Stuck in the Middle of your Screenplay?

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by Fenella Greenfield

Central character emigrated to Zanzibar?

Most exciting plot point collapsed into ‘Who wins the Knitting Competition?’

Kitchen floor been washed so much you can see the joists through the threadbare lino?

Here are ten ways to come un-stuck when you’ve come unstuck:

Abandon the middle and go to the end.

Write the last scene. And then the second-to-last. And so on. In other words, go backwards for a bit. If you’re lucky you’ll bump into yourself writing forwards and bingo! Finished screenplay!

Stuck for some plot?

Try re-telling your story from the point-of-view of a couple of the secondary characters. What happens when they’re the central character? This usually generates new plot.

Stuck on your Character Arc?

In two columns describe what your character LOOKS LIKE at the beginning of the story and, in the second column, by the end. How has their hair-style changed? How do they dress by the end of the film? Visual changes will give you clues to their emotional change. If they look identical you’ve got a problem – put them in totally different clothes and ask, ‘What would have had to have happened for them to change their look to this?’.

Buy some post-its.

Throw out your index cards and buy some post-its. Using different colours, summarise the plot, goal and character arc in short story beats then stick them up on your wall. Your entire screenplay structure will be on display and the faults will be easier to spot. If you suffer from insomnia because you wake, every night, with a brilliant idea for a brand-new screenplay, which is ten times better than the one you’re working on at the moment, stick the post-its on your bedroom wall; when your brain sees how much work it is to complete a screenplay it will go straight back to sleep and never wake you in the middle of the night again.

Buy an expensive notebook.

Half way through Act Two you can become disheartened if you feel your writing’s getting sloppy. So get sloppy on the computer, but in your brand-new, leather-bound, cost-a-packet notebook, re-craft those sloppy scenes in your best handwriting (enhanced by the brand-new, cost-a-packet fountain pen you just bought for the purpose). Make sure these scenes are the High Art you know you’re capable of – to be typed back into your computer when you need some serious displacement activity The computer equals THE VOMIT DRAFT; the brand-new notebook equals RETAIL THERAPY.

Do different writing tasks at different times of the day.

If you find you’re rewriting the first 30pp endlessly rather than getting on with Act Two try allocating jobs to different times of the day. Over your lunch-break you’re allowed to fiddle with Act One to your heart’s content; after supper you’ve got to fill blank pages.

Write in half-hour chunks.

If you’ve got a day job, it’s hard to find time to write. Instead of saying to yourself, ‘I’ll write for four hours every evening when I get home from work’, or ‘I’ll take an exotic holiday in the Caribbean and write for eight hours every day while I’m there’, say, ‘I’ll write for half-an-hour when I get up and half-an-hour when the kids are in bed’. That’s an hour – and if you’re writing a page an hour in three months you’ve written a draft of a screenplay.

Write in ten-page chunks.

Sometimes when you’re on page 30, page 120 can seem like the other side of the universe. So instead of promising yourself an exotic holiday in the Carribean when you’ve finished your script, promise yourself a luxury gift every time you get to the end of a ten-page chunk. The benefit of doing this? Twelve holidays instead of just one . . .

Keep to a rigorous timetable.

Always, always write at the same time every day – because even if you don’t want to write, your brain will kick into gear. This is because Brains are creatures of habit, whereas Human Beings are lazy slobs who’d far rather be surfing YouTube.

Write something! Anything!

If you’re stuck, write shopping-lists, write your Oscar-winning speech, but write something, anything. Maths is good: working out how much you spend on breakfast muffins every month soon bores you enough to get you back to work.



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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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