I don’t know about you but I’m working every angle I can to make it as a writer.

How about you?

Yes, I’ve had a little success — however, I’m waiting for that level of success where you get to stop pushing that ball up the hill, and get to the point where you push it over the hill’s crest, and it rolls like crazy down the other side. I don’t expect to do any less work at that point. (I love writing, and collaborating.) I just expect to spend more of my time working on a paying job, instead of looking for a paying job. Can I hear an amen?

I’ll assume you’re with me on this one.

It does seem to be the quest of every freelancer — and writers are freelancers, even when we take more control of our work — to find that next job, network for that next connection or strategize for that new opportunity. That’s just the way it works. Even after you make it in Hollywood, you keep having to make it in Hollywood. So, before this gets depressing… 🙂 … let’s look at one good strategy to crest that hill, and become a well-paid working writer.

Take one fantastic idea and work it on multiple writing platforms!

Ta-da! I really need sound effects. A crashing boom or something. This tactic definitely rates a little fanfare. It comes from the world of journalism. Conventional wisdom tells journalists to research, research, research. (They’re journalists, aren’t they? Their stories need solid facts!) All that research, however, takes valuable time. So, to make all that time payoff, journalists are taught to use the research for multiple articles. Don’t just write one story about high school graduation rates. Write a version geared to the parents. Write a version aimed at motivating students. Twist those facts and figures to several markets, whether it be magazines, newspapers or blogs. That’s what they teach journalists.

It works for creative writing, too!

I’m using the same philosophy for screenwriting. Currently, I’m working on a contained thriller idea as a feature film script, as well as a book serial. And since book serials are structured like television shows, I can also pitch the idea as a television show.

How does this help me? It saves an incredible amount of time. I don’t have to research the story concept, but I do have to plot it out. Once the plotting is done, however, it is easy to apply it to different formats. I’m in the process of writing a screenplay and the first installment in a book series, based on the same concept. I started with the book, and found it easy to turn the first five chapters into Act One of the screenplay. After that first spark, I got down to business and outlined the whole thing. It required referencing the needs of each format, however that only enhanced the storyline.

I would caution that you need to know all the formats you are writing in, but don’t be afraid to try a new one. If you’re a feature writer, try television. If you’re a TV writer, try book serials. It’s amazing how shifting between the different formats makes you look at the story in a different way. It can make your storytelling even better! Best of all, you’re taking a great concept and finding multiple ways to get it noticed. And multiple ways to promote your work.

Just something to think about.

Happy writing!

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I love reading about screenwriters, as it inspires me. But most of what I’ve found on the web — outside of some great blogs — are advice from A-List screenwriters. It’s good advice, but I want to know what’s happening in the trenches! So, I decided to create the show I needed when I was breaking into the biz — by tapping into my online community of working screenwriting friends. That has now become Screenwriters Beat!

Screenwriters Beat now has a whopping 12 episodes, and 2 Strategy Sessions with Industry veterans. The main show is a group of working screenwriters, like myself, who have been in the biz or a few years. We’ve gotten those first handful of jobs and we’re sharing our experiences. Plus, we’re talking about how we continue to get out there and find work in the mid to low budget movie market. Please raise your hand, if you’d like a re-write assignment!

The strategy sessions are something new and interesting. I’ve interviewed a Hollywood Actor (Bruce Gray) about how actors read scripts AND a Hollywood Contest Reader (Howard Casner) for his tips to wow a reader.

We record the show through Google Hangouts, which is like a Skype session. It’s positive and informal. Then the shows are posted on my YouTube channel, where they can be viewed over and over again.

Come on over and join us sometime!

Do you favor one character over another?

I’m a fan of the TV show Arrow and it struck me that the writers favor some of their characters over the others. It’s just a guess, of course, based on the writing. Here’s two examples from the show:

1. Felicity vs. Laurel – Felicity has all the funny lines & she’s computer brilliant. Laurel is a whiner, but comes from comic book canon.

2. Diggle vs. Roy – Diggle is a new Arrow character just created for the show. Roy is based on the comic book series and should turn into the Arrow’s sidekick.

From a certain standpoint, I can see why Felicity and Diggle are stronger characters and attract an adoring audience. Their status on the TV show is fresh and new. Laurel and Roy are weighed down by a ton of comic book history. It really feels like the writers haven’t found their groove yet, for these characters. Not that they aren’t trying. Each have had some good screen moments. And the actors are likable, but somewhere between the writing and the acting, it just doesn’t work all the time.

It got me thinking about my characters and if I have the same problem. Of course, I can’t blame comic book canon. Sadly. It’s all on me. I have noticed, however, that some characters come organically out of the storyline and others are a necessity. For example, if I need a police officer in a scene. He has to be there and he has to interact with my main characters. He might even need to be in several scenes.

I’ve started to look at those ‘bit players’ in my manuscripts and screenplays. And I see an area for improvement.

Here’s how I’m going to solve the problem: I’m going to find one interesting character trait and combine it with a unique action.

In the example above, my police officer could be a know-it-all and he texts the main character with suggestions. Depending on how I position the police officer in the plot — as a comic relief, mis-direction or helpful character — the texts can serve multiple story points.

I know we want to get the most out of every character in our stories. I hope you do so with yours!

As a question, the one about finding inspiration comes up for all writers. I’ve seen it several times in that last month, and it got me thinking: what really inspires me? I have a stock answer – other writers. It’s a truthful answer. I love hearing success stories, as it makes my writing goals feel obtainable. I love reading good writing, also, as it challenges me to write well. But, beyond the truthful stock answer, I have to admit that I’m inspired to write in many different ways. Here’s my short list:

Deadlines – whether it’s one I force on myself, like wanting to enter my work in a contest, or the real ones that come from a contract with a publisher or producer.
The Bills – I like to pay my bills and eat.
Respect – when I complete my writing goals I thrive on the respect I get from family, friends and other writers. But mostly my family, since they don’t understand the creative process, but they completely understand a completed book or script.
Me, Myself & I – while I can be my own worst critic, I’m also my number one cheerleader.

Inspiration is a funny thing. It ebbs and flows, so it’s good to have more than one source!

Anyone that’s a fan of the CW’s television show “Arrow” has probably heard the term “Olicity”. It’s a fan-created way to talk about characters Oliver Queen (the Arrow) and Felicity Smoak (his smart assistant) hooking up as a couple at some point in the storyline. If you are hearing the term for the first time, please Google it and get caught up on the landslide of fan videos and commentary.

As a writer, Olicity is a wonderful example of actors bringing something extra to their characters and fans demanding more. I’d like to explore the pluses and the minuses of Olicity, including what a pickle the writer’s have created for themselves. (I apologize in advance if I offer suggestions about how to write the characters going forward, as I have every faith that Arrow’s writers and producers will do them justice.)

The first problem: The Arrow writers had a necessary, but boring scene to write. Main character Oliver needed tech help. They were facing a talking scene that could require a bunch of jargon.

The first solution: Write an interesting IT character.

The second problem: The interesting IT character (Felicity Smoak) was so interesting, she brought out a lighter side in Oliver. This was in part due to the writing, but mostly the acting. The actors clicked in the scene. It did not go unnoticed by the producers, who had Felicity written into more episodes to serve two purposes, plot technical intel and humanize Oliver Queen.

The third problem: The fans went nuts over the chemistry between Oliver and Felicity… thus creating Olicity.

The solution: Run with it.

The fourth problem: Oliver’s main love interest in the comic book world, and the TV show, was suppose to be Laurel Lance. However, the connection between those characters was a mess. Oliver hooked up with Laurel’s sister, she thought he was dead and hooked up with Oliver’s best friend… need I go on? It’s not like the storyline did any favors to their love life.

The solution: Change the Laurel character.

The fifth problem: No one liked the changes. Frankly, the changes were misguided. One of the only missteps of Arrow’s Season Two, btw, which has been amazing. However, they took a serious female lawyer with a strong moral compass and dressed her like a hooker, put her in the DA’s office with a pill-popping problem.

The solution: Make Laurel the only person that can see a friend of Oliver’s is really a major villain.

The sixth problem: Whinning. When Laurel’s quest to expose the villain fails, her drug problem is exposed and she becomes a sad character with no backbone. She loses faith in herself. Unfortunately, what might normally be a great character turn is minimized because we don’t care about Laurel. If a character that is riding the ho-hum train suddenly hits rock bottom, why should I care?

The solution: which hasn’t aired yet, so this is my solution… Make Laurel come out of this stronger. She needs to be smart and have confidence in herself. She needs to figure out she was right. No more whining. She needs to take action.

Unfortunately, I think my solution is also too late for Laurel to win viewers’ hearts. It would take a lot to make me like this character. And I’d never buy her as a love interest for Oliver. It fails on too many levels, even for a TV show with comic book roots.

The seventh problem: Olicity. How do you keep two characters apart when a majority of fans want them together.

I’m happy to say the writers know what they are doing on this score. It’s clear that they have obstacles in place, yet they are still giving viewers all the funny moments, the subtle moments where the characters connect, and tons of fiery arguments that keep Olicity fresh and fun to watch.

As writers, we should watch “Arrow” just to see how the show’s creative team continues the dance between Oliver and Felicity. They give and pullback with just the right touch. It’s so tricky, as they have to give the fans something, but they can’t let it get to the point where it gets boring. So far, there is nothing boring about watching the actors portray Oliver and Felicity. Kudos!

The eighth problem: The Kiss! The writers gave us a hug between Arrow and Felicity, and I say Arrow and not Oliver, because he was wearing his green crime fighting costume. In fact, it should be noted that when Oliver is Arrow, he’s much more emotional with Felicity. It’s a nice distinction, because there is a lot more distance between the characters when Oliver is a billionaire and Felicity is just his assistant. They are partners when he’s Arrow.

The solution: Let them kiss and spawn a whole bunch of new obstacles for the characters.

Wherever the writers and actors take Olicity, it sure will be a fun ride!

I don’t know anything, unless I know one thing…

Characters.

That’s what the shrink lets me call them. Who am I kidding? I can’t afford a shrink. So, I’m gonna let my characters run wild all over this blog. They are the good guys, the bad guys, the sidekicks, the jokers, the femme fatales, et al of my current screenplays.

They rarely play nice.

They always cause trouble.

Perhaps they’ll get all that out of their systems by the time I’m ready to put them on the page.

Fingers crossed — although that makes it hard to type.

the Screenwriter