Thursday, October 18, 2012

Writers: Learn From ABC (Part Two)

So, Tuesday I told you about how ABC handled its “recap” of both Once Upon a Time and Revenge’s season one.

Now let’s talk about how their fun versions of a TV synopsis can serve as a lesson for writers. After all, after the query letter, the synopsis is one of the most torturous gateways to publication every writer must face. Eventually. 

We get told a lot of advice about them too: synopsis’s must be short, but longer than a couple of paragraphs like on the back of the book, and must sufficiently describe all the plotlines, but not go way too in-depth or off-track, and must tell the ending but not reveal too much because why else would an agent care enough to read it?

Yeah. It’s pretty headache-inducing. So after you’ve read the first post on this and see how ABC handled their recaps of Revenge and OUAT, how can you use that to be more unique with the recap of your book (especially if, like TV shows, your WIP is a series and not a novel?)

1. Focus on the characters
Much like OUAT did, make sure you give all your MC’s a paragraph to call their own. If you don’t know your characters’ backstories, how they get introduced, or what they contribute to the tale (hint: It’s not just “why does your hero care about them?” Why does your ----reader----- care about them?) then you have an issue. Make sure you can talk about all your characters like an elitist at a social event BEFORE you ever start on the synopsis. Or submitting, for that matter.

Just a small example of how different EVERY character can be.

2. Give it away.

Let’s say in chapter two, your hero/heroine hears something/meets someone/sees an important item that will play an important, life-or-death role in their tale…later on, around the end of the book. While in your book this can be a subtle detail, in your synopsis you may have to actually talk about it.

So when leading up to your twist endings and surprise epiphanies, make sure you talk about the hints and clues strewn throughout your WIP. Otherwise, you’ll be saying “And so, Awesome Guy remembered what he had learned that one time in the beginning of the book that I forgot to mention, and used that to save the day!” No. Just no.

There is no need to include a "spoiler alert" in a synopsis.

3. Use your voice

If you know anything about query letters, you know how vital “voice” is in your pitches. Pitches are similar to the two paragraphs on the back of the book or on an Amazon summary - a quick, snappy, catchy intro to your story meant to get you readers, agents, and so on.

Yet we seem to forget that synopsis’s should be snappy and easy to read too, not a dull “This happened, and then this happened”. We’re paraphrasing our story, sure, but we’re also trying to keep Mrs. Agent’s attention so she asks for a full manuscript. 

While I’m not saying narrate your synopsis through a secondary character like Revenge did (though not a bad idea…hmm…can we do that?) have a voice. A personality. Really tell your story and sell it. Maybe even narrating through your character wouldn’t be too horrible, and then changing the “I’s” to “she/he’s” if you feel nervous about submitting it that way.

Have you already written synopsis’s for your stories before? What do you consider when you write one? Or if you haven’t written one before, how do you feel about them?

As for a less depressing topic…what do you think of the ABC shows so far?


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Writers: Learn From ABC TV (Part One)

If you had the ABC channel on anytime this past summer, you probably remember the million or so promos involving their new shows. Maybe you even remember their epic Sunday night promo about fantastical Once Upon a Time, killer Revenge, and the new but mysterious Park Avenue.

Thanks to the hype of ABC’s (admittedly awesome) Sunday line-up, viewers received two wonderful things.

One: a new song to add to the playlist. Have you HEARD the Skyler Stonestreet song in the background, a “Little Taste”. Pretty catchy tune there ladies and gentlemen.

And two: a recap episode from the returning OUAT and Revenge each.

What am I talking about? Well, every series with complicated plots and intertwining storylines must find some way to help new viewers keep up. Sometimes they do this with a static introduction at the beginning of each episode. Other times, they may just take a moment to recap the last episode. And with every new season, there are always chances of new viewers.

(My personal favorite re-cappers would be Supernatural - not only do they do a “Then” and “Now” - themed beginning, but they end every season with a cool, lengthier montage of the “Road So Far” to the Kansas song Carry On My Wayward Song.)

With the success of OUAT and Revenge, ABC decided to have fun with their recap. They tried it once already with Revenge - dedicating an entire episode to the recap of the episodes so far. Revenge’s first recap episode had aired shortly before the last few episodes of Season One. Not only did it tell the entire story of Emily Thorne/Amanda Clarke so far, but with a whole hour dedicated to recapping, we got a glimpse of all the plotlines, all the B stories, all the details and clues.

When ABC did new recap episodes, they did it differently. OUAT told the story of their first season by going character-to-character. They introduce a character, briefly go into that character’s backstory (or whatever you may need to know by that point) and then continue on with the story. 

Throughout the hour, they introduce all the characters and the backstories as well as move on though both plots - the story happening in Storybrooke, and the story happening in Fairytale land. This is especially useful because that’s how OUAT works already - every episode was dedicated to telling some of one character’s backstory, or just diving in deeper to the story of Snow White and the Evil Queen.

Revenge freshened up its recap of season one: while it did tell most of the same story, this time with the finale episodes, the recap episode was narrated by one of its main characters, Nolan. (Who the consensus agrees is the most lovable good-guy/evil-sidekick in the show, this girl included). 

Now this worked because while Revenge features a lot of egotistical, stiff, haughty elites as main characters, Nolan is both egotistical and haughty as well as cynical, dramatic, and overall humorous. He has enough emotion for both himself and his partner in crime, the unforgiving Emily Thorne. Since he’s also involved in a lot of the story, behind-the-scenes, he never misses an opportunity to mention his part in the action.

If you watch these recaps, it’s kind of funny: they feel like a television show’s version of a synopsis, don’t they?

How can we use that? Well, this blog post is already a mile long so…let’s discuss that next time!


Friday, October 12, 2012

Get Your Remotes Ready: CW Day

So far on SSF, we’ve talked about the new shows on all the four major networks, even some of the returning ones to watch out for. It’s time for the last, and sometimes least, network: the CW. 


Arrow: You remember Green Arrow right? Maybe you know him as the snarky Oliver Queen on the CW’s hit Smallville, who played both a friend and rival to young Superman. Maybe you know him as Ryan Reynolds in the lackluster 2011 movie. Or maybe you know him as the comic book character who, according to D.C., has been declared their first (openly) gay comic book hero. 

Well, the CW’s new Arrow is none of those guys. Oliver is a millionaire who had been stranded on an island for much too long, and comes back with new strengths, powers, and vengeance. And his weapon of choice? Um…guess.

Emily Owens M.D.: Riding the success of its first doctor show, the sweet comedy Hart of Dixie with Rachel Bilson, the CW tries out another medical comedy. This time it’s about the outrageously awkward Emily Owens, someone whose social insecurities are almost crippling. If it wasn’t for the fact that she went though eight years of school to get where she is now, Emily Owens would clearly be a shell of a human. It’s hard to see this show really take off, but with Emily’s crazy thought process and the added irony of her high school bully being her co-worker, it might be worth a watch or two.
Beauty and the Beast: If you’ve seen any of the glimpses of promos of this new romantic drama, then you’ve probably already figured out that the CW’s Beauty and the Beast is a far cry from Disney’s yellow dresses, singing teacups, and roses. 

“Beauty” is a young, attractive woman working as a detective. And “Beast” is a young man who saves her life more than once, but can’t be with her because of that whole turns-into-a-monster problem he has (thanks to the government of course). Will star-crossed love conquer all - even hairy, scary, monster faces? (Okay, so technically there isn't a "romance" to speak of yet, but it's pretty obvious that's next). Only time can tell.

Returning favorites:

Gossip Girl: After finally reading the book series this summer (and realizing how the show and series have nothing in common except the character names) I can honestly say I will miss this show. Why? Well, it’s the final season of everyone’s favorite show about over-privileged, naughty young adults living on Fifth Avenue. Only one more season of wondering if Chuck and Blair will last, will "Gossip Girl" (a.k.a. Michelle Trachtenberg, as we know now) reveal herself, and if Serena Van Der Woodsen will ever be happy. Get the popcorn and tissues ready.

Vampire Diaries: Okay, catch me up I missed last season…what? WHAT? Elena actually started falling for Damon (geez, took you long enough. Ian Somerhalder not good enough for you or something?). And what? She chose his brother Stefan in the end anyways? BUT WHAT!? After her brother nearly died, she gave her own life instead, so Elena ended up being made a vampire? Oh heavens no….

Well, CW, we wish you good luck. And if you fail this time around, at least we have those awesome-looking shows mid-season to look forward to, like The Cult or The Carrie Diaries. For now, just work on giving Britt Robertson a new show (no more Life, Unexpected and no more The Secret Circle, gotta do something) or the LA Complex a new season. Trust me, you will not regret it.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Get Your Remotes Ready: Fox Day

Well, it’s been a couple weeks since SSF’s new Fall 2012 TV series special has began, and it’s time to get a little “Fox-y”. What new shows are playing on the Fox network?

The Mindy Project: A show that’s gotten a lot of positive hype thanks to its charming star, The Office’s Mindy Kaling, The Mindy Project follows Bridget-Jones-esque “Mindy” as she searches for love as an awkward, talkative, and overly-thoughtful OB/GYN. Of course, this quest for love involves irresistible mean boys (like co-worker Jeremy Reed), odd friends, and a lot of maybe-Mr.-Right’s? The humor seeps through though - like with Mindy’s “red flag test” (no drug habits, no skinny jeans, no secret families, etc. Sounds fair enough).

The Mob Doctor: Before you laugh at the title of this show, just remember this is a drama to be watched. Its intense premise? A doctor, played by Jordana Spiro, works for the mob so she can pay off her brother’s gambling debt. All while balancing job at Chicago Roosevelt Medical Center, of course. Well…mobs need doctors too, right?

The Following: The creator of the Vampire Diaries and Dawson’s Creek is the mind behind this show - which is peculiar, because this drama sounds like the next Prison Break or 24, not the next teen-friendly soap. After serial killer Joe Carroll escapes along with a whole cult of other murderers, his original capturer, former FBI man Ryan Hardy, must return to the field to capture him again. If the premise isn’t enough, maybe the stars will be - with everyone from Kevin Bacon to Natalie Zea, there isn’t much to disappoint.

Ben and Kate: So the critics have basically thrown fruit at this show the second it aired. But to each its own, so: Ben and Kate follows the odd life of a brother and sister, and her daughter, as they struggle to grow up themselves. Both get each others’ advice, help each other out of awkward predicaments, blah blah blah. Hopefully there is enough quirkiness between the stars Nat Faxon and Dakota Johnson to keep you interested. If not, then just remember: New Girl comes on right after. It’ll be okay.

Some returning shows…

Glee: Some of the gang is in New York. Some are at war. Somewhere are at college. But the rest of the New Directions show choir is still at school, dealing with new bullies, new friends and relationships, and - of course - even more Top 40 songs to choose from.

The X Factor: Need more singing? Then look no further than the X Factor! After Britney Spears and Demi Lovato joined the judges’ panel, the show certainly got a noticeable facelift. However, is the snarky soundbites painting Britney Spears as the new Simon Cowell and Lovato as the new Paula Abdul enough to convince you? Watch for yourself. After all, while singing competition shows aren’t for everybody, the auditions are always worth watching. Trust me.

Well, that’s all for Fox. Join us for the final installment in this series on CW Day!