#23: Shoutout to the Homie Gustav Freytag

ft. horror movie/tv recs + an XL writer's log

Hey you! 

Reporting live from spooky season! How y’all livin’? How many scary movies have you watched? Carved a pumpkin yet? Did you dance to the spooky scary skeleton remix at least a few dozen times?

Me? I get enough horror in my life when I’m editing an article! *slaps knee* But, for real, I’ve made an effort to watch more horror and thriller content — which I’ll get more into in the issue!

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Anyway, enjoy issue #23 babes!

Writer’s Log #11

When I learned about the Save the Cat beat sheet last year, I felt like Neo after he took the red pill in The Matrix. I gained awareness of the kinds of stories we’re drawn to as human beings and how similar storytelling elements are reflected in nearly every story ever told

Before STC, my storytelling know-how was confined to the parameters of the American public school system. Like every other bright-eyed JcPenney’s-rockin’ middle schooler, I learned about Freytag’s Pyramid way back when. You may be like, “Nia, what the heckin’ heck is Freytag’s Pyramid?” Let me jog your memory. 

STC takes Freytag’s Pyramid and personalizes it for one of my favorite storytelling mediums: movies. The same story elements from Freytag’s Pyramid exist in STC (at the end of the day, this basic story structure is universal). STC is just more detailed.

I already saw the stories I wrote as movies in my head, so using the STC beat sheet to outline my stories made perfect sense. I wrote three novels using this method. It worked seamlessly. Then, I started working on my NaNoWriMo story for 2021 and hit a roadblock. 

The idea for my NaNo story started off differently than other stories I’ve done recently. I usually start off with a premise, as I mentioned in a previous Writer’s Log. But, with this story, I started off with a setting. Then, one by one, I began to craft characters to populate the setting. Plot-wise, I was stumped. 

I couldn’t use the beat sheet because I hadn’t decided on the basic premise of my story. Also, with the ideas I did have, I imagined the story starting from Act 2 or STC’s “Break Into Two”, essentially the “middle” of the story.

Since I was so married to the beat sheet and its distinct structure, it was hard for me to imagine a full story that didn’t copy the STC beats word for word and bar for bar, as Soulja Boy would say. (Soulja Boy clip is NSFW)

I was lost in the sauce and it won’t even Sweet Baby Ray’s. I was having an existential crisis, staring out of a window and questioning my storytelling abilities like I was a sad R&B singer mourning a lost love. 

While I was having my mini-All Is Lost moment, I decided to explore NaNoWriMo’s god-tier online resource for NaNo Prep. It walks you through a six-week-long workshop to create a story that’ll take you to 50,000 words and beyond in November. It hits story elements (character, worldbuilding, etc.) as well as tips on productivity and organization.

I ain’t gonna lie to y’all; I haven’t been following the workshop to a T. But, I refer to it whenever I need some guidance from the novel-writing gawds. And, obviously, I needed H-E-L-P. 

I clicked on Week 3’s resource: Construct a Detailed Plot or Online. It featured a list of plotting methods. The first one, “Jot, Bin, and Pants” caught my eye. So, I clicked. 

The Jot, Bin, Pants resource worksheet was inspired by a 2018 NaNoWriMo blog post written by writer Cassandra Lee Yieng. 

Although simple in theory, practicing this method allowed me to explore my ideas, despite how odd they may be, without feeling pressured to find the right one now. (Where all my fellow easily decision-fatigued baddies at???)

Here’s a super-simple description of the method: 

Jot: brainstorm possible scenes for the entire story, exploring every plotline that comes to mind. write down each scene in as few words as possible. the worksheet recommends getting 50-100 scenes; I ended up getting about 80. 

Bin: sort each scene into beginning, middle, and end piles (or lists, folders, notecards, whatever). whittle down the scenes to what’ll actually happen in the story and put them in order. do what makes sense; and if things don’t fit or are missing — add them. (this step was when the story really started to come together)

Pants: write that story using your new outline boo

As a writer, I loved how effective and seemingly fool-proof the STC beat sheet was. But, lost in the haziness of that love, I was blind to the fact that seeing STC as the end-all-be-all of storytelling was confining my creativity. 

I needed to step outside of that structure and brainstorm, trusting my own intuition as a storyteller. I needed to play. Having that space without such a heavy structure helped me push through my creative block and keep on keepin’ on with my NaNo story.

Now, using some of the storytelling elements I learned from STC, I can create a story with a strong foundation that makes sense, while keeping my interest throughout November. 

Word to the wise: don’t be married to your creative process. Just like you grow and change with each day, your process will as well.

Maintaining some semblance of structure may be important as a creative, but play is too. Tweaking your creative process, and trying something new, every once in a while may help you find your perfect balance between the two. 

Things I Consumed

  1. Lessons From the Screenplay’s “Whiplash vs. Black Swan — The Anatomy of the Obsessed Artist”  (spoilers for movies Whiplash and Black Swan ahead) (I love movie deep dives on YouTube and this one is quality; highly recommend the channel too) 

  2. Squid Game on Netflix (what a fantastic show and gives such timeless social commentary. if you haven’t watched it yet, the hype is well deserved. go peep.)

  3. Funhouse on Hulu (as I mentioned, I’ve watched a lot of horror content recently. funhouse is the best horror movie that I’ve watched so far this month. it started off so bad it’s good; but then I started rooting for the characters and seeing some decent character development; so maybe it’s just regular good? I also like how it involved social media; as it very much seems like something that could happen in real life.)

  4. American Horror Story: Red Tide on FX/Hulu (american horror story is one of my favorite shows ever; but it’s also been pretty decisive as of recent; because its quality has taken a bit of a nose dive. (i.e. american horror stories. this year the season’s called “double feature”; which splits the season in half into two mini-series-ses. red tide is the first half of the series. i enjoyed it a lot and thought the premise was really unique. it’s definitely the best that i’ve seen from the american horror story brand in a while. the ending is a bit meh; but hey we can’t win them all LOL)

3 Things I Created

  1. A lot of behind-the-scenes tinkering, toying, and planning for my NaNo story

  2. This interview for my homie’s Medium publication The Brain is a Noodle

  3. This newsletter!! Hey hooooo! (LMAO, will I put this in every newsletter—the world may never know)

Writing Prompts

Today, we getting spooky with these writing prompts y’all. Horror and thriller writing prompts for everyone!

  1. Y’all know I be feelin’ kids writing prompts: here’s another good one from Life With Love Bugs, “Create an advertisement to sell a haunted house”

  2. This low-key psychological horror type prompt from Reddit is everything

  3. This one is from a writing prompt list by Masterclass: “A fortune teller reveals that you are evil.”

Conclusion

Thank you so much for reading Oh, Write!
For more Oh, Write content, check out the Medium publication.

Have any questions, comments, or concerns? Hit ya girl up!

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Love, 

Nia