Write Your Future! Unleashing the Power of Future-Driven Creativity

Write Your Future! Unleashing the Power of Future-Driven Creativity

As we head into the new year, let’s talk about a powerful new mindset that will supercharge your 2024. The concept of making choices from the perspective of Future You from ​Benjamin Hardy​‘s book Personality Isn’t Permanent.​

The two main parts of this concept are:

  1. Vision-Driven Choices: Instead of making decisions based on current preferences, emotions, or circumstances, make choices that align with who you want to be in the future – your desired future self. Ask what your future self would do and make decisions that reflect that.
  2. ​Long-Term Thinking​: Consider how today’s choices will affect your future. Prioritize actions that bring you closer to your future goals.

Embracing Your Future You in Your Daily Writing Routine

Let’s explore how thinking about your future self can invigorate and guide your writing journey.

1. Define Your Future Writer Self

Picture who you want to be as a writer. What kind of stories do you want to tell? What voice do you wish to develop? Make it as concrete as possible. Maybe your future self creates witty banter, or you’re the next big thing in mystery novels. This vision will serve as your north star, guiding your daily writing routine.

2. Set Goals Aligned with Your Future You

Once you have a clear picture of your future writer self, set goals that align with this vision. These goals should be specific, measurable, and time-bound. For instance, if your future self is an accomplished novelist, your goal might be to complete a novel draft in a year. This means setting daily or weekly writing targets that contribute to this larger goal.

3. Make Decisions with Future You in Mind

Every day, you’re at a crossroads: to write or not to write. Here’s a cool trick – ask yourself, “What would my future successful writer self do?” Even on those days when your muse is playing hide and seek, remember, your future self is counting on you to keep the words flowing. This mindset is your secret weapon for staying on track.

4. Embrace Learning and Improving Your Craft

The journey to your future self is paved with learning and growth. ​Dedicate time to learning​ new writing skills. Embrace new writing exercises, genres, or techniques. Your future self is a more skilled writer because they weren’t afraid to experiment and learn.

5. Reflect and Revise Regularly

Growth is all about change, and so are your writing goals. Keep checking in with yourself. Celebrate those big wins (and the little ones too)! If your future self is nudging you towards a new genre or media, go for it! Be flexible enough to accommodate these evolving goals.

Conclusion

Applying the Future You concept to your writing isn’t just about ticking off goals. It’s about aligning your everyday hustle with where you want to be down the road. It’s about being bold, learning, and evolving. Remember, the amazing writer you’ll be tomorrow is taking shape with every word you write today.


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The Magic of Corny Christmas Movies

The Magic of Corny Christmas Movies

It’s the holiday season, and that means 24 hours a day Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel! People make fun of these movies, but audiences love them. In fact, the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas movies’ ratings are so high that Lifetime and UpTV have copied their 24 hours programming strategy. Netflix and Prime Video have their own original Christmas films too. These channels have an insatiable need for new movie ideas, which is good news for creators.

These movies are warm, comforting, and just what people need during the holiday season. People love Christmas. It’s a magical time of year when anything is possible, especially finding true love.

Let’s unwrap why these festive flicks are the cinematic equivalent of a mug of hot cocoa with extra marshmallows!

They’re Like a Holiday Hug

Predictable? Sure, but in the best way possible. Hallmark movies are the friends we know will never let us down. They promise ​happy endings​ and deliver them with a bow on top. Watching these films is like coming home to a familiar, joyful place where everything turns out. They remind us that love is the most amazing magic of all.

The Christmas We Wish We Had

These movies are a nostalgic sleigh ride into a fantasy past. They’re packed with everything we love about the holidays — snowball fights, twinkling lights, and heartwarming family moments. They are the perfect cinematic Christmas we dream about, filled with romance, laughter, and sometimes a sprinkle of holiday magic. It’s hard not to get swept up in the festive spirit when love and miracles are in the air!

The Coziest Community Ever

These films show us quirky small towns where everyone knows your name and has your back. These are places we wish we could visit.

A Feast for the Eyes

Hallmark movies are a visual treat. The festive decor, twinkling lights, and picturesque winter scenes are the perfect backdrop to their heartwarming stories. It’s like stepping into a Christmas card!

Christmas Movie Genres

All Hallmark Christmas movies are romances. After all, love is the greatest Christmas gift. Each genre within the Hallmark Christmas movie universe adds its own sprinkle of yuletide cheer. Let’s jingle our way through the different genres as broken down in It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Hallmark: Writing a Made-for-TV Christmas Movie by Heather Hughes and Kate Wharton.

1. Hometown Christmas – A successful city girl must go to or return to a picturesque small town and accomplish some Christmas related task.

2. The Fake Boyfriend – A fake relationship transforms into genuine love. People take a fake boyfriend or girlfriend home to meet their family, or they need an attractive date for a work function.

3. Christmas Magic – This covers Santa, time travel, angels, and magic wishes. New versions of A Christmas Carol fall into this category.

4. Christmas Royalty – This is the classic Cinderella story where a young woman, usually from the middle class, meets a prince or minor royalty. Complete with ball gowns, grand palaces, and a touch of royal intrigue, these movies are a fairy-tale lover’s dream come true.

5. Snowstorms Ahead – Winter weather provides a perfect stage for cozy conflict with couples confined together because of snowstorms.

6. The Christmas Cynic – A person who dislikes Christmas must learn to love it, or at least convince someone like a boss or a TV audience, that she does. Or the cynic must shut down some beloved Christmas related business like the town’s ornament factory.

7. The Musical Christmas – A melody-filled genre where music plays a central role. It could be about a struggling musician finding his muse, a Christmas pageant, or a caroling competition.

8. The Christmas Switcheroo – Two women decide to switch places to see how the other half lives. While living another person’s life, they each fall in love.

Wrapping Up

Hallmark Christmas movies are the ultimate holiday treat. They’re a blend of comfort, cheer, and a bit of holiday magic. Do you have an idea for a Christmas romance? Watch as many as you can for inspiration. Grab your favorite holiday snack, snuggle up, and let the merry marathons begin!

If you need a palate cleanser from all the sugary Christmas romance, try ​the Christmas action triple​ feature of Diehard, Lethal Weapon, and Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang.


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My Favorite Movies About Writing

My Favorite Movies About Writing

Writing is, as all of you know, a solitary, cerebral occupation. Even when you’re actually pounding on your keyboard, you’re in your head. The process of writing, the blood, sweat, and tears of it, is difficult to dramatize. Lots of characters in movies are writers, but very few films are about writing itself. Here are my favorites that capture what a writer goes through as he tries to get the story in his head down on paper.

Bullets Over Broadway (1994) comedy written by Woody Allen – A wunderkind playwright (John Cusak) is interested in creating deep Art, but he doesn’t care about entertaining an audience. The backer of the play, a gangster, wants to give his mistress a part. John is having to compromise his art to get his project made. Meanwhile, the gangster’s henchman (Chazz Palmentari) has a flare for story and starts making suggestions. It turns out he’s the real talent, and he’s willing to kill a bad actress save his play. This movie points out two creative truths. 1) Writers can be pretentious and untalented. 2) Anyone can have good ideas.

See How They Run (2020) comedic mystery written by Mark Chappell – a fictional murder mystery set around the real Agatha Christie play The Mousetrap involving all the drama around turning a hit play into a movie, including the writer fighting with the director about the script. Even more fun, the murder mystery is full of Agatha Christie tropes that connect to the play. Fun fact: The Mousetrap has been playing in the West End of London without interruption (with the exception of the lockdowns) since 1953.

Robert Downey Jr., Michael Douglas, Toby McGuire in Wonder Boys

Wonder Boys (2000) comedy written by Steve Kloves, based on the book by Michael Chabon – Once promising novelist Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas) doesn’t do a lot of writing in this movie, but he captures perfectly the mania of trying to live up to the reputation of your own book, and the despair and fear at being eclipsed by a younger, more talented writer.

Shakespeare in Love (1998) comedy written by Marc Norman & Tom Stoppard – Shakespeare falls in love with Viola, who is pretending to be a man so she can act. This relationship gives him inspiration to revise his latest play and turn it into Romeo & Juliet. It’s fun to see the fictional story of how he came up with one of his most famous plays.

Sweet Liberty (1986) comedy written by Alan Alda – Follows the experience of an author (Alan Alda) whose book is being made into a movie. Even though it’s non-fiction, the Hollywood folks are changing it left and right. Alan Alda struggles to keep the integrity of his book and make the screenplay good. This is an overlooked gem of a movie with great performances from Michael Cain and Michelle Pfeiffer as temperamental movie stars.

Adaption (2002) black comedy written by Charlie Kaufman – Writer Charlie Kaufman had such a difficult time figuring out how to turn the book The Orchid Thief into a movie that he wrote the screenplay about his struggle. This movie perfectly captures the turmoil when you just can’t crack the story and everyone else you know seems to be sailing along.

The Muse (1999) comedy written by Albert Brooks & Monica Johnson – Blocked screenwriter Albert Brooks hires kooky professional muse Sharon Stone to help him. She may be crazy, but there’s a method to her madness. She helps him come up with a new idea and gives his wife the confidence to start a business. If only we could all have a muse for hire on call.

Sunset Boulevard (1950) film noir written by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, & D.M. Marshman Jr. – Desperate and destitute screenwriter meets desperate and unhinged movie star while a sweet assistant writes her first screenplay. Sometimes being a writer is deadly.

Stranger Than Fiction (2006) comedy written by Zach Helm – IRS Agent Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) suddenly starts hearing narration and realizes he is a character in someone’s novel. What will happen if he tries to break out of the plot and falls in love?

Author’s Anonymous (2014) comedy written by David Congalton – When several dysfunctional and unpublished writers accept inexperienced Hannah (Kaley Cuoco) into their writers group, they don’t expect her overnight success. A comedy about competition and creativity.

Something’s Gotta Give (2003) romantic comedy written by Nancy Myers – Diane Keaton is a playwright who uses the heartbreak of falling in love with her daughter’s boyfriend (who is her age) to write her next hit play. The scenes of her crying her eyes out as she types are hysterical and relatable.

Paris When It Sizzles (1964) comedy written by George Axelrod – This is a mediocre movie. The fun is seeing secretary Audrey Hepburn act out all of screenwriter William Holden’s different scenarios as he tries to figure out what kind of movie to write.

Bonus: The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) romance written by Woody Allen – is not about writing, but the fantasy of living your favorite movie. Downtrodden Depression era waitress Mia Farrow’s life is turned upside down when the romantic lead from her favorite movie steps out of the screen.

What does it say about the writing life that most of these are comedies? Comment to let me know if I left one of your favorite writing movies off the list!


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Everyone Loves a Happy Ending

Everyone Loves a Happy Ending

Last night I was reading a book called Girls Poker Night by Jill A. Davis. It’s funny and heartbreaking because the heroine knows her flaws, but continues to make the same mistakes. I couldn’t tell if this woman was ever going to be brave enough to change. I’ve been a bit down in the dumps lately and I did not want to read a book with a depressing ending. So, I did something I never ever do; I flipped to the back of the book and read the ending. Spoiler alert: she gets her act together and finds love and happiness.

I’m sharing this story because when you are writing your screenplay or novel, it is important to understand the ​conventions of your genre​. Your audience not only expects the genre ​tropes​, they demand them. And when you don’t deliver, they get mad. This anger can translate into bad reviews, box office, and word of mouth. You do not want to disappoint your audience!

Most movies and books have happy endings. The lovers get together; the bad guys are caught; the wrongly accused get their justice. In the world of entertainment, tragedies are rare. The real world is hard, and that’s why entertainment thrives. It takes us away from our troubles.

When there is not a happy ending, audiences feel cheated. My mother still brings up LaLa Land at least once a month. How dare the filmmaker not let those two people end up together! It was a musical about a love affair, two genres which demand a happy ending.

The threat of an unhappy ending keeps us turning pages . But an actual tragedy happening to characters that we have come to know and love can be what I call story traumatizing. Titanic is 20 plus years old and people still argue that ​Jack could have lived​. There was room on that door! In my opinion, that movie would have been just as powerful if he had lived because the two lovers beat incredible odds to stay together and survive.

There’s even hope in horror movies. In slasher films, we know going in that most of the characters are going to die. But we also know somebody’s going to live (​the Final Girl trope​).

Happy endings never take away the nail-biting suspense from a well-told story. We know it’s all going to work out in the end, but the suspense that it may not keeps us watching. The bomb will get diffused. The lovers will get together. The evil empire will fall. We care so much about the characters we keep watching and we keep reading to make sure that everything turns out okay in the end.

Happy endings are important because we’re making entertainment, not documentaries. We’re helping people escape from the real world and the pressures of daily life. So, the next time you’re feeling arty and you want to kill off one of your main characters, think long and hard. Is this really serving your story? Is this going to make your audience angry? Instead of a fan, are you creating a true hater who will never watch or read anything you produce ever again? Embrace your genre. Embrace the happy ending and trust your audience to enjoy the ride.


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Using Genre to Write Fan Favorite Stories

Using Genre to Write Fan Favorite Stories

The Magic of Genre Conventions

Imagine you’re about to dive into a new book or start binging a TV series. There’s a thrill of anticipation, right? A big part of that excitement comes from ​the genre​. Whether it’s the heart-pounding suspense of a thriller, the otherworldly charm of fantasy, or the emotional rollercoaster of romance, each genre comes with its own set of expectations—these are called genre conventions.

Understanding these conventions allows you to meet audience expectations and then take them on an unexpected journey. It’s about finding the balance between delivering the comfort of the familiar and the excitement of the new.

Genre conventions aren’t just rules to follow; they’re tools for storytelling. They provide a foundation upon which you can build your unique story, characters, and worlds. Whether you’re writing a book, creating a TV show, or crafting a movie script, understanding genre conventions can turn a good story into a great one. So, embrace these conventions, experiment with them, and have fun.

What Are Genre Conventions?

Genre conventions are the specific elements, themes, and ​tropes​ that define a genre. They’re like a secret recipe that gives each genre its unique flavor. Think of them as a set of guidelines or expectations that help readers or viewers quickly identify the type of story they’re about to experience.

Why Are Genre Conventions Important?

1. Familiarity Breeds Comfort (and Expectation!)

Genre conventions are a promise to the audience of what kind of story they are getting. When someone picks up a mystery novel, they expect a puzzle to solve; in a romance, they look forward to love overcoming obstacles. Genre helps readers and viewers choose the story they want to experience. Think of genres like beacons ​guiding audiences​ toward what they love.

2. Familiarity with a Twist

Yet, within these parameters, there’s a thrill in discovering how each story brings something new to the table. The magic lies in balancing the known with the unknown, satisfying the audience’s desire for the familiar while surprising them with inventive storytelling.

3. A Shared Language

Genre conventions create a shared language between the storyteller and the audience. This way, the audience knows what to expect.

4. Story Structure

Conventions anchor the story, providing a structure to build the story.

5. Encouraging Creative Boundaries

Ironically, the constraints of genre conventions can foster creativity. Writers find innovative ways to work within these boundaries, pushing the limits of the genre. This creativity leads to the birth of new genres or genre mash ups, like horror comedy or the sci-fi thriller.

6. Emotion in Storytelling

Genres cater to audiences’ specific emotional and psychological needs. A comedy provides laughter and lightness, a thriller offers adrenaline and excitement, and a sports story gives us hope with a feel good underdog triumph. These emotional responses are what attract audiences to specific genres.. They seek stories that resonate with their current emotional state.

7. Genre Evolution

As audience tastes and societal norms change, so do genre conventions. This evolution keeps genres dynamic and relevant. We see this in modern superhero movies that address complex moral dilemmas, making the stories more emotional and impactful.

Conclusion

Genre conventions are far more than just a checklist of thematic elements. They are the essence of what makes each genre uniquely appealing. They provide comfort and familiarity while offering a canvas for creativity and innovation. Understanding and skillfully employing these conventions is crucial to craft a story that resonates deeply with an audience.


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How the World’s Worst Writer Can Inspire You

How the World’s Worst Writer Can Inspire You

I was listening to ​an interview with Neil Gaiman​ this past week. As an encouragement to writers, he discussed a mostly forgotten 20th century American writer named ​Harry Stephen Keeler​. Keeler wrote over a hundred pulp novels (mostly detective stories) from the 1920s to the 1950s and is remembered for being a terrible writer with convoluted plots and crazy dialogue. He is an inspiration because if he can succeed as a writer, getting published and making a living, and be so bizarrely bad, then whatever your creative endeavor, ​you can succeed too.​

To give you an idea of just how crazy his writing is, here are the first two sentences from The Riddle of the Traveling Skull (1934):

He irritated me strangely and in the hope of getting a line on the source of his abnormal interest in me, I began to review the events, such as they were, which followed my exit from the big new Union Passenger Station at Randolph Street and Michigan Ave. For it must be remembered that at the time I knew quite nothing, naturally, concerning Milo Payne, the mysterious Cockney-talking Englishman with the checkered long-beaked Sherlockholmsian cap; nor of the latter’s “Barr-Bag” which was as like my own bag as one Milwaukee wienerwurst is like another; nor of Legga, the Human Spider, with her four legs and her six arms; nor of Ichabod Chang, ex-convict, and son of Dong Chang; nor of the elusive poetess, Abigail Sprigge; nor of the Great Simon, with his 2163 pearl buttons; nor of–in short, I then knew quite nothing about anything or anybody involved in the affair of which I had now become a part, unless perchance it were my Nemesis, Sophie Kratzenschneiderwümpel–or Suing Sophie!

Keeler loved storytelling so much that he created his own structure that he called a ​webwork plot​. A webwork plot is built around a sequence in which the main character intersects at least four other strands of story, one after the other, and each of these encounters causes the next one.

We are drawn to the unescapable conclusion that Mr. Keeler writes his peculiar novels merely to satisfy his own undisciplined urge for creative joy.

The New York Times, 1942

What are the takeaways from Harry Stephen Keeler?

· If he can do it, you can do it.

· Enjoy creating.

· Every kind of story has an audience, you just have to find it.

· Old stories can be rediscovered by new generations of readers and writers.

· Even bad writing can be inspirational, popular, & profitable.


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