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Archive for September 24th, 2010

Making A Commitment To Your Writing Career Sep 24

Making A Commitment To Your Writing Career

by Michele Wallerstein
Author of:
MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career

Are you willing to put yourself on the line?

Writing ain’t easy, and that’s a fact. Anyone who thinks you can simply sit down and write a good book or screenplay is living in the land of delusion. Writing is a learned craft. It takes time, energy, a willingness to devote yourself to something that may never pay off, diligence, ego and humility. Writing is a “calling” not a career or job. If you are a writer, you have very little choice about it. It’s something you simply have to do. You may find that you are financially unable to support yourself on your writing for a very long time. Most writers have a “real” job while they slave away at trying to get their writing career in gear. Does having a job make writing more difficult? Yes, of course it does. Does having a job make writing impossible? No, it doesn’t.

People often bandy about the word commitment, but do you really know what it means and what the cost will be? Probably not. The price of your being a writer is high, but try not to forget that the rewards are great. You will be fulfilling your destiny and hopefully, at some point, you will be making a good living while doing it.

The point of all of this rhetoric is to share with you that you will need to be resolute in your choice and unwavering in your actions. Not only will the cost be emotional but it will also be financial. Make your decision and go for it.

Be determined to write more than one book or script without selling it. Know that it takes time, practice and research to become good enough to eventually get paid for your work. Be amenable to moving on to the next project and the next one after that. Be willing to buy that new computer, go to those writing classes, seminars, conferences and pitch fests and the occasional Film Festival. Make the investment in meeting other writers.

Are you willing to spend the time?

Because this is not an overnight success type of career it will take you quite some time to become really good at your craft. It will also take you a good deal of time to break into your chosen field. It might take years to reach your goal. Once you accept this, you will be free to move ahead.

Don’t forget that you will need the support and understanding of loved ones in pursuing your endeavors. They may not be able to appreciate your desires but hopefully you will find a détente with them. Be patient with them and perhaps they will be patient with you.

Are you ready for the rewards?

As a screenwriter you will discover that success comes in all sorts of sizes and types. Success may be getting a job as a staff writer on a TV sit-com when you hoped to become a writer of major motion pictures. Success may be selling low or medium budget films with minor distribution. Success may be writing a great screenplay that is mis-cast and poorly directed. It’s a crazy business with lots of unpredictable results.

The good news is that you may get exactly what you want and even if it is a little off-kilter, it will be wonderful, exciting, rewarding. You will have beat the odds. You will have proven yourself. Writing is a terrifically stimulating and potentially thrilling career.

There are no half measures in your chosen craft. If you have the tenacity and talent, GO FOR IT!!

Michele Wallerstein is a Screenplay & Novel & Career Consultant and author of “MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career“.

Web site:

Copyright 2010 Michele Wallerstein. Not be used without written permission from Author.

When Secondary Characters Fall In Love Sep 24

Holding HandsLove. A many-splendored thing.

To add some heart to your script, you decide to create a subplot where two of your secondary characters fall in love. Nothing could be finer, right?


For some reason, I’m seeing a certain misstep lately — in both client spec scripts and in mainstream television shows. Shows that I love! I’m seeing subplots with secondary characters, where all the characters do is… fall in love.

That doesn’t sounds so bad. I don’t get it.

Here’s the deal. If you’re writing a spec script, with one protagonist, that you actually hope to sell, it should have a strong narrative drive. Your main character should be locked into the most important events of her life.

If you cut away from that main throughline to chew up screen time with two secondary characters, it had better be for a reason other than to simply show the two of them falling in love.

I’m not saying that subplots with secondary characters falling in love are a bad thing. Quite the contrary; many great stories have been written with that device. I’m saying that if two secondary characters fall in love, and have their own scenes — the love story needs to either:

  1. have significant implications for the main story, or
  2. have significant implications for the main character, or
  3. be so gripping in nature that it can compete equally with the main story, or
  4. all of the above.

If not, every time you switch to the secondary characters’ love story, the movie will feel like it’s losing momentum or direction (i.e. failing).

An example of a successful love story subplot, with two secondary characters: 17 Again

In this underrated movie, the Mike O’Donnell character (Zac Efron/Matthew Perry) has a best friend Ned who falls in love with sexy Principal Jane.

Their relationship:

  1. has significant implications for the main story, as it facilitates a big third-act party at Ned’s house while he’s away on a date with Jane.
  2. has significant implications for the main character, as it causes additional embarrassment/stress for Mike.
  3. is hilarious, and therefore competes equally well for laughs in this comedy.
  4. encompasses all of my points.

On the other hand…

An example of an unsuccessful love story subplot, with two secondary characters: True Blood (Season 3)

LafayetteIn general, a glut of subplots turned this 5 star show into a 4 star show this past season. Several of the subplots completely diffused the narrative drive of the main story. One in particular was the love story between Lafayette and that nurse dude.

Their relationship:

  1. had no significant implications for the main story.
  2. had no significant implications for the main character.
  3. was boring. Sure, ol’ Lafayette deserved some love, but to waste so much screen time on a bland romance, with a lame-duck conclusion that only tentatively introduced yet another supernatural element, without any real consequence… Really?
  4. encompassed none of my points.

In your spec, do you have two secondary characters chewing up precious pages with a love story? If so, it had better be good. Follow my advice or readers may quickly fall out of love with your script.

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Category: Characters, Television  | 4 Comments