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Polly Frost author of Deep Inside talks books – Page 2

Polly Frost outlines the three-act structure in one of her stories...

READERSVOICE.COM: When you wrote these episodes, did you use a three-act structure, or can you break down an episode to show how it was structured?

POLLY FROST: Ray and I made a point of giving each episode its own three-act structure, and then giving the whole collection a kind of deep-background three-act structure too.

For example, the story “Detention” is a two-hander about a high school teacher, Deborah, who’s in an Oklahoma jail for having had sex with one of her students. Nathan, a student who was in her class, but not the one she seduced, comes to see her in jail with an offer to turn her into an internet star. He knows about a certain sex tape that was made…. It’s one of our most popular stories and I think it’s because we really developed the three-act structure of it, even though it’s only 30 minutes long.

Certainly it was a tricky story to write because the audience could just have been appalled by both characters. We were, after all, making comedy out of headlines in this country about school teacher sex scandals! But it really works with audiences and I think it’s because we developed it very carefully in a three-act way.

To put it very basically: Act One was about Deborah pretending to be contrite with Nathan. At the end of it, however, he reveals his own crush on her.

So in Act Two, he reveals his business plan for her and she drops her contrite act and flirts with him. He tells her he knows about the sex tape.

In Act Three, Deborah literally mind-fucks Nathan and regains the upper hand. But Nathan gets what he wants: the sex he always dreamed of as well as the deal he wanted.

The act structure enabled us to reveal the true desires of both characters. For Ray and me, that was a big part of the fun of creating the series: telling real stories, while also providing a lot in the way of variety and attack. We wanted a mixture of quiet and loud, fast and slow, private and extroverted.

So a few of the stories are organized around character epiphanies, while on the other extreme a couple of the stories are wham-bam action extravaganzas. Meanwhile, every single story had to focus on character, and character as expressed in sex. So all the stories feature at least one and usually more hot sex scenes.

We’re lucky as collaborators because not only do we spark each other off creatively, we also have strengths that enhance each other. In the case of story and structure: Ray’s a fiendishly talented story engineer, while I’m much more of a character person. That enabled us to build fun stories with loads of suspense and humor (and sex, of course) while always staying touch with our characters’ drives and natures. I’d definitely recommend that anyone who wants to write fiction study story structure. There are a bunch of good books on the subject — screenwriting books largely.

I am also a fan of Robert McKee’s story seminars. Yes, he’s a fanatic and a bit over the top about it. But I really did learn a lot from his book and his seminar.

RV: Were you raised in New York, and if not, where were you raised and how’d you come to be in New York?

PF: I was raised in California, mostly in Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is is two hours up the coast from L. A., but it’s a world apart — a small city that’s a Mediterranean-style paradise. Though I love New York City — it’s hard to find any place that’s as buzzing with talent and creativity — my heart and soul will always belong to Santa Barbara, because it’s paradise. But it wasn’t a place where I could become a magazine writer, so I left to pursue that in NYC. Someday I’ll go back there and become an old Santa Barbara hippie who complains about the weather when it dips below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

RV: What sort of daily routine do you have in New York?

PF: I devote myself completely to the needs of each project, so that dictates my routine. I love producing and collaborating and I also love writing alone.

When I’m writing the first draft of a story it’s one thing. I awaken at four a.m., go straight to the computer, and write for four hours. That feels very natural when I’m creating something alone.

When I co-write with Ray, it’s another. We work side by side, usually in the afternoon. We’ll gab and giggle, and then an idea will erupt, and we’ll scoot to the computer to get it onscreen. When we made “The Fold,” my routine was another thing completely. Moviemaking, even on a teensy budget, has many stages to it: scriptwriting, casting, pre-production, shooting, post-production, etc. And each one makes its own demands.

On “The Fold,” we only had two weeks to shoot it, so during the shoot every waking moment was spent working on it. Plus it was in the middle of winter, and I was the caterer as well as co-writer and co-producer. Warmth, food, transportation, electricity, costumes — moviemaking is nothing if not a down-to-earth process.

But because Matt Lambert, the director, isn’t just talented but also highly organized and fun to work with, we all felt energized rather than stressed by the shoot. It left me hungry to make many more movies, especially with Matt and Ray.

And now Ray and I are doing audio. For the last five months I’ve practically lived in a recording studio: Monday to Friday, noon to six, plus all the time spent arranging for scripts, actors, etc. I love being in a recording studio, especially working with Ray, Dan and Casey. It’s thrilling to edit and mix in sound effects and listen to the audio come alive.

But it also wreaks havoc on your body, let me tell you! You sit in a dark room for hours listening intently to what you’re making. And your butt just spreads, and your body goes dead around you. And you live on empty calories and coffee. Dan and Casey joke that the major food groups for audio-guys are caffeine, sugar, and grease.

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