Friday, January 12, 2007

Sara Dennis GuestBlog: The (Hot) Devil's In The Details

Contest!!! One lucky commenting Bella wins a copy of Dr. Linda Seger's "Creating Unforgettable Characters," courtesy of Sara!

When I first saw Sara Dennis' avatar here at RBtheBlog, I kept trying to place it, thinking I'd seen the face in a vintage film, maybe with Deanna Durbin or Judy Garland. Then I found out, woah, the photo is Sara Dennis, and she really digs the whole Max Factor glamour of back in the day.

Sara's an Avon FanLit Grand Prize winner of a screenwriting deal, and she'll tell us more about that today. Please, Bellas, an enthusiastic buongiorno to a Bella we've seen before...

Telling a story with a good beginning, middle and end is tough in any medium. That only gets harder with word count or length limits.

It certainly made a difference in the sort of stories I told in my entries for Avon FanLit's recent contest. With a maximum 1500 character limit (counting spaces!), it became crucial to decide which details could stay and which had to go. What sort of plot element was interesting enough to hold a reader's attention and interest and avoid the dreaded skip, and still squeak under the limit once the required twists and character constraints were added?

Fortunately for me, I found the magic formula that caught the attention of the editorial panel. There's no question that figuring out how to put a whole story in a relatively rigid framework played into the decision to award me a development deal with Fox TV.

Writing for television requires the ability to not only tell season-long story arcs, but to write complete mini-stories in each episode, either 30 or 60 minutes long. When you consider that one page of text is more or less equivalent to a minute of screen time, that's not a lot of space to work with.

And yet there are fantastic television shows being written and produced that have fully-developed char
acters, engaging dialogue and satisfying plots.

And, to keep up with the HOT and sort-of WET theme of Romance By The Blog, here are some of favorite actors in my favorite shows:

Josh Holloway/Sawyer, from Lost:

Masi Oka/Hiro Nakamura, from Heroes:

Hugh Laurie/Greg House, from House:

And last but –certainly- not least, Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester in Supernatural. Definitely a reason to start watching if you haven't.

What are your favorite shows? Have you ever dreamed of writing for television or the movies?

One lucky commenter will receive a copy of Dr. Linda Seger's Creating Unforgettable Characters. This is a great book for script OR novel writing!

Encore! Like many authors, Sara Dennis put stories on the page as soon as she knew how to write. She made up epics to pass the time on moves across country and back and spent many hours having adventures. She even got the dogs involved, assigning them roles as sidekicks and foes!

Now she lives in Northern California with her husband, cats and horses, dreaming up heroes and heroines who can (and do!) overcome impossible odds.

Read Sara's Avon FanLit entries blog, too!


Sarah Palmero said...

Oh wow. Now I know how fishbowl head feels. Er, eek. Yes, that's really me. Spooky, eh? :)

So, I hope you'll all forgive me for commenting first on my own post, but I made a mistake. The character limit on FanLit entries was 8500 characters, about 1500 words. Apologies for the confusion.

Phew! I feel better now.

Good morning. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Sara, Vivi here...blogger still hates me.

Congrats on the TV deal. that is awesome!

My favorites shows are CSI, Gil Grissom makes that show for me, Sopranos, and my new favorite Battlestar Galactica. The characters in this one are extraordinary.

I would love to write movies. I've written six screenplays, and am currently writing another one that I hope to shop soon.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sara, this is Karen!

So, TV. I know we watch several shows in common currently, but what was your favorite TV show from your childhood? What's your favorite show now? And what sort of ideas are you tossing at the network?

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buongiorno, Sara! It's perfect that you're our first commenter today. Means you're eager to hear whatever silliness we can come up with to entertain you. :) Welcome, and congrats on your win.

Vivs. Screenplays? This is something we didn't know about you! Tell all. Are these screenplays for stars with names like, Dirk Strongthrob and Ivana Luvya? Or are we talking the real deal? Not that there's anything wrong with the others...

Fess up!

I know the Bellas dig on some TV, so I'm lookin forward to hearing more...

Tessa Dare said...

Hey, Sara!

I luuuurve TV, and but something weird happened in 2006. Somehow I accidentally stopped watching TV last year. It was like I had to choose between it and writing - only so many hours in the day. Wait - I should mention that I do still watch an ungodly amount of Barney, Dora,Diego, and the like. Instead of those lovely men in your post, I've got those Zaboomafoo guys or Anthony Wiggle.

Of all shows, though, one of my favorites all time, for the writing and overall fabulousness - is The Simpsons. At its height, really - one of the smartest shows on TV.

And I wish I could write screenplays. I've never tried, but dialogue is my absolute favorite part of writing, and many times my first drafts of chapters more closely resemble a script than anything else.

Bellas, I notice that Sara has somehow neglected to mention in her blog that she is the author of about 4 published books, with it seems like a good half-dozen more forthcoming. She's an awesome storyteller, a class act, and an inspiration. Check out her website.

Sorry, Sara, if you're trying to be modest or something. I'm now shameless. It's the new me for 2007. :)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Doh! You're so right about the Simpsons. But, let us not forget the man my husband, Dave, feels is one of the most genius funny men on TV -- behind Denny Crane -- Sheen of Jimmy Neutron.

Now, Miss Dennis, you naughty Bella. You needed to tell us about your published novels! Brava!

Minna said...

Nope, I've never dreamed of writing for television or the movies.

Some of my favorite shows are Numb3rs, Due South, Bones, Third Rock From the Sun, My Hero and Corner Gas.

Diana Castilleja said...

Let me try this again...

As I was saying... Blogger... muttergrumble... :)

I don't watch TV. It's a shameful thing for me I guess, but if I'm here at home, I'd rather be writing or reading. Like Tessa, I have the background of Diego, and Noggin. Then at night, dh takes over the remote anyway, and there's really very little we both like. It's always been that way too. *shrug*

Here's to many successes with your series work!

Anonymous said...

Hi Sara!

Interesting group of Hot and Wet guys. I like them all.

My favorite TV shows? Inuyasha, Sponge Bob Squarepants, and Arthur.

Could you drop us a link to your best entry? I think folks here might like to see what it takes to do well in a contest like Avon's FanLit.


Sarah Palmero said...

Vivi: Thanks so much! I love Gil Grissom too. I haven't watched the show for a while, I confess, but when I was, yeah. Gil was The Man. I wanted him to hook up with Lady Heather soooo badly.

Karen: Hi there! My favorite television show as a kid. Ooh, that's a tough one. Especially if I try not to date myself. ;) Actually, it was probably the GI Joe and Transformer cartoons, after school. Why? Because I made up characters and story arcs for them, and kept binders full of my own scripts. Fan fic before I even knew what it was!

Supernatural and Heroes jockey for favorite spot on my TV list now. And as far as ideas, I'm working for some ideas for the upper-teen market at the moment.

Michelle: Thanks! And oh yes, bring on the silliness. :)

Tessa: She's back! Hi Eve! You know, I hear that a lot from people with small children. The Dora/Blues Clues/Wiggles thing. At least you're entertained the first couple (dozen) times? :) You know, I never really got in to the Simpsons. I think I'm missing that particular humor gene.

Dialogue's important to writing screenplays! The format's completely different, though. And the market is just as hard to break into as book publishing.

And thanks so much for "outing" my books. ;) I have three books out with Cobblestone Press, a pair of short stories with Freya's Bower, and yes, more coming with Cobblestone and Cerridwen Press.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

oops! My bad. I had the entry linked and it didn't publish at the bottom where Sara's blog link is published. See the silly sentence structure? OK. It's not much sillier than my usual, but there you have it. I'll go try to fix it. :)

Playground Monitor said...

I'm a CSI fan too (the Vegas crew only), love Desperate Housewives and think Monk hung the moon. I really don't watch much TV but those are set up on my Tivo.

Never thought about writing for the screen but it's interesting about one page of text equalling one minute of screen time. I guess the stage directions show and the dialogue tells? Somewhere I have a script for an old episode of "Lois and Clark." I should read that to see what a screenwriter has to accomplish.

Congrats on your win!

I'm off in a bit, Bellas, to start our "Broadway" weekend. Couples massage this afternoon, fancy steak dinner tonight followed by the show. Then tomorrow is a lazy day and tomorrow evening the DH makes his off-Broadway debut -- way, way, way off Broadway in Alabama. *g*


Sarah Palmero said...

Michelle: Mea culpa! I fessed up now. :)

Minna: I've heard great things about Numb3rs and Due South, but never seen either. And never heard of My Hero and Corner Gas. There's so much out there. I thought Third Rock From the Sun was pretty cute, though.

Diana: Hello! You know, the DH and I spent five years or so with no tv at all. It's oddly easy not to miss it, and then get all caught up in it when you get it back. And yes, write more! Thanks for the good wishes.

Alice: Hi! Thanks for coming over. I have seen a couple episodes of Inuyasha and enjoyed them, but I don't follow it so I don't know the whole story. It seems pretty popular, though.

Thanks for asking about the entry! Here's the link to my entry for chapter 2. This one ranked second for the week:

Marilyn: You've got it exactly right. There's not a *lot* of room for description or stage directions in a screenplay, but yes, that's where you cover the action. The dialogue tells the reader most of the important information.

Have a fantastic weekend! Sounds like in for a real treat.

ev said...

Me? Write for public consumption? Only on a blog.

I love Grey's Anatomy, all the CSI's- although I want to slap Horatio at least twice every show. Lost, Bones, and all of us watch Boston Legal, usually on 3 seperate tv's and you can hear us laughing all over the place. Flamingo's!!!

Thankfully when Heather was growing up she hated Barney. I watched a lot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Pee-wee's Playhouse. We are going to go see the new Turtle Cartoon movie when it comes out. And I love SpongeBob.

Anonymous said...

Vivi here...

Yup Michelle, the real deal. It's what I wrote before writing novels. I've written one horror, which finaled a few contests, two thrillers, one comedy, one dark comedy, and a huge epic sci/fi fantasy which I still think would rock! I was close to production twice, and it broke my heart so much I quit...and thought I could make it in through the backdoor by writing a great novel that someone would want to make into a movie. Hell Kat had some interest...but still no go on that.

My life long dream/wish/fantasy is to win an Academy Award for best screenplay...

Antonia Pearce said...

Sara, congrats on your achievement! I don't know if it was mentioned, but there were well over 400 entries for the first round of FanLit and almost as many for the subsequent rounds, so that is amazing!

Yes, someday I would love to write for TV or film. I spent a number of years in LA pursuing an acting career until I realized I didn't want to be in front of the camera! LOL

I'm usually in my cave writing, so I don't watch as much TV as I used to, but I try not to miss Ghost Whisperer. I adored Alias and Highlander when they were on. Supernatural is a good one, too!

Best of luck,

Antonia Pearce

traveler said...

Sara, Congrats on your wonderful success. I envy you and your wonderful creativity. I don't write but I love the tv show "24". It is the one and only show that I watch. It has everything and to me the best writing of all.

alissa said...

Congrats on your fabulous tv deal. What a great accomplishment. I enjoy very few tv shows but House is on the them, mainly because of Hugh Laurie and the subject of the show.

joelle said...

Congrats on your deal. That is wonderful news! years ago I watched Street legal and loved this show. It has gone by the wayside so I now watch Boston Legal. Otherwise not too many others interest me.

pearl said...

Your talent is so wonderful. Congrats and all the best for 2007. I don't watch much tv but do enjoy and never miss "24". I love the actors, the writing and the entire show due to its professionalism.

sharon said...

What a wonderful achievement and best wishes. I read most of the time but when I do watch tv the show that occupies my time is Grey's Anatomy. Otherwise I don't watch too much else. I enjoyed Due South when it was on years ago since it was cute and smart.

Sarah Palmero said...

Ev: I often wonder what I'm doing writing for public consumption, too. Me? I'm safe behind my little computer monitor over here. Oh! TMNT. I am a hyooge Raphael fan, I confess.

Vivi: I had no idea we shared that particular dream. You are a woman after my own heart. Or I'm after yours. Something like that. :) Do we get to say we "knew" you when?

Antonia: Thanks so much! We talked about your career briefly a while ago, and I'm still so fascinated. I always wanted to do that, but I think now that I'm better off on this side of the camera. Still, cameos could be fun. :) I miss Highlander!

Traveler: Thank you! So many people say such great things about 24 and I have to confess, I've only seen a few episodes. *hanging head in shame* I enjoyed them, but I have to catch up sometime.

Alissa: Thank you very much! :) Yesss, Hugh Laurie is amazing, isn't he? It's his acting and the writing combined, I think, that make a pretty unpleasant man so irresistable.

Joelle: Thanks! Hm. Got to get more people watching tv again. :) I need an audience.

Pearl: Thank you! All the best to you as well!

Sharon: Thank you very much! I think I may need to check out old episodes of Due South, too. There are times when there's just too much on to watch it all, you know?

Wow. The Bellas are a fantastic group. I'm grinning ear to ear. :)

ev said...

Sara- I have to agree about Highlander. I still watch it whenever it is on and keep hoping someone will buy me the DVD's but no one ever does. Where has he disappeared to anyway??

I almost forgot- I am looking forward to seeing the Sci-fi networks rendition of The Dresden Files. It starts this weekend I think. Along with Monk, Psych and Crossing Jordan!!!

Lindsey said...

Congrats, Sara! Your FanLit entries always had such sharp dialogue and superb pacing - I wasn't at all surprised to learn that you had screenwriting experience. I have part of a screenplay written, but am taking a break to try the romance novel thing.

I'm not much of a tv-watcher lately, but my favorites are the classics - The Dick Van Dyke Show in particular!

I can't wait to see what you come up with!

Billie said...

I watch WAY too much TV and have too many fav's to list here. But the good thing about my TV consumption is that I do crafts while watching TV and since I do craft shows as well as hold down a full time job, part time job, write, and still find time to read, I get alot of crafting done.

To sum this all up--I have no social life.

Anonymous said...

Ditto -- I loved highlander especially hunky Adrian Paul.

They are filming another
movie called Highlander: The Source with everybody's favorite sword swinging, swoon worthy Duncan Macleod due out in 2007.

Anonymous said...

Vivi here...

Sara, maybe one day soon we can sit at the same banquet table at the afterparty. :-)

principessa said...

Congrats on your amazing win and new endeavor as well. I read more than anything at all since my programs have all fallen to the wayside. But I do have to confess to one addiction of mine which is "24". I am enthralled with this program and feel it is so well written and produced. It has me under its spell. Best of luck for 2007.

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

Hi, Sienna-Sara! Congratulations, you foxy writer. I don't watch much TV currently, but I'm sure I would if you wrote the show. I know you write paranormal---is that what you're working on for your deal? Best of luck, maggieinmaine

Minna said...

My Hero is British and Corner Gas is Canadian series. Not only are these shows funny, but the actors in these series actually look like normal people, not like they would have just won a beauty contest.
And how could I forget Lonely Planet -or Pilot Guides or whatever they call that travel show these days. Ian Wright is the best! They also have great website called Lonely Planet in the net.

Wolfy said...

Sara - Congratulations on your success. I watch very little TV but the one show I love to watch is 24, it has had me hooked from day 1.

LizbethSelvig said...

So sorry to fall into the late drive-by category today. How great to learn about you (yeah, I'm a newbie to your work) and I wish you nothing but the best!

As for TV - I would really have to date myself with childhood shows: we had such "hunks" as George of the Jungle and Hercules. Hmmm. But my kids (too old for Barney) had He-Man and She-Ra. Honest to gosh, I thought She-Ra was the most beautiful woman in the world and she was a cartoon for gosh sakes.

Of course, there was James Darren on Time Tunnel and my first crush in my whole life - Clayton Moore as the The Lone Ranger (couldn't even see his whole face and it didn't matter).

Current TV - Well I'm with the House fans. I've never loved an anti-hero more. And then to hear Hugh Laurie "in person" with that soft Brit accent. Whoeee baby.

Anyhow - have a great night Bellas - and really nice to "meet" you Sara. Thanks for blogging.

LizbethSelvig said...

Omigosh I forgot to put in Adrian Paul - sorry but he about tops the list. Sadly, old hippie that I am, I really miss the pony tail

And Play - I'm sure I've missed the build up - but what's the off off Broadway deal? Sounds VERY cool.


Sarah Palmero said...

Ev: Adrian's done a couple of movies, one Highlander (and another one coming, which makes me cringe), one vampire one ... he's played an alien on a tv show. Poor guy never gets to be truly human. :)

Yes! Dresden Files, but it doesn't start this weekend. Next Sunday is the premiere. Everyone go and watch! Jim's a friend of a friend and he needs people tuning in so the network knows we want more good stuff on tv!

Lindsey: Hi there! Long time no talk to! Thanks so much for hopping over. :) I liked the Dick Van Dyke show too. I used to watch that laaate at night in the basement with my dad. Much fun. And nothing wrong with hopping between writing formats. I think it keeps the brain working.

Billie: I'm a crafter too! What sort of crafts do you do? And do you do okay at shows? I've only been to a couple and never really managed to tap into the right market. Still looking. :)

Anonymous: Yep. Still cringing over the next Highlander movie. The boys are pretty but the storylines need work.

Vivi: That would be so much fun! Pencil me in. ;)

Principessa: Thank you! Boy, with all these recs for 24 I clearly need to get caught up and start watching it in real time.

Maggie: Hi again, Maggie! Thank you. :) I do write paranormal and yes, the project I'm currently polishing up has a paranormal note to it. Keep your fingers crossed. :)

Minna: That would explain why I don't know the shows. I'm horribly US bound when it comes to what I watch, for the most part. I'll have to check those out, though. Thanks for explaining!

Cryna: Thank you! Another vote for 24. Yep, going back on the list.

Lizees: I am all for late drive-bys or any time drive-bys, really. :) Thanks for the good wishes! Oh gosh, I completely forgot He-Man and She-Ra! I think I used to pretend to be She-Ra on the playground. Er. Not that I just confessed that. Ahem. *cough* Nice to meet you too!

tetewa said...

I have to agree with you that one of my favorites is Josh Halloway, but what about Matthew Fox? My favorite show out right now is Lost. I can't wait for it to come back on in February. Many successes for you in 2007!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Sara! I'll take your advise on the show House, I've yet to see an episode. I've been hooked on Lost since the first episode aired.


Tessa Dare said...

OMG, He-Man and She-Ra! I remember them. But, Sara, I did not play She-Ra on the playground. I played Wonder Woman. Gotta dig those bullet-deflecting gold bangles she had.

All of you are making me think I should try to get back into Lost. I did love it the first 2 seasons. But I haven't watched it all season, and therefore I feel, um, lost.

Sarah Palmero said...

Teresa: I like Matthew Fox, too. I give equal time to lots of Lost men. Did you see his recent interview? He sounds like a hellraiser.

Isabel: Thank you! And yes, check out House. He's like Sawyer on steroids.

Eve: I played her too! And Isis. :) Does anybody but me remember Isis?

Honestly, I don't think this season of Lost has been as great as the first two, but I guess we'll see after hiatus.

Michelle and Bellas, thanks for letting me play in your sandbox today! I'm West Coast so I'll probably pop back and see what's going on over here again tonight, but it's been a blast. Thanks again!

ev said...

Sara- my dogs name is Isis!!

I will have to go look up this new Highlander movie. And also the other things you mentioned Adrian was in. i must of missed them big time.

i love the Dresden File books and am really hoping they do justice to them on tv. it's sci-fi- they are pretty good at it though.

ev said...

And what is this about moving to a new addy in february??? I can't even read a map and you expect me to move???

Rogers Place said...

Nice pages here. Great information. Will visit again and recommend.

amy said...

Sara, I'm a dope. I got my Fridays confused and missed your blog. If you are still there, just wanted to say I loved your subs on fanlit.
I'm thrilled for you! Wishing you the best.
Amy Baldwin (Amy from fanlit)

Pam Skochinski said...

Hi Sara. I, too, missed your blog on the 12th. Better late than never, though. My excuse, the installation of a new computer. I'm still working out the bugs on it. . .I'll be over to visit your blog later today!

santasmbslt said...

Sorry I am so late to the blog! I totally missed it!

The DH and I are CSI nuts! I even like the NY one. Nick from Las Vegas is amazing!

Without a Trace is another one we watch, along with Num3ers.

Shows I used to watch: Highlander and I miss it, too! The X Files from its very beginning but the re-runs do nothing for me. Weird, huh?

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