Archive for the ‘Grub Street Boston’ Category

WAIT! Can it be? A fourth class in the wildly popular series of Grub Street classes that combine the best of literary fiction techniques with the punch of genre storytelling? Yes, IT IS! In this newest instalment of Michael Marano’s “Smart Page-Turner” sequence taught at Boston’s Grub Street, you will receive serious hands-on instruction from a multi-award-winning novelist and nationally syndicated critic that will not only infuse your genre fiction with literary gravitas, but that will also infuse your literary fiction with the readability and popular appeal of fiction genres such as thrillers, mysteries, Science Fiction and Fantasy, erotica, adventure, etc. Classes will include writing exercises and workshopping of students’ fiction. Specific topics are outlined below on a week-by-week basis. This class expands on topics covered in Grub’s “Writing the Smart-Page Turner”, “The Smart Page-Turner Strikes Back!” and “Revenge of the Smart Page-Turner”, but is open to all. Recommended for those with previous workshop experience.

Where? At Grub Street’s Downtown Boston HQ, right by Park Street Station on the Red Line and Downtown Crossing, 162 Boylston St #5, Boston, MA 02116

Who?   https://grubstreet.org/about/who-we-are/faculty/#MichaelMarano

Michael Marano is a horror and dark science fiction writer whose first novel, Dawn Song, won the Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild Awards. Stories From the Plague Years, a collection of Marano’s new and reprinted short fiction, was named one of the Top Ten Horror Publications of 2011 by Booklist. His supernatural crime novella “Displacement” was nominated for a 2011 Shirley Jackson Award. Stories From the Plague Years was reprinted in 2012 by ChiZine Publications of Toronto, who also reprinted Dawn Song in 2014, which will be followed by two sequels, A Choir of Exiles and Winter Requiem.

Since 1990, he has also been reviewing movies for the Public Radio Satellite System program Movie Magazine International. Mike’s pop culture commentary has appeared in many national publications. Marano is also a beginning circus performer, developing and choreographing narrative aerial pieces for the trapeze and lyra based on the works of J.G. Ballard and Philip K. Dick.

 

When? 10 Thursdays from 10:30am-1:30pm, starting September 7th, 2017

How? Enroll here! SCHOLARSHIPS ARE AVAILABLE! https://grubstreet.org/findaclass/class/the-smart-page-turner-reloaded/

OUTLINE OF THE CLASS

Week 1. Creating Suspense and Tension

What the hell is suspense? What the hell is tension? How are they different? How do they compliment each other? What are their components? We’ll dive in and examine strategies for creating suspense and tension in genre and non-genre contexts.

Materials: Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca; Tracy Letts’ play Killer Joe; one of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels.

Week 2. Using All Five Senses

Ever read something that’s just blah, because the author is only using sight and sound to tell a story? You have FIVE senses… so why not harness them all for your fiction?

Materials: Patrick Süskind, Perfume; Elizabeth Kata, A Patch of Blue.

Week 3.  Stealing the Storytelling Techniques of Writers for Stage, Screen and TV, Part 1–“Tapping Real Life”

Some of the best storytelling created today is being written for performed media. We’ll look at how these techniques can be applied to prose fiction. First up, creating “Slice of Life” moments…when there’s this thing that happened… and you really want to write about it in a dramatic way. How do you take a “slice of life” that everybody can relate to, and still make it interesting and compelling? How do you avoid the dreaded, “Yeah, so?”

Materials: Emmy winners Judd Apatow and Michael White’s teleplays for the high school comedy/drama Freaks and Geeks and parts of renowned theater director Peter Brook’s essay “The Open Door.” A short story or two by Bonnie Jo Campbell

Week 4. Stealing the Storytelling Techniques of Writers for Stage, Screen and TV, Part 2– “Using Place and Time to Define Drama”

Drama and conflict and personal growth can’t exist in a vacuum. We’ll look at the specific ways the time and place of your story can and maybe should define its emotional impact and arc.

Materials: Emmy-winners Matthew Weiner & Robin Veith’s teleplay for the Mad Men episode, “THE WHEEL” and either Greg Mottola’s Independent Spirit Award-nominated script for Adventureland.

Week 5. Stealing the Storytelling Techniques of Writers for Stage, Screen and TV, Part 3–“Creating Personal Conflicts”

 Ever find yourself amazed at how some playwrights can just have a few people in a room, and the emotional results are like a UFC Cage Match? We’ll breakdown how they do that.

Materials Nobel-winner Harold Pinter’s play, The Homecoming and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jason Miller’s play, That Championship Season.

Week 6. Using Stanislavsky to Create Characters

Actors have a whole bunch of great tools to get into character’s heads. So… why can’t authors use those tools, too?

Materials: Kazuo Ishiguro, Remains of the Day or Never Let Me Go; Thomas Harris, Silence of the Lambs

Week 7. Using Setting, Part 1, The City

To really use an urban setting, even to in a work of realism, you have to tap a really unique sense of the unreal. Poets like Baudelaire and TS Eliot figured this out. And so have a few really great prose authors.

Peter Straub, “A Short Guide to the City”; Hubert Selby, Last Exit to Brooklyn or The Demon, Vera Caspary, Laura, Dorothy B. Hughes, In a Lonely Place

Week 8. Using Setting, Part 2, The Wilderness.

When you have characters in the wilderness, the real struggle isn’t always with the external wilderness, but the inner one. We’ll look at ways to tap that struggle.

Robert B. Parker, Wilderness; Bonnie Jo Campbell “Bringing Home the Bones”

Week 9. Satire and Hyperbole

When you take something emotionally real and blow it up, you’re using the same tool that humorists use, even when you’re not writing about something particularly funny. We’ll look at the ways that satire and hyperbole can be used to be funny and tragic.

Rod Serling and Michael Wilson, Planet of the Apes; Evelyn Waugh, The Loved One; a short story by P. G. Wodehouse; John Le Carre, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy;

Week 10. Catch Up, Loose Ends and Review

 

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Hey… I’m posting this because I’ve been getting emails about the specifics of my upcoming “Writing the Smart Page-Turner” class at Grub Street in Boston this January, which will be taught at Grub Street HQ in downtown Boston Thursdays, from 10:30 AM to 1:30 PM starting on January 14, 2016. The gist of the class is–how do you make genre fiction… be it fantasy, science fiction, mystery, suspense, Western, erotica, whatever… literary? Yep, I toss around ideas about what makes certain works both popular and literary. But the class is specifically designed to be useful for the actual writing of novels and short stories. The instruction is practical, not theoretical.

“If only every teacher had the passion of Mike. He brings his rich background of book and film knowledge–and experience–and uses them to create classes that are a joy to attend. His comments on your writing are thoughtful, sincere, and designed to make you strengthen your writing muscles–no matter how developed or atrophied they may be.” John D., former student

The class will consist of detailed workshopping, brainstorming, in-class exercises, and the reading of some pretty great fiction, screenplays, stage plays, and comic books/graphic novels. Here’s a breakdown of the class and a few of the things we’ll be reading.

Week 1. What Makes Fiction Popular? OK, what makes something a “Smart Page-Turner”? To warm up, we’ll be picking apart a few of those elements, tricks and techniques that give genre works literary heft. There are three factors that are key to this, and we’ll not just talk about each factor, but look at how they work together. Readings will include Ray Bradbury and a few others.

Week 2. Creating Characters–“Archaeology Without Digging” In this class we’re going to be pinching techniques from top Hollywood screenwriters, acting coaches, journalists and… believe it or not… archaeologists. Creating good, memorable, believable characters can be a daunting challenge, and ruthlessly stealing from other disciplines can give you an awesome toolkit for doing this. Readings will include (non-scary) parts of Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, who, it should be noted, was a top crime reporter before he became a crime fiction writer. We’ll take a close look at how he uses his reporter’s eye to create amazing characters.

Week 3. World Building and Setting In genre fiction, “World Building” is often thought of in terms of how it applies to the creation of imaginary worlds, like Dune or Middle-earth. But the same techniques that are used to create imaginary settings can also be used to create believable, visceral settings for mysteries, espionage stories, cop stories, and vice versa. Building on last week’s lesson, we’ll take a look at how character defines setting, and setting defines character. Readings will include Philip K. Dick, part of a Philip Marlowe story by Raymond Chandler, and Tom Perrotta. We’ll also be looking at some awesome comic books, written by bestselling thriller author Brad Meltzer!

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Week 4. Exposition “As you know Bob–my twin brother and fellow operative with whom I grew up in Kansas–our briefing report from HQ summarizes that it is our objective to….” Ever roll your eyes at an expositional groaner like that? How do you get across the background information the reader needs to know without making a botch of it? We’ll go over some elegant techniques that get that information to the reader in ways that the reader at times won’t even notice. Readings will include Andre DubusJohn Cheever, and we’ll take a look at how James Cameron pulls this off in his better screenplays from the 1980s.

Week 5. Dialogue Bad dialogue can kill a great story. We’ll take a look at the work of people who can skillfully tell stories using almost only dialogue, like playwrights and the authors of radio dramas. We’ll see how playwriting techniques can be used in prose form, and also look closely at the work of playwrights who also write for the screen. Authors read will include Norman WexlerMidnight Cowboy author James Leo Herlihy, and Sarah Kane.

Joe Cover

Week 6. Point of View We’ll take a look at how POV actually defines plot, how it determines the narrative arc of a story, and can be used to create suspense. We’ll build on previous lessons to find ways to get deep into a character’s head, and to use that perspective to figure out not just what makes that character tick, but how he or she ticks in his or her world. Among other sources, we’ll be looking at a pretty great comic book written by Ed Brubaker that features Batman… in a context you’ve never seen him in before!

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Week 7. Plot What is plot? How is what is not told to the reader just as important in the creation of a plot as what is told? Is the narrative climax of a work of fiction the same as its emotional climax? In addition to raking over these questions, we’ll go over some great “hands on” techniques for creating new plots and getting your creative pistons firing. Readings will include Annie Proux.

Week 8. Theme Theme isn’t a one-way street. This session will focus on the ways that the reader contributes to an understanding of Theme right along with the author. We’ll talk about the themes in your fiction, how to develop them and make them dynamic. Readings will include Jack Ketchum and either Rosellen Brown or Tom Reamy.

Week 9. Meeting Weird Editorial Requirements Writers have to meet deadlines and deal with certain themes or topics when solicited, and some themes are just weird, or bewildering, or whacked. We’ll dig in and take a look at real themed anthology guidelines and find ways to cook stories suited for those markets. We’ll also find ways to create stories suited for several specialized markets, and take a look at how specific works have been developed for and sold to specialized anthologies. Readings will include William Faulkner and a few others.

Week 10. How to Work with Editors, Cover Letters, Submitting your Work So… what’s an editor do? What do they look for? The course will close with an examination of fiction that I have myself taken through the editorial process with other writers in my capacity as the Fiction Editor of the online magazine Chiaroscuro. We’ll also go over ways to submit professionally, and ways to strategize to whom you should send your work and how you should pitch it.

For more information on the class and to sign up, you can click here.

You can contact me directly at profmike AT mindspring DOT com

Thanks stopping by! Hope to see you in January!

Hey, Everyone!

People have been asking me about the kinds of things I cover in my Grub Street class, Screen and Stage to the Page: What Drama, Movies & TV Can Teach Prose Writers.  Well, for want of a better term, we’ll be using ideas from theater and drama critics and directors to “reverse engineer” scenes like this one below from the brilliant cult TV show FREAKS AND GEEKS, so that the same techniques can be used for your prose fiction, or even memoir. Think of it as a computer hack, only we’ll  be dissecting the teleplay and watching the episode, then we’ll take those awesome nuggets and figure out how to plug them into our novels and stories. This specific bit from FREAKS AND GEEKS is what we’ll be covering in the section on “How to Tap Real-Life Experiences.”  We’ve all been in situations kind of like what Lindsey faces below. But how do you blow that up into something dramatic and funny and packed full of meaning? How do you write about “slice of life” situations and create compelling storytelling, and not just diary entries with names changed?

Watch!

 

That’s a pretty amazing scene, right? Full of a whole spectrum of emotions. It feels over-the-top, but it also feels real. When we’ll be looking at this TV script, we’ll be looking at the ways in which writer Michael White managed to concentrate Real Life into a brilliant fictional scene, and brainstorming ways to do the same things for your prose storytelling.

 

For a break-down of all the stuff we’ll be covering, check out the syllabus here!

To enroll, click here.

 E-mail me at profmike AT mindspring DOT com if you have any specific questions or want any further information.

 

Hope the New Year is treating you all well!

 

 

 

 

Hey, Everybody!

Thought I’d give a specific hint of the kinds of things things I’ll be covering my upcoming Grub Street Class,  Screen and Stage to the Page: What Drama, Movies & TV Can Teach Prose Writers. It’s a 10-week class that will meet Monday Mornings from 10:30 to 1:30 at Grub Street HQ in downtown Boston starting January 12, 2015.

Check out the really incredible scene below (which we’ll be dissecting in detail about halfway through the course), from Robert Redford’s adaptation of Judith Guest’s really amazing novel Ordinary People. The script was by the great Oscar-winning screenwriter Alvin Sargent.  The scene below is not in Guest’s novel, but it has become iconic in that it so beautifully and intensely concentrates the emotional tensions that backbone both the novel and the film. Check it out:

 

 

What we’re gonna look at in Screen and Stage to the Page: What Drama, Movies & TV Can Teach Prose Writers are the ways that you can, and at times maybe should, look upon revisions of your first drafts not as polishings, per se, but as adaptations, much in the same vein as screenwriters adapting novels to screenplays. We’ll “reverse engineer” the ways in which Sargent created the above scene (by taking a look at similar scenes he’s written in other adaptations of novels, like The Sterile Cuckoo by John Nichols, author of The Milagro Beanfield War) and inserted it into Guest’s existing narrative. And we’ll figure out ways you can use the same techniques of adaptation that screenwriters use to the revision of your own work.

If you have any questions, post them below and I’ll answer them ASAP.

 

To enroll, click here: http://tinyurl.com/3ctj92f  .

Hope to see you guys in class!

Hey everybody! I’d like to announce my new class, Screen and Stage to the Page: What Drama, Movies & TV Can Teach Prose Writers. It’s a 10-week class that will meet Monday Mornings from 10:30 to 1:30 at Grub Street HQ in downtown Boston starting January 12, 2015. Here’s the official class description:

Some of today’s best writing in terms of theme, character, dialogue, and plot is being done by playwrights, screenwriters, and teleplay writers. In this class, a nationally syndicated film critic and multi-award-winning novelist will show students how to use the tools of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights and Oscar-winning screenwriters for their prose fiction stories and novels. Topics covered will include ways to rewrite real-life incidents into tight and compelling drama, how to streamline exposition so it doesn’t stop your narrative dead, how to crystallize character-defining moments into a scene, and how to use the context of specific settings to amp drama. Classes will consist of analysis of plays, teleplays, and scripts as well as some prose source materials, group watching of films and TV episodes, and in-class workshopping of students’ short fiction and novel excerpts with special emphasis on how the tools of screen and stage writers can be applied to these works. All genres and kinds of fiction writers are welcome.  

So, how will that breakdown? Here’s a tentative syllabus of the topics I’ll be covering and the materials we’ll be looking at.

1. Tapping Real Life

So, there’s this thing that happened… and you really want to write about it in a dramatic way. How do you take a “slice of life” that everybody can relate to, and still make it interesting and compelling? How do you avoid the dreaded, “Yeah, so?”

Materials Emmy winners Judd Apatow and Michael White’s teleplays for the high school comedy/drama Freaks and Geeks  and parts of renowned theater director Peter Brook’s essay “The Open Door.”

2. Awesome Exposition and Action

So, there’s all this stuff… background information… that the reader needs to know about in order for the plot to move forward. But to give that information to the reader, you can wind up stopping the plot dead in its tracks. Which can be close-the-book boring. We’ll look at ways to give the audience/readers the information they need while still making your narrative interesting and full of dramatic punch.

Materials Oscar-winner Paul Haggis’s screenplay for the James Bond movie Casino Royale,  with some comparison to Ian Fleming’s original novel. David Koepp’s screenplay for Jurassic Park with some comparison to Michael Crichton’s original novel.

3. Point of View and Emotional Development

OK… point of view is vitally important to telling a story. So’s character development. How does your main character’s emotional arc affect how you use POV?

Materials BAFTA winners Joel and Ethan Coen’s screenplay for True Grit, with some comparison to Charles Portis’ original novel .

4. The Scope of Time and Space and Hitting Emotional Beats

Let’s say you got a story that takes place over a long period of time, over a lot of geographic space. How do you keep a solid emotional core to something that takes place, well… all over the place, and for a long period of time? How do you pace out the emotional beats to keep that story going strong?

Materials James Vanderbilt’s WGA-nominated screenplay for the David Fincher movie Zodiac.

5. Creating Tension, Apprehension and Dissension

Ever find yourself amazed at how some playwrights can just have a few people in a room, and the emotional results are like a UFC Cage Match? We’ll breakdown how they do that.

Materials Nobel-winner Harold Pinter’s play, The Homecoming and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jason Miller’s play, That Championship Season.

6. Adding Dramatic Layers of Meaning to Your Dialogue

Wait! Did that person really just say that? Wait! Did that really mean what I think it meant? We’ll look at ways to load your scenes with different meanings and different emotional notes.

Materials John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer-winning stage play (and screenplay for) Doubt.

7. Using Place and Time to Define Drama

Drama and conflict and personal growth can’t exist in a vacuum. We’ll look at the specific ways the time and place of your story can and maybe should define its emotional impact and arc.

Materials Emmy-winners Matthew Weiner & Robin Veith’s teleplay for the Mad Men episode, “THE WHEEL” and either Greg Mottola’s Independent Spirit Award-nominated script for Adventureland or Alfred Sole and Rosemary Ritvo’s screenplay for Alice, Sweet Alice.

8. Putting Crystallizing Emotional Moments in a Scene

Sometimes, a dramatic moment can occur in a story that rips open a character so you can look deep inside to see what makes them tick. We’ll dissect a few of those scenes, to see how they can work in prose.

Materials Jenny Lumet’s screenplay for Rachel Getting Married  and Tony-winner Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

9. Adding Details to Make a Story Pop

The effect of little things can be huge in a story. We’ll look at ways to choose the right things to get the most dramatic bang.

Materials Brian Helgeland’s Oscar-nominated screenplay for Mystic River, with some comparison to Dennis Lehane’s original novel.

10. Mining Simple Conflict into Complex Drama

Sometimes, a really simple situation can be a really deep and profound exploration of the human condition. We’ll look at ways to use simple situations and conflicts to load stories with heavy emotional punch.

Materials  J.P. Miller’s teleplay Rabbit Trap and Paddy Chayefsky’s teleplay Marty .

To enroll, click here: http://tinyurl.com/3ctj92f  E-mail me at profmike AT mindspring DOT com if you have any specific questions or want any further information. Please note that scholarships are available for greatly reduced tuition. For more information on scholarships, please refer to the Grub Street page here. Deadline to apply for Scholarships is noon on DECEMBER 4, 2014.

Hey, Everyone!!

Just wanted to let you all know about my NEW class at Grub Street, “How to not STINK! A Look at Bad Storytelling and What Writers Should Do and Not Do”

It will meet for 6 Wednesdays from 10:30am-1:30pm at Grub Street headquarters, (162 Boylston Street, 5th Floor Boston, MA 02116) starting on April 3rd.

Here’s the official Grub Street Description from their website: http://tinyurl.com/crswkzu

The most important thing a writer can do to become a good writer is to avoid being a bad writer. In this multi-week, multi-media class taught by an award-winning novelist and nationally syndicated film critic, students will autopsy a string of really bad examples of storytelling so we can all figure out why they’re bad and how not to be bad ourselves in the same ways. Strategies will be developed in class to make rotten books and films no longer rotten, or at the very least a little less rotten, so that students will develop a toolkit for writing fiction and other narratives that are … y’know … actually good. Students must be prepared to read some really bad fiction and watch some really bad movies. Class time will also be spent on in-class exercises fixing bad narratives, and on the development of a practical toolkit for actual good prose writing that will address issues such as world-building, character development, the right ways to apply background research to a story, and the application of sound logic to plotting. There will be workshopping of students’ fiction, emphasizing the application of good storytelling techniques from the toolkit we’ll be developing. For students with prior workshop experience.

Here are some of the topics we’ll tentatively cover:

*How to avoid clichéd characters.

*The importance of clear character motivation.

*How to structure plots that are logical.

*How to create conflict that’s meaningful, and not just an excuse to get your plot rolling.

*How to avoid bad imagery and mood.

*How to avoid terrible exposition.

*How to not cheat your readers with bad endings and resolutions.

*Does your protagonist really BELONG in your story?

*How to not use product placements in the place of real world building.

*How to not let your really awesome and fun research get in the way of your storytelling.

To sign up, click here:   http://tinyurl.com/crswkzu

If you have any questions, feel free to ask below!

 

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Hey, Everyone…

Thought I’d post the week-by-week breakdown of my new class at Grub Street in Boston, REVENGE of the Smart Page-Turner! which will run for 10 weeks at Grub HQ in Boston on Mondays from 10:30 AM to 1:30 PM beginning on January 10, 2013. Here’s the official Grub Street class description:

The newest addition to Grub’s ground-breaking series of classes that combine the best of literary fiction with the punch of popular and genre storytelling. In this course, students will get serious “hands on” instruction that applies the characteristics of three archetypal figures from pop fiction–the Detective, the Outsider, and the Thief–to the actual process of writing fiction. The goal for students is to acquire a practical set of writing tools that can make scenes and narratives dynamic, emotionally involving and intelligent. Special attention will be given to strategies that can rework familiar pop fiction tropes so they can be used in fresh and innovative ways, which will entail a multi-week analysis of Suzanne Collins’ YA bestseller The Hunger Games. There will also be analysis of how the techniques of great screenwriters like Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby), Joseph Stefano (Psycho) and David Mamet can be applied to the “nuts and bolts” of writing popular fiction, be it romance, supernatural, adventure, thriller, crime fiction, science-fiction, erotica, etc. Individual class time will be devoted to the workshopping of portions of novels and/or short fiction. While this class expands upon topics covered in Grub’s “Writing the Smart-Page Turner” and “The Smart Page-Turner Strikes Back!” classes, it is open to all but recommended for those with previous workshop experience. Students should come ready and eager to read a variety of materials across a broad spectrum of taste, from Pulitzer-winning fiction to meat-and-potatoes paperback potboilers. Students should expect to be workshopped 1-2 times over the course of ten weeks, depending on the class size.

Please note that this is not a finalized list of readings and other materials selected for the course.

1. The Skill of Noticing

Ever notice that really good writers… well… notice a lot of things? The layout of a room? Clothing? Character quirks? Things that just ring true? Noticing things like these is a developed skill. We’ll start this course with a close look at how to look at things in ways that strengthen your writing.

Edgar Allen Poe, “Man of the Crowd”; National Book Award Winner Bonnie Jo Campbell, “Boar Taint”; Pulitzer Prize Winner Elizabeth Strout, “Criminal”

2. Positioning Yourself for the Right P.O.V.

Great! We’ve learned how to notice! But is noticing really observing? Contextualizing what you’ve observed is an important writing skill, too. We’ll look at ways to choose the right narrative “vantage point” that will make your writing richer and more resonant. In particular, we’ll look at the ways in which the use of outsiders and thieves as characters in the works we’ll cover gives the authors of those works unique opportunities to dig into human nature.

Christopher Nolan’s film Following [NOTE–This film is available streaming on Netflix and via IFC OnDemand, if not enough students have access to these resources, we may screen it in class]; maybe Jack Schaefer’s Western Classic ShaneRoland Topor, The Tenant; Saul Bellow, To Jerusalem and Back,

3. Polishing the Turd–Practical Approaches to the Rewrite

Legend has it Steinbeck once said, “I’m not a good writer. I’m a good re-writer.” We’ll find ways to add/or subtract the right elements from a work by looking at the different tools that screenwriters and prose writers use to tell the same story. A re-write is basically an adaptation of a first draft, almost in the same way a screenplay can be an adaptation of a prose work and a novelization can be a prose adaptation of a screenplay.

Joseph Stefano’s teleplay “A Feasibility Study”; Michael Marano, “A Feasibility Study”

4. Set Decorating

One of the most common problems with new writers is the so-called “White Room Syndrome”, a failure of imagination on the part of the writer that makes it seem as if the characters are functioning in a vacuum. We’ll take another look at the readings and other materials we’ve gone over so far to pick out the ways that these writers and screenwriters have enriched their settings and characters through the use of specific and carefully chosen details.

5. The Art of the Mash-Up: Plots and Sub-Plots

How do you create sub-plots that work with your main plot, and don’t feel tacked on? How do you resolve your main plot, without leaving your sub-plot dangling? We’ll look at ways to weave your plots and sub-plots together so that that they feel like a unified, integrated whole. In particular, we’ll look at the ways that Oscar winner Paul Haggis could take individual stories by F.X. Toole, each with their own plots and story arcs, and weave them together into one great narrative, his screenplay for Million Dollar Baby.

F.X. Toole, “Frozen Water” and “Million $ Baby”; Paul Haggis‘ screenplay for Million Dollar Baby

6. How to Steal, Part I

There are, after all, only seven plots. How do you tell your story and make it stand on its own? We’ll look in detail at a great recent Smart Page-Turner, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and dissect its component parts so we can see the actual mechanics of how to pinch ideas and reconfigure them in kinda awesome ways.

Robert Sheckley, “The Prize of Peril” and The 10th Victim; Suzanne Collins,The Hunger Games [Note–We’ll be reading this YA book in its entirety, so please purchase a copy or get it out of the library.]

7. How to Steal, Part II

We’ll continue what we started last week, with particular emphasis on using some of the skills we’ve covered in the class so far to craft our own unique takes on the Seven Universal Plots.

Collins, The Hunger Games [con’t]; An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge; Bruce Joel Rubin‘s screenplay Jacob’s Ladder; Sunil Sadanand, “Waiting Period”

8. Watching the Detectives

We all love detective stories, but what does a detective do? A detective connects disparate elements to piece together a description of what has happened. Isn’t that also what a writer does? We’ll look at a great work of detective fiction for ways to piece together killer plots, anecdotes, scenes and character sketches.

James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss; David Seidler’s screenplay for The King’s Speech

9. The Epic Voice in Pop Fiction

So… you’ve got a third-person narrator for your work. How do you give that third-person narrator a voice with a real personality that’s suited to your narrative? We’ll find ways to do just that, plundering tricks that have worked for writers from ancient Greece all the way to the production offices of Mad Men.

William Goldman, Marathon Man; Jack Ketchum, “The Exit at Toledo Blade Boulevard”

10. Creating Tension

Ever read a scene that just sits there, on the page? We’ll find ways to use tension and urgency to hook battery clamps to a dead scene to make the little bugger dance.

Thomas Harris, Hannibal; David Mamet’s first-draft screenplay for the film version of Hannibal; Aaron Sorkin, “Pilot Episode” teleplay for The West Wing.

To enroll, see the listing at Grub Street here. Thanks so much! Post below if you have any questions.

Hey, Everyone!

People have been asking me about the kinds of things I cover in my Grub Street class, Screen and Stage…to the Page! Using the Techniques of Playwrights and Screenwriters to Write Prose Fiction.  Well, without giving away too much, I can tell you that we will be taking apart scenes like this one from FREAKS AND GEEKS by dissecting the teleplay and watching the episode, then we’ll take those awesome nuggets and figure out how to plug them into our novels and stories. This bit from FREAKS AND GEEKS is what we’ll be covering in the section on “How to Tap Real-Life Experiences.”  We’ve all been in situations kind of like what Lindsey faces below. But how do you blow that up into something dramatic and funny and packed full of meaning?

Watch!

For a break-down of all the stuff we’ll be covering, check out the syllabus here!

To enroll, click here: http://tinyurl.com/3ctj92f  E-mail me at profmike AT mindspring DOT com if you have any specific questions or want any further information. Please note that scholarships are available for greatly reduced tuition. For more information on scholarships, please refer to the Grub Street page here.

Hey everybody! I’d like to announce my new class, Screen and Stage…to the Page! Using the Techniques of Playwrights and Screenwriters to Write Prose Fiction. It’s a 10-week class that will meet Wednesday nights from 6:00 to 9: 00 at Grub Street HQ in downtown Boston starting September 12, 2012. Here’s the official class description:

Some of the best writing being done today, in terms of theme, character, dialogue and plot, is being done by playwrights, screenwriters and teleplay writers. In this class, a nationally syndicated film critic and multi-award-winning novelist will show students how to use the tools of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights and Oscar-winning screenwriters for their prose fiction stories and novels. Topics covered will include: ways to re-write real-life incidents into tight and compelling drama; how to streamline exposition so it doesn’t stop your narrative dead; how to crystallize character-defining moments into a scene and how to use the context of specific settings to amp drama. Classes will consist of analysis of plays, teleplays and scripts and some prose source materials, group watching of films and TV episodes, and in-class workshopping of students’ short fiction and novel excerpts with special emphasis on how the tools of screen and stage writers can be applied to these works. All genres and kinds of fiction writers are welcome.

So, how will that breakdown? Here’s a tentative syllabus of the topics I’ll be covering and the materials we’ll be looking at.

1. Tapping Real Life

So, there’s this thing that happened… and you really want to write about it in a dramatic way. How do you take a “slice of life” that everybody can relate to, and still make it interesting and compelling? How do you avoid the dreaded, “Yeah, so?”

Materials Emmy winners Judd Apatow and Michael White’s teleplays for the high school comedy/drama Freaks and Geeks  and parts of renowned theater director Peter Brook’s essay “The Open Door.”

2. Awesome Exposition and Action

So, there’s all this stuff… background information… that the reader needs to know about in order for the plot to move forward. But to give that information to the reader, you can wind up stopping the plot dead in its tracks. Which can be close-the-book boring. We’ll look at ways to give the audience/readers the information they need while still making your narrative interesting and full of dramatic punch.

Materials Oscar-winner Paul Haggis’s screenplay for the James Bond movie Casino Royale,  with some comparison to Ian Fleming’s original novel. David Koepp’s screenplay for Jurassic Park with some comparison to Michael Crichton’s original novel.

3. Point of View and Emotional Development

OK… point of view is vitally important to telling a story. So’s character development. How does your main character’s emotional arc affect how you use POV?

Materials BAFTA winners Joel and Ethan Coen’s screenplay for True Grit, with some comparison to Charles Portis‘ original novel .

4. The Scope of Time and Space and Hitting Emotional Beats

Let’s say you got a story that takes place over a long period of time, over a lot of geographic space. How do you keep a solid emotional core to something that takes place, well… all over the place, and for a long period of time? How do you pace out the emotional beats to keep that story going strong?

Materials James Vanderbilt’s WGA-nominated screenplay for the David Fincher movie Zodiac.

5. Creating Tension, Apprehension and Dissension

Ever find yourself amazed at how some playwrights can just have a few people in a room, and the emotional results are like a UFC Cage Match? We’ll breakdown how they do that.

Materials Nobel-winner Harold Pinter’s play, The Homecoming and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jason Miller’s play, That Championship Season.

6. Adding Dramatic Layers of Meaning to Your Dialogue

Wait! Did that person really just say that? Wait! Did that really mean what I think it meant? We’ll look at ways to load your scenes with different meanings and different emotional notes.

Materials John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer-winning stage play (and screenplay for) Doubt.

7. Using Place and Time to Define Drama

Drama and conflict and personal growth can’t exist in a vacuum. We’ll look at the specific ways the time and place of your story can and maybe should define its emotional impact and arc.

Materials Emmy-winners Matthew Weiner & Robin Veith’s teleplay for the Mad Men episode, “THE WHEEL” and either Greg Mottola’s Independent Spirit Award-nominated script for Adventureland or Alfred Sole and Rosemary Ritvo’s screenplay for Alice, Sweet Alice.

8. Putting Crystallizing Emotional Moments in a Scene

Sometimes, a dramatic moment can occur in a story that rips open a character so you can look deep inside to see what makes them tick. We’ll dissect a few of those scenes, to see how they can work in prose.

Materials Jenny Lumet’s screenplay for Rachel Getting Married  and Tony-winner Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

9. Adding Details to Make a Story Pop

The effect of little things can be huge in a story. We’ll look at ways to choose the right things to get the most dramatic bang.

Materials Brian Helgeland’s Oscar-nominated screenplay for Mystic River, with some comparison to Dennis Lehane’s original novel.

10. Mining Simple Conflict into Complex Drama

Sometimes, a really simple situation can be a really deep and profound exploration of the human condition. We’ll look at ways to use simple situations and conflicts to load stories with heavy emotional punch.

Materials  J.P. Miller’s teleplay Rabbit Trap and Paddy Chayefsky’s teleplay Marty .

To enroll, click here: http://tinyurl.com/3ctj92f  E-mail me at profmike AT mindspring DOT com if you have any specific questions or want any further information. Please note that scholarships are available for greatly reduced tuition. For more information on scholarships, please refer to the Grub Street page here.

Hey Everybody!

Only a few days left to enroll in my new class in Pop Fiction writing at Boston’s Grub Street, The Smart Page-Turner Reloaded!  You can read my break-down of the class here. The official Grub Street description and registration page is here.

Here are some shout-outs for my Smart Page-Turner classes, by some former students.

“Mike Marano effortlessly distills semesters worth of literary theory into practical, usable tips that get you writing now.  Also, he sometimes holds class at the bar down the street.”  Kevin C.

“Whether you are a new or experienced writer, Mike Marano will teach you how to get into your own head–tease those ideas out–and get them onto a page so that they are powerful, poignant, and most importantly irresistible to readers.”–Mike M.

Cost is $430 for Grub Members, $455.00 for Non-Members. Registration deadline is SOON!. Class will meet for 10 Mondays from 6:30-9:30pm at Grub Street headquarters. Begins September 19th.