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Friday, May 6, 2011

Looking Behind the Scenes with Miquiel Banks, Technical Writer, Scriptwriter and Reviewer of Movies and Books.

Interviewing Miquiel was a very interesting experience, and it gave me insight into how others in the field look at creativity in the various areas of media.

Miquiel Banks was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from Southside High School in 1988. After graduating, he joined the US Army and served in Desert Storm in 1991, where he became the only person in US History listed as AWOL, MIA, and EPW (his account is published in his memoir Angels in the Desert). During the 90s, he started college at GSU (Georgia State University), but soon transferred to HBCU Morris Brown College to major in English Language and Literature. As the Editor-in-Chief of the Wolverine Observer, he was awarded three consecutive awards at the Southern Regional Press Institute Newspaper Competition (1997-1999). After school, he spent ten years in Technical Writing, and now his interests have returned to Publishing, Movie Reviews, and Story Structure.

Why and when did you begin writing?

I started writing when I was a B-Boy, because I wanted to branch out from just writing lyrics. I delved into poetry, and then I finished my first novel.  

Note: A B-Boy is a term from early Hip Hop that meant a “break dancer,” but eventually grew to mean a person who subscribes, or lives through Hip Hop expression as an art form.

What is your work schedule?

I do a lot of planning, organizing, and editing. When I am writing a book, I tend to write 2-10 pages a day until the book is finished.

How do you think your past experiences influenced where you are today?

My background in Hip Hop is a heavy influence because it trained me to enjoy the moment of creation and linger in that stream-of-consciousness mindset.

I see that you were a Technical Writer, could you explain the difference between that, and what you are doing now? 

A Technical Writer is my “Day Job,” as it has come to be called in the creative circles. Technical Writing is a mash-up between Creative Writing (novels, screenplays, etc.), and Analysis (Movie Reviews, Book Critiques, etc.) because, ultimately, it is translation. How do I take this idea, capture it succinctly, translate the idea, and then deliver it to the target audience.  

Moreover, writing comes from two angles. One angle is” construction, and that includes creating, novels, screenplays, poetry, webisodes, screenplays, etc. The other angle is “deconstruction, and that includes movie reviews, critiques, analysis, editing, etc.

 And, for those writers out there who love thinking, here is a good question for you.  If you can construct a story using certain steps, why can you not use the same steps to deconstruct a story?

How is scriptwriting different than writing a novel?

Because scriptwriting is focused on sight and sound, its simplicity forces you to layer your material more precisely than writing a novel. Scriptwriting is about layering, symbols, imagery, and using resonance for power (Spiritual/Emotional/Physical Worlds). Novels and Books are about the inner world of thoughts and abstract concepts (Spiritual World and Thought).
Stage plays are about the deep power of personal relationships (Emotional World and Dialogue).

Note: The above are about the primary strengths of each medium because as you will soon learn, there are exceptions to any and all rules.

In your script writing experience, what are the most common mistakes writers make?

The most common mistake is not planning before writing. Many writers rush to the first draft and after writing it, they go back and edit. The high profile Writing Studio software, Scrivener, allows you to work this way, though it is not efficient. With Scrivener, you can write your first draft and then break the script into “chunks” and/or “index cards” and arrange them accordingly. After using Scrivener or any mind-mapping application, a writer will never go back to using MS Word. Never, ever, ever, EVER!

What would you do if you found a novel that would make a great movie?

I would deal with the Legal issues first, by that I mean gaining the rights to the work. Unless this step is done, there is no point in starting the script. After that is done, focus on the logline, characters, sequences, and BS2 (Beat Sheet). The BS2 is a brilliant plot device from Blake Snyder.

What if an author thought their novel would make a good movie, what would they do to make it happen?

They have several avenues to make this happen. First, they can contact an agent, a manager, or a production company directly.  Next, they have the option of finding a screenwriter to convert their book into a screenplay. Then, they have several avenues of using The Writer’s Market, Screenwriting magazines, chat rooms, forums, LinkedIn, or several wonderful online resources.

Could you tell us about the Story Design Studio? 

After spending many years reading writing advice, I am well aware of the novice writer’s initial disgust. There’s so many terms to learn and then some of the terms mean the same thing, it is frustrating! Therefore, I designed the Story Design Studio as an online library of shortcuts into Story Structure. You have many systems available today (Pamela Jaye Smith’s Symbols*Images*Codes, The Moral Premise, Save The Cat, John Truby, Rob Tobin, My story can beat up your story, John Truby, etc.),  and without a thorough knowledge, the systems will confuse instead of helping writers. Therefore, when you are in doubt and disgust, go to the Story Design Studio and find an article to help you in every phase of the writing process.

What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?

I have a unique workflow because I have Major Projects, Minor Projects, and Works-in-Progress. Right now, the six major projects are as follows:

Angels in the Desert - When a bearded soldier is deployed to Desert Storm, his fight for survival puts him at gunpoint and makes him a Martyr. (THIS IS A TRUE STORY!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Two Tree Hill – When an NBA bound athlete gets his heart broken, he spends Spring Break in Daytona Beach and discovers love in the Fictional World of Tree Hill.

The Final Creation - A young and inexperienced angel is tasked with creating the Number NINE, but complications arise when heaven is compromised, and he must choose between saving God’s throne and stopping an illegal Crucifixion in Space.

The SAF Handbook - The realm and wonders of a new slang is permeating the US, are you SAF?

Conversation Fitness - This incredible Coffee Table book will keep your friends close, bring your buddies into the loop, and make you the life of the party!

The Weary Blues of Watching God – Forged and inspired by the Harlem Renaissance, MB invokes the spirit of Six Legendary Figures and again, we are blessed with the “Flowering of Negro Literature.”

For the future, I plan on completing 12 books of Poetry, a string of SAF books, and a Trilogy exploring UFO abductions, Religion, the fall of America, and Cyborg Technology.

What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write?

There is going to be millions of people with advice, seminars, places to be, and persons to meet. If you want to write, declare yourself as a writer and start writing. Trust your passion and your inner desires will steer you in the right direction.  That is a writing explanation.  

If I wanted to be Christian, I would say that God will guide you, and his angels will make sure you find your destination.  If I wanted to be Gnostic, I would say that your soul would lead you to the higher realms of Barbelo. If I chose Egypt, I would say listen to Jehuti’s declaration, follow Ma’at for guidance, and seat yourself along with Ra as his sacred Braque crosses the sky. You will find as you travel this journey, there are many ways to do one thing, and there are many ways to say one thing. Learn one thing first, and then move on to the others.


Writing is a lonely business and many of your favorite moments in life will be by yourself, learn to share your success or you are start becoming a MONK. The search to find your voice takes years, and despite what you hear, always trust in yourself. If you are mocked, scorned, and ridiculed, that is a clue you are on the right track. Learn to exist alongside others, but you need not act like others. Refrain from judging people, listen to everyone. Many of your most valuable insights will come from other people you think are less “literary.”

If you need an answer, stop looking in the same industry. If you have problems with story design, go look at how NASA designed their cockpits or study how sailboats work. The answer is out there, but it is probably not, where you think. Remember, look first where it should not be, and you will find an answer.

Master Joseph Campbell’s concept of The Hero’s Journey, because when you realize where you are, you’ll know what to do to go to the previous stage or to move forward to the next one. And, do not get egotistical because you finish the journey a few times, you will probably take the Journey thousands of times in your lifetime. Ensure you have friends of all colors, all religions, all ethnicities, and all cultures. If all your friends are the same, then your perception of life will be one color. How can your life become a beautiful rainbow when your friends are one color?
Learn the difference between your favorite movie and the best movie.

CAUTION: First and foremost, find out what makes you happy, and when you do, become ruthless and never let anyone or anything keep you from your “happy place.” This is your sanctuary and without being able to find this place, your life as a writer will become excruciatingly more complex.

Any system is better than NO system.
Study yourself and learn when you work best.

What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?

When angels saved me in the Desert. When I experienced God and I let this “knowing” lead me throughout my life. When I learned writing, painting, and music are based on primal principles. Because, when you use what you know in one area in another, your knowledge increases exponentially. If you push to become the smartest writer, you will become a MONK and lose contact with other people. Go out and experience life first; if not, what are you going to write about when it is time to start working? Everything you need is in your immediate area, have you looked in the right place?  Enjoy the journey and stop obsessing about the destination.


Maryann Miller said...

Really enjoyed the interview. As a screenwriter and novelist, I could relate, although I don't share the military background. LOL I do agree about the connectedness of all creativity.

yashodha patil said...

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