Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Core Wound Must Be Healed Before the Dénouement

Yesterday, I was consulting on a script for a short, which had a great character arc. The main character gets over her flaw, which was established in the beginning of the script. Still, there was something that was missing. Yes, there was a good second-act journey, which corresponded with the main character's flaw, which had pushed the main character to confront her issues. However, by the time we got to the end of the script, and the resolution was reached -- or the dénouement, which it’s called by the French -- there was still something that didn’t sit right with me. Somehow, it seemed like the main character had resolved her issues too easily. She had worked, yes, been confronted with her issues. But there wasn’t that one last big blowout that had caused her to stand up to what she had really been dealing with, that which had been holding her back all along.


This particular script was very much a family drama, along the lines of the 1981 film, Ordinary People. The main character was having issues with her job, her relationships in general, as well as with her family, which was namely epitomized by her dealings with her sister. Basically, it became apparent that the main character’s core wound was the fact that her mother had committed suicide when she was a child and that her family had alienated themselves emotionally from her because they thought she was somehow responsible. The main character had basically given Mom the drugs to use to take her life with, but when this had happened, the main character had been a child. How would she have known that, when her mother told her she didn’t feel well and that she needed some pills to feel better, that she was going to ultimately take her own life?

My take on this was not that the main character was only grappling with the fact that the rest of the family thought that she was at fault for her mother’s suicide—but that she too thought that she was at fault. Guilt was her main core wound, the thing that she had been carrying around inside of her all these years, and which was impeding her from having a normal, happy life.


Core wound is a term I learned while I was at Writers Boot Camp. I can’t remember how it was defined there exactly, but if I define it for you right now, the main character’s core wound is the pain the main character is suffering from, which is specifically causing her to act out. The main character flaw -- or misbehavior, as Writers Boot Camp calls it -- is the action/s the main character takes to exhibit this wound. You need your main character to have a proactive flaw, because otherwise you don't have any action. You can’t base a movie around the fact that your mother told you she didn’t love you at five years old, but you can base it around the action that, as soon as you reached adulthood, because of that formative experience, you have decided to act out by never committing in any relationship. The same goes for having witnessed your father beating your mother at a young age; now your movie is how you are vengeful toward men as a result. The character flaw of being fearful needs to have been caused by something specific that happened in that main character’s life; but your story is about the journey of them then overcoming that flaw. However, at some point, during the course of your story, your main character must also address the source of their misbehavior, which is encapsulated in the darkest hurt they have inside of them, e.g., their core wound


The main character's core wound should often be healed right before the final confrontation. Or perhaps it is healed during that confrontation, but the main character cannot triumph over the opponent until it is healed. The core wound is the last one thing that is holding the main character back from being her true self, from shedding off the mistakes of the past, and thus experiencing the resolution of the film, the dénouement. Therefore, it is important to have this component in your story, or your story's resolution will come off as trite.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Setting Up the Rules of the World

Movie audiences -- and the readers of many novels, for that matter -- are cool with writers transporting them to new and different worlds -- worlds that are far-fetched and which would never exist in real life -- as long as there are rules to that world. The way to lose a viewer or a reader very quickly is by not properly setting up the rules of that new world. What I mean by this is that it's fine to ask a viewer or a reader to suspend his belief for the duration of a novel or movie. But there are rules in that world that must be adhered to -- just like we have rules in our current world. Newton discovered some of the basic laws of physics a long time ago. You can change those laws in a sci-fi world, but then you make create new ones. And once you set up those new rules, you need to stick to them. Set up the rules of the new world as soon as the main character crosses over the threshold, as Christopher Vogler calls it, but once you've set up those rules, you must not diverge from them. You cannot change the rules of the world whenever you like. Your main character can't just discover a new, magic way to get out of every situation he encounters. Even in fantasy worlds, there have to be obstacles. Yes, your main character might discover a new power midway through the story. But he must work to do so, or else your story will come off as unrealistic.

Even in stories that have nothing to do with fantasy, you must often set up the new rules of the world. I was reading a script yesterday where the main character was in a situation that was totally unrealistic. The main character had just boarded a plane in the U.S., which had originated in a foreign country. Crazy shit was happening on that plane. It immediately came to mind that the writer hadn't spent enough time setting up the rules of this new world, as the plane ride represented the crossing over of the threshold scene.

One way I thought that the writer could fix this was by first having individuals from the "old world" commenting on how weird the stuff that happened on that plane was. Then the writer needed to also have characters from the new world (the pilot, the stewardesses, the other passengers) explaining the new rules to the main character.

This scene then would function as the "we're not in Kansas anymore" scene. Here, the main character realizes that he has crossed over from one world to another, and that the powers he had in the old world don't work anymore. In this writer's case, his main character was a rich kid. But on this plane, and in the country the main character was now traveling to, his wealth and status were no longer going to serve him.

I thought it would be helpful for the writer to create a particular "friend" character who would then be on hand to explain the new rules to the main character. That "friend" character is typically the catalyst/mentor character (and is sometimes also the love interest). In this writer's case, the new rules of the world were that there actually weren't any rules; this new world was lawless. Nevertheless, I was sure that, as soon as the main character landed in the foreign country, the new rules of the lawless land were going to be established, and that would create even more drama.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Some Upcoming Deadlines for Writers

Just passing this along, thanks to Jennifer Grisanti Consultancy...

UPCOMING DEADLINES FOR WRITERS

NBC Writers on the Verge - Deadline for submissions is June 30, 2011.

FOX Diversity Writer Initiative - Deadline for submissions is end of June.

Warner Bros. Writers' Workshop - Accepting submissions May 2 - June 1, 2011.

The Austin Film Festival - Accepting submissions for screenplays, TV pilots (half-hour and hour), TV spec scripts through June 1, 2011.

Scriptapalooza Screenwriting Competition Deadline is April 15, 2011.

The Roy W. Dean Film and Writing Grants - Accepting applications through June 30, 2011.

Nicholls - May 2, 2011 - http://www.oscars.org/awards/nicholl/index.html.

Women In Film Finishing Fund - April 29th - http://www.wif.org/fff/

Sundance Screenwriters Lab deadline - May 2: http://www.sundance.org/programs/screenwriters-lab/

Monday, April 25, 2011

Indie Author Stephen Hise Offers Up a Novel a la Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”

Stephen Hise is the author of Upgrade, a sci-fi thriller that he describes as a bodice-ripper with a Twilight Zone twist. In a nutshell, Upgrade is about Brent Schoenfeld, a wealthy, but unattractive, young man, who undergoes a cutting-edge new medical procedure that changes the way his appearance is perceived by others.

The concept of Hise’s novel is based on the science of the brain. So explains Hise:

"It is known that there are some decisions the brain makes much quicker than the conscious mind is able to. Innumerable brain processes are never entrusted to the conscious rational mind, but instead are hard-wired in the brain itself. In effect, our brains make a whole lot of decisions without consulting us. What we think of as 'deciding' may in some cases be nothing more than the conscious mind rationalizing a decision already made by the brain. The premise of the book is that a scientist has discovered the exact optical metrics the human brain uses to categorize attractiveness, and he has developed a procedure that alters the face in a way imperceptible to the patient, but causes others to see him as attractive."

I was first made aware of the concept of how humans make instant decisions which are based in the depths of our reptilian brain in Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller, Blink. Hise initially got the idea for Upgrade while watching a Twilight Zone marathon. As he was homeschooling his high-school daughter, he assigned her to come up with a story line for her very own Twilight Zone episode. Struggling with the assignment, she challenged Dad to do the same. And so was born Upgrade.

Upgrade was e-published by Hise and is available on Smashwords for download. Hise decided to e-publish the novel after trying the traditional route first. Hise got caught up in what he calls the “Catch-22 of agents who don’t want to represent someone who doesn’t have a publishing contract and publishers who don’t want to hear from writers who are not represented by an agent.” Before Hise e-published, he had never even heard of the concept. Shares Hise: “One day I tripped across a blog article on how to get your book e-published. I followed up on it and here we are!”

According to Hise, e-publishing is definitely the future of publishing:

"One of those reasons is that the 'gatekeepers' of the traditional publishing world have become so risk averse and lethargic, they will not be able to compete with the variety and economic models of e-publishing."

What is Hise’s advice for aspiring writers? “I let the characters and plot twists evolve organically, rather than trying to force whatever vision I may have had originally into the writing.” Hmmmm…. I tend to be a structure freak, but I definitely think that books do take on a personality of their own. And I have also been very influenced lately by how character wants and needs are basically at the core of what drives plot.

You can find more information on Stephen Hise and Upgrade on his website: http://stephenhise.com/. Don’t forget to also check out his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/stephen.hise2 LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/stephen-hise/26/b81/342 Twitter: @StephenHise

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Main Characters Begin as Reluctant Heroes

It is a typical trapping of traditional story structure that seems so obvious, as if including it in your story would make it hackneyed and rote -- but the fact that the hero is most often reluctant at the beginning of a story, that he refuses the call to action, was brought home to me last night during a writers group I participate in. One of the writers had turned in pages of a screenplay for critique, wherein the main character wholeheartedly, without any qualms, jumps into a very dangerous situation. It just didn’t come off as realistic. Sure, the script was an action-thriller, but it didn’t read as truthful. It was just too easy for the main character to make the transition from the ordinary world to that of the adventure of the second act. There weren’t any obstacles, and there wasn’t any second-guessing on the part of the main character.

I guess the best way to understand how important it is to create main characters who are reluctant at the top of a story is by comprehending how we react in real life. We are creatures of habit. Very few of us are interested in rattling our cages very often. We don’t like change much. And even myself, as the sort of person who used to love heaps of drama in my life and rather destructive excitement, I pretty much obeyed certain character rules. What I mean by this is that it was pretty predictable how I would react to any given situation, and if one would have been writing the story of my life, there would have had to have been some inciting incident that would have SHAKEN UP my current situation, pushing me to react in a way that wasn’t typical.

This is what story is – or at least good stories that work and are dramatic and keep the reader reading. These are stories in which a main character, who has predictable behavior patterns, is suddenly pushed to change, to do something extraordinary, to enter a world or just a situation that is very different than what he is used to and which he is quite uncomfortable in, and thus this is what forces him to get over his flaw by the end of the book or movie. Or at least it should.

So how do we act in real life? If I am a fearful person, and so the most important, most dramatic turning point in my life would be one in which I am pushed to be courageous, then my journey is going to include some kind of adventure that will force me to confront my fears, not eschew them. And therefore, wouldn’t I be ambivalent about embarking on that kind of journey?

Or if I am a greedy, mean person with a small heart… The most important journey of my life – the one that people will pay $15 to dedicate a couple of hours of their busy lives to see – is the one in which I am going to be forced to become generous, loving and open-hearted.

On the same token, if I am stuck in my life, I am a total loser who is scared of love because I’ve had my heart shattered to pieces, aren’t I going to have some hang-ups about getting involved with this new wonderful person who’s just entered my life – this person who is going to coax me into opening my heart again? (I’m thinking Sideways here.)

I guess what I am trying to say – and trust me, I struggle with this myself, with my own writing – is that it is really important to create a realistic hero for your story, who does not simply jump into the action of the second act, because that is not the way we predictably act.

That is why we, as writers, are forced to create the desperate circumstances that push our hero out of his comfort zone into action. I recall something I read in Neill D. Hicks’ Screenwriting 101 called “Characters’ Minimum Action.”


Characters don’t instinctively make dramatic decisions. Like everyday humans, characters take the minimum action necessary so as not to risk betrayal of their internal need [Ed.: flaw].

Hicks goes on to ask us to imagine a bashful, reserved accountant, who has just purchased a new home. On the first night in his new home, he discovers a large dog next door that barks loudly, making it impossible for him to sleep. What action is the accountant going to chose to remedy his situation?

Obviously he is not going to confront his neighbors, as that is not in line with what kind of person he is: bashful and reserved. This main character is only going to make a dramatic decision if he is pushed to do so – way out of his comfort zone. Maybe things get so bad at work, his wife divorces him and he wrecks his brand-new car. Maybe all these things together might be what might finally drive the accountant to action.

I’ll end on this note: If you do create a hero who jumps into action without a second thought, and you are not looking to create a tent-pole-type movie that has no character arc and will be seen as, yes, full of action, but totally idiotic from the perspective of story, then I suggest your main character be punished for acting in such a manner, meaning that perhaps being oblivious to danger, or hubristic, is the main character’s flaw. Therefore, when he just leaps into a dangerous situation, he is punished for doing so – and then pushed into a new situation in which he is forced to confront what is wrong about himself. Good stories are those in which characters are confronted with their flaws and FORCED to change. We’re all flawed, sure, but any psychologist will explain that a lot of times we cling onto these flaws because we do actually get something good out of them. For the character who pushes away love, she gains never being hurt. For the character who is a drunk, he gains never having to confront his problems or past. For the character who steals, she gains never having to work hard. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that we don’t like change, so it is most realistic that we would act reluctantly when confronted with a call to adventure that will place us out of our comfort zone. And, in my opinion, the best action-adventure heroes – the kind who would confront danger without a care – they had better have some other very deep and twisted flaw, or your hero will come off as one-dimensional and rote.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Free Los Angeles Writing Workshop in Mid-May

I am offering two free writing workshops in the Los Angeles area in May. One is on May 14th in the South Bay. It will take place 2-5pm, and we will be discussing story structure.

The other workshop will take place in Culver City at the Mary Pickford Studio, 8885 Venice Blvd., #102, on May 15th (the following day), also at 2-5pm. It's basically the same workshop, which will focus on story structure.

I am expert in story structure. Right now I am working on an e-book about the subject. Not only will we be examining the traditional three-act structure, but we will be focusing on what your main character wants as the core of story, and how the ways in which this character is thwarted is what creates the story's meat.

We will further be dedicating time to discussing ways in which to flesh out the wants and needs of all of your characters. This is how story progresses: as each character comes into conflict with the one another, plot is born. This conflict is the basis for every scene you write. This is how your main character comes to know the things he needs to do and what will help him change in the end of the story.

For more information or to RSVP, please email me at lara@yourplotthickens.com or call me at (424) 209-8521.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Los Angeles Writing Class Starting April 27th

Hi all, just letting you know that we have a writing class that is beginning in just a week from now. This class is a critique group that caters to all genres and in which you will get feedback from your peers and the instructor, who is a published author. You will also get a free peek into the kinds of tools that we will be teaching in our other writing workshops. Right now I am really focusing on the development of character as a means to drive plot. In other words, it is exactly what your characters want and desire that carrries the story from point A to point B and so forth. If you would like to learn more about this writers' group, which will be held both on Wednesday nights in San Pedro, 7:30-10pm, and in Culver City at the same time, please contact me at lara@yourplotthickens.com or call (424) 209-8521.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Your “Pet the Dog” Scene

The late Blake Snyder called it “saving the cat.” Other screenwriting mavens just call it your “pet the dog” scene. But the fact of the matter is that, if you are going to ask your audience to come along with you on a one-hundred-and-ten-page journey, there had better be something dazzlingly likeable about your main character, who should be flawed, yes, but not irrevocably so.

Of course, in order to make their main characters likeable, many screenwriters do, in fact, do just that – make their main character pet a dog at the beginning of the film, which is perhaps why the Jack Nicolson character in As Good As It Gets was so notorious, as he actually threw a dog down the trash chute on page one.
Other ways to get us on board with a main character is to show them with some special power. Yes, your main character should do some things poorly (this is what will humanize her) – but is there something that she does really well, some incredible talent she also has, which will make her irresistible?
Besides functioning to create a main character who viewers will actually be interested in watching the whole film through, a special power can also work alongside a flaw to help your main character get out of trouble. This is often the case in action-adventure films. Say, the main character is great at martial arts, which helps him (or her) get out of trouble, even if this flaw might be what actually leads him into trouble in the first place.
Another way to play with a main character’s special power, is to actually make your main character’s flaw into their talent or gift. This is especially important to do at the end of the movie. Think of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. Here, you have this character who is so superficial and appearance-oriented. But it was her obsession with beauty that actually provided her the edge to crack the legal case in the end of the film.
I have heard script consultant and author of The Coffee Break Screenwriter, Pilar Alessandra, call this “synthesis.” What this means is that the main character begins the movie with a flaw, they overcome that flaw over the course of the second act, the final battle occurring at the end of act three – but it is actually the evolution of that flaw into something good, something the main character can use, that makes them fully formed, complete.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

To E-Publish or Not to E-Publish

Your Plot Thickens Writing Workshops will soon be adding a new department to the slew of classes and activities we already offer: Internet radio. Your Plot Thickens' radio program is entitled On Writing, and can be heard on our website http://www.yourplotthickens.com/ as well as archived on The Public Radio Exchange.


Our first radio interview will be with a self-published author named William H. Johnson, who wrote the epic adventure novel, The Dark Province. Of course, we will be querying Johnson about the plot line of his book. But we are also interested in why he decided to self-publish his novel instead of taking the traditional route, and, of course, because he did so, what are the benefits of self-publishing -- and what are the disadvantages.


The world has changed. Today, we live in a world where anyone can blog, anyone can produce a webseries and anyone can self-publish a book. So does this help the quality of what we are reading (or watching in independently produced web programs) -- or hurt it? Skeptics argue that blogs et al are bastardizing the craft of writing. I argue that no, self-publishing, etc., has only made publishing one's work a more democratic process, and less hampered by formula-addict entertainment executives, target-market strait-jacketing, and the general watering down of content in order to placate the advertiser. Sure, you also might have to sift through a lot of detritus to get to the gems, but don't we already have to do that on TV, at the movie theater and in the big-name newspapers?


Anyhow, I wanted to get the opinion of Linda Lavid, the author of many self-published (and traditionally published) books, among them which is her how-to-write primer, On Creative Writing, the proceeds of which Lavid is donating to a clean well-water project in Niger, Africa.


So opines Lavid on e-publishing in general:
E-readers are proliferating due to cost and ease of use. Now e-publishing is a full-fledged operation that expands not only the types of e-files, but where e-books can be distributed and sold. In other words, I no longer have to have my electronic files on my website but can upload them to sites/stores where they are distributed globally. And the cost is free! A writer can manually upload books to places like Apple (must have a Mac) or Amazon's Kindle or Barnes and Noble's Nook. Each site has specs for how to format the native file. There's also a site, Smashwords, that takes one document and converts it into multiple formats for various e-readers then also distributes the e-book. Again the cost is free. Distribution charges are made after an e-book is sold. E-publishing is paperless and there is none of the expense of making and distributing a paper/hard-back book. This translates to more money in royalties, over three times more. E-publishing is easy, free, quick and a great way to get your work published. Of course, you still have to put out a great product and market it aggressively.
 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

E-Publishing According to Author Linda Lavid, Part 1

We’re back with Linda Lavid again, author of On Creative Writing, a how-to writing guide, among other novels and short stories. Lavid is a pro in the field of e-publishing; so we at Your Plot Thickens decided to quarry her knowledge with an interview about the subject.

On Creative Writing, which is available in e-book form, is actually the first half of Lavid’s print book (and e-book) Composition: A Fiction Writer's Guide for the 21st Century. Composition has two parts: part one deals with writing fiction and part two, with self-publishing.

“I extrapolated On Creative Writing for marketing purposes," explains Lavid, "and placed it as a free PDF/TXT download from my website and several other free e-book websites. In the past three years, it was downloaded 50,000 times. I received e-mails from all over world thanking me for passing along some practical advice in regards to writing stories. Placing On Creative Writing, as a free download drew a lot of traffic to my site. The cost was free, and I did sell other books because of it."

This in part answers my other question -- why Lavid titled her blog, Confessions of a Shameless Promoter. I found this so ironic as, in my opinion, writers are some of the worst networkers out there. Writers tend to be introverted, self-critical folks (takes one to know one), who have difficulty in social situations. Hey, I’m not saying all writers are like that, but, let’s face it, many of the best writers I know are eccentric and aren’t exactly people persons.

But as Linda Lavid has demonstrated, it’s important to network to get known. I mean, you do want people to actually read your book, right? And if you think the marketing team of your publishing company is going to do all the work for you, you’re sadly mistaken. They will dedicate about a month of their time to sending out press releases and getting you interviews. After that, you’re on your own. And if you've decided to take the self-publishing route... You'd better learn to network!

Lavid explains that, though her blog's title is Confessions of a Shameless Promoter, the subtitle is: Tips on Selling Books and Artwork from a Reluctant Promoter Turned Shameless. "The operative word being reluctant", says Lavid.
It's rare to find a writer who's willing to go out there and market. After all, what we do is solitary. And I was quite reluctant in the beginning. Selling locally (bookstores, markets, fair, groups) helped me immensely in building my marketing style. Turns out I love talking to people and giving presentations. Who knew? These skills were then easily translated to the Internet...social networking, blogging etc. The key to marketing is figuring out how to make it enjoyable, then doing it relentlessly.
In part two of this interview, we will discuss more issues regarding e-publishing.

A Great Blog Entry About the Hazard of Rewrites by Mark O'Bannon

Rewriting - How Many Times? This is a great blog entry about getting the structure of your story right the first time...

Author Linda Lavid Donates Proceeds from E-Book to the Niger Well Water Project

Meet Linda Lavid, the author of no less than eight books that cross the genre divide.
I came across this author on Linkedin. Above all, I was interested in how she was donating the proceeds from every copy sold of her e-book, On Creative Writing, to a clean-water project in Niger, Africa.

Why Linda decided to do this? 
The lack of clean water dramatically affects the quality of life in Niger, Africa. It's been curious how serendipitous events got me to pair the selling of my book to building wells in Niger.

First, I read an article about a local couple [in Western NY], who came back from a trip to Africa. It sounded interesting so I contacted them to speak at a local community group meeting. I didn't know anything about Rotarians or the problems in Niger. When they came and spoke, I was deeply moved. The story could have ended there, but then last month I had record-breaking e-books sales. And I began thinking...what if I sell On Creative Writing and donate every cent to the Niger Water Well Project? (A well only costs $400.) And I dove in.

In the past week, I've made arrangements to donate the money to the local Rotarian Chapter earmarked specifically to the Niger Water Well Project, created an e-book of On Creative Writing with full distribution through Smashwords, and set up a website. I already sold one copy!

To purchase Linda Lavid's e-book, On Creative Writing, go to: http://www.lindalavid.com/#creative_writing_freeebook. All proceeds go the Niger Well Water Project.

You'll Like On Creative Writing if you:

  • are interested in writing fiction

  • like to hone creative writing craft

  • want to get unstuck 

  • have trouble with writer's block

  • don't understand why you lose interest

  • feel you have little talent

  • don't know where your story is going

  • need some editing help
  • Monday, April 11, 2011

    Advantages and Disadvantages of E-Publishing

    An interesting writer's blog I came across... Linda Lavid discusses the pros and cons of e-publishing. Confessions of a Shameless Promoter: Advantages and Disadvantages of E-Publishing: "A digression into E-Publishing, a recent topic of mine. In the past month (March 2011), an unusual event occurred...I didn't sell one prin..."

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    Article About Female Erotic Photographers I Wrote For Playboy Spain in 2006

    It's a typical December day in a warehouse studio near the center of Los Angeles. In the mainly Latino neighborhood, Christmastime can be seen in the cheap decorations that hang off the taquería awnings and the snow-sprayed windows of the immigration-law clinics. But its still hot out. It's a searing 90 degrees in the street. It's also scorching inside the warehouse. But not because of the building's temperature; the air-conditioning blasts. The heat comes from what is happening: namely, two naked, twentysomething-year-old Czech models buried inside one another's crotch. The shoot is for one of infamous porn magnate Larry Flynt's top magazines Leg World. There's only one difference between this erotic photoshoot and any other: A woman is behind the camera, and not a man.

    "Most people think that I'm a lesbian," says Cynthia Patterson whose tough voice belies the femininity of her long, red hair. "But I'm not. I'm a heterosexual female. It's because I like sex with men that I know what men like in terms of erotic photos. This is what I try to bring out in every shoot." What is it exactly that men like according to Patterson? "Simple," states the photographer, "hot and dirty sex."

    Patterson is one of the most prolific photographers in the adult-entertainment industry today, an industry dominated by men. What has it taken to get as far as she has?

    "Sure, there are times when I have to think like a man," Patterson declares with an ironic snigger, "but don't think that women like sex that is so different than men do. Once women get all their psychological, 'Oh, dear, I'm a whore' issues out of the way, both males and females go for a raw, animal sexuality." Patterson adds she knows when a particular model is posing in a manner that will sell well in the magazine "because I can feel in my gut that its hot."

    According to Patterson, it is the fact that a woman is beautiful and feminine that is foremost what is attractive in a photo. "And, yeah, that you then see her performing in all these incredibly kinky ways. I want the men who view my photos to see that my models are just as hard-core as they are."

    "No," Cynthia hedges, "changing her mind, even more so."

    Nudity Not Necessary
    Even if Cynthia Patterson argues there is nothing about being female that changes the way that she shoots, there must be something that differentiates the male photographers from the women. At least, this is what Beatrice Neumann, a German-born female erotic photographer, argues. The photographer, who got her start shooting stills of the prostitutes and strippers she knew in her hometown of Frankfurt, explains, "When women take erotic photos, they typically dont shoot genitalia." Neumann goes on to confirm that what she personally seeks in a photo is a woman who can express her sexual confidence without being vulgar. "It's more about attitude, eye contact, a suggestive look. You dont even need nudity for a photo to be exciting."

    But, sure, as a female Neumann only needs a suggestive look for a photo to be a turn-on. But does that sell to the typically male consumer who is her market?

    "Sure, it does," says the photographer, "otherwise there wouldnt be so many woman erotic photographers out there."

    In fact, Neumann shares that she receives emails on a daily basis from men who applaud her for her less obvious techniques. "There is so much porn out there," explains Neumann, "and men are fed up. They're looking for something different, and I provide that."

    Digital Diaries
    Still, its no big secret that female photographers in the world of erotic photography is a relatively new trend. According to Neumann, it was the advent of the digital format that allowed for the emergence of many of the new female erotic photographers on the scene. "I don't want to perpetuate any stereotypes," the erotic lenswoman opines, "but women feel more threatened by the technicality of film. They are intimidated by lights. Whereas the digital format is all about instant gratification, which has made the art of photography very accessible."

    It should come as no surprise then that just when digital cameras became affordable to the common consumer in the year 2000, a whole slew of new female names emerged on the erotic-photography circuit. One of the most famous names to rise up that year was Natacha Merritt, who published her collection of sexual self-portraits in the book, Digital Diaries (Taschen).

    Female Erotic Photographer Legend
    This is not to say that before Natacha Merritt, there were no female erotic photographers on the scene. Both Cynthia Patterson and Beatrice Neumann have been shooting professionally since the 1990s. This is not to mention the other big names in the erotic-photography arena, among them Ellen Von Unwerth or Emma Delves-Broughton. And, in fact, one of the photographers who helped mold Hustler's look when the magazine was first incepted in the '70s was female. Her name is Suze Randall. Ironically, it was Hugh Hefner of Playboy who first discovered her.

    "I was 29, young and beautiful, and getting a lot of press as a photographer for this reason," Randall recounts. "I started out as a model and was shooting photos of my friends on the catwalks of Paris. Next thing I know I'm being flown to Chicago by Hefner, because he saw some photos of mine that he liked. And remember, this was an era when not even many men were shooting erotic photography, let alone women."

    What was it like for Randall to break into the erotic-photography arena during that more innocent time? "I had to bust a lot of balls," says the photographer. "The male photographers resented me. They saw this sexy, young woman having all this success." Randall credits her drive and initiative for all that shes achieved up to the present.

    Nude Photos = Objectification?
    Then again, there remains the issue of objectification. In other words, the concept that to take nude photos of women is to objectify them. This antiquated view is typically perpetuated by feminists. So what do the females who are actually shooting the nude photos think of this idea?

    "Do I objectify women?" Randall asks with a scoff. "When a girl is young, in-shape and gorgeous, I think it's wonderful to glorify her body. Because trust me, you won't have it forever." Randall should know: In a 1976 issue of Playboy, she also modeled for the magazine.

    Barbara Ann Crumm, a model/photographer, who has worked with such erotic photographers as Cynthia Patterson, Richard Kern and Carlos Batts, concurs: "In front of the camera, I actually feel stronger, more human and more empowered as a woman."

    The Model/Photographer Dynamic
    And, finally, there remains one last question: Do the models feel more comfortable shooting with a photographer who is also female?

    "Absolutely," affirms Amy Rivera, who sees herself as both a fetish and pinup photographer. "Not only have the models told me so, but I've also heard this from other female photographers." Randall adds, "It's probably because I actually get my work done during a shoot, instead of thinking about my hard-on the whole time and how I'm going to try to get a date with the model.

    Still, Chanta Rose, who has worked both as an erotic model as well as a photographer, has a different take on the matter: "If a girl is so uncomfortable shooting in this industry, then she shouldn't be in the business." Rose shares that when she worked as a model, her experiences with male photographers have actually been better. "Female photographers are always picking apart my body, telling me how fat I am, or how my body doesn't work for a particular shoot. The male photographers always like my body for what it is. They try to bring out the best in what they have to work with." But a quick glance at any photo by any one of the aforementioned female erotic photographers -- what red-blooded male can argue that these talented women have not also brought out what's stunningly beautiful in the models displayed here?

    Friday, April 8, 2011

    Friday Follow Online Writers Blog Hop-- How Would YOU Handle a Negative Review?


    This week’s question:
    Inspired by the spectacular melt down of Jacqueline Howett on Big Al’s Book Blog, how do you deal with a bad review?


    Please join in in welcoming Nichole Chase from Nichole Chase with this week’s answer.
    I haven't officially published any of my works yet, but I hope that I would handle a bad review with grace. I think that the only appropriate way to respond to a review is to say thank you, and in most cases only in a private forum (email, or private message). Bad reviews hurt, even if they are handled in a professional manner. The hurt the author experiences should be kept private, and only shared with friends. Eat some chocolate cake, and watch a good movie- That is how I would handle a bad review. Probably shed a few tears to my friends or my husband, and then move on! You can always get better!

    Adding this link to Nathan Bransford's blog about this here and here. The first link addresses the virtual witchhunt this writer endured, the second is advice on how to handle negative reviews.
    There's nothing more to add to his words there, and he says it all better than anyone else could.

    About Friday Follow Online Writers' Bloghop: Elizabeth Sharp of SomeSharpWords started this bloghop. So... if you have a blog, you're a writer! And we want you to participate, so join in! Here are the rules to Follow:

    - Follow this blog (required)
    - Follow Elizabeth's blog, the originator of this hop
    - Follow the featured author of the week
    - Copy the image code on SomeSharpWords (Elizabeth's blog) and paste in your blog. Add your link while you're there too.
    - Copy and Paste the rules to the Bloghop, as well as this week's question:
    The one above^

    - Answer the question (anywhere, but I put mine in the comments)
    - You must copy the rules, the hop link, and answer the featured question on your blog
    - Follow, Follow, Follow! Network, Connect, Make a Community. We love talking to our followers and replying to your comments!
    - If someone stops by, says 'Hi', and follows you, the polite thing to do is to follow back.
    - Comment here, introduce yourself, and you just might find a new follower or two.



    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Crowdfunding for Indie Films and Webseries

    It's never been easier to raise money for your indie film or webseries. Today, producers and directors utilize a method called crowdfunding, which, according to Wikipedia, "describes the collective cooperation, attention and trust by people who network and pool their money and other resources together, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations." In short, crowdfunding is how you can get your project financed -- in small increments by other folks.

    Crowdfunding is sort of like microlending, in a sense. Individuals (either those you know or are related to, or total strangers) each donate small amounts of cash, ten bucks or so.


    The most well-known websites for crowdfunding are kickstarter and indiegogo. But don't think you don't have to use at least a little bit of your own money to raise hype around your project. After all, we all know we need to invest money to make money. The indie films or webseries that are most successful at raising funds are those that have slick trailers and photos. Ultimately, the filmmakers have gone through some trouble to make something that is attractive so that you want to see more. Gene Massey of Cinema Shares, says it's pretty easy to see why the films that get funding via crowdfunding do so: "You'd look at that and say, 'I want to see that made.' " According to Massey, it's also pretty easy to see why the projects that didn't achieve their desired funds failed. These were the projects that didn't scream out to the viewer, "Hey, I need to be done." 


    But Massey also warns not to think that you don't have to give something in exchange to the people who are giving you money. Filmmakers can create different levels of incentive: donate $50 and you get a T-shirt. $1000 might get you an executive producer credit.

    If you want to learn more about crowdfunding, check out a great interview on blogtalkradio, moderated by Gini Graham Scott with Gene Massey of Cinema Shares.

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    More Tips for Building Character

    I am in the midst of designing a new class for Your Plot Thickens Writing Workshops that will touch on how to build stronger characters throughout your novel or screenplay. Some of the tips that I will be teaching in this class are:
    1) What is your character’s voice? I advise you begin to speak as that character speaks. You can do this in your head or actually out-loud. I also want to know how she moves, walks, sits or eats dinner? What does she do when she first gets up in the morning? Then, what are her steps for getting ready for bed? A lot of screenplays that are heavily character-driven will even begin by showing what the main character does when they wake up first thing in the morning. Two movies that come to mind right now are Sideways and Stranger Than Fiction. Basically, what are your character's rules for living her life?
    2) What is related to what your character's voice is, obviously, is what her dialogue is like? Does she speak the same way to everyone? I assume that she will have a different way of speaking to her parents, than she does with her children, than she does with her significant other. And how does she speak with people out in the world? Is she polite or impolite when she goes to order her morning coffee? Finally, does she have any special catch phrases? Does she use a lot of slang? These will be important issues when writing how your character actually converses.
    3) Also, I would like to how your character might create her own obstacles. This is related to her flaw, of course. But does she leave her room really messy, and thus she can't find her car keys, which leads her to be late for work or school each day? Or is she the ultimate neat-freak, and thus she neglects her husband or children because all she ever does is spend the whole day cleaning the house?

    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    What Does Your Character Want? This Is What Drives Story

    What does your character want? It seems so simple and yet it is so indispensible to story. If you have not determined what your character wants throughout the course of the story – or in a particular scene, for that matter – then they are not going to come across with strong objectives – and therefore create drama. Even if your intention is to create a character who vacillates emotionally, perhaps this is only because what he really WANTS is to be loved and accepted, as this is often one of the ploys humans take to secure love – changing themselves to fit into someone else’s world instead of sticking to what they, as individuals, want.
    An actor’s job, of course, is to interpret what a character’s objectives (wants) are. But it is the writer’s job, not the actor’s, to develop those wants in the story. If a writer has not done a good job of doing so, then the actor will not have much to go on.
    But the real question is what the character actually NEEDS? The character may want something, which drives him, but at some point he will have to be pushed into figuring out what he needs. It is often good to heighten the stakes by creating a situation in which, if the character does not figure out and DO what he needs to do, instead of what he just wants, then bad things are going to happen (e.g., he is going to lose someone he loves or maybe even die). The act of the character figuring out what he needs to do is what lies on the other side of the arc from where his wants are. What we want to do and what we need to do are many times not the same, and are, in fact, often conflicting. But doing what we need to do is what gives resolution to a journey in which we have begun flawed – just surviving – instead of living it at its fullest.