Ted Baehr

Ted Baehr

A great story goes somewhere.

It tells us something.

That something is a premise.

A poor story wanders about, gets lost and bores an audience.

In a baseball game, the team with the most runs wins. You watch the game to see if the team that you like can get the most runs and win the game. Imagine how boring baseball would be if there was nothing to win: if “games” were like practice sessions where players just hit and fielded balls without a clear purpose. No one would want to pay to watch.

A premise says, “To win, I must show you that [premise].” It’s the filmmaker’s job to prove the premise with every ounce of skill they can muster.

The baseball team intent on winning a game does so with great pitching, fielding, hitting, running, and strategy. It’s obvious from the first pitch to the last what the goal of every action is. It’s to win.

A great movie aims to prove its premise with script, acting, lighting, sound, music, and editing. Hundreds of experts in their craft work to prove the premise, just as baseball players strive to win a game.

Think of it a little like Jesus Christ telling a parable. His parables were often stories, well told. They had characters doing things for a reason. Jesus didn’t tell the story of the prodigal son just to entertain his listeners. He was proving a premise about God’s love for those who’ve done wrong. His parable about the Good Samaritan proved that Godly love is not just meant for family and friends. Every character in the story, and every action they took, was important in proving the premise.

A premise has three distinct parts. A “this,” a “does” and a “that.”

The premise of the prodigal son story would be, “God forgives sin.” There is a subject “God”; an action “forgives”; and, an object “sin.”

On his way home, the prodigal son does not pass a Samaritan in a ditch. Such an event would be a distraction from the premise of the prodigal son story. On the other hand, the jealous brother is a powerful subplot. The jealous brother serves as a contrast to God’s love. The brother reveals human nature. His role in the story makes God’s grace look that much more amazing.

Subplots, like all aspects of filmmaking, should serve the premise.

A great movie delivers on the premise with show, rather then tell. Audiences don’t come to hear sermons delivered in dialogue.

Imagine a movie of the prodigal son story. The lighting, the music and a close-up on the father’s face, when he first sees his wayward son approaching, should say in music and image all you need to know about love and forgiveness. Body language and action should be like an inspiring work of art as he runs to meet his son. An audience should be in tears before the two speak a word to each other. What they are about to say should already have been said with facial expressions.

David Lean was a master of creating emotion without dialogue. In movies such as THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, he cut gracefully between sweeping scenery, and close-ups, telling far more than dialogue ever could.

Every aspect of a movie works to prove the premise. In a movie, you can “prove” a premise that’s not true. The entire American sexual revolution was built on media “proving” sex outside of marriage is healthy and desirable. It’s been a disaster.

Fortunately, we’ve been seeing more and more movies with premises supportive of faith and values. We long to see this growth continue.

How To Succeed in Hollywood Without Losing Your Soul by Ted Baehr

How To Succeed in Hollywood Without Losing Your Soul by Ted Baehr

Without a premise it’s unwise to start a script. It’s like wandering around in the dark. With a premise you have a reason for each character, each scene and each line of dialogue.

Ideas for scripts don’t always emerge the form of premise. You may get an idea for some situation and characters that you find to be entertaining or inspiring. Before you go off building a story around a clever idea, pause and ponder the premise such an inspiration demands.

You’ll find that beginning with a solid premise will save you from dealing will all sorts of headaches as your script develops.

It’s healthy to ask yourself on a regular basis, “How does what I’m writing help prove the premise?”

If it doesn’t help, or if it actually hurts, drop it.

_______

To be continued…

 

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Historical Post by Gail Gaymer Martin

Gail Gaymer Martin

Gail Gaymer Martin

Today is the first part of Pace Yourself: Keeping Pace in Fiction.

Pacing – What is it?

Pacing is moving the characters from the opening situation through various growing conflicts to the resolution in a logical, realistic manner that shows character growth and, in Christian fiction, provides faith grow. Pacing is the speed at which action in the story moves and the reader gains information.

Most people assume “pacing” means the book is too slow, and that is very possible. But the pacing can also be too fast if it rushes the conflicts and leaves a sagging middle until the resolution. By not taking enough time to develop the emotional complexity of the novel, you will not connect with the readers and you will not provide them with a memorable, page-turning story.

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Maureen pic from booksigningGreetings and Happy New Year! Maureen Pratt here with my monthly CAN blog on the craft of writing. Today, I'm going to offer one technique to help you find the right angle and tone for your story. Sometimes, fine-tuning these so that your intent is clear and your storytelling is compelling isn't a matter of vocabulary or sentence structure, or even pacing or flow.

Sometimes, it's how you frame your story that gives it its best final form.

Recently, I took two lovely watercolors to a frame shop. I'd purchased them awhile ago, and never liked the plain frames they'd come in. Each picture was of a stylized bird, wings outstretched, positioned amid some leaves and branches. Some of the colors were vivid – electric blues and bright pinks – and others were more muted – faint corals and fern greens, along with a more muted blue. 

As I tried one color of matting after another, and one frame after another along with the matting, I began to realize that, although the pictures remained the same, the overall effect and, even, the sense of beauty conveyed by the images, changed with each different color and combination. For example, if I were to use the same paler shade of blue as on the birds' undersides, the effect was not as eye-catching as when I tried to use a mat that was more vividly blue. 

The texture of the mats made a difference, too, as did the different shapes and widths of the frame pieces I tried. 

In the end, I settled on contrasting colors and a natural maple frame to set off the birds and draw the eye into the images.

As I left the shop, I realized that we do the same thing with writing. We begin with a story and characters that will populate it. Our stories have bveginnings, middles, and ends, subplots, and through-lines. Themes, too, and a writer's voice to tell the tale.

But even if we have unique characters and a never-before-heard plot, or, in non-fiction, even if we are writing about something no one has ever read about before, how we frame the work will make a difference as to whether we hold the reader's attention, draw him or her deeper into our story, and want to come back for more work by the same author.

The frame is made up of the world of the piece – what is around the characters (a town, a profession, a time period) and how vividly or faintly this world is portrayed.

The frame also has textures – within the time period, for example, how "gritty" will your scene-setting be? (distinct smells in the streets of London in the 17th century, for example, or a passing mention of the aroma of life there?) How much will you play with language to convey sounds, sights, and other "set pieces," such as weather? (for example: "Crack!"  or "Thunder exploded above her.")

The frame has size – How much space will you devote to setting your scene, and will you fashion subplots within it or graze only the surface on your way to your main characters and plot?

While trying to decide how I wanted to frame my pictures, I played with various combinations and also thought about where I would hang them. In our writing work, we can think about whether the book fits in with our current contract, for example, or whether it is the start of a whole new series or direction.

So, play with your frames and matting. Try an approach you've never explored before, even something you don't think will work. 

You might be surprised at what you discover as you experiment with different frames. Why, you might just find a completely new and exciting direction, a new creative canvass within which to paint your story.

Blessings in the New Year,

Maureen

www.maureenpratt.com

http://blog.beliefnet.com/gooddaysbaddays/

P.S. My publishing and production experience includes plays, a novella, several non-fiction books, devotionals, a regular blog and a syndicated monthly column. Playing with framing works in each of these categories and, I'm sure, many more.

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Hello! And a very Merry Christmas to you! Maureen Pratt here for my monthly blog which, this year, just happens to fall a couple of days after one of my favorite holidays – you guessed it – Christmas!

Maureen pic from booksigningWhat I especially love about Christmas is that we get to bring out many of our dearly-held traditions. Whether it’s in baking, decorating, music, or Scripture study “what was old is new again” as we celebrate the Season.

How does this relate to writing?

Well, it reminds me that sometimes I miss “old” traditions of the authorial kind. Writing long-hand, for example, and seeing how, as thoughts poured out on paper, the penmanship changed. Not that I’d like to go back and write an entire manuscript in that manner. Arthritis, you know. But the process  is certainly worth revisiting.

Another tradition or, rather, several with one purpose, was how we edited. Cutting and pasting, anyone? Erasing so much that a puffy pile of erasure residue wafted around you when you stood up from your desk? Or, that “old” stand-by – the smelly, sleek white liquid that dried to a crackle and gave any manuscript that “patchwork” look. “Brilliance in a bottle,” of sorts, because you had to be very sure of how and where you used it -It could get messy, and once you covered over something, you probablycouldn’t recover it intact, if it was a major revision.

Yes, nowadays, we have computer programs that automatically back-up our drafts to the “cloud,” so we will never lose a word. We have the ease of technology in erasing whatever we want and, for that matter, moving whole lines of text from one place to another. My! Have times changed!

But what hasn’t changed is the attention truly effective editing and revising require. “Back in the day” when revising could be physically painful (I did my MFA in Playwriting pre-computer, and well remember the agony of having to re-type page after page!), I and, I’m sure, many authors, spent lots of time thinking over just what needed to be altered once Draft 1 was finished. This thought process not only saved finger muscles, it also helped deepen and strengthen work; truly, the more levels you allow yourself to think through, the more full-formed the final product will be.

How do you get there without going back in time to write in a more “primitive” manner?

One very solid way of letting the editing process unfold deeply is to give it time. Finish a scene or a draft, and then let it sit for days, or even weeks. Then, re-read what you’ve written and maybe even let it sit longer before you tackle the rewrite/revision. Yes, give it time.

Another helpful tool is one I learned in grad school. After you’ve finished a scene or a chapter, make a list of questions that relate to what just happened. These questions can be about the plot, character development, scene, or anything that you wonder about (Is it all clear? Is there something that doesn’t need to be there? Is the character unfolding, or too well-developed too early on?)

Third, to let our work “go deeper,” we ourselves must grow, too. It cannot be all about the writing, but rather the life you lead as you write should inform what you write about and how you write it. So, let your life happen, be active, be curious about the world, and, most importantly, pray for greater wisdom and insight so that that light may shine through the words you set to text.

It’s way too much of a stretch to say that I’m going to dig out my typewriter this year, and there won’t be a bottle of white erasing fluid on my desk. But as we approach a brand new year of writing, I’m going to try to hold onto one outgrowth of the traditions gone by. That is, I’m going to really think before I delete, and dig deeper than ever before when I edit and revise.

What a wonderful journey that will be! And, I hope that you, too, will find your writing journey as fulfilling and graced as can be throughout the New Year and beyond!

Joy and peace,
Maureen

www.maureenpratt.com

http://blog.beliefnet.com/gooddaysbaddays/

 

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Gail_5

Happy friday from Michigan where we're enjoy lovely weather and my flower garden is flourishing. Welcome to the CAN blog from Gail Gaymer Martin at www.gailgaymermartin.com  If you enjoy my website and blogs, you can subscribe in the right sidebar and if you'd like my monthly newsletter, you can subscribe in the right sidebar too.

Now down to business.

Authors don’t always realize their plot drags until they step back and take a fresh look. It’s always good to give your story a rest for a week or two, if you have time to spare, and then read with new eyes. The brilliant words can dull with time and that means authors need to dissect the plot, the language and techniques to bring the story to life and make it shine again . 

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