As all screenwriters know, the first ten pages can be make or break … But now novelists – both self-published AND trying to smash their way out of the slush pile – are finding they have to hit the ground running too. Readers and viewers are more media literate than ever and they simply WILL NOT ‘wait’ for the story to start!

When the beginning of your work is SO important, it simply doesn’t make sense to include scenes or elements we’ve seen a gazillion times before. It’s a one way ticket to the shredder/deletesville. Harsh maybe, but when there’s so much content and so many manuscripts out there, something that feels fresh will always get priority over the cheesy and ‘seen it all before’s.

That’s the bad news. The good news is, it’s easier than ever to find out what feels stale. Here’s my top 15 things that I am SUPER-BORED of seeing, especially at the beginning of works. Ready? Then let’s go …

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1) Mysterious Guy at funerals

If you’ve read my book, Writing And Selling Thriller Screenplays, you’ll know I was warning against these in *that* genre back then, because I was super-bored of some mysterious guy arriving at the funeral with THE MISSION for the protagonist. Yawn!

Since my book came out then, the funeral has seemingly infected ALL other genres too, especially drama and comedy. Ack! Look, I get deaths may be an effective catalyst, but if you’re going to include a funeral, PLEASE do it in such a way that feels fresh … Or find another vehicle in the beginning of your script or novel to get our protagonist investigating, please! MORE: How To Write The Most Clichéd Opener, EVER

2) Arrive home **just in time** …

… When was the last time YOU arrived home just in time to find your spouse/partner was having it off with someone else? Seriously, by the amount of movies and novels that have this in, you’d think it happens to EVERYONE. Retire this stale, cheesy old trope please, writers!

3) Deathbed Confessions

Don’t you just love shocking family secrets. Everything’s fine and dandy in your world and then someone DIES, but before they pop their clogs they REVEAL SOMETHING THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING. Who the hell does this?? It even ‘feels’ like movie logic. Your protagonist should discover this shocking family secret themselves, somehow – makes them more active, no?

4) Walking / running

Your movie or novel better be *about* walking or running if you’re going to have pages and pages of it, that’s all I’m saying. Otherwise, it’s just some character walking somewhere. IT DOESN’T REVEAL CHARACTER AND IT DOESN’T PUSH THE STORY FORWARD. End of.

BUT BUT … ‘What about Clarice Starling running in Silence of The Lambs??!’ Oh, glad you asked. She wasn’t just running, was she? She was doing an OBSTACLE COURSE … kinda like the obstacle course she’ll have to run with Lector. Boom!

5) Waking up / morning routine

Seriously guys, if you include this in the beginning of your screenplay (in particular), you deserve to get shredded. And I don’t even mean your script! MWHAHAHAHAHAHA. MORE: 5 Openers That Make Readers GROAN

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6) Therapy reveals character

My personal pet peeve – we start with our hero or heroine, who usually acts in a hostile manner, refusing to engage because s/he is JUST TOO COMPLEX, THEY DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS SHIT. Finish with the therapist saying something like, ‘You have to deal with this, or you’re a danger in the field/ to your family/ to yourself!” EWWWWW. This irritation is closely followed by the character, usually a woman, who spills her guts about how TERRIBLE her domestic life is, how husband doesn’t understand her and her kids are ungrateful. No thanks!!!

7) Lover in the wardrobe

Considering number 2 on this same list, it’s a wonder ANYONE gets away with affairs when they stick their lovers in the wardrobe 24/7 … surely the husband knows where the guy is by now?? EPIC FAIL.

8) Crappy band gets heckled

This seems to be a screenwriting one (I don’t recall seeing any in novels, published or unpublished). Weirdly, I’m reading A LOT of screenplays at the moment about tribute bands, and/or bands from the 70s and 80s that are all washed up. Most of the time, they begin with the band getting told to get off stage and it turns into a big scrap. So there you go!

9) Police Interrogation

Obviously this has its place, especially in – quell surprise – police procedurals. But too many screenwriters and novelists use this element to SMASH OPEN the characters and let them splurge dialogue all over the place. Doing this in the first instance of your script or novel is utter madness, because it kills intrigue.

10) Epic Tour Guide

Some screenplays and novels use the opportunity of a character going on a tour to drop a BIG CHUNK of exposition. It’s not hidden though, it’s obvious and needs top be hidden better, STAT. MORE: 11 Expositional Clichés That Will Kill Your Story

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11) FREEZE FRAME / NAME

You know how it works – we’re introduced to a character, they freeze and then their name is plastered across the screen. Holy shit, NO! Not only is it a cheesy throwback to the 90s/00s, writers are effectively directing from the page here. If you’re going to do something like this, really own the page and do something ORIGINAL. Otherwise, put yourself on there naughty step!! Jeez!!!

12) Reading of the will

Just don’t. I’m poking my eyes out here.

13) The really, really, REALLY bad day

A character has lots of bad things happen to him or her, from being soaked by a puddle on the way to work, through to getting fired or demoted. Sometimes this is combined with cliché 2 on this list for REALLY fromagey cheesy ickiness. Noooooo!

14) Nightmare/Waking

It’s possible to begin with a nightmare/dream sequence – THE BABADOOK does this well, showing even a cliché can work, IF you really smash it. But 9/10 it’s just a cliché. Worth the risk?

15) Teaching something to do with the plot

Schools, classrooms, universities and lecture theatres can be GREAT places for potential conflict in a story, but too often they’re brought in simply so a load of exposition can be dumped on the audience for some reason. See also number 10 on this list. Hide that exposition SKILFULLY, don’t hit us over the head with it. MORE: How Does Exposition Work? 9 Common Exposition Questions Answered 

How To Improve Your Writing CRAFT!

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

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

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We’ve all done it before. Come on, be honest! You see that little rectangle box and all you have to do is type your name and you can see how many times you come up. It’s a little narcissistic, but it’s also human …

… I’m speaking, of course, of Googling yourself. Whether you admit it or not, it’s perfectly natural to want to know who’s talking about you online! This is even more true with authors. If someone wrote a blog about your book, you want to know so you can see if it did anything for your sales. Or maybe you just want to know if that PR campaign was worth it.

Whatever your reason for wanting to know what’s being said online about you and/or your work, there’s tools online to help. Below are four to help you get started:

1) Google Alerts

google-alerts-1362748933The go to alert system of thousands of individuals and businesses alike, Google Alerts is like an automated Google search. Anytime Google finds a new website that mentions the phrase you add in, you get alerts sent to your inbox.

Pros: Free and simple to setup; powered by the most popular and arguably best search engine available.

Cons: Alerts are often not related and/or are borderline spammy. Links often go to websites created with content copied from other, more popular websites.

2) BuzzTrace

rz2pl4vrozmia8hjsygxThe recently launched BuzzTrace promises to give authors a solution that is simple to setup and use. Unlike other monitoring tools, BuzzTrace segments its results and makes it easier to track what kind of mention it is.

Pros: Free version available. Alerts are organised by web mentions, reviews, blogs, social mentions and articles.

Cons: The online software currently does not have email alerts, but it is a resource that will be added soon.

3) SocialMention

apple-touch-icon_400x400SocialMention is like a more comprehensive version of Google Alerts. It offers sentiment tracking, and no signup is required to use it. It does not, however, search web content (only social networks), which leaves a large gap of what’s being said.

Pros: No signup required.

Cons: UI is complicated and the results are not organized; you have to crawl through dozens if not hundreds of non-relevant results.

4) Mention

XVjYswn7Mention promises to have deeper and more in-depth tracking of mentions–but it comes at a price, as the solution is the most expensive of the ones referenced in this post. It’s widely used by large companies, but may prove too in-depth and difficult to use for the average author.

Pros: Lots of filters to help organize what’s being said and get even better results.

Cons: More expensive than other solutions; basic plan only gives the user two alerts.

Do you have any other favourite tools for tracking online buzz? Share in the comments or in the B2W Facebook group.  

BIO: Scott La Counte writes under the name Scott Douglas. He is the author of several books and also teaches writing for the Gotham Writers’ Workshops.

On This Blog Before About Writing Tools & Social Media:

4 Indispensable Social Media Platforms For Writers

4 Tools That Could Save Your Writing Life

Top 5 Social Media Mistakes

7 Best Proofreading Tools For Writers

How To Do Social Media … And How NOT To!

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A picture says a thousand words …

… This old adage has always been a favourite of mine as a writer. Its application to screenwriting is obvious, but even as a novelist CREATING WORD PICTURES helps us keep own track so that we ‘show, don’t tell’.

This is why memes are so popular in the internet age, especially on platforms such as Facebook. A meme is defined as:

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 11.27.11So, for the uninitiated, memes have always been here, it’s just now they’re much more obvious and in our faces. Whether funny or insightful, people love them. I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Grain of truth

Lots of memes are popular because they carry a grain of truth with them. Sometimes that grain of truth will be on the basis of what it means to be human, or part of a particular group, social or professional.

This is why, when I shared this one about WRITING, it practically broke my Facebook:

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Rejection hurts, but it’s part of writing. No one is immune to it. You have been rejected; so have I. Even veteran screenwriters, showrunners and novelists have been rejected. We will all be rejected again. It’s the natural order of the business. We have to accept the pain and move forwards. What else is there?

Paying the Price

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I love this from James Cameron. He is dead right that talent doesn’t necessarily triumph. We hear lots about people who take risks, but less about paying the price for those risks. This is because our society is risk averse and hates failure. On this basis, we counsel our children to be risk averse too. We teach them to be overly cautious by talking of ‘good jobs’ and festishing earning power.

No, thanks. I say to my kids, “If you want something, you have to resolve to pay the price to get it.” This may be a literal price, or a metaphorical one; it may be both. Whatever. It might not be easy, but GO GET IT.

You have THE POWER

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People are overly cautious because they don’t believe in themselves. They internalise messages from loved ones or society that says success is for OTHER PEOPLE, not them. They may think being a writer – or indeed anything! – is an impossible dream, destined only for Trust Fund babies and those mythically ‘lucky’ people.

But this is not true. You can be whatever you want to be. When my son came to me and said he wanted to be a rock star like his hero (and fellow Devonian) Matt Bellamy of MUSE, I didn’t tell him he was in Cloud Cuckoo-land. I knew that if my boy really wanted it, he would do it.

Now my son’s band, Rainmaker, has played various festivals, tour dates and even been featured as ‘one to watch’ on BBC Radio. I have no doubt he will do even more. He is doing a degree in Music Production, learning everything he can about mixing his own EPs. He is determined to have a career in the creative arts and in music. And because he believes he can do it, he will.

There’s no ‘magical destination,’ either — he’s doing it right now.  

Success is closer than you think

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This is the thing. The differences between success and failure are not poles apart. We’re taught they are by society, but this is actually BS.

The difference between success and failure is WORK.

Ifs you work? You will succeed. You may end up adapting and/or diverting the course you’re on and somewhere you didn’t expect — but that is not failure.

Failure is DOING NOTHING.

Failure is STOPPING because it’s too hard.

FAILURE is never knowing how close you came.

Final Thoughts

By the way — when you ARE successful? The Haters will come for you.

This means you’ve arrived. Enjoy it.

5.fuckface whisperer

Good luck!

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It’s not very often you get to hear it straight from the source EXACTLY what producers, publishers or literary agents are looking for. However, I was lucky enough to sit down recently with Literary Agent Fiona Kenshole who shared more than a few great tips for Bang2writers!

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Fiona was a guest of InDevelopment, a network of professionals who work in film and TV script development. InDevelopment meets regularly for drinks and discussion about the craft of developing, script editing and producing fiction for the screen and is organised and hosted by script consultant Sarah Olley.

Fiona has over twenty years of experience in the publishing industry holding positions such as Editorial Director at Harper Collins before her current position of Literary Agent at Transatlantic Agency. She previously was also the Vice President of Development Acquisitions at Oscar-winning animation company Laike, working on films such as Coraline, The Box Trolls, Paranorman and most recently, Cubo & The Two Strings.

So, it’s pretty fair to say Fiona knows EXACTLY what it is literary agents and publishers are looking for!

Here are Fiona’s 3 tips every Bang2writer should know before pitching or submitting their work – click on the links for every more:

1) Firstly, DO YOUR HOMEWORK

  • Do your RESEARCH – Who are you submitting or pitching to & WHY would your project be exactly what they’re looking for?
  • Know what’s come BEFORE – What shows, movies or books have come before and HOW does your work take these ideas/themes and make them unique?

MORE: 7 Things Agents, Producers & Filmmakers Can Tell From Your Pitch

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2) Fiona’s Recipe for a GREAT Story

  • The first 10-15 pages are CRUCIAL – Get feedback to make sure your writing sets up the characters/plot in an exciting and interesting way. Audiences like to be surprised, shake things up and give us a hero worth cheering for!
  • It’s all about EMOTIONAL engagement – If we don’t care about the characters then we won’t care about the story.
  • The ONION Effect – A great story is LAYERED, not everything is revealed all at once. And remember to SHOW don’t tell – as often as you can!

MORE: 4 Essential Elements Literary Agents Want

3)   Your Script is Finished, What Next?

  • ENTER competitions – Get your name out there & often competitions are a great way to get an agent.
  • FEEDBACK – There is no such thing as BAD feedback. Get as many people to read your writing & learn from it, reflect and go with your gut instincts.
  • READ as many scripts or books as you can – how can you learn from them? Look at their techniques and style, make notes.
  • NETWORK – Actively pursue your goal by reaching out to others, be proactive and get talking to people!

So, there you have it – Fiona has shared her top 3 tips!

MORE: I’ve written a screenplay. Now what??

Remember, it’s all about:

  • Doing your HOMEWORK
  • Knowing what makes a GREAT story
  • It’s not *just* the writing, GO MAKE IT HAPPEN!

Good luck!

IMG_8071BIO: Hello, my name is Olivia Brennan, a 27 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!

Check out InDevelopment

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So you’ve written your novel/screenplay/whatever and you’re ready to let it get the once-over before you package it neatly for the publisher or producer’s inbox. A beta reader (aka peer reviewer) is important. Fresh eyes are invaluable – after all, you’ve probably missed over half your mistakes!

But it’s not just about how many people read your work (although generally, the more, the merrier). Who are your best quality beta readers?

coffee cup

1) The Published Writer

This is someone who’s been through the wringer, and who understands what it takes (or at least took at one point) to get a product out there. Where a viable book or screenplay comes to life, where it falters, and that we really don’t need another young-adult dystopia are all things an industry veteran will spot. Whether you’re published or not, a fresh set of published eyes can only help.

These people can be in short supply, high demand, or both. It’s often best to either approach a writer you already know, or start hanging around writers’ circles (see the bottom) until you find someone who feels like a natural fit with you. This is your opportunity to impress. MORE: 6 Things To Remember When Dealing With Writing Feedback

2) The Target Reader

No novel or screenplay is written just to be read or heard by other writers. Most of your readers won’t notice your perfectly placed comma or your brilliant symbolism. (Some will though – that’s what #1 is for!).

So, as much fun as it is to write, it’s also nice to actually sell something once in a while. I shy away from using the phrase “target market” when it comes to creative arts, because selling products is for the manufacturing sector.

It’s worth remembering your target reader is out there – some people are just going to be more interested in what you have to say than others, no matter WHAT you’re talking about. Having one of those people be your beta reader can go a long way in figuring out whether you’ll be successful in the marketplace. After all, if people who naturally gravitate toward your genre don’t want to read your work, who will?! MORE: 5 Ways To Use Feedback Effectively

COMPUTER

3) The Subject Expert

Every book is about something. So, if you’re writing a science fiction novel about robots, having someone who works in robotics read it can help identify factual errors or inconsistencies. The more authentic your subject matter is, the more readers will suspend their disbelief. If you can get professional occultists satisfied with your ghost story, you shouldn’t have to worry about other readers thinking Ultra-Casper just isn’t realistic enough.

It’s always helpful to have more than three beta readers, but if you can only have three as a starting point? THIS is the way to go!

Where Are These Beta Readers? I Can’t Find Them

You can find beta readers at any number of places. Writers’ workshops are great for this. Say yes when they ask you to join them for a beer or a coffee afterward! Being around other writers, from the publishing industry veterans to the ones who only decided to start writing last week, will get you closer and closer to the people who can help you on your quest.

You can also find beta readers wherever you go to school, if you’re a student. Fiction fans tend to go for writing-heavy programmes. If you study humanities, social sciences or a related field, like I did, there might be a beta reader under your nose! Drop your writing into conversation, or join literature-friendly campus clubs.

Then of course, there are a massive number of forums, message boards and writers’ groups online where you can do peer review. One such place is Bang2writers on Facebook, though there are plenty more. Check out links and get connected with other writers online and IRL, HERE.

Good luck!

BIO: Matthew Gordon is a self-published author on Smashwords, a blogger at matthewgordonbooks.blogspot.com, and a member of the Toronto Writers’ Co-operative.

Want even MORE feedback secrets?

b2w-has-read-forThen check out B2W’s course, in conjunction with Londonswf, at Ealing Studios! Check out all the details HERE, including pix from previous courses and delegate feedback. If you want to be a script reader yourself, or learn how your script gets assessed ‘behind the scenes’, then this course is FOR YOU.

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If you write for a living, you have a career that many others envy. You pick your own hours; you pick your own location; you pick the type of writing you want to do – so long as someone is willing to pay for it, that is!

Being a freelancer means constant hustling; you will always have to market yourself to potential new employers, marketplaces, agents, publishers and filmmakers. And o

ne of the best ways to do that is to have a blog, creating a following and platform for your work.

Here are five things you will get out of having a blog:

1) You Develop a Reputation in Your Genre

You can use your blog to highlight the writing you have done for others and the writing that has been published or produced. If you are a fiction writer, for example, excerpts from your novels and short stories can be posted to pique interest and promote sales. You can do the same if you are a filmmaker, posting clips and showreels of your movies, adverts and web series.

If you write non-fiction, you can use your platform to help others and bring them to your door, like this site Bang2write does. This can help sell your books, courses and other services.

A blog, in many ways, is far more valuable than any MBA degree you might have as a business expert – you have demonstrated expertise through your writings.

Reason #1. Your blog attracts more attention to your persona. MORE: How To Build Your Own Online Platform

2) You Develop a Personal Brand

Every writer has a “voice” and a style. Compare, for example, the style of Janet Evanovich with that of James Patterson. Or, if you are a non-fiction writer, say a blogger, you have a certain way of telling an anecdote, reporting research, and a certain sense of humor.

This style and tone are what your readers become familiar with and what your specific audience likes. When you publish your own writing on your blog, you develop that familiarity which becomes your personal brand and, as well, your credibility as a writer.

Reason #2. Your blog shows your writing skills and your writing style as well.

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3) You Can Promote Your Work

Authors use their websites/blogs to promote their newest releases, to provide tips and advice to other would-be writers. If your writing relates to blogging for others,  your own blog can showcase your most popular posts and style, so that you can capture potential new clients, who see you as an expert.

In addition to your blog, you should have a presence on social media. Because, there you can drive people to your blog. And if they like what they read, they can share your writing with their communities as well. Your readership will grow, and along with that, your personal brand.

Reason #3. Your blog is your work’s best advertisement – help spread the word via social media. MORE: 10 Ways Being A Freelance Writer Prepares Me For A Screenwriting Career

4) You Can Share Unpublished/Rejected Work

For whatever reason, you may have fiction or non-fiction pieces which you have not submitted or which you did submit and were rejected (As a writer, you are all too familiar with rejection!).

Your blog will give you the opportunity for others to read those works, to comment on them, to provide feedback, and to suggest revisions. Getting those conversations flowing among others in your writing niche adds to your visibility. But it will also help to improve you as a writer and give you ideas for new avenues of writing.

Reason #4. Your blog is your gallery.

5) You Can Use Your Blog to Write Your Book

Each of us has a book within us. For some it is the first; for others, it is another. No matter what type of writing your do for income, you will have gathered and nurtured your ideas over time. You can now take those ideas and, in your blog, begin to craft the chapters and share them with your audience. And your audience will motivate you to continue the work on that book, providing the feedback and encouragement you need to keep going.

Reason #5. Test your ideas and drafts with your existing audience. MORE: 6 Ways To Find Success As A Writer With Your Blog

Concluding:

You may realise many other benefits of creating and maintaining a blog. One thing is for certain, however. Once you start that blog, you have made a commitment – a commitment to keep writing. And that can only be a good thing!

BIO: Neighthan White is a freelance writer and an undergraduate specialist in education sciences. In his late twenties, he is a regular member of Montessori techniques for children under 10 seminars; a blog editor; a volunteer at Education Without Borders and LDS; a startup inventor; a language learner; a writer and a happy husband.

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writing doom

7 Little Words …

There’s a single sentence that I find myself asking Bang2writers all the time … and it’s probably not what you think it is. It’s not:

“What the hell is this??”

“How did you think this is a good idea??”

– or even, “Are you on crack??”

This is cuz, contrary to popular to belief – not to mention the smack talk on this blog – B2W is always very respectful of writers, guiding them to various realisations about their work (both good and bad) WITHOUT the need for smashing them over the head with that metaphorical hammer –honest guv!!

… So, WHAT is this sentence of DOOM?

It’s very simple, when you think about it.  It happens so often, you’ll kick yourself. Here it is:

‘Cuz then there would be NO STORY’. 

Eeeek!!! 7 little words of terror. More, next.

HOW does the sentence of DOOM happen?

But how do we arrive at the sentence of doom?? No writer goes into writing a story thinking they have shaky foundations, after all. So, I elicit it from the writer themselves via this question:

“Why does (protagonist) do/not do [this action]?”

If the script has major issues then, the writer may have to answer:

“… Cuz then there will be NO STORY.”

KA-BLAM!

Yes, at times like this, writers may feel, well like THIS:

Everyone together – SUPERSADFACE (plus googly eyes).

WHY does the sentence of doom happen?

The sentence of doom frequently hits writers between the eyes for two reasons. These are usually:

  • Plot. This first one is very straightforward. In terms of your plot, your characters have to *do stuff* that feels authentic, otherwise their actions feel contrived. Most screenwriters get this, so I don’t usually end up talking about the sentence of doom with this in mind.
  • Concept. If your character is doing (or not doing) something *simply* because ‘then there would be no story’  then you have a suspension of disbelief problem. I call this ‘follow through’ – if your concept has a suspension of disbelief issue at grass roots level, it has a domino effect on the ‘follow through'; the plot collapses, because we can’t believe what the characters are supposed to be doing in the first place.

Like this …

I read a lot of stories about inheritances. Usually, a horrible protagonist is taught a lesson by a dying relative who says something along the lines of, ‘If you do these five tacts of kindness / solve these five  riddles / visit these five people etc etc etc’, you can have Twenty-Fifty Kazillion pounds when I’m gone.’

Horrible protagonist goes, ‘Ooooh! I want money, sure I’ll do that and on the way I’ll learn what’s important about life, but hey-ho never mind about that, KERCHING!’

The problem with the above then is – besides being as cheesy and stale as mouldy brie that’s fallen behind the toaster for fifteen weeks – is that it immediately begs ALL THESE QUESTIONS:

  • Why doesn’t dying relative just tell horrible protagonist? (‘Cuz then there would be no story)
  • If horrible protagonist is so horrible, why would he bother doing something FOR dying relative, even for money, why doesn’t he walk away? (‘Cuz then there would be no story)
  • If horrible protagonist is only doing this for money (not for love) why would we invest in his/her narrative journey? (‘Cuz then there would be no story)

Striking isn’t it how all those different questions could have the SAME ANSWER!

This is why those writers have a problem with their CONCEPT. It doesn’t ‘follow through’, it feels contrived at foundation level. Eeek!

… How To Fix Your Story:

The best concepts – in novels and screenplays – are compelling because they force characters to confront a problem or issue of some kind.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a genre piece or a drama about the minutiae of life. The characters must have no choice but to engage with that issue or problem. The characters cannot simply walk away and/or give up — whether that means literally, metaphorically or both.

Check out the language use of the bold words above. They’re extremely active words that GRIP the characters, thus grip the potential audience.

If you’re answering, ‘Cuz then there would be no story’ when considering your characters’ actions, this is a major RED FLAG that you don’t have what you need. So revisit and redraft. Make your concept work at foundation level … OR ELSE!

More on B2W about Concept:

The 1 Reason Stories Crash And Burn

4 Reasons Your Concept Counts About All Else

7 Steps To Road-Testing Your Concept

7 Useful Things You Can Do Between Drafts

Top 10 Writing Misconceptions

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If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that in the first quarter of this year, I’ve been hard at work on my latest book, Writing Diverse Characters For Fiction, TV or Film. In the course of my research for the book, I talked to a multitude of producers, literary agents, filmmakers, publishers, authors and even actors for their thoughts on this issue, from ALL types of backgrounds, which has been a real eye-opener.

I’ve also put my own thoughts under the microscope about what ‘diversity’ really means when it comes to creative works. My editor described it this week as “Really thought-provoking and of the moment, with so many practical ideas for people to consider and utilise” — cos that’s what it’s all about: giving writers the tools to write AUTHENTIC, FRESH, RELATABLE characters!! Can’t wait to share it with you! (It’s out September 2017, btw).

DIVERSITY_faces_rainboiw

So, since we talk A LOTabout diverse characters and representation on this site, I thought this question sent via email from Bang2writer Matt Charlton was worth opening up:

I am writing something in which I’d like the lead to be female, I would also like her to be black (there is a reason for this, but it is not a story ‘about’ race or a making a social statement).

Can I ask what is the best way to introduce this into the script when you first meet the character? Do I need to say it? How do I make reference to it without making too much or too little of this fact?

In the context of some stories (such as slavery, racism, stories set abroad), a character’s race may be obvious; but in most stories it’s not. Some writers think this is not an issue unless the film gets made; others think it is, from the page upwards.

So, this can be a real dilemma – and NOT just for white writers (though they may feel the most at sea about it, having thought very little about race before). But that said, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had this conversation with Bang2writers of ALL colours.

As Matt rightly says, he doesn’t want to make too little of the character’s race, either. It can be just as tedious to gloss over a character’s heritage and ‘tick boxes’ as it is to labour over it too much! Besides, Matt also points out there is a story reason his lead is black. This is a good thing, since there are so few women in colour in the protagonist’s role.

For this reason, I am of the school of thought that screenwriters SHOULD signify race of characters in screenplays. I believe this because I think it means there is more chance the character will be cast ‘correctly’.

However, I also understand some writers don’t want to be so blatant as writing ‘Black’ or ‘Asian’ (or similar) next to a character’s name. This is not because said writer is racist, but because they may feel it reduces the character to his/her ethnicity. Others feel it is an admission that the world is otherwise default white. As with anything, there’s always more than one way of looking at an issue!

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So, for these writers, I have the following advice:

1) Consider your character’s name. Sometimes, names can give an indication of a person’s ethnicity: Wing Hun and Rupinder are from two very different cultures, as are Brandon and Piotr. There are certain names that give a clue to status and class too, ie. Monty and Sharon. It’s not a foolproof method – names do not necessarily follow through ‘logically'; plus second or third generation children may have names that reflect their new culture. In addition, different cultures may adopt ‘English names’ as well as their given names, like the Chinese do. But it can be a useful tool for the writer, if used with care. MORE: 7 Ways To Name Your Characters

2) Subvert our expectations. Sometimes utilising general societal expectations can help build your character — as long as you don’t reproduce them as being ‘the same old, same old’, which can range from being boring right through to offensive.

Taking something familiar and flipping it can pay dividends. For example, think of all the Chinese Takeaways you’ve been to. They have probably ALL been run by East Asian people, right? This is not inauthentic or surprising.

Now consider all the expectations white people might have of the people working in the Takeaway:

  • Hard-working
  • Poor to intermediate English
  • Very quite, almost shy, smiles and nods a lot
  • Very good with numbers
  • Maybe can kick ass with martial arts

Now imagine someone – of East Asian descent – working in a Takeaway who is not REMOTELY like the above! Perhaps s/he is second or third generation British; maybe s/he likes working at the takeaway; maybe s/he doesn’t. Maybe s/he failed Maths GCSE; maybe s/he’s really miserable, or is dreaming about getting out and opening a hair salon, joining the army or becoming a nudey photographer! Why not!

In other words, create a SITUATION we expect to find but introduce us to a character we DON’T expect. Rather like this >> WATCH JADE DRAGON WEB SERIES.

3) Reboot the storyworld. I wrote in my Writing Drama Screenplays book that what’s particularly refreshing about Kidulthood (2006) is the fact the ‘usual’ story world is inverted. Curtis is a powerful, black man who commands a small army of followers. Crucially, in the excruciating face-cutting scene, it’s a white henchman who holds the guy down on the snooker table for Trife. The subtext of this storyworld is clear: white guys work for Curtis, not the other way around.

Alternatively, maybe the change in the storyworld is LITERAL. Such TV shows as Empire (2015-ongoing) and Luke Cage (2016-ongoing) are notable because they are set in the black community, with black as the default, for once. This means that if you DO signify race in a storyworld like this? It will be to note the character is WHITE, instead. Refreshing change! MORE: More on rebooting your story world.

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Many thanks to Audrey Vibar, who asks:

What are some of the ‘working’ methods for writing the second draft? I’ll take anything at this point!

Audrey’s not alone in panicking over redrafts. I always find it interesting then writers say they love the first draft, yet hate the rewrites. Bang2writers tell me all the time the second draft is the one they really get stuck on. I would bet real money B2W reads more second drafts than any other.

Myself, I’m all about rewriting. Perhaps it’s my script editor hat getting in the way, but I LOATHE writing the first draft myself, ‘cos you can’t edit a blank page!

But I digress. Here’s some quick tips for Audrey on approaching the second draft, plus anyone else who feels all at sea in the redrafting process:

1) STOP!

When a Bang2writer starts feeling pressurised on a speculative work, my advice is to stop writing. This may sound counter-intuitive, but seriously — IT WORKS. Panic on a spec work is fruitless and can bog you down. Instead, a break away from the computer or poring over script notes, etc can pay dividends. Instead, go and do some research. Read some writing books and craft articles; identify and watch/read movies like your script or novel; do some peer review for other people. Within a week to ten days you can return to your writing with fresh eyes. MORE: 7 Useful Things You Can Do Between Drafts 

2) Recognise you’re not the only writer to feel like this

But okay, maybe it’s not a spec work and you’re on a deadline; or perhaps you’ve had a break and still feel daunted. That’s alright, as long as you don’t let it overwhelm you. Take regular breaks and make sure you chat with your peers in Facebook groups like Bang2writers. This might not feel like a big deal, but writing is a solitary endeavour and you need moral support. Don’t hold it all in, talk with other writers! MORE8 Stages Writers Go Through Writing A Draft

3) Identify Potential Drafting Pitfalls

The great thing about being a writer in 2017 is the fact there are ACRES of articles with writing advice online … the bad thing is, it’s also hard to find the good stuff when there’s so much of it!

However, if you follow the script advice people who seem to know they’re talking about – like B2W hopefully – then you can apply their drafting advice to your own projects. You do this by comparing and contrasting writing advice books and blog posts, identifying what the ‘obvious’ problems are and then seeing if they crop up in your first draft. If this seems obvious, it’s because it is! Yet very few writers do this and fall into obvious pitfalls. Doh! MORE: 5 Epic Problems Nearly Every Writer Has When Drafting

4) Think Story = Concept, Character and Structure

When script editors, producers, publishers and filmmakers posit that ‘story is everything’, what they really mean is CONCEPT, CHARACTER AND STRUCTURE ARE EVERYTHING.

Yet it’s these things that are consistently overlooked in the spec pile, in both spec screenplays and unpublished novels. Which is why you absolutely must approach draft 2 with these three things in mind! Otherwise, the sad news is you’re simply moving words around on the page. YIKES! MORE: Things ALL Writers Get Wrong In Early Drafts 

Good luck!

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NEVER STOP

As a writer, you are often judged solely by what is on the page or the screen. This means you need to ensure you know exactly what you are doing!

Here’s 12 quick tricks to take your writing to the next level and increase your confidence:

1)    Brush up on the basics

The least you can do before you submit or publish is check for basic errors in spelling and grammar. Before you even begin an important writing task, read up on basic grammar rules and sentence structure, and never submit anything without running it through a spell-checker first.

2)    Make sure you do your research

A poor writer will try and fill their content with unnecessary adverbs and adjectives, rambling on when they have nothing real to say. Do your research and be concise, so you can stay to the point and use good structure.

Also, read more so you develop an eye for what effective writing looks like. When writing you should be aiming for the professional standard accepted by businesses such as UK dissertation.

3) Analyse!

When you particularly enjoy a book or article, take the time to figure out exactly what makes it great, and try to adopt those techniques into your own writing. If you enjoy reading writing like this, then others probably will too!

4) Imitate!

Most writers spend a lot of time reading, and it rings true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Use their style to improve. (NOTE: imitation is NOT plagiarism! Make sure you know the difference).

5) Outline your writing

Planning is an essential aspect of writing. Without it, you’ll find yourself rambling and confused instead of clear, easy to follow and to the point.

6) Edit, edit, edit – cut, cut, cut!

When you’ve worked hard on a piece of writing, you don’t want it to be proved ineffective due to silly mistakes. This is easily avoidable by engaging a qualified proof reader, or script editor.

B2W_success dictionary

7) Find an editor who demonstrates patience

Your editor needs to be passionate about producing -the best work – that requires the patience for multiple drafts and revisions.

8) Cut all those ‘filler’ words

Don’t clutter your work with redundant adverbs or adjectives, keep things simple and get to the point. Here’s some examples.

9) Take a cue from Hemingway

The great author Ernest Hemingway said, ‘The first draft of anything is ‘s***.’ He was dead right. Once you’ve finished a piece of writing, browse through the guides at Australian Help to pick up on any mistakes you’ve made, and correct them before you submit your work.

10) Revisit your early work and see how you’ve grown

It’s completely natural to experience a crisis of confidence, or even writer’s block. Reading over older work and seeing your progress can be inspiring.

11) Write like it’s your job and practice regularly

It takes a lot of time and dedication to meet the standard of a pro writer. However, regular hard work can help you catch up to experts.

12) Don’t delay — Get it done NOW!

Procrastinating can just make your writing tasks seem even more insurmountable. Turn off the TV, sit at a desk, and focus on producing good work.

Last Words:

Hard work is required to improve writing skills, but these tips and tricks are easy to follow, and can help you write your way into bigger and better opportunities. Good luck!

BIO: Brenda Berg is a professional with over 15 years of experience in business management, marketing and entrepreneurship. Consultant and tutor for college students and entrepreneurs at Big Assignments. She believes that constant learning is the only way to success.

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