How A Screenwriting Gem Can Make Your Novel All Sparkly

2014-10-11 12.38.09So back to WIK’14, the SCBWI conference I attended a few weeks ago in Birmingham.

I really wanted to get the gist of Lou Anders’ brilliant writing tips to you. But…um…I have PAGES of notes from Scrip Tips (the name of his presentation wherein he applies screen-writing techniques to novel writing ) and I’ll be lucky to a. be able to read my chicken scratching (Holy moly, that man talks fast!) and b. determine what’s good-to-know (’cause really, everything was good-to-know).

Anyway, I shall give it my best shot (see how I added a movie pun there?) and share just a couple good take-aways.

Take-away #1: Lou recommended a few books (you know all about Save the Cat, right?). So, first, these are not Save the Cat.

Check out Dan Decker’s Anatomy of a Screenplay and Jeffrey Alan Schecter’s My Story Can Beat Your Story. Screenwriting is all about story-telling so you can learn a lot from the professionals. (And I’m a visual learner, so if I have a scene from a movie that explains a point, I’m much more likely to “get” the point. Another reason why you’ll want to attend Lou Anders’ talk if he’s ever in your neighborhood: LOTS of movie visuals.)

Take-away #2: Lou talked about the all-important triangle in every movie (and how it can work in your novel).  And no, he wasn’t talking about a love triangle, but he was making a point about characters. Namely, the protagonist (who wants something–and make it something specific), the antagonist (who’s out to keep the protagonist from achieving his/her desire), and the relationship character (who accompanies the protagonist on the journey).

Now I know you know all about the protagonist and the antagonist but how about that relationship character? That’s a nifty character to have because as Lou said, the relationship character is the character who has often been on the journey before, and has something to teach or share AND this character is often the one to whom the protagonist expresses the story’s theme.

Cathy BatmanThe example I loved–because I am all about the Batman–was from the movie, The Dark Knight. Easy enough to figure out the protagonist (Batman, who wants a normal life) and I bet you’re thinking the antagonist is the Joker. But surprise, it’s Harvey Dent (who becomes Two Face).  But the relationship character, that’s simple, right?

Not so fast.

Has to be Alfred (who has pithy yet meaningful conversations with Batman/Bruce Wayne).


Oh, okay. Then it’s Morgan Freeman (who plays the guy who makes all the neat and amazing weapons, cars and stuff and often has very meaningful  and also pithy, theme-ish conversations with Batman, not to mention that it’s Morgan Freeman).


It’s…(the suspense is killing me) …the Joker!

Holy Batman, think how much richer, how much more textured this story is, with the Joker playing the role of the relationship character. Ultimately, it’s the Joker who helps Batman accept his role as the Dark Knight. They’re a lot alike, those two characters, with similar journeys.

(If you haven’t seen The Dark Knight, none of this will make sense to you. Hmmm…maybe you should read Lou Anders’ first book in the Thrones and Bones series, Frostborn. He applied all kinds of swell screenwriting stuff he’d learned, and sold his book–snap!–like that.)

The triangle–just one more gem to think about when writing your story. And maybe if you ever get a chance to hear Lou Anders’ workshop, go. Because honestly, that sparkly little gem is from the first page of my notes.



What Trumps Writing?

2014-10-10 19.03.18You know how you return from an energizing (and dessert-filled) writer’s conference and you’re all jazzed up and rarin’ to go? You want to write–and if you have a blog, like me, you want to share some of the amazing stuff you’ve learned. And really, that was exactly my intent. I returned from WIK’14, the Southern Breeze SCBWI conference in Birmingham late Sunday afternoon, itching to tell you all about it! Itching to get fingertips on keyboard!

But I hadn’t really slept in four days so I needed rest. No worries, I thought. I’ll just get up Monday morning, all refreshed and get ‘er done!

But first, I had to wash clothes because I promised my dad I’d come for a visit this week. And then I had to take care of all the SCBWI business because I promised all those Breezers that I’d send out handouts and such. And then Junior Hallette called.

“I’m sick,” she said.

“Plenty of fluids, cough medicine, and chicken soup,” I said whilst sitting at my laptop, fingers poised. “Mexican Chicken Soup is perfect and I know you have the recipe because I very carefully wrote it down and gave it to you.”

“But I don’t have the stuff for it…maybe you could make it?”

“But then you’d have to come all the way out here…” Notice how I’m very concerned yet noncommittal. (It’s a Mom trick.)

“Oh, I’ll be in that area anyway! I could be there around 5:00.” Notice how that backfired on me?

So then I had to go to the grocery store because I didn’t have the stuff for Mexican Chicken Soup, either. And then I had to actually fix the Mexican Chicken Soup and lend a sympathetic ear to daughter because, in her words, she hadn’t talked to me in forever (It had been a week.).

Okay, not a problem. I pushed helped her out the door following a delicious repast and still had time to get some exciting work in–right after I called my dad and then Juniorest Hall because he was coming along with me. But then Gotham was just about to start–and oh. My. Gazooks. Have you watched that show yet? And then came Blacklist, and the Beneficent Mr. Hall and I have to watch these shows together so that we can explain what’s going on to each other.


I would just bring all my notes with me, I decided, and then I could share the wonderful stuff I learned at WIK’14, and while my dad and youngest played golf today, I’d get some writing in. Still rarin’ to go, I was!

But I forgot the notes.

I forgot the notes from all those wonderful speakers and I forgot the notes from my wonderful critique re: the new and sparkly manuscript I was itching to hit. So this post is my writing for today. Because in just a bit, my dad will be back and he’ll want to talk, and we’ll need to eat, and tomorrow morning, I’ll be in the car all day, driving home.

But the least I can do is share the link to Kirsten BakisNine Exercises to Help You Draft a New Story. She wasn’t at the conference, but still, these are excellent exercises for those of you who actually…well…carve out a couple hours to write.

As for me…I guess sometimes, people you love trump what you love doing. And you know what? I’m fine with that.

Two Things Thursday: Comps and WriteonCon

WascotNinja-300x250So today, in keeping with Two Things Thursday, it’s going to be short and sweet.

Short, because comp is the shortened version of the term, “comparable” or even “comparative.” And in my post over at The Muffin today, I explain a little something something about comps: how they work in general, and how they can work for you. If you have a manuscript–from picture book to adult fiction, including non-fiction–then understanding comps can be very helpful in your pitch and query journey.

And sweet, because WriteOnCon (a FREE online children’s writers conference, created for writers, by writers) has announced their list of agents and opened their forum. That means that you can post your query, or read other queries, and get ready for the fun ‘n games to begin.

So read up on comps and apply to WriteonCon. (And that’s another two things, thank you very much!)