the male POV.

The Racial Bechdel Test

The Racial Bechdel Test does the same as above, but stipulates instead that there must be more than one character of colour; and/or at least two characters of colour must have a conversation which has to be about something other than a white person.

Sometimes, The Racial Bechdel Test says instead there should be: 

a) two main characters who are people of colour

b) talk to each other without

c) mentioning race.

Whichever a writer chooses, this one can serve as a reminder for writers that white people are not the be-all and end-all of story worlds.

Disability Bechdel Test

There doesn’t seem to be an ‘accepted’ version of this test, which says a lot. There’s lots of proposed versions however and most of them make points about how disabled characters are too often tragic or inspiring (or both). Obviously drama is conflict (so therefore struggle is part of that), but where are the ‘feelgood’ stories involving disabled characters?

a) There (is) a major named character with a disability in the movie who exists and takes action under personal motivation without needing approval from others.

b) And who comments on disability as a real experience – not an ennobling one, not one of pity, or one as comic relief.

c) And who isn’t smothered with a pillow or done away for their own good.

More potential versions of this one, HERE.

The Russo Test 

This is one of the few tests advocated specifically by an organisation, in this case GLAAD – The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

The Russo Test takes its lead from The Bechdel Test, but provides more context not only for LGBT characters, but their actual placement in the plot. I actually think this version is pretty good and offers up some good guidelines for writers.

1) The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender (LGBT).

2) That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity (i.e. the character is made up of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight characters from one another).

3) The LGBT character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect. Meaning they are not there to simply provide colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or (perhaps most commonly) set up a punchline; the character should matter.

The Neon Test

I also found this version, specifically for transgender characters, which is called after the blog that posed this version.

Taking its lead very obviously from the Bechtel Test, it nevertheless makes a great point that trans characters too often exist solely on either end of extreme scales (comedy/tragedy) in terms of narrative.

The Neon Test proposes that a work must feature a character whom:

a) the audience knows is trans

b) In a non-principal role

c) Where their trans status is neither the source of comedy nor tragedy

HERE is where I found The Neon Test.

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Beyond Tests & Writing

Moving beyond the actual writing as well, there are a number of pledges and resolutions writers and filmmakers can consider. These include (but are not limited to):

Pledge For Gender Parity

International Women’s Day happens every March and puts ALL females in the spotlight, not just writers or characters.

IWD has a ‘pledge for parity‘ in business, politics, leadership etc as well as creativity. It’s sobering that women always seem to have break their way into the man’s world … and this even happens in our stories, with male characters in charge, with just a few females added to the macho mix. Why? 9/10 there’s no real story reason for this.

It’s worth thinking about how gender parity could impact on your own vision of female power in your story, no?

3 Commandments On Race

I googled ‘pledge for writing about race’ and found this article by Xu Xi on the Brevity non fiction blog, where she writes:

a) Stop writing about race and write about how people live instead.

b) In writing about race, never take the truth in vain.

c) Never, ever bear false witness against yourself in what you observe of race, regardless.

This one’s points to some pretty deep stuff, so I think you should probably read the whole article. (If you’re not sure what she’s on about, then that’s probably a clue you need to read more on race).

The Lexa Pledge

The Lexa Pledge is named after a character in dystopian TV show The 100, following controversy at her demise in 2016. There was outcry concerning the number of ‘dead lesbians’ portrayed in fiction, especially on TV, which campaigners call the ‘Bury Your Gays’ trope.

In response, a number of screenwriters and show runners promised to follow The Lexa Pledge as follows:

  1.  We will ensure that any significant or recurring LGBTQ characters we introduce, to a new or pre-existing series, will have significant storylines with meaningful arcs.
  2. When creating arcs for these significant or recurring characters we will consult with sources within the LGBTQ community, like queer writers or producers on staff, or members of queer advocacy groups like GLAAD, The Trevor Project, It Gets Better, Egale, The 519, etc.
  3. We recognise that the LGBTQ community is underrepresented on television and, as such, that the deaths of queer characters have deep psychosocial ramifications.
  4. We refuse to kill a queer character solely to further the plot of a straight one.
  5. We acknowledge that the Bury Your Gays trope is harmful to the greater LGBTQ community, especially to queer youth. As such, we will avoid making story choices that perpetuate that toxic trope.
  6. We promise never to bait or mislead fans via social media or any other outlet.
  7. We know there is a long road ahead of us to ensure that the queer community is properly and fairly represented on TV. We pledge to begin that journey today.

 The InspoPornResolution

‘Inspiration Porn’ is the name given to stories in which disabled characters’ struggles are seen as automatically noble and/or inspiring, which can be a great source of irritation (at least) for the disabled community.

In addition, this resolution makes a great point about ‘co-opting’ – ie. EXPLOITING – others’ experiences in your writing, especially cutting out those with that experience from the process.

  1.  I will not co-opt the disability experience for the consumption of others.
  2. I will not assume understanding of disabled experience. I will check my privilege and ask questions.
  3. When in doubt about language, I will ask and respect the way disabled people self-identify and use resources such as the style guide from the National Center on Disability and Journalism for general guidelines.
  4. I will ask my publication to hire and pay disabled writers, editors, collaborators, consultants.

More information on The InspoPorn Resolution, HERE.

Concluding

With all these things in mind, I think writers writing diverse characters – whether female, BAME, LGBT and/or disabled – need to bear in mind the following to write better diverse characters … if you like, we can call it:

The B2W Pledge For Diverse Characters:

  • The character is not *just* a plot device or role function
  • Stay away from stereotypes, stock characters and ‘the same-old, same-old’
  • Always do your research and due diligence

Good luck!

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MacGuffin - definition

The statue from The Maltese Falcon. The grail from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. “Rosebud” from Citizen Kane. They all have one thing in common: they are MacGuffins — persons, places, or things which the characters are all seeking, but which have little plot value of their own.

The MacGuffin is the ultimate “prize” of every quest movie ever made. It is the microfilm from spy movies, the trophy from sports movies, and the mission objective from war movies. The MacGuffin acts as a sort of temporary stand-in, creating an immediate plot point as the story gradually pivots from centering around objects to centering around characters.

Proper use of the MacGuffin can serve to keep the plot moving at a rapid pace, whilst improper use can result in limp writing! Here are six tips to keep in mind when using the MacGuffin:

1) Tell us Why It’s Important …

If your protagonist is going to spend most of the movie/book searching for “the documents”, it is important to relay at least once to the audience:

  • why these documents are important;
  • why the hero wants them;
  • plus the possible implications of NOT retrieving them.

If the MacGuffin is made too vague, the audience will not be able to properly empathise with the protagonist.

To sum up: Tell us why the heck we should care about the MacGuffin!

2) … But Don’t Make It Too Important!

It is important to have balance when using MacGuffins in your writing. While it is important to properly explain what your MacGuffin is (and why your character wants it), remember that your story ultimately serves your characters, not your plot devices.

It is considered a good rule of thumb to establish the MacGuffin in the first act, then all but forget it for the rest of the story. Consider the above-mentioned Citizen Kane: after the mystery surrounding “Rosebud” is established early on, focus is placed more and more on Kane himself and the course his life takes.

To sum up: Characters trump MacGuffins. Always.

3) Set the Stakes

One of the reasons a MacGuffin can be so valuable, especially to a thriller or suspense story, is that it can serve as the benchmark for “the stakes”. While every film or story contains some ultimate goal of some kind, the lengths to which characters will go to attain it vary based on the plot.

While winning a little league trophy might be a perfectly acceptable goal for a particular character, it is not something Jason Bourne is likely to drive 100 miles an hour through the streets of Berlin for … BUT top secret nuclear plans might be. The MacGuffin is the end that justifies the means.

To sum up: What level of “danger” does the MacGuffin add to the plot?

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4) MacGuffin as a Double-Edged Sword

MacGuffins can be made infinitely more dynamic if they can act as a double-edged sword, in other words:

“If Joe gets there first, then A happens, but if Jill gets there first then B happens.”

In this way, the MacGuffin serves as the turning point, one way or the other, depending on who obtains it.

A perfect example of this is the ark from Raiders of the Lost Ark. While it would still be exciting watching Jones make his way around the world in search of the Ark of the Covenant, the knowledge that his failure will result in Nazis seizing the ark increases the level of tension tenfold.

This is an important concept to make note of, as it deeply highlights motivation: the same goal can provide different outcomes based on character.

To sum up: Different characters, different motivations.

5) The MacGuffin as an Abstract

It doesn’t always have to be a priceless artifact or a briefcase full of money. The MacGuffin can be an abstract goal as well.

Take It’s a Wonderful Life as an example. For much of the film, George’s desire to leave Bedford Falls and explore the world serves as a MacGuffin, with the unfolding of his truly wonderful life as the true heart of the story.

Keep in mind that if the abstract goal the protagonist is chasing is in fact a MacGuffin, it must ultimately be revealed for what it is: a superficial goal that does not serve as the catalyst of change in the character’s life. In the Wonderful Life example, all the growth and knowledge George expected to gain by leaving Bedford falls he actually achieves by staying in his hometown.

To sum up: A MacGuffin doesn’t have to be a treasure chest. It’s ok to get artsy.

6) The MacGuffin in Humour

The MacGuffin is any sitcom’s best friend. Let’s face it: we’re not watching Seinfeld because we want to introspect. We want to laugh.

Using a MacGuffin is a great way to structure any form of comedic writing, from a simple skit to a three-act play. The idea of characters pursuing an ultimately non-essential goal lends itself effortlessly to humor.

Take as an example the movie Home Alone. In this film, two burglars attempt to burgle the home of a young boy who has pledged himself to defend it. In this case, the MacGuffin, which happens to be the McAllister home and presumably the valuables within, serves as nothing more than the breeding ground for one hilarious bit of practical humor after another. The fact that the two burglars have an almost unnatural obsession with robbing the house almost pokes fun at the concept of MacGuffins themselves.

To sum up: Use the MacGuffin to make ‘em laugh!

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Concluding:

Ultimately, the most important thing to remember about MacGuffins is that they are okay. Many mistakenly think that since the MacGuffin serves no real plot purpose of its own that it is unacceptable as a story device. Ironically, the MacGuffin actually adds a level of realism to stories, as chasing after goals, either tangible or intangible, is an undeniable human trait. As you continue writing, you will find that proper use of the MacGuffin will greatly improve the pace and readability of your story/script.

BIO: Jonathan Vars is a Christian fiction writer from New England, founder of the writing website voltampsreactive.com. His work in literary analysis of classic films and literature has been published by academic websites and he is the author of the soon to be released novel Like Melvin for which he is currently writing a sequel. In addition to writing, Jonathan enjoys running, painting, and trying not to freeze to death in the winter. He is currently willing to consider guest blogs for his website.

More on Plotting On B2w:

3 Things To Remember For Act 3

3 Things You Need To Know About Plot Holes

On Writing: Writing Planning Beats Seat-Of-Your-Pants Every Time

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We Love Lone Wolves!

Every day, the Google search term ‘lone wolf’ brings Bang2writers to this blog … First though, let’s hear what author G X Todd has to say about her own ideas and inspiration behind her Lone Wolf character, Pilgrim from her bestseller book Defender:

I quickly realised that I wouldn’t be happy writing about a lone man who experiences so little human contact; I also feared it would bore readers to death.  I decided that Pilgrim would unconsciously create a coping mechanism to deal with being all alone in this new world; a coping mechanism that would allow him to hear a voice in his head, a voice that had a mind of its own. Even a lone wolf needs a little company sometimes.

(G X Todd)

So, let’s break it down and look at the 8 main types of Lone Wolf and HOW we can write them … Chew on these for size:

1) The Hero

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Example: Ripley

‘The Hero’ is a natural leader, just like Ripley. Others are dependent on them and their skills. The Hero is shown to have equal intelligence to their strength and considered an everyman/woman amongst their peers.

  • They have morals and these are NEVER compromised
  • They make other characters work as a team
  • They nearly ALWAYS win the fight
  • Usually the main protagonist
  • Their role as leader progresses and strengthens through their ordeal

2) One-Man Army

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Example: Logan

The ‘One-Man Army’ is the lone wolf that doesn’t need back-up. Often made to be a ‘super-soldier’ with an extreme ability or superhuman power to confirm their status. Logan is a force to be reckoned with as a mutant with an adamantium skeleton, claws, superhuman strength and accelerated healing powers.

  • Underestimated at first
  • Has an extreme ability or power
  • Psychological state damaged due to their powers/abilities
  • Doesn’t always kill to defeat the masses

3) The Informed Loner

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Example: Pilgrim

‘The Informed Loner’ can be physically and/or mentally isolated from others. Their loneliness allows them to see their world differently, just like Pilgrim from ‘Defender’.  Just like G X Todd mentioned earlier, it can be tricky writing dialogue for this type of lone Wolf.

  • Isolated physically/mentally from others
  • Socially awkward/ sometimes emotionless
  • Sees the world differently
  • Has different values because of their outcast status

4) Good Is Not Nice

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Example: The Bride

‘Good Is Not Nice’ means this type of lone wolf is capable of violent acts but are morally inclined towards good just like The Bride from Kill Bill. The Bride is averse to emotional expressions of love, gratitude or repentance which is typical of the Good Is Not Nice type while seeking justice and revenge.

  • A strong sense of duty – right and wrong
  • Intimidate their enemies with their cruel sense of justice
  • Does not get close to others – the enemy uses them as a weakness
  • Usually live in a cynical universe – being nice does not mean a happy ending

5). The Cowboy Cop

17328202_10154628712909132_1200392054_nExample: Dirty Harry

‘The Cowboy Cop’ is probably the most recognised type of lone wolf made famous by Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry. This type of lone wolf is a loose cannon, driven purely by instinct. The Cowboy Cop doesn’t play by the rules and will go to extreme measures to right any wrongs.

  • They bend the rules to save others
  • Unpredictable actions and sometimes irresponsible
  • Contacts on ‘the other side’, able to infiltrate/go undercover
  • Driven by instinct and can go to extreme lengths

6) ‘Think Nothing of It’

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Example: Eleven, ‘Elle’

‘Think Nothing of It’ is the lone wolf that considers saving everybody as part of the day job, it’s routine. They are often shy and the cause of the problem that others need to be saved from. For example, Eleven ‘Elle’ is the only person who can destroy the monster she accidentally brought with her from the Upside Down world.

  • Modest/shy when receiving praise/gratitude
  • Responsible for the cause of danger and MUST stop it
  • Can only manifest their strength or ‘power’ during extreme emotional outbursts
  • Considered innocent but capable of dark actions to save others

7) The Anti-Hero

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Example: John Creasy

‘The Anti-Hero’ is the cynical protagonist. They usually have a troubled backstory that causes moral conflict. Other characters are often used to teach them the value of love, friendship and trust resulting in the anti-hero stepping up to save the day.

  • They do not hesitate to kill
  • Cynical and flawed protagonist
  • Troubled backstory – suicidal, alcoholic etc
  • Their physical and moral strength are not equal. It’s a struggle to do the right thing.

8) The ‘Something’ Man/Woman

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Example: Luke Cage/Jessica Jones

The ‘Something’ man/woman is a lone wolf that has become a hero due to unfortunate circumstances and uses common themes of super strength, skill or control of elements to save others such as Luke Cage and Jessica Jones.  Usually inhabit a gritty and dangerous world or ‘underworld’.

The ‘Something’ Man/Woman characteristics:

  • They use super strength/skill or other elements to win
  • Similar to the super-soldier/superhuman
  • An accident of sorts usually causes them to become a lone wolf
  • Live in a gritty and dangerous world with real consequences

So, there we have the 8 main types of lone wolf and characteristics that define them. Obviously, there are MANY examples of Lone Wolf that could represent each category …

… Which is YOUR favourite?

IMG_8071BIO: Hello, my name is Olivia Brennan, a 25 year old who was first inspired by the power of film when I cowered behind a cushion watching JAWS, aged 6. I work as a Freelance Writer, Blogger & Assistant Script Editor. Check out my blog HERE or Facebook Page The Final Frontier. Feel free to follow me on twitter as @LivSFB and say hi!

For more on lone wolves & Thrillers:

thrillerCLICK 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.

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Okay, okay I hate rules as every Bang2writer knows … But there ARE phrases and adages that seem to pop up, over and over. So I decided to put 10 under the microscope and work out if they’re TRUE or FALSE – do you agree? Enjoy!

RULES

1) Show, Don’t Tell

First, the biggie. As I’ve written before, this has become a feedback ‘catch all’  – writers can’t even be sure if it’s relevant to them, especially when feedback-givers so often don’t qualify it! So it’s no wonder writers hate this so-called ‘rule’ with a passion. I know I do! That said, like most writing adages, it is good stuff at foundation level … IF you know why it’s being applied to your own work!

STATUS: True (ish) MORE: ‘Show it, Don’t Tell It’ Explained

2) Write every day

New writers are often told they MUST write every single day in order to ‘become’ a professional. It’s so accepted a ‘rule’ in writing circles that pro writers are almost EMBARRASSED to admit it when they don’t. Instead, they’ll all nod furiously and say it’s absolutely key in getting anywhere – write pages every day! OR ELSE!

Now, of course this works for many writers and good for them. However I’d wager there’s loads of writers who DON’T write every day. I am one of those writers. I’ve always ‘binge wrote’ and I know stacks of others who work this way too. One size does NOT fit all!

STATUS: False

3) Hit The Ground Running

This is great stuff, but there’s one problem: too many writers don’t know what it means! They don’t get that character and story have to be introduced hand in hand; we can’t be kept ‘waiting’.

Also, sometimes even when writers do understand what this means, they still have to work through some false starts to get off the starting blocks quicker. I ended up rewriting the beginning of my novel, The Other Twin, FIVE times on this basis. Oops! Definitely harder than it looks.

STATUS: True 

4) Characters must be ‘likeable’

Um, no. Is ‘likeable’ even a word? It doesn’t even matter if you substitutive ‘likeable’ for ‘sympathetic’ or even ’empathetic’ — because characters can behave like utter, reprehensible arseholes and audiences still love them! Think Amy Dunne (GONE GIRL); Melvin Udall (AS GOOD AS IT GETS); Lucious and Cookie (EMPIRE) and more. Le Duh!

STATUS: False

5) Sacrifice Facts For Drama

It’s good to sacrifice facts for drama … Until you take it too far and it just becomes unbelievable. Generally speaking, a good rule of thumb I find are the following two questions:

  • Is this SPECIALIST knowledge the average audience member would not know? YES – sacrifice facts for drama.
  • Is this EVERY DAY knowledge that the average audience member would know? YES – don’t sacrifice facts for drama.

STATUS: True. MORE: 5 Times It’s Okay To Sacrifice Facts For Drama

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6) Save the cat

Coined by screenwriting consultant Blake Snyder, this is another that has suffered from becoming LITERAL like number 3 on this list. Originally it was good stuff though and simply described a single moment in which a protagonist does something nice to prove what a good guy/gal s/he is. (like a save a cat).

But outside of in-jokes in which a protagonist literally saves a cat for fun (such as Detective Spooner in I, ROBOT when the RoboDemolition tears down the house with them inside), your character doesn’t have to do this to be deemed ‘likeable’. Because, guess what, as we’ve already established: your character doesn’t have to be likeable! BOOM.

STATUS: False

7) Write with passion

We hear this ‘advice’ all the time and it’s my own personal pet peeve. Not is it patronising, it makes no sense. NO writer sits down and says, ‘I know, I’m going to write with ZERO passion and create the MOST BORING novel or screenplay, EVAH!”

STATUS: Epic fail False!!!

8) Signal from Fred

This describes that moment in which a writer basically gives him or herself away ON THE PAGE, often via dialogue. This frequently happens when the writer’s subconscious is alarmed by the way the story is going. As a result, characters will end up saying stuff like ‘This doesn’t make any sense!’ Or, ‘No one would ever believe that!’ Or even, ‘This is really boring.”

Lots of writers don’t believe ‘signals from Fred’ exist. But if you’ve read as many spec screenplays as I have, they literally JUMP OFF THE PAGE at you. Keep this is mind though and it helps you avoid the dreaded plothole. Honest guvnor!

STATUS: True

9) Kill your darlings

Known also as ‘kill your babies’, this phrase describes those those scenes, visuals, moments, characters, chunks of dialogue etc we are most proud of. We love them, to the point that we almost don’t care if those bits are clear to the script reader or not. (I find this happens most often with chunks of dialogue, as I’ve written many times).

It’s because we love our darlings, we want to keep them.But if they’re not clear to the reader, they simply MUST go. Sorry! (not sorry)

Writers tend to hate this phrase BECAUSE it reminds them of the pain they will have to undergo in cutting these bits out. We’ve all done it … and we will have to do it again … and again … and again!

STATUS: True (unfortunately)

10) Write What You Know

This is an easy one. If you really had to write what you know, there would be no period drama or science fiction for starters. Plus women couldn’t write male protagonists; or BAME writers write white characters and so on. So you don’t have to …

… BUT oh wait — are we talking about emotional truth and authenticity, rather than LITERALLY what you know? Sure, autobiographical elements can help this, but they don’t have to. Writers CAN create outside of their own direct experience. That’s the point.

Besides, writers would soon run out of stuff to write about and begin repeating themselves if it were all literal!!

STATUS: True AND also False (depends how you see it!). MORE: ‘Write What You Know’ Explained

Which are YOUR pet peeves?

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I love these tips … I think they’re useful to ALL writers, not just authors!

As I’ve said many, many times on this blog – social media is great, because it lets us get our voices heard … but it’s also TERRIBLE!! Whilst there’s no ‘right’ way to do social media, there’s a gazillion errors we can make and then get noticed for all the wrong reasons. Yikes.

So, if you have a book, campaign, message, brand or something else you want to get out there, make sure you check out these great tips from Amber. Enjoy!

Want a free ebook on how to WIN at self publishing? CLICK HERE or on any of the pics in this article.

Everyone markets on social media now – including authors. If you’ve never pictured yourself as a social media marketer before – oh well. You’re going to have to learn some time, and if you’re about to publish a novel? The time is now!

1) Get an Early Start

If you haven’t yet published your novel, start marketing now. There’s no such thing as starting too early when you’re trying to build hype up around the release of your book. Yeah, that means you’re going to have to stop basking in the bliss of finishing the thing and get back to work all over again. Small bits of news can take a while to circulate on social media, so starting a few weeks ahead of the launch will give everyone enough time to get word of your novel.

TOP TIP: Basically, you should be loud in announcing to the world that you finally finished that book, and make sure everyone hears you as soon as you finish that last chapter! MORE: Top 5 Social Media Mistakes

2) Create the Kind of Content That Succeeds on Social Media

Most social media platforms are centered around video and image content. Even Facebook has incorporated a feature that allows mobile users to float visual content to the top of their news feed. Informative promotional images and videos are more likely to be viewed and shared. More or less, people might feel like reading your book, but they probably won’t feel like reading your walls of text when they came to look at cat memes.

TOP TIP: If you’re thinking “wait, I’m a novelist, not a graphic designer!”, you can take the lazy way out and hire a graphic or video artist on Gumtree to create the content for you.

3) Incorporate Social Media into Your Website

Your preexisting audience might be able to do some of the promotion for you, provided they have the tools to do it. It’s time to think of “audience” and “minions” as interchangeable terms, and make them work for you. If you haven’t already, integrate “share” buttons into your website. If you have any free preview chapters available to view, put up a few buttons that will allow readers to share this content with a single click.

TOP TIPMore or less, people have a tendency to be lazy. They may not copy and paste, but they can sure click a share button.

4) Lend Your Novel Out to Influencers

Influencer marketing is a popular tactic for businesses, and it will work just as well for authors. Find popular personalities on social media or people who run successful blogs, and offer them a copy of your novel for review. If they enjoy it, they’ll  recommend it to their followers!

TOP TIP: People like free stuff much more than the stuff they have to pay for. An influencer gets a free book, and you get a free review. If you cross link to each other, you can wind up sharing an audience. Everybody’s getting a piece of pie!

5) Host an Event

A lot of authors schedule bookstore appearances to read excerpts from their novels and answer questions. All of that travel can be expensive, and there isn’t a single person in the world who loves spending their weekends waiting at an airport. Rather than appearing in person, host virtual events. Facebook Live, YouTube Live, and Google Hangouts will allow you to hold events online.

TOP TIP: Anyone in the world can attend you virtual book events, and you only have to dress nice from the waist up. Put on a nice blouse, and nobody will have any idea that you’re still in your pajama pants. MORE: How To Do Social Media … And How NOT To!

Concluding:

Social media is an invaluable tool for helping you spread your message. Most importantly, it’s shockingly easy to get your content out there. You don’t want to work hard to push your book, and your readers don’t want to have to work hard to find it. Meet everybody where they’re at! Get a FREE ebook on how to win at self publishing – to get your copy, CLICK HERE or on any of the pics.

BIO: Sarah Anderson is a freelance writer who likes to cover stories in digital marketing and self-development. Amber is a frequent festival and concertgoer and loves to travel. Find her on Twitter.

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