Wednesday, February 13, 2013
I do, however, deeply appreciate the great situation comedy we generally call "life."
We've all been in situations where something strikes us funny, but nobody else is laughing.
That happens when two people look at the same events from different points of view. The question is, how do you show other people the FUNNY point of view?
It's not random, and not just a Talent that you're either born with or not. It is a learnable skill.
Here's a famous textbook on how to carve up the Event you are trying to recount, and show how it is actually very funny:
Allan Cole and Chris Bunch (the famous screenwriters) wrote a wonderful series of Science Fiction novels called The Sten Series, and those are all now back in print and well worth re-reading. One of the most famous characters from that series is not Sten, the Hero of the title, but Kilgaur a heavy-worlder human descendant of the Scots who tells really long, really bad -- and really funny -- jokes. These jokes illustrate the principles in that book because Allan Cole is a screenwriter. He learned this stuff in on-the-job training.
You can find them in e-book, paper, and audiobook here on Allan Cole's Amazon Page
Here is Allan Cole's IMDB page
And here is a blog with a discussion of Allan Cole's autobiography and what screenwriters can learn from it.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
The thing to grasp before you even consider writing a story for any of these delivery channels is a ratio:proportion like you used to struggle with in school.
It's cost:profit -- that simple.
What made the old "Dime Novel" a commercial phenomenon was the sudden availability of a really REALLY cheap paper, printing, and binding, plus a suddenly cheap (railroad golden spike connection between east and west coast changed everything) distribution network.
The railroad came into being because lots of people moved far off across the continent and found STUFF (cattle, buffalo hide, wheat growing territory, gold and eventually oil) to send back to the denser populated East.
So people generated the distribution network for purposes other than entertainment, and bright entrepreneurs repurposed the railroad to serve as the Dime Novel distribution network. Most ironic, the material written about in such cheap novels was the adventures of those settling the wild west. The adventures were imported to the East and the novels were exported to the West where the adventures (purportedly) happened, and everyone was entertained and enriched. People both east and west, bought the Dime Novel because that was the only source of the romanticized West.
A very similar dynamic drove the explosion of the Movie Industry -- cheap real estate in Hollywood (really, it was cheap orange groves at first), easy export of product to dense population areas.
People went to theaters because that was the only place to have the EXPERIENCE uniquely delivered by The Movies.
A very similar dynamic is driving the Smart Phone -- not invented by but popularized by Apple.
The smartphone is the only place to go for the experience of taking your desktop with you -- well, the Tablets are doing that, too, but next step is to put a phone into the tablet so no matter where you go, you have full connectivity.
The hardware development direction is to screens that replicate the proportions of movie screens, and TV's now have that. iPhone 5 shows the only real major change is the screen proportion which now replicates the theater screen -- because people watch movies and TV on their phones.
I saw but lost track of an article confirming what many other articles and investment statistics are showing -- there is a growing trend away from DESKS and toward MOBILE. Even in business, whatever you can do at a desk must be made mobile.
The gaming industry built around hooking a console to your TV and selling you cartridges or CD's with games on them -- struggling. The gaming industry built on you downloading an app to your phone -- growing so fast nobody can count.
And game content is changing, too.
Here is an article delineating where the profits have been made, and why that trend has peaked -- and showing you a new trend direction in film -- or what used to be called movies but now really needs to be called video.
We called them movies when the fact that a picture MOVED was a novelty and the prime characteristic of the entertainment offered. Then we called them film when the medium upon which the images were deposited and distributed was literally a "film" which was a novelty -- a thin strip of celluloid, a process developed from the movies. In the last 15 years or so, the digital technology has replaced all the other formats in imaging -- and so we call this video (seeable things).
The underlying technology limits but also enables the storytelling.
The golden spike in this development will be the link between ALL your "devices" -- and several companies are racing toward that goal. Pick up any device, and seamlessly continue using your content.
Read this article on the impact of digital imaging on "the movies" -- and where that storytelling technology could lead us next. You may find your own niche here.
Monday, September 10, 2012
Here below is a press release from Berkley -- it may seem "ho-hum" if you're not in the biz of publishing, or of futurology, but take two looks at this one.
This is one of the grandiose, big publishers conceding to the IMAGES market by entering the GRAPHIC NOVEL business -- a niche formerly derided as "kiddie stuff" -- comic books being nothing but Sunday Funnies bound with staples.
I have always responded to that attitude with, "Excuse me?"
Note particularly the authors and the kind of material they produce. This is not kiddie stuff.
Also you may have seen elsewhere among my social networks (such as the FACEBOOK Sime~Gen Group) some mention of this new interest in creating a Sime~Gen RPG video game for handheld devices set in an era we have not yet published novels about -- The Space Age. That is planned to be graphics based, have live-actor voices, and a story structured like a TV Series in episodes.
I have emphasized in my writing craft posts on http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com that all text-based novels need to take into account the prevalent market for "story in pictures" -- the image based fiction market. The world has changed with the advent of video, YouTube, handheld video capability (smartphones).
Consider this context and read the press release below twice -- and then study it for HOW TO WRITE A PRESS RELEASE.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BERKLEY/NAL TO LAUNCH GRAPHIC NOVEL IMPRINT INKLIT IN OCTOBER 2012
InkLit List to include #1 New York Times Bestselling Authors Patricia Briggs, Charlaine Harris and Laurell K, Hamilton
New York, NY, September 10, 2012- In October 2012, Penguin Group (USA)'s Berkley/NAL division will launch InkLit, a new graphic novel imprint, it was announced today by Kara Welsh, Vice President and Publisher of NAL. Continuing Penguin's ongoing commitment to bring writers to readers in a variety of formats, this new imprint will include both original novels and series as well as adaptations of previously published works.
"We are excited to expand our publishing program to include books in graphic novel format, both from established house authors as well as newcomers to our list." said Welsh.
InkLit will launch on October 2nd with the release of Alpha and Omega: Volume 1 by #1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Briggs with artwork by Todd Herman. This graphic novel is an adaptation of Cry Wolf (Ace 2008), the first book in the Alpha and Omega series, a spin-off from Briggs's signature Mercy Thompson series. Alpha and Omega was originally released as an eight-issue comic book series from Dynamite Entertainment. The new InkLit hardcover will contain the first four comic books, with the remaining four published in Volume 2 in 2013.
In 2013, InkLit will publish two graphic novels from Charlaine Harris, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series. An adaptation of Grave Sight, the first book in the Harper Connelly Mystery Series, will debut in January. Cemetery Girl will mark both Harris's and InkLit's first original graphic novel publication when it is released later in the year. It is the start of a planned trilogy co-authored with award-winning writer Christopher Golden and illustrated by Don Kramer.
Laurell K. Hamilton, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series, will also join the InkLit list with two titles. The Lunatic Café, book four of the Anita Blake series, will be adapted into graphic novel format. And Hamilton will publish an-as-yet untitled original graphic novel set in the world of Anita Blake and featuring the character of Edward, a longtime fan favorite.
Under the direction of Richard Johnson, InkLit will publish both original and adapted works. Before joining Berkley/NAL, Johnson co-founded Yen Press and held senior level positions at DC Comics. Future InkLit titles include an adaptation of Martin Misunderstood by #1 New York Times bestselling author Karin Slaughter and an original graphic nove,l Starling from The Atlantic's editor and cartoonist Sage Stossel.
# # # #
For more information or to request an interview, please contact:
Craig Burke, Vice President, Director of Publicity
212-366-2606 or email@example.com
Jodi Rosoff, Associate Director of Publicity
NOTE TO THE PRESS:
Berkley and New American Library (NAL) are imprints of Penguin Group (USA) that publish books in mass market, trade paperback, hardcover, and eBook editions. Both lines have a long history of publishing bestselling authors, including such international superstars as Nora Roberts, Patricia Cornwell, Ken Follett, Harlan Coben, Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton, J.R. Ward, Jim Butcher, and Patricia Briggs, among others. For the last several years, Berkley/NAL has led the publishing industry in mass market New York Times bestsellers. For more information, visit www.penguin.com.
Penguin Group (USA) Inc. is the U.S. member of the internationally renowned Penguin Group. Penguin Group (USA) is one of the leading U.S. adult and children's trade book publishers, owning a wide range of imprints and trademarks, including Berkley Books, Dutton, Frederick Warne, G.P. Putnam's Sons, Grosset & Dunlap, New American Library, Penguin, Philomel, Plume, Puffin, Riverhead Books, The Penguin Press, and Viking, among others. The Penguin Group is part of Pearson plc, the international media company. For more information, visit www.pearson.com.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
My Monthly Aspectarian Review column now has a list of books to be reviewed through November 2012.
The columns available to read on simegen.com now include July 2012, which starts with a strange and interesting book titled, Interview With A Jewish Vampire.
You'll find the index to all 2012 at:
REPRINTS IN PROGRESS:
Those of My Blood and its companion volume, Dreamspy, two Vampire Romance novels from St. Martin's Press in Hardcover had the collector's price escalating above $500 a copy until BenBella re-issued them in paperback. But they sold out, so now Borgo Press has picked them up and will soon provide both paper and e-book editions at much more reasonable prices.
Here are the Amazon pages for these books,
And you will also find the new editions listed on our Amazon bookstore (though the new editions will be available everywhere and in almost all e-book formats sans DRM)
And here is a comment from a reader who accidentally found the Vampire anthology Vampire's Dilemma on Amazon.
"I saw the book "Vampire's Dilemma" on Amazon.com and because it had your name on it I had to have it. I first stumbled upon the Sime-Gen books at the library near my work, then lost them for a long time, and started gathering them (and Those of My Blood, etc.) again. I really enjoy reading them. I also recently (2006 I think) discovered fanfiction and it gave me a whole new outlook on life beyond just voraciously reading. I'm not saying I was nearly as good as some of the fanfiction writers, but good enough that people read what I wrote. What a feeling! Some of the other fanfiction writers were better than the ones out there in the bookstores, in my opinion. I still read them faithfully. It kills me that they're so slow with their updates! I may not be as good, but I am consistent! I started out with anime fanfiction, but eventually graduated & now post on fictionpress. I don't mean to go on and on, because except for posting, I've never really "joined" anything on any of the sites. I was just so pleasantly surprised when I read the authors' notes in "Vampire's Dilemma" that they did the same things in pretty much the same ways as I did--and went on from there! There are so many good stories (and a lot of not so good ones, but even those can draw you in--if the story's captivating enough, you can overlook the bad writing!) So I just wanted to share that I think it's wonderful that you recognize fanfiction writing and on-line writing in general. Looking forward to more! Eve"
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Worldbuilding With Fire And Ice Part 4 -- This post sets up the foundation for a leap into integrating WORLDBUILDING techniques with CHARACTER ARC, and gives you homework.
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Dancing with Dragons is Hard on Your Shoes.: Adventures in line edits, part 2: Learning to own my book
Here's a writer-blog I found via Google+ (where I'm Jacqueline Lichtenberg ) and it may be just what you need to get your sense of humor booted up. She is absolutely correct about Editor = Boss, as those of you who've read my series on Editing know. Here's #7 in the Editing series, with links to prior posts at the top:
So here's an excerpt from Miriam Foster's blog entry - click to find the rest of what she's said:
Dancing with Dragons is Hard on Your Shoes.: Adventures in line edits, part 2: Learning to own my book: Adventures in line edits, part 2: Learning to own my book
So... in case you didn't know, I'm a bit of a people-pleaser, especially when it comes to authority figures. I hate disappointing people, and I HATE upsetting my boss. And for a while there, in my head, the equation went like this.
Editor = Boss.
Which meant I wanted to do everything in my power to make my editor happy. There were a list of things I knew I was willing to fight for (and we'd already discussed them) but everything else was negotiable and I put enormous pressure on myself to do it right.
So when the second round of line edits showed up and there were things that I had tried to fix that still needed tweaking, and my editor started making small suggestions I wasn't comfortable with or didn't know what to do with, I had a meltdown.
... read more at Dancing with Dragons is Hard on Your Shoes:
Information | SD Global | Panasonic Global
Friday, April 27, 2012
SAVE THE CAT! (3 books) is not how to write an Indie film, or how to do something utterly offbeat, or original -- it's about how to write a BLOCKBUSTER or Emmy/Oscar etc winning TV show.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Zauberspiegel - das Online-Fanzine - ... Jacqueline Lichtenberg on Sime~Gen, vampires in SF garment and German editions
Here's part 2 of an interview I did with a German online fanzine. They are looking for more writers to interview.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
I've said any number of times here that the essence of fiction is conflict.
I found this video by accident
It's about the possibility of election rigging using computer programs that count the ballots and make the tallies to just pick the final result and report that result regardless of the actual votes cast.
I posted a long critique of why this video makes an argument that's just plain full of huge logical holes.
You can't prove that something has been done by showing that it can be done.
HOWEVER, that makes this video a marvelous source of FICTIONAL CONFLICT -- plot ideas just abound in almost every line of narrative, and every video clip included.
To see them, though, you must leap out of your everyday real-world mindset and look at this as if you had no clue what a human being is, and have never heard of "Earth" and wouldn't want to ever, anyway.
Become alien enough and you'll jump up and down with discovery of new and fascinating plot ideas.
While you're doing this mental exercise, read this Huffington Post article -- they are running an experiment in their Books section where they are presenting arguments and seeing if the arguments change people's minds. The arguments did not change my mind - on the subject of Chick Lit and genre.
In the course of my response to the arguments I pointed them to this link:
If you've been reading Editing Circle carefully, you already read both parts of that guest blog I did on genre and pitching.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
EEGs, electrodes that record brain activity, suggest how that happened. The number of bursts of electrical activity called sleep spindles—Walker calls them “champagne pops in the brain”—that people experienced during their naps predicted how much their ability to learn would improve once they awoke. Sleep spindles, he suspects, indicate activity in the hippocampus that moves information from that region into the cortex for permanent storage. It’s like moving data from a USB stick onto a hard drive, which “both consolidates into long-term storage the information you offload and leaves you a renewed capacity for absorbing new information—learning,” says Walker. The better we move information from the hippocampus (working memory) into the cortex, the more information we can access when we need it.
Even without the midday nap, the brain has a way of carving out its own downtime, characterized by what’s called the “default-mode network”—basically, brain activity that takes place when you’re daydreaming or keeping your mind blank. Using functional MRI, scientists at Japan’s Tohoku University measured cerebral blood flow in 63 volunteers asked to keep their minds blank. Those with the greatest blood flow in the white matter that connects one neuron to another scored highest on a task requiring them to quickly generate novel ideas, the researchers reported in the journal PLoS One in November. Creativity arises from seeing connections others miss, so it makes sense that increasing the activity in white matter by letting the brain rest in default mode supports creativity. So put away the BlackBerry and let your brain idle.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
ScreenwritingU Inks New Deal with Million-Dollar Screenwriter - Yahoo! News: ScreenwritingU Inks New Deal with Million-Dollar Screenwriter
PRWebPRWeb – 2 hrs 9 mins ago
ScreenwritingU, industry-acclaimed for high-quality, professional online screenwriting classes, announces a new collaboration with Chris Soth, Million-Dollar Screenwriter. Soth is a WGA writer, producer, USC/UCLA instructor, and well-known script consultant who teaches screenwriting structure to screenwriters worldwide with successful results. ScreenwritingU has added to its award-winning online screenwriting classes the exclusive marketing and delivery of Soth’s classes, including his Mini-Movie Method and intensive screenplay mentorship program.
You can follow them on Facebook:
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Mashup of Art and Business (Part 2): A guest post by Jaqueline Lichtenberg « Madison Woods
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Here you'll find a Guest Post I did on the origin of Genre and how to use that knowledge to pitch your project to an editor or agent:
Thursday, February 2, 2012
STEP ONE: write down your own personal reaction to this video, what it says, what you think might be learned from it, and what it implies. What exactly is it showing? How might it have been scripted differently? Why was it scripted this way.
STEP TWO: Check it out on YouTube and note the commentary especially from people who react negatively to the content or even the philosophy behind the message. That is the most important part of this SHOW DON'T TELL lesson -- study those comments, they are worth gold.
STEP THREE: Write a video script as "cheap to make" and as illustrative of a non-verbal message, a bit of philosophy. This could take you a few years. Don't hurry.
Master explorer Dirk Pitt goes on the adventure of a lifetime of seeking out a lost Civil War battleship known as the "Ship of Death" in the deserts of West Africa while helping a UN doctor being hounded by a ruthless dictator. (124 mins.)
Director: Breck Eisner
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Penélope Cruz, Steve Zahn, William H. Macy
There are a lot of DVD's on Amazon titled SAHARA - this is the 2005 movie about treasure hunters looking for a battleship in the desert -- As I was watching ( logging the SAVE THE CAT! "beats" with part of my mind), I was imagining the story I would have written: LIKE THIS: “ Indiana Jones on Tatooine with McGiver for a sidekick and Captain Kirk in orbit ”
The film SAHARA also reminds me of ROMANCING THE STONE -- the two-guys-and-a-tough-gal in a chase/battle for life and limb (with larger stakes beyond themselves) format is now an entrenched classic, though there was a time when the gal was only there to be rescued and do stupid things to get caught again.
Looking at the dates - early 1980's to just before 2008, I think these films hit big because they were hammering away at a stereotype the people of theater-going-age desperately wanted to break (all females are helpless, or if not, are "Evil.") Power in the hands of a woman turns Dark, or destroys the woman.
Today, (2012) we have NEW STEREOTYPES that the teens of this time will hammer away at. These are recently born stereotypes, almost too new to be called cliche. Yet the rate of change in our society has exploded to the point where the brand new stereotype is an old cliche before the movies to challenge it have been shown in theaters.
We're seeing those challenges I think in the "Indie" market - the films made on low budget by the brilliant producers honing their craft on YouTube and Vimeo.
The question the beginning writer must answer is, "What are today's stereotypes?"
I suspect you'll find a lot of answers by examining the condition of "the family" in today's world.
Statistics recently posted indicate that a man and a woman who marry and raise their kids in a structured, family environment, have a much MUCH lower chance of unemployment, poverty, -- and I haven't yet seen the statistic but I suspect someone is crunching numbers on the juvenile delquincy rate. We do have a "bullying" problem erupting in the early grades of schools, a precursor to real trouble in life (both for the bully and the victim).
One development we have seen between 1980 and 2010 is the advent in the Romance Genre of the novel centering on the divorced or single-parent woman finding true romance the second (or third) time around, despite having attained a sense of total independence -- or perhaps because of it.
The broken family mends, might be the theme of that sub-genre.
The stereotype that may be forming (to be broken soon) would be that seen by the children of these "broken" marriages -- the next generation looking back and seeing "family" and the distaste, strife, and even real hatred between their parents and their grandparents.
"The Family" broke during those decades along two axes -- horizontally via divorce rate, and vertically as children found the "generation gap" (that has always existed) widening beyond comprehension.
It's probably not irrelevant to include the advent of the internet as a household utility between 1980 and 2010. The cell phone revolution of the 1990's just added fuel to the fire. Social networking, Web 2.0 and up, ebooks, and a whole new curriculum in the schools widen that verticle gap.
I do hope by now you've all read Alvin Toffler's non-fiction book, FUTURE SHOCK -- he predicted all this and more. If you are looking for the next stereotype to break and sell a blockbuster movie, read that book.
Toffler notes that the public school system in the U.S.A. (an innovation that changed the world, PUBLIC schooling) has always been the tool of industry, politically dominated in such a way as to turn out workers suitable for the jobs that industry needs to fill.
The nature of the jobs needing filling has shifted markedly in this 30 year period -- to the point where those educated in the 1980's public schools don't qualify for modern jobs unless they've acquired more certificates or skills, degrees, and resume items in between.
The "covert curriculum" that Toffler points out prevailed in the 1970's actually cripples folks for the workforce today -- it shifted and then shifted again. But then in the 1990's or so, the covert curriculum in the schools was turned much more "overt" -- saying "on the nose" that the purpose of schooling is to prepare you to work a job.
Some of this peaked as the Unions became powerful enough to challenge industry's control of the job market, setting the idea that the monetary compensation for a "job" should be determined by what the worker thinks it should be - not what the employer thinks the job actually produces.
And another notion ebbed and flowed all the way into the university level -- that the purpose of education was to learn certain things are true, and others are not true. That the world "should" be this way, but never "that" way.
I've had some long, deep conversations with teachers retiring from the workforce who have taught at the High School and college levels (and I know some Middle School teachers too) who have felt this shifting wind of philosophy altering the textbooks.
Two rules I've seen imposed that exemplify this shift creating a new stereotype that new films will attack:
A) If one student in a class misbehaves, punish the entire class. There are no individuals, just the group, and the whole group is responsible for the behavior of individuals.
C) Never allow students to read ahead in the textbook, or ask questions from the "next chapter." The full weight of Teacher Authority must squash any notion that a student should teach themselves without supervision.
The covert curriculum thus becomes control of the group by authority.
Now this is not yet entirely visible across the nation, not at all. It turns up here and there, gets dismissed, turns up again, and is tossed out. Parents get outside tutoring for their children, take them to dance and music classes and all those things that break the grip of the public school authority.
But just anecdotal evidence from teachers I've spoken to indicates it's a rising tide not a receding one. The children who grew up trained by authority not to teach themselves are almost at the level of being in charge of things. The main result of having gone through school being punished for the misbehavior of others (over whom we have no control) is to hammer at government to CONTROL the misbehavior of others lest it hurt us.
Safety from the misbehavior of others and a deep seated conviction (irrational as it may be) that we can't solve problems that haven't been solved before, may be creating an even wider generation gap, or a very wide gap between spouses.
In the 1970's, the biggest business and the biggest category of self-help books was the DO-IT-YOURSELF industry (father of Home Depot). Today, you don't do-it-yourself, you go to Home Depot and ask a clerk how to do it and what to buy.
The oldest joke since the popularization of the automobile is the difference between the husband and wife as they try to find an unfamiliar location. Ask or read the map? That's gone now by the GPS!
So, the writer should be asking, "Will the imposition of Authority over Thinking For Yourself bring us together and heal the Family?"
At one time, "Father Knows Best" -- a man was King of his Castle and the wife had to shut up and take orders. That let at least half the people in the world vent their frustrations at being bossed around at work.
Did we have healthy family dynamics then? Do we need to go "back" to that? Or forward into something new that's never been tried before in human history?
In the film SAHARA the characters are on a treasure hunt -- and they find more than they were looking for, but only after harrowing, near-death experiences that only miracles could rescue them from (yes like INDIANA JONES).
Take the beat structure from SAHARA, strip out the subject matter, and replace it with THE FAMILY. That's the treasure the treasure hunter searches for - the HEA.
Remember in the HEA ending, the Happily Ever After of the Romance story, the result of happiness is children (one way or another). That means HEA is the equivalent of FOUNDING A FAMILY though "Romance Genre" doesn't usually deal with after the wedding.
Ancestry.com is a very big and growing web-based enterprise now. People are curious about their distant heritage (even if they hate their parents).
Yes, I know, you don't hate your parents -- nor do I. But if you watch a few TV series, you'll see the modern "cliche" stereotype when the parents come to visit. There's always anticipation of strife, and then really serious strife -- sometimes it's resolved in the show, or at least partially, but the RIFT between generations is routinely portrayed as so common it doesn't need explaining to the audience.
The other thing you see mentioned offhandedly with the implication that the audience understands the nature of the strife implied -- that's the phrase "my Ex" -- everyone has an Ex and knows what meetings with him/her mean. Strife. Gallore.
The reason Romance Genre doesn't deal with "after the wedding" is that we, as a culture, now expect Family Life to be fraught with strife. There's me vs. my parents. There's spouse vs. spouse's parents. There's me vs. my spouse's parents. There's my spouse vs. my parents. Children only make it worse. Then there's his children from a prior marriage vs. my children from a prior marriage.
Remember THE BRADY BUNCH? Could you put that on TV today and make it a hit? Why was it a hit then? (1969 and a film in 1995)
It was a hit because divorce had become common, but "The Family" was still strong. An amalgamated family was plausible because despite the inherent strife between generations, Family was plausible in a way it is not today.
Remember The Waltons TV Series?
Name Your Link
Remember Little House on the Prairie?
If you don't remember them, you can probably get them streaming on Netflix etc.
As a writer, you have to learn to discern the intended audience's characteristics and interests by looking at the piece of fiction with a writer's eye. But just because you're studying one thing, don't think you are allowed to forget everything else you've studied.
One of the things with WRITING as a craft, discipline, business, and artform is that you must teach yourself. Nobody can teach you. Honestly. There are a lot of expensive courses in writing all over the web now, but the truth is none of them will do you any good at all unless you are completely free of the ideas in A) and B) above -- that you get punished if someone else misbehaves and that you must not look ahead in the textbook.
In fact, that trick of looking ahead in the textbook is the one thing that got me through college. The very first day when I got the syllabus that said what the textbook would be, I'd run to the bookstore and get the books, then while in waiting rooms, around anywhere I was, I'd be reading the textbooks from back to front -- that's right, BACKWARDS, starting with the index and ending with the table of contents, until I understood what the course was about, what the underlying covert-curriculum thrust underneath the material actually was (whether the professor knew it or not, and it was usually NOT).
When I went to college, professors and TA's didn't take role, didn't know or care whether you were in class (unless there was a pop quiz you needed to score on). If you knew your stuff, you got the grade commensurate with what you knew. They did not grade "on the curve" -- everyone in the class could get an A or an F and the administration wouldn't blink. Everyone had an equal shot at an A because no rule forced the teacher to sort the class by statistics.
All you had to do was take the mid-terms and final. Sometimes you didn't need to bother with the mid-terms if you aced the Final. Some courses you could get credit for by just taking the Final before the course was given (History was one of those). It was called "placing out" of the course to satisfy a pre-requisite for some other course. Some courses didn't have mid-terms or quizzes. A term paper and a final was your only chance. Nobody cared whether you lived or died, and the other students didn't even know your name. In that environment, you grow up fast or you flunk out.
The maturity gained from being treated like that is what I see lacking in today's college age people, and I strongly suspect that the cohesiveness of FAMILY illustrated in those TV Series comes from having been educated in grammar school the way I was educated in college. I suspect that because I know that is how my parents were educated in grammar school and that's where they learned how to teach me to go to college and succeed. And that lesson is one of the reasons I love my parents. They turned me loose in the world with a fully mature sense of self.
That environment where you must achieve certain goals without anyone supervising you to force you to do the work creates a sense of individuality -- a sense of Identity. You don't have to do the 1960's thing of "finding yourself" because your Self emerges strong very early in life, and can never be threatened by anyone else's behavior.
The key, I think, is that covert curriculum item of "nobody cares whether you live or die" -- what you do doesn't affect whether they succeed so they have no stake in you failing (thus no bullying). No grading on a curve means how well you do doesn't depend on how poorly someone else does. Thus there's no reason to hate, resent, or undermine other students.
It is that strong sense of individual self that is the absolute bedrock requirement for the ability to Pair-Bond, i.e. to experience ROMANCE that leads to the HEA not to just another fling.
Now, go back to the film SAHARA. Like ROMANCING THE STONE this film has a back-and-forth, rescuing and rescued, between a guy and gal who eventually do get to have their dream-date-on-a-beach.
These films depict the forging of a Pair-Bonded Relationship based on two people having that strong sense of Self. That kind of educational experience I outlined produces Heroes (no wonder women were excluded from college, from becoming doctors and Lawyers -- they might then become Heroes.)
Remember the film LEGALLY BLONDE?
Remember we're talking about hammering at stereotypes? The "dumb blonde" is a big one, and the dumb blonde beauty who's a lawyer? Think about that in terms of the "nobody cares if you live or die" educational method producing Heroes instead of herds of cattle or nice tractable, obedient soldiers or employees all in a row.
That "nobody cares if you live or die" is the feeling that the street urchin gets, the tough street kid who grows up to be a boss (Mob or otherwise).
Now there's a difference in the effect of receiving that attitude at the age of say, 8, and at the age of 18.
FIRST must come the warmth, coddling, and protection of a strong family environment. THEN comes being thrown out into the cold, cruel world to fend for yourself. If you're never thrown out, or are thrown out too late in life, you never develop the ability to fend for yourself. You remain dependent and in need of protection (read some Regency Romances written prior to say 1980, then some from today which overlay today's woman on the Regency heroine.)
So, given cell phones and social networking peer support groups that parents know nothing about, what kind of pair-bonding potential will this new generation have built into them?
If the family bonds vertical and horizontal are now shattered beyond repair, what next set of bonds are under attack? And by what tools?
We've seen the advent of the "flash mob" -- but we've seen it used to attack social order (rob stores) and we've seen it used to build a strong community (actually coming together to clean garbage off a street or spend time gardening or building houses for the poor.)
The flash-mob by itself is a neutral development, but the purpose a group chooses will be the result of the values of the individuals in the group.
Is the flash-mob itself our next stereotype or cliche to be hammered by a great film?
Is school bullying the stereotype to attack?
Look carefully at this selection of films and TV series and ponder what the current set of 10 year olds (born in 2002) will be 10 years from now. If you start on a film script today, that's about when it will hit the theaters.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
That's the same catch-22 you are in with the screenwriting biz when you start out. In fact, it's true of "getting your first job" no matter the industry.
You need to show-don't-tell what you have to offer that the person hiring you can make a PROFIT from.
The skepticism of those hiring anyone to do anything is growing because our educational system awards degrees and honors without actually equipping people to do the tasks necessary in commercial development of a product.
That's not really new, just exceptionally emphasized today. So we now have more "internships" where you work without pay, and social networking and blogging where you can gain a reputation and a following to prove you have commercial grade ideas and skills. Think of performing artists who've made a splash on YouTube.
So a while back, I did a series of 7 posts on WHAT IS AN EDITOR ending with how to tell if you're a writer or an editor. In the Screenwriting business, producers are usually your second or third tier editor.
Here's a link to the Part 7 post that has links to the previous 6 in the series:
My series on EDITING puts your mind in the editor's place so you will KNOW what to include and what to exclude when writing a query.
Having considered what the agent and editor are up against these days, you then come upon the problem of how to query an agent who does not know "who" you are (if you are anybody at all.)
Here's what I wrote on this Google+ conversation about query writing:
Appropos of the business of agenting, I found this link on a Yahoo Group of professional writers, many best selling, big name pros who are self-publishing because the mainstream publishers (for whom they may still work) are offering really bad contract terms for the e-book and audiobook. Now the business of agenting is shifting hard and fast, with more cracks showing and chunks of the monolith breaking off. Here is a PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY post that is just a vague hint of what's under the surface. Read this looking for the emotional desperation those who've invested their career building years in AGENTING must be feeling.
Naggar Agency to Offer Reprint Rights Representation
Here's a quote from that article:
While a number of literary agencies have announced plans to self-publish books by clients, others have taken the tack of offering ancillary publishing (and agenting) services. The Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency is taking the latter approach, and has launched a program to represent other agencies looking to republish their clients' backlist titles.
The new venture will be overseen by agent Jennifer Weltz, working with royalties manager Tara Hart. Speaking to this new side of the business, Weltz said it came about "organically" after she began talking to others in the industry about striking deals, with emerging e-book and POD publishers, for JVNLA's clients. Noting that there is a growing number of publishers eager to buy backlist works, Weltz said there is now a "middle world" between self-publishing and traditional publishing that remains unfamiliar to some in the business.
The agenting business is changing and shifting fast, along with publishing and writing. Reprints have become a goal in a way they haven't been for decades. If you're just starting out, keep this kind of shifting in mind as you sign contracts.
You also want to study this post which tells you what to write back once your query has been answered, "Send me ..."
http://editingcircle.blogspot.com/2010/03/ok-send-me-2-page-synopsis.html -- always remember you are opening a conversation, not ENDING one. Leave something for them to ask about.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
I'm putting the link to this blog here because I keep losing track of it and it's a phenomenon and a half in a writer's life to see a book remembered exactly this way.
Monday, December 26, 2011
Thursday, December 8, 2011
House_1x01_- _Pilot.pdf (application/pdf Object)
I'm putting the link here because I've been watching House recently with that dissecting eye which produces my long, boring essays on writing craft.
Now if I had a parallel source of the ratings for each episode, and a spreadsheet of the changes made after ratings variances, maybe I could learn something about the decision making process that the decision makers themselves don't know.
Here's the parent website with links to a number of scripts posted online for free reading.
It has series "bibles" and as of Dec 2011, here's a list of recent additions:
- Hell on Wheels 1x01 - Pilot
- Breaking Bad 3x01 - No Mas
- American Horror Story 1x01 - Pilot
- Happy Endings 1x02 - The Quicksand Girlfriend
- Happy Endings 1x04 - Mein Coming Out
- Hidden Episode 1
- Merlin 4x03 - The Wicked Day
- The Office 2x19 - Michaels Birthday
- Outnumbered 4x05
- Torchwood 4x01 - Miracle Day episode 1
- Last Man Standing 1x01 - Pilot
- Man Up! 1x01 - Pilot
- Grimm 1x01 - Pilot
- Once Upon A Time 1x01 - Pilot
- Beauty and the Beast 1x19 - Everything is Everything
As writers working toward a career in writing, you should seriously consider the market potential of RADIO DRAMA delivered via the internet.
There is an ever-growing number of such outlets.
Audio-only writing instills a story-discipline that will serve you well in a film career. If you combine that with a day-job in journalism, you train for the fast-paced, demanding, tailored-to-order world of Film Production (Hollywood or not, time is money is the prevailing adage.)
Journalism makes you fast and accurate with your words, and Radio Drama writing gives you drill in organizing a story.
In addition to this, I'd suggest you read the following e-book:
Those are short-stories from magazines published during the RADIO DRAMA ERA. Besides being interesting stories, and by the creator of the character ZORRO (one of my favorites), who also wrote for film, the underlying story-structure and thematic material are precisely relevant to today's web-based radio-drama world.
Put all that together, you will have a long and lucrative career.
But don't think it's easy money. This stuff is very hard work unless you're born with enormous talent.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Take a good look at the following blog:
Twilight: Breaking Dawn. Why Do People Hate it So Much?
The author nails BREAKING DAWN and the whole Twilight thing both correctly and incorrectly.
From the very opening monologue it’s about some of the deepest things we have: what it takes to become an adult, and what falling in love can involve.
And it hits these concerns full centre, full power.
First of all it’s a neat dramatization of a Love dialectic. We get both versions. Classic romantic, an eternal truth (the vampires), and a more cynically deconstructed scientific notion of a gene-spreading imperative that deceives about its true nature (the imprinting of the werewolves).
Twilight asks How important is Love? How far would you go? Would you leave everything you value? Would you step into a dark unknown? Would you surrender to a far greater power? Would you dare to swap your soul for love of another? Would you? Would you really? And if you would, how incredible must the experience of that love be?
If you were a teenage girl wouldn’t you thrill to that idea?
Come on. Don’t be curmudgeonly. What’s wrong with making films for teenage girls? Don’t they deserve a bit of the magic too? Especially when it goes so deep into what makes us human.
Genuinely loved it. Can’t wait to see what happens next time.
Oh, and if you want to get into another animated debate here’s another post about Lord of the Rings wiping the floor with Harry Potter. There’s a pretty lively comments section…
The error here is the "teenage girl" limitation. Yes, the publishers and film-makers probably narrowed the focus to make it blatantly "teenage girlish" -- but no, that's missing an important point.
Like my Sime~Gen series, both Potter and Twilight are accessible to readers/viewers first in the pre-adolescent and adolescent stages of development. But human nature, the nature of the adult, is not to erase all trace of childhood and adolescence and become something utterly new and irrelevant in adulthood. "Adult" means the product of all experiences back to birth -- and maybe earlier! Maybe including prior incarnations, who knows?
So works such as Potter, Twilight, or Warhorse, "speak" to every human being at every age or stage of life because they have something to say about "who" you could have become had you made other choices, and they address the entire issue of whether you made an optimal choice and what you choose to do next.
The rejection of your "teenage girl within" (even if you're male) is a major issue, and may have something to do with the rejection of the Happily Ever After ending we've been discussing at length and depth on aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com in my Tuesday posts.
This labeling of TWILIGHT as "teenage girl" material smacks of the labeling of certain science fiction works as "fantasy" simply because they included themes arising from an exploration of human psychology -- examples are Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern (science fiction about a lost Earth colony) and Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels (science fiction about a lost Earth colony), Katherine Kurtz's Deryni novels, (science fiction about an alternate Earth).
Today C. J. Cherryh is still writing very successful novels in her Foreigner Series, but now that science fiction background is allowed to include that human dimension once forbidden.
So I expect that "teenage girl" dimension will be accepted as adult fare by general audiences just as the "fantasy" dimensions are becoming accepted today (even or especially on TV Series).
You know that this blog focuses on writing craftsmanship-- but keep in mind that this isn't the "old fashioned" or "trad publisher" type of writing.
The world is changing as much as it did with the deployment of the moveable type printing press. The writer's business model has collapsed, and is being rebuilt along new lines.
The search for a new publishing model is thrashing through new territory. Everyone who's ever considering going into "business" is searching for "talent" to "exploit".
You hear it on blogs everywhere -- "content" we need "content" -- what is that? WRITING TO BE EXPLOITED.
Writers need to "search" for material as frantically as business folk are searching for a biz model.
BREAKING DAWN and HARRY POTTER films -- the new Spielberg WARHORSE -- they're hitting huge markets with common-denominator material, "Primal" material such as Blake Snyder teaches you to exploit in SAVE THE CAT! Each of those films is a "Save The Cat!" example.
I found an interesting post on a new Facebook Group I joined (which I found via another blog which I found on the right margin of a LinkedIn page which I was on because of a comment that a LinkedIn writer had made on an update to my LinkedIn status ... whew! The comment was from a screenwriter, and the blog on LinkedIn was about screenwriting, which cited this facebook screenwriting group on LinkedIn .... that's why it's called social networking!)
This is by a script "reader" (who makes a first judgement about projects) who is objecting to the amateurish over-eagerness of some writers attaching pdf files of an entire script to a mere first-query letter.
As you know, I watch the "Indie" markets -- film and publishing -- for what is being done with the new tools of this new world. I'm aware of how much overflowing eagerness is driving young writers with a vision of what they could accomplish -- especially when these blockbuster films dangle vast sums of money before their eyes.
"I can do that, but I can do it "better"" they feel in every cell of their body. Many, maybe most, are correct about that. Nothing is being done to the fullest extent of the tools available (yet).
But when you have written the final scene of a story, you always feel it's the best thing that has been written ever -- (or sometimes the worst -- emotional "blow-off" is the state after finishing a draft).
The focus then shifts to either burying the thing in the backyard with a headstone, or trotting it out before the eyes of those who could get the film made, or the book published.
The "thebitterscriptreader" entry is about those writers who KNOW they've done something colossal, bigger than WARHORSE or POTTER, but either don't know what to do next, or don't know how to do it, or don't have the maturity to reign in their certainty and work through the next step.
What is that next step?
Well, this is depressing for some, but the next step is actually the FIRST step that should have been made on the project. That's to articulate the CONCEPT in one line, develop it to a pitch, a paragraph, a page, 5 pages, synopsis.
If you develope a project from concept via those baby steps instead of leaping directly into writing the wondrous script, you can then tweak the statements in concept and pitch and construct your query letter/email. And that query will indeed embody the essence of what you've written.
The reason people SEND that whole script when they should send only a query is that they don't know how to explain the driving essence, the true payload, the elegance, beauty and emotional PUNCH they have created in their script. They can't "explain" it because it isn't clear. It isn't clear because they wrote the project backwards, procedure wise.
How do I know this? Been there, done that, got my head handed to me good and proper. If you want the story, pick up a copy of UNTO ZEOR, FOREVER, or just peek "inside" on Amazon and read the introduction where I talk about how I learned. ( find Unto on Amazon here
Years and dozens of projects after you've learned to think "concept" first, then "market" then developing the pitch to take to market, then writing the story -- then you will be able to have an "idea" and just write it. When you come to an "unclear" section or a wrong-step in your procedure, you'll go write up the "outline" or pitch or back cover copy, re-focus and know the next scene.
Here's one important secret. The reason you want "thebitterscriptreader" to read your script is the reason you want to write that script -- which is the OPENING SCENE and FINAL SCENE connected by theme and illustrated by action and symbol. In other words, it's the theme explicated into concrete images.
Everything else in your script has to be pared away -- don't weep, use it in another project, but get it out of the way of this project and focus this project on that one thing that will make this "bitter" reader grab it out of the avalanche of half-baked projects sluicing down at him seeing $$$$ all over it.
Just remember, if you have to attach the script, you've made a major error in writing it.
Here is the blog post on this blog about how to create that cover letter, the concept, and all the way up to the pitch that can sell the project, script unseen!
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
That link goes to an article on the Science Fiction Writers of America website where it says the committee which placed Night Shade Books "on probation" for violating contracts with authors has now lifted the probation because all the issues have been properly dealt with.
This is a great example of why authors need to belong to an organization of authors that works diligently to protect rights. All authors, even those who do not belong to this or that organization, benefit from this behind the scenes work.
The SFWA workers are unpaid volunteers for the most part, though outside accountants and lawyers are often hired in these cases.
This kind of work never makes the headlines, but it is responsible for bringing good product to readers. If a writer doesn't get paid, she can't write the next book. It's a business, and publishers have to treat us as business runners.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
That link leads to an adventure in web-TV focused on science fiction. This is a NEWS SHOW format show, pretty much like a video of a radio show broadcast, but featuring guests, and news clips.
See how to subscribe free to Farpoint Media podcasts on iTunes
You have to consider this venture in conjunction with Glenn Beck's web-Tv venture GBTV http://web.gbtv.com/index.jsp?gclid=CK6Ks8yjjqsCFewaQgodSykvxA
Whatever you think of Beck's attitude and opinions, you have to hand it to his business sense. Books he backs consistently hit #1 best seller on the NYTimes list and on amazon.com
There's a business reason he's trying this web-TV basis, and he is not a ground breaker by nature. See this slice of SciFi TV venture and note what the Star Trek folks have been doing with webisodes.
If you're launching a screenwriting career, you need credentials in this kind of venue before it gets beyond your reach.
http://astore.amazon.com/simegen-20 -- for list of currently available novels
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Is an item on gender differences as a function of culture. This is just the kind of news item writers of fantasy must absorb and retool into worldbuilding.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Here's a blog entry on 10 "unrealistic" Romance Novel Plots.
Top Dating Sites » 10 Unrealistic but Common Romance Novel Storylines
My entries on aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com on Tuesdays are focused on the puzzle of why most people don't believe the HEA or Love Conquers All thesis of the Romance Genre.
There's much to discuss in this post, but it will reference many of the posts I've already done.
Monday, May 9, 2011
That headline leads to a blog post on Publisher's Weekly
about a 2005 publication called THE STORY which is a chronological retelling of The Bible.
Pastors and Churches picked this up and now it's generating more stories that are being published.
The popular writer teamed with church Pastors is stirring up the world.
I haven't read their THE STORY or dug deeply into this movement, but writers could learn something from it about how the new business model of publishing connects to existing communities or philosophical alliances.
There's a new social dynamic driving the entire "communications" component of life, all related to Social Networking.
A new writer just launching a career will not succeed at all without a thorough understanding of how all these new tools of communication link and inter-link.
Note Barak Obama won office by launching his campaign online, collecting money online. It probably worked because he was one of the first with the right skilled people to do that, and he had a message that resonated with the demographic that was involved in social networking.
The world has changed again, and yet again since then. Wednesday May 11, Newt Gingrich is to announce his online campaign for President via Facebook etc.
Tuesday May 10, 2011, my blog entry on http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com is about Mass Market writers providing their own (often best selling) titles for you via eBook publication - all formats.
What has all this to do with a group of Pastors supporting a chronological retelling of The Bible?
These are connecting trends that are re-enforcing themselves. The Internet shattered society as we know it. Now something new is forming, trying very much not to look too new.
THE SAME BUT DIFFERENT.
That's the Hollywood mantra for a reason. Think about that.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Is the kind of condescending review we would ordinarily expect for an SF Romance, and it's the attitude I've been dissecting and analyzing in http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com
I don't get HBO so it'll be a while until I see the TV version of George R. R. Martin's GAME OF THRONES, but I like Martin's writing (he's fun to do panels with, too).
Friday, March 25, 2011
Kindle Author: Kindle Author Interview: Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Friday, March 18, 2011
Sunday, March 13, 2011
I have mentioned Kimber An's first novel being published because she's one of the most dedicated writing students reading my Tuesday posts on Aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com -- here's the item.
Now her second publication is coming out, and it's publication date is my birthday, March 25th!
Here's the message I just got from Kimber An
Crushed Sugar, a prequel novella, by Kimber An will be released on March 25th. It is a short tale of a faint heart, a fair maiden, and a blood-sucking dead guy. Pop over to
http://www.facebook.com/l/a68cbJznbIxDOdZiWgMjHVl0R4Q/www.kimberan.com/aboutcrushedsugar to learn more!
Thanks again, Ladies! Couldn't have done it without you, especially Jacqueline, who taught me so much. If you haven't already, the rest of yous should pop over to her page.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
I've been writing long series of long posts on aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com about how we, as Science Fiction Romance writers, can bring Romance and its cross-sub-genres Paranormal and SF, into the high level of respect among the general public that we think it deserves.
This is a topic Science Fiction fans and writers spend a lot of time on.
Here is an article for you to ponder as you decide how to launch your own career.
One Genre to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them --
Remember bylines become associated with genre, so you may need several bylines in genres to make a living, and another one to gain prestige, if that's what you want. But if you do that, there will come a day when you have to pretend to disparage your genre books, or pretend they aren't yours.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Or just look at my name there http://klout.com/JLichtenberg (I made 57 once)
Klout.com is a "service" that rates "reach" (i.e. how important you are on the internet) via twitter responses and it accesses some other social network activity metrics too.
The number klout.com comes up with is used by search engines to suggest you as the answer to various questions, (or at least it was last I looked). There's a whole lot of reasons why your klout number is the key to selling books.
There are probably other such services out there -- but your Klout number comes up on hootsuite.com window when you click on the @person name on a tweet.
It's all about "who" you are to "the world" -- as writers, we gather followings. I think most of us have READERS following us, and "readers" as a group tend to be more "influential" in the world -- so if we team up and RT each other, expanding the "klout" "reach" we each have, we can become the answer to search engine questions, and sell books.
Roundabout, but it's not much effort to put an @person in a tweet if you use hootsuite -- it auto-completes the @ if you remember the first couple letters.
Twitter itself is not much use for anything. To "work it" you need "tools" -- Tweetdeck and Hootsuite seem to be emerging as top favorites of those serious about mastering social networking. (try free versions)
Jacqueline Lichtenberg (freebie enthusiast)
Sunday, February 20, 2011
I belong to a group of mass market writers who have posted their own backlist as e-books. I've posted my award winning Dushau trilogy to Kindle, but Wildside's Borgo imprint is doing my Sime~Gen novels, and already has Molt Brother and City of a Million legends on Kindle and other e-book formats.
Over 70 authors belong to this Group - called Backlist Ebooks. Here are a few who have blogs you can learn from.
Gerald M Weinberg - http://secretsofconsulting.blogspot.com/ (http://www.geraldmweinberg.com )
Doranna Durgin, http://doranna.net/wordplay
Marsha Canham, http://marshacanham.wordpress.com
Jacqueline Lichtenberg, http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com
(where I post on Tuesdays)
Jeffrey A. Carver, http://starrigger.blogspot.com/
Jill Metcalf, http://jillmetcalf.wordpress.com
Terry Odell, http://terryodell.blogspot.com
Maryann Miller, http://its-not-all-gravy.blogspot.com/
Patricia Rice, http://patriciarice.blogspot.com
Pati Nagle, http://patinagle.livejournal.com/
Lorraine Bartlett or Lorna Barrett, http://www.LornaBarrett.blogspot.com
Karen Ranney, http://karenranney.wordpress.com
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com (slowly being updated with NEW Sime~Gen releases)
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
This blog entry by Nancy Holzner, I found on a twitter post Retweet by Nancy Holzner.
On a #scifichat on twitter I got into convo about "what is genre" (which I think is changing) so this is relevant to a blog I have to write on genre definitions (thought I was done with that, but there's more to say).
So on http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com I'll probably discuss this post. Meanwhile read it, read Holzner's novels (good reads all) and really think about what's actually happening here.
I suspect those discussing "genre" are not exactly phrasing the questions in a way that can produce answers that writers (inside the writer's own mind) can use to sort their creative material into forms that fit marketing channels.
So at some time soon, I'll have to revisit the "what is science fiction" topic which we all thought was totally finished decades ago.
Science Fiction is "what I like to read" -- and that is the only definition SF fans ever agreed on!
But that's not a definition writers, editors, publishers or producers can use to generate what you like.
If you're trying to write a commercially existing genre, or trying to invent a totally new one -- and be a "market maker" -- some original thinking is in order for 2011.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Save the Cat!® Kristan Higgins is a USA Today bestselling author and two-time winner of the Romance Writers of America RITA Award… the Oscar® of the romance industry. She is the author of six romantic comedies, is under contract for three more, and has been called “one of the most honest and creative voices in contemporary romance.”
This is a blog to follow, but this Guest Blogger is someone to pay attention to.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
KimberAn comments regularly on the posts I do at aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com mostly on fiction craft.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
I found this via twitter.
ATTENTION WRITERS - here's how to sell a TV Series if you can understand what this article means.
This article is a very elegant, BRIEF, analysis with bullet points of the formula for THE FLINTSTONES episodes and the effect that formula may have had on a generation at a susceptible age. OK, it comes wrapped in opinion, but if you unwrap it, you'll find what you need to build your own cultural icon.
There are a lot of comments to think about, too. The whole issue of the cause-effect relationship between fiction and "real life" has not been completely defined and described yet. Here's your chance to show-don't-tell what that relationship is to you, and what it means to your generation.
HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT: Create a set of 8 bullet points illustrating the philosophical issues your show tackles in each episode. Note that 7th-minute formula "beat" -- lay out your show's BEATS.
This article discusses the FLINTSTONES that was a TV cartoon -- today's market is for animated webcast cartoons cut into smaller segments. Create one using this breakdown of FLINTSTONES.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
That is a link to a blog entry explaining a group that C. J. Cherryh pointed me to on facebook.
Writers with out of print backlist titles can get a publisher to do the ebook (as I've done with Wildside Press for Molt Brother and City of a Million Legends) -- or they can put the ebook version on Kindle or smashwords or several other places and get a larger percentage as I've done with Dushau, Farfetch, Outreach and the two Daniel R. Kerns titles in omnibus HERO AND BORDER DISPUTE.
I've been invited to write a blog entry for http://madgeniusclub.blogspot.com/ and I'll talk a little about the ebook revolution and this group.
This is all about the business of writing.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
This and the linked blog posts within it should be read and carefully absorbed by anyone who doesn't know the publishing industry from the inside and wishes to become a "published" author.
Keep in mind "publishers" really are "investors" just like "producers" who make films, and the writer is the stock they invest in.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Is there anyone here who reads or buys from scribd.com?
There Are No Rules - How One Author Is Using Scribd to Find Readers
Is a blog entry mentioning my 7 part series on WHAT EXACTLY IS EDITING which culminates in how to decide if you are an editor or a writer (not as obvious as it sounds).
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com (current Kindle and fictionwise novels)
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
That's an older post that goes with the two recent posts I've done on aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com on the way a writer's imagination can fail and what to do about it.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
I've been talking about that a lot on http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com but here's a new twist or wrinkle.
goodreads.com gathers readers who talk to each other about good books - and they form Groups specializing in various genres.
Authors participate as well, talking not just to their own readers but readers of other authors and other genres. But more than that, they listen to readers. They're readers themselves or likely wouldn't spend much time on goodreads.com
There are several social networks specializing in book readers, including Amazon's own communities. This is happening worldwide - readers uniting, leaving traditional publishers somewhat bewildered.
The online fan fiction networks are likewise growing. See fanfiction.net but prepare to be mind-boggled. These are writers in training building the followings that publishers are beginning to require as a pre-requisite to reading a manuscript.
Out of this fermenting stew of readers and writers is rising a body of work that is breaking new ground and I think changing the publishing landscape.
I found these 2 Lists on Amazon with a real grab-bag of different titles, and even see a couple I want to review.
Breakout Books by Independently-Published Authors
Rise of the Indie Author | Standout Self-Published Novels
These are authors who are accessible, participate in goodreads.com and really listen to readers. Read their novels and tell them what you would want to see next - and you may find they are more responsive than anyone working in mass market.
In fact, some of these authors are working in mass market -- and are responsive to readers anyway.
Expand your horizons.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
And it came right before the previous post here on Editing Circle:
which was originally posted on aliendjinnromances as well
These two posts on theme should be studied together.
Writing teachers, and professionals who read a beginner's manuscript, will always center in on the beginner's failure to frame the conflict, failure to start the story in the right place, failure to plot through to the natural ending, failure to choose the correct main point of view or protagonist, failure in worldbuilding, failure in information-feed (telling not showing; telling at the wrong time in the story), failure to develop characters (very seldom mentioning failure to develop Relationship unless it's a Romance), and failure to use dialogue correctly. If the teacher can't figure out what's wrong, they'll center on spelling, punctuation and grammar, paragraph structure and page layout.
I have taught many writing workshops in tandem with many very famous writers, and many editors who really know what they're doing. I've never seen anyone explain to a beginner why any or all of the above failures happen or what to do to train the imagination away from stampeding the writer into those failures.
The explanation and cure is very simple. The list of failures above is not a list of failures. It's one (and only one) total failure.
And with that, the theme-art integration issue.
Once those two are mastered, it becomes very easy, inevitable, that a natural progression to theme-character integration, theme-plot integration, theme-story integration, and theme-dialogue integration will just happen inside the writer's subconscious. Given all that smooth integration, one quick lesson in scene structure,
and another in stringing scenes together (avoiding walking characters through intermediate activities that don't advance the plot -- I just read a mass market paperback I'm not going to review because it had that flaw all the way through, but I haven't yet written a post on detecting that flaw in your first draft), and if you have those skills, then plot-story integration just falls into place.
If you can write a literate sentence and structure a lean plot with vivid characters learning life's thematic lessons, you will start to sell, and the marketplace will teach you everything else.
There is no "right way" to write, no secret method that all professionals use to accomplish all this complicated abstract stuff all at the same time.
But there is a way to train your subconscious to do it for you, and that way works for most people, just as driving instruction works for most people (at least in terms of controlling an automobile, if not in terms of choosing where to go and what to do when you get there).
The ugly truth is that a lot of people are just born knowing and doing these fancy, abstract sounding things inside their minds. They have talent. The rest of us have to suffer through training and practice.
See KimberAn's comment on How To Learn Theme As Art
She's just noticed the results of this training. Note the date on my original posting - 2008. KimberAn has been working through my writing lessons for more than 2 years, and is reaping rewards as her subconscious has become trained to sort a story out into components before synthesizing it into commercial format and presenting it to her as a writing job.
She had about 85% of this craft down pat before she started reading my posts, but as individual, separate things. Now she's discovered that somewhere back there she made a major breakthrough into the realm of the commercial fiction craft, and her subconscious is synthesizing and sorting for her. This will eliminate a lot of rewriting!
Now study what helped her.
Novels, especially long ones, can draw a reader into complexities, depths, abstractions, theory of life, the universe, and everything -- with a variegated texture impossible to duplicate in a motion picture. Novels can argue for and against several propositions at the same time. Films -- because of the nature of how the human brain assimilates information -- simply can't do that.
In addition, today's viewers are conditioned to bits that can be sandwiched between commercials. Many young people who do not read printed text at all prefer to spend their entertainment hours watching short videos on YouTube or comic/animation websites, stories broken into webisodes.
At theaters, the management offers popcorn refills you can go get in the middle of the movie.
People can't sit still for more than an hour these days. And most 20-somethings are so conditioned to the 40 minute class or TV show that they see nothing wrong with their disability. They think it's normal to be unable to sit still for three hours. They think it an unusual imposition, an irrational demand, to pay attention to one thing and one thing only for three hours. (hence many workplaces now allow texting and surfing while at the work-desk)
And the same is true of reading novels. Though some fantasy genres are able to sell very thick novels (about 600 printed pages), most books have become shorter. And if they're not shorter, they are more "thinly" plotted, structured like movies.
People live their lives and imbibe their fiction in sound-bytes and 5-minute YouTube videos. To understand, comprehend, and grok a really complex theme, the reader must be able to remember what happened on page 20 by the time they get to page 620. Modern life does not foster this ability.
Books on how to write novels don't even explain how to construct a long, long novel that isn't over-written, fat, wandering, shapeless and boring with a sag in the middle.
So I was delighted when a student writer asked me (and then reminded me) to explain the structure of very long novels, with emphasis on how to structure a novel for 3 viewpoint characters, even if they're all protagonists.
It's really very simple to do, but infernally difficult to explain.
In order to understand how to craft such a long novel that doesn't sag in the middle or peter out at the end, you have to have a firm grasp of the basics of structure that I've discussed previously.
Protagonist, antagonist, conflict, beginning, middle, end, and THEME.
And the most important structural component in a long piece is THEME.
A short story (under 7,500 words) can have one theme, and only ONE. It must be something very clear, starkly simple, mostly concrete -- something you can say in 3 to 10 words. "Life is Just A Bowl Of Cherries" -- "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished" -- a bumper sticker.
A novelette (to 17,500 words) can have a DOMINANT THEME and 1 SUB-THEME (and only one).
A novella (17,500 to 40,000) can have a DOMINANT THEME and 2 SUB-THEMES (only 2).
A NOVEL (40,000 words and up) (up to any length) can (but doesn't have to have) a DOMINANT THEME and UP TO 3 SUB-THEMES and no more than 3.
I did not make this up. I learned it in the Famous Writer's Course (a correspondence course on how to write fiction which I completed in the 1970's).
I've been a professional reviewer since the 1980's and a paid reviewer for The Monthly Aspectarian since 1993. I've read a lot of books in addition to the books I read just because I want to. I have NEVER seen this above paradigm of thematic relationships successfully violated.
If you want to see how it works in practice, read the early draft of my Sime~Gen Novel, UNTO ZEOR, FOREVER which is titled SIME SURGEON and posted for free reading at
http://www.simegen.com/sgfandom/rimonslibrary/surgeon/SURGEON1.html Then read UNTO ZEOR, FOREVER (which had a HC edition and a paperback edition so you might find a copy somewhere).
The difference is the thematic structure paradigm strictly enforced, rigidly applied -- because my editor at Doubleday insisted or no publication. Her favorite mantra "It isn't clear" -- comes from how she searches for that thematic structure and the inner relationships between the sub-themes. But she, like most writers, does that subconsciously.
Marion Zimmer Bradley was a seat-of-the-pants writer who let her subconscious work out of conscious sight. Don't ask a centipede how it walks! If you don't naturally think in terms of THEME on first draft, don't try to "learn" how.
It is not a thing that can be learned. However, if you do work thematically naturally, but are untrained in how to do it -- you can learn to perfect your performance. (Remember: Writing Is A Performing Art).
It doesn't matter how you get to the final, finished product -- only that you do get there. So if you must write a very long novel and don't work with theme in your outline stage -- you will just have to rewrite.
A 2 hour movie uses up the material that would fit somewhere between a short story and a novelette. At the very most about 20,000 words of narrative text makes a 110 page film script.
A long running TV series like the 20 years of GUNSMOKE would be a series of novels. A miniseries like THE WHEELERS, can be a series of big fat novels shrunk to the small screen.
So if you're structuring a novel that you hope one day will become a motion picture, try to stay with one, single, monotone, theme.
If you can't construct a novel that will come out to about 40,000 to 80,000 words with one single dominant and clear theme -- then you really won't be able to do the longer forms.
If you attempt the longer form without the primary skills, you will end up with furious, emergency rewrites to order from an editor who has no idea what you really meant -- because you didn't make it clear.
If you write using THEME to structure your work, you will be able (with practice) to write and sell a second or at most 3rd draft of a 160,000 word novel.
If your subconscious is well trained in doing this thematic work, you may be able to do that without actually knowing that you're doing it. Then only minor rewriting will be necessary.
Whether you do it consciously or unconsciously, your finished product must fit this paradigm in order to succeed as a story. If it doesn't fit -- you might sell it; you might get it through editorial with minor hassles; you might even excite a lot of readers. But you won't find your novel still on the shelves years later, and you won't have a drawer full of respectable reviews that you are proud of.
In order for bloggers to talk about your book -- they need to have an idea of what your book says. And what your book says is your THEME.
If you can't find the themes of the novels you read, you need to practice until you can. Some people learn by example, so here's an example from my blog last week.
Michelle West's THE HIDDEN CITY -- is a tour de force of thematic clarity and complexity.
As should be the case, the title is the theme. This novel is about the hiddenness of entire communities.
The novel follows two points of view until well into the story where the universe has been clearly laid out -- then bits of other points of view are woven cleanly into the text.
There are 2 major point of view characters, protagonists both. But they have a conflict between them -- that resides HIDDEN within each. Their relationship gradually reveals what is hidden inside them as they gather other people about themselves -- each of which has something hidden inside that they must learn about. The reader learns what is hidden, and some of it is revealed to the character who is hiding it -- but not to the other character.
These are not "secrets" -- these are things that exist but the character is not aware of their own subconscious issues until events and relationships reveal them later in the book. They can then become "secrets" -- a thing which is known but deliberately withheld.
The setting is a city built over the remains of an ancient ruin -- which only the protagonists know how to enter. Below their normal reality lies a HIDDEN CITY.
So the physical setting explicates the psychological theme.
Then the antagonists as they are introduced through offstage action (hidden from view at first) turn out to be something very different from what they appear to be on the surface.
When the protags and antags finally come to a gigantic confrontation, much is revealed -- only to lead to more questions about what may yet be hidden from view.
One point of view character is a magic-user -- and the "hidden" and also "secret" nature of magical power is thematically discussed through her.
So the setting is HIDDEN, the characters have inner traits hidden from themselves, they hide things from each other, and the final action is triggered by lessons in impersonating those above or beneath your station in life and thus finding things within yourself that have been hidden from your consciousness.
Everything in the novel relates to that theme of HIDDEN.
HIDDEN is the DOMINANT THEME and it pervades everything in the novel, every description (even the various places they live).
There are 3 sub-themes. A sub-theme is another statement about the broader, more abstract or philosophical Dominant Theme.
The dominant theme DOMINATES the other 3. These are not 4 separate statements about the nature of reality. You can't find a set of 4 themes to write a novel about by randomly choosing philosophical statements from a book of quotations, your personal cardfile of story ideas, or just by picking a thought that occurs to you as "neat!"
These are an AXIOM and 3 POSTULATES derived from that axiom and proved by it. Think Boolean Algebra. Think Tetragrammaton. PROVED by it -- shown not told. Dramatized truths.
One of the sub-themes in THE HIDDEN CITY is virginity. One character is a sexual virgin and a virgin in the sense that she's never killed a human being. Another character is neither kind of virgin -- BUT is a virgin in the sense that she has never had a family that cared about her.
The process of losing virginity is the process of REVEALING the adult hidden within the child. It was there all the time; you just weren't aware of it.
Two of the characters are so traumatized that they don't speak aloud -- so they invent a secret language of gestures. That serves a vital plot point at the ending. Nothing that is established is there just to explicate the theme -- everything must figure in the plot or it gets cut. Ruthlessly cut. (save it for the website) This very long novel is actually sparsely written -- there is not one word that should be cut. There is no decoration. Nothing is there simply because it's interesting. Every word is functional.
One of the characters makes a living (and gets embroiled in all this trouble) by exhuming archaeological treasures from the city beneath the city, treasures the antagonists are after for magical reasons. Reasons of POWER.
They are all abandoned by family, bereft, orphans all in different ways. Alone, they forge bonds of family among themselves and become a community in search of safety in the shadows.
The Dominant Theme pervades, but each sub-theme illuminates or discusses the dominant theme.
So we have
1. HIDDEN COMMUNITIES
a) virginity hides the adult
b) archeology reveals the past
c) languages conceal and reveal magical power
And it's all done in show don't tell.
That's why I spent all of last week's blog entry raving about this book. I had picked up and discarded 3 huge novels and was feeling as though nothing good was being published this month -- and then I found this and couldn't put it down.
If you can't tell what a book is about by the bottom of page 1, it is not going to be a good book. I know. I've read a lot of books, turning pages and hoping.
What the story is about is the THEME. In a film, you should know within 2 minutes what the film is about -- and by the 5th minute (page 5 of the script) the theme will be stated, even if obliquely.
The first theme you introduce in a novel and lay out in dramatized detail is your DOMINANT THEME. Don't touch the sub-themes until chapter 2 or even chapter 5. Make sure your dominant theme is clear before you start discussing it.
If a reader doesn't want to read a book about your dominant theme's philosophy, you don't WANT them paying money for your book because they'll only go on amazon and write a scathing review dissing your book! Don't sucker the reader. Respect the reader. Tell them what you're talking about right on page one (but not in so many words).
Take the first line of Marion Zimmer Bradley's first version THE SWORD OF ALDONES. We were outstripping the night. The whole novel is about running away from metaphorical "darkness" -- evil, power let loose, subconscious guilts for letting power loose. The key confrontation that turns Regis Hastur's hair white is at NIGHT.
Take the opening image from her runner up for the Hugo, THE HASTUR GIFT. The riding party crests a ridge and looks down on the valley of Thendara -- the Comyn Tower across the town from the Terranan Tower at the space port. The book's main conflict is Magic vs. Technology and the THEME is the far reaching consequences of the knowledge of both (i.e. LOOKING DOWN -- seeing the pattern from above). Those who know must lead, even where none follow.
So, how do you take an idea that's been throbbing in your mind for years and turn it into a large novel that has this structure?
First you practice writing the single 75,000 word novel until you can do it in your sleep -- protagonist, antagonist, conflict, beginning, middle, end, THEME.
The large novel with 3 protagonists is just 3 of these novels, and it's not quite 3 times as long because you don't have to repeat the background.
Each of the sub-themes is the story of ONE protagonist - antagonist pair.
And they are bound together by the dominant theme, which is the one thing you really want to say about "life, the universe, and everything" -- with this novel. Each protagonist's story explicates and illuminates that one dominant theme.
So you have a "Star" and 3 "Co-Stars" or Supporting Actors. The co-stars must have lives, backstories, personal quirks and "buttons," internal conflicts and enemies which show-don't-tell the arguments for and against the thesis that forms the Dominant Theme.
A long, complex novel is an argument about the topic -- showing all sides of the issue, from different points of view. And eventually, the writer must "end" the novel with a conclusion to the argument -- but with a long novel where all sides of the issue have been thoroughly illustrated and discussed, the ending can be equivocal from the reader's point of view -- but the characters must come to a conclusion they intend to live with. In a sequel, that conclusion can be blasted to pieces -- but for the reader to be satisfied with the novel, the main characters must find some kind of peace on the main issue.
Take Classic Star Trek. It's classic because it's structured exactly this way with a Dominant Theme "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and two prominent sub-themes "Logic demands curiosity" and "Emotional health demands security".
Kirk - "Follow me!" (into the unknown for the sheer fun of it)
Spock - "Unknown, Captain" (therefore something to be pursued, solved, discovered)
McCoy - "I don't want my molecules scrambled - " (exploration isn't worth the risk)
Kirk, Spock and McCoy are 3 protagonists. Scotty, Uhura, Chekov, etc are SUPPORTING characters.
Now "who" are Kirk, Spock and McCoy? I learned from Gene Roddenberry while interviewing him for Star Trek Lives! that he always saw Kirk, Spock and McCoy as 3 parts of himself.
In other words, the 3 added up to ONE PERSON -- one whole, fully dimensional person.
So how do you write a novel with 3 protagonists so that the 3 themes are all sub-themes of the same dominant theme?
You start with ONE character -- one fully dimensional, whole, complete personality. Then you factor that personality into 3 parts.
Roddenberry used to say that Kirk, Spock and McCoy were himself in different moods.
So try that. Take one character you fully understand and plunge him/her into different moods. Or give them different backgrounds, upbringing, advantages and disadvantages - the same basic person actualized and realized by different challenges. Or in different incarnations.
The trick here is to do the exact opposite of what a reader does.
The READER sees 3 different characters and plunges into the story to find out how they RELATE to each other -- how they are parts of a whole.
The WRITER does the opposite. The writer sees 1 single whole character and plunges into the story to discover how that character manifests as 2 or 3 people.
Remember the protagonist and antagonist are reflections of each other. They are bound together into conflict by a single theme.
So each of the 3 protagonists has a theme (sub-theme to the whole novel) and a personal antagonist bound in a conflict which must be resolved by the end of the novel.
The first conflict to be introduced must be the last conflict to be resolved. See Marion Zimmer Bradley's CATCH TRAP. I watched her struggle with that ending word by word, event by event. It taught me how that structure must go, and how to take an imagined story and craft it into the structure. It means changing things that to you, as a writer, are so real that you scream, "No, that's not the way it HAPPENED!" But that's what it takes to craft a great novel which is a work of art, a work of a Performing Art.
In a work of art, every single element is a "reflection" of other elements.
You take one whole thing and display it in different versions, different lighting, different moods, different circumstances. To "perform" a long novel, the one thing you take (your raw material, your clay or paint or sounds) is your Dominant Theme.
Theme works this way in music too. Study how musical chords are constructed. Long novels are constructed just exactly that way -- around a group of themes that are related philosophically like the notes in a chord played in a key.
Ever heard of "keynote" -- and by extension "keynote address?" Think of your long novel as a convention and your dominant theme as the keynote address. Or the typical ending of a speech, "On that note, let me present to you -- "
Themes get their unity by starting out as one thing -- and then being factored into a series of related things. Poetry works the same way as a long novel -- no matter how long or short the poem, all the parts are about that one single idea, concept, notion.
It is that underlying unity of theme -- the ultimate pervasiveness of the dominant theme -- that gives your built universe verisimilitude -- that makes it seem real, possible, plausible enough for people to walk into it with you.
And in a longer work, what keeps the reader picking the book up every night rather than watching TV, is the precise relationship between the Dominant Theme and the Sub-themes -- how they argue the point of whether the thematic statement is true or not -- how the sub-themes prove the point (not whether they prove the dominant theme's point, because they must prove it, but HOW it happens!).
That's where the kind of suspense comes from that lasts after the book is put down -- and a longer work has to be constructed to be put down. Everyone has to pee sometime!
The reader wants to know HOW these characters will come to understand the truth of the dominant theme, while being reassured that they will come to that understanding. If the characters don't come to understand it - the reader will be disappointed. Failing to produce that understanding is the writer's cop-out, not a surprising "twist."
Having stated your dominant theme at the opening, drawn a clear picture, then introduced the sub-themes to argue, challenge and ultimately illuminate and support the dominant theme, you must (at the resolution of the conflict; as near the climax as possible) make it clear that the characters finally understand that Grand Truth represented by the dominant theme.
And you're taking a big chance when you do this. Half the readership will disagree with your idea of Grand Truth, Transcendental Truth, Self-Evident Truth. And they won't want to read your book because it's drivel.
The trick is to make your drivel so crystal clear, your statement of the nature of reality so penetrating and powerful, that it will be fun for your detractors to read so they can argue against your point.
In order to get people arguing against your point, you must MAKE YOUR POINT -- clearly. And that means you must use this thematic structure.
Once you get them arguing, though, your name will be all over the bloggosphere and amazon won't be able to keep your novel in stock.
You have to goose people into arguing the truth which is your Dominant Theme's statement.
I've given you two examples, THE HIDDEN CITY and STAR TREK. OK, let's do an exercise because you have to practice this to get it. But as I said, it's really easy to do if you've learned all the previous techniques we've discussed and have explored enough different philosophies to have something to say.
So let's create a dominant theme and 3 sub-themes.
Try this one:
THE GAVEL FALLS
c) Ceremony, Formality
Take that and create 3 or 4 characters to illustrate the arguments.
a) Deadlines -- the character is a college student whose HS teachers always gave him extensions when he missed the deadline for an assignment. Now he's editor of the college newspaper (brilliant guy - think Barak Obama with time-management issues). It doesn't come out on time. The students impeach him.
b) Decisions: The College Dean advisor to the Newspaper must decide what to do about this kid who doesn't beleive in deadlines but is a brilliant newspaper editor.
c) Graduation -- The Valedictorian who wins his/her position over the Newspaper Editor. Maybe this is the Student Body President -- or a Football Star. The Newspaper Editor doesn't get his diploma at the graduation but the character who understands formality and ceremony does - and lands a great job, too.
OK, that was a quick, off the cuff exercise. If I were really going to write this theme set, it wouldn't be a college campus story.
Here's what to do to teach yourself to do this.
1) do this much of an outline (a, b, c, above) for 5 different stories, different settings, that could be titled THE GAVEL FALLS. Extend a, b, and c to be complete thematic statements such as -- "deadlines are for dodos" -- "decisions should always be hedged, CYA" -- "Ceremony doesn't count" Use your own variants -- push your imagination to find off-the-wall statements about these subjects.
2) create 5 more theme-sets and run the same exercise for each of the 5.
You can quit as soon as it becomes so easy, it's boring.
The drill is the point here, not "learning" but "practice." The better you condition your subconscious to think in theme-sets like this, the easier it will be when you sit down to write a long novel. Your subconscious will do all this work for you before telling you that you have an idea for a long novel.
Just remember a long novel is not a movie. To make it into one, a screenwriter will choose one of the sub-themes, make it dominant, then change it to be a statement the chosen audience for the movie will either agree with or violently disagree with. This could become the inverse of your own personal philosophy of life. (note what happened to Ursula LeGuin when Earthsea was made into a TV miniseries). When the theme changes, the characters change characteristics.