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Divorce. Job loss. Illness. The death of a loved one. What does one do after experiencing any of life’s major turning points? Having worked as a story analyst for more than 20 years, 12 of them ...Full description
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STORY LINE Finding Gold in Your Life Stor Story y
How to Use This Book How This Book is Organized Who This Book is For Exploring Story St ory by Understanding Unde rstanding the Value of the Log Line L ine How to Apply This Book to t o Your Creative Process INTRODUCTION
1. What Is a Log Line? Ho How w Do You Learn Lear n to Identify Identi fy Log Lines Line s in Your Own Life Life?? 2. Create Univer Universal sal Moments Moment s in Your Story Stor y Lines Line s PART 1 - SET UP
3. Wri Writin ting g Your Log Line L iness and a nd How They Apply to Your Stor Story y Line Liness 4. Identify Identi fying ing Your Univ Un iver ersal sal Life Moments Moment s 5. Wri Write te a Log Line L ine for Your Scr Script ipt PART II – DILEMMA
6. What Is a Dilemm Dilemma? a? What Are Your Dilemma Dilem mas? s? What Are Your Goals? 7. What Is Your Central Cent ral Character Character’’s Dilemma Di lemma Stemm Stemming ing From Or Leading To Their Goal? 8. How Does Your Backstory Back story Inuence Your Goals Goal s and a nd Dilem Dilemma mas? s? 9. How Does Your Central Cent ral Character Character’’s Backstor Backstory y Inuence Hi His/Her s/Her Goals and Dilemmas?
PART III - ACTION
10. Ho How w Did Your Life Dilem Di lemma mass Unfold? Wha Whatt Was the Sequence Seq uence of Event Events? s? Did They Inuence Your Goals? 11. How to Struc St ructure ture Your Central Cent ral Character Character’’s Dilemma Di lemmass and a nd Goals into a Compelling Story. 12. Wha Whatt Obstacle Obs tacless Have You Faced in Your Own Ow n Life L ife in i n Pursuit Pur suit of Your Goal Goa ls? 13. What Obstacles Obst acles Does Your Central Cent ral Character Face in Pursuit of His/Her Goal? 14. What Is the Wor Worst st That That Could Happe Happen n in i n Your Own Life If You Don’’t Solve Don Solve Your Di Dilem lemma mass or Achieve Ach ieve Your Goal Goals? s? 15. What Is Emotional Emotionally ly at Stake If Your Central Centr al Character Cha racter Does Not Solve Sol ve His/Her Dilemmas Di lemmas and Achiev Achievee His/Her H is/Her Goal? 16. What Are Recur ecurrin ring g Symbols/ Symb ols/Themes Themes in Your Own Life? 17. What Is the Theme Them e of Your Stor Story? y? How Do You Use Symbol Symbolism ism?? 18. Wha Whatt Drives You You to Succeed S ucceed?? 19. Wha Whatt Drives Dr ives Your Centr Cen tral al Char Character acter to Succeed? Succeed? PART IV - GOAL
20.. Did You Achieve Your Life Goal? If So 20 So,, What Does It Feel Like? If Not, What Does This Feel Like? 21. Does Your Central Cent ral Character Achieve His/ H is/Her Her Goal? If So So,, What Does It Feel Like? If Not, How How Does It Change Chan ge Your Character? Char acter? 22. What Is a Recurring Recurr ing Message in i n Your Own Life? CONCLUSION
23.. What Is the Message 23 Mes sage in Your Story S tory?? ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Story Line: L ine: Find Finding ing Gold G old in Your Your Life Story embodies the idea of learning to delve inside your personal well of experience to nd story. In your well, you will wi ll nd your gold. Your gold is your truth. tr uth. It comes from being able to add a voice to all your personal life experiences. This well is where we carry everything that happens in our life. It is lled with happiness and joy, inspiration and accomplishment, love and hope, anger and disappointment, sadness and sorrow, heartbreak and despair. The list goes on. We store it all inside. We all have a story that is worth exploring and worth recording. If you are writing television, features, or novels, this book is designed to show you how to nd, utilize, and ctionalize your truth into your writing. If you’re someone someo ne who is just ju st interested in understanding under standing your own stor stor y more, more, this book will sho show w you how how to nd yo your ur gold, and my hope is i s that it will also inspire and encourage you to write. I believe that we are all writers. We are all creating story in our life everyday. Sure, there are some of us who have the courage to make a career out of this expression, but the potential is there for every single one of us to reap the rewards and understand the gift gif t of our own stor stor y. Our truth can be ctionalized in a way that will wil l reach the masses, stop isolation, and create community. Story unites us. It builds intimacy. In a time when we we are all al l so overco overcome me with the changes c hanges going on in our world, connecting through the power of story is a beautiful way to bring us together while so much else threatens to pull us apart. A log line is a brief description of story that often has an emotional hook and a twist of irony. Learning how to write log lines will help connect you to your universal life moments. In your universal life moments, you will nd the gold in your story. Through understanding your own story, looking at your goals and accomplishments, thinking
STORY LINE | Jen Grisanti
about your sorrows and your heartbreaks, and watching for recurring themes, symbolism, and messages, you will begin to see just how rich your story stor y is i s and how much of it you have inside in side you. You just jus t need to learn how to access it. We can all a ll remember growing g rowing up and connecting with story whether we heard it, read it, or watched it on television or at the movie theaters. Story has this incredible way of engaging us and letting our imaginations go wild. It fullls fulll s and enthralls enthrall s us. It befriends us, u s, keeps us warm, war m, and offers us an escape. It doesn’t judge us. In fact, it does the opposite. It is just there to entertain us. It connects us to the truth of the storyteller,, making teller maki ng us u s realize that we are not alone in our life experiences. experiences. Think of the way that story has ha s inspired in spired you you over over your lifetime. lifetime. Often, story makes us feel empowered. We realize that no matter how bad things can get, we can rise above and achieve a goal. We can triumph and succeed. Most of the stories that have touched and inspired us over the years are derived from the truths of the storytellers. The best stories are written wr itten by the people people who are not afraid afr aid to dive dive inside in side themselves themselves and see what will surface on the page. The writers with the most courage havee the greatest opportunity hav opport unity to connect the audience audience to their vision. v ision. The intention of Story Line: Finding Gold in Your Life Story is to help you see the true tr ue value that lies within. The The book is designed to alternate between free-thinking and crafting those explorations into your writing. Each topic discussed begins with a chapter teaching you to draw truth from your life moments and is followed by a chapter discussing how you apply that truth to your story lines. Exercises and examples from both television and lm are provided to help guide you. It is your story. It is powerful. It is eager to come out and join forces with ction so that it can reach new heights, touch touch hearts, heart s, and entertain. It is is worth doing the work to get there. We want to hear your voice.
WHAT IS A LOG LINE? HOW DO YOU LEA LEARN RN TO TO IDE IDENTIFY NTIFY LOG LINES IN YOUR OWN LIFE?
Writ riting, ing, I think is not n ot apart from living. living. Writing is a kind of double living. living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind. ~ Catherine Drinker Bowen
Writing is a very frightening endeavor for most people. We write to express ourselves, to emote, to relate, to understand, to make sense of, to examine, to shed, and, very often, just to be. One of the greatest goals of writing is to connect with your audience on an emotional level. To make them feel, to help them identify. How do you do this? You go inside in side yourself yoursel f and explore your your own personal per sonal well of emotion. So often in i n life we look for answers on the outside outside.. Outside ourselves ourselves is is where the activity act ivity is, so it’s it’s only natur natural al that tha t we seek reason there there.. Yet, it is inside that we interpret inter pret and feel the effects of what we experience experience externally externa lly.. To connect with others, we need to connect with ourse ourselv lves. es. Your personal persona l story is your gold and your true tr ue gift gif t as a s a writer wr iter.. The key to your success as a writer is understanding how to interpret and express your personal experiences in a universal way and learning to add ction to your truth. However, looking inside ourselves is no easy task. It’s an obstacle most of us don’t know how to approach. Going within means shining a light on what is. What if others see what is really going on inside your mind and heart? Are you afraid of feeling judged? Do you worry that they won’t love you anymore or that you might feel the pain of rejection? Are you afraid of feeling unworthy? unw orthy? What is self-worth? Do we ever really feel it? What if our words hurt our family? What if our anger takes on a life of its own? Delving Delving into our core emotional emotional selves selves is i s denitel den itely y frightf rightening, but if we’re totally honest, others will connect with us and our
STORY LINE | Jen Grisanti
story. It is identifying our truth and having the courage to put it on the page that is our greatest challenge. Plus, often, when we put it out there, there is a sigh of relief. A weight has been lifted, and we realize that we are not alone. Your truth tr uth matters. matter s. Chances are that the emotions emotion s you are burying bur ying ini nside are what millions of others are feeling and afraid to identify with. I have analyzed story for over 18 years. I helped launch many writing careers. During this time, I noticed one common thread tying together all the writers writer s I’ve I’ve seen gain tremendo tremendous us succ success: ess: They understand ho how w to look look inside i nside themselves for answers. Their writing writin g reects reect s depth, emotion, and connection. They’ They’ve ve learned lear ned how to ctionalize ct ionalize their own perpersonal experience, allowing it to surface in their writing through the use of theme and symbolism and a nd drawing audi audiences ences into the stories they tell. As a television executive for over a decade at CBS/Paramount and Spelling Television Inc., stafng and working with writers, as well as developing story for top prime time shows, was my job. When I met with writers, I often asked about their personal stories. I did this as a way to understand how I could best market them to my executive producer so that they would have a stronger chance of getting the job. As we dived into their stories, I would often ask the question, “Have you ever written about that experience?” First, I would see doubt. Then, I’d I’d see fear fear.. Then, I’d I’d watch their face f ace light ligh t up and recognize recog nize that t hat there was something worth exploring. Since I knew that completely autobiographical stories rarely transfer well, I taught them to draw emotion from these experiences as a way to authenticate and make their writing stand out. The results I saw were phenomenal. Suddenly, writers who hadn’t been staffed, got staffed. Writers previously stalled in development d evelopment were suddenly sudden ly selling sel ling pilots. Writer Writerss who couldn’ couldn’t nd nd representation suddenly had many agents vying for them. The key to their success was looking inside themselves. My last staff job in the corporate world was VP of Current Programs at CBS/Paramount. CBS/Paramount. After this, thi s, I started my own business in January Januar y of 2008. I identied a niche in the market with regards to story. I knew that what I was able to pull out of writers had value for their success.
What is a Log Line?
So, I started a business that purely focuses on the development of story. I gured that the best way to see results was through one-on-one consults. I give the individual writer their own personal development executive to help them navigate the terrain that often accompanies a career in writ w riting. ing. Since I launched my company company,, I’ve I’ve worked worked with w ith over 200 writers. The results of the one-on-one consults have been amazing. I’ I’ve helped helped writers wr iters get agents agent s and managers, get staffed, staf fed, sell pilots and helped the right peopl peoplee to see their wo work rk creating a possibility possibility.. I also teach seminars. It was during one of these seminars that I came up with the concept of getting writers to write what I call a Log Line For Your Life . What is a log line? Wikipedia’s denition is, “A log line is a brief summary of a television program or movie, often providing both a synopsis of the program’s plot, and an emotional ‘hook’ to stimulate interest.” I tell writers to write their log lines by thinking about the setu setup p of who, dilem dilemma, ma, action, act ion, and goal. You want to set up empathy for your central character, present the dilemma and the action that is taken, and the goal. Strong log lines often have irony in them. A perfect example is the log line from f rom the feature, feature, Pre Pretty tty Woman (Touchstone Pictures, 1990): “A man in a legal but hurtful business needs an escort for some social events, and hires a beautiful prostitute he meets... only to fall in love.” Personal log lines involve taking moments in your life and phrasing them in i n a way that makes a story s tory.. You can take a theme in your life l ife or a life moment, add some ction ct ion to it and see what you you come up with. A log line that reects a moment in my life is, “A new bride who lives in a fairy fair y tale fantasy fanta sy falls fall s through a rabbit hole hole and when when she awakens, awakens, nds herself President of Cheated On Anonymous.” A second log line that reects a pivotal moment in my life is, “When a work-obsessed corporate executiv executivee experiences a fall fal l from f rom grace gr ace,, she is fo forced rced to turn her plan B into her plan A and discovers that her plan B was her plan A all along.” Writing a log line is a way of detaching from your story and looking lookin g at it from f rom an objective viewpoint. By By going into your own own life experiences, extracting your truth and learning how to frame it into a log line, you will strengthen your awareness of how to organize storr y and this sto thi s will wil l help you to write stronger log lines for your your scripts. script s.
STORY LINE | Jen Grisanti
You can start star t thinking think ing about log lines line s in your life by thinking thinki ng of univeruniversal life moment momentss that t hat you you’’ve experienced. experienced . By “univer “universal sal life moment”, I mean moments in your life when your your world world was wa s turned tur ned upside down and your sense of reality, as you knew it, shifted. Throughout this book, I will teach you you how to dive dive into these moments and ctionalize them, writing log lines that reect your universal universal life moments and helping you build and elevate elevate the ctional ctional stories stories that yo you u are wo working rking on. When you write what you know, you write from an authentic place. Having the courage and the insight to do this will elevate your writing and connect you with your audience. The beauty of this ex exercise ercise is that it will wil l help you relate relate with people in a new way. One group I did it with said that they’ve been sitting next to people people for years years in their guild g uild and they had no idea that these stories were under the surface. They suddenly saw people in a new light. This is the gift of story. When you go inside and uncover what is there, you will be surprised by the depth it adds to the way that you write and how this depth d epth wil w illl connect you with your audience. You will wi ll feel a passion that maybe you haven’t felt before, because when you write what you know, you write from your truth. When you write from your truth, tr uth, you identif iden tify y your voice. voice. Your voice is what will wi ll set you apart from other writers. At this point in my career, I’ve probably read over 3,000 scripts. The ones that really stand out to me are those that have mastered the use of theme and symbolism. This is the icing on the cake cake of story for me. me. Theme and symbolism can often be drawn from our universal life moments. For example, just before my marriage ended, a necklace that my husband had given me broke. I remember this very vividly because the necklace breaking was a symbol of things thing s to come. come. I’ve I’ve had many signs like this in my life. While these symbolic moments may be painful, they also present an opportunity to add depth to the stories you tell. If you have experienced true moments, chances are that millions of others have as well, and nding a way to use these moments in your writing will connect your audience to your story.
What is a Log Line?
If you draw from moments of truth in your life, you will write your themes and symbolism from a stronger place. Current movies that have utilized theme and symbolism well and are likely drawn from the true life experiences of the storytellers are: Star Trek (Paramount, 2009), with the theme of “logic versus emotion,” Frost/Nixon (Universal Pictures, 2008), with the theme and symbolism behind exploring recovery after a fall from grace, and The Lives Of Others (Arte, 2006), the German lm that won the best foreign lm in 2007, explores loyalty in depth. Avatar (20th Century Fox Film, 2009) explores the theme of freedom and symbolizes it through the use and paralyzation of the central character’s legs. The nal and probably most important part of story that I like to reect on in reading your log line and your writing is the goal and dilemma faced by your lead character. In simple terms, what does your central character want? This covers the goal. If you want to go further and strengthen your story even more, develop the dilemma part of the goal. Jeffrey Kitchen covers this incredibly well in his book Writing A Great Movie: Keys Tools for Successful Screenwriting . He writes, “ Dilemma may be dened as a s a situation with a choi c hoice ce to be made in which neither alternative is acceptable.” If your goal is crystal clear, stemming from a dilemma or leading into a dilemma, your story has a much greater chance of wo workin rking. g. Feature-wise, strong examples of this are found in Avatar . We know that the lead character Jake (Sam Worthington) wants the use of his legs back as an external goal. The dilemma he faces is that if he does what the antagonist wants him to do, he will get his legs back; however, in doing this, he will wil l have have to betray betr ay his lo love ve interest. The strength and clarity of this dilemma heightens the emotional stakes tremendously. Internally, he wants to ll his brother’s shoes and earn his place, being held in higher esteem. This self-worth is taught t aught to him through thr ough his lo love ve interest Nitiri (Zoe Saldana) and the character, Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver.) Television-wise, Breaking Bad (Sony Pictures Television), Big Love (Playtone Productions), and Mad Men (AMC), do beautiful jobs of
STORY LINE | Jen Grisanti
exemplifying with clarity what the central character wants and the dilemmass that they face dilemma f ace.. In Breaking Bad , there is a great overall series dilemma faced by Walt (played by Bryan Cranston). After being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, he realizes that when he dies, his family will be left with nothing. So, since he’s a chemistry teacher, he comes up with the idea of dealing meth. The The two sides of his dilemma di lemma are, rst, if he deals meth, he risks getting caught and going to jail, but he will have money to leave his wife and their handicapped son; second, if he doesn’t make meth, he will have very little to leave his family fam ily and wil willl die feeling feelin g lik li ke he didn d idn’’t provide enough for them. The series explores explores both sides of this dilemma. A preval prevalent ent dilemma di lemma leading to a strong goal or stemming from a strong goal elevates the strength of your your story. story. If this goal, resulting resulting from the dilemma or leading to the dilemma, is i s blurred, your story wil willl suffer suf fer,, but if yo your ur goal is clear clear,, your your story will be stronger. I nd that many writers have difculty dening their character’s goal because most people are not totally clear on what they want in their own lives. So, if you don’t know with clarity what you want, how do you write it? By nding clarity in your own life, you will nd clarity in your writing. Doing this involves, “Developing from Within,” a phrase I’ve adopted as my brand. I believe that the stronger you are inside, the stronger you are on the page. We will explore universal life moments, theme, symbolism and goals and dilemmas in depth in this book because they are elements that go into dening the log lines for your life. By dening your life log lines, you will bring yourself personal clarity and enhance and elevate your writing, increasing your chances of a long career as a successful working writer. However, the rst step is looking inside yourself and embracing your own story.
CREATE UNIVERSAL MOMENTS IN YOU YOUR R ST STOR ORY LIN LINES
Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~ William Will iam Wordsworth
As a way to help writers reach inside themselves, themselves, I ask them to identify a few universal life moments. A “universal life moment” is a moment when your world turns upside down and your sense of reality, as you know it, shift shi fts. s. Often times, time s, this is i s an “all “all is lost” lo st” moment. Your life has chan changed. ged. You are a re put in a position po sition of choice choice.. You can ca n tak t akee action, or you can choose to stay where you are, but either way, your reality will never be the same again. In my seminars, I ask writers to think about these moments in their lives and share one with the class. This is a scary request. More than likely, what we felt during these moments was dark, and it takes true courage to approach the unknown scariness that is our own darkness. Yet, on the other side of dark d arkness, ness, we often nd nd light. lig ht. So, So, if we can begin to embrace our darkness by understanding that light will eventually follow, it may help our fear subside. Digging into our personal unknown allows us to experience a myriad of emotions and fears, and this is the core worth of the experience. When we react, we often feel we are reacting to an external event, yet, very often it is not the event at all that we are upset about, but rather the emotions that it stirs stir s up inside of us. u s. The event event usually usual ly symbolizes a greater secret or pain. The event often forces us to uncover something that we swept under the rug and deal with our demons before we can move forward. One of my most memorable universal life moments occurred when I attended the wedding of a childhood friend shortly after my own
STORY LINE | Jen Grisanti
divorce. After you’ve been through a divorce, weddings tend to take on a whole new meaning. mean ing. You star st artt to doubt the ceremony ceremony.. A part of you wants to jump up and shout, “Don’t do it! If it doesn’t work, your heart will be shattered!” However, you compose yourself, restrict the crazy scenarios you’ you’re imagining imag ining to the connes of your your mind, mind , and try tr y to enjoy the ceremony, truly hoping for the best. Well, this particular wedding was back home in Whittier, California, the small suburb of Los Angeles where I had grown up. I was raised in a picturesque neighborhoo neighbo rhood d called cal led Friendly Hills, Hil ls, and as a s I loo look ked around at the other wedding guests, I saw many of the supposedly happy couples that had been part of the Friendly Hills community when I was a child. These were the couples that had helped construct my conception of marriage mar riage.. After experiencing my own divorc divorcee so shortly after af ter my wedding, I found myself on a quest for answers. As I inquired about each couple, many of them no longer together, but all of whom I had assumed to have a strong marriage, my mother enlightened me to some of the truth behind the facade. It wasn’t what I had imagined it to be. Each of these couples had their own issues, their own struggles, their own darkness. The perfect picture of marriage that I had held onto so tightly as a child was shattering into a million pieces. It wasn’t real. I had crafted a fantasy in my mind and heart, and now a new truth was revealed, shifting my reality as I knew it. This moment linked to other moments during my career as a television executive. One of the popular “spec scripts” being submitted during my divorce was Ally McBeal (20th Century Fox, 1997). I recall reading 50 of these specs that season and constantly nding myself at the point of tears because it felt like there were so many people who understood my pain. I wasn’t isolated. In my writer meetings, after I’d share my story as a way to get writers to dene and feel comfortable sharing their own, I’d hear story after story about cheating spouses. A part of me didn’t want to admit that this truth was part of my experience too. I realized that when I got divorced, I became a reluctant member of a new club. In a moment, I was forced to grow up and let go of the fairy tale. I was left wondering when I would be able to paint a new picture of a life that was realistic and not based ba sed on fantasy fanta sy..
Create Universal Moments in Your Stor y Lines
It is in these moments that we go through a transformation, a rebirth. We have to “man up” and face our new reality. We have to shed the skin that was and be ready for a new layer to cover the wound. The scar will wi ll remain remai n forever forever,, but with time, the pain will wil l lessen, eventually becoming a distant di stant memory memory.. I encourage writers to dive into these moments, however painful they may be. Your emotional depth stem stemss from f rom these the se moments. moment s. As you explore them, you’ll realize that your pain exists for a reason. Pain is like a rite of passage. We all encounter it. It can weaken us and deliver us into a state of victimhood, or it can help shed light on our reality, giving us an opportunity to embark upon a new beginning, pursuing a new reality. Moving past your pain makes you stronger and prepares you to pass your story on to others. Often times, the rawest moments in movies and television, the ones that really connect with the audience, are those inspired by the writer’s universal life moments. For example, in a key line in the movie Up In The Air (Paramount, 2009), Ryan, the central character played by George Clooney, says, “The slower we move, the faster we die.” This philosophy/theme resonates throughout the entire lm. For Ryan, marriage and being “settled” equates to slowing down and thereby having to face his own mortality. This is the foundation that the entire story is built upon and it’s what makes the lm so powerful and moving. My guess is that this theme stems from one of the writer’s universal univ ersal fears birthed bir thed from f rom a specic life moment. Yet, it speaks to the masses. Simi larly,, in The Hurt Locker (V Similarly (Voltage oltage Pictures, Pict ures, 2008), 2008), written wri tten by Mark Mar k Boal, there is another key line of dialogue, likely based on a universal life moment, that really resonates with the audience and underscores the entire story. Will James (Jeremy Renner) sits with his son and says, “The older you get, the fewer things you really love. When you get to my age, you only love one or two things.... I think it’s one.” Then the lm cuts to Will going to war and starting another year of rotation, risking his life to dismantle improvised explosive devices. He’s not comfortable with the emotional side of life. Instead, he feels most
STORY LINE | Jen Grisanti
at home doing what he does best, even though it involves risking his life.. This is symbolized beautifully in a grocery life g rocery sto store re scene when Will’ Will’ss wife asks him to grab a box of cereal and we see him looking up and down the aisle, completely bewildered by the multitude mult itude of choices c hoices.. It is in this moment that we we truly tr uly feel feel his isolatio i solation n and sense sen se of disconnection with this part of his life. How many of us can relate to this? Work actually comes easy easy.. It’s It’s relationships and baring bari ng all al l that’s that’s truly tr uly difcult. I heard the writer, w riter, Mark Boal, speak at a t the Writer Writerss Guild Foundation. Foundat ion. I asked aske d him hi m about this scene scene.. He said that he drew d rew this from f rom his own life li fe.. He said that he is never comfortable in the grocery story. He utilized his own truth and ctionalized it into story. Television-wise, there’s a great moment in the fourth season nale of Dexter (Clyde Phillips Productions), written by Melissa Rosenberg and Wendy West, that has real universal relevance. In his voice over, Dexter (Michael C. Hall) asks himself, ”Why is it that with killing, I feel no regret, but disappointing Rita makes me feel like the scum of the earth?” Sometimes we can disassociate from external actions that one would would think wo would uld be our most terrible ter rible regrets, regret s, yet yet disappointing di sappointing a person who we love is almost always painful. In an episode of Mad Men (AMC), written by Matt Weiner and Kater Gordon, Gor don, there is a great moment when the teacher, teacher, Miss Mis s Farrell (Ab (Abiigail Spencer) Spencer),, with whom Don (John (John Hamm) is having an affair, af fair, relays relays a question quest ion that an 8-year 8 -year-old -old boy ask as ked her: “How “How do I know that you see blue like I see blue?” blue? ” Don Don replies, “P “People may see thing th ingss differentdif ferently, but they don’t really want to.” This line sets up the entire episode, which explores both Don and his wife’s indiscretions, and is further symbolized with a basket of dirty laundry. Universally, it forces us, as an audience, to explore the difference between how we see things and how we want to see them. That is to say, we each live life in a healthy sense of denial, looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, denying the truth behind our actions. This is something we can all connect with and relate to in one way or another. Very often, the most powerful moments in a story reveal a writer’s truth. It is through your truth that you submerge your audience into
Create Universal Moments in Your Stor y Lines
your vision and make them feel your story. Diving into our personal truth can be terrify terr ifying. ing. Yet, often, confronting our truth tr uth is what nally nal ly releases us from the paralyzing hold it has on us. After losing my job in the corporate world after fteen years at the same company, I took a trip to Esalen, a magical place by the Pacic Ocean in Big Sur. After I went through my divorce, I had, in essence, married my job. So, when my job came to an end, it was like I was going through a second divorce. It was a very numbing experience. I’ll never nev er forget the ride up the California coastline coastli ne.. It was lik li ke I was seeing the coast for the very rst time, nally truly able to see its beauty. I worked in the corporate world since the moment I had graduated from USC. Despite the tremendous fear of the unknown that I was facing, for the rst time in my life I was totally free. For the rst time since college, I didn’t have a specic reason or purpose to wake up in the morning mornin g other than to do things thing s for myself, like work workout out and plan for the next stage of my life. While I was at Esalen, I took a ve-day course called “Completions and Transitions” with thirteen other people. On the rst day, we went around the room and told our stories. Some of the stories were so deep d eep,, so painful and so raw. It made me feel like a fool for being there. I had only lost my job and some of these people had lost so much more. It made me feel selsh and egotistical. Who was I to think that my pain compared with theirs? On the rst day, I felt like I didn’t belong, but by the fth day, that feeling had changed completely. Through the tremendous instruction by Mary Goldenson, author of the book It’s Time: No One Is Coming to Save You You, I began to see that all of our pain is relevant. If we dig into the backstories of our lives, much like we do with the backstories of our characters’ lives, we nd that so many of the themes highlighted high lighted by our universal life moments moment s are similar. The actual scenarios may be totally different, but the pain behind them is the same. We all have a right and a need to grieve. As a writer, you have the gift of being able to provide a tremendous sense of relief to others, by by allo al lowing wing them to see their pain explored explored in a ctional way, showing them they are not alone. There is no greater
STORY LINE | Jen Grisanti
feeling than when a TV show or movie really speaks to you and makes you feel like someone understands. Drawing from your real pain and experience is what will bring your audience to tears and convince them to root for your characters. But to do this, you need to understand your own own tru t ruth. th. You have to be will wi lling ing to look deep in inside side youryourself and extract it, look at it, feel it, expose expose it, process it, and expr express ess it on the page. Universal life themes are your gold. If you can learn to tap into and ctionalize these moments, adding the truth of your own emotion, you will wil l nd new depth de pth in your writin wr iting. g. You will wil l connect with wi th your audience and discover the sound of your voice voice.. Your script scr ipt wil w illl stand sta nd out from the masses. The key to your success as a writer lies within. The way you you interpret your universal universal life moments is what will wi ll info in forr m your story and connect you with your audience.
Write down ve of your most memorable universal life moments. Think of the times in your life when your reality shifted and your world wo rld turned tur ned upside do d own. Go into these moments.