Reading books on writing–STORY by Robert McKee and how writers cope with limits

story by mckee

“But it’s about screenwriting!” I said.

Story, by Robert McKee is a book that has come up again and again with my writing friends. A colleague even coached me in some of McKee’s techniques. And I’ve recommended it to random people in the library looking for books on screenwriting. But it was not something I’d ever actually read.

I think my block was this: I’m not planning to write a movie. I haven’t even seen one in a theater for (it’s now official!) ten years. Why would I read a book about screenwriting?

Taking the Plunge

After listening to so many novelists and other writers praise the book, I finally decided to read Story.

It’s fascinating so far.

One of the issues that came up in the bit I read today was about the conventions of genre. Continue reading

Helpful tools to plot your story

man and woman in library

“Excuse me, sir. Do you happen to remember that story where that guy dies and one of his sons thinks the other did the crime, but it turns out to be the mother instead?”

I was reading a post by Noelle Sterne on Writer’s Digest today where she describes “How to Prevent Predictable Plots.” She cites Georges Polti, who listed 36 classic plots which are constantly used and reused in literature and drama. (Sterne suggests that it’s inevitable you’ll use one of these basic plots, but that you can set yourself apart and introduce unpredictability through the details.)

Intrigued, I went to a description of these “dramatic situations.” Continue reading

3 Tricks for magazine writers: How to write on a theme and still make your deadline

keyboard

Before you start to type, you might want to try one of these 3 things.

One of my writing jobs is penning teen and tween stories for Jewish magazines. Before getting this gig, I had to learn an important lesson: most kids’ magazines select one theme per issue, and they are only open to stories on those themes. That means you have to write what they want, when they want it–but you’ve got to still tap into your creativity to make your story fresh, fun, and readable.

NOTE: Writing contests (although many are scams, there are plenty of legit ones) and classroom assignments frequently require that submissions/assignments include a specific topic or theme and have a deadline, as well. You don’t have to write for magazines to benefit from these 3 tips.

Sometimes, I get the heads-up on what story the editor wants on what theme a month in advance. But sometimes it’s a lot less. How do I come up with a story on short notice?  Continue reading