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“[Writing] was not meant to be an occult operation; it was not meant to be an esoteric secret.” – SAUL BELLOW

The 11 Laws of Great Storytelling

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. – C. S. Lewis

Are Boys the Perfect Audience for Non-Linear Editing? Is this gender-exclusive or cultural?

“A man begins cutting his wisdom teeth the first time he bites off more than he can chew.” – Herb Caen

What “Show, Don’t Tell” Really Means

“When I’m finished, I’m elated. I feel like I’ve swung from the heels and knocked one out of the park.” – KURT VONNEGUT

Fix Your Beginning

“The difference between the right word and almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” – Mark Twain

Soliders in Afghanistan are recording bedtime stories on CD to send home.

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” – Confucius

What You Should Know About Writing Contests

“In seeking wisdom thou art wise; in imagining that thou hast attained it – thou art a fool.” – Lord Chesterfield

“It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” – Henry David Thoreau

Video Notes on Pitching

“Nine-tenths of wisdom is being wise in time.” – Theodore Roosevelt

This is all I have time to add at the moment. Here’s to passing along the more useful resources of the morning.

“Thirty was so strange for me. I’ve really had to come to terms with the fact that I am now a walking and talking adult.” – C. S. Lewis

Bo’s Cafe Life


Become a Manuscript Whisperer

You’ve seen those strange shows. Reality tv aimed at getting your pet/horse/strange Japanese youtube character to follow some unspoken direction. Creating a cohesive whole – otherwise known as story design – is a lot like getting some animal to animate in convincingly human terms.

‘Writing’ is ‘what I did on my summer vacation/personal fantasy on the train’ – but ‘Story Design’ is laying the bricks of a very rugged and methodical oven. It’s so unlike initial creative instincts to ‘just write’ – because it’s practically antimatter by comparison. It’s supposed to invisibly hold everything together, creating a speed and direction that seems like magic to the outside observer.

Writer’s Myth # 1:

Writers come up with a what-if and that becomes the premise of the story, right?

You’d think, but not from what I’ve seen. New writers get zapped with what-ifs meant to drive the dialog, but they usually end up being the arc of a specific scene, which will echo by and then be recorded. The larger story design has yet to materialize.

Which brings us to the tools of Manuscript Whispering…

Manuscript Whispering Step 1: The Notebook that Never Was

Keep the smallest moleskin possible on your body at all times. You are diabetic, and that notebook is the antidote. Be subtle if you need to, make it an address book, etc. but you need that notebook more than your laptop, keys or the litany of other usual suspects in distracting devices.

When some what-if story idea appears, one you really feel strongly would be a good story, write it down. You’ll know when it’s the right kind of thought bubble. It will demand your pen immediately. But before you set your pen down afterwards, write down whatever the characters would do or say in that situation in order to…

A. PHYSICALLY and EMOTIONALLY *GET* to that scene…
B. REACT after it happens… (and with who?)

You will naturally come to the end of the scene using these before/after prompts, and what’s more, you’re creating cohesive, self-contained units of story building blocks that don’t depend on you knowing the end of the entire story arc to constructively develop on their own.

Other uses for your Whisperings:

a. character names
b. ironically juxtaposed character profiles
c. titles and unusual little symbolisms
b. your theme/pitch/unique gimmick.

This is your primordial goo of evolving ideas. No one should see it but you. Moleskins come with convenient elastic straps for this purpose. You’ll be surprised how many people feel better once their loved ones have their votes reneged.

Manuscript Whispering Step 2: The Gimmick that’s Not

Give up on the idea that you would never use a ‘gimmick’ and understand your ideas will need to be looked at with a critical marketing perspective. Something unique or starkly differentiating your story from all the others like it – that is a gimmick. That’s all it is. You can have a pure art. Finding a playful way to make it worth reading to someone other than you is unavoidable. Also, it’s easier to agree with yourself on that gimmick from the beginning. Back-peddling on this is a bear.

Writer’s Myth #2

Pitch-writing is hard and takes a certain extroversion writers don’t have.

I will challenge you to a duel on this one. Writers are excellent communicators. Most writers who find they can’t pitch will discover the problem is with their ‘gimmick’ or uniquely differentiating idea. It’s not there. Ideas which are cliche are going to sound lame because they are. A little secret? Your gimmick is your story arc. They’re like mirror twins. Don’t look!

Manuscript Whispering Step 3: The Character in the Negative

A lot of a writer’s time is spent on defining what a character IS. This isn’t bad. But what if you read the blocks of story dialog you’ve collected over, say, a six month period, realize what kinds of characteristics are being projected in these discrete expressions of your growing story DNA, and then reversed them?

Balance in a story is what conflict is made – and resolved – from. If you have a lot of blocks that are red (heated dialog) – what is their common subject? If not a subject, a motivation. Once you’ve defined the similarities, next come up with characters to defy the ones you’ve already created on these common themes. If you already have too many characters, as many detail-oriented writers tend to create, begin to consciously ‘shadow’ the negative characteristic in another character. Likewise, a villain can only be so ‘bad’ before he or she is totally inaccessible, and therefore unrealistic, un-scary, and even worse, un-problematic. People cause us problems because we care about them. Dabbing similar shades of kindness and cruelty from your villains to your catalyst gatekeeper-types and vice-versa will give you the bridge conversations to ultimately net your story blocks together.

Even with the extraordinary adventures of every-day life, I’ve slowly built up an armory of these personal blocks. Writing software brags about them, but to DIY makes you a writer and gives you a chance to come up with the illusive, so-called “unique” idea that every writer is after.

You’ll dog-ear and number those blocks – it even helps to keep different color pens to separate them, or quickly color-code the mood or character of your off-hand writing in your notes. And in a about a week of on-the-side typing, you’ll have something you’ll actually like. It will stand on its own legs and look finished, even without the sheen of buffing and editing that will finally send it out of the plant.

Now does it sell? That’s a post for another weekend. But if you’re tired of manuscripts taking forever, and shouting the story out as a one-block continual narrative doesn’t work, try a little whispering.

The very thoughtful Noah Lukeman has created a free how-to book available from here. I haven’t sampled it yet, as free things are best shared first. Hopefully he’s god’s gift, as the further heavenward talent gets, the easier it becomes to share the golden eggs that drop through fingers from on high.

In other events, I finally downloaded the pilot to Pushing Daisies. Had me in stitches. The wittiest I’ve seen in a long time.

According to series creator Bryan Fuller from his IMDB Profile, “I got into writing to become a ‘Star Trek’ writer. I was a rabid fan …I couldn’t have imagined a happier career. But after writing for ‘Star Trek’ for four years and bumping up against the parameters of the storytelling, which sometimes were very restrictive because there was always that magical reset button and you could never carry story arcs over the episodes because they were so heavily syndicated that it simply wasn’t allowed, I began to get itchy…”

It’s really too bad it’s cancelled. I’m assuming there was some shark jumping involved, or else it was a case of networks’ collective fear of attracting an audience too intelligent to speed dial every Flowbee and Hairigami to blue screen of death across the infomercial hour on the Summertime re-runs. God forbid we find a better business model. You know. Like the internet. Hail, the Long Tail Theory.

“There is no hope in individualism for egotism. When a man is at last brought face to face with himself by a brave Individualism, he finds himself face to face, not with an individual, but with a species, and knows that to save himself, he must save the race. He can have no life except a share in the life of the community; and if that life is unhappy and squalid, nothing that he can do to paint and paper and upholster and shut off his little corner of it can really rescue him from it.”

– George Bernard Shaw, The Quintessence of Ibsenism (1891)

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.”

– Lance Armstrong

“There are thoughts which are prayers. There are moments when, whatever the posture of the body, the soul is on its knees.”

– Victor Hugo quote

In other news, Woopie Goldberg gives an interview on the meaning of words from her September 28th interview at the Oxonian Society.

For those interested,’s got a whole archive of intriguing chats by authors here:

There’s an incredibly good book that does a much more entertaining rant than I ever could about how not to drop your pants amidst the most common blunders of writing. It’s called, aptly enough:

“How Not to Write A Novel.”

Normally I don’t shill things that cost money in the spirit of blogging and free information. However at a whopping fifteen bucks, or free if you dare to find a comfy chair at your local chain store and deftly ignore the smoldering stares of the baristas, this is one of those reads that can hand you your soul back a bit at the end of a long day.

In includes classic writing wisdom like “Revenge is a dish best served in public” and “Oh Mr. Sandman? On Second Thought, Bring Me A Gun!”

Trust me, I mean if you actually do (then the joke’s on you, isn’t it?) you will enjoy every righteous backhand snark this little paperback has to offer the very characters you were just beginning to think weren’t half bad. Well they are, now get over it. And get better!

“Yes, thought Brainiac, stroking his tarantula, Henry IV… now was the time to convince the mayor of his lies…”

According to LCW the BBC Writer’s Room is on the lookout for new scripts and isn’t afraid to say so.

“If you have talent, an original voice, and stories to tell, then [BBC writer’s Room] wants to know about you.” So have at them, kids.

Why should other people get paid to tell about that time you ran down 5th avenue with paper mache up to your knees, or missed the train and ended up temporarily adopted by a trio of old homeless ladies and some Native American kid named Joe? Exactly.

Oh, and if you happen to be living in Paris, consider visiting Carr’s Pub where Moving Parts will take you script fearlessly on stage for the evening and let you have it about the sticky parts.