Taking A Stance On Our Story

PLEASE NOTE: This post contains older material that does not necessarily represent our current project, Gemini Journey. It has been left unaltered for educational purposes.

Hello everyone! Tracy MacLauchlan, co-producer, writing.

Recently, Yesenia and I took a step back from our work to re-evaluate The Taffetas from its very core. What we found is that our core is our theme, which influences the story:

Growing up is a hero's journey

But didn’t I say it was ‘everyone has their own mythology to unfold’?
Okay, we’re still finding the right words, but it’s the same idea: one’s personal life journey as it relates to a mythological tone. This is our story now as we have it, and this is what I will be talking about today.

What Is Theme?

A theme is the metaphorical heart of a story, pumping blood into all aspects of the show. As I have come to understand it, the central idea -a theme- is usually a thought, statement, or question about society and/or the human condition that plays into the reasons-of-being for the characters, who are at the forefront of a story. From there, the characters create plot through conflict. Theme also breathes life into symbolism and can be a huge factor in the setting and tone.

Inversely, all aspects of a tale trace its origins back to the heart, because all aspects must either explore the theme (if it’s an open-ended one with no stance, like “the pros and cons of the death penalty”), or prove it true (if it’s a closed theme with a statement to make, such as “the death penalty is unjust”).

What we found is that it's important to take a stance with your point. For example: “The Death Penalty” with no reason behind it is not a theme.

Finding Our Theme
For Taffetas, we want something deeply tied to myth and legend. Our setting is already a modern world filled with mythology, so what we realize now is that our story must itself be a modern myth. It wasn’t easy coming to this conclusion. When immersed in “my-character-does-this and my-character-does-that”, it’s easy to lose sight of what your point is.

 Awwwww!! ...what was I talking about?

In any production, characters come first. They’re the face of the show. The point of knowing your theme is that without that added depth of some central idea, a character-driven story will fall flat from a lack of clear direction and/or emotional truth.

To find Taffetas theme, we really had to look at what we had- the setting, the characters, the big plot points we wanted to hit, and figure what it was all about by trying to find a common thread between them, or at least the most common thread since it was understood we would have to change a lot of things once we picked a theme. What we found was our story was about growing up, what it meant, the challenges, and how that personal growth is a burdensome journey with great reward.

What I mean by Modern Myth and The Hero’s Journey

When I coin the term Modern Myth, I feel the need to explain:
Mythological tales are about and theme and symbolism.

Theseus defeating the Minotaur isn’t just about a guy running into a maze and killing a half-man, half-bull (though that is truly every man’s dream). It’s actually about a guy descending into his own subconscious to defeat his inner demon.

Theseus’ story, and many myth tales, is an example of the hero’s journey, a mystical quest bestowed on a person who must face many trials to reach some reward. Myths also often tie into the values and lessons of the cultures and/or time they come from.

So, when I talk about modern myth or the modern hero’s journey, I’m going for something full of meaning, fantasy, and all about a hero’s quest, but with an interpersonal, contemporary spin.

Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey
Joseph Campbell was the first academic to research the uncanny similarities in mythological tales from around the world. One thing he found was a common structure in legends of heroic journeys (dubbed the hero’s journey, or the monomyth).

There are a few variations, but the outline I learned is built like this:
  • Home – The hero starts here
  • The Call to Adventure – The hero is beckoned away from his home to cross the threshold into the unknown. Here the hero might hesitate.
  • Help from others/gaining of “the amulet” – with the help of a mentor (a mystic, God, or otherwise) the hero is protected and granted powers or weapons which will help him or her through the journey ahead
  • Crossing the Threshold – The hero reaches a point of no return
  • Trials – The hero must face a series of tests, often battles, riddles, or physical feats to prove the hero’s worth and propels her further
  • Help – Throughout these trials, the hero is often accompanied by a helping figure (or one appears when the hero needs one most in order to reach the climax).
  • The Innermost Cave (Climax) – The final battle, the hero must face this challenge alone. It is here the hero has some sort of revelation through the realization of some truth and/or the defeat of “the big bad”.
    The Return – The falling action, where the hero must either flee or benignly travel back to his home with the prize she has won
  • Sharing the Prize – The hero shares her prize for the good of others
  • Home Again – the hero returns home, changed by her experiences

Susan Mackey-Kallis’ Hero’s Journey
Susan Mackey-Kallis’ book, The Hero and the Perennial Journey Home in American Film was a big inspiration for Taffetas. The book's purpose was to explain the monomyth as it applies to modern film (The Lion King, Field of Dreams, and Thelma and Louise to name a few). As the book description states: "She argues that the purpose of the hero quest is not limited to the discovery of some boon or Holy Grail, but also involves finding oneself and finding a home in the universe."

What I took away from the writing was a slightly altered version of the hero’s journey that fits perfectly for the Taffetas coming-of-age story as well.
  • Pre-consciousness – this is the “home” the hero starts at, a child-like ignorance is here but there is a closeness to the supernatural and irrational (which can be manifested in a mother-goddess figure).
  • Ego-Consciousness – The hero leaves the mother-goddess figure as he grows into an adult and sets out to be his own individual, in the process he sheds himself of irrationality and superstition.
  • Transcendence – This is where the hero is able to put himself aside for the greater good, the ‘death’ of the isolated self.
  • The Return Home – This is not a back-track to pre-consciousness, but it is a spiritual completion where the hero knows who he is, but does not make himself the central position in favor of selflessness and accepting the grand mysticism of the universe.

So How Does All This Fit Into The Taffetas?
The Taffetas story is still the same:

In a contemporary city full of quirky fantasy characters, a bubbly ex-sea captain finds refuge in the apartment of her uptight, undead crush. The two hold onto their mismatched relationship despite the outlandish drama they encounter, from needy sirens and gossiping gargoyles to deadly cult plots and the dark secrets from their own pasts.

That’s still our show.

Because we’re paralleling coming into maturity to the hero’s journey, the monomyth outline does give us a great overarching structure to follow throughout the episodes. The theme itself gives our story meaning, symbolism, and reasons for our characters.

What The Characters Represent
I mentioned in character creation how you should know what your characters represent in your story. In The Taffetas, we are thinking that our characters serve two purposes: to represent the different roles in a hero’s quest, and also explore our open-ended theme of the road to maturity being a hero's quest.

Bear in mind these are the loose metaphorical meanings we are thinking that are behind many of the characters, but not the things that will always be at the literal level of the show.

The Hero

Gemini is our main character and she is the one whose personal journey we follow from beginning to end, portraying all the steps of the monomyth. She is the hero in the hero’s quest.

I mentioned earlier that she changed her background from captain to lackey, cultured to ignorant. This is because we want her to start at the very beginning of her story, so she has a lot of room to grow into a mature, self-assured entity.

The Helper-God

Veil is representative of Gemini’s helper-God figure  (a mentor who assists the hero on his journey), as mentioned in Joseph Campbell’s outline. Through his guidance, Gemini gains self-awareness (ego-consciousness) in the earlier seasons of our show, which is her weapon to defeat the trials that await her in her journey.

He also serves another purpose: he is later revealed to be an example of someone stuck at a point in his own hero’s journey. By giving Gemini the opportunity to help him, he gives her the key to furthering her own growth as well.

A characters’ friends and mentors are also helpers in a hero’s quest. Figures like Sapphire, Wolf, Tom, etc, are Gemini’s guides along her path of emotional growth. For instnace:

  • Tom is like an example of the idealized person our characters will want to strive to be (on a metaphorical level). He’s completed his hero’s journey and is at peace. He can offer words of wisdom and advice in the path along the way.
  • Sapphire An Aphrodite-like metaphor that offers love advice for our young heroine, as well as an example of a someone who can’t complete her quest.
  • Wolf Struggles on his own hero’s quest and further exemplifies the perils of not growing up. He still helps though, and is very Dionysus-like.

Enemies in a story are there to oppose the hero by being her opposite and/or her dark reflection. Usually, they represent the side of a theme that is deemed wrong, or they are representative of a characters fears and demons. Either way, they offer great trials to overcome. Some enemies we are thinking of are:

  • Elena is Gemini’s dark reflection, she represents our leading lady’s childishness and selfishness
  • Lace is Veil’s mother and represents the goddess-mother from Mackey-Kallis’ outline. She is Veil’s fear to overcome and Gemini’s final test (the “big bad”) to defeat.
  • Crow, like a trickster God in mythology, Crow’s purpose to create problems. He’s also the negative quality of Veil – Vain, judgmental – reflected and magnified.

These aren’t all the characters that we plan to appear in the show, but hopefully this gives you a decent overview!

And Finally…

Yesenia and I will be writing the episode synopsis and outline of our show soon, and I hope to post the skeleton that we have now that follows the hero’s journey (the major points we plan to hit throughout the seasons) with some cool pictures to illustrate as well.

Tell us what you think! Did I make any sense, does the show seem like it’s going in a better direction now? Yesenia and I would love to hear what you think through comments, our Facebook, or e-mail.

Research, Research, Research

Hello Everyone
This is Yesenia, Co-creator of the Taffetas. For the last couple of posts, Tracy and I talk about the importance of research. Rather than go over the knowledge we gained from our latest research, as in our recent Character Creation & Monetizing Your Online Content posts, today I am going to go over how we found our information, and our revelations about taking a step back to think things through.

Is there anything better than cozying up with a nice book - re-reading it a couple of times because no one writes in layman's terms, and then writing notes the equivalent of a term paper? Nah, I can't think of one.

Taking a Step Back
A few months ago when Tracy and I neared the beginning stages of self-production. Getting to that point was a trial- between finishing our first and second drafts of our pitch, we also had our senior classes at SCAD, and moved to 3 different locations around the US as we tried to live in the “real world” (Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it ... I'm surprised we managed to somehow stick together and get so much done).

By the second edit of the pitch, our story was getting pretty good. We refined our ideas based on critique. We had lot of beautiful new works, including storyboards, screenshots, and concepts, many from volunteer artists. Things were going smoothly.

Until we hit a road bump.

We had a good premise, even a good pitch, but there were a few things stopping us from making it amazing.  We did not understand WHY things are done the way they are. Why a good story is good, why a character is needed within a story.

Like many other creators who struggle with stories they've had since youth, both Tracy and I knew our characters inside out and the kind of art direction we wanted. We hyper focused on the details that we had in our minds, trying to connect all the dots and form the world around them. Because of this, we ran into trouble.

There's no denying we were close to our story. Perhaps a bit ... too close. Stepping back helped us see some of the holes and why some things just didn't work

We realized we needed to take a step back and make sense of all of our ideas. We knew we needed some outside help and a lot of information.
    If a writer [...] knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader [...] will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing. —Ernest Hemingway in Death in the Afternoon

Here are the 3 main reasons we stopped to look for more information: 
  • To strengthen a weak point 
  • To know our subject 
  • To gain new knowledge

Strengthen a weak point
It’s important to brush up on the subjects of a production you know you’re weak in. Don’t get ahead of yourself by reading books on video editing before you have even started concept work, for example (we’ve done that so try not to overload yourself), but be honest about the topics you need to brush up on and have the drive to step away from your computer and pick up a book.

Start one step at a time.

If I have never done anything like this before, I know it never hurts to look up how others did it before me. Since we are currently working on is the story portion of the pitch as well as the mechanics of writing, that’s what Tracy and I decided to focus our research on.

Now, we are not writers by trade; we are artists with ideas, and reading a few books won't make us novelists. What reading about these subjects does is gives us a map to follow so that we can get better with practice.

By reading up on what makes a good story, we realized that there’s more to a story than its characters, a plot, and a resolution. Everything in it must have a reason that resonates with the theme you are trying to portray.

Know your subject
You need to be an expert in whatever your story is about, regardless if you plan to use your own ideas or not. As Tracy explains in Character Creation, research is needed to produce a credible persona. The same is also true of a project’s subject matter.

Our story is about mythology. It is set in a world filled with real-life, modern day mythological characters. After taking some time to brush up on mythological themes in story writing, the plot is now very myth-like too.

I was lucky to take an introduction to world mythology course in college with Tracy, which became the inspiration for the way our characters’, Veil and Gemini’s, story worked. That said, our research is far from over since our project is so steeped in the subject that an intro course just won’t do. We are hitting the books, reading everything Joseph Campbell and myth.

That isn’t to say we’re following the facts and nothing but the facts. This is our world, and we make the rules. If we feel the need to make our sirens like angler fish rather than the bird-like appearance in Greek myth, we’re going to do it.

Oh my ... We're naughty

But we at least know the actual myth so we can always have a solid base of knowledge to draw from. That way, we can make informed decisions when we pull from our imaginations, and use real life facts to ground our story in reality and make our audience’s experience richer.

Gaining New Knowledge
 The best thing about research is you will almost always stumble on knowledge you weren’t looking for, but that piece of information is so amazingly relevant and life-changing that you are glad you trudged through reading for a few hours to attain it.

For us, Tracy came across our story outline on a happenstance reading of The Hero and the Perennial Journey Home in American Film. She wasn’t looking for the skeleton of our story, but when she read the whole book and applied what she learned to our project, it fit.

Sometimes researching is a bit of luck, and always a lot of work. And since it can be so daunting at first, I thought it would be nice to share:

If I could leave behind anything from this post it would be this:

Go General to Specific

Always research the biggest, looser ideas first and then narrow down to the specifics. 

Tracy and I never took mythology in High School, so Introduction to World Mythology was the first and best place for us to start. We got a broad overview of our subject matter with enough key details to follow up on with more specialized research.

For instance, we now have read every book by Joseph Campbell, even though in our introduction class he was only mentioned a few times.  It's like drawing - you start with a good, loose sketch, and then fill in the rest of the details.

Step away from the Internet
 In today’s digital age, everything is at our very fingertips, but while there is great information out there, there is also vague, somewhat unreliable information too.

There is a reason high school and college professors usually limit the amount of digital sources in a bibliography.

I am sure someone out there has written everything they know for you to gobble up, but that information is not going to be accessible through a quick Google search.

Internet writing is meant to be as short as possible so that the reader can easily skim through the work. This means there is a considerable loss of information in the process. At that, you’re likely to find articles that are too vague for your needs or too specific for you to understand. So even if it seems daunting, read a book. The best place you can go to in a college library and search a keyword there. It will allow you to find more specific research rather than a general overview of the same information over and over again.

What has helped me in the past was reading both the introduction and the chapter titles. With most research book titles, the intro allows you a quick glance to why the book was written as well as the authors writing style. That in combination with the chapters of the book you can get some inkling whether the book will be what you are looking for.

That being said, books are not the only place to turn to for information.

If you are a visual learner, or looking to find how others tackled the same problems you are having, lectures like the one I attended at Geek-End 2011, any college course, and just conversing with the right people can help, but you have to take the time to seek those sources out (this would be the best time for google-ing I think).

By looking for real-world examples or people who have been in your shoes a person can get a lot of tips and tricks that are invaluable.

In the End ...
Our research habits are rewarding, but even after 3 months of intensive study, we have only hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the information we have to gather.

I am excited to hear from everyone else their own opinions, findings, and tips on finding information.

Leave us a message below, post a comment on our facebook page, or write us at info@thetaffetaspitch.com!
Be sure to come back next week for Tracy’s post on Theme & Taking a stance on your story!

"Research" Post Delayed Until Next Week

Hello Everyone,
This is Yesenia Carrero, Co-producer of the Taffetas. Today’s post, “Research, Research, Research” will be on the blog next Wednesday. Tracy and I apologize for the delay and hope for your understanding. Both of us are busy preparing for our new employment at Hallmark Cards (yep, both of us managed to get jobs at the same awesome place).
While it's exciting for us, preparing for the big move is exhausting as well.
So far, we picked up our things and are on the road to Kansas City to find our permanent home, which explains the sudden delay. But we'll return next week ready to bring you all the next post!

Monetizing Your Online Content

Hello everyone!
I am Yesenia Carrero, Co-producer of the Taffetas. In earlier posts, Tracy mentioned some of the research we delved into these last couple of months. Today, I want to spotlight our experience at the Geekend Conference in Savannah, Georgia.

Geekend is an interactive conference that brings together a group of people interested in Design, technology, and social media for 3 days of workshops, lectures, and networking. As The Taffetas will be distributed online, we knew it was important to go.

Tracy and I went to several of the events there, but Linus Olsson's lecture, Monetizing Your Online Content, really inspired us to rethink the way we approach Taffetas. I hope that the information I am about to share also brings a new perspective for anyone else working on the web.

So first off, Who is Linus Olsson?
Linus Olsson is an entrepreneur and creator of Flattr, a service that allows fans to reward creators for their online content.

Here’s what he had to say:
People want to help others continue to create the things they love. They are not going to pay for the things they have, but rather for the things they will receive.

This pretty much sums up the idea behind earning money for your online content. Creators are not paid, rather people reward them for great work.

So how do you get people to reward you for your work?

Olsson suggests:
  • Have content first 
  • Be Honest
  • Be personal
Have Content First
You Can’t Have People Pay For Something They Don’t Have

Receiving money from supporters is a dream come true for many of us in the creative field. I know for me it would be great to have people just run by me, shake my hand, and fund anything I ask for. Unfortunately, if you are to receive money from supporters, you need well-established content from the project you want funded first or a history of successful projects prior to this new one. Without credibility there’s usually a lack of funding.
Why doesn't anyone like meeeeee?

It's hard to grasp the idea of giving before you get when we live in a world that usually does the reverse – you buy your groceries, then you get them. It never struck me as odd when other people dived into asking for donations with no previous content or credibility, but it happens all the time on Kickstarter.

For Taffetas, we always planned that our first production work would be self-funded only from both Tracy’s wallet and mine. Reasons as to why seem more concrete knowing we need to create work first.

Be Honest
Nice People Finish First on the Internet.

Try to be as forth coming with information as you possibly can. For us, this was a lesson in humility and why we have taken the time to write about our experiences. Tracy and I learned to be honest when you don’t know everything, and rather than hiding our project’s works-in-progress, we are trying to be more transparent with where we are and what we are doing. So make your intentions clear and keep your books open.

Let people know what you are doing

As a creator, it is difficult for me to share in-progress work publicly. Taffetas always received critiques from colleagues, but we rarely are this open about our work publicly.

Sharing our journey and our in-progress works as we go along has not only helped people identify with what we are doing, but also proves we are not just sitting around doing nothing at all.

Shhhh ... One day we will sleep

One thing we are still working on is making our goals clear for everyone- and it’s not easy when those goals change and evolve. These recent updates on our journey rather than posts showing off finalized artwork helped, though.

Keep your Books Open
Olsson also says to be honest with people about yourself. Just like you wouldn’t lie on a resume, don’t think about lying about your credibility on the Internet. People will find out.

Be clear with them about your goals for the project, and why you do what you do. More importantly, though, be sure to tell people with what you’re doing with their money.

If you are taking money from people, be sure to constantly let them know:
  • Who you are
  • Why you need it
  • Where their money is going
  • Where their money has gone
  • How much money you do have invested
A lot of Kickstarter projects are not successful because the people involved pitch the project wonderfully, but do not explain in where the money is going clearly, if at all.

People need to know what they’re contributing their hard-earned money to and afterwards need records that the money has gone where it was promised it will go.

Be Personal
People are investing in you just as much as your work. There’s a connection that has to be there, and to put a wall between your work and yourself is not doing a service to anyone invested in the project.

For instance, When you think of Walt Disney, you probably think of the company and the man.

It is okay to be yourself, keeping in mind to also be honest and clear. Personality makes you more ‘real.’ It creates a connection.

With this in mind, we’ve been changing the way we write for Taffetas. Prior to the lecture, Tracy and I kept a wall between our work and ourselves, thinking the lack of personality made us more professional.

Not true at all.

Now we try to keep things a bit more personal and place our insights, our opinions, and our humor in our writing. The change is enlightening. It gives us the opportunity to be able to converse with fellow supporters and artists, as well as to help remove “the collective we” title both Tracy and I used until now.

Now this isn’t from the lecture,
But I thought it equally important to state:

There is no guarantee the things you create will automatically be funded, but by changing your approach and your view point towards online content

So work hard, and no shortcuts

Believe in what you’re doing, don’t do something because you think it will get you money, do something you love to do in hopes you will get money.

I am excited to hear from everyone else as far as their opinions and experiences!
Leave us a message below, post a comment on our facebook page, or write us at info@thetaffetaspitch.com!

Be sure to come back next week for the next post on finding information when you don't know where to look: as well as how we go about our own research for the Taffetas.

Character Creation

PLEASE NOTE: This post contains older material that does not necessarily represent our current project, Gemini Journey. It is left unaltered for educational purposes.

In the last progress post I lightly talked about some changes Yesenia and I are working on for The Taffetas. Some of these changes are about our characters - switching out roles, updating traits, refining and revising. This post is about our findings and thoughts on character creation from our own journey, with some more discussion on our recent changes.

What We Learned about Creating a Solid Character
According to Writing the Romantic Comedy by Billy Mernit, you only need four things to create a solid character in a story:
  • Purpose - your character’s reason for existing
  • Credibility - your character’s believability within your story
  • Empathy - how relatable your character is
  • Complexity - your character's multifaceted personality, inner conflicts

It is my experience that to understand these categories, you need to be able to:
  • Pretend to be your character - which lends to complexity and empathy
  • Research - which goes into credibility
  • Think Conceptually - which goes into purpose
Get To Know Your Character
This part is the fun part. There really is no right or wrong way to start, or how to explore your character. Still, your goal for this portion of the creation process should always be: try to get into the mindset of someone who is not you.

Play Pretend
Writers often admit to role playing their characters in their head to develop them. If you're like me and aren't exactly the talking-to-yourself-in-public type, another person to talk out your characters is great too. 

Yesenia and I are lucky to have each other in the creative process since we can develop our characters by bouncing ideas around conversationally. We usually end up using voices,but it helps us get into the roles of these people (yes, it does look insane).

We also have creative exchanges with Fate Saga's Dana Corrigan that benefits both projects. Working with other creative people to brainstorm will lead to new perspectives, which is perfect since the goal is to try to think like someone else.

Think like your character
Stepping into your character's shoes doesn't always work if you still bring too much of yourself with you. Being able to understand another person's underlying psychology is the first step to creating complexity. Even if your character cannot fully explain their own actions, you need to be able to.
The problem is, it's very hard to think unlike yourself, but you can't make your character you, either.

 If you try to create a character too unlike yourself, you run the risk of making them a shallow stereotype because you don't understand their way of thinking at all- kind of like how hard it would be for me to 'get' why some girls don't like Adrien Brody.

I couldn't make a believable Adrien Brody critic because...what. Seriously. The man's beautiful, how could I?  The problem is, her inner conflicts and thought process would then just be shallow interpretations of my lack of understanding for this (sad) person's mindset, which would in turn make her actions and personality very flat. 

To create a character unlike yourself, you have to be able to open your mind to new ways of thinking, or else choose a type of person to study that you will be less biased towards. 

This doesn't apply if your character is supposed to be you, a farce, or a caricature, and I'm not saying you can ever fully purge your biases. No matter what, your characters will always be tinted by your tastes and opinions.

Still, I find that the closer your character is to your own personality or your ideal person, the more likely you are to try to make them perfect. While you might need to make a perfect character, like a father figure, say Mufasa from Lion King, you do want to remember that:

Imperfection leads to Empathy
The best characters are the ones who mess up, humiliate themselves, and make bad decisions (and sometimes it's just all their own fault). Your audience, and you, will start to empathize with this person more because of it.

This is why female characters can get a bad rep in movies and TV shows, especially from other girls. Often female characters are too good. We see it from even well-meaning clich├ęs: the “can-beat-everyone-up-and-takes-care-of-herself-perfect” to the “sweet-and-angelic-princess-perfect.”

Your characters need to disappoint you at times.  Your job is to balance how much they screw up with how much people will still like them despite that. I'm not sure I know that formula yet.

Empathy is not Sympathy
One point that Mernit makes in his book is that empathizing with a character is not sympathizing with a character. Sympathy is to feel pity, where as empathy is to feel the same emotion as the character. He argues that you do not have to have the audience's sympathy to have a solid character people will enjoy.

I feel a lot of creators have trouble with this idea, and we did too. One thing we learned is we don't need Gemini to have a sad past trauma or an excuse for her actions to gain our audience's favor- her personality should already do that

We took out a lot of her dark past. I am not saying that a haunted past is bad, but after re-evaluating Gemini's history, we threw out some of the things we thought were there just to make you feel bad for her and I think what we're left with is a better character for it.

I mention research a lot, and this is because I cannot over-emphasize the value of understanding what you are doing.

I think many creators develop a character's personality first before doing much research, myself included. Then, the next logical step to take is to study psychology of a character to further that personality.

  But it's easy to forget the research for the portrayal of that psychology is just as important. 

For a while we didn’t know what to research for our own characters. What helped us was searching topics based around our character's:
  • Location and Upbringing
  • Job
  • Hobbies
  • Clothes
A stable knowledge in these areas will help lend credibility to your character and further shape who they are.

Where was your character raised/Where do they live? 

A young girl raised in a W.A.S.P. family in the 1950s is different than a young man born and bred in a small African village. They may have the same personality, but their unique experiences will still shape their traits, such as their speech, mannerisms, and dress.  

What does your character wear?   
Many creators have trouble with this concept, since a lot of us in the creative field can be considerably lacking in any fashion sense what-so-ever (well, animators and comic artists anyway- you graphic designers stay beautiful).

I find that if you treat fashion research just as you would any visual or text research you can dress your character based on their preference and setting, rather than your own.

Yesenia and I are lucky to have our wonderful volunteer fashion designers to help come up with unique outfit ideas. It's also no secret we do have a fascination with our leading lady's outfit choices. 

But it's not always easy. For instance, I don't always get Veil's outfits right and I'm still reading up on men's fashion while trying to keep it consistently in-character (I've been reading a lot of Esquire, needless to say). Things are going to get more interesting when we have to research the outfits of our other male characters, all distinctly different from Veil.

As a tip, Yesenia and I use pinterest for inspiration. It allows us to pin images from the internet for future reference as well as watch other people's boards that might be relevant to what we are looking for (ie: I watch a men's fashion board). Through this, we find a lot of relevant imagery that really inspires us and is easy access anytime, anywhere.

What does your character do?
Knowing the weird things your character would know from their profession or hobby will help add credibility. This means if your character is an artist, they better know that negative space isn't a sci-fi horror film.

One of the changes I mentioned last post is Veil's job change to a copy writer for greeting cards. Originally he worked as an editor for a fashion magazine, but it is obvious to us in our recent revisions that A) we don't know what working for a fashion magazine is like (Outside of seeing all four seasons of Ugly Betty) and B) it doesn't really fit with the tone of our story.

For point A (Though I will be talking about B in "Finding Your Theme and Sticking to It"), it would be hard to make people believe Veil worked for a fashion magazine, which would jeopardize our audience's suspension of disbelief. I would not only have to know more about men's fashion, but I would have to know more about the fashion world- neither of which serve our story or character any purpose.

Luckily, I work as an animator/illustrator for a certain social expression company which offers plenty of first-hand reference of the writers who create copy for greeting cards. It felt natural to switch the job, and it gave Veil an endearing quirk.

Veil's job isn’t a big part of our story, but it affects who he is. If we know nothing about his job, our lack of knowledge is going to show through and make him less believable as a character.

Still, our researching isn’t complete. We have to learn not only what is it like for Veil as an aspiring novelist, but study up on Gemini's past boating and sailing too. We're getting there.

Granted, I do not advise doing this sort of detailed research first before combing over the general picture of your story, so...

Use your best judgement
While I just wrote about finding out everything you can about your character, I also want to point out that the details aren't as important as the big picture.

I love reading and learning, and I want to know everything about my character. The problem is, this eats up time and energy. It is good to know more than you will ever show in your story rather than omit something because of a lack of knowledge, as Hemmingway pointed out, but it is also important to know when you're hyper-focusing. 

So, while it is fun to know the playlists on your character's ipod, it really doesn't matter if that playlist isn't a plot device in your story.

I will write in my next post (the "theme" post) about taking a step back from details to grasp the bigger picture and form your knowledge around that, but I do want go over how important it is to think of your character less in a literal manner...

Know What Your Character MEANS
A character needs a purpose for existing both in their own lives and within your story. Chances are, you already know the goals your character has in his or her life, but do you know the goals YOU have for this character? A solid character isn't just well-developed, he or she also needs to fit like a puzzle piece into the story you want to tell.

Think Conceptually
Who your character is should be ruled by what your character represents. 

We learned to take a step back from our story and realized that we can't think: "this girl is so-and-so, she likes red wine and chocolate and is the bad guy of my story", but rather: "this girl is the representation of my hero's fear of losing himself to indulgence". In this way, we are able to re-evaluate their actions and major character arcs in our story based on what we need the audience to understand about this character.

Seeing things abstractly like this will not only help you realize how to approach the portrayal of your characters in your story, but will also help you in visually designing them later. If you know what your character represents, you can better create a design to show that message.

For instance, Gemini turned into a more rounded figure eight this past year:

This is because Gemini represents strong femininity. The circle and 8 are strong and continuous ("8" sideways being the symbol for infinite) but also soft and usually feminine-dominant shapes.

You don't have to use shapes in your design thinking, either- animals, colors, people, gods, myths or any combination of symbolic imagery are great places to look for inspiration, because once you know what your character represents in the story, you will know more about what to do with them.

I am hoping to write an in-depth post on my personal visual design process for characters when we reach that stage again in production.

And Finally...
Remember that creating characters should be fun, it is certainly my favorite part of the process.  Character drives story, so be sure to enjoy the process of creating, researching, and refining them to fit your project.

Yesenia's and my personal journey so far into character creation has taught us a great deal, but we still have a lot to learn. I am excited to hear from everyone else their own opinions and findings.

Leave us a message below, post a comment on our facebook page, or write us at info@thetaffetaspitch.com!

Be sure to come back next week for Yesenia Carrero's post on what we learned about online content during our visit to Geekend-Savannah!

Further Reading
  • Writing the Romantic Comedy Billy Mernit
  • What Would Your Character Do? by Eric Maisel
  • Creating Animated Cartoons with Character: A guide to Developing and Producing Your Own Series for TV, The Web, and Short Film by Joe murray

Our Progress

In our new plan of action for The Taffetas project, Yesenia and I explained that we decided to rebuild our story concept and our pitch for 2012 based on critique we received over the Summer. The time spent taking the advice we were given is worth it and we made a lot of progress, but there are plenty of frustrating roadblocks and humbling learning experiences along the way. I'm excited to update every Wednesday to share with other creators and our supporters the journey so far.

What We Accomplished
Before this post, Yesenia and I talked about the updated blog banner, our new log line and specs, and the new e-mail we moved to.
But this isn't all we did! In fact, in these past few weeks, we:
  • Researched- a lot!
  • Defined our theme  of the story
  • Cut most of the "fat" based on our theme
  • Updated details about our characters
  • Created the basic outline of our series to follow 
When we started research for Taffetas, I hungrily read anything I could get my hands on. Fearing all the hats I must wear for this project, I read books like The Five C's of Cinematography, Producing Independent 2-D Animation, and Acting for Animators. Do you see the problem?

They aren't relevant to what Yesenia and I need right now. We're not even getting into production for months.

With Yesenia's help (see: Dairy Queen ice cream and a long, girly talk about my feelings), I was able to calm down enough to target books related to storytelling and the bigger picture, since that's the stage we're in: taking a step back and re-evaluating our story from it's very basics, which helped us define...

Our Theme
The theme - the main moral a story illustrates - for our story luckily was not hard to come up with. Yesenia and I always knew what Taffetas was about, and with some slight tweaks we were able to really nab it.

Although we don't have the exact wording down just yet, our theme is:  

Everyone has their own Mythology to unfold. 
But how do you do that? Our story focuses on answering that question.

I will talk about theme and the direction of our story in more detail in an upcoming post, but this statement is at the very heart of Taffetas and will reflect in all of our characters and plot lines. I like to think of it like a thesis statement for a persuasive essay. Every example we have in our show must now prove this statement. 

What We Cut Out
 If you were lucky enough to follow us from the very beginning of our project about a year ago, you probably at least understood our story was vaguely about a couple, their family, and maybe something about a flying city and a boat...or...uh- a  wha-?

I'm sorry. We made no sense.

A lot of good, but misplaced ideas were put into our story in the beginning because we had so many thoughts we wanted to fit in all at once. We lost the clarity of our theme because of this and had to learn to leave some ideas on the cutting room floor.

The biggest thing we trimmed from Taffetas (besides the flying city, Ronnie, and a few bad guys) is the post-marriage lives of Veil and Gemini. This is because our theme applied to our characters' central romance should lead to the union of the two as a whole and doesn't need much expansion to add in a family- which is unfortunate since it was one of our earliest ideas for the story. 

It's necessary, though. With some of the excess trimmed away, the heart of our show is clear.

Updated Character Details
Though I'm often humbled about my storytelling and writing skills (But hey, I draw for a living - I don't know what writing are!), I am still proud of our main leads, Veil and Gemini. Yesenia and I know these characters inside and out, and even though one of them is a tall blue elf and the other is a short Atlantean pirate, their personalities are credible and relate-able.

We're still not perfect, though. As we begin more research into specific details, we know we need to refine even our main characters, let alone our less-developed side characters. While this is an on-going part of our update process, some of the things we're thinking include:
  • Gemini was never the captain of her boat, a yet-introduced character was
  • Most of our original ideas for Gemini's haunted past have been taken ou, leaving one large problem for her to work out
  • Gemini is not as culturally aware as we once thought from her travels. In fact, she barely learned a thing during that time (though we'll be keeping a lot of Jamie's awesome outfit ideas!)
  • Elena will dress more like a tomboy rather than in cute dresses and skirts
  • Wolf is no longer a romantic rival for Gemini's heart
  • However, Veil's step-brother, Eschewal, will be a romantic rival
  • Veil is a wannabe novelist who works at a greeting card company as a copy writer 
  • Veil shows a wider range of emotions than he used to, but remains uptight and reserved
  • Tom has replaced Ronnie's role as friend and guide
  • Veil's eye color has changed from a pale yellow to a light brown

(dreamily sighing optional)

All of our characters also evolved on a conceptual level, filling new metaphorical roles and playing their part to push the story and theme forward. I will talk about that more in the upcoming update on character creation. 

The Basic Outline
One of the accomplishments I am most proud of since starting work on our revisions is our story outline. Going through all the research and ideas we have for this show, Yesenia and I managed to create the framework to work with for our pitch and for eventual production.

The show follows a model for the hero's journey, tying in beautifully with our mythological tone. Our hero is our leading lady, Gemini, and the major plot points of our series follow her coming-of-age journey to realize the truth of our theme.

What Lies Ahead 
We accomplished a lot in a short time, but the journey isn't over yet. All of the work I mentioned is going into portions 3, 4, and 5 of our plan for the written pitch - story synopsis, character bios, and episodes synopsis. Beyond that, we will continue to follow the schedule until our pitch is completed and we can begin production of content.

This part of the update process took longer than I expected. What I thought would be a little tweaking turned out to be a lot, but it is worth it to improve our project.

I'm also excited to share more insights about our progress here on the blog every Wednesday for the next few weeks and I would love to hear what you think in return!

Leave us a message below, post a comment on our facebook page, or write us at info@thetaffetaspitch.com!

Schedule of Upcoming Posts

Hello Everyone,

Tracy MacLauchlan,  co-producer of Taffetas here!
It's been quite a journey re-working our story and pitch, but we've been making a lot of progress thanks to critique from our wonderful friends and the research we conducted these last few weeks.

One thing we didn't realize though was that we are not giving you the full story of production here on our blog. The Taffetas is a team effort after-all, with all the volunteer works, support, and critique it has fueled our continuing progress, and so we want to give back to anyone who is struggling with the same things we are.

With all of your support and permission, we'd like to bring the process of re-creating our show into the spotlight a little more to gain your opinions along the way. We're also going to share information, our thoughts, and what we've learned and the books we've read and the people we've talked to. Yesenia and I are the first to admit we're not perfect- we're new to pitching and producing animation - but we're certainly on our way and I think as a collective team we can all inspire each other.

So what does that mean for The Taffetas and for all of you?
It means Yesenia and I have some tutorials, sketches, insights, and resources to share with you all for the next couple of weeks. We also hope to hold more conversations with our supporters in our comments, on our facebook, or through e-mail as we continue our progress!

For the next few weeks, the blog will be updated weekly on Wednesdays with these special posts. Our schedule is as follows:

- Week 1 : Our Progress
This is a general update on where we are right now with Taffetas as well as what Yesenia and I have been up to personally.

- Week 2 : Character Creation
I will share some thoughts I have about creating your own compelling characters from the inside out. Includes a list of reading and resource recommendations.

- Week 3 : Geekend Lecture about Monetizing Your Online Content
For all those who are struggling with their own online content, Yesenia and will share an audio recording of Linus Olsson's lecture from the Geekend Convention in Savannah Georgia. She will also discuss our thoughts and what this has inspired us to do for the production of Taffetas.

- Week 4 : Research Research Research
Everyone knows its important, but how do you go about it and how do you make it relevant to your story? Our time lately has been spent hitting the books and we will be giving details on the things we've read to make the Taffetas a better story, as well as tips for doing your own research and recommended reading.

- Week 5 : Taking a stance on our story
This will be an overview of what direction the new story for The Taffetas is headed and why, as well as our advice and thoughts on picking a theme for your story!

- Week 6 : Drawing Characters
A post on tips and tricks for drawing character images using Taffetas as reference.

It's been a long road to travel, but we hope that by sharing some of the knowledge that we've learned, it can go along way to help all those who have helped us.

And here's where we start a conversation with you all:
Is there anything that YOU are dying to hear, learn, or talk about that you think Yesenia and I could make a post on? Take a look at our own personal work and feel free to ask away if there's any kind of tutorial or thoughts you would like from us.

Yesenia Carrero -
Co-producer, Graphic Designer, Illustrator

Tracy MacLauchlan -
Co-producer, Animator, Character Designer

Leave us a message below, post a comment on our facebook page, or write us at info@thetaffetaspitch.com!

New E-mail

Hello Everyone,
We will no longer accept e-mails to ycarre20@student.scad.edu, and instead have moved to info@thetaffetaspitch.com.

If you e-mailed us recently on the ycarre20 account, we will reply to you this weekend from the new e-mail. If you do not receive a message from us this weekend and are expecting one, please don't hesitate to write us another message to the new address. We are very sorry for the inconvenience and are excited to get back to speed with our correspondence.

What IS the Taffetas?

 Hello Everyone,

We hope these last few weeks have been great for you all! As for us, we've been in the middle of moving from one end of the country to the other, all the while mentally preparing ourselves for the new version of our Taffetas pitch based on the changes we have made to the story and how we wish to present our material from here on out.

The first thing we tackled was our new LOGLINE, essentially a tv-guide like synopsis of the show. From there, we moved on to explaining not what our story was, but what the show actually is.


In a contemporary city full of quirky fantasy characters, a bubbly ex-sea captain finds refuge in the apartment of her uptight, undead crush. The two hold onto their mismatched relationship despite the outlandish drama they encounter, from needy sirens and gossiping gargoyles to deadly cult plots and the dark secrets from their own pasts.

What is it?
The Taffetas is an animated soap opera with a fantasy spin.

Genre: Fantasy
Media Format: Web Television
Target Audience: Women and girls 16-25
Running Time: approximately 8-15 minutes with 30 minute specials.

The Taffetas isn’t your mother’s soap opera. It’s a chic animation done in a charming lineless style set in a quirky, contemporary fantasy setting. The Taffetas story consists of offbeat character-driven plots that appeal to our target audience of women and girls 16-25.The show’s world and cast of characters is relatable to the modern young woman and fantastical enough to entice her.

As a reminder to all our readers, any critique is welcome! If you need help, as you read these, ask yourself:

Does the writing make sense? If not, what's confusing?
Is the writing intriguing enough? If not, any ideas how to spice things up?
Anything Else?

And of course, if you just happen to like what we've done, we'd love to hear that too! You can reply in a comment below or write us on facebook.

"So Cool" Boards by Gretshelle Rivera

So Cool Boards
Here we have scene about Elena, Sapphire, and Gemini's dynamic. Gemini, a silly, quirky 20-something woman, seems an odd match for Sapphire, a 19-year-old gargoyle who is fiercely independent, and, well, cool! Still, the two are best friends for better or worse, and unfortunately for our popularity-obsessed teenage siren, Elena, it's difficult to join that inner circle.

These boards were drawn by Gretshelle Rivera, an up-and-coming young artist who took on the So Cool storyboards as one of her first steps into the story boarding world. We particularly find the expressions she draws spot on for the characters, not to mention they are simply beautiful to look at! Her rendition of Sapphire is killer!

New Blog Banner


Hello Everyone,

As we had mentioned last post, we are updating some things for the concept and pitch package of Taffetas. This includes new art and some updates to our online presence. As such, we are excited to show off the first bit of many new things to come- our new banner!

We felt the update was needed to represent how our story has grown and how we have grown as artists.

Pictured above is the original drawing created by Tracy MacLauchlan, which is then reworked in Adobe Illustrator by Yesenia Carrero in our line less, Art Deco-inspired style.  This is a look into the production process for all official Taffetas art outside of volunteer-created storyboards.

As a reminder, here's a look at our past banners:

1st Banner in Fall 2010 as well as our email banner until now
2nd Banner created Winter 2010
A lot can happen in a year!

The Taffetas Fall-Winter 2011/2012 plan

Hello Everyone,
This is an update to our last post. As we had mentioned, The Taffetas will be undergoing some tweaking in order to finalize the pitch. Over the last months we have met with writers, animators, and individuals who have had successful pitches in the past in order to receive critique and fine-tune our work. 

A lot has evolved since then.
We are now going to apply what we learned to our current pitch. This includes updating our design of the book (as we have grown as artists since then), updating some of the writing, and creating new art specific to the pitch.

Here is our task list for Fall and Winter 2011-2012:

Updating the Written Pitch
We want to comb over the written portion of the pitch and create a description that is clear and concise. Much of what we have written in the past will be edited and finalized for the pitch presentation.
The portions we will be going over includes: What We Are Trying to Accomplish With Our Story, What Are Story Is & What It Is Not, Story Synopsis, Individual Character Bios, Episode Synopsis, and Why Our Series is Different from all the Rest.
  1. What We Are Trying to Accomplish With Our Story
    Essentially a brief description of what our show is – our genre, target audience, the media we set it in and why we chose that route.
  2. What Are Story Is & What It Is Not
    This is a new section to our written pitch. The basic premise is simple; write a list of what your show is and what it is not. This will help set guidelines for the show and aims to clear up any confusion before it arises.
  3. Story Synopsis
    Our story is the same as it always has been, however we have found that a little reworking goes along way. We will be updating our story synopsis based on critique we have received for better clarity.
  4. Character Bios
    We will be presenting our characters much more simply, with a small description and how they fit into the world around them. New characters will be added, and updates to already set characters will be created.
  5. Episode Synopsis
    The structure of our series has changed greatly since the start of our pitch. A description for a rough guide of all of the first seasons’ episodes and a series synopsis for the next 3 seasons after will be written out. 
  6. Why Our Series is Different from all the Rest
    We know why, but we have never thought to place the reasons why right on a page. This will change.

Adding New Art Pieces
After finishing  a majority of the written work, we will be moving on to finalizing the artwork. This will include new art specifically for the pitch book and additional concept art of our characters.

Works will be added as the written portion progresses, however the art we are planning to create includes:
    • Updating Gemini and Veil’s Pose & Expression Sheets.
    • Adding a pose sheet of them together
    • Veil and Gemini Height Comparison
    • Finishing and styling the screenshots
    • A concept illustration of our characters within their environment
      (This time we will pay attention the style of our backgrounds as well as our characters)
    • New Character Line Ups
Additional things to keep a look out for:
    • Blog updates
      We are planning an easier to navigate directory with updated information.
      Layout and art surrounding the blog may change as well.
    • The Revival of our official Website
    • Promotional Materials
      More details will arise later on. Right now this applies to the creation of promos for the places we will be pitching to.
What happens after the completion of the pitch book?
After our pitch is tidied up, we will be spending the rest of the year on a SHORT ANIMATED SCENE from our new pilot episode, followed by possible ANIMATED TEASERS. If you are a voice actor waiting on an update, sit tight guys. You will be utilized!
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