A treat for Toronto fans!

DCT0KVmXgAALJicChristie at the Yonge-Eglinton Indigo Chapters is hosting a #ReadTheNorth Kids edition, and all the Portia Adams Adventures are featured!

SCAVENGER HUNT!

If you buy 1/11 of these stamped copies of No Matter How Improbable  or Thrice Burned at Yonge & Eg in Toronto,   it & I’ll send you an eBook of Jewel of the Thames!

HINT: Joyce and I are standing on the second floor right over the display!19113504_10154358732181511_4311224954945686649_n

A little research on Marylebone

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“Marylebone became home to the city’s wealthy elite, but it was also scarred by pockets of extreme poverty. In Marylebone’s large and notorious workhouse, opened in 1775 on land donated by the Portland Estate on the north side of Paddington Street, society’s poorest and most vulnerable exchanged unpaid labour for food and shelter. A Ragged School, founded in 1846 on Grotto Passage, was set up to provide education for destitute children. The Ossington Buildings estate, off Moxon Street, was built between 1888 and 1892 to house some of the area’s working class poor, who had previously lived at the same site in miserable slum dwellings.”
– from History: The Howard deWalden estate

Authors for Indies 2017

It’s that time of year again when Joyce and I carouse and generally cause some literary fun-to-be-had at our favourite indie bookstore: BOOKCITY at Yonge and St. Clair!

Outside BookCity at St. Clair & Yonge!

Not only do we have suggestions on the best books for kids, adults and baby goats (ok, maybe not the goats) but we can sign copies of our own books right there in store!

Come out and support your local bookstores on AUTHORS FOR INDIES day – April 29th, 2017.

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Brian’s Journey

Jensen Ackles in an episode of Supernatural where he gets pulled back to 1944 always reminds me of Brian.

Jensen Ackles in an episode of Supernatural where he gets pulled back to 1944 always reminds me of Brian.

This week I’m working at the Canadian Film Centre with some truly awesome screenwriters – Ellen Vanstone , Noelle Carbone @noelcarbs and Tara Armstrong.

One of the things that has come up at this stage of this pilot script is character layers. Now thankfully, everyone agrees that Portia has a lot of layers and a lot going on both on the page and hopefully, someday on the screen. We even agreed that Annie’s backstory with her twin brothers, travelling father, fighting for a foothold in the London press provided a strongly layered character.

The character that seemed to have less going on, literally, was Brian Dawes.

Brian is just the prototypical nice guy in my books. He doesn’t have a lot of conflict and he doesn’t change much between book one and book three. He supports Portia (because it’s right), he does his job well (because he’s good) and he loves his parents (because you should). I remember when I was writing him that I wanted there to be one character who was totally normal, but I think he might be TOO normal.
Like, uninterestingly so.

So, I’m going to spend the rest of January thinking about Brian’s layers and the journey he should make over the course of the books/series:

  • What motivates him?
  • What stymies him?
  • What is his ultimate goal?
  • What scares him?
  • Where does he see himself in 10 years? 20 years?

My next blog post will answer some of those questions and more and hopefully, feed into this script!

Lessons from this screenwriting gig

the_double_dutch_fight__animated__by_jaycasey-d5ev2soIt will surprise no one that I am learning all kinds of things from this Adaptation Lab I’ve been on with the CFC and EOne for the past six months. I think they are making me a better writer in all my writing endeavours and I want to share some of that edification here.

  1. Scenes need to do more than one thing. They need to move the case forward of course, but they should also reveal things about your characters as they progress through their arc for the episode. Also, if you can subtly share things about your ‘world’ in a scene, for example, “Portia is overwhelmed by the bread line as it wound its way around the block,” puts you in the Great Depression better than explicitly saying it.
  2. Scenes should end with a question. I would extend that to chapters in books because ending a chapter with a question gives the reader a reason to ‘turn the page.’
  3. Bring up the themes again and again in new ways. Unlike books, I find writing for TV requires more themes that parallel each other through different characters in the show. So yes, Portia is an outsider, but her clients are outsiders as well, and there are lots of reminders of her ‘outsider-ness’ throughout the episode.
  4. Minimize the number of characters and differentiate their names. Unlike books where if you forget who someone is you can go back a few pages and remind yourself, once the episode starts, you’re rolling along and your audience doesn’t want to rewind. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but I’ve received it as a note a few times.