Wolfblood Season Three: Endings And Beginnings!

So Wolfblood season three has come to its dramatic conclusion! We really tried to do something different this season – to widen the Wolfblood world and to bring some resolution to a lot of long-running storylines and character relationships – and I hoped you enjoyed watching it as much as we enjoyed writing and making it.
After three seasons, we’ve reached that inevitable point where the original cast begin to think about going off to work on new projects. Indeed, that’s already happened. As you will have noticed, Aimee Kelly, who plays Maddy, decided to leave the show at the end of season two to pursue other roles.
Without Maddy to lead the pack, the show has changed dramatically – and you know what? That’s exactly what should happen. Change is the lifeblood of drama. All of our favourite moments in TV series, if we really think about them, are driven by change. Any show that churns out the same plots and the same character arcs season after season will stagnate and die.
If we are recommissioned for a fourth season – and as yet, there’s no word about that – I dare say that some other cast members will decide to move on as well. (And no, there’s no point in bombarding me with questions about who’s going and who’s staying! I don’t know at this stage, and I wouldn’t be releasing that information yet even if I did…)
So if the fourth season does happen, it will introduce new characters – and some familiar ones, of course! – and new situations and new facets of the Wolfblood world.
I look at this as being an exciting new adventure – and if we get the chance to set off on it, I hope that you’ll come along!

Wolfblood BAFTA Nominations

Wolfblood season two has been nominated for two awards at this year’s Children’s BAFTAs – best drama, and I’m nominated for best writer! The awards will be announced at a ceremony in London on Sunday 23rd November.

None of this would have happened without our fantastic team – production staff, crew, cast and writers – and I’m hugely grateful for all the hard work they’ve put into the show.

However, we’re also nominated for another award – and that’s where you can help! The BAFTA Kids Vote is a separate series of awards that are voted on electronically by kids aged 7 – 14. And you can vote for Wolfblood in the TV category! Go to http://www.baftakidsvote.org/vote/ to cast your vote for Wolfblood, and all the other categories too…

Keeping Things Fresh

Another subject that people on Twitter have asked me to cover in the blog is how to keep a long-running show “fresh”. After three seasons of Wolfblood, I suppose I should know a few things about that…

One of the things that CBBC have always pushed us to do is never repeat the same theme or story engine from season to season. The first season of Wolfblood was driven by the jeopardy of discovery: “Will the people around us find out our secret?” It would have been easy to repeat that threat in the second season – after all, it’s the obvious jeopardy in this kind of story, and there were still plenty more people to discover the secret! But it would have locked us into telling the same stories with different characters. So we moved away from that, exploring the wider Wolfblood world instead – and in season three, drawing our characters into a conspiracy on a scale they’d never faced before.

Another key to keeping the show fresh is to develop the minor characters. While the K’s as a unit function as fantastic comic relief, when we get one of them on their own, we can tell terrific character stories with them. The same applies to Jimi, Liam and Sam. The whole ‘werewolf hunter’ plot in season two began as a subplot to develop Liam’s character, and evolved into a key story element for the whole season.

Finding ways to use the adult world in a story without diminishing the child characters also gave us new stories and new emotions to explore. Tying the new characters strongly to the child characters – Rhydian’s mum, Jana’s father and pack – made them part of the regular characters’ stories, but great performances have made them popular characters in their own right.

It’s also easy to get stuck using a character in the same way all the time. Alric, Jana’s father, worked fantastically for us as a threat throughout season two – but the last time we brought him back, we decided to reverse all that and show him as a broken man who’s lost everything. Immediately everyone’s relationship with him changes and there are new stories to play. So look for logical, compelling ways to use characters in different ways.

Finally, don’t be afraid to break the format now and then. The season two episode “The Mottled Poppy” was essentially a haunted house story, completely different to anything we’d done before, and I think it helped show aspects of the characters and elements of our world that we wouldn’t have been able to show in a ‘normal’ episode. We couldn’t tell those kinds of stories every week, but once in while, they help keep the show interesting and dynamic.

Anyone else have any tips? What great techniques have you seen your favourite shows use to stay fresh and exciting?

All Aboard The Story Engine

A while ago, I asked Twitter for suggestions for blog posts, and one of the subjects that came up was the story engine.

As you might imagine, the story engine is the thing that’s pulling your narrative train up the hill, the reason why things are happening in the first place. It can take many forms – a specific goal, a threat to the protagonist or those he loves, a ticking clock. It can be extremely obvious – there’s no doubting what the story engine of Die Hard or Pacific Rim is – or, in a mumblecore or slice of life movie, it can be remarkably nebulous. But in any good story, it’s there, moving events along.

So, particularly if you’re one of those writers who starts off with character first, how do you find a story engine that will keep your narrative on the tracks? (Note to self: enough with the train metaphors!)

The best story engines are derived from the core of who your protagonist is. The story engine for Aliens is ‘stay alive and destroy the alien infestation’. But it arises out of the core of who Ellen Ripley is: a mother who has lost her child. That drives Ripley to protect the orphaned girl Newt, and it’s reflected back at her in the form of the Alien Queen, also a mother trying blindly to protect her offspring. The desire to stay alive, to protect your family (the company, the ‘family’ of marines, Newt) and wipe out whatever threatens it, is a powerful, primal story engine.

Which brings us to another property of the good story engine: it’s a primal desire. The screenwriting teacher Blake Snyder said that the best goals are the ones a caveman would understand. Survival, protecting family and tribe, physical security (money, property, job), love/sex, and the desire for some kind of personal fulfillment or artistic expression – these are the basic needs any human would recognize, and if they drive your story, you’re off to a good start.

For example, the fictional Mark Zuckerberg depicted in The Social Network might be a difficult character for us to empathize with, because his goal in founding Facebook is obscure. So Aaron Sorkin imposes a story engine that we’ll all understand by opening the movie with Zuckerberg being dumped by his girlfriend. That encourages us to filter everything he does through that rejection, to see it as a desire to win her back, or at least convince her she was wrong about him. With sex as our story engine, suddenly the rather dry story of how a smart guy founded a big company becomes primal, and accessible.

And the best story engines are broad enough to be flexible. Your story is going to go through a lot of twists and turns, victories and defeats, and hopefully a few unpredictable surprises. So your story engine needs to be broad enough to encompass changes of short-term goal, and the inevitable, necessary transformations your protagonist will undergo.

Unless we can feel the same story engine pulling us down the tracks, all the way through the narrative, the story will feel fragmented and confusing. The easiest way to avoid this is to ensure you have a smooth transition from want to need to goal to story engine. Take Die Hard: McClane’s ‘want’ is to spend Christmas persuading his wife to give up her job and come back to New York with him. His need is to realise her desires are as important as his. His goal is to save her: and the story engine, the fact that he’s the only person in any position to do so, is a mechanism for him to both realise his goal and move from want to need.

So, get that story engine working for you!

Candy Is Dandy, But Scripts Are Quicker

I was talking to someone in the industry a couple of weeks ago, and was surprised by how positive this person was about the fact that I’d just written a new feature script on spec.  “You would not believe,” this professional said, “how many writers simply don’t write scripts on spec.”

I confess, I was a bit confused. I thought that was, well, our job.  “So what do they do all day?” I asked.

“Oh, a lot of them just write outlines. Draft after draft of outlines, while they wait for the project to sell. The fact is, if they wrote a spec, the projects probably would sell. But they don’t. And meanwhile, the people writing specs sell projects…”

I may have paraphrased a little, but the basics of the conversation are true. Scripts sell where pitches and outlines won’t, because they give people a clearer idea of what it is they’re buying – not to mention demonstrating your commitment to the project. Personally, I’ve just this year had my first ever project optioned from a pitch. Everything else, whether it got made in the end or not, has been optioned from a spec script.

So the advice is clear. Go forth and write scripts, because scripts sell.

Wolfblood Season Three round-up

It’s almost time for Wolfblood season three, so let’s have a quick round-up of what’s happening…

Season Three on CBBC –  episode one shows on CBBC at 5pm on Monday 15th, episode two on the 16th, continuing Mondays and Tuesdays thereafter.

(Overseas viewers – as always, I don’t know when season three will be on your country. You need to contact the appropriate TV channel in your country  – usually ZDF or Disney – and ask them. And contacting them instead of contacting me also helps the show – the more people who ask the TV station when it will be on, the more likely they are to show it soon!)

The CBBC website is doing a countdown to the first episode: every day, by answering a simple question, you can unlock special content (including the first of the webisodes written by Neil Jones and starring Jana and the wild pack!) Go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/shows/wolfblood

(Some content may not be available to overseas viewers.)

The Wolfblood seasons one and two re-cap in rap!  This may be my favourite extra ever… If your memory of what happens in previous seasons is a little hazy, why not remind yourself with this handy rapped summary? Available on the CBBC website – and there’s a legitimate, all-regions version on YouTube at

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iZTcXMYamk

Wolfblood Magazine!  Titan Magazines are producing a one-off Wolfblood magazine, full of pictures, interviews, articles and other fun. This will be available from all good newsagents from October 16th.

The Mayhem Teen Festival –  I’m going to be at a special Wolfblood event at Teen Mayhem, the young people’s event of the Mayhem Film Festival in Nottingham. The event will be on the 25th October, and hopefully some of the cast will be there too: Kedar Williams-Sterling (Tom) is confirmed, and we’re hoping for more confirmations soon! Details at http://twitchfilm.com/2014/09/mayhem-film-festival-unveils-teen-mayhem-and-mayhem-certificate-x-programs.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TwitchEverything+(Twitch)

I was a guest on the YouTube channel Media Madness, talking all things Wolfblood…  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4HEawf1CJo

The Annos Africa charity auction –  lastly, if you can spare a few quid for an excellent charity, how about putting in a bid for a lot in the Annos Africa auction?  There’s a Wolfblood lot comprising an adult cast & crew hoodie, and a gold umbrella with the Wolfblood logo – these aren’t merchandise, they were made only for the crew and cast, and so are a bit of collector’s item!

There are also fab items donated by Benedict Cumberbatch, Alan Rickman, Jane Birkin, and Being Human creator Toby Whithouse, among many, many others. Hurry, though, the auction ends Sunday 14th! Full list of lots, and more about the charity, at -

http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/annos-africa/m.html?item=261582928459&hash=item3ce78eba4b&pt=UK_DVD_Film_TV_Autographs_CV&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2562

Tumble –  and of course, huge congratulations to Bobby Lockwood (Rhydian) on winning the BBC gymnastics competition Tumble!

I look forward to hearing what you make of Wolfblood season three!

What Next?

I’m just coming to the end of a new feature project, so it’s time to consider the question that every writer must face… What next?
Writers are rarely short of ideas. Usually we’re waist deep in half-formed thoughts, seductive characters and fascinating fictional worlds. If we’ve been stacking projects – rewriting one project while writing a first draft of another and planning a third  – many of those projects will be temptingly close to ‘ready to write’.  (And if you want to know more about the merits of project stacking, Scott Myers has an excellent article on it here: http://gointothestory.blcklst.com/2010/12/business-of-screenwriting-art-of.html )

But that just makes the question more confusing. Which of these glorious masterpieces should you write next? Well, you have a few options.

The one that will sell. Not just for the money, but because a project in development is better for your career than something no one has ever heard of. What’s selling at the moment? What do your contacts say they’re looking for? Are female protagonists in or out? Does the industry love sci-fi this month, or hate it? Look through your ideas, and pick the one most likely to go into development in the next few months.

The one that will make a statement. Do you want to prove you can write in a new genre? Are you looking to attract attention to yourself as a new writer? Have you just overcome a weakness in your writing style and want to show off your new skills? Then pick the project that will make a statement about you.

The one that consolidates who you are as a writer. Perhaps you’re not looking to change genre or style, but to establish yourself as a safe pair of hands in a particular field. Or you need another piece in the same genre so you can present a coherent body of work to an agent or manager. So pick the project that tones with your existing scripts.

The one you love. In the end, the idea you love most is the one that will attract the most attention, because a writer’s love for their world and characters shines through. So if none of the other considerations apply, ask yourself which idea you just have to write…