Image via Reddit

Aaron Sorkin is one of the best known and most influential screenwriters working today. He received four Primetime Emmy Awards for ‘The West Wing’ and won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2011 for ‘The Social Network’.

Earlier this week Sorkin participated in an Ask Me Asking session on Reddit to help promote his new online screenwriting class. When Sorkin was asked how much of a character’s backstory he knows before he writes, he provided the following insightful answer:

I don’t like to commit myself to anything in a character’s backstory until I have to. I didn’t know going into the West Wing that Bartlet had MS. Then, along came an episode where I needed to introduce the idea that the First Lady (Dr. Channing) was a medical doctor. And the way I did it was by giving Bartlet MS.

David Mamet have written some excellent essays on this subject. You can get lost in the weeds if you sit down and try to create an entire biography for your character. If this is what they were like when they were six years old, and this is what they did when they were seven years old, and they scraped their knee when they were eight years old. Your character, assuming your character is 50 years old, was never six years old, or seven years old or eight years old. Your character was born the moment the curtain goes up, the moment the movie begins, the moment the television show begins, and your character dies as soon as it’s over. Your character only becomes seven years old when they say, “Well when I was seven years old, I fell in a well, and ever since then I’ve had terrible claustrophobia. Okay?

Characters and people aren’t the same thing. They only look alike.

I write a lot of drafts of screenplays and plays. I keep writing and I keep writing; what I try to do at the beginning is just get to the end. Once I’ve gotten to the end, I know a lot more about the piece, and I’m able to go back to the beginning and touch stuff that never turned into anything, and highlight things that are going to become important later on. And I go back, and I keep doing that, and I keep doing that, and I’ll retype the whole script, over and over again, just to make things sharper and sharper. That’s for movies and plays. In television, there just isn’t that kind of time. In television, I have to write a 55-minute movie every nine days, so we shoot my first draft.

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Boston Review Aura Estrada Short Story Contest 2017

Boston Review is now accepting entries for the Aura Estrada Short Story Contest 2017.

Founded in 1975, Boston Review is one of America’s most prestigious literature and politics magazines. Past contributors include Saul Bellow, Jhumpa Lahiri and John Updike.

Boston Review’s Aura Estrada Short Story Contest is open to all writers, regardless of citizenship or publication history. The winner of the contest will receive $1500 and have his or her work published in the July/August 2017 issue of Boston Review. The runners-up stories may also be published.

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Literary Magazines for New and Unpublished Writers 2016

Our previous lists of magazines that welcome submissions from new and previously unpublished writers (see here and here) have both received a huge amount of positive feedback. So, by popular demand, here are 15 more literary magazines that are happy to hear from writers who may not had their work published before.

Before you rush to start sending your latest story to every magazine on the list, Eva Langston from Carve Magazine has some excellent advice to help you avoid the mistakes writers most commonly make when submitting their work for publication. Also check out this step-by-step guide to submitting your work from the editorial team at Neon.

1. The City Quill
is a new literary magazine exclusively for previously unpublished writers (they won’t hold school newspapers or personal blogs against you but you shouldn’t submit your work to The City Quill if you ever had a journal, anthology or magazine). Fiction writers may submit up to two stories of 2500 words each, and non-fiction and poetry are also accepted. You don’t need to pay a submission fee but, for a small charge, you can have your work read and critiqued by a City Quill editor within two weeks.

2. Spry
is a literary journal that features undiscovered writers, as well as the work of more established voices. The editors, two recent graduates of the MFA program at Fairfield University, seek work that is concise, experimental, hybrid, or flashy and all submissions are read blind. Submissions for issue eight are currently open.
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Hollie Overton - Baby Doll Interview

Hollie Overton is a Chicago-born, Texas-raised writer who has worked on a number of television series including Cold Case, The Client List and Shadowhunters, the series based on Cassandra Clare’s international bestseller The Mortal Instruments.

Hollie’s debut novel, Baby Doll, is out this month. We contacted her to find out more about her experience writing both scripts and books.

You didn’t study creative writing or English Literature at college, but instead acting. Do you think this background as a performer impacts your approach to storytelling? 
Acting was my first love and those skills I learned have been invaluable as both as a TV writer and now a novelist.  I fell in love with performing in middle school and high school.  I learned how to tell stories by analyzing plays, breaking down characters and studying structure. I spent years studying acting and all that knowledge informs everything I write. I visual things that I’m writing, how will it look, is it authentic. The same goes for dialogue.  How would it sound if an actor were saying those words? Even though I didn’t continue my acting pursuits, I’m so grateful for the training and that it led me down this career path.

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Order your t-shirt here – all funds raised will go to Aerogramme Writers’ Studio and upgrading this website

We started Aerogramme Writers’ Studio in 2013 as a fun way of sharing interesting writing-related news and tips with our friends and anybody else who happened to be interested. We never imagined that three years later the site would receive thousands of visitors each day and have over 40,000 email and social followers.

This website is in desperate need of an upgrade. To partly cover these costs we’ve launched a t-shirt fundraising campaign via Teespring.

The design features one of our favourite quotes from Jack Kerouac and will be available for seven days only.

  • Each t-shirt costs US$21.99 plus shipping
  • All orders will be printed in the United States on original American Apparel shirts
  • The shirts are available in blacknavy and slate
  • Teespring has a 30 day refunds and returns policy – click here for further details

All profits from the campaign will be spent to improve this website. Please place your orders by Tuesday 5 July.

ORDER NOW

 

If you don’t wish to order a t-shirt there are  other ways you can support us:

  • Sign up for a FREE 30-day Audible trial. You’ll receive two free audiobooks and we’ll receive a small commission (even if you cancel your subscription at the end of the trial).
  • Advertise on Aerogramme Writers’ Studio. Do you have a book, writers’ workshop, literary magazine or another project that you’d like to promote? Email us now to receive a 25% discount code.
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Thank you for your support!

 

Sunday Times Short Story Award 2017

Writers from around the world are invited to enter the 2017 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award. The winner will receive £30,000 (approx US$40,000), making this the most valuable prize in the world for a single short story.

The prize is for stories up to 6000 words in length and there is no entry fee. Stories can be either unpublished or published. If published, the work must have first appeared after 31 December 2015.

Writers can enter regardless of their nationality or residency but they must have an existing record of publication in the United Kingdom or Ireland.

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Classic Mega Man . . . storytelling gets inventive when your main character can’t speak.
Image: Brian Talbot, CC BY-NC

A post by Brooke Maggs

Imagine writing a story where the first thing the “reader” asks when they begin is: what do I do?

The answer might be one or all of these things: explore, survive, observe, solve, form a strategy, make decisions.

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