Plotting Away

If you’re having trouble writing, it’s likely you just don’t know the proper steps to take or might be lacking direction. While there is no magic formula to writing a good screenplay, I think there is a helpful order to doing things. Of course, some may just want to throw order out the window as it can be hindering to their thought process. I found a great 10-part series on “Go Into The Story,” and I’m going to be sharing them week by week. This week, we’ll be talking about plot, and how that may benefit you. You really should read their posts before diving into my commentary on them. I’m a big fan of these blog posts, and only hope to promote this blog in a friendly way. I’ll be commenting on the posts, and adding some thoughts of my own. I’m hoping to share them with you to help you with your writing.

Here’s a great article on plot that should help you a lot: Go Into The Story – How I Write A Script, Part 5: Plotting

On another note, look up top! I put a fancy picture up for you in the post today. I think this is a helpful way to look at the basic three-act structure. It’s the classic way, but it’s not the only way to write a story. For those of you looking for help with plot, I have another great post about it here: “Shakespeare’s Five Act Structure.” It’s all about “Breaking Bad,” and how the writers of that show approach plot using the Shakespearean Five Act Structure.

One thing you should keep in mind is that each format can be written differently. Television, for instance, has been written with more acts to keep you hooked and watch through the commercials, whereas movies are typically written with a three act structure.

A lot of professional writers I’ve seen like to have their plot visually displayed. It’s very helpful, especially if you’re in a Writer’s Room. If you’re writing on a collaborative project, a great way to work is to write on cards, like the article mentions. It’s very easy to point to a card and show another writer exactly what you’re talking about quickly. It’s also easier to avoid plot holes when you have everything in front of you. Another great option is to use Google Docs. I love it, and it has some great features for collaboration. If you can’t be in the same place at the same time you can jump on Skype and run through the doc and leave notes in specific spots. This is a bit of a different approach that I prefer to use. Both are great options, but I especially like using technology because you can access this doc from your smart phone or computer anywhere at any time and add to it. I just love the convenience.

Brainstorming, research, character development, and plot will all feed off of each other and go into the outline. This is how we organize all these thoughts. Remember to have fun and enjoy this process. Let your creative juices flow for now, and next week we’ll discuss the outline in more detail. For now, if you haven’t, you should check out the articles provided. They’re full of very helpful information.

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Develop Your Characters

Character Development

If you’re having trouble writing, it’s likely you just don’t know the proper steps to take or might be lacking direction. While there is no magic formula to writing a good screenplay, I think there is a helpful order to doing things. Of course, some may just want to throw order out the window as it can be hindering to their thought process.  I found a great 10-part series on “Go Into The Story,” and I’m going to be sharing them week by week. This week, we’ll be talking about character development, and how that may benefit you. You really should read their posts before diving into my commentary on them. I want to be clear, I’m a big fan of these blog posts, and only hope to promote this blog in a friendly way. I’m merely commenting on them, and adding some thoughts of my own. I’m hoping to share them with you to help you with your writing.

This article is great, and I only have a few comments and tips to add: Go Into The Story – How I Write A Script, Part 4: Character Development

Scott touches upon my first point, and it’s funny, because before I freshened up on his article I was going to say the exact same thing. Order is important for certain things, but in creating a good outline you’ll do a few things all at the same time. You’ll be brainstorming, researching, plotting, and working on your character development all at the same time. Ideas will generate. You’ll read about one thing while doing research that may lead to a great idea for an action your character might make. Or you may be brainstorming and think your going to do a jailbreak scene (plot), but know nothing about breaking out of a jail. This will generate more research. The point is you should do what you feel until you feel enough has been done. You’ll know when it’s time to stop this part and move on to the next step, the outline. In the meantime, enjoy this! It’s one of the most fun parts of writing.

When writing my characters, I like to create an area of my outline dedicated to them. I like all my characters on the same file so I can scroll through them. I actually use Google Docs to categorize everything so it’s very easy to skip from one character to another and back. The reason I do this is that characters feed off of each other, and when you want to write about how they interact with each other it’s nice to be able to skip to the other character easily.

One thing to keep in mind is that characters have minds of their own. You create them, but they live and breathe just as much as you do. Beyond inception listen to them. It’s best not to force them to do anything. Your viewers will know when they are going out of character, and so will you. Because of this your story may change simply because of the actions that spawn after the character’s inception. I probably sound like a crazy guy. Get all these people out of my head! Ooga booga! Seriously, the cool thing about a great character is that they change over time, just like we do. Think about how Walter White changes in “Breaking Bad” or how “Spider-Man” has changed from movie to movie and in the comics. What is it that makes Spider-Man who he is? Does it have to be a he? Is he more fun as a high school student or would he’d be cooler as a middle-aged man? You get where I’m going.

When you create an in-depth character every detail counts. Their whole life. Past, present, and even their future could affect the story you’re telling. Be thorough, and write down every detail you can think of. You never know when the fact that they’ve been dying to eat shawarma is going to come in and play an important part in the story.

Okay class, there’s one more part to this whole smorgasbord, before the outline, and it’s called plotting. We’ll cover that next week.

Time for Some Research

If you’re having trouble writing, it’s likely you just don’t know the proper steps to take or might be lacking direction. While there is no magic formula to writing a good screenplay, I think there is a helpful order to doing things. Of course, some may just want to throw order out the window as it can be hindering to their thought process.  I found a great 10-part series on “Go Into The Story,” and I’m going to be sharing them week by week. This week, we’ll be talking about research, and how that may benefit you. You really should read their posts before diving into my commentary on them. I want to be clear, I’m a big fan of these blog posts, and only hope to promote this blog in a friendly way. I’m merely commenting on them, and adding some thoughts of my own. I’m hoping to share them with you to help you with your writing.

This article is great, and I only have a few comments and tips to add: Go Into the Story: How I Write A Script, Part 3: Research

Like Scott, I love libraries. I think these are especially good places to go when you need to dive deep into a subject. They’re big money savers too! I was researching imaginary friends a while back, and they had everything I could want on the topic. Books are free in libraries which is the biggest benefit, but if you’d like to own them then there is no need to go. The internet is an amazing place for information, but you better make sure your source is good, and that you’ve got your facts straight. It would really be terrible if you had a piece of information that was crucial to your story, and it turned out to be wrong.

The most in-depth questions should probably go to people that specialize in the subject you’re trying to learn about. If you have some very specific questions it’s the best idea to go to a specialist. This may not always be an option. If it’s not, the information is out there somewhere. Don’t worry. Make sure to give your research due diligence and you’ll find all the answers you need.

An important take is that during research is a great time to continue to brainstorm. You’ll nab ideas from all over the place. During the initial brainstorming you’ll likely have in idea of what happens throughout your story in a broad sense. When you’re researching, this is where you get the more focused ideas. You can’t think everything up by yourself, which is why going to outside sources is so helpful. One of the greatest parts of researching is that it helps you generate some really great ideas. Also, when you are highlighting books or are taking notes, it would be a good idea to write down how you can use those things in your story. It’ll get your mind jogging.

For a more in-depth look with some great examples, check out the article I provided above. I think this will help a lot of writers out there.

The Idea: Coming Up With The Story Concept

Recently on Thursdays, I’ve been skipping the “Quote of the Day” for something I feel would be a bit more beneficial at the moment. I’ve been writing pieces on how to write a good story. The last two were about gaining a familiarity for screenplays through reading scripts and doing script coverage.

If you’re having trouble writing your screenplay, I think it’s likely you’re getting lost somewhere in the process. I found a great 10-part series on “Go Into The Story,” and I’m going to be sharing them week by week. I think this will help, because you may be skipping steps or getting lost somewhere in the process. I’ll also be giving some of my input. If you’re having trouble writing scripts, stay tuned. Or if you can’t wait to read the incredibly helpful series in it’s entirety, you can find it here – The 10 Steps: How I Write A Script. I want to be clear, I’m a big fan of these blog posts, and only hope to promote this blog in a friendly way. I’m merely commenting on them, and adding some thoughts of my own. I’m hoping to share them with you to help you with your writing.

We’re going to start with the idea, because you can’t really do anything else with that: How I Write A Script, Part 1: Story Concept. In this article, Scott Myers gives some solid advice. I’d like to add a bit of my own commentary.

He goes over some great ways to create a marketable story. He wants to help you sell a story, and defends his position well. I think if you want to sell your script your story does have to be marketable. People that you want to sell it to have to easily understand it, and of course they have to like it and see its potential. The number one thing in my mind what you write should excite you. For instance, maybe don’t write a story about something because it’s wildly popular. Write about it, because you feel a fire in your chest when you read about it and you want to share that feeling. If you’re looking for a way to find your next big idea, Part 1 of his series has you covered.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: 2017 Fellowship to theOffice

Looking for a writer’s sanctuary? A place where you can leave the distractions of life behind and sit down in peace to put words on the page? That’s what we offer here at theOffice – a quiet, communal workspace on the westside of Los Angeles. We have a roster of A-list screenwriters, novelists and more, but sometimes the cost of membership can be too much for up-and-coming writers. That’s why we started our free fellowship over 7 years ago and we’re thrilled once again to offer it to you.

Announcing the 2017 FREE 6-MONTH FELLOWSHIP TO THEOFFICE!

It works like this:

You send us a sample of your best piece of writing along with a short email explaining why this fellowship is right for you. Our judges select one winner who will receive 6 months of free 24/7* access to the space. This is equivalent to a Premium Membership, the highest level of membership we offer, worth upwards of $2700. The winner gets a private door code to access the space even when staff isn’t here. You wanna write at 2AM on a Wednesday night? The space is all yours. You also get all the other perks of membership including free coffee/tea, Wifi, Aeron workstations and all the peace and quiet you need to get the job done.

theOfficeThis year’s fellowship starts September 1st and goes through February 28th, 2018. It is completely free to enter. The winner will be announced the last week of August. Open to all new/aspiring/up-and-coming writers who are looking to kick their productivity into overdrive. Think of this as your own writer’s retreat right here in the city.

This year’s fellowship will be judged by 3 current members of theOffice:

Mark Cullen
A Hollywood vet and longtime member here at theOffice, Mark is the creator of numerous TV shows including Mr. Robinson (with Craig Robinson), Back in the Game (James Caan), Heist, Gary the Rat (Kelsey Grammer) and Lucky (John Corbett). He also co-wrote the feature Cop Out (with Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan).

Nicole LaPorte
Nicole is a contributing writer for Fast Company magazine, where she writes about entertainment business and technology. She was formerly a Senior West Coast reporter for Newsweek/The Daily Beast, and a monthly columnist for the New York Times Sunday Business section. She’s also the author of The Men Who Would Be King: Moguls, Movies and a Company called DreamWorks.

David Scarpa
David’s screenplay All the Money in the World made the 2015 Blacklist and is currently filming with Ridley Scott at the helm, starring Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Spacey and Michelle Williams. Other screenwriting credits include The Day the Earth Stood Still (Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates) and The Last Castle (Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo).

Pretty cool, right? Okay, so here’s what we need from you…

  1. An email with your contact information: Full name, phone, and email address. We will contact the winner via email.
  2. In the body of the email, please briefly explain why you want this fellowship and what you hope to gain from it.
  3. A 10 page pdf writing sample of your work. Attach this to the email. Your best 10 pages. Do not submit pages that need to be set up or explained. Send 10 pages that stand alone. Only pdf submissions please. All other attachments will be deleted.

Email to: theOfficeFellowship@gmail.com by August 8th, 2017. That’s it. You’re done!


theOffice3Some important points to remember:

  • Do your research on theOffice. Don’t submit if you’re not local, if you’re not sure you’ll be available, if you don’t like writing in a room with others. If you live across town and hate the commute, this isn’t right for you. If you don’t flourish in a quiet space, skip it. We want this to be of major value to the winner. Serious submissions only, please.
  • If you’ve never been to theOffice and would like to try things out before submitting, please do! We offer a FREE WEEK to all newcomers. Just be sure to call or email us first, on the day, for availability. Contact info here. More photos of the space here.
  • The fellowship is open to ALL up-and-coming writers. Submit 10 pages of your screenplay, play, short story, novel, memoir, poem, article, etc. We’ll read it all.
  • By “up-and-coming” we mean you can have no feature film credits as a writer on IMDb (short films are okay) and no more than 1 hour of television credit as a writer on IMDb. For authors, we just want to make sure you’re not someone with a three book deal and money to spare. This is for new/aspiring/struggling writers only.
  • DEADLINE TO ENTER IS AUGUST 8th, 2017. No submissions accepted past midnight PST.
  • You must have sole writing credit for the sample pages you submit. This fellowship is for one (1) free premium membership and is non-transferable.
  • If you have any questions, please either comment here, email theOfficeFellowship@gmail.com or ask us on Twitter: @theOffice_LA. theOffice staff will NOT be able to assist you with the fellowship, so please DO NOT call, email, or drop by theOffice with fellowship questions.
  • Current members of theOffice are not eligible.
  • Winner will be notified and announced by August 31st.

This is an opportunity to take your craft and career to the next level. If you are looking for a place to be inspired, a place to write with the big guns, a place to get it done, submit now. We look forward to reading your work!theOffice Exterior

*theOffice is closed to ALL members on Mondays 6PM-11PM and Saturdays 8AM-10AM due to outside rentals. Otherwise, the space is yours.

In-Depth Look – Ridley Scott

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Summer starts in the beginning of May now, at least according to the film industry. If you’re looking forward to some good summer blockbusters, it’s definitely that time of the year. Things are starting to ramp up with the release of “Alien: Covenant.” It’s Ridley Scott’s first return to the series since the original “Alien” movie, and it seems he has 4 more planned (including one more prequel). It’s been nearly 30 years since the first film made the world scream. With this movie, I hear he wants to bring things back to the roots. I found it very interesting that he didn’t get his true start in film until he turned 40, and worked in advertising up until that point. It’s never too late to get started, keep that in mind. If you’re truly inspired and passionate, that’s all you need.

Ridley also brought other critical hits like, “Blade Runner,” “Gladiator,” and “The Martian.”

The full article: The Guardian – Ridley Scott: ‘I wanted to scare the shit out of people. That’s the job’

Friday Fun – Character’s With Depth


Real people have layers to them, and so do well written characters. These are fun examples, but they’re also really interesting. They definitely give the improv actors on the show some very interesting things to do and say! If you’re having trouble with writing characters you may want to look at people in your life, or character’s like the one you’re trying to write. Look at the little details. Sure, they’re a nerd, but maybe they were in a fraternity for a few years of their life or maybe they have really cool tattoos and like to surf over the summers. Oh wait, that’s me. The surface only tells so much, it may help to dig deeper.