How To Write Story (and 5 ways to avoid writers block and procrasatination....)

These are all my links for writing story. And comedy scripts.

Banking them all here in one place, so at least I'll know where to find them again.



5 tips that bust writers block and procrastination

I've held onto these from lots of other blog posts like this.

Had them for so long, I can't even credit where they came from - thanks if they were from you, because they seem to work.

1. Go Somewhere Else.
Change the way you feel by changing your environment.

Get to a new place. Coffee shop, that local library you never visit, the kitchen, wherever. Do an hour somewhere else - chances are, you’ll end up staying longer.

2. Do Nothing Social For The First 60 Minutes.
First thing, when you start, no email, no facebook, no twitter, no listening to voicemails.

This is harder than it looks, and the only way to do it is to avoid looking. This is the most effective tip I’ve ever had - it means your day starts as yours. Those friendly messages are great, but none of them - not one of them - will help you get your stuff out of your head. So do that instead first, and have a look an hour later. They will still be there. The difference is, now your stuff is there too.

3. Five Minute Start
Agree to commit the next 5 minutes SOLELY to the task you can’t get started.

Just five minutes. This works.

4. Quiet Hours
Set regular Quiet Hours, where you won’t answer the phone, or email or instant messaging or anything.

For me, two hours is enough. But it’s pretty much the same two hours.
All the tipsters say let the world know and explain what you are doing, so they won’t bother you at those times. I don’t think this is necessary - just set the times, and deal with messages when you re-emerge - victorious that you at least gave yourself a distraction-free window.

5. Being The Mayor Of Whole Foods On Foursquare Isn’t Going To Make Your Idea Happen.

This is my favourite.
I’m not on Foursquare, but I guess it’s about what you do in the time where you ‘go under’. If you can be as obsessive about getting stuff out of your head and onto the page, as you can with an app or a game, that’s a great groove to be in.
(This tip was from here)

Now maybe try closing this window and doing that thing instead?

(unless you want to leave a COMMENT with your own tips for getting started?)


How To Break A New Story From Scratch

Having trouble planning out story beats?

This is Dan Wells, with an awesome system for plotting an outline, using a 7 Point Story Structure...

1
HOOK (Start)
2
PLOT TURN 1 (Conflict)
3
PINCH 1 (Horrible Things Happen)
4
MID-POINT (Move from Reaction To Action)
5
PINCH 2 (Jaws Of Defeat - lowest point)
6
PLOT TURN 2 (Obtain final thing)
7
RESOLUTION


Dan Wells On Story Structure Part 1




What's really useful with Dan's system is the order you tackle the 7 Points:

7 RESOLUTION
- Everything in your story leads to this moment.
- What is your story about? Where is your story going?
- Make sure you know what kind of resolution you want.
We start at the end because everything in the story leads to this moment. This is the climax. The point. Where it’s leading up to, what it’s about.
(eg Harry Potter: Harry defeats Voldemort)

1 HOOK
- Now we know the ending, figure out where we start.
- One easy way to do this is to start with the opposite state: eg if a character is going to end strong, she should start weak. (eg starting Batman as a depressed directionless loser, or Harry Potter as weak orphan under the stairs).

4 MID POINT
- Between HOOK and RESOLUTION
- How you start moving from Hero’s beginning state to end state. It’s where Hero moves from Reaction to Action.
(eg Fellowship of the Ring: ‘Oh no, let’s not get killed’ to ‘Let’s take the fight to them’. Midpoint is Council of Elron where they make that decision.
Harry Potter: Start sad & wimpy to Defeating Voldemort, so his MidPoint is ‘He learns who Voldemort is, what V wants to do, & decide he’s going to do something about it.’)


Dan Wells on Story Structure, part 2 of 5




2 PLOT TURN 1 (CONFLICT)
- This event moves us from the HOOK to the MID POINT. It’s what sets you in motion.
- This is where we introduce our conflict.
(So Harry Potter starts with a situation, but then a conflict is introduced. Changing the world the character lives in. A Call To Adventure, Or Confronting New Ideas).

6 PLOT TURN 2
- This is the thing that moves the story from MID POINT to END
- At MIDPOINT you determine to do something, and in the RESOLUTION you do it.
So Plot Turn 2 is where you obtain the final thing you need to make it happen.
“The Power Is In You!”
(eg Star Wars “Use The Force”; Oz “You Can Go Home Any Time You Want”; Matrix “Neo: You Are The One”).
- Grasping victory from the jaws of defeat: Something horrible just happened, but now the heroes have what they need...even if they don't realise it at the time.
- It's something that's going to give us the final piece we need to move from 'trying to succeed' to finally succeeding. (eg Harry Potter: Harry discovers the stone is in her pocket because his motives are pure).

3 PINCH 1
- A PINCH is designed to Apply Pressure. Horrible things happen. The purpose of a pinch is to force your characters into action.
(eg Harry Potter: The Troll Attack. No adults around, forcing children to solve the problem on their own. It's where we introduce danger into a fun environment.)

5 PINCH 2
- Pinch 2 applies more pressure, and makes the situation seem even worse.
A plan fails; A mentor dies leaving the heroes alone; The bad guys seem to win.
- These are the jaws of defeat from which your Hero will be snatching victory. Make sure the teeth are sharp.
(eg. Harry Potter: Harry loses Ron & Hermione to the traps and is left alone)
[Forces Hero to grow up, forces to work alone, SEEMS HOPELESS].


Dan Wells on Story Structure, part 3 of 5



Examples of Romantic, Tragedy, and Horror Plots


Dan Wells on Story Structure, part 4 of 5



ICE MONSTER PROLOGUE
- The Hook scene in most story arcs is not very interesting (Most arcs start in a position of weakness)
- Most plots start before the conflict is introduced
- You need to grab readers attention NOW

TRY/FAIL CYCLES
- Before Heroes succeed, they need to try and fail
- Victory should be earned
- A problem that can be solved on first try isn't big enough to care about



Dan Wells on Story Structure, part 5 of 5



SUB PLOTS
- Each thread can be mapped out - Spread events for pacing
- Line up the events to create powerful moments & scenes


Breaking stories, Dan Harmon style

(From the Tim Dann & Neil Mossey Blog)

Tips on how Dan Harmon breaks a story:


1. A character is in a zone of comfort,
2. But they want something.
3. They enter an unfamiliar situation,
4. Adapt to it,
5. Get what they wanted,
6. Pay a heavy price for it,
7. Then return to their familiar situation,
8. Having changed.

Full article here:




Engaging Kids Online: Maurice Wheeler at TEDxTransmedia 2012



- Why are children drawn to Facebook? What needs does it satisfy?

Here are the development stages:
Copy Cat

Role Player

Control Freak
- The world is scary - time to take control:
1 Collecting - match attacks - Club Penguin puffles
2 Nurturing - pets - Moshi Monsters
3 Customising - changing how bedroom looks - stickers - Habbo Hotel

~ SOCIAL CHASM ~ (FROM SOLO ALL ABOUT ME TO...)
Tribal Sharer (8/9/10 yrs)
- How you fit in:
1 Badging - facebook
2 Communication - bbm messaging
3 Peer Comparison (competition, or body image) - gaming

Identity Explorer
- Testing new identities:
(eg different circles of friends at guides, church or gym)
Different personalities on different social networks

Confident Consumer

What's also cool about the above is that we don't fully grow out of the stages...


A list of stakes for scripts and stories...



Tried looking up a "list of stakes" online for sitcom premises, and didn't find that much out there...

I knocked up a list of random sitcom favourites, to get an idea of the scope for series-wide stakes for the heroes...

Only Fools - financial security
Big Bang Theory - their relationship? and social standing (amongst their peers)
Cheers - Sam's financial security and his health
Father Ted - his sanity and his financial security and good standing and way of life
Good Life - their financial security
Ever Decreasing Circles and Keeping Up Appearances - their good standing
Dads Army - their way of life - their nation
Frasier - good standing and reputation and family and financial security


It resonated with a recent Seth Godin post about what it takes for someone to put something into action:
Fears
being ashamed
feeling stupid
being rejected
being left out
getting hurt
being embarrased
left alone
dying

Dreams
being seen
being needed
becoming independent
relieving anxiety
becoming powerful
making someone proud
fitting in
seen as special
mattering
taken care of
loved

So the catch-all list of stakes I ended up with looks like this

Social standing
Financial security
Good health
Secure relationship/marriage
Safe community
Way of life
--> And/Or... The end of the hero's Dreams


Four types of sketches and comedy scenes... my little list #screenwritingtips



Wrote this down years ago, from a behind-the-scenes thing on a Radio 4 show.

It's a list of different types of comedy sketches.

Twisted Format
(eg. "You are the Weakest Monarch... goodbye")

Exaggerated Characteristic
(eg. Very stupid George W. Bush being congratulated on tying his shoe laces)

Knocking Satire
(eg. Listing observations in the Archers)

Personality in Wrong Situation
(eg. Thora Hird in brutal murder play)


THE ARTISTS' WAY by Julia Cameron



I've been doing "Morning Pages" for nearly 9 years, and hadn't yet read the book where the phrase came from.

If you're curious about blurts, and doing "Morning Pages" before anything else, Artists Dates and Affirmations to clear a writing block,
here's a link to the book here.

But just wanted a place online to put my fave quotes from it...

"Just as a recovering alcoholic must avoid the first drink,
the recovering artist must avoid taking the first think..."

"Anger is meant to be acted upon. It is not meant to be acted out."

"Shame is a controlling device. Shaming someone is an attempt to prevent the person from behaving in a way that embarrasses us."

"When people do not want to see something, they get mad at the one who shows them."

"That is a normal part of creativity - letting go. We always do the best that we can by the light that we have to see by... The success of a creative recovery hinges on our ability to move out of the head and into action."

"Very often a risk is worth taking simply for the sake of taking it... Complete the following sentence. 'If I didn't have to do it perfectly, I would try..."

"Satisfaction of one's curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life."

"Watch yourself for a week and notice the way you will pick up an anxious thought, almost like a joint, to blow off - or at least delay - your next creative action."

"I'm afraid all my ideas are hackneyed and outdated... I'm afraid my ideas are ahead of their time... I'm afraid I'll starve... I'm afraid I'll never finish... I'm afraid I'll never start... I'm afraid I will be embarrassed (I'm already embarrassed)... The list goes on."

"Okay Creative Force, you you take care of the quality, I'll take care of the quantity"

"As an artist, I write whether I think it's any good or not. I shoot movies other people may hate. I sketch bad sketches to say, 'I was in this room. I was happy. It was May and I was meeting somebody I wanted to meet.'As an artist, my self-respect comes from doing the work."

"Creativity is a spiritual practice. It is not something that can be perfected, finished and set aside."

"We are traditionally rather proud of ourselves for having slipped creative work in there between the domestic chores and obligations. I'm not sure we deserve such big A-pluses for that."

"It's not about thinking stuff up.
It's about getting stuff down"





I had been doing morning pages since around 2009. I was a speaker at a conference, and one of the other speakers told me about them on the train home. The idea sounded awesome! But, I'm really embarrassed to say that after a month I started to do them wrong.

I thought: "I'm a fast typist - this is great!
I'll type my daily pages (that's what I called them) and that action will help me get started with typing for the rest of the day - like a muscle-memory thing."
And so I did.
For 6 years.
I get stuff out - I write what I need to during the day - but it was never enough. And it wasn't getting to what I knew I could get to. Which is why Brian Koppelman's repeated phrase: "When you're blocked, you're toxic" chimed every time I heard it.

So I finally went to the source and after week one - a torrent came out.

I thought - this is predictable... I've got a shiny new thing that'll fizzle out after the holidays.
It didn't.
Why? What happened?

It's dumb and it's probably just me - but it's the handwriting.
The trouble with typing the Morning Pages - for me - was that because I type so fast, I get a thought out, and then stare into mid-space for 20 minutes having a think about something else.

Thinking - daydreaming - conversing in my head - without writing it down.
Typing made it too efficient.
I thought I was freewriting, but a 1000 word sheet of 10pt typing is the same word count, but nothing like filling 3 pages with scrawl.

Maybe it's the novelty of writing after typing so long... but I don't think so.

My brain works differently.
Typing is too official form of capture.
While typing, I knew this document could be saved and searched in the future, like some kind of diary.

The Pages have to be disposible, to be freewriting. Here's the ironic twist. If I do hit on something good - like this - I underline the bits I want to keep, and type them up later.

But this bled into the rest of the day - I could now scrawl out ideas and type them up later - separating writing from typing - when I type I can have edit-head on (which is my default place - I'd edit anything I've got down to nothing, if I could).
Six years it took me to figure this out!

The handwritten freewriting is generating 10x more than typing. Because I know they are disposable, I come up with way more stuff that I want to keep.

If you've made it this far into the post, there's so much more I want to tell you - like it's lead to stripping away the nice (Uniball 1.0mm gel impact) pen to black clear barrel Bic biros... Filling pages in my notebook in a continuous linear way (instead of different sections for "to do lists", "script", "work" and "raw ideas"). It's all a continuous stream now - new handwritten page at a time.

It wouldn't have clicked without "When you're blocked, you're toxic" and the "Morning Pages".




"Writing is not that hard.
Make up a good story, then let it flow.
Leave the brilliant work to the dead."
-- Stephen J. Cannell

"Choose your stories carefully,
because from now on you will be stuck with them."
-- Stephen J. Cannell

"ACT TWO TRICK:
Go around and become the antagonist.
You probably haven't been paying much attention to them.
Now you get in the antagonist's head and you're looking back at the story to date from that point of view.
Plot from the heavy's point of view."
-- Stephen J. Cannell

More Stephen J. Cannell stuff here... His site is really generous




"(To any form of criticism) Thank you. Now I'm going to go back to work."
"When thoughts arise... (which get in the way)
just say the word "thinking" and move on." -- Seth Godin

"And don't forget Neil Gaiman's... 'Make Good Art'..."




"The next right thing is something small:
washing out your brushes, getting clay, checking online for classes...
There is always one action you can take."
-- From The Artist's Way

"You are not your career.
Your ability to follow instructions is not the secret to your success.
You are hiding your best work. Your best insight.
And best self from us every day.
We know how much you care.
And it's a shame how much the system works overtime to push you away from the people and the projects you care about.
The world does not owe you a living. But just when you needed it.
It has opened the door for you to make a difference.
We need you. Now."
-- Seth Godin




Time to type up some more quotes from the ones I've scrawled in the back of my notebook, with a photo of a double-rainbow from out the back window to make it look all inspirational.

"What have we got?
Let's look at what we've already got"
-- third hand from Marta Kauffman, she might not have even said these actual words but it helps

"That's what an artist does, channel that revelation,
create something out of it, capture that moment."
-- Bob Lefsetz

"Because that's how an artist goes on, by creating.
Doing it whether anybody pays attention or not."
-- Bob Lefsetz

"If I had known how fast it goes
I would have shown you every day."
-- Wendy Waldman

"How do I know what I think,
until I see what I say?"
-- E.M. Forster





Thought I'd add a few links about vulnerability.

The first is one of my favourite Louis CK videos - where he's speaking in tribute about another standup legend, George Carlin.

I'm not really up on his work - apart from being the time ship guy in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (and thinking, wrongly, that he was the original teacher in that sitcom, Head of The Class...)

But to hear about what drives Louis CK, and what he feels his turnaround was is pretty special.

Louis CK honors George Carlin



"I was doing the same hour of comedy for 15 years..."
"He just kept putting specials out every year... how do you do that?
I just chuck out the material and start again."


The other one I was put onto by a brilliant director mate - literally about vulnerability.
I first watched these videos the other way round, Brene Brown talks about what happened after the second video - it's the next link down, you'll get it...

Brené Brown: Listening to shame




The Power of Vulnerability | Brene Brown






I love working as a freelancer... because I have no control over how the people who would like to work with me, would like to work with me.

A friend of mine - an actor - said she worried about accepting a job, because the money was very low, even though the company was very big... and she was worried that if she accepted, would it mean that if she didn't respect herself... why should anyone else?

I'm sympathetic to the worry. Nobody wants to be a chump. But I'm also happy, knowing that nobody's holding a gun to anyone's head for whatever you want to do.

These two things give me bigger smiles though.

On being replaceable,
this post by Seth Godin post: The end of the diva paradox

"Great surgeons don't need to be respectful... you're not here for the service... you're here to get well...In fact, gruffness might be a clue to their skill for some.

Great opera singers don't have to be reasonable or kind. They sing like no one else, that's why you hired them, and why they... (are expected to) act like divas. Get over it.

...If someone was truly gifted, of course they didn't have the time or focus to also be kind or reasonable or good at understanding your needs. A diva was great partly because... she was a jerk. I think that's changing, possibly forever...

- state of the art is now easier to find. Word spreads about behavior and service faster than ever...
- so much easier to deliver better service (Dr. Diva, please send an email if you're running late!) - we're far less forgiving.
- any intelligent and caring person can use technology and a bit of humility to deliver better service (see above), we start to wonder whether that diva provider actually is intelligent and caring... it doesn't really matter if he has... skill, because uncaring hands are worth avoiding.
- With fewer great gigs available (even in opera), it's not so easy act like a jerk (or be insulated and uncaring) and still get work.

These are heavily edited extracts -- the full link is here:
http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2012/04/the-end-of-the-diva-paradox.html


On why we do this,
that bit in "Comedian" where Jerry Seinfeld tells the story about Glen Miller landing in a muddy airfield and having to traipse with his Orchestra with all their instruments in the rain... (link here)



JERRY:
This is such a special thing.
This has nothing to do with "making it".

ORNY:
"But did you ever stop and compare your life and go, I'm 29, my friends are all married, they're all having kids, they all have houses... They have some sort of sense of normality?"


JERRY:
Yuckkkk. I've got to tell you a story.

ORNY:
What do you tell your parents?


JERRY:
What do you tell your parents? This is your... (FACEPALM) Your parents?
Let me tell you a story.
This is my favourite story about show business.

Glenn Miller's Orchestra, they were doing some gig somewhere.

They can't land where they're supposed to land because it's a winter, snowy night, so they have to land in this field and walk to the gig.

And they're dressed in their suits, they're ready to play, they're carrying their instruments, so they're walking through the snow...

...and it's wet and it's slushy.

And in the distance, they see this little house. And there's lights on in the inside, and a ball of smoke coming out of the chimney.

And they go up to the house, and they look in the window.

In the window, they see this family.

There's a guy, and his wife, and she's beautiful - and his two kids - and they're all sitting around the table, and they're smiling and laughing and eating, and there's a fire in the fireplace.

And these guys are standing there, in their suits and they're wet and shivering and they're holding their instruments.

And they're watching this incredible Norman Rockwell scene.

One guy turns to the other guy and goes:
"How do people live like that?"

That's what it's about.




I want to use a husband wanting a wife's password as a story idea for a sitcom.

But it feels so good - that there's something in there with loads to explore - that I don't even want to mention it, in case it gets mentioned or worse used and done better somewhere else.
(if it hasn't already).

What it other art forms did that?

"I'm not going to paint that picture because someone might nick the idea and paint the same thing."
"I've got an idea for some glass I'm going to blow. But I'll hold back or just tell some close friends about it, in case it gets blown the same way by someone else - or worse - get lifted by some massive glass manufacturing company."

When David Croft had the idea for 'Allo 'Allo in his hands, that I'm sure I read in his dark autobiography "You Have Been Watching" that he thought it was so brilliant and likely to happen somewhere else, that he urged the Head of Comedy to make it as quickly as possible before ITV came up with the something similar.

I love that sense of urgency, because it's batshit insane.

Even before the negative checking that you're not doing it yourself.

The other funny thing with comedy writing is that despite having your antennae up for nickers - you know the obvious deep down - that best stuff is always the stuff that only you can tell.

God forbid that you and only you came up with those two things to put together, or that reversal, or exaggeration or sarcasm that absolutely no-one else has thunk up (or tweeted or status updated) before.

Because there's no way that anyone could've ever actually gone along the exact same train of thought before in the history of human thought.

Is what you think.

Even though you know there's the stuff that only you can tell, or have a context that only you can set up.

It's untellable-by-someone-else-to-have-the-same-impact.
It's not nickable.
It's unnickable.
That's the good stuff.

And maybe that's the only stuff worth going for, and the irony - nature's cruelty - is that you need to put as much of that kind of stuff out as freely as possible to get to come up with more of it.

On the upside, my glass blowing is a bunch of arse.




Adding this to my "How to write comedy..." page (link below) Still feels weird doing the copying and pasting, instead of the writing... but these sites help, so just sharing the love and links along the way...

4 TIPS FOR WRITING A GOOD TV PILOT FROM NBC
A good pilot script does 4 things:

Starts with a strong trigger incident.

The trigger incident leads the central character into a powerful dilemma.

The goal of the A story stems from the choice the character makes when faced with the dilemma.

Every pivotal point in the story connects back to the character’s goal

There's more in this slideshow, especially on how a Five Act TV structure breaks down...



TV DRAMA - 101

TEASER
- Story trigger
- Show world
- Create empathy for hero

ACT ONE
- Set up storylines. Each arc with a dilemma.
- Set up conflict
- Set up clear goal established for “A” story
- Introduce obstacle

ACT TWO
- Central characters should be actively pursuing goal
- Escalate obstacles
- Reminder of stakes
- End Act with obstacle to goal

ACT THREE
- When hero gets over one obstacle, create new ones
- Escalate obstacles and stakes
- It’s possible that goal shifts or the motivation for achieving the goal shifts
- Send character in new direction

ACT FOUR
- Move toward “all is lost” moments in each of your storylines
- All is lost moment happens, connects back to goal

ACT FIVE
- Show resolution, goals achieved (or not)
- Tie up sub-plots
- If serialised, set up cliffhanger




WORD ASSOCIATION LISTS

Banking lists of references here, once I've used them so I know where they are:

Dogs

Weather

English and UK specific British words

Girl Names

Special Forces words and phrases

Words meaning great

Disney phrases

Words for Girl's Bits

Supervillains