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Posts Tagged ‘imagination’

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I’ve just been for a bike ride. Wow, you’re so jealous, aren’t you? Go on admit it. I really know how to live, don’t I?

But, what’s so exciting about this particular ride that I had to grab my laptop and blog as soon as I ran through the front door?

Well, I have a numb bum for a start. And believe me when I tell you I could write a thousand words minimum on that, and the need for a more spongy saddle alone. Don’t worry, though. I’ll spare you the image (if it’s not too late). It’s not my bum I’m writing about today.

So, what could I have possibly seen which would prompt me to write this post?

As writers, we know ideas can pop up from anywhere. We look for them in newspaper headlines, photographs, idle chatter listened in on while standing in the cinema queue. Ideas are everywhere. We just need to keep an eye (or ear) out for them.

And I found a massive one right on my own doorstep? I’m not talking about autobiographies either. I’m talking about good old fashioned fiction, with good old fashioned settings.

I live in a little village. It’s a good village, if you’re into weird crap or, er, happen to be a writer. The village is situated on the historically creepy lay-lines, has ghost sightings in nearly every house, has a disused Abbey where the last burning of a witch was supposed to have taken place, and my son was christened in a gatehouse turned cattle shed turned chapel which was once owned by Henry VIII. I mean, I have my fare share of history and story ideas.

Rivenhall Airfield

Today, though, I stumbled upon a World War Two airfield not a mile from my house.

How the hell could I have missed that! I mean, I’ve lived here for over eight years and an airfield, complete with runway, control tower and satellite dish isn’t exactly small and camouflaged with overgrown grass. And even if the grass could grow fifty feet tall, nothing could disguise hanger No.6 from view. It’s gigantic. My son shouted ‘hello’ inside, and it’ll probably still be echoing the vibrations until midnight tonight.

Hanger No.6

Needless to say, my mind went into overdrive. Little out houses buried in among overgrown trees and bushes looked like somewhere Jason Vorhees from Friday the 13th would hide out. I was in imagination heaven.
If I’d were still a kid, I would have spent every hour there with my friends, building camps and living in a world where the Bogeyman and his friends were hunting us down and we had to fight for survival. Now, as an adult, I can just sit back and write about it. 🙂


So, where do you live? What’s on your doorstep? Have you discovered something you never knew was there? Is your home town steeped in history?

You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin

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There is no way to sugar coat this so I’ll give it to you straight. I like to talk. Anyone who knows me will agree. Sometimes, I just don’t shut up.

But, to us novelists and scriptwriters, dialogue is an extremely important factor of our work. Dialogue is good. Dialogue is a major player in forming our personality and creating our character. Just ask my husband. He will tell you that my dialogue sums me up as a nag 🙂

So, writing dialogue should be a walk in the park, right? After all, we all talk on a daily basis, some of us even in our sleep. We are knowledgeable experts in the field of speech. We’ve been using words to argue and laugh our way through life for twenty, thirty (or us old ones) forty plus years. We know what we’re doing. We don’t need help in this area. Right?

Wrong.

Elmore Leonard and Quentin Tarrantino are arguably two of the best dialogue writers around. If you’ve read any of Leonard’s novel’s (and I do advise you to, if only for the dialogue), or watched any of Tarrantino’s movies, you will understand what I mean. They give their characters a ‘voice’.

By a voice, I mean your characters need their OWN voice. New writers often make the mistake of giving their characters THEIR voice, meaning all their characters sound the same as their author.

But how do I know when you’ve done this? What are the tell tale signs?

In his book ‘Save the Cat’, Blake Snyder talks about a simple test you can do to check whether you have bad and flat dialogue. Take a page of your script and cover your character names. Then, by reading the dialogue, see if you can tell which of you characters are speaking. It’s simple, but extremely effective.

So, just how do we go about distinguishing Bob the Postman from Betty the Accountant? Doesn’t all the dialogue look same, and it’s the movie actors who breathe life into them?

Hell, no! Novelists don’t have the luxury of actors. The dialogue we give our characters to speak can be the difference between novelists and screenwriters getting published or ending up on the slush pile.

Take these examples:

“If Mr Johnson catches you with that, you’re certain to be suspended, maybe even expelled.”

“Yo, dude. If Jonno sees ya, you’ll be outta here. No messing.”

See how both lines are saying the same thing, only in different ways?

Dialogue is conversation. Make it real. However, don’t forget the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule. You don’t need three pages of a husband and wife discussing their marriage problems, when a husband eyeing up the sexy waitress is enough.

Now, I thought I’d have some fun and set you a little quiz. Below, I have listed fifteen lines of dialogue from various films. All you have to do is guess the movie and the character saying it. It’s so easy, I don’t really know why I’m bothering 🙂

I’ll post the answers in the comment box on Monday.

OH, and no cheating on Google.

  1. “You can’t handle the truth!”
  2. “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”
  3. “You had me at ‘hello’.”
  4. “What do they think I am? Dumb or something? Why, I make more money than – than, than Calvin Coolidge! Put together!”
  5. “I know what you’re thinkin’. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?”
  6. “They’re not gonna catch us. We’re on a mission from God.”
  7. “Get away from her, you BITCH!”
  8. “Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
  9. “I am not an animal! I am a human being.”
  10. “…I’m NOT gonna be ignored.”
  11. “Wendy…darling. Light of my life. I’m not gonna hurt ya… I’m just gonna bash your brains in. I’m gonna bash ’em right the f–k in.”
  12. “The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms – greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge – has marked the upward surge of mankind.”
  13. “They’re here!”
  14. “Fellas, last year I made three million dollars. But your fifty thousand was the most fun. Are you ready? Then, let’s go get ’em.”
  15. “I was a better man with you, as a woman, than I ever was with a woman, as a man. Know what I mean? I just gotta learn to do it without the dress.”

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I thought I’d have a bit of fun and set you guys a little task. Now, I am not the best query letter writer. No really, I’m not being modest. I really hate writing them.

Below, I have swallowed what little pride I have, and copied an old query letter of mine. Now, your task is to read it:

Donna Newton
1 Writers Lane
London

Mobile: 01234567891
pointwelldonna@googlemail.com

5th July 2011

Agent 007
Their Office
Agent Lane
London

Dear Mr Agent,

Re: Legend – The Messiah’s Cross

The Legend is a supernatural story set around two Reapers in a small Texan town. The idea was created for TV, and the pilot was written for the American market. Earlier this year I went to L.A., where my manager also suggested I adapt it into a novel.

I have been writing for many years and my previous publishing credits are all article based within the UK magazine market. I am a member of the Romance Writers of America and belong to Kristen Lamb’s Warrior Writers Boot Camp. I spent many years with Essex Police, where a large majority of my ideas are born. I have written one other novel, and am ready to start my third.

I have enclosed a synopsis and three chapters as requested in your guidelines.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Donna Newton

 

Okay, read it? Good.

An author friend of mine, Linda Regan, severely chastised me for writing this letter. I want you to see if you can tell me why. Put your comments in the – you’ve guessed it – comments box, and I will publish the corrected version in a couple of days.

Have fun, and be kind to me.

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A log line is one short, sweet, grab you by the seat of your pants, sentence that explains your whole story. Simple 😀

“What?” I hear you gasp. “I can’t do that! It’s taken me over 70 thousand words to tell my story.”

Well, suck it up. You now have to tell it in less than 30. :p

“But why?”

Oh, stop whining :p  One very good reason is this: Agents and editors are extremely busy people. If you’re lucky enough to get ten seconds of their time to ‘pitch’ your idea, trust me when I say you’ll wish you had a log line. The last thing agents want to hear are ‘..and then this happened’ or ‘..oh, I forgot to tell you about so-in-so at the beginning’. You need to hook them and quick. A good log line will do that.

Don’t’ worry, though. Like every professional, and I’m going to use a chef as an example because I’m very hungry and cannot stop thinking about food – crumpets topped with cheese and tomato to be precise… DONNA! Back away from the crumpets! *cough, cough* where was I? Ah yes, log lines….your finished product will only be as good as the ingredients you use.

Here is what you’ll need (courtesy of author and social media expert, Kristen Lamb).

1 drop of protagonist
1 cup full of antagonist
1 spoonful of active goal

Mix well and leave to settle.

See, simple.

But, beware. If you fail to use the ingredients as instructed, your log line just won’t rise to the occasion. Oh, alright, I’ll tell you my first log line. No laughing.

An American socialite witnesses a murder and goes on the run from the MOB and FBI, but an attempt on her life leaves her with selected memory loss and it is up to a London police officer to uncover her past before they’re both assassinated.

And breathe. No choking. Excellent, lungs refilled? Then let’s continue.

There are so many things wrong with this log line, it would be easier to tell you what’s right with it….absolutely nothing. It’s too long, has too way too much back story, and blah, blah, blah.

So what went wrong? I followed the recipe. Well, yes that’s true, but then I just plonked everything on the plate and hoped no one would notice. Let me explain – Writing the words is only part of the processes. The order in which we place them is a whole different ball game.

The format for a log line should be something close to this:

An ADJECTIVE NOUN (protagonist) must ACTIVE VERB the ANTAGONIST before  SOME REALLY HORRIBLE THING HAPPENS (stopping the protagonist from reaching her goal).

Now, if I’d presented my log line correctly the finished product may have looked something like this instead:

‘A quiet museum curator suffering from amnesia must uncover her secret past to unlock the real reason the mob has put out a contract for her life.

Ok, I’ve embarrassed myself enough (something I seem to do a lot on this site), and now it is your turn. Be brave and mirror in the comment box your first/final log lines. Alternatively, if you have a log line you need help with, add that too. Everyone will be kind, I promise 😀

Now, I’m off to make some crumpets….

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Does our success as writers have more to do with luck than talent? Or do you think talent prevails over luck every time?

Well, speaking on behalf of my own experiences, I know it has a little to do with both; talent cannot function without luck and vice versa.

Recently, I co-wrote a Supernatural TV pilot, called ‘The Legend’. I had never written a script before, knew nothing about layout and formatting, but dug in, worked hard, and voila, a pilot was born.

At the end of February, my co-writer friend and I were attending the DFW Writer’s Conference in Texas. Now, I class myself as a thrill seeker, but my co-writer went a step further and thought it would be an excellent opportunity to stop by L.A. and ‘pitch’ the TV idea to some Hollywood bodies. Laughingly, and if not just to humour her, I agreed.

We queried everyone we could think of and arranged some meetings. One meeting in particular surprised me. It was with an entertainment lawyer. I asked my friend why she had contacted an entertainment lawyer, to which she simply replied, “why not?”

That entertainment lawyer read our script and loved it. At around the same time a manager contacted this lawyer, and at the end of their telephone conversation asked if he knew of any ‘new’ writers. He looked at our script and emailed it over to her. She read it, loved it, and promptly contacted us.

Two new script-writers left her office a week later with several projects and ideas to write; she wanted to see anything and everything we wrote.

In essence – we had a manager.

All that came from querying a lawyer. Now I’m not telling you email every lawyer you can think of; we also met with an actor and a producer – both of which have attached to the project. But with each person we met, we were recommended to someone else, and each contact is now a person we have met with personally and can email ideas and projects without the need of a query letter. Hence we have a VIP backdoor where only solicited work is allowed to enter.

So yes, I believe your career is made with a mixture of luck and talent:

Luck – Maybe we didn’t go about querying in the correct manner, but we did it politely and professionally…..and we got the face to face meetings we wanted.

Luck – We happened to be liked, and first impressions seem to be everything in this business.

Talent – That all important synopsis were our hook, and led our readers into wanting the script.

Talent – The script is why wanted people to meet us.

Without these key ingredients, I would not be sitting here now, blogging about my experiences. I walked away from L.A. a very busy girl, but having my writing described as very well written and with strong voice was a boost to an area of writing I am very new at, and being praised as audacious was fun – I mean, me, audacious? Honestly 😀

So, tell me if a mixture of luck and talent has led to any of your successes.

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The UK has had an amazing amount of snow this winter. I frequently found myself standing in the kitchen and just looking out the window at the white covered fields that surround my house – hey, I’ll use any excuse not to do the washing up and snow seemed to be the excuse everyone was using for not working. 😀

One thing is for sure. Snow is beautiful. It can transform even the most horrid of places into a serene and peaceful area befitting any Christmas card.

But then it struck me. Snow is extremely cunning and deceitful. It lures you in with the promise of fun but in reality, it has claimed the lives of so many people. In fact, snow is a real killer and its sister, the wicked Ice Queen, is worse. She is just pure evil and will stop at nothing to make our lives a misery, particularly the ones who don’t take up arms and prepare for her arrival. Frozen pipes, black ice, and have you ever been hit with an iced snow ball? That will draw blood, guaranteed.

So, then I started thinking of other items that lure us in with their perfect beauty, only to attack when we least expect it.

Roses are classed as one of the most elegant and beautiful flowers. Their aroma is intoxicating and they are arguably the most stunning flower created. They draw you in. You have to smell that rose, to touch its silky petals….and then, BAM! Either a thorn stabs you through the thumb or a big, fat bee flies out from the hidden depths of the flower and stings you on the nose. I mean, these flowers are given on Valentines Day as a sign of love for crying out loud. What you’re really getting is a box of thorns hidden by silk petals. If you love me, send me daisies. They won’t draw blood and there’s nowhere for any killer bugs to hide.

So I guess what I am really saying is this. If it happens to snow on Valentines Day, and you have to walk the length of your pathway to collect a box of roses from your post box, just stop and think of the senders real intentions.

Okay, so this was just a fun post, but can you think of any other perfections that have flaws?

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How would you kill someone?

For the last month or so I have been plotting my second novel and I have struggled a little in one particular area. Let me explain. My antagonist is a professional killer hired to kill an amnesic victim. I reached his first kill and suddenly it hit me. Just how would he kill? Now, I unashamedly admit to having an over zealous imagination in the killing department. Because of this, I needed to strip bare my ideas, go back to the beginning, and list the basic ways one could kill a person.

So my list began.

Shooting
Stabbing
Strangulation
Poisoning
Torture
Asphyxiation
Explosives/Bombing
Snapping Necks
Bludgeon to the head
A Wand – well it worked for Harry Potter.

All of these are killing techniques we have seen a thousand times in various movies such as Die Hard, Scream, Basic Instinct, Friday the 13th ……I could go on and on. However, each of the above, when applied to a certain character, would be executed in a different way. For example, Die Hard’s John McClain would perform a magnificent display of acrobatics while catapulting his vest top covered torso through the air to shoot his enemies. Whereas in Fatal Attraction it takes Anne Archer just one determined shot to kill Glenn Close. Another example is stabbings. In Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone seduced her victim before unleashing a frenzied attack by way of an ice pick. However, Romancing the Stone (can you see a Michael Douglas pattern forming here?), sees Kathleen Turner merely flicking the knife at her antagonist who, unfortunately, blocks it with a plank of wood.

So, which would my professional killer use? And how would he carry it out?

Well, firstly, what kind of professional killer was he? I did not want a character like Richard Kuklinski, who froze his victims to disguise their time of death and even filmed victims being eaten alive. So, after watching timothy Olyphant in HITMAN once or twice (oh alright, maybe it was a lot more), I decided my hitman would be military trained and disciplined in planning his attacks. Explosives, sniper shootings and the odd hand to hand combat would suffice nicely. The places he choose to kill, however, are another blog.

Now it’s your turn. Can you think of a similar outcome where two characters use the same tools but apply different methods?

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