I attended an event on 7th March by GIFT (Girls in Film & Television) in conjunction with the EPL Library WIR Susie Moloney. This is an avenue of writing I want to explore, learn and master. After all every fiction author wants to see their story on the big screen.
The workshop focused on secrets of the golden rules of screenwriting, and the short film format. The presentation gave us information on how to write full and dynamic characters, how to structure a story, and how to format a script like a pro. Our host was Jana O’Connor, who instructs within Alberta schools for GIFT, 5 day workshops to teach young girls/women the world for film.
The intricacies of the production of a movie (or play) are a world away from the writing of a novel. There are 5 Golden Rules:
Rule of Three
It may seem similar to the construct of a novel, however, the differences are in the format of the script. Although, it details such things as location and character name, it also includes parenthesis (a word, clause, or sentence inserted as an explanation or afterthought into a passage that is grammatically complete without it, in writing usually marked off by curved brackets, dashes, or commas.) These are clues to what day of day the scene takes place, any significant objects, if the actor needs to use a specific emphasis on how they say the line, such as sarcastically or frightened etc.
Intro: Interior of a log cabin, night time
Name: Character’s name in capitals – Malcolm
Each page represents 60 seconds of film so the scene and dialogue has to be concise – remember the viewer is seeing a lot of the things as a novelist we have to explain and include.
Take a scene from your novel and rewrite it as a movie scene – how much did you delete?
I attended a creative workshop a couple of Saturday’s ago held by my writer’s group, The Writers Foundation of Strathcona County. The topics were POV and plot lines. We had several warm up exercises and an explanation of the various POV types and the variety of plot structure methods. Then with a timed exercise of twenty minutes, we had to write a short story using those techniques but with a title and a genre picked from a bowl. My title was Clue of the Painted Hand in a children’s book style. Although the last couple of paragraphs were added later, I think I did pretty well to have characters, plot, and a beginning, middle and finally an end!
Clue of the Painted Hand
Daisy pulled at her mother’s hand as they entered the library. It was her favorite place. Books let her escape to other worlds and made her feel less lonely. An only child, Daisy looked like a mini replica of her mother – blonde, brown eyes and slim -the only difference was the flower shaped birthmark on her right cheek. The reason she was called Daisy.
As usual there were lots of people in the library browsing book shelves and she saw a small huddle of younger children were listening to story time. Daisy felt too old for the short picture book stories and felt proud her reading age was ten years old, more than her real age of seven. She surpassed most of her school class mates in reading.
She looked over to see her mother talking to a friend so made her way to the book shelves in her favorite section – mystery adventure. Daisy loved jigsaw puzzle when she was younger, solving the patterns to create a whole picture. Now it was the same with stories. She would figure out the answer to the clues in the narrative before the end, most of the time.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor, Daisy ran her fingers across the book spines reading the titles. If one interested her, she took it out and read the explanation on the back. One by one she piled up books beside her. She could take out ten books and always finished them before the next Saturday. One book pulled another off the shelf and Daisy dropped them on the floor. As she lay down to grab one from under the shelf her fingers encountered another book shoved under the wooden base. After several tries she prised a dusty old book from under the shelf. It was an old book, its cover tattered and dusty. Daisy used her sleeve to wipe the dust off the cover. The title was immediately interesting – Clue of the Painted Hand. Oh this looks good, she thought. Turning the book over and opening it, she realized there was no library stamp of barcode. How long has it been there? Looking side to side, Daisy felt a real thrill – a book I can keep! A shiver of excitement and guilt went through her young body. No-one would know, she could put it in her coat pocket without anyone seeing. Her curiosity could wait no longer; opening the first page a map covered the first two pages. As she traced her finger over the markings and named streets, she recognized one – Hampton Avenue, where she lived. How could a book hidden under a shelf have a map of her town?
“Daisy, are you ready to go?”
Her mother’s voice startled Daisy and she quickly put the book in her pocket before picking up her selected library books. With the books scanned, they returned to the car. Daisy kept her excitement to herself but raced upstairs as soon as they arrived home. Now I can read the clues and find whatever treasure there is. It only took an hour to read the book. It told the story of an old Jack in the Box made by a master toymaker, who lived in the town many years before. His shop sign was a painted hand. This particular Jack in the Box had a musical mechanism and a doll instead of a jack, which popped up. Daisy read the clue, traced the map’s tracks and realized the location of the box was in the play ground behind her house.
She walked through the back garden, through the gate and counted steps just like the map said – one, two, three – until she reached twenty-five steps. Standing beside an overgrown old fountain, she pulled ivy and weeds away. The instructions said there was a secret detail to push in sequence. Daisy brushed away dirt and old leaves to find the stone carved like a bunch of daisies. She pressed the first petal it did not move, then another. Gradually, she discovered the petals that did move and marked them with a thumbprint. Now how do I press them in the right order? She sat down cross-legged and looked at the stone decoration. It was a posy of daisies, the stems long and disappearing into the weeds. Maybe I should pull these weeds out as well. Her thought propelled her into action. The flower stems were encased in a stone vase decoration with faint lettering on it. After rubbing the grime off with her sleeve, the words were clearer. A riddle! How exciting.
I’m at the peak
Then to the right
Follow me to the base
And reach to the left
A final center will release
Daisy read the riddle three times then pressed the loose petals, top, right, left, bottom and center. A grating sound alerted her to something moving. The vase shape pushed forward to reveal a void. Sitting in it was a dusty square box. With nervous excitement, Daisy pulled it out of its hiding place and wiped it clean. She knew her mother would be upset with all the dirt on her clothes but the treasure was worth it. Gently, she wound the handle on the side of the box until the lid burst open to reveal a beautiful blonde doll, head to one side holding a book and smiling. Music started to play and the doll’s head moved side to side just like if she was reading. This is so beautiful, she looks a little like me. Blowing gently she rid the doll and its book of a layer of dust. That’s when she saw the title of the book – Daisy the Adventurer. It is me! How can that be? Another mystery for me to solve but maybe I will need mother’s help. With great care, Daisy pushed the stone vase back into place, pulled the ivy and weeds back over the fountain and walked home cradling her treasure.
I hope you liked it.
Which plot method do you think I used? Story map, Story Flow Chart or Story Mountain?
It may seem like an easy to answer question but for most writer’s it is a multi faceted one. I have answered with:
Word or picture prompts
Overheard snippets of conversation
An idea popped into my head randomly
A personal interest
A topic of conversation
A couple of examples:
My children’s picture book, Rumble’s First Scare was a Halloween prompt, which I turned upside down. It is the monster’s point of view of Halloween and his first scare adventure with his Mum.
The Rython Kingdom began as a series of prompts that gelled together to form a story by pure chance.
It is not so clear cut as these to be honest but it helps a non-writer understand the creativity side of our brains a little easier.
I presented a workshop on how to formulate an idea into a novel at the WFSC writer’s conference in the spring. From that initial spark to compiling a story line/arc, creating a plot arc, introducing characters, and finding the correct conclusion for the genre. It was a fun experience.
Unfortunately my creative writing has taken a backseat this last week while I compiled a schedule, contact sheet and action requirements for the Heritage Day my Board and another organization are holding in June. In all I spent seven hours going through hundreds of emails to find contacts and actions made and needed. Having so many people involved is wonderful for the work share but a logistical nightmare. Now it is done I feel confident that everyone knows the status of what is happening, who is attending and special information.
After all that creating my writers foundation Board’s agenda for tonight’s meeting was a piece of cake!
I will use some of my long weekend to type out the personal experience notes my ghost writing client gave me and insert it into the draft book. I’ll also be putting the finishing touches to the workshop I am presenting at a writers conference on 22nd April – I want to ensure it is informative but also fun.
Hopefully I can also take some time to continue my edit and revision of The Twesome Loop. It is tantalizingly close to the finish prior to going back to beta-readers.
How is your current work in progress coming along?
The Faraday Girls by Monica McInerney- I am on the last few chapters of this wonderful narrative – I will not spoil the ending for anyone wanting to read it – that’s so unfair. So will put up a Goodreads review once I’m finished which will be this long weekend for sure.
The Other Life by Ellen Meister – so excited to read this story. If you could choose a different life, one you actually knew about – would you?
Do you have a recommendation?
Do you want to hook up on Goodreads? Follow the link on the side bar to my account.
Join a writers’ group so you can gain support from the writing community and enjoy camaraderie in your craft.
From personal experience a writers group is invaluable for any writer as long as you receive constructive critique, your style and voice are acknowledged and respected and there is a strong sense of support and encouragement. My group: www.wfscsherwoodpark.com encourages writers any stage, any age of their writing career. We have local and virtual members.
Be observant. The people and activities that surround you will provide you with great inspiration for characters, plots, and themes. (And people watching is so much fun!)
Use writing exercises to improve your skills, strengthen your talent, and explore different genres, styles, and techniques. My favorite ‘inspirational kick’ is finding a word or picture prompt. I create a prompt on our website every Saturday – scroll back and find one that ‘speaks’ to you – top right on the calendar www.wfscsherwoodpark.com
I attended a library session hosted by the writer in residence. Although the evening was enjoyable and he relayed many personal stories to highlight how we can use our life experience to create characters, there was not much in the way of ‘practical’ tips. This was rather a disappointment to many that attended. A character sheet was handed out but it can be downloaded from the internet easily enough. It would have been a lot more instructive to actually have writing exercises and then discussion so we gained valuable feedback on our character descriptions.
Have you attended workshops that fell short or exceeded your expectations?
The Twesome Loop manuscript review.
I asked a friend, who is not a writer but a reader to give me her honest opinion on my manuscript as there are two time periods and multiple characters in the story. I wanted to know if the story was too complex and required drastic revision. Not only did she read it in record time but loved the story. This was her last comment:
“Finished 5pm local time. From p.89 today. Yay for Gerald , I was swinging punches at Brett too. P.96 love description of Rome, have visited some of those places. Your draft book was enjoyable. Had no problems with characters , followed story OK. Well done.” Doreen.
My reason for wanting this review was that a professional author thought I should cut out characters ‘as there are too many’ – however as he does not write or read historical romance, I was loathe to discard characters I thought rounded out the story. I think I will continue editing but will keep the characters. I did look at the prospect of separating some of the characters into two other novels but I think it would detract from their stories to do so.
Have you stuck to your guns on a manuscript?
Did you drastically revise a novel so characters were omitted?
A freelance client contacted me after some time away asking for more work so now I have to juggle her internet lessons, due 27th February with ghost writing a book for another client. And refining an erotic scene for a reading I am doing on 25th February – what’s that saying – when it rains, it pours! No I am not complaining.
I am 2/3 through Ava Moss by Joss Landry. After which I have Beyond the Precipice by Eva Blaskovic.
In addition I have a manuscript to review for an author friend so I have plenty to read.
What book are you reading currently? How do you like it?
“Read it aloud to yourself because that’s the only way to be sure the rhythms of the sentences are OK (prose rhythms are too complex and subtle to be thought out—they can be got right only by ear).” — Diana Athill