Nicholas Reicher

Writing Your Next Blockbuster Film or Novel

Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 10)

Update to The Island

Reading through my story, it looks like my spacing in Scrivener that showed what parts had breaks in narrative between them didn’t carry over – another reason I’m switching to Open Live Writer to write my blog posts.

I’ve added asterisks between now to show breaks in scenes to make it more understandable and easy to follow. Check it out!

The Island

8 Essential Character Types you must have in your novel!

Setting up your own domainWriting a novel (or a screenplay) is almost like learning a new language. There are things you must learn to do in most novels, such as building conflict, direct from the pen, etc. I’ve gotten very good at learning to manipulate the required things that make both novels and screenplays work.

One thing you must use is a combination of character types. Dramatica Theory (the basis behind the highly recommended but VERY expensive software Dramatica) actually recommends 8 essential character types that make novels work.

In some cases, if you’re clever enough, you can combine one or two of the character types, to save on the work it takes and keep page counts down (this from a man whose first draft of his first novel was 220,000 words!). Not every novel is a “Hero’s Journey”, but about 80% of the novels out there today are essentially hero’s journey, or derivatives within different genres. I’ll say that in many ways, the novel you’re working on doesn’t have the Discovery, the Quest, The Harship, etc… but even in the most unlikeliest novels and scrreenplays, you’re going to find almost all of the elements of the Hero’s Journey, including Die Hard, Home Alone and Tootsie.

What are the essential character types that Dramatica theory tells us we need? Let’s start with the obvious first, and we’ll use Die Hard to illustrate the character roles.

  1. The Protagonist. You gotta have your main character! In Die Hard, it’s John McLain, in Finding Nemo it’s Marlin.
  2. The Antagonist. In some works, there is no easily defined antagonist. Jaws, for example, had a shark. And one movie I’ve seen the antagonist literally was a storm at sea. But in those cases, there’s usually a human who is “Lesser Antagonist” worked in to create conflict. In Die Hard, of course, the antagonist is Hans.
  3. The Impact Character. The impact character serves as the conscience of the protagonist. In Die Hard, it was the LAPD cop who stayed on the radio with McLain. At some point, the theme of the novel or movie has to be stated, and it’s almost always the impact character who states it to the protagonist. The Impact Character in Finding Nemo was Dory.
  4. Reason. The Reason character is the one who keeps the often overly emotional protagonist grounded. In Die Hard, it was played by McLain’s wife Holly – in a unique twist she was unable to communicate with McLain during the movie – so she served to keep the reason part by dealing with Hans.
  5. Cotagonist. This role can be split up by several people, to keep the cotagonist from overshadowing the antagonist! Essentially, he is the support/foil for the antagonist. Do they help, hinder, get things done? In Die Hard, this was split among several other people.
  6. Skeptic. The “You’ve got to prove it to me” Character. They help highlight your protagonists brilliance. The LAPD captain who talks to McLain on the radio fills this role.
  7. Guardian. The guardian of knowledge is the usual role this person plays. When you have to find a secret that nobody can discover (it’s easy to paint yourself into a corner), you neatly tie it up by having one point of the story be to seek this person out. In Die Hard, it was the hacker Theo who deals out the hidden knowledge as required.
  8. Sidekick. The sidekick serves as the person the protagonist often confides in. In Die Hard, this was combined in with the impact character. Indeed, this is the only real weakness in the Dramatica Theory is the recognition that not every one of the 8 required characters is actually required! In many stories two or more character types are split up.

You may encounter some of the characters only once in a story, such as the guardian. In Finding Nemo of course, the guardian was played by Crush the Turtle, and that was a brief encounter.

Conclusion

Dramatica Theory is a theory of course, and not a science. But by experimenting with these characters, you can find that you can for instance add that plot movement you needed to get going, can unlock a plot point, and help plot out your novel easier.

Who are the essential characters in your novel, and what part do they play?

Slight Pause

Sorry, slight pause – I’m trying to get an original piece of fiction up just for readers of my blog!

Hopefully it’ll be up tomorrow or Friday.

6 Essential Keys to a Strong Protagonist

Your protagonist – the main character of your novel or screenplay – is your bread and butter of your novel. If you have the wrong protagonist, your novel will fail almost immediately. Writing experience will tell you very early on if your protagonist is not strong enough.

There are things you can do to your protagonist to make sure they are the right main character of your novel or screenplay. If you find your protagonist is not right, you have two options – strengthen them, or choose a different protagonist.
How do you know if your protagonist is strong enough?

  1. They must be proactive. Your protagonist must drive the story. If your protagonist is reactive, in other words they react to their story instead of forcing it, then you need to fix them now. Some female protagonists can be reactive part of the way through a novel – but not all the way. If you find your main character is sitting back passively and letting things happen, then your story is going to limp, instead of run.
  2. They must eventually be decisive. By the second turning point in your novel or screenplay, your protagonist must have decided to do SOMETHING. If you had the somewhat passive female protagonist, they must become active by the second turning point in your novel or again, it will limp and not be an effective novel. Once you’ve set up the events of your novel where the protagonist must do something (this should be the inciting incident, chapter 4 at the latest), the protagonist should have decided on a course of action. It’s often the wrong course of action (or if it’s right, the first time they try, it doesn’t work), but they have to decide on a course of action.
  3. They need to be likable. I don’t say “must be”. There have been movies and novels where the lead was simply unlikable much of the movie. The audience will stick with it for a while if compelling – but that protagonist must begin to change. The light has to glimmer, the ice has to thaw. And by the end of the movie, the protagonist must have changed for the better – like Groundhog Day.
  4. Give them a choice. Many stories show off the protagonist the best by presenting them with two irreconcilable choices – you can have A but not B, or B but not A. If you’re rapidly trying to salvage an un-salvageable protagonist, alter your plot to include this.
  5. Talk, talk, talk. Or to quote Clint Eastwood, “Blah, blah, blah…”. Some protagonists in some stories I’ve read have continuing monologues. If you’re writing a detective genre film, sure. If it’s a story about a stockbroker who’s getting fed up with his job, then… cut every third word! Your protagonist must DO SOMETHING, not sit there, observe, and talk about it. How would our favorite characters be if all they did was TALK? George Bailey would not be the beloved George Bailey if all he did was watch the other banker take over the town, and do nothing. George Bailey did something. Incidentally, he was faced with two sets of “A, but not B” choices in that movie. Indeed, a wonderful life.
  6. Save The Cat. If you show your unlikable or unworkable protagonist doing something nice or generous early in the movie, a grumpy character suddenly is seen as the “Guy with the rough exterior and the heart of gold.”
Conclusion

If you’ve got a book or movie where you can’t imagine the plot going any other way, the problem may be your protagonist. See if they pass the rules here. If not, then you’ve got some changes to do – but easy changes to make.

Do you feel your protagonist is active enough, or too passive within the story?

Cats Are Like Children

Okay. I get up early on a Saturday morning, because my cats are already getting a little insistent. It’s been seven hours since they last ate, and why am I bothering trying to sleep? Get up and feed me!

Cats Are Like Children

Photo by Mikhail Vasilyev on Unsplash

I have to or they’ll get worked up and start an endless cycle of vomiting, usually preceded by loud wails and howling.

Okay, bleary eyed I stumble downstairs, and get out paper plates and open a can of some disgusting mixture “minced turkey in gravy with chunks.”

Ugh. The smell of it opens my eyes. Now my cats are frantic.

Give one of them the food on the counter. We have to do that, because the other two are like sharks, circling my legs, and they’ll take the food away from him in a heartbeat. I walk into the living room with two more plates. Lately, the Russian Blue’s have discovered a new game. It’s called “Let’s stop in our tracks, and see if we can kill daddy by tripping him.” I avoid that, think about soccer, and avoid that impulse. Set the plate on the floor.

Go in and make my coffee. I’m alive now. Barely.

My Burmese wants another can. Since he seems to just burn off six pounds of catfood a minute, I give him another can. You can’t add to his plate while he’s eating or he’ll run away.

You can’t face him while walking around, or he’ll run away. So I have to shuffle sideways in my kitchen, my back to him. If my neighbors can see me through the blinds, they must think I’m an idiot.

Try to give the Russian Blue’s a little extra food, since the Burmese got a little. One of them is now terrified, and goes to hide. The other rushes to his food to eat it while the first one cowers in terror, because I’m breathing, and that’s apparently terrifying to Russian Blues.

Go upstairs with my coffee. Get the laptop turned on so I can write blog articles and twitter tweets.

The Burmese uses the litter box, with six hours of kicking the litter around, followed by another six hours of him scraping his paws on the plastic sides of the litter box.
Now he takes off like a race car driver, running up and down the stairs. That’s cute at 5 pm. That’s horrible at 5:50 AM. Especially because he’s gobbling like the minced turkey he just ate.

My wife is still asleep, or was before he began gobbling. So now I’m hissing his name and trying to get him to shut up and stop making so much noise, so my wife can try to get a little sleep. And in the process, I’m probably making more noise than the Burmese.

When he runs downstairs, I end up turning blue. Usually because I’m holding my breath, waiting to hear something crash and shatter, the usual sound that follows the frantic galloping he does. No crash, no smell of smoke, so he hasn’t caused catastrophe yet.

After fifteen minutes of loud galloping and gobbling, he’s back in the litterbox, kicking then scratching. Satisfied, he trots into my office and jumps up into a kitty bed obviously not sized for a Burmese, but we’d gotten in when he was a kitten. He curls up, grabs his tail and goes to sleep.

I haven’t heard the Russian blues doing anything for a while. I’m too afraid to see what they’re ruining.

Cats are like children.

Hootsuite Vs. Buffer

I’m doing the Hootsuite training right now. Hootsuite Academy actually trains you in how to use and optimize your social media outlets the best. They take a lot of time to explain slowly how things work, what people look for and use, the demographics (such as if you market products for women, you should concentrate on Pinterest), etc.
I don’t know exactly how much I’ll get from them, since I only just started the training. All of it is free, unless you want to be listed on the Hootsuite Professionals page – then the last training session is about $200 or so (might be something nice to put on your LinkedIn profile).

I did find one big difference between Hootsuite and Buffer. I just want to schedule my tweets right now – I don’t want to have the engagements from all my social media in one place when I’m just trying to schedule my tweets and eventually LinkedIn and Facebook posts. So that’s a plus for Buffer.

Both Buffer and Hootsuite have Analytics pages, and I can see what was my most popular tweet! That’s what I like about Buffer, and Hootsuite according to the training has the same feature. So they come out even on that.

Hootsuite has an ability to (with one click) Rehoot something, where a Twitter Tweet is reposted X number of times over the next 2 months automatically, the number of times and days automatically they say is the best way to do it. If that works, then that may edge out Hootsuite over Buffer even better, as you’d have to manually ReBuffer a tweet yourself. I’m not sure I want to see a tweet by anyone over 21 times, but according to Hootsuite, a tweet has a lifespan of 30 minutes, and then is buried by all the other tweets on someone’s Twitter feed.

Conclusion

In the interests of fairness, I’ll say that all I’m using right now is Buffer. I haven’t added any services to Hootsuite, simply because when I set my tweets to post, I want to get in, get that done for the week, and then I’ll check Twitter later on. It’s up to you which service you’d prefer. And I’ll also add I’m using the free services of Buffer, and to really get the full impact you have to pay for either Hootsuite’s personal or for Buffer Awesome.

Have you tried Buffer or Hootsuite? Which do you prefer?

1667 words to Write!

Okay, you did all your planning, blah blah blah (see my articles over the last six days – you are clipping these to Evernote, right?), now Let’s write.

You should have entered your project target word count in Scrivener, and your session word count already. If not, press your CTRL button and your comma button (,) at the same time. The target screen opens up. I leave that open, because seeing the little session target grow longer and change colors begins to be an inspiration to keep writing.

If you’re writing a novel, your target should be 85,000. Fantasy, Sci Fi and more action oriented stuff such as techno-drama have higher word counts. I tend to set mine at 150,000 – but lately I’ve been working very hard at changing that. Set it at 110,000 to 120,000.

It doesn’t matter what genre you’re on, the target for the day is going to be the same number. 1667.

That’s really nothing. If you’re writing for two hours, that’s easy. 90 minutes, a little tougher. Learn to utilize your full screen mode in Scrivener.

Going through my first novel, I’ve split up my scenes into four groups…

Action snippets are 400 words. (an action snippet are those short, one paragraph sections that usually follow one another and are a tool to show building tension, leading to something – Clancy did this a LOT).
Short scenes, 600 words.
Medium scenes, 900 words.
Long scenes, 1,200 words.

Four action snippets, and you hit your word count for the day. Really. Since action snippets usually are about 8-10 following each other, you can find in one night of writing that you’re jumping WAY ahead!
Your goal of writing should be the magic 1,667 words a day. That’s 50,000 words in one month. Your novel is half done.
No kidding.

If you haven’t done this yet, go through each individual scenes (30 chapters of 7 scenes each) and enter in your estimated word count, and be prepared to revise. I’d set all of them at 1200 for now, and if you know it’s going to be a snippet or short scene, revise the count.
At the bottom of the page in Scrivener is a little black and white archery target. Click that. The target word count will pop up, and enter in your number. You only need to type the first two numbers because a zero is already there (40 yields a number of 400). If you revise it, you’ll have to type the entire number. But for now, I just saved you a lot of time.
It takes probably about 45 minutes to go through a novel and enter in document targets.

WRITE!

Trying to make sure my commenting system works…

Can someone please post a comment so I can see if my commenting system is working?

The Unseen Benefit of Daily Journaling

I try to do daily journaling in Evernote. Right now, it’s hit or miss. I guess really what I should do is come up with my own template, since the two I found for free are pretty… I don’t know. If the flow, format and functionality of something doesn’t work for me, I end up not using it. It’s one major reason I use Evernote and not OneNote (the other reason being – remember LiveWriter? Shut down. Remember Microsoft Money? I’m sure two years from now, OneNote will be gone as well).
But why journal? In my case, I’m carrying around a little notebook with me everywhere. I write down ideas as they come to me. Journaling is an extension of this.

You can get more ideas for stories as you journal. Writing is an exercise. Every time you do it (especially if you’re reading books on it) you should be getting better.
You can flesh out scenes as you journal. “Should I have Captain Hook swing in on a rope, or just kick in the door?” Further journaling will reveal the difficulty of a one handed man swinging on a rope.
It records plans that you may otherwise forget. Reading what I’ve noted later on often reveals plot twists I’d completely forgotten about later!

Give it a try. As a writer, you’re writing anyway!

Updates On The New Domain

Every once in a while, I like to write a friendly little blog post, you know, the way blogs are supposed to be. That way I’m treating those in my “tribe” more as buddies you chat with around the coffee machine.
So, I’ve spent a lot of time and WORK setting up my website, and transitioning it to it’s own Bluehost site. Michael Hyatt was right about Bluehost. No real problems, although at times it feels a little slower than others, but not as slow as wordpress.com was!
What haven’t I gotten to?

  1. Email address. I’m pretty comfortable with my email address on Cox. I KNOW I should make one @nicholasreicher.com.I’m procrastinating on that, because I really only need one email address. Besides, my name is a lot of typing, and nicholasreicherauthornovelistscreenwriter@nicholasreicher.com would cause peoples eyes to glaze over!
  2. Photo session! I’m told that looking at me will inspire trust. My answer to those people is usually, “Um… have you seen my face???” Maybe I should just crop pictures of William Shatner from the 70’s and use those instead!
  3. Social Media. Yeah, I know. I do have a lot of warnings about social media, and I think people need to read and heed.Apparently, you cannot get any recognition without it.
  4. Completed Blog header. Right now I’m using my logo from Logaster (very affordable!). It needs to be shrunk slightly, the canvas slightly enlarged (this will make the text look sharper) and add a photo of me to it. So consider this part about 33% done. I did like my old blog header – laptop and coffee. I thought it summed up who I am! Maybe I should use Schwartzeneggar’s face instead of mine!
  5. Professional Logo. I’m good for this year, perhaps next year as well! Once I’m selling scripts and getting novels on the shelves, I’ll worry about the $275 branding logo package. I just got a VERY good design from Logaster for $30, and it came with far more logo formats and types than I can use!

In addition, there seems to be a whole host of things you have to add and configure to get a viable brand going, and all of that takes time and some money! Right now, I’m working hard on writing!

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