Reflections On Creating An Original Web Series and Webisode

CWM570 Episodic And Serial Writing

Prior to beginning the Creative Writing MFA Program I had never written a script. Thus, for me the conventions for properly formatting scripts are not second nature. Gradually, as I complete courses in the MFA Program, the process of writing scripts is becoming less a technical challenge and more a creative pleasure.

In the Episodic and Serial Writing Course I had the opportunity to create a Web Series entitled The Philosopher Stoned, write a Webisode for the series, and create the Beat Sheet for another episode. Reflecting on these experiences, and as I’ve become more familiar with the conventions and mechanics, I’ve come to recognize that writing scripts can be an elegant and efficient tool for me to explore story ideas. Ultimately, this is true even when I craft the final version of my story idea as short story rather than a script. This realization has been an unexpected revelation for me.

Similarly, as I gain practice crafting Beat Sheets, I have embraced using this versatile tool with storytelling formats other than scripts. As I’ve grown in appreciation of Beat Sheets, I am experimenting with using them to structure scenes and sequels for my short stories. Using Beat sheets, I outline the “beats” I use to flesh out my stories. As a result of including Beat Sheets in my short story workflow, I am plotting and crafting stories that are developed more fully and are more compelling to read. The power of using Beat Sheets to guide my creative writing projects is another unexpected revelation for me.

While I don’t see myself as writing scripts as my primary focus as a writer, it is clear that to develop fully as a storyteller it is essential that I embrace and master scriptwriting. As I have become more familiar with the format’s conventions and process, I appreciate screenwriting as a powerful, visual, and compelling storytelling artform that belongs in my creative writing palette.

Reflecting on the strategies and tactics I established for the Episodic and Serial Writing Course at the start of the MFA Program, I believe that I have accomplished each of them:
• Learned the elements of structure, character, and formatting specific to episodic and serial stories.
• Gained experience developing original episodic and serial stories.
• Learned– and learned to love– the process of breaking down episode storylines, planning multi-episodic plot and character arcs, and the collaborative process of writing teams (my classmates and Professor).

I am looking forward to becoming more conformable with scriptwriting as I complete subsequent courses in the MFA Program. Along the way, I will embrace each opportunity to tell compelling stories using scripts.

References

Image Credits
Salles, G. (2019). Gautier Salles (@yamnez) | Unsplash Photo Community. Retrieved 20 December 2019, from https://unsplash.com/@yamnez

The Two Most Important Days In Your Life

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.

Goodreads.com. (2019). Mark Twain Quotes (Author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn). [online] Available at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/1244.Mark_Twain [Accessed 30 Nov. 2019].

Keep Away From People Who Try To Belittle Your Ambitions

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

Goodreads.com. (2019). Mark Twain Quotes (Author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn). [online] Available at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/1244.Mark_Twain [Accessed 30 Nov. 2019].

Catch The Trade Winds In Your Sails

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Goodreads.com. (2019). Mark Twain Quotes (Author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn). [online] Available at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/1244.Mark_Twain [Accessed 30 Nov. 2019].

Developing Compelling Characters Using The Narrative Enneagram

This post is a reflection on The Narrative Enneagram tool and how a writer may leverage it to develop three-dimensional and compelling characters.

The Enneagram describes “nine distinct strategies for relating to the self, others and the world.” Each of the nine types has distinct “psychological, spiritual and somatic patterns,” as well as Focus of Attention and Life Lesson.

Below I describe my approach to leveraging The Giver, Enneagram Two, to develop a sample Protagonist character.

First, I begin by drafting the Premise for my story.

Then, I develop a Character Dossier for the story’s main characters. As an example, I would develop Jonah, the Protagonist, by answering the following questions:

What is the protagonist’s inner journey?
Jonah goes from focusing solely on others to feeling worthy of love.

What is the protagonist’s outer goal?
Jonah’s outer goal is to finish his military service and return to an ordinary civilian life and form a family.

Then, after considering multiple facets of Jonah’s Character Dossier, I would study the nine Enneagram types to identify the one that corresponds most closely to my understanding of Jonah, thus far.

To begin, I would use the Enneagram’s three Centers of Intelligence perception (head, heart, and body) to flesh-out Jonah further.

Based on a thorough review of the Enneagram types, as well as what I know of Jonah a this stage, I might select The Giver as a launching point. The Giver is a feeling-based Enneagram type that emphasizes the heart for feelings, empathy, and concern for others. Like Jonah, The Giver focuses on success (earning an honorable discharge from military service) and relationship (returning to an ordinary civilian life and forming a family). The Giver also focuses on “performing up to expectations of the job or other people.”

The Giver’s other characteristics present a wealth of opportunities to develop Noah’s story arc:

The Giver’s Focus of Attention is on the needs, feelings, and desires of others.

The Giver’s Life Lesson is to “To develop the humility that comes from allowing yourself to be loved without being needed and to have needs of your own.” This life lesson parallel’s Jonah’s inner journey closely.

The Giver’s Speaking Style is “friendly, open, expressive, focused on others, and quick to support or give advice.” Reflecting on Jonah’s Character Dossier, The Giver’s Speaking Style provides rich opportunities to develop his voice.

Once I have crafted a fully developed and compelling Protagonist, I would proceed to leveraging Enneagram types to develop the remaining characters in the story. This is an iterative process, since it is highly likely that I would revise the Protagonist and his story arc as I develop the other characters.

The Narrative Enneagram is a fascinating tool and provides a rich and inspired resource for writers. In this post I have outlined briefly how I intend to leverage The Enneagram’s types to develop the characters in my stories. Consider following the link below to explore The Enneagram types.

References:
Enneagram Types. (2019). Retrieved 20 October 2019, from https://www.enneagramworldwide.com/tour-the-nine-types/

Life’s Task and Calling

What I love and feel is my “life’s task” and calling

I love creating and sharing engaging and entertaining stories. Through my stories, I entertain, motivate, and educate my students and my clients. As I transition to the next phase on my life journey, I am focusing on pursuing my “life’s task:” to entertain and inspire as a writer of fictional stories a broader audience.

Example project on my Mastery Journey towards becoming a writer of fictional stories
In my role as VP of Marketing for a national homebuilder, I designed and implemented a comprehensive project to revise our promotional materials. The goal was to reach and engage with prospective homebuyers in six distinct segments: Young Adult, Single Professional, First-time Homebuyer, Single Head-of-household, Trading-up Family, and Active Retiree segments. With our promotional materials we sought to engage, inform, and educate buyers. Most buyers preferred to read in English. Many preferred to communicate in Spanish.

Despite the language preference differences, we knew our promotional materials should engage and reach each group with customized messages. Thus, the stories we featured would describe homeowners whose lives, dreams, and desires resembled the unique desires of each targeted segment. Using real homeowners as my inspiration, I crafted brief fictional stories that were composites of several homeowners’ experiences as they considered, selected, and purchased our homes. Each story story featured a fictional homebuyer and described their unique lifestyle and homeownership aspirations. Yet, each story described homebuying needs and desires that were truthful reflections shared by actual satisfied homeowners. In other words, the individual stories of young professionals, first time home buyers, growing families, and retiring active adults I created were fictional—but how our homes satisfied their needs was very much real. The stories worked their intended magic, drove awareness of our communities and grew sales of our homes.

Positive insight gained completing this project

What I learned from this project changed profoundly my professional writing. Prior to embarking on this project, my writing had been focused on brand-building and efficient sales communication, promoting standard solutions and describing actual customers. Once I made the leap to creating fictional buyer stories instead, I discovered how much more effective—and how much more engaging – my marketing and promotional materials could be. Evers since then, I’ve been hooked on business storytelling. When appropriate for the project, I leverage consumer research and my storytelling skills to craft fictional stories that are more truthful than they are true. 

Knowing the difference between truthful and true is the key to success in business storytelling. Creating these promotional materials, I discovered that well-crafted fictional stories can communicate “truth” and impact readers effectively. For instance, upon reading the fictional stories of homeowners in my promotional brochures, prospective homebuyers related to the composite characters and connected more powerfully with our model homes and communities. 

As humans our brains are “wired for story,” (Cron, 2012). According to Cron, for millennia, listening to stories and later reading them, people have enjoyed being entertained as they learned about their world: how to live their lives, how to behave, how not to behave, and how it feels to dream, to fear, to love. Listening to well-told tales humans learned to crave discovering what follows after we hear the magical words “once upon a time.” As a writer and story teller, I will explore, with reverence and respect, the awesome power of well-told stories to engage, entertain, and inspire my readers.

Negative insight gained completing this project

            Providing too much information too soon can be confusing to readers. Instead, it is more effective to build a business story (or an entertaining tale) that unfolds gradually until it reveals fully the message it holds. At first, in the project I described previously, each of our promotional materials included too many details, in both English and Spanish, and the readers were confused. That was the wrong approach. By creating separate, high impact, and engaging promotional materials in each language, and weaving in compelling stories and descriptions with fewer features and construction details, we connected more effectively with each unique group of buyers in our target market.

Lessons learned from the reading 

From reading Chapter IV, “Strategies for Acquiring Social Intelligence” scenarios in the Mastery book, I learned four lessons about communicating my expertise as I develop as a writer of fiction.

Negative Lesson One: Do not avoid fools but instead suffer them gladly.

Greene explains what should matter in practical life is getting long-term results by getting work done as efficiently and creatively as possible (Greene, 2012, p. 163). Instead fools value short term results, immediate money, attention, and good looks (Greene, 2012, p. 163). Lowering yourself to their level and attempting to win arguments with fools is a waste of time and emotional energy according to Greene (2012). In this lesson I learned that instead of avoiding fools and their negativity, I will adapt Greene’s suggested strategies to neutralize the harm they do. I will do this by focusing on my goals, ignoring fools when possible, learning from them how not to behave, and seeking to turn to my advantage what fools throw my way.

Positive Lesson One: Speak through my work.Greene suggests that we express our social intelligence through our work, as well as demonstrate we are thinking of the group and advancing its goals by being efficient and detailed oriented, (Greene, 2012, p. 151). According to Greene, speaking socially through our work and remaining focused will raise our skill levels and cause us to stand out among others who make noise but produce nothing, (Greene, 2012, p. 151). My take away from this lesson is the following: Professionally, I strive to be efficient, contribute to the success of clients and employers, and take pride in communicating excellence through the quality of my work. Unknowingly, I’ve been following Greene’s advice of speaking through my work long before I recognized doing so expresses social intelligence. Embracing my life’s calling, I will continue to speak through my writing.

Negative Lesson Two: Do not dismiss critics but instead see myself as they see me.Greene, explains that while we are quick to recognize mistakes and defects in others, we are too insecure and emotional so find fault in ourselves, (Greene, 2012, p. 158). Also, he points out it is rare that people tell us what we do wrong. Seeing ourselves through the eyes of others would benefit our social intelligence, would help us correct our offensive flaws, help us recognize how we contribute to negative dynamics, and enable us to develop a realistic assessment of who we are (Greene, 2012, p. 158). The lesson I learned is especially important for a writer: Rather than dismiss critical comments and suggestions, it is imperative that I embrace them unemotionally to understand how my work triggered the criticism. My skills and effectiveness as a writer will improve if I actively elicit and seek the criticism of informed readers.

Positive Lesson Two: Craft the appropriate persona.Our ascension to mastery and our success is powerfully influenced by the personality we project to the world, according to Greene, (Greene, 2012, p. 155). Since people will judge us based on our outward appearance, we must create the image that suits us best, and by shaping our appearance intentionally, influence other people’s judgement of us (Greene, 2012, p. 155). Greene advices us to think of this as theater. He suggests that we develop a persona that is “mysterious, intriguing, and masterful… giving them something compelling and pleasurable to witness,” (Greene, 2012, p. 155). This suggestion is intriguing. My personal inclination is always to be transparent and forthcoming through my demeanor, thoughts, and opinions. As a result, my choice in clothing, shoes, glasses, and personal accessories would be described best as professional and conservative. In this lesson, I learned that, keeping Greene’s advice in mind, and thinking creatively of my writer persona as theater—it’s time to rock something fresh! Perhaps donning writerly glasses and a snazzy fedora will do the trick and help others see me as The Writer. Stay tuned, as I find out how well this strategy works out for my persona.

References

Cron, L. (2012). Wired for story: The writers guide to using brain science to hook readers from the very first sentence. New York: Ten Speed Press.

Greene, R. (2012). Strategies for Acquiring Social Intelligence. In Mastery (pp. 144-166). New York, NY: Penguin.

Tom Kelley(Founder-Ideo) – Do What You Love. (2010, October 28). Retrieved August 19, 2019, from https://youtu.be/nPRW9q-0unc

Image Credits

Unsplash. (n.d.). Pop & Zebra (@popnzebra): Unsplash Photo Community. Retrieved August 19, 2019, from https://unsplash.com/@popnzebra?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText Source for illustration image.

Illustration Quote

Greene, R. (2012). Mastery (p. 19). New York, NY: Penguin.