Category Archives: Television

Multiple Character Arcs, are you frustrated?

Got a lot of characters? Need to weave them? Having trouble? I’ve struggled with this since, uhm, forever…

Do we write short stories for each character? Divide perspectives by chapters? Sections? Write only in third person??? I’ve been giving my fingers a workout trying to find some good blogs/chapters/articles on strategies for weaving multiple character arcs and I’m not coming up with much.

The only thing I can think to do is study the work of the authors who are already doing it so well, and they are out there.

Circus in Winter, Pure, The Sweethereafter

  1. Cathy Day’s Circus in Winter. This book is a “novel in stories.” It’s a format I was unfamiliar with before reading this book, but after a couple of stories, I started grasping what was happening structurally, and each story hooked me. In the end, the reader has enough information to build this world chronologically and connect the puzzle, if you want to. (Great read) 
  2. Julianna Baggott’s Pure. This is a young adult fiction novel that blends literary and commercial work. In it, each chapter is labeled with the perspective of the character it’s written from and they go back and forth. It really helps the reader see all sides of the coin. In terms of format, think Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. (Also a great read.)
  3. Russell BanksThe Sweet Hereafter. This format is similar to Pure, in the way that each story is from a different character’s POV, but it focuses around one event. If you’re writing something more singular and trying to include so many thoughts, this could be a handy study guide.

Of course there are more, these are just a few more recent reads I wanted to mention. But lets say you’re in a hurry for some reason and you just don’t have time to sit down and not only read a bunch of character-rich books, but truly study their craftsmanship.

Alternative route? TV. Lots of shows get you invested in multiple characters. It’s become incredibly popular in recent years to have large ensemble casts and it’s a trend starting to show up in film more and more as well. (See Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve for example. –Not movies I recommend on merit, however.)

Which television shows are good for this?

Number 1, without a doubt, is Friday Night Lights.

Friday Night Lights cast

If you’re unfamiliar with the show, you should check it out. (All 5 seasons are on Netflix.) There is a never ending supply of simultaneous storylines in that show. Lets see how many major characters I can think of off the top of my head…

       Coach, Mrs. Taylor, Julie, Saracen, Riggins, Lila, Street, Tyra, Landry, Buddy, Billy, Mindy, “Grandma,” Smash, Vince, Jess, Luke, Becky, JD. (19!)

Alright, I’m just going to stop, but I could keep going.

It sounds hectic, but honestly, the writing and production are so good that you can follow it all and you can’t help but to be invested.

Other such shows are Nashville, Chicago Fire, Grey’s Anatomy (the early seasons), and Prison Break.

Nashville, Chicago Fire, Grey's Anatomy, Prison Break

With that in mind, I am not saying avoid the reading and watch TV. In fact, I’m not saying that at all, nor would I ever! Why should someone read your work someday if you’re not reading anyone’s? But if you find yourself needing to give your brain a bit of a rest or are unable to sit down with a book for a moment, I’d recommend a little not-so-mindless TV, but mostly Friday Night Lights. It’s a forever-favorite!

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UPDATE:

As it turns out, author Cathy Day has a blog post about this very issue. It offers strategy and other book recommendations. Click here to check it out!

Fund Your Creativity (Veronica Mars did it)

It’s a corporate world, there’s no doubt about it. To embark on a career as an artist, of any sort, pretty much guarantees poverty, unless of course you’re willing to sell your soul, so to speak.

Entrepreneurs, musicians, painters, sculptors, writers, inventors, etc., creators of all types need money to just be able to create and even more when it comes to sharing their work/art. If you’ve ever tried to get backers or just briefly checked out an episode of Shark Tank, you know getting that much needed money from an investor calls for giving up control.

Enter Kickstarter kickstarter badge

The soul purpose of the website is to raise money to fund creative projects. Fans/supporters can pledge whatever they can to help fund someone’s endeavors. For most campaigns, depending on how much you pledge, you get cool kickbacks that range from autographed cds/dvds/posters to a speaking role in a movie!

Although Kickstarter debuted in 2009, I didn’t become aware of it in January, 2012 when Alexz Johnson, a Canadian singer-songwriter and actress that I follow on twitter announced she was trying to raise $63,000 to tour the United States without a major label. I thought it was a really great idea, not just the tour, but the website. Alexz has a bit of a fan-base from her work on a teen television show called Instant Star so it was conceivable that she would be able to raise $63,000. Because of that, I didn’t quite understand just how great this website was or what it could do.

Then yesterday happened…

Once upon a time, 2004 to be exact, a show called Veronica Mars aired it’s pilot episode and went on to have a three-season run before being cancelled in 2007. That’s a full FIVE years ago! Though the show still has fans–who rightly feel the show was unfinished due to a massive cliffhanger–and star Kristen Bell had said she’d love to revisit her title character, after five years, everyone thought it was dead in the water. That was until Kristen and show creator Rob Thomas–no, not Rob Thomas from Matchbox 20–went to Warner Brothers, who own the show, and got them to agree to a Kickstarter campaign to fund a Veronica Mars movie. The deal was, if they could generate $2,000,000.00 to fund the film and prove there was a demand, they could shoot this summer and Warner Brothers would cover marketing, promotion, and distribution.

Veronica Mars

Well, let’s hope Warner Brothers puts their money where their mouth is. After leaving the meeting, Kristen and Rob, along with other Veronica Mars cast members went to Kristen’s house and filmed a promo video for the campaign. The video, full of familiar Veronica Mars style & wit, made sure to let the fans know that this was their last shot. If the campaign failed, the show was gone forever.

When they launched, just yesterday, they had thirty days to raise the money. Seems crazy right? $2 million in 30 days. Even Rob thought it was insane, but in just 4 hours they had raised half of their goal! After 11 hours, they sailed passed 2 MIL and kept going.

While I am a Veronica Mars fan, there were other things going on in the world on launch day, the choosing of a new pope for example. What drew my attention to this was the story of one particular supporter, Steven Dengler. Dengler, a wealthy entrepreneur, admits to not being a superfan of the show, but is a superfan of crowdfunding–the philosophy of Kickstarter. I stumbled onto an article about his donation and was intrigued when he said that he loves the way Kickstarter empowers artists. (Click here for the article.) “Empowers artists.” At first I thought to myself, more rich people should be so generous, then I wanted to pitch in my dollar, and then I started thinking. What could I do with that kind of support? What could any of us do? What could we create? Wow, this is a really cool thing!

If you create, have an idea that you think is brilliant, or have some money you’d like to throw at creative ideas, you should really check out Kickstarter.com 

To support The Veronica Mars Movie Project, click here.