Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Story Symposium Query

Are you interested in participating in a Story Symposium that I would lead once a month, for 9 months, on Saturdays for three hours? It would include all of my various workshop content plus interactive discussions, sharing, and story critique opportunities. This new version of the symposium would be available to distance participants via WebEx, or to live participants who would come to the meeting location in Novi, MI.

From May 2010 through May 2012 I taught and facilitated, along with Jan Swedorske, a Story Symposium class in story writing (screenplays and prose) at my home in Novi. Students would come at 2 PM, and we'd be done by 5 PM. Some months the times shifted due to my travel schedule. The sessions were a mix of lecture, interactive, discussion, story sharing and critique. I presented my workshop material on various story topics, and I coached participants (as a group and privately) in the development of their own stories. Although this started out as a on-going workshop for teens involved in a Catholic Home School organization, at times welcomed adults, parents, and non-Christians to the group. The original symposium ran for two years. Recently there have been requests to run it again.

I am considering rerunning the symposium, but in a version that would only run for only 9-10 sessions during the regular school year (Sept through May) AND be available for people outside the area to participate live or (if a session is missed) to access the session file for playback. The live session would meet once a month on a Saturday for 3 hours. The "live" location would be in Novi at my home where I have easy access to electronic media and Internet transmission. If there was wider interest for the in-person live sessions than I anticipate we would meet at a larger venue.

This time there would be a cost, but as of yet I have not figured out what it would be. Distance participants would need a good internet connection for the transmission of visuals and movie clips, that you would be required to watch ahead of time.

Participants would also be required to have a copy of The Moral Premise that we would use for reading assignments. There would be additional handouts, access to a password projected website for downloading additional material, writing assignments (nothing very long as I wont' have time to read everything), one or two field trips, and a guest speaker from time-to-time. As before my opening lectures would be richly illustrated with my workshop slides and clips.

If you are interested in this (feel free to forward this to others), please write me ASAP to stan@moralpremise.com and provide me with your contact information and level of interest. There is no age or faith restriction.


Monday, August 19, 2013

New Bookmark Now Availalble

Over the years of my work on many a story I've refined my "check list" of important story structural criteria. In recent workshops I've wanted to coordinate the "secrets" presented in the workshop, with the Moral Premise Bookmark, at least the check list on the BACK of the bookmark. Finally did it.

So, now (on the back) there are not 10, or 21, but 18 "Secrets of Successful Story Structure." And we all know that this is somewhat arbitrary because as you dig into a few of those so-called secrets they get bigger in terms of how they are applied. For instance, some people say that the Protagonist must be likeable. I'd say we must identify with him or her, which means we have to like them enough to follow and be intently interested in their decisions and outcomes. This is covered under item 17, and if you break that down there are over 20 techniques to help the audience identify with any and all of your characters. You don't use all of them... but the more the better the identification.

So, for what it's worth....and I figure each is worth thousands of dollars if they are understood and applied... on the left they are for FREE. AND THE LINK. (scroll to the bottom)

Your comments and improvements are always welcome.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Stan Williams to present at Rochester Writer's Conference

I've been asked to present two, 75-minute workshops at the Rochester (Michigan) Writers' Conference, Oct 5, 2013. Here is their website where you can register: Rochester Writers' Conference website. I was the keynote presenter at their conference last year.

Secrets of Successful Story Structure

Story Masters Class, Part 1 by Dr. Stan Williams
The 18 Secrets of Successful Story Structure: How successful stories of any genre connect and engage audiences while avoiding writer’s block for the author.

This workshop is an update of the keynote workshop Dr. Williams presented in 2012.
It is based on his work with novelists, producers and writers in Hollywood based on his book, The Moral Premise: Harnessing Virtue and Vice for Box Office Success. This workshop is a summary of his all day workshop and in part will cover the 2 spines present in all good stories, the 2 realms of natural law that characters can never escape, the 8 steps of story development, the 5 ingredients of a great hook and log lines, the 4 parts of the moral premise statement, the 13 basic beats of all stories, the 1 moment of grace, and 9 contributors of story thrust. Motion picture clips are used for examples. WORKSHOP

Who should attend: Narrative writers, novelists, producers, and directors of all story genres and media will find these sessions beneficial, if not foundational. This session will give you an introduction to the critical story concept of the moral premise and how it will speed along and improve the quality of your story telling through proper structure. In many ways the moral premise is a powerful muse; when used correctly it will inspire and focus your efforts, and powerfully connect you with your audience. Say “Good-bye” to writer’s block.

Irony, Goals and Plots

Story Masters Class, Part 2 by Dr. Stan Williams
Irony, Goals and Plots: How to create and structure well-rounded, engaging characters, plots and subplots around a single motivational premise.

Is this well illustrated story workshop, you’ll learn the secrets of how characters transform, how goals are defined, how plots and subplots are created and how every character’s arc (regardless of their outer journey) are all related to a single internal moral premise that ties the story together around one core idea. You’ll also learn the critical important of irony and how it dramatizes every character’s storyline. We will reveal 3 paths to audience-character identification, the 3 poles of the Nicomachean Character value scale, 3 story-breaking (or beating) tools, and the 3 relationships of plot arcs, character goals, and dramatic irony. Bring your story ideas; there will be opportunity to practice some of the techniques Dr. Williams explains and get valuable feedback from him and other participants. This is the same content Dr. Williams has presented to working writers and producers in Hollywood, at film conferences around the country, and what he uses to help his story-consulting clients. WORKSHOP

Who should attend: Knowledge of the story structure secrets in Part 1 will be helpful, but not entirely necessary. Writers who want to investigate Moral Premise story structure on a deeper and more practical level, or writers who are challenged or face writer’s block are encouraged to attend.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Stories Convince Better Than Logic

Want to be more effective communicator and persuader. Tell a story.
William-Adolphe Bouguereau

(November 30, 1825 – August 19, 1905)
The picture facing me when I wake each morning.
Buttressed by my comments, here are excerpts from a blog post by David Lavenda. You can find the original essay here: Once Upon A Time At The Office: 10 Storytelling Tips To Help You Be More Persuasive.

Which is easier to remember: statistics or a story? What tugs on your heart logic or a story? 
Robert McKee, famous Hollywood story guru, is quoted in the essay as saying:
Trying to convince people with logic is tough for two reasons. One is they are arguing with you in their heads while you are making your argument. Second, if you do succeed in persuading them, you’ve done so only on an intellectual basis. That’s not good enough, because people are not inspired to act by reason alone.
I would add that stories that make an emotional connection that evoke adrenalin which sears memories into the bran. Facts, apart from a story, can be lost in an instant because they are not personal.
But there’s more proof of storytelling's effectiveness than just anecdotal evidence. For example, studies carried out by Melanie C. Green and Timothy C. Brock at Ohio State University have empirically shown that people’s beliefs can be swayed more effectively through storytelling than through logical arguments. The researchers posit that persuasion is most effective when people are "transported" to another place using a story.
More accurately a story, told right, uses a combination of three types of Identification Techniques (physical, emotional & moral),  that place the story listener INTO the story and more significantly into one or more character's minds, where the audience participates emphatically in the journey of the character. That is a literal "transportation" and allows the audience to EXPERIENCE the situation as if present in person. In other words, the story becomes a simulation of reality.  Things are much easier to remember that way because "experience" is the best teacher.
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down to discuss this topic with Susan Fisher, a strategic communication expert and principal at First Class. “People are always telling stories; why don’t they do it at work?" asks Fisher. “It’s because they have been taught that at work you use logic and slides and statistics; this seems more professional. Telling stories seems too emotional and possibly manipulative. So people stick to facts and numbers. But the truth is that real emotions always work better, because that is the way to reach hearts and minds, and also people get to see the real you. It’s authentic.”
Here then are Fisher's top ten list of being a good storyteller at work. These are right out of the screenwriter and director's handbook for making successful motion pictures, or writing engaging novels.
  1. Plan your story starting with the takeaway message. Think about what’s important to the audience. The ending is the most important point of the story. This is the message we want to deliver, and the one that will linger with the audience.
  2. Keep your stories short for the workplace. Three to five minutes long is about what people can digest in today’s ADD world.
  3. Good stories are about challenge or conflict. Without these elements, stories aren’t very interesting. The compelling part of a story is how people deal with conflict–-so start with the people and the conflict.
  4. Think about your story like a movie. Imagine you are screenwriter with a goal to get your message across. The story has to have a beginning, middle, and end.
  5. Start with a person and his challenge, and intensify human interest by adding descriptions of time, place, and people with their emotions.
  6. Be creative. Create a storyboard; draw it out, while listening to music or reading something for inspiration. A good story always has ups and downs, so "arc" the story. Pull people along, and introduce tension, just like in a fairy tale. (“From out of nowhere, the wolf jumps onto the path…”)
  7. Intensify the story with vivid language and intonation. Tap into people’s emotions with language. Use metaphors, idioms, and parables that have emotional associations. (Note: For more on this, see Leo Widrich’s article entitled, “Which Words Matter Most When You Talk” and studies on intonation performed by Ingrid Johnsrude at Cambridge University).
  8. When using a story in a PowerPoint presentation, use appropriate graphics/pictures to convey your message. Stay away from text and complicated graphics. A single picture interlaced with emotional language will go a long way to convey your message.
  9. Most of us have not told stories in front of an audience since English class in high school. So you will need to practice. Tell your story in front of a friendly audience and get feedback. Gauge your pace, and take note of the story’s length and your use of language. It will be a bit rusty at first, but underneath it all, we are all born storytellers.
  10. The most important point is to make the switch within; because once you internalize that today’s "left-brain" communication style doesn’t work very well and you realize that stories are how people really communicate, you will find it a lot easier to proceed…because it’s authentic. And that is what really persuades.
Fisher also recommends signing up for a storytelling workshop.
Duh! I have a great suggestion....

What is Motion Picture Development?

As announced earlier I'm facilitating TD Jakes' International Faith and Family Film Festival Short Treatment Contest. (I'm also presenting two workshops at the event, August 30, 31, in Dallas.) The winner of the treatment writing contest will be offered a motion picture development deal with TD Jakes Enterprises. 



Development of a motion picture can take years. The process begins with a story idea, such as the selection of a treatment that has been submitted for the IFFFF Short Treatment Contest. Development typically involves the following steps, but not necessarily in this order:

a. The writer (you) and the Executive Producer (EP, e.g. TDJE) would sign an "Option-Purchase Agreement" that would temporarily transfer ownership of the story and script (referred to an the Intellectual Property (IP), to the EP for a period of three years.  The OP Agreement is in two parts. Part A is the Agreement for the EP to try to get the story through development and into pre-production. For that the writer is paid a small fee. Part B of the Agreement for the EP to purchase all rights in perpetuity to the story, for a larger fee. The Purchase is not executed until the EP is absolutely sure the story will actually get produced, usually on the first day of principal photography.  If the story cannot be fully developed and entered into production, the ownership of the IP reverts back to the writer, and the writer keeps the option fees.  

b. There may also be an over all "Development Agreement" with the writer, wherein the writer is hired to help develop and write the story and the script. But, like the OP Agreement, signing a development agreement is no guarantee that the project will eventually get made into a movie. It is often the case that multiple writers and script story-consultant are involved. The EP pays all costs.

c. Working with a team of story experts the story idea (or original draft of the script) is "broken" or "broken down" or "beat out". That is the story is formally structured to meet the demands of a mainstream movie.

d. The story or script is then written and rewritten (over and over) to make it so good that others will want to be part of the project, and agree to "attach" themselves to the effort.

There are both technical (objective) and aesthetic (subjective) aspects to the above two steps.

e. The EP then attempts to "attach" to the project a line producer, production manager, director, and principal actors. With each attachment (a task that is subjectively dependent on the opinion and taste of the various parties) the script will go through another revision as each person that comes onto the project will make suggestions.

f. The EP will search out and attach funding from a combination of private equity, production entities (studios), and distributors. This may involve writing a business plan and creating preliminary marketing materials.  This step can be long and finding the money very elusive.

g. Along the way, all parties sign "Deal Memos" that confirm the parameters of the parties' involvement in making the picture. Deal Memos are short letters that precede formal contracts that are not signed until pre-production begins, which is the stage following development and just before production. Pre-production does not begin until all the deal memos are signed and the executive producer (and TDJE) agrees to actually make the picture. The approval to proceed with production is called a "Greenlight."

h. It is sometime during the above stages that the "Option Agreement" is executed and the actual sales of the intellectual property (the story and script) is transferred permanently to the executive producer and the writer is paid his or her purchase fee.

Yes, it can take years, and not thing is guaranteed.  Welcome to "Development Hell." 

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Moral Premise in Chinese

The images say it all... I think. A Chinese university exchange student staying with  my daughter's family said that the Chinese title is more interesting than the American title. But he offered no further explanation. (?!) My publisher was surprised the cover got past Chinese censors, but then neither my publisher nor I had anything to do with this except collect the royalties.


Page 158's Table

Page 51

T.D. Jakes Film Festival Workshop Presentations and Treatment Contest

Mike Epps (L) talks to T.D. Jakes (R) on the set of the hit movie Sparkle.
For those of you in Texas, especially near Dallas, let me invite you to the International Faith & Family Film Festival (IFFFF) (Home Page: http://www.mega-fest.com/filmfestival/index.html)  run by T.D. Jakes Enterprises. T.D. Jakes is an internationally known pastor, writer, producer and actor of several films. Here's his IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0415890/?ref_=sr_1.

The IFFFF is actually part of TDJE's Megafest held in Texas August 29-31, 2013. As part of the film track, I've been asked to run the Screenwriting program, which will consist of two master class workshops on August 30 and 31, plus facilitate the Short Treatment Contest, the winner of which will get a development deal with the film production arm of TDJE. Submission guidelines can be found here: http://www.mega-fest.com/filmfestival/contest/

The two workshops are titled: 

Workshop Day 1 (3 hours): "The 21 Secrets of Successful Motion Picture Stories: How to tell box office successful stories that connect and engage audiences about what is good, true, and beautiful."

Workshop Day 2 (3-hours): "Irony, Goals and Subplots: How to create diverse, well-rounded characters on a single moral theme that connects with audiences."