Make sure your characters don’t all sound the same.  A doctor and a maid would speak differently. However, a doctor doesn’t usually throw around medical terms in normal conversation and maids don’t always speak French. Make it fun: have the doctor speak French and the maid study medical terms in her spare time.




Welcome Back, Henry!

On Friday, May 27, 2011 I finally FINALLY finished the latest draft of my screenplay, SOLO POWER. Whenever I finish a draft of a screenplay, I usually celebrate by listening to my personal soundtrack to the story. That is, whatever songs I had been listening to while writing the script, the Screenplay Soundtrack. This time around, I was so thoroughly tired of the story, I didn’t even do that.

Remember back to your high school or college days when you finished a particularly grueling exam? Sure, you were relieved when it was done, but you were so mentally drained from it that you just can’t even think about the material anymore. That’s exactly what this felt like. Not so much a feeling of accomplishment. Just exhaustion.

It’s strange. I like the story. I like the characters. This script has just been especially difficult for some reason. Lots and lots of rewrites, which is not uncommon. I guess it’s just been a tiring struggle writing this one. More so than normal. My plan was to not even look at it for two weeks, then pick it up again for more rewrites. Usually, I feel refreshed when I get some distance from what I’m working on, and then I’ m ready to go back to it.

Well, it’s been a week and I’m still not read to look at it. I can’t help but wonder if one more week will be enough.

The last screenplay I wrote was just as much work as this one, if not more. I endured horrible reviews and I kept working and working on it until it started to get really good reviews. My next project after my current screenplay is going to be writing the novel version of my earlier screenplay, QUEEN HENRY.

Since I finished the SOLO POWER draft a week ago, I’ve started prep work on the novel. I thought it might help to work on a different project for a little bit.

It was like visiting old friends. Oh, how I’ve missed these characters. Henry, Thomas, Sam, and Alice are calling to me. “Hey! It’s great to see you! Remember how much fun we had a few years ago?”

Yes! Yes I do.

It’s funny – I spent just as long on QUEEN HENRY as I did on SOLO POWER. Just as many rewrites and I was relieved when I finally finished but I never, ever got tired of the characters or the story. It’s still my favorite story and I’m excited about the prospect of turning it into a novel.

So – I’ve got the current project that’s not done yet but that I’m sick of and I’ve got a new project that I’m really excited about. It seems crazy to ignore the momentum I’m gaining on writing the new novel. I can’t wait to write it. So I guess I shouldn’t wait.

So I’m thinking maybe I will write a draft of the novel and then go back to the earlier screenplay. Hopefully, it will be enough space and time that I will be ready to look at it again with a new perspective and new ideas to make it really good.

Sorry, SOLO POWER. It’s not you – it’s me.

Come on, Henry! We’ve got a lot of work to do and some life lessons for you to learn. Let’s get to it!

Brief Script Update – Just in Case Anyone Cares

I have not yet reached that Eureka!!! moment where the whole script comes together, but it’s coming soon. I can feel it. The characters are now jostling for my attention – telling me little bits and pieces of their backstory and telling me why they do the things they do…

I was lucky to walk outside yesterday in the rare 70 degree February sunshine. As usual, I was listening to my individualized “soundtrack” to my script. I have successfully reclaimed the songs – they no longer belong to the last draft that was terrible. As a matter of fact, I found myself straining to remember what happened in the story in the last draft.

I abruptly stopped walking for moment. I swear, it took me a full 30 seconds to remember what the hell happened in the earlier draft – the one that took me more than a year to write, but was blasted to oblivion in a review.

 I literally could not remember the original story. 

It just shows how much I’ve really let go of that draft. All the scenes and characters I loved as well as the heartbreak of the bad review.

 I’m totally over it. It’s all about the new, exciting draft.

 It was a nice moment.

Have a great Friday, everyone.

But Before the Story—the Back-story – Guest Post by Simon Lang

It’s interesting to find your own protagonist having strange adventures in a fanzine.

It means that these fans have found the person you created so real that they want to be part of his life, want to put him through his paces in a variety of situations, and in a sense, want to be part of his existence. Leaving out the fact that it’s patently “Theft of Intellectual Property” if it’s sold (a point that tends to make lawyers salivate), and that using someone else’s character is unprofessional and invasive, it somehow constitutes a sort of a sideways compliment.

It means someone really liked your stuff. That they read it and became engaged with it to the extent that they felt the need to add to the adventure. That they loved that character, or admired him, or cared about him as if the character were a real person.
That’s the key. Creating real characters is the name of the game.

The secret—a very public secret, actually—to good fiction is writing great characters. When you consider that Sherlock Holmes, Indiana Jones, Captain Kirk, Nancy Drew, Harry Potter, James Bond, The Cat in the Hat, Elizabeth Bennett, Ebenezer Scrooge, Darth Vader and Dao Marik, existed only in the minds of their creators before one word was ever put on paper, it’s easy to see that crafting real characters is vital indeed.

No matter how good the storyline; no matter with what finesse we construct the locale and setting; if your characters are wooden, they all speak exactly alike, and they’re painfully boring, your work is never going to go anywhere. It’ll just sit moldering away in your trunk, without even consoling you with a parting squeak.

When you’re having problems with your story, go back and research your characters.

Do detailed back-stories on each main character. Where did he go to school, and how well did he do? Who were her childhood friends and what became of them? What is his favorite sport, if any, and which ice cream flavor does she prefer? What kind of a pet does he have, and why? What happened in her childhood that marked her for life, good or bad, and how does he make his living? Have you researched his profession? How far will you go to “know” this person you’re creating, and… and… and, et cetera. Keep asking yourself “why?” It’s one of the most important words in the language.

Perfect your character.

A character, to use the old hackneyed comparison, is like an iceberg. You, the writer, must know the whole thing in detail, even though your reader will only see the top ten-percent. The hidden ninety-percent is what gives your character depth, helps to make him real and three-dimensional. And it provides you a vast store of resources to which you will be able refer regarding your character, time and again, whenever you may need them. Try this and see whether it doesn’t give you a way to write through your blocks and craft more real and compelling stories.

Darlene Hartman/”Simon Lang” is an award-winning screenwriter and novelist, and has written PSAs for such clients as The US State Department, The American Heart Association and the Cardinal Cooke Council on Pro-Life. She teaches an online program based on her writers’ course, “Think Like a Writer.” She can be reached at simon_lang@rocketmail.com.

Sometimes You Just Have to Kill People

It’s tough, but if you’re a writer, you gotta do it sometimes.

I’m working on a page one rewrite of my latest script. We’re talking total rehaul here. I did the same thing with the last two scripts I wrote: page one rewrite, kept the basic premise and a main character or two, trashed the rest, and started over. One of those scripts was a Finalist in a national contest. The other is currently under option with Runaway Productions. You can’t argue with results…

MACRO NOTES (or why you probably need a page one rewrite….)

In the process, some characters had to go. Sorry, it’s not you, it’s me. Well,I guess technically, it’s both…

ROBERTA- Girl, we had some laughs. I’m gonna miss you. I really, really hate to lose you, especially that great scene with you at the end. It just wasn’t working. Sorry.

CHRISTIAN – You were a part of a subplot that just wasn’t meant to be. You’ll find someone else – really! Actually, you don’t need to. As it turns out, your girlfriend, AMY, is getting cut too.

AMY – Ride off into the sunset with CHRISTIAN. You kids are gonna make it! Just not in this story.

NATHAN – You were a love interest suggested by my script analyst. Not gonna lie – I was never that fond of you. Not really sorry to see you go.

HAILEY – You were dead weight from the beginning. You contributed nothing to the script. You HAD to go.

KARY DOMINAC – You were a bitch. It’s okay! You were supposed to be. You were just too complicated. You’re just not the right villain for the story.

CAMILLE – You’re on the chopping block, but I’m just not sure yet. You may get a last minute reprieve. Depends on how the script goes from here…

And to IMOGENE, PAULA, and MATT (extends rose…) you guys are still in! Congratulations. Please do your best in the script. Be funny, entertaining, multi-dimensional, and advance your character and the plot in every scene.

Please welcome to the script LINDSAY, JILLIAN, and HANNAH. Give them a round of applause! Okay, that’s enough. Don’t be too nice to them – two of them are villains.

It’s hard to get rid of characters and scenes I once loved. However, I’ve learned from experience that over time I will develop stronger characters and better scenes that I love even more. The scenes I once loved will start to vanish until they are nothing but a distant memory.