Archives for April 2012

It’s the Bomb

If you haven’t seen The Bomb-itty of Errors yet, get out there. Niko Koupantsis and Jameson Parker (the lovely ladies in Jay Haddow’s photo above) are especially funny.

This show is playing at Studio 16 until April 22, but book now. If there is justice in the universe, this show will sell out.

Character Exercise

Want to give two-dimensional characters an instant third dimension? Try this.

Make a list of characteristics, likes and dislikes for your character. Opposite that list, write opposing characteristics, likes and dislikes. Choose one of the items from the list of opposites and incorporate it into your character.

A number of years ago, I did this with a character named Allan in my play Flesh and Blood. Allan is a straight, rebellious, teenaged boy. He likes his drugs and he likes his unprotected sex. One would think that his musical tastes might tend towards the harder edges of rock and roll, but I made him a secret opera lover. It worked gangbusters. In the play, there’s a scene in which Allan and his girlfriend Sherri-Lee have just made love. Allan opens up to her and plays Montserrat Caballé’s recording of “Vissi d’arte” from Tosca for her. I was amazed by how well this simple exercise worked.

A Tool for Tunnellers

Some authors build bridges and some authors dig tunnels. In other words, some writers like to get a structure in place, an outline, before they launch into a story: these are the bridge builders. And other writers just burrow right into the tale.

Local writer Lois Peterson ( is a tunneller and she  has come up with a tool that she calls the Reverse Outlining Chart to help other tunnellers analyze their work. Tunnellers can also use the three-act template, which I talk about a lot, to analyze their drafts, of course. But there are some excellent details in Lois’s model, so I thought I’d pass it along. (She encourages sharing.)

Lois presents seven headings across the top of a sheet of paper and creates columns beneath them.


In the first column, you list the specific section you’re reviewing—the scene, chapter, or whatever.


In the second column, you describe the main plot points as action. This is a great idea; it will help you to identify passive characters and listless scenes.


Lois refers to backstory as BS. 🙂 She notes: “If I find BS introduced after the first act, I try to move it up.”


In this column, you note what characters are introduced and how characters are developing through action. So this column allows you to track character development.


This is an interesting one. Lois writes: “I use characters objects and other details to build story and character. This column helps to track how they’ve been use through the story.”


Here, you identify whether whether the ending of a scene resolves a plot point, opens up a question about te story, or creates a dramatic cliff-hanger. As Lois notes, “Reworking endings often helps to improve drama and pacing.” Right on.


The final column provides a place where you can jot down any ideas that have come up as you have conducted your review.


It’s groovy, isn’t it?

If you want to know more, Lois is going to be doing a presentation about the Reverse Outlining Chart at the Western Canada Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference on May 5, 2012. That will take place at the Holiday Inn Express at Metrotown.



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