WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: The Music in Me Vol. 2

In case you missed my first instalment discussing music and my WIPs, you can catch up here. Musical choices in storytelling fascinate me. After watching the LoTR franchise, I can’t fully appreciate life in The Shire without hearing the jaunty melody that enhances the light and playful experience of running through the grass. The juxtaposition of rock and roll and other more modern songs in A Knight’s Tale doesn’t seem like it would work, but it does. And our favorite erstwhile bounty hunter The Mandalorian, a.k.a. Din Djarin, travels about in a galaxy, far far away, to what? Space Opera music? Space Western music? You can hear some of the score in the Season 2 Final Trailer here. (Fair warning, there are spoilers if you haven’t watched the show yet. And if not, what are you waiting for?) Whatever we want to call it, the music brings that part of the universe to life in a way uniquely its own.

It’s as though the music becomes as integral to the worlds we create and the characters within them. One could argue that the music we ascribe to the stories we tell are characters in their own right.

Yes, these examples are for a different medium. However, I’m a visual writer and have been told as much by others who’ve read my work. I want my words to leap off the page and into life, whether on the page or on screen. I aspire to write screenplays as well as adapt the WIPs I’ve already begun in book form. Either way, music has always been an essential part of my writing process.

If it’s not music I already love that I incorporate into my WIPs, I somehow hear a score as the scenes unfold in my mind. There’s no other way to describe it than that. I’m not adept at music production but I am intrigued by the process. As part of the various creative outlets that I’m pursuing for my own edification, as well as for their therapeutic benefits, I want to delve more into illustration and music creation. The art supplies have been purchased and I do have music apps and tech that will (ideally… hopefully… lol) help me bring out the musical notes that have been dancing around in my cranium as I write. Adding other tangible aspects to my stories to supplement and enhance the words is an exciting prospect for me. Considering the technology available to us and how innovative people have been during the pandemic, I would be keen to try an immersive, interactive and potentially collaborative means of storytelling. I’ve been wanting to do something like this for years and there’s no time like the present, right?

Have you ever seen behind the scenes footage of a show or film you like? They’re blocking the scene, filming it from different angles, but it’s completely silent other than the actors speaking or certain sound effects activating. The score is added in post-production. The viewing experience is completely different when you have music accompanying the various emotions of a scene. How about moments where no words are necessary but you see a character realize something crucial to the plot?There are musical cues and dramatic pauses that allow the audience to come to that realization along with them. You’re really brought deeper into the story and find yourself in suspended disbelief. You’re no longer a spectator but an active participant in the story and the stakes are just as high.

I have a very similar experience when reading or writing stories. The scene unfolds, the music swells, and I’m right there with the characters amidst the adventure and turmoil. I’ve had to close a book because it left me overcome with emotions. The respite is almost immediate as I’d be drawn back into the story, no matter how late into the night I’d go. As an insomniac, it’s so late it becomes early–as in, early morning.

Do you have musical inclinations when you’re drafting your stories? Do you like listening to music to help you get in the writing mindset or do you also enjoy particular music to help inspire the scenes themselves? Either way, music is a powerful component of my story creation.

A compelling score adds texture and nuance to the scenes as they unfold in my mind and translate to words on the page. What are you writing? And what music, if any, moves you? Music that moves you to write, music that moves your story forward. I’d love to hear what inspires other writers and add to my playlist.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: Pitch Perfect

a.k.a. Prompt Submission Update #3

We’re in the third week of impact x SKYDANCE prompt submission period. How did time slip away so quickly while at the same time, I feel like I’d been suspended in a vat of molasses? Monday’s upcoming deadline draws near. I suspect Dali’s clocks are going to melt all over my face soon if I don’t start wrapping this puppy up.

I’m polishing a short film screenplay I’m submitting as my writing sample. I’ve got the story ideas for each prompt ready-ish to go. The other major submission requirement is a 30-second video pitch. In the last year of zoom meetings and social distancing, I was never in front of the camera. I attended webinars where participants were visible in username only. Heck, it was only a couple days ago that I got my hair cut after two and a half years. I didn’t attempt any quarantine DIY hairdos (or hairdon’ts, as they more frequently appeared to be). Now I gotta go in front of a camera? My introverted self didn’t just pump the brakes, I got outta the car!

Shyness aside, it’s the pitch itself that I’m more antsy about. I had the wonderful and terrifying experience of pitching a Middle Grade Adventure story at a writers conference eleven years ago. It was my first writers conference and I did not prepare myself for the magnitude of the event. Sure, I read all these primer articles long after the fact, but that was probably one of my most “fish out of water/deer in headlights” experiences, so far, as a writer.

By all counts, this should be easier. I just need to record myself summarizing my two story ideas in under 30 seconds each. I don’t have to quietly fidget in front of a literary agent or editor. I even have the opportunity to finesse and edit the pitch so that the final product is seamless. Well, that’s the logistics covered, what about the pitch itself?

The story pitch, also known as the elevator pitch, is a convincing argument or idea that can be summarized in the amount of time it takes for an average elevator ride. Simple, right? What happens if you’re overwhelmed with ideas but the person is already out the door before you can finish? Lucky for us fledgeling writers, many have come before us and many have shared their expertise on the subject.

When Kenn Adams created this method 30 years ago, he called it “Once upon a time…” Initially intended as an improvisation exercise, this set of steps has since been widely used, adapted, and modified by authors, playwrights, and screenwriters. It’s even found its way into the world of marketing and other aspects of collaborative brainstorming. Over the years, it became known as The Story Spine. Adams, a teacher, author, and Artistic Director of Synergy Theater, outlined the pitch steps and broke down the animated film The Incredibles, to illustrate the story flow. SPOILERS AHEAD if you haven’t seen the movie yet.

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I read the example aloud and it ran around 45 seconds. My story ideas are for one-hour television series, and while the ideas have to be overarching for their respective series as a whole, each episode, would probably require only one or two “Because of that…” steps. What I like about the breakdown in the chart is that it goes hand in hand with story structure so I can be sure that I’m covering the basics of the story’s progression. As the name suggests, this is only the spine of the story. Anatomically, we’d need to put meat on the bones. In the physical sense, we’d need to add the many leaves to the book where the spine holds everything together. Even in scriptwriting, we’d need to fill in the spaces between each story beat.

A great story idea is one thing. A great story pitch is another. Even after all that goes well, the story ain’t gonna write itself. That’s where we can add texture and depth and take the reader or viewer on a journey we hope they enjoy as we do. Everything is coming along nicely. I still don’t want to put too much pressure on myself to meet this deadline on Monday. If it goes through, great. If not, there are always more submission call outs ahead. I’m happy for the opportunity to focus on a meaningful writing project again and whatever happens next week, I’m a better writer for it.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

FANGIRL FRIDAY: Rewind, Remix, Recycle, Reuse, Reduce?

I’ve been feeding my insomniac self by watching midnight movies and shows, rather than having a midnight snack. Despite ratings, despite warnings, depending on who’s talking, I watched Terminator: Dark Fate and Bad Boys For Life on back to back evenings. Then, I recently caught myself up on the final season of Lethal Weapon and saw a commercial for a new Punky Brewster series. This semi-FLASHBACK FANGIRL FRIDAY post maybe hit me with the nostalgia bug finding some connection to characters I knew and loved, but I started to wonder if that’s all there was anymore.

In a recent article about a possible Criminal Minds revival, it got me excited. I’d recently binged the final season and already miss the characters. The article explained that a revival involved original cast and crew members, though no actors had yet to be attached to the project at the time of announcement, whereas a reboot could have completely different characters or a redo of a previous iteration with new actors. Revivals, reboots, reunion specials, series based on the big screen, movies inspired by the small screen. Different versions. Different perspectives. Same enjoyment?

What keeps us coming back to these types of stories? Is it the formula? Is it the familiarity? Is the market so saturated that we go with what’s comfortable? As a writer, this is something I think about a lot and it scares me as much as it motivates me to want to share my stories with the world.

As for the fangirl in me, I do enjoy these types of shows and movies–when they work. There’s a fine line between beating a dead horse and realizing the horse ain’t dead and you need to let it live its best life. When it came to Terminator: Dark Fate I think I wanted more. I loved Terminator 2: Judgment Day and remembered watching it in the theatre (*sniff* remember movie theatres?) and leaving so empowered. Linda Hamilton‘s portrayal of Sarah Connor is iconic. This (final?) instalment that reunited her with Arnold Schwarzenegger should’ve been awesome, but it ended up being too campy and dare I say, felt like the production was banking on their names to lure us in. I mean, it worked. I was lured, but I didn’t end up enjoying it as much as I wanted to.

Bad Boys For Life, on the other hand, answered a question I’m sure every fan had asked. I wonder what Mike and Marcus are up to these days? Yes there were cheesy moments, but the chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence is undeniable that it’s like they fell right back in step with each other–or maybe they’ve been fighting crime on the streets of Miami this whole time. Who knows? Maybe it was the storyline in Dark Fate or what I perceived as forced acting between Hamilton and Schwarzenegger, but I didn’t feel as emotionally invested in their lives as I did our Boys from Miami.

Maybe that’s why I don’t want to always hedge my bets on these types of offerings. Expectations are too high and sometimes we’re left with disappointment. It’s also perhaps a good reason why I’m such a fan of shows like The Mandalorian and WandaVision. They’re expanding on storyverses that I’ve grown to love and are giving us new characters and storylines that can satisfy our late night binge watching hunger. You can be certain that I’m all in for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier when it comes out next month.

How about you? Are you into revivals, reboots, redos, and/or continuations, or are you a one and done type of viewer? Whatever it is, there’s definitely something for everyone. Enjoy your midnight visual snacking.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: Running Circles Around the Competition

a.k.a. Prompt Submission Update #2

Two weeks in and I’m neck deep in research for the impact x SKYDANCE prompts. What last week yielded in idea plausibility, this week I came up in spades with story structure. I’ve been getting myself famiilar with the Plottr software program and there are many templates to choose from to help plot a story, novel, or screenplay. Heck, people have even found non-writing creative ways to use that program, such as meal planning and scheduling. More on the Plottr program itself in a future post.

Every writer has heard of the Hero’s Journey, at some point. Since a lot of my WIPs are more adventure/quest based, this seems fitting. Joseph Campbell introduced the world to the Hero’s Journey, or the monomyth, and it’s the foundation from which millions of stories have been built on ever since. I’ve learned a lot from this method and know that it’s something that will always be in my writing toolkit.

Something that appealed to me recently, however, is Dan Harmon‘s method of storytelling. Also known as Plot Embryo, the Story Circle takes the complexities of the Hero’s Journey and strips it back to its bare essentials. If the Hero’s Journey is the album release, the Story Circle is the acoustic version.

When I went on a deep dive of articles and videos on story structure, I found myself immersed in dozens of videos using the Story Circle to break down movies such as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope and The Matrix. If you want to test the durability of a story’s overall structure, these two movies were made 22 years apart and the methodology is sound. It’s easy to google articles, images, and videos on the subject. YouTube has these great examples of Story Circle film analysis that you can watch here and here. Considering Joseph Campbell was alive over a century ago, this really proves the adage of “If it ain’t broke…” because it’s clear the stages that progress throughout a story, if done well, can stand the test of time.

Since this submission prompt was for episodic television, it was a masterclass to see the analysis of the Story Circle as it pertained to each episode’s plot points in Harmon’s cult-favorite Community. Harmon broke down the Season 2 D&D episode on his tumblr feed that you can read here. Of course, for those who prefer watching to reading, catch these Story Circle Community analysis vids here and here. I like how they go so far as to break down each character’s own Story Circle within the episode. When I’m further down the road in my story, I’m going to do a detailed analysis of how the Story Circle applied to each stage of my protagonist’s story arc.

What story structure do you swear by? Are you a structure loyalist and adapt your story ideas accordingly or do you like to switch things up? I know the rabbit hole is never ending, but, I’m curious. Are you a fan of analysis vids or is it just me? As a visual learner I absorbed more information on story structure by watching these videos than combing through thousands of words on the subject matter.

Regardless of which method you choose, and there are plenty more out there to choose from, you can see the similar paths on the protagonist’s journey. These are different perspectives of a timeless and effective method of storytelling.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

FANGIRL FRIDAY: We Interrupt This Research Session…

a.k.a. Getting Nostalgic Down a Digital Rabbit Hole

I do solemnly and lovingly proclaim this to be the first of potentially many FLASHBACK FANGIRL FRIDAY posts. I had something previously planned for today’s post, but there was a slight detour while doing research for my impact x SKYDANCE submissions. Depending on the day, I might have something playing in the background while I work. Earlier this week, it was essentially a slew of John Mulaney videos on YouTube, because, why not? One particular vid was him chatting it up with Desus & Mero. While it was entertaining, in itself, there was a moment when John brought up the 1990s classic TV show, (in my humble opinion), Ghostwriter. They talked about it for a spell and even sang a bit of the theme song. It’s funny how a simple phrase can activate the recall sensors and I paused to reminisce about my personal enjoyment of the program.

A while later, I was reading up on story structure for a television series when it just so happened that the post’s author mentioned their time working on a show called, you guessed it, Ghostwriter. Was this the universe telling me something? I can say for certain that my posterior was telling me to take a break, so I got up, stretched for a bit, then decided to feed my curiosity. I was tickled to find that you can watch the entire original series run on the YouTube channel IBeGhostwriter. Yeah, I subscribed. Apparently there’s a reboot, but I haven’t seen it yet. This post is all about old school shows I enjoyed. Let the fond memories continue.

Of course, the White Rabbit was calling me, so down, down the rabbit hole I went. More nostalgic feels washed over me. It’s like the one recall opened the floodgates and I was trying to name as many shows as I could from my childhood. The next show that came to mind was The Edison Twins. I happened on a random episode on YouTube that featured a very young Corey Haim, later of Lucas and Lost Boys fame, among others. I enjoyed the grainy quality of the episode and I’m chuffed that the episodes of The Edison Twins can also be streamed on Amazon Prime Video.

Determined as I was, there was this one show title that I was stumped on. I tried google searches for “kids mystery shows” or “kids detective shows from the 80s-90s”, to no avail. A handful of hours, several lists, and dozens of cross-checks on YouTube for clips and/or theme music later (that was a fun trip down memory lane!), I found it. The moment I saw the title, I smiled, then it was confirmed when I watched the sometimes creepy opening credits. Friends, a show I loved to watch back in the day was called Read All About It!, that ran from 1979-1982. When I started watching it in the late 80s, it had already been in syndication for a few years. I’m so happy that the complete series is also wonderfully curated for your infotainment on YouTube. Yep. Subscribed to that, too.

Among the many shows that took me back decades, these three stood out. Campy? Yes. Dated? Sure. All around good fun? Definitely. All three had to do with kids trying to solve problems through investigation, experimentation, a lot of times using words, puzzles and critical thinking. Many years later, long after I’d watched the last of the episodes, I now realize these shows were the early foundations of my wanting to become a writer.

By the night’s end, I welcomed this sidetrack, of sorts. The premise behind these shows and the effect they had on me as a child has certainly informed the way I choose to tell stories in my fiction today. Perhaps these choices would emerge from the deep recesses of my subconscious, or maybe the pattern of storytelling that appealed to me over the years has been ingrained in me as I write. Either way, I’m grateful for shows like these. They were important for curious young minds and serve as a reminder that I have the opportunity to have the same positive impact on the next and all generations with the stories I share with the world.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some binge watching to do this weekend.

Nostalgia. Such a beautiful thing.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.