Lily of Atlantis: a collection of stories and spells (2021)

Written by Philip F. Webb

Life in Atlantis might have seemed pretty normal to some but for ten-year-old Lily, her life is anything but… In Atlantis is a magic portal to ‘The Un-Real World’, a monster world where nasty creatures come from and witches and wizards can travel back and forth. One night, Lily is terrified by a horrible monster in her bedroom and she runs away. She comes across an ancient wizard who begins to teach her magic to help overcome her fears.

In a world of mean and hideous Boogey Men, Lily manages to befriend some kind monsters who encourage her to face the unknown, boost her confidence and become more independent. Using spells and magic stones, Lily of Atlantis encourages children to be proactive in dealing with problems and ultimately, builds confidence to help with schoolwork, social skills and creativity.

Available on Amazon
ISBN-10: 1784659835
ISBN-13: 987-1784659837

Okay, so this isn’t horror and it certainly isn’t ‘dark’ but it does include monsters and creatures, so it definitely deserves a place among Dark Mark’s reviews!

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Quick Review: Congratulations! You’ve Accidentally Summoned a World-Ending Monster. WHAT NOW? Duncan P. Bradshaw (2021)

Available at AMAZON

ISBN-10: 1999751256 ISBN-13: 978-1999751258

Are you frustrated with your mundane existence? Fed up spending day-after-day drinking hot, milky beverages, endlessly pressing ‘refresh’, and chowing down on copious amounts of biscuits and/or cake? Do you yearn for a world (or even a taste) of excitement and wonder? Then you’re in luck! 

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One from the Archives: Screenwriting Books – Dan O’Bannon’s Guide to Screenplay Structure

Originally published on Mark Walker Screenwriting (and Stargazing) 9th December 2015

Amazon UK (other booksellers are available)

ISBN-10: 1615931309   ISBN-13: 978-1615931309

Released, sadly, after O’Bannon’s death in 2009, his Guide to Screenplay Structure was a book I was keen to read, coming from the mind of the man who had been instrumental in the development of some classic screen stories, such as ALIEN, DARK STAR and TOTAL RECALL. Regardless of the stories behind bringing ALIEN to the screen, I was intrigued to get inside the mind of O’Bannon and I wasn’t disappointed.

O’Bannon’s style is fairly relaxed and friendly and I enjoyed reading the book for that reason. I found it a lot less stuffy than some of the more “formal” screenwriting tomes I had waded through prior to this. Although he presents this book as an alternative to other screenwriting formulas, and is very open that this is his interpretation of how to write a screenplay, there are similarities between many of O’Bannon’s approaches and these other formulas. Indeed, in one chapter, where he gives his impression of other writers’ approaches, from Aristotle to Field and McKee, he is wise to acknowledge that there are links between all the different approaches and formula used in the screenwriting process.

A number of classic scripts, including Citizen Kane, Casablanca and Some Like it Hot, are also analysed, breaking each down into its component parts and exploring different aspects of the different approaches.

The book is full of exercises designed for the reader to explore some of the concepts and systems that O’Bannon discusses in each chapter.

Essentially, at the heart of the book, and O’Bannon’s writing, is conflict. He describes a screenplay as a fight and I liked his way of looking at it. Drama creates conflict and conflict should be at the heart of every story. When you boil your screenplay down, if it isn’t about conflict, then O’Bannon is not convinced it is even a story. And, while he talks about this a lot throughout the book, he also touches on classic aspects of screenwriting such as the 3-ACT Structure, exposition and screenplay length.

The one thing that really stuck with me after reading this book though was O’Bannon’s use of the Hedonic Adaptation Effect.

Put simply, this is about the way people react to extreme change or a prolonged situation (good or bad) through a dulling-down of the situation’s effects, allowing people to adapt to that change and the new world they are taken into. Within a film, this is closely linked to plot twists and turns and Horror is probably a good example of how this can be used to raise the stakes throughout the development of the plot.

Early on, a writer may introduce their monster via a shocking scene, jolting their character(s) out of a status quo, shaking up their complacency (very much like an inciting incident). As they adapt to this change, the writer may use this time to deliver some exposition and allow the audience to come to terms with what just happened and what is going on in the onscreen world. As soon as the characters and the audience have adjusted and become accustomed to this new, elevated reality, you can hit them with another twist/shock that bumps them up another level of awareness. And you keep doing this, ideally with more regular frequency, as you speed towards the story close, to keep raising the stakes, increasing the tension and delivering conflict through a series of revelatory shocks. You are, effectively, repeatedly lulling your audience into a false sense of security after a shock, before shaking things up in bigger and better ways.

To be honest, this is probably something that many screenwriters do already, but O’Bannon explains it all in a simple and informal way that, like the rest of his book, makes you feel he is telling YOU personally about his process. If you have been writing for years and read all “the other” books, then O’Bannon’s may not be a great revelation of “anything new” but it is a well written, easy to read exploration of some of the key aspects of screenwriting from the perspective of someone who knows how to write a screenplay. And it’s fun to read.

Highly recommended!

One from the Archives – Screenwriting Books – Writing Diverse Characters for Fiction, TV or Film – Lucy V. Hay (2017)

Amazon UK
ISBN-10: 0857301179 
ISBN-13: 978-0857301178

This is the first in a number of posts that I will drag up from the “archives” of my old website. Reviews and thoughts that I think are still useful or interesting. Some of the references might be a bit out of date, but the messages are the same. Enjoy!

Originally published on Mark Walker Screenwriting (and Stargazing) 18th August 2018

Well, it’s been while (again) since I posted so, as I have just finished Lucy’s book on writing diverse characters, I thought it was a good opportunity to get a post up on the old page.

Despite recent (slow) changes with films like Wonderwoman (2017), Get Out (2017) and A Wrinkle in Time (2018), the majority of mainstream media product is designed around white, middle-class males who are also most likely able-bodied and most definitely not gay. As Lucy opines in her introduction, this is frustrating, and inaccurate, when you consider a world where the majority of the population are not white, where up to 10% identify with the LGBT community, 51% are women and nearly 20% of people are living with a disability.

Changes are coming, but progress is slow. Writers and creatives have a responsibility to tell stories that are truthful (whether they are pure fiction, fact, fantasy or reality) and that can’t happen if the image of the white, middle-class, able-bodied, hetero, male hero persists. He will always have a place, hell, who doesn’t love a good Tom Cruise actioner or a bit of Bourne? But the world is a huge, mixed-bag of people, all waiting for THEIR story to be told; and audiences want to see themselves reflected on screen or in the pages of a novel. And this is what Lucy’s book is about; thinking about diversity (whether you like that word or not – read the book, you’ll see what I (Lucy) is getting at) and how we can all write better characters and stories by thinking about the norm and how we can shake it up. It’s like the process of subverting tropes – so much of the stuff we write has been done before (white male leads) but how can we shake things up and put a fresh coat of paint on it by simply thinking more about diversity?

The book itself is split into 6 sections, with the majority of the “good stuff” in the central 4 chapters (not that the rest of it is bad or anything):

  • Foreword
  • What is Diversity?
  • Heroes, Sheroes and Vile Villains: The Protagonist and Antagonist
  • Secondaries, Sidekicks and Subordinates
  • Peripheral Pointers
  • Resources

And, as you can see, the structure is all about exploring what diversity means and then looking at how that can be applied across your characters . This is not just about a token effort to make your lead diverse; it is not called a “range” of characters for the fun of it!

The advice within works equally well if you are working on a novel, or a screenplay (or any kind of writing that requires character development) and explores the current “white standard” characters that we are all very familiar with, promoting consideration of how those characters can be traded up to embrace more diversity, or, if you like, more reality, when considering the make-up of the world around us.

However, this book is not just a primer for discussing diversity, although it does a very good job at that. It is, actually, a great introduction to the art of writing in itself. It may not go into the detail of structure and concept like Vogler, Field or McKee (all men!) do, but it does provide a good grounding in what is definitely one of (if not the) most important components of a good story – Character. If you have never read a screenwriting book before, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start. While understanding structure is vital, understanding your audience and how your characters affect story and create sympathy and empathy with your audience is just as important, and Lucy gives you a crash course in how to do this in her book.

Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy, as well as her writing workshops and courses.

Bang2write has read 20K+ spec screenplays, unpublished novels and pitch material over the last 17 years as a script reader and script editor.

Based on this exprience, the B2W books include Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays for “Creative Essentials”, as well as its follow ups, Writing & Selling Drama Screenplays  and Writing Diverse Characters For Fiction, TV & Film.