Tag Archives: character sketch

And She Was – Page turner, thriller – Coming March 2012

9 Feb

I just put down And She Was by Alison Gaylin and it is with pure satisfaction that I do so. This book, from the very first pages, has proven to be an addiction. For days I had been passing by it at work, reading the same first few pages over and over again when I decided to pick it up and read it start to finish. My first idea was to save it for my upcoming travels – some very long flights ahead – but “Oh, only one chapter” turned into “Oh, only the first 100 pages” which then turned into me, in the middle of the night, 3 hours with my eyes glued open and only ten pages to go. I promise you…it was THAT good.

Absolutely captivating. A page-turner.

Normally, my recreational reading revolves around humorous memoirs, chick lit,  and some historical fiction. Mystery-thrillers usually aren’t my go-to because I get so engrossed in the novel that I scare myself silly if I’m reading any time after 7 at night and this book was no exception to that rule. Let’s just say that at 1 am two nights ago I could have sworn someone was breaking in to kidnap someone in my home. No, no, not irrational at all :-O My unwarranted fears only prove that Gaylin is very effective at creating nail-biting, page-turning suspense magic with her words. Take  a peek at her website: http://www.alisongaylin.com. She has penned several other mystery novels that I will need to check out of the library ASAP since I already devoured As She Was and loved it.

Happy Reading!

Peek into Screenwriting

21 Sep

As I mentioned last week, Gotham Writer’s Workshop (GWW) offered a set of free introductory courses in NYC on Sept 20th & 21st. The classes filled up quickly as I found out when I applied to attend a course on the 21st and was told in the next 10 minutes that it was already filled…along with almost every other course listed for that date. This place is popular and there is no shortage of writers in NYC & its periphery, so I suppose I expected it to be that hard to get into a class.

Well, in the end a friend of mine decided to take the Creative Writing 101 course on Tuesday night and I decided that I had done that already in my GWW Fiction 1 intensive last year, so I sprung for something out of my comfort zone – screenwriting.

Now, I am a movie addict. I watched ‘Titanic’ SIX times in theaters and cried every single time Kate Winslet wouldn’t let Jack on that perfectly large-enough-for-you-and-your-lover piece of debris. ANYWAY, I digress… The point I’m trying to actually make is that I love the medium of film but it had never occurred to me to write a screenplay. Sitting in this class, though, I can see myself eagerly transforming my novel into a screenplay and quite easily.

As per usual, GWW excelled in bringing a highly educated, smart, engaging teacher to this class. This time around, I had the pleasure of learning from screenwriter, novelist and director, Richard Uhlig. He attended NYU grad school and has his MFA in Screen Writing from the American Film Institute. Mr. Uhlig was very personable and in the 60-minute span had lots of insightful comments, suggestions and stories to tell. We worked through two different 5-minute writing exercises and everyone was engaged and there was great energy in the room. If I lived closer, I would definitely take his class just to learn something new. Today, in reading about him some more on his website, I learned he has also written 2 novels (covers shown below). You can read the first chapter of his second novel, “Boy Minus Girl”, on his site and it is very engaging an immediately I was transported into the life of this bored, horny teenage boy who desperately wants to hook up with his dream girl and flee Kansas as quickly as possible…and did I mention there’s a Charlie Sheen type Uncle that apparently takes him under his wing to learn the lay of the land of ladies? Oh yeah…I need to get this book asap.

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Anyway, regarding screenwriting… Here are a few tips Mr. Uhlig shared in class that I think are really useful. As a way to break some writer’s block, maybe take a step back from your project and turn a scene into a screen play to better visualize where you want your piece to go.

1) Movies are all about IMAGES. Iconic images that you remember forever. His one example was of the girl getting sucked under water by an unseen create as she swims through the water…aka JAWS.

2) In screenplays you can only write about what you can SEE and HEAR. The ‘internalization’ found in narrative can be adopted to film with voice overs, but they are what drive a movie.

3) The job of a screenwriter is to emotionally involve your audience using IMAGES. Dialogue is secondary. As with most writing, SHOW don’t TELL.

4) Screenplays are written in the PRESENT tense. “The girl is sucked under the water by an unknown creature.”

5) Visual images, songs, characters, conversations, places are all great inspiration for screenplays…and other types of writing, as well. Follow the inspirations you find and work with them to create your screenplay.

6) COMMIT to writing daily. Make a schedule. Be adamant about keeping fresh with your writing. As Mr. Uhlig said last night and I’ve heard time and again, “writing begets writing.”

7) Particularly with screenplays, DON’T write in the shots or micromanage actors. The shots are determined by the director and the actors will interpret the character as they see fit. You want to give both directors, actors and editors enough information to go on, but not too much as to stifle them.

As for me, I presented during on the five-minute writing pieces in class and I think it really is telling of my character in “Alternate Ending” so I’m going to roll with it…take inspiration where you can find it – it’s all over the place!

Happy Writing!

Workshops| New York City | 42 Free Writing Classes – Gotham Writers’ Workshop Fall Open House

15 Sep

If you’re in the NYC area take advantage of these great FREE writing courses. Gotham is excellent. I took a one-day intensive Fiction class this time last year and it really helped get the ball rolling & my mind churning with new ideas…take advantage of this deal if you can!

If you’re prepping for NANOWRIMO 2011 this November, these classes could be a great place to start getting your preparations in place for that awesome month-long creative journey!

Happy writing…

Click on the Image below to get more info!

Plot: Getting Organized

8 Sep

It was a dark and stormy night. The street lamps went dark. A vampire bit into an unsuspecting victim’s neck. He caused havoc around town until dawn broke. Somewhere in there he falls in love with his victim, but she loathes him. To this, he gets infuriated and runs away. And of course, then she realizes her tragic error – she does love him despite his appetite for humans – but he’s already gone. The end.

Ok, that’s not really awe-inspiring or long enough to be considered anything other than a rant, but it’s a start. Developing your plot and organizing your thoughts into paragraphs and chapters can become a daunting task without some sort of outline. Writing an entire story from start to finish without preparing something to help guide you on your way (my experience during NANOWRIMO 2006) may seem at first the “natural” way to let thoughts flow, or an “organic” way to build a story from off the top of your brain, but it can also be daunting. Isn’t it said that “preparedness is next to godliness”? Well, I don’t know about that whole godly aspect, but I do know that preparing – outlining, creating story boards, using note cards, having visual stimuli – can help immensely when you’re in the thick of writing.

For “Alternate Ending”, I plastered a 2’ x 1’ poster board to my wall and stuck character sketches, plot lines, chapter ideas, and pictures of locations all across it to give me a visual eye-sore of a reminder that this project had direction. Today, there are color schemes and dedicated post it notes for certain characters. Though the plot has changed several times since I made the board, it helps me visualize where I’m going with the story when I run off on tangents or avoid writing for a few weeks.

Two great examples of how to get organized with your plot are:

Storybook: a free online software for Windows & Linux users that can function in various languages. Their tagline breaks it down further: “Open Source Novel Writing Software for Novelists, Authors and Creative Writers.” There are several different views that seem very useful in the program:

1)      organize and store your plot lines, character sketches and scenes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2)      gel all these pieces together to view your final picture in chronological order

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s really amazing…and FREE!

Unfortunately, for Mac users like myself, there doesn’t seem to be a solution, but if/when I find one, I will post it.

 

Another great way to approach your novel or short story is to think of it as a movie playing out in your mind…then on paper. In the same vein as the Storybook program and my homemade story board, you can approach your plot using the story board templates used by film makers. The great templates below are from a fellow WordPress blogger, HabitualFilms, and they’ve been posted to be printed and worked on as you wish. Draw in your characters, scenes, even conversations if you wish. Or, use the boards to organize your thoughts with sticky notes and highlighters. Either way, it’s a useful tool if you want a non-computer experience to plan out your story line.

 

Overall, have fun with it. The plot of your story is a living, breathing part of your creative process and organizing those thoughts should not take away from that process. Use the tools you can find to tweak, grow and elaborate on your plot and remember that just because it’s on a story board doesn’t mean it can’t change. Keep your plot fresh and intriguing. Organizing the essential pieces of your story on a storyboard, notebook or digital space can help free your mind to explore plot lines and twists you may have otherwise not approached. Go, organize and explore…

Happy Writing!

 

Location, location, location…

1 Sep

Sometimes a story, poem, rant can take shape without a single character in mind and you just start writing about a place or a time that inspires your imagination. Yesterday, in a bit of a lull, I had this sudden urge to write and the only thing that took shape was a setting: Irish hilly countryside. No characters, just a long description filled with my memories and my imagination of what this bit of place looked, felt, sounded, even smelled like.

Using as many of your 5 senses as possible…and the 6th, too,  if you’ve got it handy…try and imagine a single place. No people. Just take in every ounce of information you can from the place you are or that you are imagining. Even if you’re in a crowded subway car or coffee shop, sit still and imagine what it would be like if you were a fly on the wall really taking in every element of the space you inhabit. Let the place be its own character. Give it personality or take it from the elements you observe.

Here are some exercises I think are useful:

1) Dig up an old picture of a place you have been. A scene from the canals in Amsterdam, a lake in rural Minnesota where you & your family used to go, a mountain range, even a shot of your backyard. What are those places like when there is no one around? Does the grass sigh with relief when it finally rains, giving off that earthly smell? Do the empty streets in the summer sizzle under the sun? What animals appear when no people are present and take shape to the landscape?

2) Think of one location in particular and use your five senses to describe it during all four seasons: a view of it in summer, fall, winter and spring. Then, take a look at it during those weeks in the year that cradle two seasons. Are the leaves teetering on the verge of falling, but they wait an extra week to deny winter is really coming? Do the cacti soak up as much water as they can from the last rain of the year, bracing for the 10 months of drought to come?

3) Describe a place that does not exist…to your knowledge. If writing fantasy or sci fi interests you, write about a mythical or made up place. Are there plants? What does it smell like? Do animals inhibit the area? Is the air thick with humidity or thin/non existent because of the atmosphere? Take it to the next level and try not to pull from the places you’ve seen/read about in sci fi or fantasy shows/books. Create your own, unique mythical setting.

Perhaps with the setting in front of you and tackled in depth, this exercise can lead to the development of characters for your novel/short story. Once you have a clear vision of the place they inhabit (permanently or temporarily) in your story, you can build your characters’ personalities, expressions, vernacular, etc.

Here’s one of my own pictures in case you need some inspiration:

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