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Nothing You Write, if you Hope to be any Good….

Lillian Hellman (Author of The Little Foxes and Children’s Hour)  once said, Nothing you write, if you hope to be any good, will ever come out as you first hoped.”

As a writer, that has happened to me over and over.  In the early days of my writing, I was appalled that the story was going somewhere that I had not planned for.   The characters would lead me down paths I had no intention of going down or writing about.  Now I accept this strange phenomenon that happens not just to me but to other writers as well.

     A glaring, or perhaps glorious, example of a story taking an unexpected turn was when I was writing Women Outside the Walls.  My plan for the storyline was that this would be a cozy little story of three very different women coming together while visiting their men in prison.

A third of the way through this project, Charlie, while sitting in the prison’s visiting room, jumps up, grabs Kitty, and, holding a shiv (knife) to her throat,  takes her hostage.  I  sat at my keyboard and wailed aloud, “No!  No, you can’t!  I don’t know anything about hostages……or hostage negotiations!” Too late! He’d already dragged Kitty to the back wall, and pandemonium had broken out.  The prison went on emergency lockdown, and there was nothing I could do! There I sat at my keyboard, dead in my tracks.

It took me four months researching hostage negotiations before I could resume working on my novel.  I had not the faintest clue as to how I would finally resolve this room being taken, hostage.  And I want to stop here and thank the federal and state hostage negotiators who assisted me in my research. While they would not share any of their techniques, they agreed to look over my story and tell me where I was off base. They allowed me to send them this segment of my novel for them to critique and assisted in keeping my portrayal accurate.   Before you COs jump all over me about the gun, I did take dramatic license with that.  

I have learned to anticipate and enjoy it when the story takes on a life of its own.  It’s my fondest wish to become, simply, the ‘typist’.  When my characters take control and tell me the story!

(Reprised 2013)

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Watch for more interviews with authors.  September: Culley Holderfield. October: Simon Gervais for ROBERT LUDLUM, November: Kevin J. Kennedy, December: Marc Cameron, writing for TOM CLANCY

 

A few BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

 

 

Strong Writing vs Sloppy, Weak Writing

Dear fellow writers,

The one thing that gives me hives faster than nettles, hives, or food allergies is SLOPPY TENSE by a writer!

I am currently reading a book (Spinning Jenny) that could have been an excellent story, could have been pretty good writing for a debut book, and could have some well-thought-out and developed characters except for the writer (Sylvia Ann McLain)  who wrote the entire thing using the present tense. Then slipping into past tense and frequently mixing the two.  (Grrrrr….teeth gnashing.)

Here’s a sample, quoting from the book:  “Children race about, babies are wailing, and clusters of women talk among themselves. Some sit by themselves with Bibles in their laps.  Farther off in the woods, blacks (did they use this term in 1833?)  have set up their own camps; their tents are made of quilts thrown over ropes between the trees.”

Edited:  Children raced around, babies wailed, and clusters of women gathered to talk amongst themselves. A few sat by themselves with their Bibles in their laps.  Further off into the woods Negroes set up their camps.  Their tents were made by throwing quilts over ropes tied between the tree trunks.

and:  “But back at Carefree, there’s a body waiting for her to view it. She dreads it as she drives up the hill to her home.  A body! Has she ever seen a dead person before? Not that she remembers. Why can’t Sophronia get up out of her bed and do something for once? But it’s getting on to twelve o’clock. She has to hurry.” 

Edited:  A body waited for her to view back at Carefree. Stephanie dreaded it as she drove up the hill to her home. A body! Has she ever seen a dead person before? Not that she remembered. Why couldn’t Sophronia get up out of her bed and do something for once? But it was close to noon. She had to hurry.

I like to use italics for internal dialogue but it’s not a rule.   What is a grammatical rule is “i.n.g.’ ing” every other word is poor writing no matter how you look at it.  

There is no rule set in stone somewhere that fiction must be written in the past tense. But it is the accepted and expected tense that 98% of writers use.  More importantly, readers expect it even if they are unaware. 
99% of the time, if a book is written in anything other than past tense, it has not been written that way on purpose; the writer is new, and the book is their first one, and they are ignorant of what is expected and what the industry standard is.  It makes them look like the amateur that they are. 

PS. Finally. Finished it. This book was a real slog. And then to find out the ending was a setup for a sequel. The storyline didn’t support that. Ugh!!!!!!

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Watch for more interviews with authors.  September: Culley Holderfield. October: Simon Gervais for ROBERT LUDLUM, November: Kevin J. Kennedy, December: Marc Cameron, writing for TOM CLANCY

 

A few BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

Research Can Unearth Some Surprises!

Nazi codes in the hem of a dress?

After reading Susan Elia MacNeal’s Mr. Churchill’s Secretary I was inspired to write a short play about Winston Churchill and hisChurchills.Cat.BookCoverImage cat, Nelson.   Ms. MacNeal referred, in passing, to Mr. Churchill’s pets being allowed free rein to wander the war rooms at #10 Downing Street during Churchill’s time in office.  I could clearly see  the rotund, shambling figure of the Prime Minister with two pugs yapping at his heels while Admiral Nelson, the cat, sat high atop a side table. Silently observing his human and the general hysteria of the dogs.

Churchill was a master not only in crafting the English sentence but also in the coinage of words.  His tongue-in-cheek comment:  “A fanatic is one who won’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” is a favorite of mine.  In a World War I speech, (1914) Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty coined the phase ‘business as usual’.  Saying the maxim of the British people is “business as usual.”  Churchill gave the world the phrase: “Iron Curtain” in his speech in Missouri in 1946 when he said, “…..an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”

Having grown up during the post-war years, I knew something of Mr. Churchill.  A historic figure that was a great statesman, orator and leader.  But I really knew nothing of the man.  And once again, (as I have mentioned before) I began a project and then started my research.

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, (which I highly recommend) is fiction but based in fact.  Ms. MacNeal was fortunate enough to have several interviews with Churchill’s private secretary before her death.  The book is about a ‘typist’ who was relegated to a menial job because of her gender.  She was actually educated in mathematics and cryptology and could easily have fitted in with MI-Five (British CIA) but for her being a woman.  The novel’s heroine, Maggie, saves the Prime Minister from certain death by breaking a Nazi code.  And this brings me to the fashion advert that actually ran in the London Times and was full of Nazi messages.  All the stitching (around sleeves and hem) was Morse code for attacks at #10 Downing and St. Paul’s cathedral. 

“German spies hid secret messages in drawings of models wearing the latest fashions in an attempt to outwit Allied censors during World War Two, according to British security service files. Nazi agents relayed sensitive military information using the dots and dashes of Morse code incorporated in the drawings. They posted the letters to their handlers, hoping that counter-espionage experts would be fooled by the seemingly innocent pictures. But British secret service officials were aware of the ruse and issued censors with a code-breaking guide to intercept them.”  (actual advert from the London Times).

If not for my love of reading, my passion for writing, and the need for research, I would never have delved into Churchill’s life and his time in office. (my interests don’t generally take that path).  It’s an unexpected delight to learn more about this amazing statesman.  He was quirky, irritable, brilliant, and very funny.

And all because I had begun writing a short play about Mr. Churchill and his cat!  I love when that happens!!

(Originally published 2013)
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Interview with author, George WB Scott

TS. George WB Scott is an East Tennessee video producer and videographer with a life-long interest in the causes and events of the Civil War. His years of research on this topic are the basis of a story of Jonathan’s personal journey through one of the most interesting and important regions of the South. Scott was born in Stuart, Florida, and is a cum laude graduate of Appalachian State University. He lives with his wife Mary Leidig in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? 

GS. I work in an office with many windows that looks out on our backyard. My wife shares the office with a desk next to mine. I write on an Apple Macbook Pro, which I use as a desktop computer. I have two large monitors and a wireless keyboard, which I also use for video editing as part of my business. Sometimes I take the laptop and keyboard to other locations when I need more privacy.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

GS. In the morning I drink at least three cups of coffee, and caffeinated like that I can burn up several pages in the morning. Sometimes when I am into a chapter or scene I write late into the night.
I keep a small notepad by my hand.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

GS. I’ve always thought of myself as a writer, but until my book was edited I didn’t realize what I didn’t know. For years I have kept a small notebook of random thoughts and musings which I have dipped into for my last novel, and I expect I will for the next one.

Review:  ”I know lots of people who call themselves writers who aren’t as good…Civil War Charleston, was a complex place of fiery secessionists and perplexed immigrants, African Americans both enslaved and free, sailors, soldiers, musicians and drunks, old veterans and young secessionists knew nothing of war but would learn about its horrors all too soon.” –Jack Neely, Executive Director of Knoxville History Project, journalist and author.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

GS. I find I do much of my best thinking when I am doing some physical labor, such as yardwork or hiking. For my last novel I wrestled with how to craft a story into the historical timeline of the Civil War, and stressed over that for a long time. Finally I just sat at my computer and wrote one random scene, the chapter about the delivery of the CSS Hunley submarine. After that, I determined how the character came to that spot, and what happened afterwards.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

GS. I like to get a start after a cup of coffee in the morning, and write until I either have to get up and move around a bit, or when I reach the end of an event in the book. Afternoons are not usually as productive.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

GS. It’s like I have always heard from every writer I ever asked: write! Just write something, even if it’s a letter to an old friend, or a review of a movie. It’s easier to direct your writing to a bigger project once you have some “writing momentum.”

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

GS. Most characters are derived from people I know. Some I will sketch in as “placeholders,” until I can build a backstory that justifies the actions each is used for. In “I Jonathan,” for instance, I researched how Isabella could come to be where she was and in the condition she was in. The same goes for the policeman Kerry. William was a pretty stock character for Civil War books, but I have known people like him, and I enlarged him to be grander than reality, which was right for him.
Zeke is an adaptation from a man in an old Charles Kuralt “On the Road” episode.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Part 2 of this wonderful interview will post Oct. 17th.  Please join us. 
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Interview with Author of ‘One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow’

TS. We continue here with part 3 of this fascinating look into Olivia Hawker’s writing process. 

Q. You mentioned, in your bio, that your novels were inspired by ‘true stories from your family tree.’ Can you tell us about that?

OH. I love genealogy (a holdover from my Mormon days) and I’ve gone down some wild rabbit holes while doing genealogical research. You can find the most fascinating stories in old journals and typewritten versions of families’ oral histories. And if you know how to read between the lines of certain kinds of genealogical records, you can uncover a lot of “silent” stories, too—information your family members probably wanted to keep hidden. For example, I’d read during some of my research for a forthcoming novel that there were a few women among the early Mormons who had multiple husbands (men having multiple wives is a well-documented and well-known fact.) By reading between the lines of some interesting church marriage records, I was able to figure out that one of my own ancestors was a woman who was married to four different men at the same time. Get it, girl!
But the two books I’m referencing in particular are The Ragged Edge of Night and One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow. Ragged Edge is about my husband’s grandfather, who was a former Franciscan friar and a music teacher living in a tiny village in rural Germany during World War II. He got involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler… as one does. His real story made for some pretty gripping fiction, so I didn’t have to change much in order to write an interesting book.
Blackbird is much more loosely based on fact, but I did find the core of that story in a family tale of adultery, death, and the forced cooperation of two women who really, really hated each other’s guts, but had no choice but to work together if they wanted to survive out on the Wyoming frontier. I changed a lot to make Blackbird what it is.
It just goes to show that you can write fiction that cleaves very firmly to facts or you can get more creative and free-wheeling with it—there’s room for either approach in the market.
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Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

OH. I typically discover titles before anything else. I’ll just be going about my day, minding my own business, and sometimes a title for a new book will explode into my head and demand my all attention. I keep a little notebook with me at all times, and I jot down all these title ideas in that notebook. Over months or years, one of my many titles will sort of step out of that general fog and say to me, “I’m your next book. Me. This one. It’s my time now to come into the world, so you’d better get to work and start making me.”
After the title tells me it’s ready to become a book, it starts telling me what it wants to be about, thematically—what message it wants to convey to the world. Once I understand the theme and overall tone (or atmosphere or mood) of a book, then I can create characters who will serve the theme and the tone. My characters are all little handmaids and man servants to the story. I make them be whatever I need them to be, in order to carry the book’s message effectively to readers and present it in a way they’ll understand.

My garden

So for example, I’d known for years about this family story of adultery on the Wyoming frontier, and the two women who hated each other but were forced to live together anyway. I didn’t start writing One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow until that title (which had been lurking in my notebook since about 2014) told me it wanted to be about death—how death is a natural and necessary part of life, and how, by disconnecting ourselves from and denying death, humans have made themselves strangers to nature, and that separation from nature has damaged our psyches and sickened our societies. We can only heal ourselves and our world by accepting that our rightful, humble place is within nature, not set apart from it as a conquering and domineering force. And we can’t accept our place within nature until we accept the realities of death.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

OH. Watership Down. I’ve always liked rabbits, so my dear sweet dad—blundering goofball that he was—thought it would be a great idea to show me the film adaptation when I was a little kid. A really little kid. I don’t know how old I was exactly when I first saw it; I must have been about five years old. That’s probably way too young for a kid to be exposed to that film. 

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

OH. I’m not sure. Maybe. I think it depends on what “getting lost” means. I certainly enjoy writing very much. There’s almost nothing I’d rather do on any given day than write, but sadly, I have maybe three or four good hours in me per day before my brain just vapor-locks and everything goes downhill. I usually revel in those few hours, though, and enjoy them. I get very emotionally invested in my work while I’m actively writing it. I cry A LOT while I write. I cry so much; it’s kind of embarrassing. But I figure that’s a good thing, you know? 

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

OH. I’m always working on something! I just wrapped up my longest, most complex historical novel to date. I’d been working on it off and on for seven years, but only recently did that book jump up and tell me to focus on it exclusively until it was finished. Now it’s off to my agent; we’re hoping to sell that book to a major publisher this spring. It’s set in the Burned-Over District of the Northeast United States during the 1830s and 1840s—a fascinating time in American history, both from a political and a cultural perspective, but it’s a setting I don’t see explored often in fiction. And I’m finishing up my next novel for Lake Union Publishing. It’s set in rural Idaho during the 1970s. On the surface, it’s about a family of artists who are struggling to manage their tricky relationships while also struggling to carve out careers, but since I always write to serve an underpinning theme, it’s really about the intense and unique love creative people feel for those who inspire their work. 

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

OH. No; I think paper books will continue to be produced for a long time yet to come. But they have already begun to occupy a new place in the market. I think of them as being analogous to vinyl records now.

Q. What makes a writer great?

Join us next week for the conclusion of this great Interview!
Did you miss the beginning? Click here.
Review of One for the Blackbird…
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
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Celebrating Black History Month!

Billie Holiday, black history month, African-American, people of colorBillie Holiday, jazz singer,one woman cast,segregation      A Tribute to Billie Holiday, in celebration of Black History Month.  It’s always a joy to hear Billie’s music again.

Scent of Magnolia” by Trisha Sugarek.……’tells the story of a young woman who rose above poverty, rape, bigotry, prostitution and imprisonment to become one of the most memorable and celebrated artists of the twentieth century. The one woman show portrays the life of a black jazz singer in America during the 30’s. The script does not dwell on the sensationalism of her addiction to alcohol and drugs but chooses, rather, to celebrate the whole woman and her music.

Billie tells not only her story, but our nation’s story. She interjects her tale with her most famous music as well as some of her more obscure songs. In her own words, she talks about her struggle to succeed in spite of the segregation of that time and the billie Holiday, black singers, musicians, jazz,difficulties she experienced singing with the great bands, most of which were white musicians. Without self-pity , she talks about the

(Note: Original song written by Gary Swindell, for this stage play.) daily slings and arrows that are a part of bigotry. Billie takes complete responsibility for her life, her choices, and her actions. Her triumph was her music and her songs that will live on forever.’                                          

Billie Holiday, jazz, stage play, one act play,

Latrelle Bright as Billie – 2004

black history month, billie Holiday, people of color,…….Ben Rafuse as the ‘piano man’

 

We have much to celebrate this year with people of color serving our country in the   military abroad, serving the community and nation in the political arena.  The many musicians who gave ‘birth to the blues’.

The giants and philosophers, playwrights and politicians…..authors, writers, Walter Mosley

It’s taken us over eighty years to evolve to this point, t williamssince Billie Holiday struggled as a black woman to survive in this country. …….we still have a way to go but we, as a nation, have much to be proud of. Did you miss the post about Savannah’s black orphan kids

James Baldwin, writers, authors

(Hank Aaron,  Kamala Harris, Corey Booker,

Tennessee Williams, Walter Mosley,Martin Luther King, Jr., Spike Lee,   James Baldwin, ) and thousands of others who fill our world and our history. 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~black musicians, jazz, Billie Holiday, music

 

Start your month off right!! DON’T MISS UPCOMING BLOGS. “The Writer’s Corner” INTERVIEWS with other best-selling AUTHORS! March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 

 

So come along with me; we shall sneak into these writers’ special places, be a fly on the wall and watch them create!
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Interview with Sci-Fi author, Alan Dean Foster (part 2)

With Tom Christian, great-great-great grandson of Fletcher Christian – Pitcairn Is.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

AF. In Carl Barks Uncle Scrooge comics, Scrooge has to travel to unusual, exotic places either to check on his vast array of businesses or to hunt for treasure. Very early on, these comics inculcated in a desire to emulate Scrooge. Before I could do so in reality, I did so in my imagination. That desire has continued to afflict me to the present. My parents also had an old book by Richard Halliburton. I remember very clearly a picture of Halliburton standing in front of the Taj Mahal. I thought it impossibly romantic (and yes, I got to the Taj eventually).

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

AF. Could be either one. If an interesting character occurs to me, or if I meet one in my travels, I might build a book or story around them. If a plot idea comes first, I’ll populate it with suitable characters. I never know which will come first.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

AF. Completely. I’m told my writing is very visual. This is because I “see” everything I’m writing about. I literally describe what I’m seeing. It’s as if I’m operating a video camera in my mind. I go to all the places I’m describing.

For example, this was taken of me in Tuareg headdress where the borders of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso meet. Not a safe place nowadays due to the depradations of Isis and Boko Haram. In life, you have to pick your spots.

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

AF. I do a monthly column on art and science for a local monthly paper (5enses; you can read the column on-line. Book-wise, I’m in pause mode.

 

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

AF. My senior year at UCLA I discovered the film department. I’d always been a facile writer in high school. Film and TV writing courses offered an opportunity to acquire credits toward graduation that was very easy for me. I didn’t realize it was difficult for everyone else. To take a break from writing scripts, I started to write short fiction, and submit it. My first sale was to Arkham House. A long Lovecraftian letter that I thought might amuse the editor, August Dereleth. Imagine my surprise when he offered to buy it and publish it as a “story”. Payment was fifty bucks. I intended to frame the check…a resolution that lasted about ten minutes. The story, which is included in my first collection, was “Some Notes Concerning a Green Box”. It was set in the bowels of the UCLA library, an on-campus sanctuary for me.

Q. How long after that were you published?

Dog’s name is Zipper. Cat is Caesar.

AF. Although “Some Notes…” was my first sale, my first published fiction was the short story “With Friends Like These”, which appeared in Analog magazine in June, 1971.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

AF. Not in our lifetime. But eventually, mass market paper books will disappear as a consequence of cost and ecological concerns. I believe there will always be a market for those who love to collect “real” books.

Q. What makes a writer great?

AF. Find a new way to describe the human condition and how it interacts with is surroundings.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

AF. George Orwell once said that anyone who wants to be a writer is certifiable. It’s slow, agonizing, brain-wrenching work. And it never gets easier. As I tell students, page one is easy, page 400 is easy. It’s the 398 pages in between that’s hard. Ideas, characters, plots are easy enough. Turning them into stories that people want to read…that’s hard.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

A. My travels percolate all through my writing. Locations, characters, new ideas…they all show up sooner or later. Sometimes, like the aforementioned oriental gentleman, an acquaintance will become a character. Other times I’ll get an entire book out of a trip, such as SAGRAMANDA (India) or INTO THE OUT OF (Tanzania/Kenya). Or parts of a book, like CATALYST (Peru, Australia). I don’t know how writers can imagine or create other cultures without having explored those right here on Earth.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

Alan with Ronnie Dio

AF. I lift weights, now only twice a week. I spend too much time on the web surfing the planet. I read as often as my strained eyesight permits. I am not averse to television, everything from The Simpsons to American Experience (PBS). I enjoy spending time with our pets (currently six cats and one tolerant dog). I listen to a lot of classical music interspersed with heavy metal and interesting newcomers (Angelina Jordan, Courtney Hadwin, The Hu). Me and the late Ronnie Dio, of DIO…a big fan of Spellsinger. After a concert. I was perspiring more heavily than Ronnie was.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

AF. I’ve written science-fiction, fantasy, contemporary, historical, western, detective, and non-fiction. I’m very comfortable sliding between genres.

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

AF. No matter how bad you think your situation is, it is undoubtedly a thousand times better than that of the person next to you.

Check out Part 1 of this Interview
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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How To Format A Screenplay

TS.  ‘ACTION drives a screenplay, that and plot.  DIALOGUE drives a stage play so it better be damn good. In my opinion, if your action is good in a screenplay, the dialogue can be mediocre and often is in blockbusters. If your dialogue is crisp and interesting and helps drive the story, you’ve done a better job than most in Hollywood.’ 

While you can buy books and software to do the job for you it’s always good to have a grasp of the general spacing standards. The top, bottom and right margins of a screenplay are 1″. The left margin is 1.5″. The extra half-inch of white space to the left of a script page allows for binding with brads, yet still imparts a feeling of vertical balance of the text on the page. The entire document should be single-spaced.

The very first item on the first page should be the words FADE IN:. Note: the first page is never numbered. Subsequent page numbers appear in the upper right hand corner, 0.5″ from the top of the page, flush right to the margin.

Screenplay Elements

Below is a list of items (with definitions) that make up the screenplay format, along with indenting information. Again, screenplay software will automatically format all these elements, but a screenwriter must have a working knowledge of the definitions to know when to use each one.

Scene Heading
Indent: Left: 0.0″ Right: 0.0″ Width: 6.0″

A scene heading is a one-line description of the location and time of day of a scene, also known as a “slugline.” It should always be in CAPS.

Example: EXT. WRITERS STORE – DAY reveals that the action takes place outside The Writers Store during the daytime.

Subheader
Indent: Left: 0.0″ Right: 0.0″ Width: 6.0″

When a new scene heading is not necessary, but some distinction needs to be made in the action, you can use a subheader. But be sure to use these sparingly, as a script full of subheaders is generally frowned upon. A good example is when there are a series of quick cuts between two locations, you would use the term INTERCUT and the scene locations.

Action
Indent: Left: 0.0″ Right: 0.0″ Width: 6.0″

The narrative description of the events of a scene, written in the present tense. Also less commonly known as direction, visual exposition, blackstuff, description or scene direction.

Remember – only things that can be seen and heard should be included in the action.

Character
Indent: Left: 2.0″ Right: 0.0″ Width: 4.0″

When a character is introduced, his name should be capitalized within the action. For example: The door opens and in walks LIAM, a thirty-something hipster with attitude to spare.

A character’s name is CAPPED and always listed above his lines of dialogue. Minor characters may be listed without names, for example “TAXI DRIVER” or “CUSTOMER.”

Dialogue
Indent: Left: 1.0″ Right: 1.5″ Width: 3.5″

Lines of speech for each character. Dialogue format is used anytime a character is heard speaking, even for off-screen and voice-overs. Normal upper and lower case is used.

Parenthetical
Indent: Left: 1.5″ Right: 2.0″ Width: 2.5″

A parenthetical is direction for the character, that is either attitude or action-oriented. With roots in the playwriting genre, today, parentheticals are used very rarely, and only if absolutely necessary. Why? Two reasons. First, if you need to use a parenthetical to convey what’s going on with your dialogue, then it probably just needs a good re-write. Second, it’s the director’s job to instruct an actor on how to deliver a line, and everyone knows not to encroach on the director’s turf!

Extension
Placed after the character’s name, in parentheses

An abbreviated technical note placed after the character’s name to indicate how the voice will be heard onscreen, for example, if the character is speaking as a voice-over, it would appear as LIAM (V.O.).

Transition
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Transitions are film editing instructions, and generally only appear in a shooting script. Transition verbiage includes:

  • CUT TO:
  • DISSOLVE TO:
  • SMASH CUT:
  • QUICK CUT:
  • FADE TO:

As a spec script writer, you should avoid using a transition unless there is no other way to indicate a story element. For example, you might need to use DISSOLVE TO: to indicate that a large amount of time has passed.

Shot
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A shot tells the reader the focal point within a scene has changed. Like a transition, there’s rarely a time when a spec screenwriter should insert shot directions. Once again, that’s the director’s job. 

Sample of what your page should look like:  [Source: The Writer’s Digest]

 

 

 

other related posts by this blogger:

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How To Write a Play


How To Format a Play
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The Tuscan Child ~~ A Review

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing5 out of 5 quills ~~  The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

All writers have a voice. A flavor, a timbre. Some good, some not so good. Rhys Bowen has her own unique essence. Like fine wine her words flow across the page effortlessly.  The tale of The Tuscan Child journeys between England and Italy. Within this author’s superb writing she captures the staid, stoic, ‘stiff upper lip’ of the English personality and the extravagant, dramatic over-the-top flamboyance of the Italians.  It’s perfection.

We travel the countryside of Surrey, England which Bowen has brought to clear and gleaming life. The rolling hills, the hedgerow lanes, the tiny villages, the ancient, cold stone from which most of the great houses were built, centuries ago. In alternate chapters the author thrusts the reader into another fortress-like village, surrounded by olive trees under a hot Tuscany sun, full of the aromas of cooking. The absolute power of the church and  the old, archaic Italian families dominates the population. Mixed in with life in the 70’s we travel back in time to the same village in occupied (by Germans) Italy in the 40’s. We hide out with a downed pilot behind enemy lines. 

If you know me, as a reviewer, I don’t write spoilers. I don’t fill my review with a synopsis of the story. I prefer to tell you about the writing. It’s always about the

mysteries, best sellers, Rhys Bowen, author

Rhys Bowen, Author

writing.  But I will tell you this; Bowen has created two wonderful new protagonists: Sir Hugo Langley, bomber pilot in the RAF and his daughter, Joanna Langley.  Their stories separate them by thirty years as the daughter tries to understand a time when the world was at war and her father was fighting for his life.  

Released February 20th for sale.  Rhys Bowen’s fans can look forward to an exceptional story and superb writing!!

Did you miss my Interview with Rhys? Click here 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?    January: Sue Grafton ~ In Memory
March: Larry D. Sweazy
                                                                                   
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Black Orphans…What Did Savannah Do With Them? (Nostalgia-part 7)

   In honor of Black History Month I am reposting this  story about orphans and an old man.  The other day I was out on errands and spied a ‘For Sale/Waterfront’sign .  In my neck of the woods that usually means river front and/or marsh land.  So I turned around and followed the  signs.  At the end of the road I found a beautiful home on some acreage.   I always like to look at real estate and I am always curious about what ‘water front’ costs.  Driving slowly onto the property I began to look for a flyer. Failing that, I slowly rounded their circular driveway heading back out.

I paused at the street as a man, riding a John Deere mower, chased me down and asked if he could show me the house.  What luck!   I was going to be able to see the beautifully restored plantation house. I never could have imagined the story that awaited me!

It sits on three acres with a six car garage, a guest house, a barn and a doll house.  The lawns spill down to a large deck overlooking a tidal creek which feeds out to the Vernon River. The live oak trees are hundreds of years old, Spanish moss dripping from every branch.  The deck has been built around an oak even to the point of interrupting the hand railing to accommodate an oak branch eighteen inches thick.  (it’s a southern thing; we love our live oaks.)

But it was the owners’ story that I wanted to share.

Courtesy of sonofthesouth.net

Courtesy of sonofthesouth.net

Dick and Sue bought the working farm and farm house in 1975.  Back then, common in those days, the kitchen was outside on a porch so that it wouldn’t add to the summer heat within the house.  The house was approximately 1,000 sq. feet compared to its 5,000 sq. ft. now.

Part of the sale was that the new owners must care for a middle-aged black man; the grandson of slaves, for the remainder of his life.  That in itself was remarkable but they agreed.
Parker Bell was illiterate, didn’t know how old he was, didn’t know his mother or father’s name.  As a child he was blackmanraised on the ‘Brown farm‘. At first I found little history referring to a ‘brown farm’ but had heard that this is where young African-American children (orphans) were housed after the civil war and into the early 1900’s.  I wondered if the name was an acronym in reference to John Brown, the abolitionist?

But thanks to a friend, who loves this kind of research as much as I do….we found the ‘Brown Farm’ in Savannah, GA., and a census map.

Young black children who were orphaned in Savannah from the latter part of the 19th century to 1943 had – for a number of reasons – nowhere to live except Savannah’s penal farm. There the young children were surrounded by such sights as men in shackles laboring in the fields, windows with bars and chain gangs. The kids were not being punished, but it was common practice for them to be taken there.

Savannah Penal Farm

Savannah Penal Farm 

Because there was no orphanage for black children, Chatham County black youth were often placed at the old  Brown Farm, a 400 acre county penal farm for convicts (located on Montgomery Crossroad near where Lake Meyer is now) where they remained until they reached legal age. The girls were sent to the Chatham County Protective Home, operated by the Savannah Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. This practice went on for years, until Greenbriar Children’s Center was established.’   (Courtesy Greenbrier Children’s Center)

Lori’s mother-in-law, Mamie (now 94 years of age) remembers the Brown Farm.  She told us, When I was a young’un, me and a girl was in a fight, and both of us was sent to the Brown Farm for thirty days.   The people in charge there,  had us to wash clothes for the boys that were living there.  I believe that old brown farm is where Memorial Hospital is now, just off Waters.”

the old Brown farm

Census map of the Brown Farm in Savannah

 

 

 

Back to the old man. Parker Bell lived in the guest house and had the run of the property until his death a few years back.  The family treated him like a favorite cousin.  He didn’t have a social security number and because of his learning disabilities couldn’t work an outside job.  But he kept busy cleaning up leaves, mowing grass and helping the children with their horses.  Dick and Sue kept their promise and supported Parker Bell, until his death. Dick told me the fascinating story of the night they had a dinner party for twelve.  In the middle of the meal, Parker walked into the house and into the candle-lit dining room, proudly holding up a stringer of fish, saying, “Mr. Dickie, I caught us a mess of bass outta that creek.”  

My whole adult life I have had my best adventures when I’ve been ‘lost’….and today was no exception.  To other writers out there? Our stories are all interwoven as human beings.  Your new story could be around the next bend in the road.
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