Observation Thursday

A little side note today. I use Google Keep on my phone to keep hold of random observations I make when I’m out and about. It’s important to get into the habit of SEE! RECORD! with an observation. Don’t trust your memory. Memory is unreliable and that observation is going to fade and morph over time. Sure, it might morph into something better. But nine times out of ten, that initial point of contact is the best moment.

I went looking for an observation today in my Google Keep and this one just jumped out at me. Mostly because I have no idea of context. This is a perfect example of how things fade. Usually I write down where I am and if I have time what’s going on. This one is just a sentence. Maybe I over heard it. Hard to think of the context of this particular sentence. But either way have fun with it!

Observation Thursday

What the What?

When: Who knows?

Observation:  “Shut up and squeeze my tea bag.” That’s it. That’s all.

What you can do with it:  Well putting aside why someone would say this to another person, start with character and scenario. Who is saying this sentence, where are they, and who are they saying it too. That alone should have you writing for days. Who would say this? Who’s squeezing their tea bag? (I’m a bag dipper myself)

Happy writing!

 

Do you need to join Overdoers Anonymous?

Untitled design (5)

Do you do too much?  Does it affect your writing?

I, Lindsay Price, am an overdoer. In the month of July I was doing the following things:

  • Worked on a play that is going into production this upcoming season.
  • Adjudicated a one-act festival.
  • Led a workshop for a community project, gave feedback for the plays being written for said community project, read 11 final drafts for said community project and chose 4 to be performed.
  • Worked on the largest project of my life for my day job over at Theatrefolk.
  • Recorded and put together 4 podcasts for said day job.
  • AND…. AND…. maintained a blog, an email list, a facebook page and twitter.
  • Let’s not even talk about that “dealing with life” thing.

And that’s just July. I’m not talking about the completely fully month of June. And May. And April. I don’t put out that list to say “Whooee look at me, look at what I’m doing!” It actually makes me a little nauseous. We’re not talking a bunch of little projects. We’re talking time consuming, brain power consuming, life shut outing projects.

It’s too much. And it’s my fault for sure.

I don’t know how to say no.

I want to do it all – if an awesome project comes may I want to make sure I experience that project. The past three years have been filled with wonderful challenges, activities I’ve never done before, all of which have made my creative life richer. But do I need to do every, single, solitary project that comes my way?  If I take every, single, solitary project doesn’t that mean at least one of those projects is going to get short shrift?

Yes. I think it does.

Learning how to say no is valuable to not only keeping sane but making sure every project you’re working on gets the same value, the same quality and nothing gets half done because of a lack of time. What’s more important – being the person with a million projects, or being the person with three quality projects?

I don’t use my calendar wisely.

It’s one thing to mark out a day – this day is when I adjudicate! This day is when my draft is due! Marking out time for a project on your calendar is never just about the day. How many prep days do you need – or better still, how many prep hours. How many days do you need to work on that play? If you’re giving individual feedback, how many emails will you answer.

So while I’m great about not double booking a particular day, I need to work on taking my time into consideration leading up to that day.

I want to do a good job.

Yes, this is a self-criticism. When I’m on a project my number one goal is to make it the best it can be. But if I have multiple projects and I’m trying to do the best for all of them that means I’m working long days, long nights – many of them in a row – because I want my work to be good.

I’m not saying you should do lesser work, not at all. But if you’re working from morning to night, there’s something wrong with that. If you’re working without a break, there’s something wrong.

Writers use their brains pretty exclusively. Our brains do all the heavy lifting.  And if we overwork that muscle it’s going to rebel. If you have a broken brain, nothing’s going to get done.

It’s important to take breaks, to go outside, to do something that isn’t writing. Because when you do, your brain will be better for it, your work will be too.

It’s good to take on projects. It’s good to have a full calendar. And it’s good to want to do a good job.

BUT

If you’re burning the candle at both ends, take a good look at what’s going on. I’ve already decided to take most of September off, and I’m already making changes to my fall calendar. I want to do this for the long haul, so no broken brain for me.

How about you? Are you an overachiever? If so, what are you going to do about it?

Observation Thursday

Observation is my number one method of finding play ideas. If you’re ever at a loss for coming up with something to write about, start logging observations. I write down observations on a daily basis and on Thursdays, I’m going to share one with you what I’ve seen and then you could do with it.

CLOSED

 

THE SURVIVAL KIT

When: July  23. Morning

Observation:  A young couple, I’m guessing boyfriend/girlfriend arguing over the price of a Costco sized container survival kit. It was a 72 hour food and cooking kit. It cost 39.97

What you can do with it: Well the obvious question is, why does this couple think they need a survival kit? What do they need to survive from? They don’t need to survive that badly if they can argue over the price.

So take it from there – it’s the evening of the Apocalypse. There’s chaos all around and this couple is standing in Costco, arguing over the price of the survival kit. The most mundane conversation in the middle of chaos.

Or there is no apocalypse, but one of them fears quite deeply that it’s coming and they need something to be prepared. Write the scene once where the fearful one is the girl and then again where the fearful one is the guy. Give them each something specific and something different to fear that would cause them to think about survival. How does that change the argument about price?

Happy writing!

 

Going in the File

escalator_moving_machine

Do you have a file? You know the one. It’s on the corner of your desk. Maybe you use Evernote. Maybe it’s something on your phone – I just started using Google Keep and that is working nicely.

It’s the place you keep the “oooooh” and the “hmmmm” and the “maybe later.” Something comes across your world view and you know in an instant – that’s going in a play. I don’t know when or where or how or why. But someday it’s going to be used and you don’t want to lose it.

This is my most recent “oooooh”

It’s a Consumerist post about 15 product trademarks that have become victims (okay) of Genericization.  I had to get my dictionary out for that word and then realized – Generic!. These are products that either never applied for trademark, abandoned their trademark or had their trademarks canceled in court.

And while this list of 15 is interesting – did you know that cellophane used to be a product and not just a type of plastic wrap? Or how about Thermos or escalator? – it’s the products that aren’t yet out of trademark that are even more interesting. Mostly because it includes products you sure were already “victims” of genericization:

  • bandaid
  • bubble wrap
  • Crock-pot
  • onesies
  • popsicle
  • Putt Putt Golf

The list goes on. It’s things like this that make me go hmmmmmm. What if I had a character who was obsessed with trademarks? Or wanted to make their own crock-pot and got sued for some reason? Or disagreed with another character whether or not you could use bubble wrap in a story?  Or… something. I don’t have an idea yet and I don’t have a character in mind. But I certainly don’t want to lose a detail like this. This is the kind of story or fact or, well, detail that makes a character unique, specific and gives them drive.

And isn’t that what we all want for our characters? To have them be like no one else? 

 

 

 

Observation Thursday

Observation is my number one method of finding play ideas. If you’re ever at a loss for coming up with something to write about, start logging observations. I write down observations on a daily basis and on Thursdays, I’m going to share one with you what I’ve seen and then you could do with it.

Add subtitle text (1)

 

 

WHAT WERE THEY SELLING?

When: Tuesday July 15, lunch time.

Observation: Three boys, in the street, yelling out side the post office. They’re selling something – I don’t know what. Whatever it is, is $4. And they’re trying to figure out if the guy they just got money from, gave them $4.  (The Loonie is a dollar coin in Canada and the Twonie is a two dollar coin)

“He gave me two loonies”

“Then he didn’t – !”

“No – Two Loonies and a Twonie.  Two and two! We’re good, we’re good!”

Whatever it was they were selling, one of the ladies from the post office then came out and told them to clear out. The boys were apologetic and polite.

What you can do with it: Doesn’t this one write itself? What were they selling? Why were they so bad at math? And why would the post office lady shoo them off? Write the conversation between the three boys before they get to the post office to set up their wares, the conversation with whoever it was who gave them $4 and the conversation between the ladies in the post office as they watch the boys and decide to shoo them off. Have the boys been there before?

Of course that’s the realistic approach. Think about the fantastical approach. What fantastical thing could these boys have? What if the ladies in the post office were not just clearing the street but maybe were jealous of the boys? How does that change things?

Happy writing!

 

Words are sneaky

“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”  – Diane Setterfield

I’m always amazed at the power of words. I’ve had schools pull productions not because of anything done, not because of any threat, but the mere presence of words and what they might do. Isn’t that what censorship is all about? The fear of what might happen? The fear that those sneaky, sneaky words might cause havoc in the streets?

When have you felt the power of words?

The thing is that words are sneaky.  They can sneak into our consciousness and make us do things. Think things. Words sweep us away into imaginative worlds. Words make us stand up and stand behind a leader. Words can be so powerful that even if we know we’re being lied to, we believe. That is so sneaky.

As writers, it’s important to know the power of words and respect them. And not to be afraid to use words to their utmost. Words are our job. Words, for some of us, are our lives. Know the power, use the power. Write for the best effect possible.

Are you aware of the power of words when you write?

It’s important to know that “writing for the best effect” doesn’t mean manipulative writing. You want your audience to have a genuine emotional response, not one manufactured by sneaky words. I cried while watching My Girl when Macaulay Culkin died and I hated it because it wasn’t a good  movie at all.

Has a movie ever made you feel something, you knew was fake?

But you absolutely want characters who are sneaky with words. Characters who lie. Characters who manufacture emotion in other characters. These are human traits and further fascinating traits.

This episode of Penn and Teller’s Bullsh*t is a perfect of the power of words and that words can be sneaky. The premise is simple, will people believe the food they’re eating is high class if they’re told it’s high class?

Check out some exercises for this concept below the video

 Exercises

  • Make a list of convincing words. What words hold the most power for you?
  • Think of a time when someone was able to convince you to do something simply because of words. Not anything that they did, but what they said.
  • Think of a time that you used words to convince someone. What were you trying to accomplish? What words did you use?
  • Create a character description of a good liar. What words do they use when they lie? Why do they lie? What makes them a good liar?
  • Write a scene between the Liar and their significant other. What lie is being told in the scene? What sneaky words do they use?

 

Observation Thursday

Observation is my number one method of finding play ideas. If you’re ever at a loss for coming up with something to write about, start logging observations. I write down observations on a daily basis and on Thursdays, I’m going to share one with you what I’ve seen and then you could do with it.

Observation Thursday

THE AFTERMATH

Observation: Take a look at the picture below. This was taken on July 5th, it’s the aftermath of fireworks on the beach where I live.  Now I’m not a regular partaker in home fireworks but to me that seems like a lot of aftermath. How big were these fireworks? Who put them in the sand? Did they know what they were doing? What was the situation that led to these fireworks? The questions continue.

What you can do with it: Decide for yourself if this is an overkill of fireworks or a lacking of fireworks. Go with one or the other, there’s not much dramatic in “it was just the right amount.” And then write a scene between the person who is putting the fireworks in the sand and someone reacting – either that it’s too much or too little. What is the reason for the response? What’s the relationship? Why is it necessary to do their own fireworks instead of go to an actual showing?

 

IMG_20140702_073047778

Orange is the New Character Development

0XIULpP

Did you watch Orange is the New Black  – Season One or Season Two?  Are you sad that you have to wait a whole year for season three? Do you have no idea what I’m talking about – orange is the what?

Every writer should watch this show. Even if you’re not fond of the material or you think they got prison wrong, every writer should watch this show just to study the characters. Orange is the New Black is a character study brought to life.

The show takes place in a women’s prison. Over the course of the two seasons, you not only see what these women are like in prison, for a lot of them, you see who they were in their regular lives and how they landed in jail. It’s not always what you think (pay specific attention to Morello and Sister Jane) and it’s a prime example of how situation and location can change a person. This is vital for writers to know, be aware of, and use.

If you have access to Netflix and you have the chance, sit down and watch Orange with a pen and paper. Pick a character and study her as if you were taking a course on character development.

  • Who is the character? Why did you pick her?
  • What first impression do they make?
  • What assumptions do you make about that character based on how they act?
  • Who do they interact with in the prison?
  • Are they a dominant character or a subservient character?
  • If this character is dominant, how does power affect them?
  • With each episode, what details do you learn about the character?
  • Do you learn why they’re in jail? If so, does the reason surprise you or confirm your assumptions?
  • How does this character act in a desperate situation?
  • Do you empathize with this character? Why or why not?
  • Will this character survive outside of jail?  Why or why not?

Observation Thursday

Observation is my number one method of finding play ideas. If you’re ever at a loss for coming up with something to write about, start logging observations. I write down observations on a daily basis and on Thursdays, I’m going to share one with you what I’ve seen and then you could do with it.

Observation Thursday

TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION

Observation: A guy gets out of a van in a rest stop parking lot. We have just pulled in and we’re also getting out of our car at the same time. The guy looks at us and says “Are you good at finding baby mice?” We say no and move on. This is one of the stranger questions I think I’ve ever been asked by a stranger. I don’t know why this guy needed baby mice, or if there were baby mice on the lose in his van, or if that was his way of breaking the ice with another human being. But it made my day as writer because I got to write down the awesome line – Are you good at finding baby mice?

How can you use it? Use it as the first line in a scene. A guy goes up to a girl and asks “Are you good at finding baby mice?” What happens next? How can you make the girl not want to run away screaming (if she does, it’s a short scene.) Now change the character who says the first line – make it a girl who asks the question of a guy. How does the scenario change? You can change it up again by making the question come from a child. Change it up again by giving the first line to a grandmother. Same first line with a vast number of possibilities…. have fun with it, it’s a great way to start  a scene.

Have you Ever Tried to Write Wrong?

stop_sign

We’re all so concerned with being right. Our writing has to be perfect. It has to have the right beginning and the right ending. The characters have to be exactly right. If our work isn’t right, then we’re wrong, we’re a failure, we’re bad.

But is that really true? Is it so bad to write wrong? To try to write in the wrong direction?

Have you ever tried to take your writing in the wrong direction on purpose?

I heard a story attributed to Quincy Jones (I know it’s ridiculous to say it like that but I wanted to be clear I’m adding on to something I heard elsewhere) where he told a group of acting students just that. “Have you ever tried to take your work as far wrong as possible? Have you ever tried to see the beauty of being wrong once you’re there? Have you ever tried to go wrong, enjoy the experience and then figure out the steps to make it right?”

These are all fabulous questions for all of us in the creative field. I tell students all day long – it’s ok to fail, we learn from our mistakes not from our successes, we have to fail – and yet it’s the hardest thing to do. We live in a world of right and wrong where right is good and wrong is bad. And it’s especially hard in that world where everything is recorded and broadcast to fail safely. How can a playwright try something out in front of an audience without the worry of being told they’re wrong?

And yet, I love the concept of “find the beauty in being wrong. Enjoy the experience of being wrong and then find your way back.”

Use this concept as an 2nd draft exercise.

If you’re working on a piece and it’s not going well stop trying to find the right answer.  Take a character in the absolute wrong direction. Have them do things you know this character would never do. Have this character steal something. Stalk someone. Take drugs. Have this character kill another character and deal with the after math. Stop trying to figure out the problems in the plot and throw more problems in. Make a mess and then step back.

You may find the answer you never knew you were looking for. You may find that being wrong is the exact right thing to do. And at the very least you’ll have a creative experience. We spend too much time trying to be right with our writing.

Spend some time being absolutely wrong.