Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Christy Marx: This Multimedia Renaissance Woman..."Jem and the Holograms" Creator

Leads with Her Game Writing Right Hook as Senior Game Designer of Narrative Design for Zynga Games.  She wrote and designed MAFIA WARS 2, HIDDEN CHRONICLES, LORD OF THE RINGS:  War in the North ... and many more.  

Renaissance Woman (noun)
A woman knowledgeable or proficient in more than one field.
The Free Dictionary.com
A person who has wide interests and is expert in several areas. Merriam Webster.com

I can almost see Christy Mark's name in the definition.  Hmm ...let's see ...she's a story editor, series developer, narrative designer, game writer, animation writer, live action television writer, screenwriter, graphic novelist, non-fiction author and comic book writer.  

That's why I called her a Multimedia Renaissance Woman in today's blog title.   But she doesn't stop there.  She shares her long list of credits and expertise in her books: Writing for Animation, Comics, and Games and Write Your Way into Animation and Games

Writing for Animation, Comics, and Games         
Write Your Way into Animation and Games

Animation Television Shows

You've seen her name in the rolling credits of many of today's animated television shows.  While writing for Hasbro's G.I. Joe Christy Marx created Jem and the Holograms, the #1 Nielsen rated show, airing from 1985-1988 and was the third most watched children's program in syndication with 2.5 million viewers weekly.  It's currently aired on the Hub Network and Teletoon retro in Canada.   

She also wrote for ZORRO: GENERATION Z (BKN)(in production), GI JOE, THE TRANSFORMERES, THE LEGEND OF THE DRAGON (BKN) (playing now on Toon Disney/Jetix), ALIEN RACERS (SD Ent./MGA) (in production), HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE (Cartoon Network) and the list continues.  She's also known 

Game Writing

For MMORPG Games -- (Slipgate Ironworks/Gazillion Ent.) Christy Marx led the team as Head Writer of Creative Development (for IP creating and transmedia adaptation) and Lead Story Designer.  

She provided design consultation and quest writing for WAZZAMBA.COM, a virtual site dedicated to international travel. 

Christy also gave her creative stamp to:  URU: AGES BEYOND MYST, EARTH AND BEYOND:  MMORPG, Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus, and THE LEGEND OF ALON D'AR... But we're just scratching the interactive surface of the many games she designed, wrote and consulted.   

Craving more information about Christy?  Then stop by www.christymarx.com and feed your hunger for more.

Got Toon-Game Scribe?  
We're thrilled to have Christy Marx join us in our interview chair for today's blog post.  Whether you're a game writing pro or a wannabe,  it's always great to find out what other professionals are working on, or learn strategies to break through the thumb-entry door.

Christy Marx Interview for 
Got Toon-Game Scribe

1.  GTGS:  How should a writer prepare to break into the interactive writing market?  What kinds of samples do you need? 

CM:  There's no established answer for this question.  My general advice is to establish yourself as a writer in whatever other medium you can and have some professional credits.

You could have credits writing game reviews or short stories, but it would be stronger to have credits in other, related visual storytelling fields such as animation, comics, screenplays or teleplays.  These forms of writing have a lot in common with writing games as they tell stories in a visual format. 

Some companies will want you to do a writing test, so be prepared to show what you can do with established material in a tight time-frame.  Samples should be short.  They must demonstrate your ability to tell a visual story, and to write short, compelling dialogue for interesting characters.

Other advice about networking and trying to get in the door is laid out in my book, Writing for Animation, Comics, and Games.

2. GTGS:  What scriptwriting software do you use to create an interactive script?

CM:  I do most of my writing work in Word and Excel.  Although Excel is terrible as a writing tool, it's often used to format the kind of text and dialogue used in games.

It's possible you'll need to use a proprietary software developed by the game company, so experiment with software used to create game writing for mods, such as the tools Bioware offered for its games.

3. GTGS:  What was the best advice given that helped you in your career?

CM:  Not for games specifically, but the most important thing drummed into my head as a scriptwriter was:  MAKE YOUR DEADLINES.
Games are also written under tight deadlines, so you need to be able to produce competent work to meet those milestones.  There's no room for a Prima Donna or people who can only write when it suits them.

4. GTGS:  What are 3 skills you need to take you from a game writer to a game designer?

CM:  First, decide which one you want to be.  They're worlds apart and you need to know much more about creating a game to be a designer than to be a writer, though anyone writing for games is more valuable knowing the basics of game design.

There's another category that has developed recently.  The most common title for it is Narrative Designer.  I cover this in my book in more depth, but essentially I consider a Narrative Designer to be a writer with game dsign skills.  It means you understand the mechanics, requirements and restrictions of gameplay and how to mesh it with storytelling.

Overlapping skills would include non-linear thinking, mental focus, attention to detail, and being able to track those details in the constantly morphing development of a game.    

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Six Reasons that Can Stop Your Cartoon Series from Getting a Green light

Current Photo  
Michael Maurer, Writer 
Kids and Family Entertainment for TV & Film

Got a great cartoon series idea? 


Michael Maurer, film and television writer/story editor and developer for animation and live action -- gives you six key reasons that could prevent your series from getting the green light.   

A must-read before you start writing that bible or submit to a studio.
Michael has optioned 10 feature films. (including one produced) His most recent projects include a 3D animated feature for Starz Animation (based on his original idea, and a TV animated feature for Toonz Animation, based on the classic Speed Racer franchise, which is currently in production.

He's also penned over 300 animation and live-action scripts for television, story edited series and developed series bibles for Disney, Universal, Warner Brothers, and a dozen international companies.  

His most recent projects include scripts for A Squared Entertainment's new Warren Buffett series, Secret Millionaires Club, airing on HUB, and Pac-Man:  The Adventure Begins, premiering this year on Disney XD.

 Michael Says...

These are some of the key reasons that can prevent a series from getting the green light.

Reason #1 - Your series concept and/or characters are good but lack a unique element or twist to make them blow away the competition.

Reason #2 - Your basic concept and characters are unique, but your bible isn’t written with a visual and/or comedic flair that properly communicates your vision. 

Reason #3 - Your pilot script isn’t closing the deal because it’s built on a flawed concept and/or underdeveloped characters that don’t grab the reader’s attention. 

Reason #4 - Buyers can’t see that your series is working because you lack a top notch pilot script to convince them that they have a hit on their hands. 

Reason #5 - Your series bible doesn’t have 4-6 fully developed stories to prove your concept has the potential to last for three seasons or more.  

Reason #6 - Your series doesn’t fit the marketplace because you’ve mixed demographics.   For example, your characters are pre-school, but your concept is suited to 6-11 year olds.

Push your project to it's fullest potential with a Project Analysis and/or any of my other Writing Services...


* TV Scripts * Features * Re-writes * Story Editing * Bibles * Pilots * Story Ideas * Project Analysis *

"You did a first class job re-writing our bible. You know what the audience wants and how to match that with the business strategy of your client."

Antonio Bernal Dionis, Founding Manager, InMagic (Spain)

Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Michael Maurer.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Chat with Freelance Animation Writer, Joelle Sellner - PART TWO

(Norman Rockwell Painting of Ruby Bridges)

Make Dreams Happen...Yours and Others - Grant Writing Success

(Teen Titans - Cartoon Network)


Thanks for stopping back for this week's text-webisode. We're so glad you liked our debut launch.

We're thrilled to welcome back Joelle Sellner to the Got Toon-Game Scribe? interview chair for - PART TWO - a second look inside her exciting freelance animation, copywriting, game and comic book writing world.


She also has some great advice for newcomers.  So grab your favorite beverage...

and comfy chair ...and enjoy! 

All set?  Great, let's get started.  We won't keep you in the dark any longer.

GTGS - What should a successful animation script have?

If it's comedy, the jokes need to be character-driven. In action, I try to focus on interesting set pieces for the fight scenes. All scripts need to have an emotional arc for the character. Kids need to care about the hero/protagonist or they'll stop watching.

GTGS:  What kind of specs should newcomers write? 

Joelle:  Newcomers should have one example of each, a comedy and an action spec. There's a lot of preschool work, so a spec in that genre wouldn't hurt. Comedic shows will also read live action sitcoms.

I don't think there's any specific script people want to read, but it should be something most writers and execs are familiar with. Check the  ratings and find a popular show that appeals to you.

GTGS:  What are a few common mistakes new writers make?
Joelle:  Sometimes new writers get very attached to their work and don't want to cut any of it.  Scripts are 22 minutes or shorter - the network isn't going to extend the show to include that great action sequence you wrote.  
If your story editor tells you to cut something, just cut it.  Don't argue and don't sneak it back in thinking they won't notice.  If it's really the best joke you've ever written, use it in your next script.

GTGS:  What's the most important part of the animation script?
Joelle:  Getting the audience to connect with the characters.

GTGS:  How does writing for video games differ from animation writing?   How did you land that gig?  What kind of spec did you show?  What specs do you present to a video game company?
Joelle:  An animation script has a specific format. In a 22-minute show you have two or three acts, act breaks with cliffhangers and a resolution at the end. Game writing isn't that structured. 

When the player makes a decision, you have to write what happens in each possible scenario. Some companies have you write using software designed to handle this branching situation, other writers have to write in Excel.

The company I'm currently working for contacted me. I'm not sure whether they already had my resume. I sent them an episode of another web show I wrote for which was a good match for their demographic. 

Since most game jobs I apply for are action-oriented, I usually send out my Avengers episode or something with good fight scenes. Some companies only want to see other examples of game writing, and many will give you a writing test to see if your style matches theirs. 

(Ben 10 Omniverse Game)

GTGS:  How did you start writing for comic books?  What is the best way to get started?

Joelle:  I was very lucky. I had written for a show called Secret Saturdays on CartoonNetwork.  A good friend of mine had been an editor at DC and got me in touch with some people he knew over there. 

DC (DC Comics) was publishing a Cartoon Network comic with stories from their shows, including Secret Saturdays. I sent in some pitches and ended up writing two stories for them.

If you're not established as a professional writer in another field, the best way to get in is to publish your own comic. With the web, the barriers to entry are lower so if you put up your own web comic and get a following, people will notice. You don't need a lot of money, just enough to pay an artist if you can't draw.

GTGS:  What inspired you to write your feature screenplay, Flushing?

JOELLE:  Flushing is loosely based on what happened to me when I was sixteen and lost my mother. I had no other family or guardian to go to, so it was a strange time for me and something I always wanted to write about one day.
GTGS:  Feel free to add any final advice or words of encouragement to writers from neophytes to professionals?

Joelle:  Try to write something every day, whether someone's paying you for it or not.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Meet Joelle Sellner... Freelance Animation Writer, Copywriter, Video Game Writer, Graphic Novel and Comic Book Writer

There’s no putting it off any longer.  Get Your 'Freelancer’s Website' Running – in Just 4 Hours.  Here's how...
Freelance Website in Four Days’ Express

FADE IN:  It's no secret, historically the fellas have dominated the writing of superhero cartoon shows.  But the ladies have made a significant mark, and making strides daily. 

ANGLE ON Freelance Animation Writer and Story Editor of Samurai! Daycare for Shut Up Cartoons -- Joelle Sellner, proves that when it comes to action, like penning her recent Ben 10 Omniverse script -- gender is definitely not an issue. 

Let's not forget our animated divas in front of the camera who refuse to take a back seat to the show's superhero, and continue making their presence known in the action/adventure world. 

Kim Possible -- one our favorite ninja divas, and The Powder Puff Girls -- will forever stay in their fans' hearts. 

Kim Possible

(Gwen Tennyson)

Ben Tennyson's go-to-cousin, Gwen, may not have an Omnitrix on her wrist that transforms her into an alien fighting machine, but she can still kick the aliens' butts without breaking a nail. 

Eventhough she's off to college, enjoying the galaxy she fought to save -- fans can still see her galactic smarts in many episodes.

We're thrilled Joelle took time out of her busy freelance schedule to chat with Got Toon-Game Scribe? for our debut close-up.
She's our first scribe to brave our interview chair.  But before we find out about her adventures in animation, let's do a quick pan of her writing career.

(Teen Titans - Cartoon Network)

Joelle sharpened her animation teeth writing for the Cartoon Network, DC Comics, Marvel Studios, Mattel, Porchlight Entertainment, Dic Entertainment and You Tube... for the shows:  Samurai Daycare, Ben 10 Omniverse, Monster High, Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi, Teen Titans, Shin Chan, Secret Saturdays and Avengers:  Earth's Mightiest Heroes. 


Joelle also swims in the comic book waters, writing for Lion Forge, Marvel and DC comics. 

Whipping on  her copywriter's hat, she wrote webisodes, videos twitter feeds, mobile phone messages and web copy as eight different Mom characters for Kleenex's Get Mommed campaign. 

Her copywriting clients include:  Draftfcb - one of the largest global advertising networks; StudioCom - An Agency for Digital Times, Team One Advertising and the Rosetta Company (formerly LEVEL) - a consulting-centered interactive agency.

In the game world, she recently wrote story and dialogue for multiple characters and story arcs for Voltage Entertainment.

GTGS:  What's the best advice you've ever received from a fellow animation writer?
The best advice I got from another writer was that writing (in any genre) is 5% writing and 95% sales. You always have to pitch yourself and your ideas, so if you're more comfortable staying home and writing than dealing with people this may not be the career for you.

GTGS:  What aspects of copywriting prepared you for the transition into animation writing?  And what prompted you to enter this field?

Advertising is excellent training for animation writing. Working with an art director at an agency, I learned to think visually. In animation you have to visualize what the scene looks like as well as what the characters are saying.

Also, copywriting teaches you to meet a strict deadline. Your client presentation is scheduled whether you have work to show or not -- so you better have something written.

I decided to pursue animation because I always loved cartoons, and I wanted to write longer form work. You can't get a lot of character development in 30 seconds.

(Geek Tyrant)

GTGS:  How do you start your writing process?

First, there's a research period where I read the scripts that have already been approved, or I watch the previous season of the show to get a sense of where it's going.  When I'm ready to start an expanded premise or an outline, I usually write the broad strokes of the story on a legal pad so I can scribble and cross things out.

GTGS:  What was your first television writing assignment?

I used to write with a partner, and one of the people he worked for got a story editor job on Mary Kate and Ashley Mysteries.  She had read our sitcom specs and liked them, so she brought us in to write an episode.  The execs were happy  with our work so we wrote two additional ones.  Sadly, the show only lasted one season.

GTGS:  Give us the highlights of writing for Samurai! Daycare?

Samurai! Daycare is the closest to a staff job I've ever had in animation. It wasn't a traditional staff job where you had to be in a writing room every day.  We only met in person once a week, and then went off and wrote our episodes and worked on everyone else's scripts to make them better.  There was constant communication over email, so we always knew what needed to be done.

GTGS:  Describe a typical day?

Every day was different. I had two other shows I was writing at the same time, so some days I'd have to stretch my time management skills to get it all done. But usually I was able to set aside time to do whatever was needed for the show.  This might include making revisions on my work, giving notes on the other episodes, writing jokes, discussing and pitching premises for future episodes, etc.

GTGS:  What are the challenges and joys of this market?


Most animation jobs are freelance, so I'm always looking for work.  I can have multiple projects at once, or months with nothing to do. But I enjoy working with people in animation. Every story editor I've had has been great to work for and made my script ten times better.

GTGS:  What are some of the pitfalls to avoid?

Don't get pigeonholed.  If you're doing action and you want to do comedy, write a comedy spec.  If you do one thing well, sometimes it's hard to convince people that there are other things you've good at.  I write mostly boys action and I've had to make the case several times that I can write for girls.  Hey, I'm a girl. 

GTGS: What are your hobbies and interests

I try to run and take spin classes a few times a week.  Sitting in front of a computer all day makes me nuts -- sometimes I just need to jump around or bike so I can clear my head.

GTGS:   We all know about marathon writing in front of a computer.  For me, the physical outlet of choice is jumping on my rebounder, (aka mini-trampoline) while watching my favorite television show.  Of course, that's when I'm not teaching  a Dance-it-Out! class.  (Zumba, retro, hip-hop a little line dancing)

Jumping on a trampoline is a great low impact cardio workout... and great for our lymphatic system.  It's especially effective if you're recovering from an injury.  But always consult a doctor before starting any exercise program.

Stay tuned for more of our chat with Joelle Sellner in our next text webisode.