It is through the creation of strong characters, whether they be funny, clever, silly or strange, that story ideas are born. When you understand and know your characters deeply, ideas flow and you have a sense of how each character will behave in any given situation.
When I wrote Alice from Dallas, I knew in my heart that this little girl wanted to be a cowgirl more than anything else in the world. She loved everything about cowgirls from the cowgirl hats on their heads to the cowgirl boots on their feet. Cowgirls were Alice's life. So to create an idea for my story, I simply had to ask myself, “What would happen if …” a new cowgirl came into town? Would the new girl be a better cowgirl than Alice? Would she have a fancier hat and real leather boots? Would she be better at lassoing a post or dancing the Texas two-step? Would feelings of jealousy arise in Alice?" This is how ideas begin to flow for me. I share these stories with the children in my talks, after which, we create our own new characters, situations and stories together.
I also love to talk about the importance of having a beginning, middle and end to their stories before they even begin writing. I share with them how I put an outline together so that my story is planned out and ready to go when I’m ready to start writing. I’m always amazed at how quickly they catch on to my techniques and how clever the ideas are that they create!
I found that older students love to hear about my experiences working in the world of television. Having collaborated on projects with Disney, Warner Brothers, Hanna-Barbera, Jim Henson, NBC, ABC, PBS, BBC and Showtime, I have many insights and tips to share with those students who are interested in a future in animation or script writing for television.
Drawing upon my experience at Disney with the preschool show, "Handy Manny", we also discuss the taking of an idea from its inception to the finished animated or live-action production. I explain the different stages of production; beginning with simple story outlines, following through with script development, character designs, rough animation layouts to the finished animated production.
One of my favorite parts of the day, however, is autographing books for the children. It gives me the opportunity to meet each child and answer any questions they might have had during the presentation but didn’t get a chance to ask…or too shy to ask like I was when I was their age! Experiencing the sweetness of their enthusiastic faces is exactly what uplifts and inspires me to continue writing every day.
If you would like to schedule a school visit or simply ask a question, please visit my contact page and leave me a message! I would love that.