This creative tips blog was inspired by Wendy Norman from Livelink, who suggested I set up a course. We have already posted on our Youtube channel for this, but I felt a blog update would be good to help people. So below are some creative tips, designed to help people with projects they are working on.
Please note while I am coming at this from the perspective of a writer, I do feel a lot that’s in there can be of benefit for other people. Also if you have any creative tips of your own, please comment below!
Susie Gander has her own channel, some great videos if you have kids who are learning to draw (or you want some pointers yourself!)
As creative tips go, this is an important one. There has been this idea that creativity is somehow a magic thing that only arrives in a second. While that can happen, the process is often the big part. Whether you are a standup working hundreds of gigs or an artist trying to get that detail right, having a reasonably consistent routine will make it easier to get things done (and with everything going on at the moment this becomes even more important!)
Everyone’s routine is different- some people work better in the morning, others at night. Just remember to factor in breaks. If it’s not working, try it in different ways. I find music or a video in the background helps but some people find it distracting.
Some people have word count or other targets. I don’t tend to do it so formally- my feeling is work for as long as you want to. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t hit a target- a little per day is still progress!
We mentioned this before in a previous blog so here is a quick summary-
1. Use a spider diagram. For example if you put the word “horror” in the middle think of what you associate with that (vampires, werewolves, scary music etc). Don’t worry if you put in other words while doing it, this could help inspire something.
2. Collaboration- Working with other people helps you to bounce off ideas. Even if it’s a post on your Facebook page, people can give you insight that can allow you to explore what you had in mind and build on that (more info in this blog here)
3. TV Guide- If you are working on a comic, a script etc, what might the summary be like if it was listed in a magazine?
4. Cheap notepad and pens- Sometimes people get intimidated by the need to make something “good.” At the start don’t worry about that, write down your ideas, doodle and let your mind wander. Some people like a fancy journal but for me I think this can free you without the need to make something to match the smartness of the cover.
More info in this blog here, but here is a broad breakdown.
Some people say “What is more important- story or character?” I would argue they aren’t mutually exclusive- it is possible to have an intriguing story with characters you may not engage with and equally there are stories with engaging characters that may not have elaborate plots (for example I love comedies like Rushmore or Napoleon Dynamite, though mileage varies on that).
A good story structure feels like it works- it may be a simple story (Go on quest) or throw in a twist (It’s a village of imaginary ghosts looking for their lost childhood toys). However, this should not feel like it comes out of nowhere. My screenwriting tutor used the phrase “Unexpected but inevitable”.
A classic example of the three act structure is “Boy climbs tree, someone throws rocks, boy climbs down from tree and gets away”.
Broadly speaking, your main characters tend to be either protagonists or antagonists. I’m not using the term hero or villain here (though we have done blogs on both in the context of the comic), as there can be shades of grey in between (for example, it would be a stretch to call the main characters in Pulp Fiction “heroes” but they have redemptive arcs.)
In any case, you need to consider what drives them and what obstacles are in the way. Ideally you want text and subtext. For example- on the surface Judge Claude Frollo in Hunchback of Notre Dame wants to control the city as part of a moral crusade. However, the song Hellfire reveals the subtext, that his repressed desires are the true motivation.
It is a cliche that the hero and villain can be reflections of each other, but sometimes it can be more complicated than that- in Black Panther, the debate between Killmonger and T’Challa is as much about how much people should intervene and how much Wakanda could contribute to the world.
It is said there are only five stories in the world. My screenwriting tutor reduced it to two- “A hero goes on a journey” or “a stranger comes to town”. If you think about it, pretty much any story can fit those two descriptions.
Some people get defensive about this saying “My story is outside genre!”
While it is true there are experimental films that fuse or play with genres, generally speaking the best are aware of the conventions of those genres and play with them. Also- convention or trope is not the same as cliche. In a Western, a showdown is a convention, we expect it. The cliche would be everyone diving out of the way, extreme closeups on eyes etc. It is worth watching the classics to appreciate where these come from (in this example I referenced Sergio Leone’s The Good The Bad and The Ugly and High Noon, both great examples.)
When watching, think about what is appealing about the story. In the case of High Noon, it is about a man who stands up for what he believes in despite society not supporting him. In the case of The Good The Bad and The Ugly, it is more about survival.
Genres change and develop over time, with lots of variety- superhero stories can range from the darkness of Watchmen to the silliness of Mystery Men!
So hopefully now you’ve had an idea of what you want to produce, got some inspiration and considered how to structure it. Now is the time to get a first draft, initial sketch etc done.
As creative tips go, this is where I would argue you don’t seek feedback. Get something done first so that you know what the overall structure is. For me, this is my fave part- you can just get it down and enjoy the process, don’t think too much about it!
If you think too hard while doing it, the editor part of you can kick in. This is important later on, but right now I feel this is the time to get something done.
After this you have a couple of options- Leave it for a couple of days and then do another draft, or seek feedback. Ideally you want someone who knows what you are going for, but isn’t too attached. When giving feedback, be constructive- point out the good as well as the bad.
Avoid asking too many people for feedback as this can mean you get too many cooks in the kitchen. Remember- you don’t need to follow all the advice but build on it until you are happy.
Getting it out there
My advice on promoting your work is always balance- constant spamming will annoy people, but equally not promoting it won’t help either. Also, don’t use phrases like “aspiring writer” or say “I hope to…” Put emphasis on why people would like it and why they should support it!
Reynard City as a project only works because of the incredible creative talent that makes it happen. Check out the playlist below to see more, as well as pics of the various people involved.
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