Sunday, September 23, 2012

Survey of the Film Market and Industry

The novel form, the video-game form, and the film or movie form of story telling are all on a convergent path of evolution.

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.  

Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Graphic Novel Press Release To Study


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 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                         


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

Jodi Rosoff, Associate Director of Publicity

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

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
---------END QUOTE--------------

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New Review Columns & Novel Reprints


My Monthly Aspectarian Review column now has a list of books to be reviewed through November 2012.

The columns available to read on 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:


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 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"

That is: 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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.

alien romances: Worldbuilding with Fire And Ice Part 4: Storms of ...: Here's a post with a list of prior Worldbuilding posts. ...

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:

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Information | SD Global | Panasonic Global

Today's cameras use memory cards and the technology for storing large pictures is increasing.  This is a type of card that can work well with video recording (even on a "still" point and shoot you have a limited video ability) for capturing those "Aha!" story-idea moments.  There's drama everywhere you look, everywhere you go -- if you can only see it and capture it.

Information | SD Global | Panasonic Global

Friday, April 27, 2012

Save the Cat!® » Blog Archive » The Hunger Games Book/Movie Beat Sheet Comparison

The SAVE THE CAT! screenplay writing system I've been touting all over the web is nowhere more powerful than in analyzing and comparing both the popular novel and the film made from it.

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.

Save the Cat!® » Blog Archive » The Hunger Games Book/Movie Beat Sheet Comparison

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Zauberspiegel - das Online-Fanzine - ... Jacqueline Lichtenberg on Sime~Gen, vampires in SF garment and German editions

Zauberspiegel - das Online-Fanzine - ... Jacqueline Lichtenberg on Sime~Gen, vampires in SF garment and German editions: Zauberspiegel:

Here's part 2 of an interview I did with a German online fanzine.  They are looking for more writers to interview.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Election procedures as source of fiction

mhfm1's Channel - YouTube  

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.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Newsweek Magazine

Search for the article Buff Your Brain -- 3 pages of really interesting summary of 2011 advances in how to keep your brain working and improving your IQ.

Content Section
In Newsweek Magazine

Buff Your Brain

(Page 3 of 3)

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.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

ScreenwritingU Inks New Deal with Million-Dollar Screenwriter - Yahoo! News

ScreenwritingU has become THE most "serious" pathway to getting a script produced. You must pay attention to this if you want to write novels that CAN be produced as screenplays. There are a thousand tricks to this trade, and this fellow Croasmun knows most all of them. (OK, I'm prejudiced because I took the ProSeries course they offer.) Here below is their newest press release:


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.

----------END QUOTE------

You can follow them on Facebook:

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mashup of Art and Business (Part 2): A guest post by Jaqueline Lichtenberg « Madison Woods

Here is a link to Part 2 of the Guest Blog I did for Madison Woods -- with the story behind the story of how the Sime~Gen phenomenon grew out of a "pitch" to a famous editor.

Mashup of Art and Business (Part 2): A guest post by Jaqueline Lichtenberg « Madison Woods

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Guest Post on Pitching


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

A lesson on SHOW DON'T TELL

I picked up this "share" from +Jack Tar who should get some credit for a good choice of "sharing." It's a very professional video made from a really top notch professional script by someone who nailed "show don't tell" like an Olympic Gymnast nails a landing. If you are a writer, you must analyze this video to it's very foundation. I score it a 4.0 (all writers need that pair of glasses!)

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. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

The Education of a Romance Hero

Officially,  the 2005 film titled SAHARA is described thusly:
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. 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

Crafting The Query Letter

On Google+ I've been in a discussion of how to cold-query an Agent when you have no sales record behind you -- and of course you can't sell fiction these days unless you have an agent, but you can't get an agent if you have no sales.

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 ..." -- always remember you are opening a conversation, not ENDING one. Leave something for them to ask about.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg