WAYW: Emotionally Charged Action Verbs

This post is part of a series on Writing About Your Writing. Check out more posts here.

Anytime you are writing about your writing, you always want to think in terms of actions. Both the action of the plot, and more critically the action of your characters. To do this well, you must harness the power of Emotionally Charged Action Verbs.

Most dramatic writers are obsessed with dialogue. Dialogue is important, obviously, but it’s best to think of dialogue as the vehicle in which your scenes move. The engine is the actions. Doesn’t matter how slick your Porsche looks from the outside, it ain’t gonna go anywhere if it’s running on a Ford 4.2 V8 (and yes, I had to google that in order to make this metaphor work.)

Emotionally Charged Action Verbs are particularly useful when crafting a Logline because of the need for brevity. But let’s pretend the following is an excerpt from a synopsis, treatment, or outline. (More on those in another post).

Bad WAYW looks like this:

Continue reading WAYW: Emotionally Charged Action Verbs

WAYW: Loglines

This post is part of a series on Writing About Your Writing. Check out more posts here.

A logline is a one to three sentence summary of the main elements of your story told in an emotionally engaging way. Think of it as your ultimate elevator pitch. The term logline is mostly used in the Film/TV industry, but I find it useful for any type of dramatic, narrative storytelling.

Loglines are incredibly useful when you’re trying to market a show, pitch an idea, or apply for grants and awards. The better you can succinctly communicate your story, the easier it is for people to jump on board.

But Loglines can also be useful for you, the writer, to help shape and heighten the arc of your characters and story. Let’s dive in. Continue reading WAYW: Loglines

Writing About Your Writing (WAYW)

One of the most important skills for a writer is being able to write ABOUT your writing. Ironically, this is often one of the hardest types of writing for writers to do, and many – if not most – do it badly.

When writers don’t know how to write about their writing it suggests a very damning truth: She hasn’t done the work to craft a strong, compelling, or emotional story. This isn’t just happenstance. Being a good writer and being able to write about your writing  are tightly connected. In other words: good writers have an awareness of how their writing works. Bad writers either don’t know, or don’t care. Continue reading Writing About Your Writing (WAYW)

What Lorne Michaels Can Teach You About Compassion

PC: Joe Pugliese

This week’s Hollywood Reporter cover story is about the remarkable year SNL has had making fun of Donald Trump and our current political swamp. When you step back to look at how they’ve successfully navigated a particularly divisive cultural moment and walked away with a ratings bump of 11 million viewers, it’s truly amazing.

It’s particularly impressive given that so much of what’s happened in the news is either really serious and scary to many people, or is so absurd that it in-and-of-itself goes beyond parody. What I appreciate about their approach in these instances is that they often simply repeat what actually happened, giving us all a second to laugh out loud at it. It turns pain into catharsis, and makes SNL a type of antidote that people have to tune in to get.

In the interview, Leslie Jones quotes Lorne Michaels commenting on the numerous celebrity self-pitches to play other administration officials – most notably Rosie O’Donnell as Steve Bannon. What he says, I think, is actually incredible advice for how artists must approach despicable characters who do unsavory things, whether real or invented. Continue reading What Lorne Michaels Can Teach You About Compassion

Ryback and Ulloa Accepted to Rhinebeck

Ryback and Ulloa’s new show PASSING THROUGH was one of 9 new musical selected for development at this summer’s Rhinebeck Writers Retreat.

Wanna watch a song from the show? Go here.

For nine consecutive weeks beginning July 2, each writing team will have a weeklong residency in the Hudson Valley, two hours north of New York City, to write their new musical.

Writers pay nothing to participate in Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, which takes no percentage of future royalties, and donors cover all the writers’ costs. Each writing team lives in a private home and is provided transportation, food, and a $500 stipend.

The 9 musicals were selected from 113 applications by a panel of new musical experts: Continue reading Ryback and Ulloa Accepted to Rhinebeck

Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want

PC: Aron Van de Pol

I saw a couple new plays over the last few weeks, and it got me thinking about structure.

There seems to be a trend with young playwrights that rejects the “restraints” of traditional structure. With nothing worthwhile to replace it, however, rejecting traditional structure feels like a rejection of any structure at all. The resulting play feels like a meditation on a theme at best and a plot with no climax or catharsis at worst.

There are two general kinds of structure that I’d like to distinguish: Flow and Story. Continue reading Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want

The Birthplace of Innovation, Creativity and Change

For the longest time there was a wall I couldn’t surpass as an actor. I didn’t know how to be fully emotionally vulnerable in my work. Every now and then I would hit on something and it would surprise me. I couldn’t get back there, and I didn’t understand why.

A few months ago, I saw a play that featured a word that I thought I understood, but realized I didn’t truly understand. The word was shame. I thought I had a sense of what shame was, and I had a feeling about its pervasiveness in our society, but it was a vague sense and a vague feeling.

As it turned out, Vulnerability and Shame were inextricably linked. Continue reading The Birthplace of Innovation, Creativity and Change

How Musical Theatre Can Change the World

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the greater purpose of musical theatre. It’s been said that if you want to make a billion dollars you simply help a billion people. Now, who doesn’t want to make a billion dollars (especially if you’re an artist)? But the question then becomes how do you help a billion people?

In order to take big actions you have to set big goals. So I’ve begun considering how an artist – say a musical theater writer – can truly change the world. Here are some ways I’ve come up with. Continue reading How Musical Theatre Can Change the World

The Magical Power of Really Bad Ideas

The only way to have a lot of really great ideas is to have even MORE really bad ideas.

The good news is having bad ideas is really easy! I have bad ideas all the time. They flicker into my head all day long, usually disguised as a good idea. Then after I spend a little more time with them, their true identity as bad ideas reveals itself, and they gets discarded.

But every now and then a really great idea flickers into my head disguised as a really bad idea. You just have to get through the bad ones first.

The trick is to cultivate these bad ideas. To actively farm them, go out and get them. You won’t believe how freeing this will be. Continue reading The Magical Power of Really Bad Ideas

Eligibility and the Kleban Prize

There’s a certain pessimism that allows you to be blasé about not receiving the grants/awards you apply for as a writer. It’s the pessimism that says,  “Chances are I won’t win this, but I’ll try anyway.” Then when you aren’t selected you can say to yourself, “See, I thought so.” Or if you are, you can be pleasantly and genuinely surprised/honored.

I wrote my musical Joe Schmoe Saves the World in reaction to not winning the Richard Rodgers award one year, dissatisfied with the artists who had.  I thought of the Stravinsky quote: “The one true comment on a piece of music is another piece of music.” Resentment/bitterness/sour grapes can be transformed into something truly worthwhile.

Often I find I can learn a lot from people who receive grants/awards for which I also applied. It introduces me to a new type of work or a new way of thinking. It gives me inspiration to see other peers finally receive due attention. It forces me to pay attention to what people are responding to and strive for greatness in my own work.

On the other hand – sometimes it’s just down right frustrating. Continue reading Eligibility and the Kleban Prize