Thursday, September 23, 2010

Things I learned in Odie Hawkin's Writing Workshop!

The Stars of Undercovers Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Guest Blogger: Mista Jaycee A Choice of Weapons

I wrote a review of NBC's "Undercovers" starring Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.  I like the idea of two Black Secret Agents out saving the world.  Shows like 24 and the James Bond films are really cool. This one was not! I'll explain.  I'm a writer so there are some things I can not let slide or overlook. 

Years ago, I subscribed to a writing course taught by Novelist Odie Hawkins. The Long Beach Pan Afrikan Writers Workshop was founded by the students who took the course.

The Characters in "Undercovers" were wooden, cardboard characters.  The plot development was sub par, as well.

The Plot:  Boris Kodjoe, and his wife Gugu Raw play retired CIA field agents who have gotten married and have now been re-activated for one mission. 

Now, that sounds interesting, kinda like Mr. and Mrs. Smith.  The problem is with the character development.

Lesson 1:  In order to write well rounded, three dimensional characters. A writer should create Character Sketches for EACH Major Character.  This helps you to develop the back story of each character.  Characters that will only say one word or line in the story don't need a Character Sketch. They are like extras in a film, they provide scenery.

A Character Sketch needs to detail the PHYSICAL, MENTAL and SOCIAL aspects of each character.

How tall, what type of physique does the character have? Example: Your character is a video vixen.  What's her whole name? What's her stage name? What's her Mama's Full name? Where did she go to Junior High? Was her Father an Alcoholic? Was she a math nerd, who was dateless in high school? Was she fat or underdeveloped? How would this affect her now? Is it because she had a strict Baptist Minister Father, was a math nerd, who had no body and no dates that motivates her to be an exhibitionist?  Did she have a boob job? Does she feel liberated or perhaps she's just a lil girl crying out for help. Boo Effin hoo! Was her Mother built like Dianne Carroll, who lorded her beauty over her?

The more details you write the more "Real" your characters become. 

Now back to "Undercovers" Black CIA operatives? What physical demands would a job like that require?  Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Raw are both extremely attractive. What would be thier backgrounds that would lead them to be field agents? Neither one can just blend in to a crowd.  I'm sorry if Niomi Campbell walks into a crowd wearing a shades, a hat, jeans with a hoodie sweat shirt she's gonna get noticed. Why? She's very dark complexed, shapely and well over 6 feet! Same with Kimora Lee Simmons! Details like that tend to get you noticed. Is your character a super model who works undercover? This is an asset to her "cover".  Was she an athlete? What kind? The female leads characters knew martial arts? Was she in the army? Was she a former police officer? What? These details make your character believable. 

That's right the DEVIL is in the details.  What type of Moral center, or lack of one, could make someone a contract killer? Dig, Cousin John has changed his name to Akbar Muhammed and is now a member of the United Islamic Terrorist Front.  He's American, A Muslim Convert who's Imam is a former 60's era radical who wants to start an ethnic cleansing campaign.  Cousin John was radicalized after watching two police officers murder a Black Activist and the killing ruled justified.  How is Jewella Bond, a CIA operative, gonna get in with her Cousin's group to neutralized the Imam? 

Would Akbar know that his cousin is a former Police Officer? Most likely!  Maybe she is a card carrying Republican who voted for Reagan.  They Family but that don't mean he would trust HER! Background is important! How many times had John/Akbar told his Cousin that she's a sell out Uncle Sambo Nigga for her politics and occupation? It happens in Families all the time. What kind of lies, lack of moral center, skills would Jewella Bond need to convince Akbar?

The devil is in the details. Now, last nights character had none of those details. None of that back story. The characters seemed to be learning very intimate details about each other.  I've seen you in your birthday suit.
Now, think. Your BF/GF has a sex tape. On it you see that she does flips, anal and oral in ways on someone skilled could do.  Now, get over the shock and have many questions would you have for them? Remember...they are just your GF/BF NOT your SPOUSE! It would be alot different if they were your SPOUSE right?

What if you find that your Husband once had a long term Homosexual love affair with one man that lasted all four years of undergrad to the second year of law School and HE didn't let you know this? Back Story! So that's all for now. I'm sure Odie will provide more lessons here in this blog.  The lessons are awesome and really affordable.  By the way Odie, I'm working on MY character sketches! Really? (Laughter)

Now look at your stories or poems and see if you can tell what I mean. For more information on the Pan Afrikan Writing Course contact Odie

Get to work! Ase
Mista Jaycee Guest Blogger

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