If you love cartoons, in this case strip or single panel, not animated, check out theNib.com.
They offer cartoons that are political, journalistic, or just plain funny.
You can also sign up for a daily email infusion of cartoons.
For instance, consider the book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, by Amy Cuddy, 352 pages, £8.99 in the UK (about $12) and, unusually, more for the Kindle version (£9.99). Its ranking is 2,237 in books.
One summary version is by "Ant Hive Media," 30 pages. The price is £4.89 (about $6). Its ranking is 95,072.
The other is by "Instaread"and says it includes analysis, but still comes in at only 34 pages, for £5.23 for the paperback. Its ranking is 342,857.
I guess summary books could be useful for someone wanting to save time, but I can't help feeling they're feeding on somebody else's the hard. Shouldn't a percentage of the proceeds go to the original author?
How you noticed how often clickbait headlines use the word "insane"? As in, get insane results, one insane trick to help you lose weight, etc.? Here are a few real examples:
"How Pokemon Go is Driving Insane Amounts of Sales" (Inc.com)"
'Insane productivity" (insaneproductivity.com)
"41 Insane Facts You Definitely Didn't Know About Disneyland" (popsugar.com)
Here's one that throws in another favorite clickbait word for good measure:
"This Seinfeld 9/11 script is insane and incredible" (splitsider.com)
I just ran across perhaps the most inappropriate use yet, on Psyblog, of all places--a site that reports on new findings in psychology:
"10 Science-backed Steps for Insane Mental Focus"
Enough with the insane, already! You're driving me...annoyed.
When you're stuck for what a character in your novel or screenplay would do next, there's a simple question that can help you decide.
As novelist Lili Wright ("Dancing With the Tiger") points out in an interview in The National Book Review, how you phrase the question is important. She credits it to screenwriting guru Robert McKee:
"Don't think, What would I do?
Or, what would the character do?
But: If I were him or her, what would I do?"
It's when you put yourself into the character's shoes and interpret the situation from his or her perspective that you're most likely to hit upon the most logical and true next action.
For instance, if you (the writer) came across somebody fell into some bushes and obviously is in need of help, probably you'd go to their aid. But what about your character's reaction to such a situation?
Let's assume your character has a good reason to want to stay out of the spotlight.
If you ask yourself simply, "What would the character do?" you might conclude that she hurries on, hoping someone else will come along and help the injured person.
However, if you imagine yourself to be the character and create that image of the injured person in your imagination, you might find that simply leaving the injured person and doing nothing else makes you feel too guilty.
As this character, what else could you do? For instance, maybe you'd hurry on but, keeping your head down, say to the next person you encounter, "I think there's somebody over there who's injured," hoping that person would choose to look and help.
Vividly imagining any situation from the perspective of your character allows you to tune in to their emotion as well as the logic of how they'd react, and that will make it more authentic.
A mistake people make when changing their password is just changing one element or adding one character to their current password. Apparently, hackers program for that.
A better option is to have your password made up of four unrelated words, like this:
You can remember it by creating an image: picture a bunny going to a gym and it's blurry but what suddenly comes into focus is an elevator.
Of course, if you have lots of sites with passwords, remembering different combinations for each one gets harder.
Instead of writing down the actual passwords, you could do it with doodles like this:
However, if you look at your pictorial clues after not used it for a while you might think the password is rabbitbarbellmagnifyinglift.
Or you can use password software. I'm using Dashlane and so far I'm happy with it.
Are there any new habits you'd like to form? Writing every day, making time to read every day, exercising, or keeping your home office tidy, for instance? How long would it take, and what are the best ways to do it?
21 DAYS IS A MINIMUM
For a while, the conventional wisdom was it takes 21 days to form a new habit, which actually was a misstatement of the conclusion of personal development guru Maxwell Maltz, who said it takes at least 21 days.
In 2009, a study at University College London found that how long it takes depends on how difficult the behavior is, but the average was 66 days. That is, you have to do the new thing 66 days in a row before it becomes a habit and make it feel stranger not to do it than to do it.
There have been several books about habit formation lately and what most of them advise is:
* Be sure this is a habit you want to develop (rather than something somebody else thinks you should develop);
* Be specific--"writing more" is too vague. Instead, we might decide to "write at least 500 words a day" or "spend at least 20 minutes a day working on my novel.";
* Set up a cue or trigger that reminds you to do the desired behavior. If you want to get into the habit of drinking more water, you can link that to brushing your teeth (you'll drink a glass of water afterward) or making it the first thing you do during your lunch break, for example.
* Make the new behavior as easy to do as possible. If you want to eat at least 1 piece of fruit a day, make sure the fruit bowl is where you can see it every time you go into the kitchen. If you want to have fruit instead of eating a candy bar, don't keep any candy bars in the house.
* When possible, do the behavior at the same time every day or the same day every week;
* When possible, combine a new habit with one that's already established. For instance, if you already go for a 15-minute walk every day and you'd like to get into the habit of learning a few new words of a foreign language every day, you could listen to language tapes while taking your walk.
* When possible, get someone else to be your new habit partner--for instance, someone who will go on a brisk walk with you every morning or be your gym partner three times a week.
* Give yourself a reward to reinforce the new behavior. For some people, just checking the item off a to- do list is enough. Food is a powerful reward, but can also be a dangerous one if you're watching your weight. The ideal reward is one that you don't get normally.
* Have specific rules for when it's OK not to do the behavior. For instance, if your goal is to exercise at the gym every day, how sick will you have to be in order to have a good reason not to do it? Feeling a little tired probably isn't a great reason, being in the infectious stage of an illness is. If these rules are in place when you start, you'll be less likely to rationalize exceptions.
* If you miss a day, don't let that be an excuse for lapsing for longer. Resume the next day.
DON'T FORGET THIS ONE!
* Finally, and this is the one most people forget about, if the new habit takes time, decide what you will stop doing, or will do for less time, in order to free up that time for the new behavior.
Writers and many other spend much of our days sitting down. We know we need exercise in order to stay healthy, but how much?
Science Daily reports a study from the University of Cambridge that suggests the magic number is 60 minutes of moderate exercise:
"In total, the researchers analysed 16 studies, which included data from more than one million men and women. The team grouped individuals into four quartiles depending on their level of moderate intensity physical activity, ranging from less than 5 minutes per day in the bottom group to over 60 minutes in the top. Moderate intensity exercise was defined as equating to walking at 3.5 miles/hour or cycling at 10 miles/hour, for example.
The researchers found that 60 to 75 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per day were sufficient to eliminate the increased risk of early death associated with sitting for over eight hours per day. However, as many as three out of four people in the study failed to reach this level of daily activity."
The article doesn't reveal how much of the exercise is continuous, as opposed to spread out over the course of the day. For most people, one full hour of exercise may be challenging, but four times fifteen minutes (walking to and from work and shopping, going up and down stairs, as well as using a real or exercise bike, etc.) should be doable.
I've written before about the fact that it's easy to make hard decisions for our future selves...but when we arrive at that point, our present self doesn't stick to the plan.
For instance, it's easy to decide right now that we'll get up early and go for a half-hour walk...starting next week. But when next week rolls around and it's raining and we're nice and comfy in our beds, it's easy to postpone that walk.
A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO THE TO-DO LIST
The same applies to making a list of what we're going to do tomorrow, in order of priority. We can identify the task that we should do first even though it's unpleasant or scary. But in the morning we may decide to ease into the day and find that the tough task keeps slipping down to the bottom and then onto tomorrow's list.
A strategy that might help was suggested by a study that showed people found it easier to cut calories when they ordered their food an hour ahead of time. It's similar to the strategy of not going shopping when you're hungry.
One way to apply this to being productive could be to deciding an hour ahead of time which task we're going to do in an hour. It makes it less likely that we'll be unrealistic in our plan for the day, and also less likely that we'll totally avoid the harder actions.
I finally caught up with the film, Spotlight, on a plane trip from Los Angeles to London. It won the 'best picture' Academy Award this year. Sure, the acting was good, the story was important, and it was well directed, but what really impressed me was the way it used sleight of hand.
As you may know, it was about a small group of journalists in Boston who set out to expose the way the Catholic Church protected pedophiles. They start with what seems like an isolated case and gradually discover that the cover-up was worldwide and involved at least 90 priests in the Boston area alone.
NOTHING UP THEIR SLEEVES...
So where does slight of hand come in?
Well, usually in a film the structure follows escalating conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist. The problem for this story is that although the church tried to stonewall, to prevent the release of documents, and to exert some social pressure on the journalists, the conflict never really broke out into the open. The level of conflict actually remained pretty static.
Nobody fire-bombed the newspaper's offices, nobody threatened the lives of the journalists, nobody followed through on an implied threat to expose any dirty laundry in the histories of the reporters.
Because this was closely based on a true story, the usual dramatic devices were off limits.
To replace the expected escalation, the script did a good job of keeping things moving and reminding us of the consequences if the campaign to expose the cover-up failed. For every roadblock the reporters encountered and overcame (sometimes with relatively little trouble), the script quickly produced a new obstacle.
Many of these were rather boring in and of themselves--needing to get a certain document, for instance, but the urgency with which they were all portrayed kept us watching.
THE VANISHING CHARACTER ARC
There's also no character arc to speak of--the Michael Keaton character comes to realize he was no different from the other journalists in the past who failed to pay attention to accusations against a priest, but it's not a big change. But again the script made the most of a rather thin bit of raw material.
A MODEL PERFORMANCE
If the aftermath of the investigation hadn't been so monumental, the script (by Josh Singer and director Tom McCarthy) would have lacked the weight required and its smoke and mirrors would have been discovered.
As it was, the film wasn't a big success financially, although the gross of $88 million is more than respectable considering the film's budget was only $20 million.
But for any screenwriter stymied by needing to create the illusion of escalating conflict when there's actually very little, it's a great model.
I've been looking at a number of web series lately and have been impressed by the level of professionalism of many of them. There are series based on just about any topic or situation you can imagine, but some seem to be over-represented:
WEB SERIES SKEW YOUNG
Is that because young people have more time and more familiarity with the medium? Probably. Is it because the likely audience also skews young? Also probably. However, the average age of YouTube viewers has been on the rise for a while, so there's nothing to say that series focused on the experiences of older characters can't work.
HUMOR WORKS WELL
A lot of series are parodies or have a sketch comedy type of format, the sort of thing that you can also see on Saturday Night Live.
A good example is Notary Publix, ia broad parody mix of soap operas and crime shows that wisely sticks to a length of about three minutes. It was co-created by and stars Kate McKinnon (right), a Saturday Night Live alumnus. The "behind the scenes" bits at the end are at least as funny as the episodes. The first episode is here.
A PROBLEM WITH ENDINGS
The biggest problem I've noticed with webisodes is that many of them don't have a satisfying ending. It's difficult to craft a story in five to ten minutes and if the series has ongoing stories each episode's ending has to make you want to see the next one, as well as giving you the feeling of some level of completion for that episode by itself.
THERE'S A FOCUS ON MOMENTS RATHER THAN STORIES
The lack of endings isn't always a fault. After all, we don't knock a short story for not being a novel. In many series, the emphasis is on sharing moments rather than telling complete stories. This seems to work better when they're funny because the humor itself is a payoff.
A dramatic example is Inhuman Condition. Each of the 33 episodes shows part of a therapy session and what makes it high-concept is that the patients all have some kind of paranormal aspect. One of them has powers with which she has inadvertently killed more than 300 people, another looks normal but has a "living dead" condition that is draining her life from the inside.
The series is well-acted and looks great, and the fact that it takes place mostly in one location, the therapist's office, is logical and doesn't detract. Overall, the theme is alienation and the difficulty of dealing with being different, even if for most of us that doesn't extend to turning into a werewolf.
However, maybe because we are so conditioned to watching stories, the ending of each episode makes you want to see what happens next--but the next episode is about a different patient. For instance, the living dead episode ends with the patient asking the therapist to help her kill herself. If you want to find out what happens after that you have to imagine it yourself.
MANY ARE TRY-OUTS FOR ANOTHER FORMAT
There are some interesting experiments in trying to figure out how to use the limitations of the web and the viewing habits of its visitors to create something different, but the majority of series still feel like their prime purpose is to get the creators a deal with a network. Several have made the transition, at which point they tend to become like traditional series in length and format.
THERE ARE INTERESTING POSSIBILITIES IN NON-FICTION AS WELL
There are quite a few mini-documentary series, interview series, and other non-fiction formats. Probably the best-known is Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Others have been about people trying to protect rainforests, what happens to prisoners after they are released, and dairy farmers.
THE BIG OPPORTUNITY--AND THE BIG CHALLENGE
The great opportunity is that you can make a web series with minimal equipment and expense. Some have been shot with the cameras on smartphones. Most are the product of a small team, but an individual can do it as well.
Nobody limits or dictates your creative choices, and the final product will--for better or worse--be what you made it. When you write screenplays, it can be years before anything is made; with a web series you can shoot an episode one day, edit it the next, and have it on YouTube or your own site the third day. It gives you a great chance to see what works and what doesn't.
When you write screenplays, it can be years before anything is made; with a web series you can shoot an episode one day, edit it the next, and have it on YouTube or your own site the third day. It gives you a great chance to see what works and what doesn't and to improve.
Also, there's no penalty for making mistakes. The main reason is also the main challenge: most likely, very few people will actually see the series.
The situation is similar to that faced by self-publishers. Now that so many people are doing it, getting attention for your project is difficult. Some web series producers have been able to get celebrities involved, which gives them an instant advantage. Friends actress Lisa Kudrow got in early, in 2008, with a series called Web Therapy. She played a therapist who conducted her sessions with a webcam. It was later picked up as a half-hour series by Showtime.
Some series do take off just because they're very good and word of mouth builds viewership. Certainly, a series that has some kind of hook, some element that people may find different enough to talk about, has the advantage.
OVER TO YOU
Are there any web series you'd recommend? Do you have any thoughts about what makes a good web series, as distinct from network series? Are you thinking about creating one yourself? Post your comments below or via email to email@example.com.
Do you have any thoughts about what makes a good web series, as distinct from network series? Are you thinking about creating one yourself? Post your comments below or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you thinking about creating one yourself? Post your comments below or via email to email@example.com.
In the 48 Hour Film Project, teams are given that amount of time to make a short film incorporating several elements that aren't revealed until just before the event starts. These include a genre, a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue.
Those who deliver late will not be eligible to compete for a prize but get a screening of their films anyway.
Two genres are offered, and the group can decide which one they want to use or they can combine the two.
Genres include road movie, romance, sci-fi, and horror in one group, and more specific categories like buddy film, martial arts, mystery, period piece and war or anti-war in the second group. The films have to be between four and seven minutes long.
For a look at some of the films made by London groups in previous years, see this page.
Winners get a trophy and a shot at the $5000 top prize in the international event where all the local winners compete. The overall winners also get a screening at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017.
In addition, the creators have something that shows what they can do, as well as the fun and satisfaction of the process itself.
WHEN IS IT HAPPENING NEAR YOU?
The weekends are scheduled throughout the year. For London, it will probably be in September (they haven't set a firm date yet). To see when it is in the city nearest you, check out the list here.
WHAT CAN YOU DO IN 48 HOURS?
This challenge is a good example of what people can do when they have a deadline, some givens, and the energy of a team.
What could you achieve in 48 hours? Could you write a short story? The core outline of a novel? Several chapters of a book? A painting or even series of paintings?
Those examples are not usually team efforts, but you could build in a few sessions in which you get and give feedback on each other's projects.
It doesn't have to be film or writing related. Could you transform a vacant lot into a tiny park (with the permission of the owners and any necessary licenses, of course), or--going back to films--make a mini-documentary that a local charity can use to help promote its work?
CONCENTRATING YOUR MIND
There's a Samuel Johnson quote to the effect that knowing that one is about to be hanged in a fortnight's time concentrates the mind wonderfully. Knowing that one can achieve something useful in 48 hours and have fun at the same time can have the same benefit--without the drawback.
Do you have it backed up?
Are you sure?
I read about an artist to whom this happened and not only didn't he back up his blog, it was the only place he'd saved some of his work.
If you use WordPress, there are various plug-ins that allow you to save the blog's contents and download it to your computer or the cloud. You can search "WP back-up plug-ins" to find them.
There's also a quick and easy-to-use Mac app called SiteSucker. I have it load the back-up into my DropBox account for extra protection.
This blog is on the Typepad platform and wasn't attacked recently when all my WP sites became the target of hackers, but no site is totally safe. If you think your blog is being backed up automatically but you're not sure, it's worth checking.
Here's how MediaPost summarized the results:
For the study, "The Biggest Lie on the Internet," researchers gave 543 communications undergraduates the opportunity to test "Namedrop," a fictional social networking service.
It's alarming, but spending fifteen minutes trying to decipher the fine print doesn't seem very realistic.
Maybe some entrepreneur could create a site on which there's a list of apps and sites and a summary of the terms and conditions and warnings about any suspicious demands. You'd make a micro-payment of ten cents or pence for that report, then you could agree with peace of mind. Entrepreneur, a little thank you of one penny per sale will be sufficient thank you for this idea.
The Upworthy Generator is a tool that comes up with the kinds of clickbait headlines you see online all the time. It creates a headline and an image that actually has nothing to do with the headline. It's not that funny because the headlines it generates are no stranger than the "real" headlines you see online on Upworthy and other sites every day. (It's a parody site, it's not affiliated with Upworthy.com.)
Here are three from the Upworthy Generator:
"You Won't Believe the Troubling Music Video This Angry Talk Show Host Made"
"Think Things Used to be Better When You Were a Kid? Maybe You Should Listen to This Trailblazing Talk Show Host."
"What This Fearless Physician Did Is Genius"
Just to prove to you that these aren't any worse than what's on the real Upworthy.com site, here are three from there:
"This heroic man 'hugged' a terrorist. And it likely saved hundreds of lives." (Unfortunately, the terrorist was wearing a suicide vest)
"How a Woman Named 'Unbreakable Flower' Discovered Wrestling and Became an Unlikely Hero."
"How 5 Diabolical Parents Called Their Kids' Bluff in Hilarious Ways"
You can use such headlines, or parts of them, to prompt ideas of your own.
The first one, "angry talk show host," might suggest a short film or a short story about the home life of an angry talk show host. It could be funny because he's just as angry at home as he is on the air, or because he's totally the opposite at home.
"Think things were better when you were a kid..." could lead to a story set in the future, when somebody looks back to 2016 and how great it was compared to whatever's happening then. This could work as sci-fi, comedy, even romance (ah, the innocent days of Tinder, before Sexbots came onto the dating scene...).
The "fearless physician" headline might lead to a screenplay about a real or fictional doctor or inventor who was ahead of his or her time.
Of course, you can use the real Upworthy headlines the same way. For instance, "Diabolical Parents" could inspire a comedy horror film in which a chapter of the PTA is gripped by demons. Actually, Diabolical Parents would be a pretty good title for a movie.
It's always easier to come up with ideas when you have a starting point, even a random one. But whatever you do, if you use the real Upworthy site, don't click on the headlines or you may find yourself both frustrated and annoyed. That's why the parody site is much better--there are no stories to go with the headlines...unless you make them up yourself.
A feeling of having no control over a situation has been identified as one of the main sources of stress...which is a good reason to find ways to put your character into situations in which he or she has no control
As unpleasant as it is in real life (it's also been identified as a trigger for depression), it's an excellent way to increase the stakes for your protagonist. Of course, in real life sometimes people just curl up into a ball when under extreme stress, but that wouldn't make for a very exciting screenplay or novel.
Your protagonists will have to fight to regain control, and the less control they have the harder they will have to fight. The middle part of most novels and screenplays is a back-and-forth battle, with alternating gains and losses.
I've posted before about a useful structure for this--Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which often is represented by a pyramid with the base being the most basic needs (food, clothing, shelter) and the top being the most abstract and elusive need (self-realization). You can take your poor protagonists down the levels until they're fighting for their very survival.
I found this useful recently when trying to figure out how to add pressure on my protagonist in the middle of the story, so give it a try if you find the middle of your story sagging, too.
“All good ideas start out as bad ideas, that’s why it takes so long.”
To which I would add: if you think your first draft is really, really, really good...oh oh.