Wow. That’s the only word I can come up with to describe the London Screenwriter’s Festival. It was so amazing to meet so many UK friends of mine on Facebook, Twitter, etc. and to see colleagues I haven’t seen in some time.
The Great British Pitch Fest was insanely well organized – as ALWAYS and it was so great to give Signe and Bob big hugs! Lucy V. Hay (Bang2Write) is the charming powerhouse I imagined she was, and of course Chris Jones, the emcee, the organizer, the Wiz behind the curtain is an extraordinary man! I don’t have to tell those of you who attended what a great event it was – and if you didn’t attend but are considering it for next year, put it on your calendar NOW. It is an event not to be missed!
I taught two classes – one was an appetizer, an amuse bouche, for the other. The first class was entitled You Are the Hero of the Journey and the upshot of that class was the importance – the primacy, really – of the depth of your personal experiences in life and how that translates to writing three dimensional characters. We talked about the transformative arc of characters and of our own transformative moments in life. We spoke of the “dark night of the soul” and how the accompanying feelings of despair actually fuel us toward hope and change. We talked about and listed our ideal traits and qualities: trust, love, peace, confidence, generosity, courage and how our characters will embody those ideals after their transformation. We also talked about traits and qualities that we fear or detest: cowardice, avarice, greed, betrayal, violence – and how these negative qualities fuel the beginning of the character’s arc. We talked about pivotal moments in our lives and how reaching the lowest lows allows us insight, empathy and depth.
Writers are observers; we more than watch the wheels go round, and the machinations of others, but we identify with and feel that pain. Writing is very often fueled by our need to understand our lives and those of others. To find our place in this heaving mass of humanity we are all indispensable parts of. It is one thing to learn about screenwriting in an academic or intellectual way but it is quite another to draw upon our own experiences to write “not about ME but about WE”. It is the courage to face our lowest lows and work toward our highest ideals that gives us insights and emotional truths in our writing.
In the following class, Structure and Character: Twins Separated at Birth, we went into much more depth and really focused on character general and specific wants, inner needs, active flaws and creating an adventure that services a transformative arc. We talked about the difference between real humans (us) and our characters. We try to feel better – we cope, we try yoga, we take long walks, we talk with friends, we cultivate and awareness of our foibles and patterns. Characters do NOT. Characters are almost willfully unaware of their flaws and foibles. it is our job as writers to not go so easy on them but rather to write characters that are forced to change through circumstances that they themselves have mucked up. I passed out some fun worksheets and took a lot of questions. My only regret is that this is a class I usually teach over two full days and we only had one hour. But it was an hour of power and if you were in the classes and did not get a worksheet, please email me and I’m happy to send! You can find my email contact information under About/Contact on the home page, above.
Thank you Gail Hackston, Chris Jones, Michelle Goode, Lucy Hay, Andrea Mann, Teenie Russell and so many others for making me feel so welcome. Thank you to the hundreds of students who packed both classes for your genuine enthusiasm and for your willingness to fight the good fight and write from the depths of your heart and soul. Every time you face a blank page, you commit an act of courage.
For those delegates interested in working with me personally, I would like to extend a 15% discount on any of my services, from now until December 15th. Please email me for details.