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by Sandy Tritt
story wouldn’t be a story unless it happened to somebody. And that
somebody—and all the other somebodies in the novel—are the characters.
A good novel—even an action-based, plot-driven novel—must have
carefully conceived characters who are able to withstand the demands of
the story and who are able to change in some way. I have devoted Section
3 to developing characters, so I’ll only touch on the basics here.
protagonist is the main character in the story. He or she is the
character the reader should identify with, or, at least, empathize with.
The protagonist—and every other character who is integral to the
plot—should have a character
statement. This is one sentence that says what, more than anything
else in the world, this character wants. Examples of character statements:
Mike is determined to become President of the United States.
Susan wants to marry Mike.
Harmond wants to survive, to return to Kansas and marry his high
More than anything in the world, Kerry wants to be a movie star.
Jenny wants to be a good mom, to be there for her kids, to give
them the love and attention they need to grow into happy and successful
Of course, in order for a story to be a story, there must be
something that is preventing the protagonist from accomplishing his
character statement—something he must overcome in order to achieve his
greatest desire. This inter-relates with plot, where the three basic
struggles are man-against-man, man-against-nature, and
character conflict identifies what it is that your character must
overcome in order to accomplish his character statement. Examples of
struggle statements are:
Mike’s second cousin also wants to be President, and will do
anything to defeat Mike.
Mike is already engaged to Sally, who insists Susan is a tramp.
Harmond is lodged in a crevice near Victoria Falls, alone.
Kerry lives 3000 miles from Hollywood and his parents refuse to
Jenny is an alcoholic.
Giving life to a character is one of the most rewarding parts of
being a writer. It is also one of the most difficult. Too many times in
fiction, we witness the “cardboard” or one-dimensional character. Real
characters, those we can visualize and root for and love, aren’t created
with the snap of a finger. Instead, they develop over time, over many
hours spent together. Surely, writing is a spiritual endeavor. The closest
any of us will ever mimic God is by our desire to create another human.
But when we do, we find out something that God discovered years ago: once
you breathe life into a being, he takes on a life of his own
(from Section 2, Workbook)
Want more great tips and techniques? Our
Inspiration for Writers
Tips and Techniques Workbook is now available. Expanded tips, more
topics, reproducible worksheets, exercises to practice what you learn and
much more--check it out! Free shipping anywhere in the United States.
(c) copyright 2002 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved,
except for those listed here. February be reproduced for educational purposes
(such as for writer's workshops), as long as this copyright notice and the url: http://tritt.wirefire.com are distributed with the pages. For use in
conferences or other uses not mentioned here, please contact Sandy Tritt
for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.
Critiques by Sandy
Unlike most editors, I consider my role
to be a mentor or a coach. Instead of just telling you what is wrong, I
explain how to correct the problem, and I work with you to teach you how
to write effective prose. More than 50% of my business is repeat
business, and I relish establishing long-term relationships with other
Treat you with respect and compassion.
All criticism will be of the "constructive" sort. My purpose is to
improve your writing, not to destroy your confidence.
Mark your manuscript, correcting
grammatical and spelling errors and suggesting alternative wording where
Highlight areas that are especially
well-written, so you will know where your strengths are.
Where appropriate, offer suggestions for
plot development, character development or other areas that could be
Return a two-to-four page written
analysis of your work. This will include evaluation of: plot, setting,
characterization, dialogue, special effects (flash forwards, flashbacks,
etc.), voice, point of view and any other areas particular to your work.
If appropriate, recommend reading or
resources to strengthen your areas of weakness.
Answer any questions you have via
Provide my telephone number for a
personal follow-up, if you desire.
For Sandy's success stories, see
Write Sandy at
(See Sandy's article
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Know Thyself -
For Those who Want to Write
by Ken Mulholland
Know thyself. What does that
mean and why should you investigate such a premise? Well, if you want to
write about whatever you have in mind, it might not be a bad idea to find
a beginning at the beginning. And that is?
You, the individual. The only
person that can ever be you.
You are inimitable, unique.
There can never be another you. Every thought, every action, every written
word that you pen is yours. So how do you 'Know Thyself'?
Here are two simple ways of
seeing yourself as all the world sees you, and you do not.
First off, you must grasp
this truth. What you see and what you perceive of yourself is not what all
others see and perceive of you; at least not in the physical sense. When
you speak, you hear your voice as a familiar, everyday kind of voice; a
voice that you have become used to over all your life. Your ears are tuned
to your particular voice, and you are accustomed to the sound of it. But
when you hear it back through, say, an answer phone recorded message, you
are surprised and sometimes even shocked, because mostly you have never
heard it as others always do.
Now, what do others see of
the physical you? They see you as you seldom, if ever, see yourself.
That's right. You rarely ever see yourself as all others: mother, father,
brother, sister, wife, husband, child or friend do.
Why is that? Because you only
see your own reflection. Through all your life, what you envision as your
own image is reflected through a mirror, and it is untrue. What everyone
else sees is the other you, the reverse of what you see.
To get the effect, stand
facing a mirror with your brother or mother or whoever you know well. Look
at their image. Yes it's slightly different to the way you normally see
such a familiar face, and what you see of them in the mirror is what they
see of themselves all the time, but as they look at you and see your
reflection the same thing happens, they see a different you to the one
they are used to, and yet that is the image you have always been familiar
with. So what?
So my point is this. You go
through your life knowing how you feel on the inside; all those hidden
emotions that you keep to yourself, all those secret thoughts and fancies,
desires, hopes, motivating forces belong solely to you, and unless you
care to share them no one else will ever know they exist inside your
Now writing mainly is a
solitary pursuit. Solitary, but not lonely. How could it be when your mind
is at work, dealing with characters; people, animals, whole cultures, tiny
communities, cities, countries and so forth. When you are deep within the
realm of writing you are delving inside your self, conjuring up all manner
of tales, of emotions, of actions both beautiful and violent; you are
entering the perilous world of names where once it was considered far too
dangerous to ever tell one's own name to a stranger, lest they use it to
gain some advantage of power against you.
And the names of things do
have a power of their own. As J.R.R.Tolkien so wisely indicated, the names
of things such as grass and sky and tree and leaf, the colours, red of
blood and fire, green of sea and forest, leap out and renew themselves in
the eyes and minds of those who still can visualize them, who still have
the inner consciousness to revisit the things that once were so fabulous,
before we began to take them for granted, before we lost the ability to
'see' those things for what they really are, and not what others would
have them become: mundane, tedious, plain, uninspiring, boring.
And even those words have
power, the power to create a world where imagination lies defeated, and
all has become stagnant and stale. And again, so what?
So, if you choose to write,
you enter that perilous realm at your own risk; for not only will you
encounter all the dangers, joys, disappointments and sorrows that inhabit
such a realm, you will also encounter another peril that dwells not on the
inside but on the outside of all your flights of fancy.
You will be tempted to write
as secretly as you can, for fear that others will see and know, and in the
seeing and knowing, will react in a way that sets you apart as someone
"I should write a book
one day." How many times has that been said? How many people that
said it actually went on to do exactly that?
"She can't be a writer.
She doesn't even look like one." How many times has that been said. I
wouldn't have a clue, but I bet it's been thought a million times.
And the only way to break
through to them that You can and do write, is to get on with it. Make a
beginning and see it through. Get that first work into print. Note the
reaction when you finally have an article published.
"Always knew he had it
in him, doesn't look like a writer though." What does a writer look
like? After all, we know what doctors are supposed to look like, and
nurses and policemen and plumbers. But if you strip them naked, apart from
having a lot of shivery people or an all out... Well, best we not go
there. You do get my drift though?
Writers might have a vague
identity with some fellow in a garret, scratching away at a parchment with
his quill or some prim young woman, carefully rounding out the flowing
script of her heart-throbbing romance in a corner of her cottage, but by
and large, writers come in all shapes and sizes, strongly now in both
genders, with a dazzling array of subject matter and styles.
Yet there is that persistent
stereotype that dogs those who profess to write. It appears that only
"other people" write, never You.
And yet You know yourself
from the inside. You know what you want to do, no matter whether you're
the local dog-catcher, that shivering, naked plumber, or the kid fresh
into high school.
A writer by the name of
Hendrik Willem Van Loon once said, 'Don't make the mistake of looking too
eagerly for the so-called "soul" of the artist. He, or she, may
have one, but you won't find it very different from the souls of the rest
The Psychology of the artist
is always a very fruitful subject of discussion among people who could not
draw a line or invent a tune if they tried unto the end of their
The really good artist is
likely to be a very simple fellow who is much too occupied with the work
he is doing to worry about the psychological substructure of his immortal
Contest Advice for Screenplay
by Lynne Pemroke
Help to the writer by a judge of
several major TV script and
screenplay contests. Advice and
tips on preparing a script before
entering a contest.
There are many screenplay contests available to the aspiring
screenwriter. These contests can be a good avenue to getting one's work
noticed and/or make a sale. So, it's important to make certain that you
have written your screenplay to the best of your ability and according
to industry standards.
The most important thing to do for any aspiring screenwriter is to first
learn the basic techniques of screenwriting before sitting down to write
one. I come across many hopeful writers who think that all it takes to
write a script is a good story idea and a lot of explosive special
effects. While a good story is important, with or without the special
effects, writing that story using proper industry standards is equally
important. (Please visit
http://www.coverscript.com/education.html -- Tips for Screenwriters
link for further information.)
There are specific techniques to the craft of screenwriting involving
everything from act structure to proper screenplay format, which must be
followed. It's difficult to write engaging characters, focused plots
and entertaining screenplays without having a solid framework in which
to bring it all to life.
Before any money is spent submitting your work to a screenwriting
contest, it would behoove the writer to first educate himself in the
"tools of the trade". There are many, many screenwriting books
available as well as workshops and seminars, both online and in live
classroom situations. My advice is to take advantage of them. Then,
armed with the basics, write, write and then write some more.
Advice and Suggestions
I am a judge for many contests and as such, have read thousands of TV
scripts and screenplays. I can assure you that the winners are chosen
because their screenplays or TV scripts contain great stories and are
written to industry standards. Therefore, putting your best foot forward
is a must. Below are some pointers to keep in mind before you submit
· If your purpose is to "break into the business", make
certain that the script contest you enter offers meetings with agents
and/or producers as part of the prize for winning and not just cash
prizes. Of course, if it is just the extra cash you're after, then go
· Make certain, before you write that entry fee check
and send in your material, that the screenplay contest or TV script
competition is a reputable one and indeed has, in the past, delivered to
its winners what it promised in its promotion.
· Presentation of your screenplay does count so make
certain your screenplay follows the accepted industry standards. This
not only includes using the proper screenplay format but also such
things as a typo-free screenplay and the correct binding.
· Keep in mind that the industry professionals who
sponsor some of these film and TV competitions do so in order to find
good producible material, hopefully for lower rather than higher
budgets. Therefore, entering a screenplay in a genre with a story that
screams "high budget" lessens the writer's chances of winning. This
(1) Sci-fi special effects stories taking place on purple planets
populated with giant, paisley-skinned, seven-armed, Plasmanian
Wooglegorps who magically float through the air using anti-gravity belts
(2) a 1920's Period Piece necessitating Model-T's, Zoot suits and
(3) an action/adventure story that has the bad guys blown to
smithereens, along with their Lear jet, over the ocean, followed by a
high-tech nuclear submarine underwater search and rescue mission while
the oil slicked water burns out of control, may not be the best way to
· Make certain that your story is told visually. Film
is a visual medium.
· Make sure you don't have "on the nose" dialogue or
too much dialogue and that all the dialogue sounds natural.
· Check to make sure that your characters are
interesting, engaging and have good character arcs. Nothing worse than
having an unlikable hero, a wishy-washy bad guy, or a protagonist who
starts out angry at the world and by the end of the story is still angry
at the world having learned and changed nothing in his nature.
Once you've gone through your screenplay and are satisfied with it, have
it read by someone else. After all, your story is intended for a
movie-going audience so honest opinions from friends and family members
will give you a feel for that audience reaction.
Then do yourself a favor and have your screenplay read by an industry
professional that has experience and good credentials in the area of
script analysis. A writer can become too close to his work and not be
able to "see the forest for the trees". It is to your advantage to have
any possible format, story, character, dialogue and structure flaws
found and corrected before it is submitted to a movie or TV script
While there is never any guarantee your screenplay or TV script will be
a winner, writing one to the best of your ability and which meets
industry standards is a must, as the competition is fierce.
I wish you great success in your present and future story-telling
Copyright © 2004 Lynne Pembroke, Coverscript.com
About the Author
Lynne Pembroke is a writer, poet, screenwriter and owner of
Coverscript.com, with over 18 years of experience in screenwriting and
screenplay analysis helping individual writers, screenwriting
competitions, agents, studios, producers and script consulting
companies. Services include screenplay, TV script and treatment
analysis, ghostwriting, rewriting and adaptation of novel to
http://www.coverscript.com for more details.
Pembroke and Jim Kalergis
Created You: A Guide to Temperament Therapy
AuthorMe Paperback... (Released 2005)
Click here for more info...
other words, You. While others are busy deciding who could or could not be
a writer, You, if you would Know Thyself, must put that aside and make
haste in your work.
Life is too short to wait.
Every moment is another thought, another experience. And that must all
come from the inner You.
The one others cannot tell is
there. Until You show it to them. They may refuse to see it, attempt to
ignore it or snigger at your efforts. You must not allow that to deter
Know Thyself. Know the
ability that you have. It will only fail You, if You fail it. Write! Do