#WritingAdviceWednesday – Writing Exercise: Love Is In The Air

Writing Advice Wednesday

I hope you’ve been enjoying Writing Advice Wednesday for the last few months, but I’m trying something different for the rest of the year’s posts. As well as a relevant video essay I’ve found, I’ll be giving you writing exercises to try if you’re keen to think about your character romantically or need the motivation to get unstuck.

It’s exercises like this that form part of my One Hour Screenwriter course, which will help you write an entire feature film script in 22 weeks. You can purchase it at the shop here. You can also read testimonies here that show my methods have worked for a variety of writers.

This week, you’ll be writing about what makes the world go around:

Describe your first kiss

Take a moment and remember your first romantic stirrings. Who was the object of your affection? What did that person look like? What made this individual so attractive to you?

How old were each of you? Under what circumstances did you first notice this person? How did you meet? Who made the first move? How did that first kiss happen?

Describe as completely as you can all the circumstances leading up to your first kiss or first romantic encounter. How did you lose your heart to this person? Why did this person seem entirely unique and wonderful to you?

Were you both equally entranced with each other? Was it a surprise you didn’t expect? Or was it a long- time secret crush?

How did that early romantic awakening feel? What was it like physically? What was it like emotionally? Were you nervous? Excited? Scared?

Describe the steps leading up to the physical romantic encounter. Where there false starts or mixed signals? How did you feel afterward? Did the magic moment meet or exceed your expectations? Did it somehow disappoint?

Was it a chance or unexpected encounter? Or did you spend time dreaming, plotting, planning and fantasizing about how to make it happen? What, if anything, did you do to take the initiative?

Take 10 to 15 minutes to complete this exercise. Do not censor yourself; write whatever comes to mind. Don’t worry about being articulate, artistic or even interesting. Just write.

Let your memories flow. Make your descriptions as detailed and personal as possible.

Now describe the same event from your character’s perspective. How is he or she chasing someone in the story? How is your character trying to seduce someone?

This may or may not be a romantic chase or physical seduction. It may be a psychological dance between two male rivals in a business deal. What are the actions or maneuvers the character takes to win over the other person?

Next, describe the same event from your antagonist’s perspective. What is the antagonist’s psychological dance with the protagonist? How is the antagonist chasing or seducing your character?

Remember: Writing exercises are like priming a pump. They are meant to get your inspiration flowing. They help you gain additional insight into yourself and your character.

You may or may not be able to use any of this material in your story. Right now, don’t worry about what is useful.

Enjoy the process. Expand your imagination. Have fun! Takes risks. Play with your characters and story!

Video Essay of the Week

I’ve done some work with Pixar University in the past, and they continue to produce some of the best storytelling and character work in Hollywood. This is a great examination of emotions, like love, involved in the movie Inside Out:

Let me know what you think of this week’s writing exercise by emailing me at ETBHelp@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you as we go forward with these writing exercises. The next few articles are going to be holiday-themed. When we return, we’ll be discussing, well, discussion…

Until then, remember- all you need to do is Get Started and Keep Going!

– Laurie

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#WritingAdviceWednesday – Writing Exercise: Risky Business

Writing Advice Wednesday

If you like these writing exercises, they form part of my One Hour Screenwriter course. Go from the shred of an idea to an entire feature film script in 22 weeks. You can purchase it at the shop here. You can also read testimonies here that show my methods have worked for a variety of writers.

This week, you and your character will be taking a gamble:

Describe a chance you took

Sit back and remember your most risky behavior. It could be an act of rebellion, a gamble (successful or unsuccessful), a brief adventure, a moment of daring, a crazy scheme, a wild leap of faith, a transgression, a crime, or any other reckless activity.

What exactly did you do? Did you get away with it? What consequences did you pay? Was it worth the risk? Or did you have regrets?

Describe as completely as you can a situation when you left caution to the wind. Who or what prompted you to undertake this dicey activity?

Was anyone else involved? What was their contribution to the situation? How did you feel before, during and after taking the chance you took?

Can you remember what the day was like and what you wore? What are your other sense memories (sight, sound, and feeling) of that risky moment in your life? How did the situation or activity engage all your emotions?

Did you make a personal leap of faith to do this? Did the activity make you feel stronger or more confident?

Did it make you feel foolish? Was there a letdown afterward? Was there relief? Was there exhilaration? Write about everything you felt.

Was this activity something you agonized about and summoned the courage to undertake over time, or was it an impulsive action taken in the heat of the moment?

What made the experience memorable?

Take 10 to 15 minutes to complete this exercise. Do not censor yourself; write whatever comes to mind. Don’t be worried about being articulate, artistic or interesting, just write. Let your memories flow freely.

Now write this exercise from your character’s point of view. What is the riskiest thing your character does in the story? How does that make your character feel?

Ask your character the same questions above. Your character should have several risky moments in the story. What are they?

Video Essay of the Week

Tony Gilroy creates something unforgettable with the film Nightcrawler. The video essay talks about “empathy” but I believe the key is vulnerability.  We are interested in a sociopathic character because we see flashes of his vulnerability (his desperation driving him to take more and more risks in pursuit of a story – and keep his job),

Let me know what you think of this week’s writing exercise by emailing me at ETBHelp@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you as we go forward with more of these writing exercises. Next week, things take a more romantic turn…

Until then, remember- all you need to do is Get Started and Keep Going!

– Laurie

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#WritingAdviceWednesday – Writing Exercise: Cars and Chairs

Writing Advice Wednesday

I hope you’ve been enjoying Writing Advice Wednesday for the last few months, but I’m trying something different for the rest of the year’s posts. As well as a relevant video essay I’ve found, I’ll be giving you writing exercises to stimulate your imagination.

It’s exercises like this that form part of my One Hour Screenwriter course, which will help you write an entire feature film script in 22 weeks. You can purchase it at the shop here. You can also read testimonies here that show my methods have worked for other people.

This week, you’ll be writing description:

Describe your first vehicle

Sit back and remember your first “solo flight”. The first vehicle under your exclusive control might have been your first car, your first bicycle, your first skateboard or your first boat. It might have been a first trip on public transportation all by
yourself, or it might have been some other means of transportation that enabled you to “fly solo” and travel on your own.

Describe as completely as you can your first means of independent travel. If this journey was in your own personal vehicle, when did you get your first mode of transportation? Who gave it to you? Did you pay for it yourself? What did you do to earn the money? Whether it was your own vehicle or other means of transportation (or public conveyance), what did it look like? What did it feel like?

Where did you first ride, drive or sail? Who or what did you see along the way?

What other sense memories do you have of those first “solo flights”? What about your experiences were particularly memorable? How did it make you feel?

If you can’t remember a first- time experience, describe in detail any other memorable journey, trip or excursion in a vehicle. Where did you travel? How did it make you feel? What made that jaunt unforgettable for you?

Take 10 to 15 minutes to complete this exercise. Do not censor yourself; write what ever comes to mind.

Don’t be worried about being articulate, artistic or interesting. Just write.

Don’t worry about style, tone or form. Just keep writing.

Let your memories flow. Make your descriptions as detailed, vivid and personal as possible. If these memories spark something else write about that as well.

How was your first journey alone similar to and different than writing this new story? Are the feelings similar? How have you changed since that “first solo flight”? How are you the same?

Write as much as you can in the time allowed or keep going until you want to stop.

Next, do the exercise from your character’s perspective. What was your character’s “first solo flight” like? How did it feel? How has your character changed since those early days? How is your character the same?

Did this exercise spark any ideas or insights into your story or character?

Video Essay of the Week

This week’s video essay from Tony Zhou proves the importance of an object – chairs. Just as your first vehicle meant a lot to you in some way, chairs can tell us as much as about a person as their car, or first journey alone somewhere.

Let me know what you think of this week’s writing exercise by emailing me at ETBHelp@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you as we go forward with more of these writing exercises. Next week, we’ll be taking some risks…

Until then, remember- all you need to do is Get Started and Keep Going!

– Laurie

#WritingAdviceWednesday – Working with a Writing Partner

Writing Advice Wednesday

Over the last few weeks, I’ve offered insight into how to receive feedback and how to give it. Now it’s time to look at another key dynamic- writing with others. Do you currently work with a writing partner? Have you ever considered doing so? Would you like to improve your chances of success as a team?

All successful creative teams share three basic characteristics. When any one of these characteristics is missing, it becomes more difficult to produce high- quality, original work on schedule. When writers fall behind, the whole television production process suffers and it becomes harder and harder for the writers to catch up. Here are the key characteristics of a highly productive creative team:

1. Team members trust one another.

The writers create a safe place to experiment and fail.

Creativity demands a very high tolerance for failure. The definition of creativity is original ideas that break new ground. If writers don’t encourage each other to take risks, then it’s impossible to create a script that feels fresh and new. Writers who don’t build trust between each other also fear being open and honest about their creative strengths and weaknesses. They are reluctant to ask for help or to offer it to their partner. When collaboration doesn’t feel safe, each writer shuts down personally and imaginatively.

2. Team members engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas.

Both writers direct the debate toward improving the work.

Writers must be able to engage in passionate open debate around creative ideas. This clash of ideas must always be about the work. Conflict in the partnership must never become personal. In a healthy creative team the best idea wins, regardless of its source. When conflict isn’t professional, creative debates can become individual disputes. Writers who are competitive rather than collaborative don’t elevate the team effort. Personal pride and jealousy always hinders and compromises a team’s creativity.

3. Team members focus on the achievements of the team and not individual contributions.

A good partnership is committed and helps both partners succeed.

Both members of the team must feel as if they are integral to the creative effort. Each writer must understand the expectations of the other. Work assignments and the division of labor must be reasonable and delineated clearly.

Each writer must take responsibility for his or her deadlines and be honest, accountable and communicative with the other. Each writer must be able to ask for and give help. Both writers must be committed to helping the team succeed.

Negativity, backbiting and jockeying for position is unprofessional and sabotages a creative atmosphere. Selfishness, irresponsibility, and lack of generosity destroy team effort. Unspoken expectations lead to feelings of betrayal when those expectations aren’t met. Lack of candor and clarity always results in frustration and disappointment.

All successful partnerships are built on generosity, responsibility and open, honest communication. Each partner brings a distinct set of gifts to the relationship that together forms a greater whole than what could be achieved separately. Both partners rise above personal competitiveness and become true collaborators. If you keep track of who wrote what, your partnership can never be truly successful.

Hopefully, the past 3 articles have given you some useful insight into the area of writing not enough people talk about- the collaborative aspect creativity, whether it is in a writer’s room, with a partner, or with executives. These are useful lessons to learn for those of you starting out, and reminders for those of us who are more established. Never forget the importance of clear honest communication.

If you want to catch up on the last two articles, or writing advice in general, you can check out the Writing Advice Wednesdays archive.

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#WritingAdviceWednesday – Giving Writing Notes on a Script

Writing Advice Wednesday

Last week I wrote about being on the receiving end of feedback. now it’s time for some advice on how to be the person giving that feedback, without stifling creativity and disrupting writers.

In any television writers room, you are expected to give feedback to other writers and receive notes on your own work. What’s the most effective way to offer comments that are useful and valuable? This is a very thorny challenge.

Giving notes is one of the most difficult jobs for a producer working with a writer. Offering feedback presents a potential minefield when reading a script for a friend, client or colleague.

The value of participating in any writing workshop can either be greatly enhanced or utterly destroyed by the type of criticism a writer receives from the other participants. Real damage can be done by criticism that isn’t skillful in delivery and content.

When notes are given in a way that is too harsh, brutal or blunt there is a very real danger the writer will simply shut down. That defeats objective number one: Keep the writer writing. If a writer shuts down, then the hope for an improved script drains away. That result doesn’t benefit anyone. Here are the six key elements of giving criticism that is constructive and helpful.

1. Start Positive.

Every writer feels vulnerable and exposed when presenting his or her work for critique or comment. Begin each notes session with a summary of what worked in the script and/or what moments, dialogue or characterisations were particularly effective, striking or memorable. At the very least acknowledge the writer’s hard work, effort, and accomplishment in completing the draft. It means a lot. Beginning on a positive note is simply an act of professional courtesy. Honesty and courtesy are not mutually exclusive. The most effective criticism incorporates both. Also, it gets things off to a good start.

2. Comment on the work, not the writer.

Keep your objective in mind. It’s not your job to pass judgment on the writer. Nor is it helpful. Your job is to assist in improving the script. Keep your questions and comments specific to the action, dialogue, characters, and story. Negative personal comments are counter-productive and don’t accomplish your objective. You cannot inspire a writer to dig deeper, reach higher or work harder by personally attacking or demoralizing him or her. Concentrating on elevating and enhancing the level of the work helps make even the most difficult notes session more palatable and productive.

3. Start with the biggest questions, issues or problems.

If you prepare with notes, and organise your thoughts, this part is going to be much easier. Begin with the most serious areas of concern in the script. Continue to address problems in the order of their importance. Keep the focus on the major issues. Don’t confuse the writer by skipping back and forth between minor nitpicking comments and bigger more problematic challenges. If you do have smaller issues or minor corrections, they are best addressed in pencil notes directly on the script. Return the script with those notations. Reserve your verbal or written notes for your most important points.

4. Ask questions rather than making statements.

When a problem is framed as a question, it feels less threatening and engages the writer more creatively and less defensively. Asking questions is the best way to keep the writer engaged, positive and open. If the writer feels under attack he or she shuts down. Someone who has shut down cannot hear what you have to say and certainly, can’t assimilate or act on your concerns. Questions also help you learn the writer’s intent. Learning this intent can often clarify the issue considerably. Most script problems are problems with execution. If you understand what the writer meant to do, it’s easier to explore why that attempt fell short or didn’t work.

5. Be specific in your questions, not in your solutions.

Don’t speak in sweeping generalities, it doesn’t help anyone. Note the specific areas of the script that need work. Ask concrete questions about the areas where the story or the characters lose focus, don’t make sense or aren’t believable. Resist the temptation to offer specific solutions. Finding solutions is the writer’s job. When you have the urge to offer a particular solution (“Can’t you give the character a dog?”), instead you should look behind that comment and try to determine what problem or issue prompted your question. This isn’t easy. It takes some thought. Specific solutions can sidetrack the issue. Writers often take specific solutions too literally (plugging in the idea or suggestion but never solving the underlying problem) or they dismiss the solution out of hand (because the suggestion itself doesn’t seem that useful). In both cases, the underlying problem never is addressed or solved.

6. End Positive.

Finish your notes session by thanking the writer for his or her hard work. Recap the parts of the script that work well (and which you don’t want to lose or compromise). Restate your commitment to and/or your enthusiasm for the project and the writer. You want to inspire and empower the writer to dig deeper, reach higher and work harder. You don’t want to discourage, demoralise, or depress the writer. Ending on a positive and encouraging note is the best way to keep the writer writing. And that is the only way to achieve your objective or get what you want, which should be the best script possible.

In the final part of this series about notes and working with others, I’ll be examining how successful writing partnerships remain successful.

#MondayMusings – How Do You Eat an Elephant?

Monday Musings

Any writing project is daunting.  Going from the first blank page to 100 screenplay pages or 300 novel pages is a huge challenge.  But the answer to “How do you eat an elephant?” is, one bite at a time.  The way to accomplish any goal is incremental progress.  Get started and keep going.

Robert Collier, one of the first self-help authors, said, “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.

Be consistent. Be diligent.

When I was a student in the UCLA Master’s in Screenwriting program we had 10 weeks to go from blank page to finished first draft. The way I discovered I could meet that deadline time after time was to write 5 pages a day.  Just 5 pages.  Everyday. I never had to pull all-nighters or handed in an unfinished draft.

Small incremental progress is key.  I believe so deeply in this approach I wrote an online course that helps writers finish a first draft writing just one hour a day. I started with the presumption that most people using the course had busy work lives, family lives, and social lives.  But everyone, no matter how busy can block out one hour.

The course is a step by step guide.  You have a specific assignment each day.  There is screenwriting information, video lesson, and all the material you need each day.

To learn more about The One Hour Screenwriter eCourse click HERE.

#BeFabFriday – Above All Else, Be Relentless

Be Fabulous Friday

This week’s quote comes from Bonnie Friedman:

If you’re on Pinterest, why not follow my Pinterest board for these weekly motivational posts? It will be updated weekly, so you can keep track if you ever need quotes and inspiration curated by me.

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#WritingAdviceWednesday – Objects as Symbols

Writing Advice Wednesday

When I am stuck writing a project I like to use this exercise to get me thinking about my character and story in a different way.

I look around and collect a variety of ordinary objects: These can be such things as an ordinary dinner fork, a ceramic figurine, a pair of shoes, a key, a hat, a hammer or any other household or personal object.

Put all the objects in a box. Without looking, pull one of the objects out. Imagine this object is incredibly precious to you. Write about the object as quickly as you can. Imagine its personal value to you is beyond price. Describe why.

Here are some questions to start you off: Was the object a gift? Was it a hard-won trophy? Was it the only thing left behind by someone you loved? Has it played some significant role in your life? Is it a reminder of an important first experience? It is it a reminder of a terrible tragedy or a cautionary tale? Is the object standing in for someone or something else that was lost? Is it something you traded for something else?

Write about the imaginary personal value of the object. Next, imagine that you decide to give the object to another person. Under what circumstances would you part with this most precious object? What would you be telling the person by giving the object to them? How might they react? What would giving the object to the person mean?

Write about the deeper significance of this imaginary gift. Alternatively, imagine you decide to throw the object away. Under what circumstances would you toss it out or destroy it? How would you do this? What would that action mean symbolically? What would you be saying about yourself or your future by leaving the item behind? What impact would this action have on you?

Next, imagine that you decide to give the object to another person. Under what circumstances would you part with this most precious object? What would you be telling the person by giving the object to them? How might they react? What would giving the object to the person mean? Write about the deeper significance of this imaginary gift.

A good way to show emotions is through objects. What object has a deep significance for your main character? What does that object say about your character? What might happen to that object over the course of your story? What might the object signify? How might your character’s feelings change about the object? How might the character express their emotions through the object’s use or physical presence? How might your character communicate to others by discarding, giving away or destroying the object? How can you use objects to externalize what your character’s thinking and feeling?

If you’re on Pinterest, why not follow my Pinterest board full of useful writing advice? It will be updated weekly, so you can keep track if you ever need an excellent video essay, or some relevant advice to whatever problems you are facing. You can always drop me a line at etbhelp@gmail.com with the subject “Ask Laurie” and I will do my best to answer it. I might even include it in an upcoming edition of Writing Advice Wednesday!

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#WritingAdviceWednesday – Filling the Well

Writing Advice Wednesday

It’s not possible for a creative person to continually draw from the well of inspiration without occasionally stopping to refill the source.

What, other than television or film,  inspires you? Is it music? Dance? Painting? Swimming? Walking? Climbing? Canoeing? Gardening? Take some time to enjoy what you love every week (but certainly every month). My inspiration and renewal day is Wednesday. It might be a new exhibition at a local museum, a gallery walk, or a new yoga class I haven’t tried.

Be really selfish and do whatever it is that makes your body relax or your heart soar. Do this alone. Give yourself the freedom to completely indulge yourself or in one of your passions without any distractions, interruptions, or demands from anyone else.

Buy a single ticket to a concert, or other non-verbal performance. Spend an hour wandering around a museum alone. See some new museum exhibit or part of the permanent collection that you’ve never seen before.

Take some time to enjoy nature or revel in the Great Outdoors. Wander around a public park or flower garden on your own. See and do exactly what you want for one hour all on your own.


Whatever you do, don’t go to a movie or a play. The object of this exercise is to get away from actors and dialogue and to find rest, renewal, and refreshment elsewhere.

Experiment with something new. If you’ve never seen a professional dance performance, buy a ticket and see what one is like. Seek out an odd or unusual museum. Explore a neglected corner of the countryside or an unexplored corner of your city.

Ride a bus and watch the world go by. People watch. Give your unconscious mind time to reflect and create by doing or thinking about something else. Get a massage. If nothing else, take a long hot bath filled with scented bubbles. Turn the lights down low and play some soft, soothing music. Relax, enjoy, and let your mind wander.

But you say, “I have so much to do!! I have so little time to write as it is.”  Trust me, a break like this will make you all the more productive and focused when you get back to your computer!

If you’re on Pinterest, why not follow my Pinterest board full of useful writing advice? It will be updated weekly, so you can keep track if you ever need an excellent video essay, or some relevant advice to whatever problems you are facing. You can always drop me a line at etbhelp@gmail.com with the subject “Ask Laurie” and I will do my best to answer it. I might even include it in an upcoming edition of Writing Advice Wednesday!

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#BeFabFriday – The Magic of Ruthlessness

Be Fabulous Friday

This week’s advice comes from the writing wizard, J. K. Rowling:

It doesn’t matter where you do your writing or what hour of the day you dedicate to making your dream a reality. The only thing that matters is picking the same hour each day and consistently reserving that particular 60 minutes for your screenplay. Keeping to the same schedule is key. Good writers write consistently. They find a time to write and stick to their schedule no matter what. They make a sacred promise to themselves that they will allow no distractions, no interruptions, no excuses and no exceptions to invade their private writing time. Be 100% selfish about protecting your “writing hour.” At first, it may be hard to stick to your guns.Modern life is filled with distractions and competing claims for your attention. It is so easy to be tempted to put your writing off because some “crisis” intervened. Don’t give in! Turn off your cell phone, turn off your landline, and turn off your pager, iPhone or PDA.

Keeping to the same schedule is key. Good writers write consistently. They find a time to write and stick to their schedule no matter what. They make a sacred promise to themselves that they will allow no distractions, no interruptions, no excuses and no exceptions to invade their private writing time. Be 100% selfish about protecting your “writing hour.” At first, it may be hard to stick to your guns.Modern life is filled with distractions and competing claims for your attention. It is so easy to be tempted to put your writing off because some “crisis” intervened. Don’t give in! Turn off your cell phone, turn off your landline, and turn off your pager, iPhone or PDA.

Be 100% selfish about protecting your “writing hour.” At first, it may be hard to stick to your guns. Modern life is filled with distractions and competing claims for your attention. It is so easy to be tempted to put your writing off because some “crisis” intervened. Don’t give in! Turn off your cell phone, turn off your landline, and turn off your pager, iPhone or PDA. It can wait an hour for your attention.

If you’re on Pinterest, why not follow my Pinterest board for these weekly motivational posts? It will be updated weekly.  Find quotes and inspiration that have helped me.

 

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