Everyone remembers a good story, from the ones told around a camp fire, told by that uncle that just knew how to spin a yarn. Stories help us feel the world around us. They can teach, entertain, and take us out of our own story to experience another. Some real life stories have more drama than anything made up while those that come from the mind can make us wish that world was real. Ann Lee once said “sometimes films ignore other points of view because it’s simpler to tell the story that way, but the more genuine and sympathetic you are to different points of view and situations, the more real the story is.”
I am starting to write a story as a TV pilot and I have never done anything harder. Trying to create something out of nothing but an idea is like a war against your own assumptions, criticisms, and even your POV. You take parts of who you are, both the good and bad and reflect that into your characters. Even when you have done the research you are still pulling so much from thin air.
I am taking the most memorable elements of people I know and baking some of that into these different characters. I am not going to try to map out there lives from birth to the start of my story but have key points in their lives set, these are the moments that ripple through their lives as a basis for who they are when we meet them in my story.
I was trying to create the story structure but scraped it and just started to write scene by scene so I could get a feel for who these characters are not just in what and how they talk but their actions and personality. Since then I have scraped the story a few times and have made major changes to the background and characters. So instead of writing the characters I am writing the background as I see it. This is the foundation of the story even if it is never seen it provides the detail I need.
I don’t believe that writer’s block is due to being stuck but is about not having the information you need to fill in the gaps. Part of that for me is about creating the history of the characters that inform their actions throughout the first story. It is complex because of the number of characters involved. Of figuring our who each one of them are and going beyond the archetypes and make the people feel fully realized.
I am taking inspiration from people I have met, those I know as the starting point. That is where I am now on this journey. My script will be done in some shape of fashion by year’s end and then the rewrites begin, again.
I am trying to find a starting point to tell this story and the problem I have is that there are many ways to come into this narrative. In reality the bigger problem is finding the sweetspot that best introduces these characters to the audience. The pilot of Mad Men is a great example of a show that did it well. They picked smoking as the introductory client and the dichotomy between then and today because of that subject help to highlight the contrast between that era and today.
In a stand alone movie you have to tell a complete story that satisfies your audience but in a show you have the opportunity to layer different stories in because you have hours instead of minutes to tell the tale. What I am facing now is where that point of introduction is. I need to get all my ducks in order or at least enough of them to know the character of this story. Otherwise I risk it feeling incomplete to the audience and that does no one any good.
Since I am having trouble with that I am writing scenes I know have value even if they may not be used. I am doing this to start the process of writing these voices. They are inconsistent right now because I am still trying to know who these characters are myself.
Cheers to the story and the characters who I am telling it about. That’s the goal I am working towards.
Over the last few weeks I have struggled with trying to write stories in a script format. It is funny because I don’t think of myself as a writer but with a script I am trying to learn how to compartmentalize elements from descriptions to actions and dialog. I have struggled with it because I don’t know where the lines are. By that I mean how much should I describe and what is actually the realm of the director. That line is going to kill me for a while.
That is why I will probably be really slow to write it at the start, it is so different that writing paragraphs. When you are writing a story in a book form you have all the words in the world to play with, whereas with a script everything is stripped down to the bone, broken down to elements and you still need to make it come off the page without the luxury of in-depth description and being able to dive into the inner thoughts of each character.
When I am looking at a scenario how do I write what these characters are doing with just a sentence or two. I am struggling a lot with it now. I am starting to freak out about it. I guess it is time to read the visual storytelling blue book LOL.
I may have to take a break from trying to write the story I want to and instead break it into scenes and just get used to thinking and writing it in script form. If I focus on specific scenes and can get comfortable I know that will help ease my way to going doing it for real.
There is no one way to do anything and in creating a characters there are a few ways to approach it. The 2 ways I am focusing on are developing all the details of who your characters from the beginning. SO this means going back in time before your story starts to figure out what shaped this person before everything began. I can see this being very valuable when writing a novel or a movie script because it lays the foundation for the story you are telling.
The other way would be snowballing. You define the character traits and then fill in the gaps as you go. I can see why this works for television because it keeps things wide open allowing you to take the character in different directions without limiting who and what they are. That’s not to say you can’t change your mind but that can sometimes lead to inconsistencies that you have to ignore or explain in story and that could pull someone out of the narrative if not done properly. (more…)
I have written for a few sites and it is always fun and frustrating. I did OK in English but I never thought of myself as a writer until that is what I started doing. I am still learning be my own best editor and it is hard as frack (this is for all those sci-fi dudes). My problem has always been I read it the way my brain wrote it not how it was actually written on the page. How I am starting to guard against that is my reading my work out loud several times. By speaking each work, each sentence I can get a better idea of it sounds right.
Recently I got the chance to write an article for print. That is a huge step for me because it is something tangible and real. I was so lucky that the editor asked me to do it. It is something I can’t thank him enough for. Looking at my history is like looking at a storm I hope I am closer to the end of it than I am the beginning but I have survived this long, no way I am gonna give up now.
I am doing the job hunting thing but I am also thinking about what kind of ideas I can come up with that would be cool projects to work on. I just sent my CV to an agency in New York City and have sent it to a couple of positions in Toronto that I am more than qualified for and guess who actually responded to me…. not any of the Toronto agencies, it was the NYC based one. I don’t know how to take that but I am not going to give up but I am not so spellbound by the advertising and marketing industries that I don’t understand both their strengths and their weaknesses.
That has made me realize that I don’t have to find a job… that I have the resources to do something else if I so choose and while that is not an easy place to find yourself in but it doesn’t have to be that way if you come at it with a great attitude. Fundamentally I consider myself a passionate story guy. I’m way to curious for my own good and that is a double-edged sword but then again the best weapons always are. It is all about learning to wield it for maximum damage with minimal risk with the knowledge that there will always be some risk and that just part of the deal.
I have been through the spin cycle more than once trying to find a place that fits but I just have not found it yet and should I wait or jump into the fray on my own. What am I waiting for? I think the fear has always been there and I struggle between the two poles of yes and no. I am searching for a basecamp? It can be something I start or a place I join but either way I know that it will have to be right. I have waited this long, there is no point taking something unless it feels right. Maybe I just need to jump off the cliff and go at these 2 or 3 things hardcore. At least then I will have given it my all and whatever happens because of it I will be able to stand up tall.
That is the hope and my question of contemplation.