Story Tip Tuesday

An honest confession about writer’s block. I have it in some form almost every day. Probably not the smartest thing to admit on this blog, but I’m doing so in order to let you know that you’re not alone. This is the dragon known as ‘Fear’ that rears its ugly head from time to time in the minds of most writers, and I am certainly no exception. But the great thing is, I can honestly say that I have tamed my dragon and it’s allowed me to be a successful working writer for nearly twenty years. I know how to send the dragon crawling back into its cave, and I now see its fierceness as a true companion and very useful partner in my work.

During the initial stages of developing a story, your dragon will threaten to kill any chances of creativity. Its voice echoes inside your head telling you that you’re no good, that your story is no good and that you will fail. This is the time when you need to shove him or her into that cage and lock the door. Any successful project or story begins with a pil...

Writing is all about choices. What a character does. What a character says. Deciding what happens next in your story. Too often, though, writers go for what first pops into their minds, and although this first instinct can sometimes be a stroke of true genius, other times it can be plain ol’ lazy! It’s important to push yourself to stay on top of your game and come up with creative choices throughout the many stages of development and writing.

One trick I really like is to use the fingers on my own hand and push myself to come up with five different choices. For example, if my hero suddenly discovered that his best friend had set up an interview for the same job as him, I'd ask myself these questions:

1) What is the most practical thing he would do?

2) What is the most ridiculous thing he would do?

3) What is the most careless thing he would do?

4) What is the most unexpected and genius thing he would do?

5) What is the most deceitful thing he would do? And…

6) What is the most honourable thi...

Three-Act Structure is our best friend! It’s not some made-up Hollywood-style trick, it’s what every successful writer understands. Beginning, middle and end is encoded in our very cells and in the patterns of our lives. The sun rises, it shines and it sets. We’re born, we dance and we die. Every story has a beginning and every story has an end, and the only possible thing that lies between these two has to be the ‘middle’.

Three-Act Structure doesn’t tell us what kind of story to write or how to write it, but it is the thing that takes your audience on a dramatic and emotional journey. If your story structure is weak, your audience is bored and confused. If it is blindly followed without really understanding its underlying purpose, your story feels predictable and contrived. But if applied well, Three-Act Structure is ‘invisible’. All we know is we are totally hooked and completely engaged in your story from beginning to end.

So here’s this week’s story tip. Go online and spend 10 minut...

I’ve spent years consulting with writers and producers, and many times when I’m hired onto a project that’s been struggling, the first thing people want to do is send me the mountain of drafts and series bibles that, so far, haven’t worked.

My job is to really help them and in order to do that, I must tactfully suggest that, instead, we spend an hour of time together, face to face. This is my opportunity to ask them to tell me about their idea or story. How did they come up with the idea and what is it about this show or story that they truly love? This hour will be the most important hour for my clients since it brings them back to the simple idea and the moment they fell in love with the story before it became too busy, too complicated or just went sideways. As for me, I listen to what they say and discover more about the heart and soul of the project than I could possibly learn from reading through the mountain of discarded drafts.

So here’s this weeks tip and something that will save...

Here’s an important question for you. When does your story actually begin? Does your story begin on page one of your script with those three little words, “CAMERA OPENS ON”? Is it the beautiful pan of a landscape or the exciting intergalactic space battle of your favourite film’s opening title sequence? Or perhaps it’s the moment where we first meet your hero?

The answer is noooooooo! And here’s why. The first part of a story has a very important purpose and that’s to ‘set us up’. We need to be drawn in. We discover the setting. We are introduced to your hero and meet some of the other important characters. And, we are skilfully given the important backstory we need in order to prepare us for the adventure to come. But although your job as a writer is to hook us in these first few pages, the story itself has still not yet begun. As an audience or a reader, we are taking this initial information in, but we are waiting for something to happen and that ‘something’ is usually not good. This...

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