A thought on Villians

If your villian starts working against the hero instead of for themselves, then something has gone wrong. Keep the villain’s motivation consistent and away from being plot driven. They need to have their own goals, which just happen to be in opposition to the hero’s goals.

Nine Questions


Uta Hagen was a well known acting teacher who taught acting at the Herbert Berghof Studio. Below are the questions she taught generations of students to answer for each character study in order to define their roles. I think they can be as valid for fiction writers as actors:

1.  WHO AM I?  (All the details about your character including name, age, address, relatives, likes, dislikes, hobbies, career, description of physical traits, opinions, beliefs, religion, education, origins, enemies, loved ones, sociological influences, etc.) 
2.  WHAT TIME IS IT?  (Century, season, year, day, minute, significance of time)
3.  WHERE AM I?  (Country, city, neighborhood, home, room, area of room)  
4.  WHAT SURROUNDS ME?  (Animate and inanimate objects-complete details of environment) 
5.  WHAT ARE THE GIVEN CIRCUMSTANCES?  (Past, present, future and all of the events) 
6.  WHAT IS MY RELATIONSHIP?  (Relation to total events, other characters, and to things)  
7.  WHAT DO I WANT?  (Character’s need.  The immediate and main objective
8.  WHAT IS IN MY WAY?  (The obstacles which prevent character from getting his/her need)  
9.  WHAT DO I DO TO GET WHAT I WANT?  (The action: physical and verbal, also-action verbs) 
I think  I might be presumptuous and divide up #7. In my opinion, what the character wants and what they need are usually two different things. The conscious and the subconscious goals are not often in alignment, especially in storytelling.
I’d love to hear if you have something to add to the list. Something that helps you figure out your characters?

The 2012 Page International Screenwriting Awards – Update

Oh my gosh! We made it into the Quarter Finals! There are 664 finalists left in the running, from 5176 entries. Not a bad achievement for a first screenplay. I’m smiling! Check it out here.

And now to force my mind back to writing… I have a blurb to write today, and Marina and I have a novel to finish by Tuesday!

“Your time is limited, so…

…don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.” ~ Steve Jobs

Inspirational Quote of the…

… undefined time period. 

“In the afternoons, Gertrude Stein and I used to go antique hunting in the local shops, and I remember once asking her if she thought I should become a writer. In the typically cryptic way we were all so enchanted with she said, ‘No.’ I took that to mean yes and sailed for Italy the next day.”

~ Woody Allen

Creativity Crusher: Fear of Uncertainty

My thought today: it seems like I really like it when things make sense. If something is chaotic, unknown, amorphous, I have a hard time with it. I ache to get in there to tame, understand, and define. In other areas of life, of course, this isn’t such a bad thing. Order makes my family happy.

But then there is my art.

Art is born in a mishmash of chaos. What might seem like a lovely bit of fun from the outside is hiding characters that aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do, a plot that is muddled, metaphors that are jumbled, and a theme that only leaves me bewildered…

What I learned to do in the past, when I wasn’t so experienced with juvenile fiction, was to accept that things were going to get really messy before I even started to understand them. I learned to move ahead anyway, to get comfy with disorder, to embrace confusion.

Now that I’m starting a new genre, it seems I need to learn this all over again. Angel’s Flight is a far more complex story, and things will get a little wild. I need to accept that and relax into the craziness.  I need to keep in mind that that’s how the process works. And have fun with it too. Fun is good. 🙂

The 2012 Page International Screenwriting Awards

Yesterday, an incredibly exciting email arrived in my inbox:

Dear Angela,

Today we’re officially kicking off The 2012 PAGE Awards announcement season, and we have some very exciting news for you…

The Judges have now finished evaluating all of this year’s entries in the First Round of competition.  Only scripts that received a score of 60 or higher (approximately the top 25% of all entries) advanced to the Second Round, and based on your Round One scores, we’re very happy to inform you that you have advanced to Round Two with Freedom.

Congratulations!!  Given the caliber of competition you faced, this is a terrific achievement!

It goes on to say that the Quarter Finals, the top 10% of entered screenplays, will be announced on July 15th.

Freedom is in the running…


Poor Writers Who Struck It Rich

Something I found interesting in the Huffington Post :

“Ever heard the phrase “starving writer”?

Okay—maybe you’re living it?

It may help to know you’re not alone.

Here are tales from authors who suffered through relative destitution before their writing took off.

Can you guess who these authors are?

1. Many people know that this author was a single mother, newly divorced, living off food stamps, unemployed, in a mice-infested flat in Edinburgh when she finished her first book. Life must have appeared to be pretty bleak; allegedly, she wrote in cafes because she couldn’t afford to heat her place. Her first book contract was for a measly 10,000 pounds—not big money in the book biz. But little by little, word about her books got out. A publishing company bought the rights to publish in America for $100,000 (which seems like a steal in hindsight). These days, this author is richer than the Queen of England. You know who she is, right? Yeah—this one’s a freebie.

2. This child of a single, working-class mother started his career as a worker at a Laundromat. He was also a janitor for a while until he found work teaching at a public school. He and his wife struggled financially, living in part on her student loans and his occasional income from writing. He had to borrow money from his wife’s grandmother to buy shoes. His first book deal was for $2,500…not very much at all…until reprint rights sold for $400,000. To celebrate, he bought his wife a hairdryer. Here’s what he has to say about money and writing: “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”3. This author was forced to live with impoverished relatives when his own father was thrown in jail for not paying his debts. He left school in order to work ten-hour days at a warehouse, pasting labels on boot polish. When he did return to school, he found himself thrust into a dog-eat-dog, run-down, factory-style school that churned out students. He found work as a journalist, writing under a pen name (Boz), until he began to publish serialized novels. He went on to become very famous and beloved, in part because his works so aggressively champion the causes of the poor.

4. This author might have wanted to go to college, but since he couldn’t afford it and didn’t get a scholarship, he joined the Indian Imperial Police in Burma. For a time, he lived in poverty in Paris and London, sometimes homeless, sometimes taking jobs where he could get them, caught in a cycle of receiving charity but being unable to pull himself out of destitution. When the Spanish Civil War started, he volunteered. Eventually he made a living writing book reviews and, later, war propaganda. He was forty-one when his first novel, an anti-communist allegory set in a barnyard, brought him literary success.

5. This author’s parents (a Mexican father and a Chicana mother) originally settled down in one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. With six brothers and working class parents, the purse strings were tight. Her mother was a voracious reader who often took her to the library. Her father’s work meant the family could never settle down, and they moved regularly between Mexico City and Chicago. Eventually, the author’s early experiences became her bread and butter; a distinct voice and perspective made her a stand-out at the University of Iowa and beyond. Do you know who she is?”

I’ll post the answers in a followup comment… and just so you know, I only got four of them. The fifth one was a complete mystery – though now I may have to get some of her books. 🙂

Hello World!

My first post as AY Dorsey. How cool is that?!?!

I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts on life, creativity, story, and more. I’m not overly political, so don’t expect many opinions on publishing, though I give no promises. I reserve the right to occasionally dabble.

Also, if you’re interested, have a peek at some of my published works under Creations.

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