Davidsabbath thewriteroom.org winner grand prize

Meet Our 2015 Winner: David Sabbath

Davidsabbath thewriteroom.org winner grand prizeIntroducing our 2015 Grand Prize winner for Best Screenplay:

David Sabbath is a director/writer living in Columbus, Ohio.  His international and national commercials have received 57 advertising awards for his direction.  As the writer/director, his feature film God Don’t Make The Laws was awarded best picture at the 2012 LA Film and Video Festival.  For his writing, David has receive the New Star Award at the 2013 Madrid International Film Festival; Best Movie Script and Best New Writer at the 2012 American International Film Festival; Gold Award from the 2012 California Film Festival and was just accepted to the 2016 Pasadena Film Festival.

Your Online Writing Portfolio: Must-Haves and More

You’ve probably heard it’s important to have a strong online writing portfolio, and maybe you’ve thought about it putting one together. If you don’t have one yet, it’s time to revisit this tool — it might be what gets you your next gig.

My site is a simple WordPress one, and I pay $26 per year for my domain name, MerylWilliamsMedia.com.

If you don’t have a domain name on lock yet, don’t wait.

My only purchasing experience has been through WordPress, but there are several sites that sell domain names, and several platforms with which to easily build a basic, great-looking site.

(Ed. note: Frequent readers know we love Bluehost!)

I’ve outlined for you the things you’ll want for your online portfolio, ranging from items you absolutely must include, to things that are pretty much gravy. I’ll also go over some general tips for the creation and maintenance of your site.

Let’s take a look:

The basic must-haves

1. An “about” page

Introduce yourself to your visitors with a photo and a few paragraphs about who you are, what you do, and what you can do for them. The tone of mine may be a little more casual than you want yours to be, and that’s fine — allow your tone to match your writing voice.

2. A contact page or form

Make it obvious how visitors can reach out to you. My site has a simple WordPress-generated contact form, typical to what you find on most sites.

It’s also important to let people know how they can hire you! If you’re a freelancer, whether or not to list your rate is a very personal choice, but at least make it clear what amazing services you offer to get the ball rolling. I have a services page to highlight my social media and personal-brand consulting.

3. Some of your best writing samples

You’ve got the visitor’s attention, so this is your time to shine. Pick the best of your most recent work and link to it. You might consider using visual elements, or you might prefer a simple list of bylines and publications.

Just make sure you’re really proud of the work you display on this page.

Nice-to-haves

1. Up-to-date info about your latest projects

I recently started a podcast and am seeking representation for my memoir, so I’ve got information on both of these projects on my site. That way, visitors see everything I’m working on, but can pick and choose which they’d like to know more about.

2. Links to your social media accounts

If you’ve got ‘em, link ‘em — Twitter, Instagram, your Facebook author page, etc.

Because I work in social media for my day job, I’ve got a separate page all about mine, but even if you just link visitors to your accounts on your “contact” page, that’s a great step forward. Editors and other potential clients want to see what you’re interested in online. If you make it easy for them to follow you on social media, they’re more likely to pay attention to you online.

3. Testimonials

Here’s a page where you can collect all the awesome things editors and clients have said about you. If you haven’t collected that feedback, it’s not too late — make a list of people you feel comfortable asking for a short, two- or three-sentence testimonial and reach out to them.

Just like with a letter of recommendation, give them plenty of time, but I bet you’ll find that editors who love working with you will be quick to respond with some kind words. Return the favor by linking their name to their portfolio or Twitter account.

4. A professionally-done head shot

You should have at least one photo on your “about” page, but if you’ve got the cash, it might be nice to spring for a professional photo shoot.

Or, find a camera-savvy friend and barter for writing services (or dinner). A clear, recent head shot can keep you recognizable in your field.

Pure gravy

1. A downloadable press kit

I don’t have one of these yet, but I’ll want one down the road for when my memoir gets published. A press kit will usually contain a press release about your book, your author bio, book information, a sample chapter, promotional images and author head shot and, if available, blurbs about your book from respected readers and reviewers.

2. A blog or newsletter signup form

If you blog or would like to, knock yourself out right here — it’s a way for visitors to see your recent writing and what interests you. However, if you don’t want to blog, don’t force yourself. It can be a lot to keep up with and distract you from your paid writing projects, unless it’s what you’re passionate about.

Instead, what I’m passionate about is the personal newsletter I send out to readers and fans, linking them to the work I’ve done in the last two weeks, along with articles and pop culture I’ve enjoyed in that time. Because of this, and because new subscribers add to my writer fan base, I have a page on my site devoted to getting new newsletter readers.

3. A multimedia experience

Again, it’s gravy, but a video introducing yourself to clients might be nice. Or, if you’re a podcaster or interested in audio projects, read and perform one of your pieces aloud and host the audio on your site. Even an attractive photo display or slideshow can help you stand out.

A few additional tips

1. Link to other parts of your site throughout

Linking to other pages within your site will make it more likely that visitors will stick around longer to see more of your work and services. My “about” page links to various pages within my site, as well as to outside articles.

2. Use a clean, simple layout

A busy-looking site can easily discourage visitors from sticking around, and you want to make sure the different areas of your site are easy to access.

3. Keep tabs on the data available to you

Check your stats to see what visitors are most interested in, and, if the information is available, how they found you. This can be done through your site host’s statistics and/or through Google Analytics.

Your portfolio is what you make it, and know that once you’ve got the basics, you can always build up the other stuff later.

Just try to keep it up to date, and review its sections once a quarter to ensure you’re always showing off your most recent and best work!

Writers, what’s in your online portfolio?

The post Your Online Writing Portfolio: Must-Haves and More appeared first on The Write Life.

     

Source: Writer Life

How to Start Freelance Writing: 5 Major Questions Answered

Congratulations! You’re a freelance writer!

When I stepped into the wonderful world of freelance writing nearly six years ago, I naturally had a ton of questions.

How do I find clients? What should I charge? How do I build a personal brand? How do I get started?!

Now, years later, with several triumphs (and a couple failures) under my belt, I want to answer your frequently-asked questions about making a freelance-writing career or side hustle work for you.

Read on for answers to five of your most pressing questions about freelance writing.

1. How do you get started, especially with no prior freelancing experience?

Sometimes getting started is the trickiest part.

The best way to get started, especially if you have little-to-no prior freelancing experience, is to do these two things:

Use the work you have already done to begin building a portfolio.

You may have no “freelancing” experience per se, but I bet you do have samples of the kind of work you want to do on a freelance basis!

For example, if you want to become a freelance writer, you might already have a blog that showcases your writing. If you want to do social media for small businesses, perhaps you’ve already worked or volunteered at a small business and manage its social presence. Use those samples to showcase your expertise and to help you reach toward paying opportunities.

Work for free.

Controversial topic alert, we know. Let me clarify: strategically work for free, in the beginning, to gain experience or to gain exposure.

Throughout your career, you may discover opportunities where writing for free is worth your time. I still write unpaid guest posts for credible websites because I see value in having my name and work associated with those sites.

2. I see so much stuff online about freelance writing from home-type jobs, but I doubt any of them are of much use. How do I find legitimate freelance jobs?

Freelance jobs can be challenging to find because there are a lot of scams out there. You definitely want to avoid these at all costs and be careful as you’re evaluating potential opportunities.

However, there’s a wealth of real, legitimate and awesome freelance writing jobs available online, too. It’s up to you to do the research to determine what’s a true opportunity for you.

First things first: Avoid content mills and freelance-bidding sites. I’ve personally never used one of these sites because it seems like an awful lot of work for a very small reward; the companies are often looking to hire someone at an extremely cheap rate, and you compete with lots of other writers all bidding on the same project.

Instead, spend your valuable time researching and pitching legitimate potential clients.

Networking can also lead to paying clients. I got one of my first major gigs when I mentioned a blog post the company’s founder had written in a post of mine. He reached out to thank me, and from there we developed a professional relationship. I began writing for the his occasionally, and after a couple of months, I became the blog’s features editor. Three years later, we’re still working together!

3. What should I include in my online portfolio?

That depends on what services you’re planning to offer! The items below are great ones to consider for your online portfolio:

  • Blog posts
  • News articles
  • Feature stories
  • Case studies for marketing or social media projects you’ve worked on
  • Design projects
  • Links to relevant social media accounts, websites, etc. where your work has been featured

Testimonials are another great marketing tool for your online portfolio. Be sure to ask the people you’ve worked with to write a brief recommendation for you that you can include on your site or LinkedIn profile. I have a dedicated “Praise” page on my website that features multiple testimonials; I also sprinkle testimonials into my “Work With Me” page.

Don’t have your own website to house your portfolio? Check out Contently or Muck Rack to build a free professional online portfolio.

4. What if my client is pushing me to deliver more than we agreed upon in our contract?

Sometimes clients, whether they realize it or not, ask for more than you’ve outlined in your contract.

Take these steps to manage the situation.

First, evaluate the scope of what the client is asking you to do. Is the task something somewhat simple that you could complete this one time, for the sake of maintaining peace in the working relationship?

If it is, reply with the following: “I’m happy to complete X this month, but because this isn’t included in our agreed-upon contract, I’ll have to charge you X if you’d like me to add this service moving forward.”

Most of the time, after receiving a reply like this, the client will realize they’ve made a mistake (and sometimes it really is an honest mistake!) and will back off.

If the scope of the work is far greater than what you’ve agreed on, explain that. Instead of feeling uncomfortable, instead think of this as a chance to increase your work with that particular client!

If the client isn’t agreeable or you feel uncomfortable, recognize that feeling. Perhaps this isn’t a client you want to work with, after all. Better to know now!

5. How do I figure out what to charge for my services?

Dun, dun, dun…this is the number one question I hear from most new (and experienced) freelance writers.

The honest, and not very helpful, answer is: it really depends.

As a freelancer, you can choose to charge clients hourly, or on a retainer or project basis.

For my blogging/writing clients, I charge per post or per article. Some clients prefer to pay by the word.

For my blog management clients, I charge a flat monthly rate for all the work I do. I choose not to charge hourly for any of my clients because I like to base my fee on the value I provide, rather than the amount of time I put in.

Of course, when I’m putting together a proposal package, I consider how long a project will take me to complete, but I don’t let that become the deciding factor.

In terms of freelance writing and blogging, I’ve found that most blogs that pay tend to offer writers between $50 and $100 for a post of around 500-700 words. For longer feature stories, perhaps in a magazine or other type of publication, the rate can go much higher; between $200 and $1,000, or even more, depending on the project.

Here’s a piece of advice that Alexis Grant taught me: ALWAYS aim higher than what you really expect to be paid for a project. It doesn’t hurt to ask for more, and the worst that can happen is the client says no and you negotiate down (but not so low that you’re uncomfortable).

For more on what to charge, check out this post packed with rate-setting resources.

Have other questions about freelance writing? Leave them in the comments below!

The post How to Start Freelance Writing: 5 Major Questions Answered appeared first on The Write Life.

     

Source: Writer Life

Authors: Here’s All You Need to Grow Your Email List

If you’re an author who reads about book marketing, it’s already been hammered into your brain that your email list is your lifeline to long-term success.

Why? Because your email subscribers are your peeps.

They are the readers who love you so much they want to connect beyond the books themselves, and are the most likely to buy release after release as your body of works expands.

These are the people who make a true career as an author possible.

But how do you get a big email list? It’s a big mountain to scale when you’re starting at zero (which we all do!).

There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to this, but there are some trends to help you develop your own email list. I’ve been experimenting with these tactics quite a bit.

And it’s been working. I entered 2016 with a measly 20 subscribers, but look at how my list has grown since:

List building

My goal is to reach 1,000 subscribers by the end of the year. It’s going to be close, but I should be able to reach that number.

What have I been doing to get these month-to-month jumps? I’ve used a sales funnel that follows three basic steps.

It’s a lot like fishing — except for your readers, you’ll want to use an entirely different kind of bait.

Step 1: Cast your net

If you want to draw readers in, you must make an effort to reach out to them. This can take many forms, but the main idea is to make yourself visible to the right people in the right places, online.

What does this look like? Visibility can take the form of:

  • Blogging frequently
  • Posting on social media frequently
  • Guest posting on blogs your target audience already reads
  • Promoting yourself with ads on Facebook and other highly targeted, low-cost platforms
  • Attending events and networking in person
  • Hosting events to publicize your books
  • Distributing promotional materials at conferences, book signings, etc.

Choose a few to start, and build as you’re able to throw more into the mix. The more you’re able to do (both in terms of frequency and diversity), the faster your list will grow.

Personally, I blog on my author website at least once a week, and post frequently to Twitter and Facebook. I try to guest post on a website with a shared audience at least once per month, plus I have about four ongoing columns that get published on various websites each month.

But my most effective tactic by far has been Facebook Ads, thanks to its ability to target so specifically and reach beyond my existing network.

I’m also working to participate in more events (and maybe host a few of my own). I’ve got at least one lined up every month from July to November, and I’m putting feelers out for 2017 events now.

Step 2: Bait the hook

People don’t sign up for email lists because they want more email. We all get way too many emails already.

The best way to grow your email list is to put a nice, juicy worm on your hook.

This is what we call magnet content: content that you give away for free in exchange for email addresses.

Some authors give away a full book to email subscribers, or even an entire box set. Others might offer a short story, or a character guide for an ongoing series. The important thing is to offer something your target readers will value.

Right now, I’m giving away the first chapter of my novel, but that’s a short-term fix. I wrote a novella specifically to give away to subscribers; I’m just waiting for the edits and cover design to come back.

An important note here: Don’t slack on your giveaway content just because it’s free! Give it the same professional treatment a publisher would give any other release. That means professional editing and design services.

It’s tempting to slack when you won’t make direct profit off this content, but this will be many writers’ first impression of you as an author. If it’s great, readers will be clamoring to buy your next book. If it’s meh (or worse, riddled with typos), readers aren’t going to want anything else from you.

I expect the switch to an exclusive freebie to boost my subscriber rate significantly. It’s also a proven tactic for increasing sales, so even though you may have to invest up front for editing and design, you’re almost certainly going to make up for it in sales later.

Step 3: Reel it in

When a person subscribes to your email list, it’s not the end of your campaign. In a way, it’s just the beginning.

Use the tools in your email management service to create an automated series designed to strengthen your connection with each new subscriber.

Brian Cohen recommends a five-part series, with each email a few days apart. Your series might look like this:

  1. Deliver the magnet content you promised and thank them for subscribing.
  2. Check in to follow up on the magnet content.
  3. Ask them to connect with you on social media, too.
  4. Give them a sneak peak at your next book.
  5. Invite them to join your street team.

I just learned about Cohen’s techniques a few weeks ago. What I have now is a three-part series:

  1. Delivers the free content.
  2. Asks new subscribers what they’re reading. I like this email because it asks readers about themselves, and lets us get to know each other better. (It’s also valuable to know what else my audience enjoys reading.)
  3. Offers an exclusive discount on the first book in my series.

Updating my automation series to incorporate Cohen’s insights is at the top of my author to-do list.

Bigger isn’t always better

Be careful you don’t get too hung up on watching your subscriber numbers grow.

A small but highly engaged list of people who can’t wait for your next email is better than a huge list of people who wonder “Who’s that?” as they skim over you in their inbox.

Instead of obsessing about how rapidly your list grows, pay close attention to who you target with your outreach; and mind your engagement stats (open rate, click-through) as much as your growth.

Authors, what do you do to grow your email list?

The post Authors: Here’s All You Need to Grow Your Email List appeared first on The Write Life.

     

Source: Writer Life

Authors: Here’s All You Need to Grow Your Email List

If you’re an author who reads about book marketing, it’s already been hammered into your brain that your email list is your lifeline to long-term success.

Why? Because your email subscribers are your peeps.

They are the readers who love you so much they want to connect beyond the books themselves, and are the most likely to buy release after release as your body of works expands.

These are the people who make a true career as an author possible.

But how do you get a big email list? It’s a big mountain to scale when you’re starting at zero (which we all do!).

There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to this, but there are some trends to help you develop your own email list. I’ve been experimenting with these tactics quite a bit.

And it’s been working. I entered 2016 with a measly 20 subscribers, but look at how my list has grown since:

List building

My goal is to reach 1,000 subscribers by the end of the year. It’s going to be close, but I should be able to reach that number.

What have I been doing to get these month-to-month jumps? I’ve used a sales funnel that follows three basic steps.

It’s a lot like fishing — except for your readers, you’ll want to use an entirely different kind of bait.

Step 1: Cast your net

If you want to draw readers in, you must make an effort to reach out to them. This can take many forms, but the main idea is to make yourself visible to the right people in the right places, online.

What does this look like? Visibility can take the form of:

  • Blogging frequently
  • Posting on social media frequently
  • Guest posting on blogs your target audience already reads
  • Promoting yourself with ads on Facebook and other highly targeted, low-cost platforms
  • Attending events and networking in person
  • Hosting events to publicize your books
  • Distributing promotional materials at conferences, book signings, etc.

Choose a few to start, and build as you’re able to throw more into the mix. The more you’re able to do (both in terms of frequency and diversity), the faster your list will grow.

Personally, I blog on my author website at least once a week, and post frequently to Twitter and Facebook. I try to guest post on a website with a shared audience at least once per month, plus I have about four ongoing columns that get published on various websites each month.

But my most effective tactic by far has been Facebook Ads, thanks to its ability to target so specifically and reach beyond my existing network.

I’m also working to participate in more events (and maybe host a few of my own). I’ve got at least one lined up every month from July to November, and I’m putting feelers out for 2017 events now.

Step 2: Bait the hook

People don’t sign up for email lists because they want more email. We all get way too many emails already.

The best way to grow your email list is to put a nice, juicy worm on your hook.

This is what we call magnet content: content that you give away for free in exchange for email addresses.

Some authors give away a full book to email subscribers, or even an entire box set. Others might offer a short story, or a character guide for an ongoing series. The important thing is to offer something your target readers will value.

Right now, I’m giving away the first chapter of my novel, but that’s a short-term fix. I wrote a novella specifically to give away to subscribers; I’m just waiting for the edits and cover design to come back.

An important note here: Don’t slack on your giveaway content just because it’s free! Give it the same professional treatment a publisher would give any other release. That means professional editing and design services.

It’s tempting to slack when you won’t make direct profit off this content, but this will be many writers’ first impression of you as an author. If it’s great, readers will be clamoring to buy your next book. If it’s meh (or worse, riddled with typos), readers aren’t going to want anything else from you.

I expect the switch to an exclusive freebie to boost my subscriber rate significantly. It’s also a proven tactic for increasing sales, so even though you may have to invest up front for editing and design, you’re almost certainly going to make up for it in sales later.

Step 3: Reel it in

When a person subscribes to your email list, it’s not the end of your campaign. In a way, it’s just the beginning.

Use the tools in your email management service to create an automated series designed to strengthen your connection with each new subscriber.

Brian Cohen recommends a five-part series, with each email a few days apart. Your series might look like this:

  1. Deliver the magnet content you promised and thank them for subscribing.
  2. Check in to follow up on the magnet content.
  3. Ask them to connect with you on social media, too.
  4. Give them a sneak peak at your next book.
  5. Invite them to join your street team.

I just learned about Cohen’s techniques a few weeks ago. What I have now is a three-part series:

  1. Delivers the free content.
  2. Asks new subscribers what they’re reading. I like this email because it asks readers about themselves, and lets us get to know each other better. (It’s also valuable to know what else my audience enjoys reading.)
  3. Offers an exclusive discount on the first book in my series.

Updating my automation series to incorporate Cohen’s insights is at the top of my author to-do list.

Bigger isn’t always better

Be careful you don’t get too hung up on watching your subscriber numbers grow.

A small but highly engaged list of people who can’t wait for your next email is better than a huge list of people who wonder “Who’s that?” as they skim over you in their inbox.

Instead of obsessing about how rapidly your list grows, pay close attention to who you target with your outreach; and mind your engagement stats (open rate, click-through) as much as your growth.

Authors, what do you do to grow your email list?

The post Authors: Here’s All You Need to Grow Your Email List appeared first on The Write Life.

     

Source: Writer Life

7 Ways to Make Us Care About Your Characters

by Douglas Eboch (@dougeboch)

I considered titling this article “7 Ways to Make Us Care About Your Story,” because it’s really the same thing. The only reason we’ll care about your story is if we care about your characters. We stay engaged in the plot of a movie because we want to find out what happens to the people on screen. But too many young writers only think about their characters in terms of how they advance the plot. And as a result, their screenplays are lifeless and mechanical.

So here are seven ways to make us – the reader or audience – care about your characters, and therefore your story.

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1. Make your characters feel like real people with real lives.

I read a lot of screenplays where the main character is a loner with no family or friends, so committed to their job they have no hobbies or politics or religion or outside interests. Real people aren’t like this. Real people have messy, complex lives. They have a variety of interests and beliefs. And the more your characters feel like real people, the more we will care about them.

There are a few rare stories that require a monk-like loner lead, but if you could substitute another character in your story and it still works, yours is not one of these types of stories. Give your characters family, friends, annoying neighbors, pets, hobbies, hopes, dreams, passions, worries… all the things you have in your life.

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2. Make your character vulnerable.

Giving your character a weakness makes them human. None of us are perfect, so it’s hard to relate to a perfect character, and it’s human nature to root for the underdog. Knowing the character can be hurt (physically or emotionally) makes us fear for them as they undertake their journey. The character’s vulnerability could be a personality flaw, a weakness in a crucial skill, or something they treasure that could be taken away from them.

3. Make your character great at something.

We like people who are talented and exceptional. It means they have value in the world. This may seem like a contradiction to my last point, but it’s not. Many of the best characters have something they’re really good at and something they’re really bad at. Think about the character of Dr. House from the television series “House.” He’s a self-absorbed drug addict, but he’s also the greatest doctor in the world.

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4. Give your character personal stakes in the story.

Sure, the world may be threatened by the invading aliens, but what does your character personally stand to lose? If they are a mono-focused loner, probably not much. Something should be at risk in the story that affects the character’s life. This is why it’s so important that they actually have a life (see point #1). What is your character fighting for? Why? What happens to them if they succeed? What happens to them if they fail? In Independence Day Captain Hiller is as concerned with finding and saving his girlfriend as he is with defeating the aliens.

5. Give the character goals we can root for.

Producers and executives often talk about a character’s “likeability,” but just because someone is a good person doesn’t necessarily mean we will care about what happens to them. We care when the character’s goal is something we can get behind. We’ll root for even an unlikable character if they have a noble goal.

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6. We care about people who suffer injustice.

Humans have a strong sense of fairness, so one sure way to get us to care about your character is to make them a victim. We will root for that character to get what they are due – to get justice – because we want to believe that the world is fair.

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7. Surround the main character with good people who need and/or like the main character.

The likability of the supporting characters transfers onto the main character if the supporting characters’ fates are in the main character’s hands. In Little Miss Sunshine, the father, Richard, is a self-absorbed loser. But Olive is depending on him and she’s so sweet and adorable, we care about Richard because we care what happens to her.

It is not enough to simply set up these things in the first few pages of your screenplay. Throughout the story we need to see how the events of the plot are affecting the character and their life. The more we care about the character, the more emotionally involved we’ll be with the outcome of the story.

~

Douglas J. Eboch (@dougeboch) wrote the original screenplay for Sweet Home Alabama. He wrote the book The Three Stages of Screenwriting and co-wrote The Hollywood Pitching Bible.

 

Source: LA-Screenwriter

7 Ways to Make Us Care About Your Characters

by Douglas Eboch (@dougeboch)

I considered titling this article “7 Ways to Make Us Care About Your Story,” because it’s really the same thing. The only reason we’ll care about your story is if we care about your characters. We stay engaged in the plot of a movie because we want to find out what happens to the people on screen. But too many young writers only think about their characters in terms of how they advance the plot. And as a result, their screenplays are lifeless and mechanical.

So here are seven ways to make us – the reader or audience – care about your characters, and therefore your story.

ab

1. Make your characters feel like real people with real lives.

I read a lot of screenplays where the main character is a loner with no family or friends, so committed to their job they have no hobbies or politics or religion or outside interests. Real people aren’t like this. Real people have messy, complex lives. They have a variety of interests and beliefs. And the more your characters feel like real people, the more we will care about them.

There are a few rare stories that require a monk-like loner lead, but if you could substitute another character in your story and it still works, yours is not one of these types of stories. Give your characters family, friends, annoying neighbors, pets, hobbies, hopes, dreams, passions, worries… all the things you have in your life.

fn

2. Make your character vulnerable.

Giving your character a weakness makes them human. None of us are perfect, so it’s hard to relate to a perfect character, and it’s human nature to root for the underdog. Knowing the character can be hurt (physically or emotionally) makes us fear for them as they undertake their journey. The character’s vulnerability could be a personality flaw, a weakness in a crucial skill, or something they treasure that could be taken away from them.

3. Make your character great at something.

We like people who are talented and exceptional. It means they have value in the world. This may seem like a contradiction to my last point, but it’s not. Many of the best characters have something they’re really good at and something they’re really bad at. Think about the character of Dr. House from the television series “House.” He’s a self-absorbed drug addict, but he’s also the greatest doctor in the world.

id

4. Give your character personal stakes in the story.

Sure, the world may be threatened by the invading aliens, but what does your character personally stand to lose? If they are a mono-focused loner, probably not much. Something should be at risk in the story that affects the character’s life. This is why it’s so important that they actually have a life (see point #1). What is your character fighting for? Why? What happens to them if they succeed? What happens to them if they fail? In Independence Day Captain Hiller is as concerned with finding and saving his girlfriend as he is with defeating the aliens.

5. Give the character goals we can root for.

Producers and executives often talk about a character’s “likeability,” but just because someone is a good person doesn’t necessarily mean we will care about what happens to them. We care when the character’s goal is something we can get behind. We’ll root for even an unlikable character if they have a noble goal.

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6. We care about people who suffer injustice.

Humans have a strong sense of fairness, so one sure way to get us to care about your character is to make them a victim. We will root for that character to get what they are due – to get justice – because we want to believe that the world is fair.

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7. Surround the main character with good people who need and/or like the main character.

The likability of the supporting characters transfers onto the main character if the supporting characters’ fates are in the main character’s hands. In Little Miss Sunshine, the father, Richard, is a self-absorbed loser. But Olive is depending on him and she’s so sweet and adorable, we care about Richard because we care what happens to her.

It is not enough to simply set up these things in the first few pages of your screenplay. Throughout the story we need to see how the events of the plot are affecting the character and their life. The more we care about the character, the more emotionally involved we’ll be with the outcome of the story.

~

Douglas J. Eboch (@dougeboch) wrote the original screenplay for Sweet Home Alabama. He wrote the book The Three Stages of Screenwriting and co-wrote The Hollywood Pitching Bible.

 

Source: LA-Screenwriter

All Aboard! 3 Writers on Amtrak’s Amazing Writing Residency

What writer doesn’t dream of spending long days riding the rails while cranking out finely-crafted and inspired prose?

Don’t forget about the chance to chat with mysterious and fascinating strangers in the dining car, and being rocked to sleep by the train’s gentle swaying through the night.

The Amtrak Residency program, established in 2014, makes this dream come true — if you’re lucky.

Differing from a traditional writing residency, this one takes place on trains crisscrossing the U.S. and Canada.

The company recently released the names of its new crop of residents.

What’s it like to participate in an Amtrak Residency program? We asked three Amtrak writers in residence about their trips.

Jennifer Boylan’s productive journey

Jennifer Boylan, author of best-selling memoir She’s Not There: a Life in Two Genders spent three weeks on her residency journey.

She started in Maine, taking the Downeaster line to Boston, followed by the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago, the California Zephyr to San Francisco, and the Coast Starlight to Salinas, California.

Once she arrived in Salinas, she spent a few days at a spa finishing her novel before hopping on the Coast Starlight back to Seattle, the Empire Builder to Chicago, the Lake Shore Limited and the Downeaster back to Maine.

Boylan relished her time on the train. “It was a delight. The chambers are SMALL, but you do have a sense of elegance,” she said.

She also enjoyed the dining options. “The food is surprisingly good, and you can also take your meals in your berth if you want, which I tended to do for lunches.” Boylan found peace and quiet, which gave her time to think and work.   

The lack of internet access was also a great help. “I think trains are great places to work, and the sustained quiet time was magnificent. The very best thing was the fact that for long stretches of the country there is no internet, and thus no interruptions or distractions.”

Her daily schedule involved work, relaxing, and dining.

“I tended to get up early, have coffee in the observation car, work all morning in my berth, take lunch in the berth, spend the afternoon revising, and then chill in late afternoon, looking out the window or hanging in the dining car. “

Boylan’s journey was productive: she was able to finish a rough draft of her novel and write two essays during her trip.

But while fantastic scenery can aid the writing process, it can also become a distraction.

“The hard thing about the long-distance trains is that you really do want to spend your time looking out the window in amazement,” she says. “Especially the Denver to San Francisco run — you go through parts of the country that you really can’t go to any other way —  really jaw-dropping scenery.”

Doylan also recommends packing a healthy dose of patience. “I’d suggest not being in any particular hurry, either with your work, or with your desire to get anywhere,” she says. “The long distance trains, especially on the Empire Builder, tend to run late… but that’s all part of the journey.”

Erika Krouse’s whistle-stop book tour

Erika Krouse used her Amtrak residency to do more than write. She also used the trip to promote her novel, Contenders.

“I decided to double-duty my residency,” she says of the choice to mix writing and promotion. “I took the California Zephyr from Denver to Emeryville, then took the Coast Starlight to Los Angeles. I did a few readings in LA and San Francisco, then rode back over the mountains to home.”

As she worked on the train, she found that the project she originally planned to pursue during her residency wasn’t well-suited to the journey.

“I had planned to do some revision, but soon discovered it was impossible,” she says. “Instead, I mostly took notes, maybe 50 pages of notes. Train travel is more suitable for gathering information about the world around you as it rushes past. At least, it was for me.”

She also offered a few tips for aspiring train writers, including encouragement to leave devices behind.

“Technology isn’t your friend—glare, noise, and the interesting scenery all suck your attention from the screen,” she says. “Go old school and use a notebook and a good pen. Turn off your phone and your camera—instead, rely on your words to evoke the setting. Talk to people and ask them nosy questions. Feel yourself relax, and notice what that does to free your mind. Take a favorite book. Bring wet wipes and warm socks. Try to record your changing surroundings, and the experience of being conscious in it. Hydrate.”

Deanne Stillman’s research bonanza

Deanne Stillman is planning to head out on her journey this fall, going east across the Great Plains on the California Zephyr and returning to the West Coast on the Empire Builder through Canada.

While on the rails, she’ll work on her upcoming book, Blood Brothers: The Strange Friendship Between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill.

The route she chose serves as crucial research for her book. “Place, especially the American West, is a main character in my work — and life — and it will be in this new book,” she said.

She explained, “I’d like to see the frontier from the POV of the Iron Road, aka the railroad, as Sitting Bull saw it when he left the plains to join the Wild West show. And of course, the plains were where the buffalo roamed, and where William Cody established himself.”

Seeing historically significant places firsthand will help Krouse envision the characters’ journeys and provide important background information for her writing.

How you can write on the rails

Convinced that writing on trains is for you? Keep an eye on Amtrak’s residency page for information on future application cycles.

In the meantime, consider putting together your own DIY writing retreat — train style.

Next time you have to travel, skip the airports and opt for a train ticket. Spend your travel time getting to your destination a bit more slowly, finding inspiration and adventure along the way.

Or consider applying for one of the many other writing retreats available in non-train form.

How would you spend your Amtrak Residency? If you’ve ever used a long train trip to work on a writing project, tell us about your experience!

The post All Aboard! 3 Writers on Amtrak’s Amazing Writing Residency appeared first on The Write Life.

     

Source: Writer Life

All Aboard! 3 Writers on Amtrak’s Amazing Writing Residency

What writer doesn’t dream of spending long days riding the rails while cranking out finely-crafted and inspired prose?

Don’t forget about the chance to chat with mysterious and fascinating strangers in the dining car, and being rocked to sleep by the train’s gentle swaying through the night.

The Amtrak Residency program, established in 2014, makes this dream come true — if you’re lucky.

Differing from a traditional writing residency, this one takes place on trains crisscrossing the U.S. and Canada.

The company recently released the names of its new crop of residents.

What’s it like to participate in an Amtrak Residency program? We asked three Amtrak writers in residence about their trips.

Jennifer Boylan’s productive journey

Jennifer Boylan, author of best-selling memoir She’s Not There: a Life in Two Genders spent three weeks on her residency journey.

She started in Maine, taking the Downeaster line to Boston, followed by the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago, the California Zephyr to San Francisco, and the Coast Starlight to Salinas, California.

Once she arrived in Salinas, she spent a few days at a spa finishing her novel before hopping on the Coast Starlight back to Seattle, the Empire Builder to Chicago, the Lake Shore Limited and the Downeaster back to Maine.

Boylan relished her time on the train. “It was a delight. The chambers are SMALL, but you do have a sense of elegance,” she said.

She also enjoyed the dining options. “The food is surprisingly good, and you can also take your meals in your berth if you want, which I tended to do for lunches.” Boylan found peace and quiet, which gave her time to think and work.   

The lack of internet access was also a great help. “I think trains are great places to work, and the sustained quiet time was magnificent. The very best thing was the fact that for long stretches of the country there is no internet, and thus no interruptions or distractions.”

Her daily schedule involved work, relaxing, and dining.

“I tended to get up early, have coffee in the observation car, work all morning in my berth, take lunch in the berth, spend the afternoon revising, and then chill in late afternoon, looking out the window or hanging in the dining car. “

Boylan’s journey was productive: she was able to finish a rough draft of her novel and write two essays during her trip.

But while fantastic scenery can aid the writing process, it can also become a distraction.

“The hard thing about the long-distance trains is that you really do want to spend your time looking out the window in amazement,” she says. “Especially the Denver to San Francisco run — you go through parts of the country that you really can’t go to any other way —  really jaw-dropping scenery.”

Doylan also recommends packing a healthy dose of patience. “I’d suggest not being in any particular hurry, either with your work, or with your desire to get anywhere,” she says. “The long distance trains, especially on the Empire Builder, tend to run late… but that’s all part of the journey.”

Erika Krouse’s whistle-stop book tour

Erika Krouse used her Amtrak residency to do more than write. She also used the trip to promote her novel, Contenders.

“I decided to double-duty my residency,” she says of the choice to mix writing and promotion. “I took the California Zephyr from Denver to Emeryville, then took the Coast Starlight to Los Angeles. I did a few readings in LA and San Francisco, then rode back over the mountains to home.”

As she worked on the train, she found that the project she originally planned to pursue during her residency wasn’t well-suited to the journey.

“I had planned to do some revision, but soon discovered it was impossible,” she says. “Instead, I mostly took notes, maybe 50 pages of notes. Train travel is more suitable for gathering information about the world around you as it rushes past. At least, it was for me.”

She also offered a few tips for aspiring train writers, including encouragement to leave devices behind.

“Technology isn’t your friend—glare, noise, and the interesting scenery all suck your attention from the screen,” she says. “Go old school and use a notebook and a good pen. Turn off your phone and your camera—instead, rely on your words to evoke the setting. Talk to people and ask them nosy questions. Feel yourself relax, and notice what that does to free your mind. Take a favorite book. Bring wet wipes and warm socks. Try to record your changing surroundings, and the experience of being conscious in it. Hydrate.”

Deanne Stillman’s research bonanza

Deanne Stillman is planning to head out on her journey this fall, going east across the Great Plains on the California Zephyr and returning to the West Coast on the Empire Builder through Canada.

While on the rails, she’ll work on her upcoming book, Blood Brothers: The Strange Friendship Between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill.

The route she chose serves as crucial research for her book. “Place, especially the American West, is a main character in my work — and life — and it will be in this new book,” she said.

She explained, “I’d like to see the frontier from the POV of the Iron Road, aka the railroad, as Sitting Bull saw it when he left the plains to join the Wild West show. And of course, the plains were where the buffalo roamed, and where William Cody established himself.”

Seeing historically significant places firsthand will help Krouse envision the characters’ journeys and provide important background information for her writing.

How you can write on the rails

Convinced that writing on trains is for you? Keep an eye on Amtrak’s residency page for information on future application cycles.

In the meantime, consider putting together your own DIY writing retreat — train style.

Next time you have to travel, skip the airports and opt for a train ticket. Spend your travel time getting to your destination a bit more slowly, finding inspiration and adventure along the way.

Or consider applying for one of the many other writing retreats available in non-train form.

How would you spend your Amtrak Residency? If you’ve ever used a long train trip to work on a writing project, tell us about your experience!

The post All Aboard! 3 Writers on Amtrak’s Amazing Writing Residency appeared first on The Write Life.

     

Source: Writer Life