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.

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.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: Pandora’s Box of Plotting Prep

a.k.a. Prompt Submission Update #1

It’s been an interesting week, so far. Having a shiny new story idea is both a blessing and a curse. I started with a one teeny tiny lil’ magic bean and it didn’t take long for that to sprout and shoot up to the clouds where I’m now dodging the footfalls of giants as I navigate where this idea will take me.

It began with an idea for the impact x SKYDANCE Premium Drama prompt that quickly evolved into so many scenarios that took twists and turns I hadn’t even considered. All of this because I kept asking questions and raising the stakes for my main character. I posed such questions to some of my writing groups and got some amazing results. It also led me to a writing community that specializes in medical guidance for more accurate depictions in fiction.

You know how people often joke about their internet search history? It’s even become a meme where the punch line is something like “It’s for a book. Honest.” or “Having to explain you’re a writer when someone sees your search history.” I have to say, once you go into a deep dive to develop a story idea, having the world at your fingertips is also a blessing and a curse. Before the majority of the world was blessed with wifi and access to the interwebs, research, as a whole, was a more cumbersome ordeal. Don’t get me wrong, back in the day, the tactile experience of digging through books and microfiche to do research really put me in ‘detective mode’ and got the creative juices flowing. However, sometimes, research was stalled because I had to return the books to the library or someone else had already checked out the book I needed. Then, I’d have to lug home half a dozen or more books–which, I guess counted as my workout for the day, right?

I will always love libraries and bookstores. However, there are so many advantages to researching in the digital world. The obvious and most important one for a writer is the speed at which we can acquire the information. No more rifling through indices or cross-referencing multiple sources. Now, search engines do the heavy lifting and we find what we’re looking for much faster. Another bonus is not having to worry about storage space, even though, one day, my dream house will have a most spectacular library in it. Currently, surface area comes at a premium, so I need to be selective with what I have in such a confined space.

Back to speed of knowledge acquisition. I’ve spent the last several days learning a plethora of information including but not limited to body decomposition, how many minutes after a lack of oxygen until brain death, along with a handy infographic of gunshot wound diameters upon entry and exit–and these weren’t even for questions I asked about my own WIP! This is where the curse part comes in after the blessing. It seems that answering one question leads to another, reading about other writers’ questions leads to further story ideas and more questions about those potential plot points. It’s a deliciously vicious cycle.

So far, this has been a fruitful information expedition. I should keep all the newfound knowledge in a reserve file, as I’ve stumbled upon a treasure trove. However, I need to stay on track because I only have a few weeks to submit this fully-formed story idea–times two because there’s the Grounded, Elevated Sci-Fi prompt I’m also working on. There’s still a lot more to be done but I’m hoping by the next update, I’ll have everything plotted out. While, they’re only asking for the story idea, I’d like to have drafted the pilot episodes and maybe one or two episodes after those within the next few months. It’s good practice and I’m excited for where these story ideas and questions will take me next. Thanks, Pandora.

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

Until next time,

T out.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: impact x SKYDANCE

Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, who founded Imagine Entertainment back in November 1985, are responsible for an eclectic collection of film and television over the decades. They had a hand in bringing us films such as Willow, The ‘Burbs, Parenthood, Kindergarten Cop, The Doors, Backdraft, My Girl, Boomerang, Apollo 13, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code, and Get on Up. Our television screens takes us into the world of Sports Night, Felicity, 24, Arrested Development, Friday Night Lights, Empire, and many more. This list is by no means exhaustive. It’s safe to say that you’ve seen at least five of their productions in your lifetime, so far.

When I discovered that the dynamic duo created Imagine Impact which last year collaborated with Netflix to launch a global writing opportunity, it was an overwhelming but exciting chance to inch my way out of my comfort zone. They cast a wide net in four category submission calls for feature films. While I ended up not submitting to two of the genres that interested me, I kept my ear to the ground for any upcoming submissions.

This year, they are teaming up with Skydance TV to seek out new content for television series. Impact x Skydance is looking for two categories for this first submission period. From February 11-March 7, 2021, writers from across the globe can submit their story ideas for a premium drama, or a grounded, elevated sci-fi series.

Now, that I’ve been in a solid writing routine for the past three and a half months, I feel a little more comfortable getting uncomfortable for this artistic endeavour.

I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself–says the girl who has ideas for both categories. However, to my relief, I don’t need to write full scripts but need to have “a well-thought out idea and writing sample.” The writing sample needs to be a screenplay or a teleplay that showcases my writing. That will be my first task. There’s also a 30 second elevator pitch video that I have to submit for each category. More details can be found on the impact x Skydance FAQ page.

My next month of Writerly Wednesdays should be updates on the highs and lows of this challenge. No matter what comes of it, I’ll have focused on getting my work out there, which is the whole point of my getting back to my writing.

I’m excited and low-key freaking out over this but it’s definitely something to look forward to. Check out the site yourself. It’s an amazing opportunity that, with today’s technology bringing the world closer together, is too good to pass up. I could sit back and watch another submission period draw to a close or I can look beyond myself and stretch my imagination to the infinite possibilities that await. I invite you along for the ride.

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

Until next time,

T out.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: The Music in Me Vol. 1

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Hello and a Happy Hump Day to you!

This month, I decided to bring back Writerly Wednesday, the series where I share things I’m up to regarding my WIPs and any new projects on the horizon. Fan fiction I’ll still keep for Fangirl Fridays. Haven’t decided yet if I’ll do these along with or alternate them with my Friday posts. Ideally, I’d like to get more words out to help me stay on course in my writing journey. Thank you, as always, for joining me here.

Do you listen to music as you write? What type of music interests you? I’d love to hear what other writers enjoy and utilize in their creative process. Some people have said that music inspires a productive writing session. I’ve tried that in the past. My tastes are eclectic. I enjoy the classics, be it from 30 to 300 years ago. I have more movie and television scores and soundtracks in my collection than I have or heard of the current Top 40. Regardless of the genre, while I do love music that has lyrics, I often get distracted by the words while I write because I start singing along and losing focus on the task at hand.

[Image Credits: Woman listening to music while writing, Woman singing. I provide clickable links on the images I use, These are listed because I haven’t been able to figure out how to link individual images in gallery displays yet. 😊]

Because of this, I’ve taken it a step further and have created soundtracks specific to my projects. I’ve actually mapped out scenes where I can imagine the score or song playing in the background in time to the intensity or emotional flow of the moment. In these cases, if the song has lyrics, they do matter in how the scene unfolds. Other times, I’d find a piece of music that speaks to me, relate it to the WIP I have before me and create a scene from there.

Does it always work? No. But it makes for an interesting writing exercise where I discover a perspective I hadn’t noticed before, nuances in character dynamics that had not yet been explored if not for letting the music move me through the plot. It can take me out of my comfort zone, at times, but it’s intriguing, as well. I’ve often kept the newer take on the same scene as I’ve found it works better in the story.

It’s important to keep in mind that as with anything, perception and interpretation can differ with each person. I can interpret the words to a song and find a sad connection to a memory that resonates each time I hear it. Another person might hear those same words and music and feel nostalgia. As readers and writers, we each bring something different to the table. Therefore, music is a transformative experience tailored to the individual listening to it. Same goes for the reader’s experience. Harnessing those emotions in each scene we write can have greater impact on the reader as they immerse themselves in our stories.

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

Until next time,

T out.