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pitch a good idea

The Pitch

During my screenwriting workshop days, we spent a lot of time writing down a one-sentence story pitch on the board. Our mentor, Nestor U. Torre, would comment if the pitch will sustain a full-length film story or not. It took us some time to get things right. Because if we couldn’t make a good pitch, there’s no screenplay to start with.

What is a Pitch?

In creative writing, a pitch (a.k.a. as logline or hook) is usually 25 words long that captures the essence of the novel, film, or any story. It’s the heart of the story. It is the writer’s description that will sell the idea before writing it down and getting paid.

It’s also known as the “elevator pitch”. Why? Imagine if you’re inside the elevator with a well-known movie producer or publisher. It would take you only a few minutes to tell him what your story is all about before the door opens for him to leave. That’s why a pitch should be short, simple, and concise.

Why Pitch?

The need to whittle down a story to one sentence gives a writer the head start to work on summaries in the future. It is what you build around when creating longer pitches and developing the plot. Think of it as a skeleton or framework from which the structure is based upon.

A pitch is used when interacting with agents, entering contests, meeting with producers, or anyone with whom you want to engage. If they ask you, “What’s your story all about?”, you answer them with your pitch. Its main purpose is to get someone interested in your story.

The late Filipino film director Ishmael Bernal emphasized the need for a good one-sentence summary. He said if you can’t tell your story in one good sentence, then it’s not a good film story.

How to Write the Pitch

Usually, a pitch is 25 words long. What are the things you need to put in a pitch? Here are the main elements:

  • One or two characters (most of the time, the protagonist and the antagonist). But if the main characters are in a group (like a group of teenagers), you may do so.
  • Their goal, conflict, or the choice they made
  • What is at stake? (this may be stated or implied)
  • What are the obstacles in reaching their goal? Or what they should do to reach the goal.
  • Setting (if it is important)

The pitch may be written in different ways and here are three examples:

  1. When CONFLICT happens to CHARACTER(s), they have to overcome OBSTACLE to reach the GOAL.
  2. CHARACTER(s) need to overcome OBSTACLE/reach GOAL before WHAT’S AT STAKE happens only to be prevented by CONFLICT.
  3. CHARACTERS were a STATUS but CHANGE(d), only to meet again in CONFLICT.

Make sure that you’re describing an event and not the story’s theme. This is not the time to be vague or too general. You need not be too specific as well; no need to name the characters.

The pitch should just be enough for the audience to see the beginning, the middle, and the possible end. Also, your pitch should be able to make a lasting impression so that you stand out from the crowd and have a better chance of being given the assignment or project.

Conclusion

Creating a pitch takes time and effort. It’s hard to boil down your story to a one sentence summary. It may take you several attempts, so don’t beat yourself up if you find it difficult at first. Sooner or later, you’ll know or feel that you have stumbled upon a perfect pitch. Start giving it a try and you’ll understand your story better.

Let me know if you think that I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

Where Do Ideas Come From?

One of the overused questions asked of writers is where do their ideas come from. It may be too trivial, too basic, but too important not to be ignored.

Writers, like other artists, maximize the use of their five senses and translate them into their art. Writers, like other artists, are keen observers. So keen that they know what color is on top of the traffic light, how many tines are there in a fork, or what is inscribed at the bottom of a paper bill — simple, everyday objects that seem too obvious for ordinary people to take notice of. Aside from the use of the senses, here are other sources of ideas:

Newspapers

The old-fashioned broadsheet or tabloid is still a good source of story ideas. Scan the news and even the other parts of the newspaper like the classified ads, you’ll get an idea or two to jump start a story or an article. An article about a female college student/prostitute who killed her “sugar daddy” gave me an idea of a scene I wrote a few months back.

Magazines

The glossy magazines feature different kinds of stories, so varied that some of these magazines became specialized or focused into a particular niche. Scan the stories, even the fillers, you’ll get some catchy phrases and intriguing ideas to add into your writing. For example, an article I read about freelance writing inspired me to write my opinion on it. Also, catchy phrases become titles of a future article or novel.

Books

Reading not only hones your vocabulary skills, but also inspire you to write your next story. Reading a not-so-familiar book many years ago triggered me to write my novel, Number One Fan.

Biographies

Lives of other people show us how was it living in their own time. We get to see not just a character but also a lifestyle different from ours. Somehow their lives inspire us to write a story for others to learn from.

Stories and legends

There are some stories that keep on burning because they don’t die and people remember or mention them repeatedly. Folklore, fables, and even urban legends could be an inspiration of your next novel.

Dreams

Believe it or not, dreams could also be a good source of story ideas. My husband’s dream became my inspiration of a comics manuscript I’m planning to write.

Songs

I used to write down nice phrases that came from songs. The lyrics of Randy Crawford’s “People Alone” inspired me to write I’m Greg, Short For Gregarious.

Ask “What if?”

 Asking this question somehow challenges you to provide possible answers and in the process creates a possible story.

 Overheard remarks

Eavesdropping for the sake of getting ideas? Why not? I write these overheard remarks and make them patterns for dialogues.

Once I got an idea, I put them down on writing. As a writer, I should not rely on memory because there are times memories fail. A writer is a journalist and therefore should have a handy notebook and pen to jot down these ideas that burst abruptly.

Now, it is your turn. Go get yourself a notebook for the sole purpose of jotting down ideas. The size and thickness should suit your need and desire. I suggest that you put tabs to separate different sources or categories. Make it a habit to write it down and don’t let it escape your memory. Happy idea hunting!

Make The Time To Write

Writing is a juggling act. A writer juggles his job, family, friends, recreation, and writing. Some writers grow weary of the constant juggling act and give up writing. Others like me struggle to keep going.

How do you find time to write?” has been a common question to writers or among writers. The answer depends on each one of us. Some writers write during their free time while others have a fixed schedule. Some of the well-known authors started writing their novels while having a job of their own. Other famous writers had the luxury of spending their whole day writing.

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. – Stephen King

For Stephen King, constant reading keeps the writing going. Even professional writers have their own ways of delaying their writing tasks. Arranging their bookshelves, doing some art & crafts, binge-watching are some of them. But in the end, once they find the impetus to write, they do write on their desk.

The secret is forcing yourself to write everyday, either measured by page count or by word count. The important thing is showing up on your desk and write. But when delays turn from a few minutes into a few weeks, or even months, that becomes a big problem.

One of the reasons why “writers” don’t write is they don’t love writing. They like referring themselves as “writers” but they hate the hard work that goes with it.

But there are other writers who would hit the typical writer’s block. They struggle daily on how to go through with it, and then have a breakthrough moment and leap back to work.

Like any other writer, I experience writer’s block. I spend my time on other activities other than writing. And when I realize that I have deadlines to beat, I decide to make things work in my favor. So I devise a plan: make a schedule and make it work.

Fifteen years ago, I was still single then and starting my career as a freelance writer. I wrote from 9 am to 6 pm and made a schedule that had become my daily routine. It made me more focused and productive.

But everything changed when I gave birth. Taking care of a baby became a handful that I don’t have the time to write. Then an employment in the corporate jungle came along. I wrote reports not novels for the next seven years. Until I decided to return to writing in 2012 and started working from home.

Finding time to write is forcing myself to write everyday. I have to write something be it a chapter of a novel or a blog. It’s like showing up for work on my desk.

Always remember that it’s how frequent you write each week and not how many hours a day you spend in writing. Spending three times a week, 2 hours per day writing is much better than writing 4 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays. I guess, this has something to do with the momentum. Try not to lose the momentum when there’s a story running in your head.

There are 3 P’s we gain from this kind of scheduled writing:

Planning

This is the most difficult part of writing. This is the stage where you set up everything from settings to characters to plot. By having a consistent writing schedule, you have the time between writing sessions to think about what you’re going to write next.

Pressure

Having a consistent writing schedule puts a pressure on you not not to write. Even if you’re able to write a single paragraph, you’ll be back tomorrow to write again, no matter what. Compare it if you’re just going to write once or twice a week. That one paragraph will probably stay as one paragraph in the next two weeks because you stopped somehow. And that will get you in serious trouble.

Practice

They say that practice makes perfect. It’s the repetition that trains the mental muscles and extract creative juices. You will notice that your writing improves with time.

But since people are different, one method doesn’t fit all. There are two ways of making a writing schedule. Both are effective so you can choose which one works best for you.

Gridlock Method

This is a rigid schedule of writing that you must adhere religiously. Using a grid, fill in every hour that you have commitments or activities. Then look at the empty blocks and try filling the blocks where you are absolutely positive you can write. Be realistic and don’t overbook yourself. Three to five times a week for two hours a day is fine. If you can’t find reasonable number of hours for writing in a week, examine your priorities. Once you have workable schedule, stick to it. Let other members of the family know that you have to follow a schedule and you’re serious about it.

Spare Change Method

This involves establishing goals for each day and week. Your goal is not putting in a certain amount of time, rather, producing a specific number of pages each day or week. Decide if you are going to adhere to a daily or a weekly goal. Take a calendar and write down a daily goal or at the end of the week, write the page number you expect to achieve on that day. Don’t worry if you’re uncertain, or if it keeps on changing as you write. The point is to establish a goal and work towards it.

True, writing is a juggling act. But the main hurdle in becoming a successful writer is finishing a writing project — be it a novel or a short story. Making a schedule and finding time to write will help you do that.

Idea Is Not Just a 4-Letter Word

Have you ever thought how authors come up with their ideas for their novels?

You may have browsed writing books and magazines and have been told that an idea comes from an endless list of sources. But how do authors come up with a novel from an idea?

In this article, let us see how it works by spelling idea itself.

I – IOTA OF TRUTH

Always remember, for every idea, absurd or otherwise, there is an iota of truth behind it.

Take for example the idea of Superman. Clark Kent may be an alien who grew up on Earth, but there is a scientific truth behind clairvoyance, intuition, and other extrasensory human powers that were magnified in the Superman story.

They say that truth is relative, so what may be truth for you may not be an acceptable truth to others. Do not fret. You do not need to please everybody with your writing. Just believe that your idea has somehow an iota of truth in it.

So have that idea ready and let’s move on to…

D – DEVELOPMENT

Of course, we have entertained so many ideas in mind that we do not know which to choose. They say that there are only eight stories in the world. If that’s the case, then try the mix-and-match method and see if an idea or a mixture of two or more ideas work.

The Bestseller by Lila Ramsey plus The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie plus the nursery rhyme Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star produced a story about a mad serial killer who wants his victim to guess who will be his next kill.

If you look at stories, books, and movies, you would notice that most of them combined an idea or two from some old stories, books, and movies, too.

So now that you have developed an embryo, let’s try to…

E – EXPERIMENT

How are you going to express the idea?

The format — be it prose or poetry, novel or screenplay, full-length or short feature, — depends on your choice. Experiment on how you would present the idea. Some stories are better on film, some on print, and some made well in both.

Trust your gut feel when experimenting. Not only on the format but also on the way it is presented. Would you go linear — beginning, middle, end? Or would you go a la Quentin Tarantino style — middle, end, beginning, middle? Would you present it in the first person point of view or the third person point of view? Do not be afraid to experiment.

And now we go to the…

A – APPLICATION

At last, you have decided on what you plan to do with the idea. The last step is to apply the idea by writing. Once you see the words appear on paper, you will see and feel how the ideas take shape into a good yarn of a story. Write everything down at first. Revisions and editing would come later.

Be a sculptor by starting with a large chunk of wood and slowly carve out the unnecessary parts to form the best literary art — your novel.

Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow.Louis L’Amour

So if you have a story idea that you would like to write, go ahead. If you think there’s a truth in it, and you can develop it, don’t be afraid to experiment and express it in writing. Good luck!

writing myth

Don’t Be A Victim Of This Writing Myth

Once upon a time, we believed that writers get a stroke of inspiration from the muses. They sit down and pour out their emotions and transform them into words on paper. It was the stroke a an Inspired Genius.

But like the muses, those writers were just myths. Writing doesn’t work that way. And if ever you believe in this kind of myth, you’re harming yourself as a writer.

Writing is hard work with blood, sweat, and tears. Behind successful novels is a process. And when we talk of a process, it has stages that we have to go through. But those who believe that the Inspired Genius myth exists, they don’t know what is really happening behind the scenes. Instead, they see the finished product and wants to get there fast.

What happens when you believe in the myth of the Inspired Genius? You’ll show the three signs of writer’s block.

THE PRESSURE

Because you believe in the inspired genius myth, you start to do the same. Sit down, wait for the muse to inspire you, and once stimulated, write. But what if you’re not yet inspired? You get up, look for inspiration somewhere else. And you end up doing something different other than write. This is one reason for procrastination. And it’s hard to get back to sit down and write. Fear sets in and you’ll get scared to try again.

Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. – Sylvia Plath

LOST STEAM

They sit down, write brilliant prose, then run out of steam in the process. You’ll reach the point where you don’t know what to write next.

SELF-DOUBT

Believing in the Inspired Genius myth can make you doubt yourself in the process. You’ll lose confidence in your writing once you compare your piece to someone else’s novel. “How I wish I could write like that!” But what you don’t know is, you’re being unfair. You’re comparing your failed draft to someone’s successful novel. What a big disparity!

So what do you do once you have these signs? Accept the harsh reality of the writing life. Authors don’t wait for inspiration. They show up on their desk, sit, and write like it’s the only work they know. A brilliant piece of writing comes from a pile of messy drafts. Writers spend months or years planning their novels. Even those writers who join NaNoWriMo plan first before starting to write their draft.

Joining NaNoWriMo can be an exciting challenge. Write and reach the 50,000 word count by the end of November and you’ll have your first draft. But if without a plan, you’ll end up revising a lot to the point of losing steam and starting all over again.

So start planning your novel now in time for NaNoWriMo. I’ll try to make one, too. I can’t let myself feel the pressure, lose steam, and cast self-doubt now. Writers who are susceptible to this myth’s trap should bounce back.

book series episodes

When They Say That Your Writing is Episodic

After winning Honorable Mention in a screenplay writing contest, I lent my screenplay manuscript to a  co-worker for her to read. When she returned to me the manuscript, she said, “…the story is good, but it’s episodic…”

Hearing the word “episodic”, I immediately agreed because in my thoughts the story was also based in some episodes of a TV series, given that there are five stories running parallel to each other in one full-length narrative film.

Actually, “episodic” means the novel or story is made up of a series of events or episodes that are loosely tied together and only the main character connects them all. This is one way of constructing a plot but this technique ends up having no character change.

Episodic writing dates back even before Cervantes wrote Don Quixote. Episodic writing also graced TV series of the ’60s and the ’70s. And growing up during the ’70s and seeing those TV series, it somehow influenced the way I write.

So how would you know if you’re writing something episodic?

1. The character is reactive rather than proactive.
2. There is no story question.
3. The reactive character does not operate from his strengths

Now that you know how to spot them, what can you do to save it?

1. Give your protagonist (and antagonist) a goal.

In episodic stories, the main character is put in an adventurous situation (more likely a quest) and goes to finish it. However, the goal tends to be shallow that the reader would ask, “so what?” Therefore, you make the main character proactive, making him decide for his actions by himself and not from other characters’ influence.

2. Give your two main characters (protagonist and antagonist) significant strengths and some weaknesses.

Make them more human. Balance the strengths with a few flaws that readers can relate to. Readers would also relate to the antagonist’s motives if the characterization is done well.

3. Decide on the obstacles that the characters will encounter on their way to their goal.

Make the protagonist’s goal difficult for him/her to achieve so that the readers will start to ask, “will he/she fail or not?” Just be careful not to make it contrived or coincidental.

4. Decide how your characters will react to these obstacles.

Let the protagonist and antagonist think and react to every problem that comes their way. I remember an advice from a famous writer that we need to push the protagonist to the corner until he/she couldn’t do anything but to fight back.

5. Make sure the scenes move the story forward and logically flows from one scene to the next.

One good characteristic of an episodic writing is its being fast-paced. However, since episodic writing are loosely tied, it tends to slow down the whole story overall. Look for loopholes and tie those loose ends!

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character archetypes

Are Your Characters Running On Empty?

 

You have seen this cycle before. You’re writing a novel or screenplay. You have a great idea, so great that you dream it will become the next bestseller or award-winning film. You spend days outlining and writing the first few pages. Then… you lose steam. It becomes harder to write. The momentum goes down. Writer’s block sets in. You lose excitement. You tell yourself, “I should work on a different story because this doesn’t work.”

The problem is not you

Most of the time, the problem isn’t with the story, but with the characters. How can you move the story forward if your characters are running on empty? How can you tell exciting discoveries about your characters if they’re stereotypes? Did you think about how these characters will react to those plot points you put them into?

The characters’ reactions should drive the story forward, not the plot points. A character doesn’t need to get into a burning house because you want him or her there. The character gets into that burning house because it’s in his/her nature to do so.

A story is built on characters and reason.Steven Amsterdam

Archetypes

Archetypes are blueprints for building well-defined characters. It defines protagonists, antagonists, antiheroes, or supporting characters. 16 personality types based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are good archetypes . Each type defines a role and a strategy on how their type of character act on things.

THE ANALYSTS

  • The Architect (INTJ – Introversion-iNtuition-Thinking-Judging)
  • The Logician (INTP – Introversion-iNtuition-Thinking-Perceiving)
  • The Commander (ENTJ – Extraversion-iNtuition-Thinking-Judging)
  • The Debater (ENTP – Extraversion-iNtuition-Thinking-Perceiving)

THE DIPLOMATS

  • The Advocate (INFJ – Introversion-iNtuition-Feeling-Judging)
  • The Mediator (INFP – Introversion-iNtuition-Feeling-Perceiving)
  • The Protagonist (ENFJ – Extraversion-iNtuition-Feeling-Judging)
  • The Campaigner (ENFP – Extraversion-iNtuition-Feeling-Perceiving)

THE SENTINELS

  • The Logistician (ISTJ – Introversion-Sensing-Thinking-Judging)
  • The Defender (ISFJ – Introversion-Sensing-Feeling-Judging)
  • The Executive (ESTJ – Extraversion-Sensing-Thinking-Judging)
  • The Consul (ESFJ – Extraversion-Sensing-Feeling-Judging)

THE EXPLORERS

  • The Virtuoso (ISTP- Introversion-Sensing-Thinking-Perceiving)
  • The Adventurer (ISFP – Introversion-Sensing-Feeling-Perceiving)
  • The Entrepreneur (ESTP – Extraversion-Sensing-Thinking-Judging)
  • The Entertainer (ESFP – Extraversion-Sensing-Feeling-Perceiving)

I use these 16 personality archetypes as an invaluable tool. Their essences give me a general idea of who they are but still force me to delve deeper into the characters. I don’t see them as Character 1 or “the policeman” but as a person who responds to a conflict in a specific way.

As a writer, I’m guilty of creating characters who act like me. Archetypes will help us avoid this. Each personality has its own set of motivations, fears, and cares that move him/her as the plot forward.

After selecting an archetype, other details follow. The details will shape how the character expresses that essence. Details like the physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of a character shapes their actions in the story.

Most memorable characters in books and in film are not bland and one-dimensional. They invoke strong emotions in us that either we want to be like them or completely the opposite. What makes them memorable is not the story they’re into but the depth of their characters. They are not perfect, they have flaws, own defense mechanisms, and a dark side that make them human, complex, and interesting.

A character arc shows the changes he/she goes through during the story. The character needs to emerge at the end as a new person who has learned something from the journey. It’s the archetype that inspires the discoveries and details that make it interesting.

Stereotypes vs. Archetypes

But beware of stereotypes, which are the complete opposite. Stereotypes are oversimplified generalizations about people usually stemming from one person’s prejudice. Archetypes stemmed from the entire human race’s experience of people and psychological studies.

Describing a character as a “typical librarian” makes you assume that all librarians are quiet spinsters and shows the writer’s sloppy characterization. Stereotypes may be used to describe an archetype but a stereotype is only a shallow imitation.

Organize your writing

Organize Your Writing

Staring at a blank page is dreadful for a writer. The question, “What will I write?” is really not a problem. It’s the question “How do I start?” that matters.

Most of us often underestimate the planning of things because we’re obsessed with the goal. We have the clear picture of the end product but we don’t have a detailed plan on how to get there.

However, we also believe that planning is needed but to what extend do we believe that statement makes each of us different. Some would go for the general planning while others go for the much specific plan. In the end, we all believe that once the stage is set and everything is in place, we’re ready to go.

Let’s Start Organizing

So how does a writer organize his or her writing?

  1. RESEARCH. First things first: gather and organize the raw materials. Having all the research notes and reference materials at hand before starting saves a lot of time.
  2. OUTLINE. Next, sorting the materials into an outline will not only gives ideas but also provides an organization for us to fill in the details.
  3. DECIDE THE ORDER. Now that we have an outline, decide on what order are we going to cover the subject. Here are a few ways to do it:
    1. Chronological — the best bet for story telling: a beginning, a middle, an end.
    2. Synthesis — this is usually used in essays: from general to specific
    3. Spatial — this is usually used for descriptive writing: from left to right, top to bottom, exterior to interior, etc.

A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end… but not necessarily in that order.Jean Luc Godard

However, flashbacks, reverse orders, and flash forwards have became common that others tempted to follow suit, too. But before doing that, be comfortable with the sequence first and try to check if they’ll work. Don’t forget that readers have to start somewhere, follow a path, and reach a clear ending.

Final Thoughts

Don’t worry about putting too much details. Be like a sculptor. Have the basic rough form first, and eventually chip off the things you don’t need until you come up with a work of art.

But before I end this, don’t forget to give proper credit where credit is due. So if you have sources that require permission or acknowledgment, list them down and keep them. Don’t discard your raw materials too soon. You’re going to return to consult these during the editing and revision processes. Dispense them only when you have the published work in your hands. Or better yet, keep them for future references.

Number One Fan deleted prologue

Deleted Prologue: An Exclusive Peek

Here’s the deleted prologue from my novel Number One Fan which you can only read exclusively here on this site.

During NaNoWriMo last November 2012, I wrote a prologue to start my story. I thought it would be a good idea to explain a certain backstory of the main character. There are some novels that used this technique and it worked for them in the past.

At that time, my working title was Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star which I had taken from the nursery rhyme clue in the story. Since I decided to use the first person point of view, I wanted to establish Regine’s character as a journalist and how she came to present the story.

However, times have changed. Authors and editors don’t recommend the use of prologues anymore. So sometime in April 2013, during the revision process, I decided to delete the prologue, went straight to chapter 2, and started the story from there.

The Deleted Prologue

A WORD FROM REGINE STA. MARIA

BEFORE WE TOOK our Christmas break during Grade 4, our English teacher instructed us to keep a diary and start writing on it by New Year.

I excitedly told my mother about our assignment when I got home. I asked her to buy me a diary.

A few days later, my mother was stabbed to death. I didn’t witness the actual crime, but I saw the killer went out of her room carrying a bloody knife that fateful day. I don’t know why the scene was still vivid in my memory except for the killer’s face. I was ten years old then and that memory haunted me only until recently when I came to terms with it.

Christmas morning, my aunt handed me my mother’s last gift. It was a Hello Kitty diary with a small lock and key on the side and a matching ballpoint pen. I couldn’t wait to start writing on it, referring to the diary as “Kitty” just like how Anne Frank called hers.

Writing on it for the first time felt like talking to a friendly cat that silently licked my wounds to heal. I felt Kitty reciprocated my writing with filial devotion and affection every time I poured out my feelings with words. I’m not a pet person, but Kitty the diary became my virtual pet, my form of catharsis, my form of therapy, and my intimate friend.

Mae West once said, “Keep a diary and it’ll keep you.” Right now I have lots of journals stacked in my drawer.

My journal writing has evolved into different forms — unsent letters, dialogues, lists, idea maps, doodles, sketches, or a combination of two or more forms. It kept on evolving.

The story you’re about to read was taken mainly from my diary. In fact, it helped me decide what college course and career to take. I took up A.B. Journalism because I wanted to be a newscaster just like my idol, Alma Perez. I wished to be famous like her. But no one warned me to be careful on what I wished for.

Although this story could possibly happen to anyone, I never thought that it would actually happen to me. I took the poetic license to write the story like fiction to include Number One Fan’s side. I could vouch for the authenticity of his story based on the audio file he sent me and some accounts from reliable sources.

To distinguish the difference, I would tell my story in the first person point of view and his in the third person (and written in italics, too).

Let me know what you think. If you haven’t read Number One Fan, please download a copy now.

Tuhog

Tuhog

Tuhog

In Filipino, the word tuhog means to fasten in a skewer. However, in fiction, it means to put and connect things to form a complete whole.

I remember two Filipino films both entitled Tuhog.

One made by Jeffrey Jeturian and stars Ina Raymundo. I had the chance to see this film on a special advanced screening back in 2000 at the UP Film Center.

The other one stars Eugene Domingo which I haven’t seen yet but I will someday… soon. As what I’ve seen in the latter’s trailer, it is about three different and separate stories that are connected in an accident. It follows three different stories running parallel to each other in one single movie.

I remember writing my first screenplay, Sa Likod ng Puting Uniporme. The original concept has three different stories that would run in three days in a hospital. However, our mentor during the FDFPI Screenwriting workshop, Nestor U. Torre, suggested to make it 5 stories and he added two more interesting characters (an OB-Gyne who can’t have a child was one). He challenged me to finish the screenplay as my requirement for graduation and if possible, to enter it in the contest. I obliged and the rest was history.

Writing more than one story running parallel with each other is a challenge.

You have to find a good junction where they would merge into one to make a compelling story. In the case of Tuhog, it was the accident. In the case of Sa Likod ng Puting Uniporme, it was the hospital setting.

And once you have a common link between the different stories, you start to plot and position each event in some particular order to determine how you will tell the three or more stories as one whole.

Incidentally, I used the same method when I wrote The Vixens. The stories of six different women run parallel to each other and the common links are their high school reunion and some episodes of their lives.

I usually create a table where I would list the different plot points in the first column (the trigger, the turning points, the midpoint or the point of no return, the climax, the denouement, and the end). Each column after that would be the different characters or stories (story 1, story 2, etc.). And then I start to plot down the points where these should be. Once I’ve laid out the plan, I start writing scene by scene.

It looks easy at first, but when I came down to writing, it became harder. Somehow, the characters have lives of their own that move the story forward to where I didn’t plan it to be. I just have to trust my gut feel. The ultimate goal is to create a whole story ready for grilling, a secured skewer, in Filipino, tuhog.

How about you? Do you have stories that could be joined by one element like a theme, a place, or an event? Have you tried this technique before? If so, how did you do it?