Runaway Bride – Finding the truth behind your story

1528299-a-child-is-walking-all-alone-in-the-desertWhat are you running away from in your script?

We all create diversions to escape ourselves.  How far would you go to avoid the pain you have to inhabit to complete your story?

This is where I am at as I approach the third act of my feature script again. It’s where the shit hits the fan emotionally for the characters – and for you.  Where you work out why you’re writing this thing that’s taking all your waking hours.

The first thirty pages are a sprint, an idyll, the lure that gets you thinking, ‘I know this baby, I can crack this story, I even know how it ends.’

The second act is harder, but the winding roads of plot and character revelation make it bearable, even though it stretches into infinity.

But the last act, the ending, the pay off for you and the audience is where you have to face the truth of what you are writing.  And so we do anything not to go there.  In our own lives as well as in the story.

Many pleasures can distract you from grief.  But if grief drives your screenplay, then it is grief you must enter to find redemption.  A story is a confession, an admission of weakness, a seeking of grace.  The most common narrative structure is the redemption story because we all need and deserve forgiveness.

So in facing our demons and, with them, the truth in our work, we raise ourselves above them and the distractions we employ, to find our own happy ending.

Share your own thoughts here or find me on Twitter @emlin32 . Good luck and may honesty be your best friend as a writer.

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7 Ways to Rise above your Research

achristmascarol-1951-1Factual research for a work of fiction is a two edged sword. What you learn can be fascinating but it can also feel like you’ve dumped a big pile of rubbish all over your story that you now need to wade through and decide what’s useful and what’s trash. So how do you rise above your research and find the truth of your own story?

1. DON’T JUST CUT AND PASTE

It’s tempting when you find a juicy story or piece of information to plonk it straight into your script. Consider first how you want to use it, or why it is attractive to you? Does it fit with the story you are writing? If not bin it.

2. TAKE TIME TO PROCESS

A lot of new information can be overwhelming. It could completely change the direction of your story.  This could be a good thing – or a huge distraction.   Don’t be intimidated.  Wait and see which facts resonate with you and emerge in your writing naturally.

3. CHECK THE TRUTH BEHIND THE FACTS

Special interest groups and their campaigns can be a great resource.  But check your facts are coming from an unbiased source or at least understand the bias at play.

4. LOOK AT BOTH SIDES OF THE ARGUMENT

Don’t just read research that confirms your own world view.  How can you write your antagonist if you don’t know what they believe and why?  You might find something that surprises you and adds credibility to your story.

5. YOU DON’T OWE ANYONE ANYTHING

Your greatest strength as a writer is your independence. Maintain it at all costs and don’t ‘get into bed with’ activists, governments or even people you interview who naturally enough have their own outlook on life.  Stay true to yourself and your story.

6. BUT TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for yourself and your writing.  Be accurate and truthful in your portrayals of events and characters in the world you’ve created, especially if your story is based on real events.

7. FOLLOW YOUR INTEGRITY when you write and trust yourself to find your own truth behind the lines.

What’s the strangest fact you have uncovered and how did it change your story? Leave a comment below or tweet me @emin32 on Twitter. Happy Writing!

WHO’S ON YOUR TEAM? – 23 JANUARY 2013

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WHO’S ON YOUR TEAM?

Who makes you feel alive and listened to?  Who are your support team when you’re writing – and when you’re not?

I am lucky to have a very creative family – film-makers, artists and songwriters to name a few, and we are all avid consumers of plays, films, art shows and (whisper it) books.  Our family dinners are hugely invigorating, a gathering of friends excitedly arguing about the merits of the latest release.

Not everyone has family like this. Yours might be supportive of your writing or not. Or you may feel they like but don’t really understand your work. Your family might in fact be refreshingly uninvolved in your creative life.

Family comes in other forms.  Maybe you teach?  My other community is at the Met Film School, Ealing Studios – a great place to meet other writers and directors and compare notes on how your script is going. My students keep me up to date by showing me what they’re watching and inspire me with their enthusiasm and can do attitude.

Maybe your friends outside work are the ones you have the best conversations with? They let you unwind, be yourself, forget your overactive brain – or stimulate you with fresh ideas, opinions, must-see movies.  My friends are extraordinary individuals who give me continuity in a freelance life that is one long series of new beginnings.

If you need more people on your team, join a professional society – or start your own writers’ group. Writers are not natural ‘joiners’ but, as Groucho Marx didn’t quite say, if you can bear to join a club that would have you as a member then the wins become clear.  I am hugely proud to be part of this year’s Women in Film and TV Mentoring Scheme. Not only do I have the advice of an excellent mentor, I have twenty new friends – my fellow mentees. Twenty talented and lovely women in my field whom I can call on when I need someone in my corner.

And it’s a two way street – the more people I am there for, the more my life has meaning.

You get my drift.  It comes down to this.  Don’t do it all alone.  I’ve said it before, we are alone when we write, and we need that space to think.  But we also need fuel for our engine. Energy. Heat. Argument. And love.

Who’s on your team?  Make a list of the top ten people in your corner.

You can share your list below or tweet them a shout out on Twitter @emlin32.

Happy writing!