Monthly Archives: June 2012

Research Links

Research can play a big part in writing fiction so here are a few links to websites you might find useful.  If you need more in-depth research it’s always a good idea to speak to someone who is an expert in the field you’re writing about.
Wikipedia – the one-stop information shop, although it’s always best to verify from additional sources.

Ref Desk – various research resources 

Burryman – various research resources

MEDICAL
NHS Direct – medical information from UK National Health Service, including health encyclopedia (A-Z) and faqs.
NHS Careers – great A-Z of medical careers and professions.
Medical Jargon – from Medical Library Association.
First Aid – guide to first aid for a huge range of injuries.
Pregnancy Guide – by trimester and week.
Pregnancy Week-by-Week Guide – maternal and fetal development.
Suicide and Trauma Injuries – includes graphic pictures.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Infections – factsheets for each.
CRIME
UK Police Ranks – complete with pictures of uniform epaulettes.
UK Police Forces – overview of geographical boundaries of each constabularly.
UK Police Acronyms – as in ABH=Actual Bodily Harm, etc.
UK Police Overview – from the Home Office, including police powers .
US Criminal Justice Reference Service – includes overview of crime catergories, criminal justice system and faqs.
True Crimes Library – US notorious crimes and criminals.
True Crime Library – UK-skewed database of notorious crimes and criminals.
Jack the Ripper Casebook – large resource on all information related to the 1880s London murderer.
The Old Bailey – searchable database of nearly 200,00 court cases at the Old Bailey 1674 – 1913.
SOCIAL WELFARE
Overview of Social Services – UK
LANGUAGE
NATO Phonetic Alphabet – as is a=alpha, b=bravo, etc.
History of the English Language – covering all periods, including middle English dictionary
Online Dictionary and Thesaurus – UK English
Dictionary of UK Slang and Colloquialisms – UK English
Dictionary of US Slang and Colloquialisms – US English
Elizabethan Dictionary – language used by Shakespeare
Regency Lexicon – common word usage in Regency England.
Cockney Rhyming Slang – translations English to Cockney Rhyming Slang and vice versa.
Irish Gaelic Pronunciation – Beginners guide to Irish Gaelic pronunciation.
Text Message Abbreviations – translations for over 1200 text message abbreviations.
Urban Dictionary – pretty comprehensive dictionary of common UK and US street terms
Lexicon of Teen Speak – beware that this will quickly become outdated!
Lexicon of US Marines – through the ages.
Babelfish – language translation – useful but not as reliable as asking someone who speaks the language!
First Names – Etymology and history of first names.
Surnames – History of UK surnames.
Shakespeare – quotes, history, etc – great resource but generates a lot of pop-ups!
RELIGION
The 1662 Common Book of Prayer – still the official prayer book of the Church of England.
Guide to Gods – listing nearly 3000 deities.
Celtic Mythology – guide to Celtic and Gaelic gods.
Encyclopedia Mythica – mix of summaries and links to articles on a huge range of world myths, folklore and religions.
TIMES AND MONEY
British Currency – pre-1971.
World Bank Notes – a gallery of bank notes from around the world – past and present.
Currency Converter – all contemporary currencies converted.
Measuring Worth – convert the value of money between time periods.
Money, Tax & Benefits – A guide to British money, tax and benefits produced by HM Government.
Calendar – find out what day any date in the past fell on.  Includes world clock, astronomical information (eg lunar phases) and time zones.
GEOGRAPHY
The World Factbook – from US intelligence agency the C.I.A. Includes information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 266 world entities.
World Atlas – great atlas, maps, geographical facts (rivers, ocean depths, mountain ranges etc).
Earthquakes – faqs answered by British Geological Survey.
Natural History – searchable database of UK plants and animals and overview of all things earth and space.
Climate History – UK climate from 4000BC to present, searchable by year.
PSYCHOLOGY
Overview of Psychology – from BBC Science team.
Myers Briggs Personality Types – overview and questionnaire.
Personality Types – overview of personality types including questionnaire.
Criminal Pyschology – summary of criminal pyschology.
POLITICS
UK Electoral System – summary of the UK Parliament including information on visiting
UK Intelligence Community –  summary of the UK Intelligence organisations provided by The Cabinet Office.
U.S Elections – overview of the electoral system in the USA
How to Take Over The World – in seven easy steps!
British Public Services – great resource from HM Government including information on policing, criminal justice systems, health, education, social welfare, travel, environment, community.
VARIOUS
Architecture in Britain – Timeline of styles and key architects.
English History and Heritage – culture, history.
Castles of Britain – great collection of information on castles, including glossary of castle terms.
Types of Psychic Ability – list of psychic abilities.
How Stuff Works – idiot’s guide to how things work – electronics, communications, nature, etc.
This Day in Music History – music history.
Crazy Fads – 20th century crazes and fashions.
HISTORY
History Learning Site – a huge resource with summary articles on a wide range of historical periods, countries and conflicts
Military History Encyclopedia – covers major conflicts around the world from 1200BC to present day.  Includes information on history, timelines, weapons, battles, campaigns, treaties and biographies of key players.
The National Archives – the UK Government’s National Archive for England, Wales and the United Kingdrom.  Includes a summary of historical periods and events and their related documentary evidence.
British History Online – collection of primary and secondary sources of medieval and modern British history. Searchable by subject, period and place.
British Monarchs – summary of Monarchs from 800AD to present.
The Aztecs – aimed at children so quick, easy to read basic summaries.
The Ancient Egyptians – overview from BBC History team.
Ancient Rome – overview from BBC History team.
The Vikings – accessible overview from PBS.
The Tudors – pretty comprehensive guide to this period of British history with bibliography for more in-depth research.
Medieval English Towns – an in-depth but accessible resource on the subject.
Medieval Timeline – significant people and places, including maps and pictures.
Regency Resources – a list of links to detailed resources by subject for everything Regency.
The Regency Collection – great collection of information by subject for the Regency period.
American Civil War – guide to the American Civil War.
American Wars – summary of all major conflicts involving the USA
Victorian Britain – comprehensive overview covering politics, social history, science, literature, economy, etc.
World War One – summary and in-depth analysis by BBC History team
World War Two – summary and in-depth analysis by BBC History team
Battle of Britain – the RAF’s resource on the Battle of Britain including Daily Reports and a Roll of Honour.
Concentration Camps
Northern Ireland – politics and conflict.
Vietnam War – detailed but accessible look at the conflict.
The Cuban Missile Crisis – summary of the near-conflict of 1962.
The Gulf War 1990-1991 – from PBS Frontline.
London Bombings 7/7 2005 – the BBC’s Special Report.
Madrid Train Attacks 2004 – BBC’s summary report.
Hurricane Katrina 2005 – report from US Department of Health and Human Services.
The Iraq War  – from CNN News Team.
On This Day – historical events, literature and music.
On This Day – BBC reports on a host of significant UK and world events 1950-2005.
20th Century History – includes crimes, scandals, disasters, fads, timelines, wars & conflicts, scientific & medical advances, important people and photographs.
The People History – 20th century summary by decade and searchable by subject. Also includes homes, prices, costs of living, etc.
Also well worth checking out Lucy V Hay’s blog on researching for drama ‘Research Or Die’

Screenwriting Contests – Advice

I regularly update a round-up of screenwriting competitions and the very wise James Cary (aka SitcomGeek) added some cautionary advice.

He makes a really good point that the deadline of a writing competition can be both a blessing and a curse. While it might incentivize a new writer to finally finish the script that might otherwise languish incomplete for years, it is also in danger of encouraging them to send off a script before it is ready.  You only get one chance to impress so make it count. Make sure your script is REALLY ready.

My advice is to see writing competitions as just a part of your overall strategy to further your writing career. Some competitions may be better suited to you than others. Moviebytes have a great system of rating US competitions and while we don’t have anything quite like that in the UK, you can ask around (Twitter, Facebook, etc) and find out what experiences others have had who may have submitted to the competition in previous years.

The other great way to judge a competition is by its judges. This element, far more than any cash prize, is where the real value lies in submitting to some writing competitions.  You may be desperate to get your script into the hands of a particular executive at a particular production company or studio because you are sure your script is right up their street BUT they don’t take unsolicited submissions BUT said executive is on the judging panel of an open writing competition. If your script is good enough, it will end up being read by them and you’ve brought yourself to the attention of someone who might genuinely be able to progress your career.

As with every other element of breaking into screenwriting (approaching production companies, getting an agent) make sure you DO YOUR HOMEWORK! The rest is down to the brilliance of your writing and your determination.

Scriptwriting Tips

Story

  • Get your hooks in early – the first 10 pages are the most important.  If the person reading the script is bored, so will an audience be watching it and they’ll switch channels!
  • Have a narrative thread running right through, it doesn’t need to be continually taut but it mustn’t break or the audience will drift away.  Create a sense of forward momentum and build.
  • Whose story is it?  Most stories have only one or two main protagonists. 
  • What is the inciting incident and how is it paid off?
  • If you show a gun in act one, you must fire it in act three.  In other words, if you set something up, then make sure you pay it off.
  • Get in late, get out early – in every scene.
  • Scenes should be about the characters in that scene.
  • Defer gratification and create anticipation.
  • Subvert expectations.

Characters

  • Make your characters active, not passive, in their own story.  Character is action – characters are defined by what they do, how they choose to overcome (or not) an obstacle or complete a task. 
  • Give your characters a journey. 
  • What do your characters need and want?  These are not the same thing – they may want to marry someone rich but to be happy they need to fall in love (probably with someone poor!). 
  • Characters should pursue their want (although not necessarily their need). It must be established early.
  • Show the turning points on your characters’ journey– they must be dramatised and they must be believable.
  • What is at stake if your characters don’t achieve their objective?  (In a crime thriller this might be their life, in a romantic comedy it may be their happiness).
  • What do your characters learn?  How do they change?
  • Give your characters obstacles.
  • Why should we care? We must have empathy for your characters – that doesn’t mean they have to be nice but we have to understand them. 
  • Would all your characters react differently to the same incident?  If not you need to do more work on differentiating them.
  • Make your characters real, not just serving a plot point.
  • Love your characters.  If you don’t, neither will your audience and they’ll switch off. 

Conflict

  • Internal conflict (within a character) and external conflict (between characters) is essential for all good drama and comedy.

Dialogue

  • Dialogue should sound naturalistic.
  • Use subtext and avoid writing on the nose.  Characters shouldn’t be telling us what they really think and feel (unless of course it’s something they’ve been trying to articulate right through the story, in which case when they finally reveal it, it’s dramatic).
  • Avoid characters telling us information the audience already knows. 
  • Every word counts – if it doesn’t move the story forward or reveal something new about a character, you should probably cut it (unless it’s funny!).
  • Characters should have individual voices.  If you covered over the character names, could you tell whose speech it is just from what they’ve said and how they’ve said it?

Action

  • Film and television are visual media so the golden rule is ‘Show, don’t tell’.
  • Keep action descriptions succinct.

Formatting

  • Your script will look more professional if it’s laid out in a script format. 
  • If you don’t have professional scriptwriting software, like Final Draft, you can write your script in Word using a template like Script Smart or Celtx.

Review and Revise

  • Before you send your script anywhere, read it with a critical eye.  Make it the best you possibly can. 
  • Proof read your script for obvious mistakes.  Sloppy scripts full of mistakes suggests that this is something you’ve dashed off not lovingly slaved over.

The Rules…

  • are there to be broken.  Just be aware of the rules and make sure you have a really good reason for breaking them.

Many thanks to John Yorke for his excellent ‘Advanced Story Course’, from which much of the above is taken.

UK Literary Agents for Screenwriters

The SCRIPT ANGEL BLOG has MOVED to www.scriptangel.com/blog/

You can view the most recently updated list of UK screenwriting literary agents here: www.scriptangel.com/blog/uk-literary-agents-for-screenwriters/

Here is a list of UK literary agents who represent screenwriters. Not all accept unsolicited submissions so please check their websites for submission guidelines.

It’s also well worth looking at Michelle Lipton’s blog post, a  Q&A with agents Rob Kraitt of AP Watt and Matthew Bates of Sayle Screen, a great blog post from Jason Arnopp on what he did to get an agent and one from Lucy Vee Hay  on getting an agent.

Alan Brodie

Andrew Mann

A P Watt

Berlin Associates

Blake Friedmann

Burkeman and Clarke

Casarotto

Cecily Ware

Culverhouse and James

Curtis Brown

David Higham Associates

Dench Arnold

Gemma Hirst Associates

Imagine Talent

Independent Talent

Janet Fillingham

Jill Foster

Julia Tyrrell Management

Kitson Press Associates

Knight Hall Agency

Linda Seifert

Marjacq Scripts

MBA Literary Agency

Micheline Steinberg Associates

Peters Fraser and Dunlop

Rochelle Stevens

Rod Hall

Sayle Screen

Sheil Land

Smart Talent

The Agency

The Lisa Richards Agency

The Sharland Organisation

The Tennyson Agency

The Writers Company

United Agents

Valerie Hoskins

Vivienne Clore

If you know of any others, please let me know in the comments. Good luck!