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.

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.

Googling myself

I have a timer in my calendar that prompts me to Google myself once a month, because I don’t like to miss reviews or when someone is talking about me or my books.

This time when I Googled my own name, I found nothing surprising, but Googling the titles of my books, I came out with an interesting finding.

Google: Jewel of the Thames, the title of my first book.

Google: Jewel of the Thames, the title of my first book.

When I clicked on that top link for the Pickering Library, I found that Jewel of the Thames is one of the books in their 2017 ‘Battle of the Books‘ competition.

Long-story short, I emailed the library and thanked them for including Jewel, and am now making arrangements to come by for a visit to these fine students who will be participating in the Battle of the Books.

The Pickering Library Battle of the Books page

The Pickering Library Battle of the Books page

Why Google yourself? This is why:

An important connection is made, the Library gets the thanks they deserve, and maybe some kids get a bit of a real-life thrill meeting a local author.

This is to say nothing of the value to your brand and your book sales. How often do you guys Google yourselves?

Just a check-in

jim-carrey-fast-typingI haven’t blogged in forever, but it’s for a good reason I swear!

Between the screenplay I’m writing, the festivals and events I’ve been speaking at and working on other writing projects, I’ve been swamped.

The good news is that all this TV development work I’ve been doing has produced some good ideas for the end of book four (which is about half-written).

How goes it in the rest of the writing world?