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57 posts tagged writing

Breaking Story with Amazon Storybuilder, Part 1

Jeanne Veillette Bowerman is a screenwriter, Editor of Script Magazine, and co-founder of #scriptchat, a weekly gathering of writers on Twitter. Amazon Studios asked her to try Amazon Storybuilder, a tool that lets you build movie and series outlines with digital notecards.

Every writer has a different system for breaking story. For those readers who are familiar with me, you know I always keep it real and admit my shortcomings. Well, here goes: My number one writing weakness is starting a new project. I am a rewrite junkie, but when it comes to outlining a new story, I procrastinate.

Since I’m not a girl who accepts weakness, especially my own, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to get an outline down that don’t feel like pure torture. So, when Amazon Studios launched their free Storybuilder tool, I had to give it a shot. Maybe notecarding is the magic trick I’ve been looking for.

My typical outlining process is done in Word, not notecards. However, I do use cards during my rewrite process in order to juggle scenes and rework structure. But I’ve never actually started a project using them.

Since I love stepping outside of my comfort zone, I dove in.

Storybuilder is a cloud-based platform that allows you to work off of your laptop, your phone or your tablet. When I poked around the tool, I found what is called a “drawer.” Its purpose is to store ideas, and even pictures, that you might want to add to your outline. You can open it for easy viewing or close it to focus on the board itself. Think of it as a writer’s hoarding drawer to dump all your ideas.

Already inside the drawer you can find a template based off of the Save the Cat Beat Sheet. You can either import the entire template onto your board, or you can drag individual cards as well as delete them.


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Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

Remembering the remarkable Elmore Leonard (Justified, Jackie Brown, Out of Sight) and his 10 Rules of Writing:

  1.  Never open a book with weather.
  2.  Avoid prologues.
  3.  Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
  4.  Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” … he admonished gravely.
  5.  Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. 
  6.  Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  7.  Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8.  Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9.  Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  10.  Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Find further explanation of these rules here. And read more about Justified, starring Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins, here.


Amazon Studios Options Orbit, a Sci-Fi Thriller

Amazon Studios continues to expand its film slate with an exciting new project – Orbit, the story of a salvage crew that finds itself with the fate of the world in its hands when aliens approach.

“Orbit emerged out my love for the alien invasion genre, a genre which I have adored my entire life. When it comes to what may happen if aliens wander into our neighborhood, the possibilities are infinite,” said Orbit writer Bruce Guido.

Amazon Studios has an open-door development process, for film as well as original series. Learn more about how to submit your script.

Details on the newly optioned project:


Writer: Bruce Guido

Genre(s): Science Fiction, Thriller

Logline:  When an immense alien spacecraft threatens life on Earth, a small crew of astronauts aboard a salvage and collection ship must destroy the alien menace to save mankind.

Why we optioned it: While it’s a contained story involving only a handful of characters, the scope and stakes of the movie are enormous. This is a movie about the end of the world, but it’s played out entirely with a cast of six people. 

The writer’s perspective: As I was looking at a photo of Earth, sitting lonely against a sea of black, it just hit me — what if the story was told outside of Earth? …  What if we experienced worldwide destruction from the point of view of characters who are isolated, watching from the outside? What would it be like to see our home, our loved ones, everyone we’ve ever known, annihilated from a distance with us powerless to stop it?

See the full Amazon Studios film slate.

Guest Post: Building a Story’s Foundation … One Board at a Time

imageJeanne Veillette Bowerman is a screenwriter, columnist, and co-founder of #scriptchat, a weekly gathering of writers on Twitter. Amazon Studios asked her to try Amazon Storyteller, a tool that lets you turn your script into a storyboard (like hers). Here’s how it went:

Not having any aspiration to direct, I had never storyboarded my own scripts. For me, the idea of storyboarding was akin to waterboarding – pure torture. I was perfectly content with the glorious, twisted images I had floating in my head.

But any of you who follow my Script Magazine Balls of Steel column know I’m a competitive freak who loves a challenge. I have a quest for learning new things, so when Amazon Studios asked if I’d try the free Amazon Storyteller tool, the game was on!

Remember, I’ve never done this before, and I am no artist. Correction, I do have artistic skills, but those revolve around charcoal drawings of nude women – long story. I don’t know anything about creating pictures of clothed people with a cinematographer’s eye.

I admit to being intimidated.

Turns out, it’s not tough at all. It didn’t take long for my addictive personality to latch on and churn boards out.

Overall, the feature, in beta version, is pretty intuitive. You click on any part of the script and a suggested background shows up, complete with the characters intended for that scene. You can tweak their clothing, actions and facial expressions as well as change their orientation 360 degrees. Props can be added to the boards, including background characters as well as the ability to zoom in or out or reframe the shot.

Before I knew it, I had created a 42-board structure of my 8-page script. I told you it was addictive. Or perhaps I’m O.C.D.? OK, maybe a bit of both.

Since the tool is still in beta, there’s obviously room for improvement. One thing I wish it would do is show the boards as index cards that I could easily click and drag to reorder, just like I do when I outline my stories. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer that I want that feature. You tell me.

The props are limited and can’t be manipulated except to make larger or smaller. I wanted to lay books down on the bed but couldn’t. At the moment, there’s also no way to put a character in a prone position. But these are all small details Amazon will undoubtedly update.

Above having fun pretending to be a director, I learned a few things about writing from my storyboarding experience

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