FRIDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:
OPENING WITH CHARACTER
I often begin a script by introducing my
lead character in the middle of a personal conflict. The type of
conflict we can all relate to. But I make sure the conflict is
dramatic enough that you'll want to find out how our hero
resolves it. After introducing the personal conflict, and gaining
the reader's sympathy for the lead, I thrust him into the
script's main conflict... All within ten pages. (more or less)
That means you need to find one scene that gives us as much information as possible... in an emotional situation. Screenwriting is *condensed* writing, so we are looking for a scene that does many different things at once and gives us the most information in the fewest number of pages. If your protagonist suddenly develops a wife and child on page 30, the audience is going to wonder where the heck they came from. It’s like you just created them, instead of like they were there all along. You want to give the audience as much information about your protagonist as you can right away, so that you can jump into the story.
Part of that is not wasting time by introducing your protagonist again and again. You introduce him as a cop in one scene. You introduce him as a husband in another scene. You introduce him as a father in a third scene. You introduce him as a New Yorker coming to Los Angeles in a fourth scene. You introduce him as a normal guy - human and vulnerable - in a fifth scene. By introducing each aspect of the character in a separate scene, you may burn through 20 pages just giving us the basics of who this guy is! That's wasting a lot of time before you get to the story.
Instead, find the one scene that gives us all of this information at the same time, so that we can jump right into the story. That's what happens in that first scene on the plane in DIE HARD - we get one scene that gives us all of these aspects of John McClane. He's estranged from his wife and children and has come to Los Angeles to be with them on Christmas Day. Oh, and he's carrying a gun onboard and airplane! He explains that it's okay, because he's a cop. There's an emotional aspect involved with his estranged wife and children... before we introduce Hans Gruber and get to the action. Oh, and we know the action is coming because of that gun we see in the first minute or two on the airplane.
That airplane scene doesn't give us the names of his children - you don't have to give us every detail right up front - but it gives us a sense of exactly who this character is in *one* scene instead of a half dozen scenes. We know he's a dad - he has Christmas gifts for his kids. The details can be filled in later - but the important aspects of his character are all there in *one* scene. The audience knows all of the important stuff about the protagonist and we can dive into the story.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD is all about Daniel Day Lewis' character. He's a relentless man. Driven. Probably crazy. In the opening scene he's deep in a vertical mine shaft, chipping away with an axe - relentlessly chipping. He finds some gold or silver (I forget which) trapped in the rock... and lights a stick of dynamite, wedging it next to the gold. Then has to climb up a rickety wood ladder as the fuse burns. Suspense! He gets to the top, just as the dynamite explodes! He climbs back down, gets halfway out before part of the wooden ladder breaks... and he falls all the way to the bottom of the mine. Breaking his leg. *Really* beaking it. He drags himself to the place where the gold was... finds the chunk of ore-rich rock, puts it in his pocket. So he's laying at the bottom of the mine shaft with his leg at an unnatural angle and some gold in his pocket... and he climbs his way out and drags himself all the way back to town to cash in his gold. Laying on the floor, leg still messed up, while they cut him a check. That's who Daniel Plainview is - relentless, almost emotionless, and all about the money.
My script ALTITUDE begins with Jason Bolt's girlfriend
breaking up with him. A couple of pages of painful drama, as he tries
everything to keep the relationship, but fails. She dumps him.
Distracted by his personal problems, Bolt boards a plane for a
business trip. When the pretty Stewardess flirts with him, he
doesn't even notice. He's down in the dumps. Then, on page nine,
the plane is hijacked by terrorists.
WHAM! I began by involving the reader in Bolt's
relationship problem. Only TWO characters to introduce. I keep
the breakup scene dramatic and suspenseful... Then, just when you
think they'll patch up the relationship, she dumps him. We've all
been there, and we can all identify with his problem. Will he
reunite with his girlfriend? If not, will he get over her and
love again? Will he go out with the stewardess?
While the reader is worried about Bolt's love life, I hit
them with the action plot. Adding more problems to be
But first, I INVOLVE them in Bolt's life, make the reader
CARE about Bolt, worry about him. So when the action kicks in,
the reader has a stake in the outcome. It's not some stranger on
the hijacked plane, it's their friend.
There may be times when you want to with hold information about your protagonist *on purpose* in order to reveal it later - kind of a "character twist" (like a plot twist) where the audience discovers the protagonist we thought we knew has a secret that changes the direction of the story in some way. Again - this is done *on purpose* - you are revealing that the protagonist has a wife and kid on page 30 for a specific reason. The story would not have worked as well had we known about them beforehand.
You want to be in control of your story at all times. You want your writing to be *precise* rather than sloppy. And you don't want to waste the audience's time with a half dozen introductions for a single character. Find the scene that does it all - and does it in an emotionally involving way, so that you can get into the story.
Opening with character requires the ability to create
compelling characters and dramatic situations. It isn't easy. But
characters ARE the backbone of story. A chase involving people we
don't care about is boring, not exciting. We need to involve the
reader in our lead character's life as soon as possible, so that
what happens next on screen happens to someone they care
Want to look like an expert?
RESEARCH & WORLD BUILDING Blue Book!
Does this gun fire 6 shots or only 5? In all of the excitement of writing your action scene, you might not have done the research... and your hero could be out of ammo! Whether you are writing a novel or screenplay, you can save your hero, and your story, by doing a little research first! This book looks at Why you should research, Whether you should research First or Later, PLUS the importance of World Building in Science Fiction, Fantasy... and the worlds you explore in every other genre. Movies like JOHN WICK and THE GODFATHER take place in their own unique worlds... and writers must create them! YOU are the technical advisor on your Screenplay or Novel.
Using movie examples like TOP GUN, HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, BLUE CRUSH, ADVENTURE LAND, several of my produced films, JOHN WICK, the novels of Donald E. Westlake and Thomas B. Dewey, SPY KIDS, the LORD OF THE RINGS movies, SOYLENT GREEN (which takes place in the far off future of 2022), and many others we will look at researching stories and creating worlds. The 8 Types Of Research, the 10 Types Of Information To Look For, 12 Important Elements Of World Building. Plus chapters on How To Rob A Bank and Commit Murder And Get Away With It for those of you interested in crime fiction, and Researching The Future for those writing science fiction, and Levels Of Reality if you are writing about a version of the real world.
No matter what you are writing, this book will help you find the facts... or make them up in a convincing way! END OF MAY.
Can You Make It bigger?
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All About Endings!
GRAND FINALES Blue Book!
The Perfect Ending For Your Story!
The First Ten Pages Of Your Screenplay Are Critical,
But What About The Last 10 Pages?
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Making Your Own Movie?
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THE MISSION IMPOSSIBLE MOVIES
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*** THE BOURNE MOVIES
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My New Script Secrets Newsletter!
OUTLINES & THE THEMATIC!
OUTLINES & THE THEMATIC Blue Book.
ARE YOUR SCENES IN THE RIGHT ORDER?
AND ARE THEY THE RIGHT SCENES?
Your story is like a road trip... but where are you going? What's the best route to get there? What are the best sights to see along the way? Just as you plan a vacation instead of just jump in the car and start driving, it's a good idea to plan your story. An artist does sketches before breaking out the oils, so why shouldn't a writer do the same? This Blue Book looks at various outlining methods used by professional screenwriters like Wesley Strick, Paul Schrader, John August, and others... as well as a guest chapter on novel outlines. Plus a whole section on the Thematic Method of generating scenes and characters and other elements that will be part of your outline. The three stages of writing are: Pre-writing, Writing, and Rewriting... this book looks at that first stage and how to use it to improve your screenplays and novels.
DESCRIPTION & VOICE Blue Book!
DESCRIPTION & VOICE Blue Book.
IS HALF OF YOUR STORY IN TROUBLE?
Most screenplays are about a 50/50 split between dialogue and description - which means your description is just as important as your dialogue. It just gets less press because the audience never sees it, the same reason why screenwriters get less press than movie stars. But your story will never get to the audience until readers and development executives read your script... so it is a very important factor. Until the movie is made the screenplay is the movie and must be just as exciting as the movie. So how do you make your screenplay exciting to read? Description is important in a novel as well, and the “audience” does read it... how do we write riveting description?
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William Goldman says the most important single element of any screenplay is structure. It’s the skeleton under the flesh and blood of your story. Without it, you have a spineless, formless, mess... a slug! How do you make sure your structure is strong enough to support your story? How do you prevent your story from becoming a slug? This Blue Book explores different types of popular structures from the basic three act structure to more obscure methods like leap-frogging. We also look at structure as a verb as well as a noun, and techniques for structuring your story for maximum emotional impact. Most of the other books just look at *structure* and ignore the art of *structuring* your story. Techniques to make your story a page turner... instead of a slug!
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This book uses seventeen of Hitchcock’s films to show the difference between suspense and surprise, how to use “focus objects” to create suspense, the 20 iconic suspense scenes and situations, how plot twists work, using secrets for suspense, how to use Dread (the cousin of suspense) in horror stories, and dozens of other amazing storytelling lessons. From classics like “Strangers On A Train” and “The Birds” and “Vertigo” and “To Catch A Thief” to older films from the British period like “The 39 Steps” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” to his hits from the silent era like “The Lodger” (about Jack The Ripper), we’ll look at all of the techniques to create suspense!
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WRITING HORROR - The essentials of a horror screenplay - what do ROSEMARY'S BABY, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE EXORCIST, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE OTHERS and OPEN WATER have in common? This class will tell you! All of the critical elements necessary to write a script that scares the pants off the audience. Writing Horror is $10.00 (plus $5 S&H).
Click here for more information on CLASS MP3s!
THE BOOK THAT STARTED IT ALL!
*** THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING *** - For Kindle!
*** THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING *** - For Nook!
Why pay $510 for a used version of the 240 page 2000 version that used to retail for $21.95? (check it out!) when
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"SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING is the
best book on the practical nuts-and-bolts mechanics of writing a screenplay I've ever read."
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READY TO BREAK IN?
*** BREAKING IN BLUE BOOK *** - For Kindle!
Should really be called the BUSINESS BLUE BOOK because it covers almost everything you will need to
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Information you can use *now* to move your career forward! It's all here in the Biggest Blue Book yet!
Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 400 pages!
$4.99 - and no postage!
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STORY: WELL TOLD!
*** STORY: WELL TOLD *** - For Kindle!
This book takes you step-by-step through the construction of a story... and how to tell a story well, why Story always starts with character... but ISN'T character, Breaking Your Story, Irony, Planting Information, Evolving Story, Leaving No Dramatic Stone Unturned, The Three Greek Unities, The Importance Of Stakes, The Thematic Method, and how to create personal stories with blockbuster potential. Ready to tell a story?
Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 85,000 words - 251 pages!
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MOVIES ARE CHARACTERS!
*** CREATING STRONG PROTAGONISTS *** - For Kindle!
*** CREATING STRONG PROTAGONISTS *** - For Nook!
Expanded version with more ways to create interesting protagonists! A step-by-step guide to creating "take charge" protagonists. Screenplays are about characters in conflict... characters in emotional turmoil... Strong three dimensional protagonists who can find solutions to their problems in 110 pages. But how do you create characters like this? How do you turn words into flesh and blood? Character issues, Knowing Who Is The Boss, Tapping into YOUR fears, The Naked Character, Pulp Friction, Man With A Plan, Character Arcs, Avoiding Cliche People, Deep Characterization, Problem Protagonists, 12 Ways To Create Likable Protagonists (even if they are criminals), Active vs. Reactive, The Third Dimension In Character, Relationships, Ensemble Scripts, and much, much more. Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is once again around 205 pages!
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ACT TWO SOLUTIONS!
*** ACT TWO SECRETS *** - For Kindle!
Expanded version with more techniques to help you through the desert of Act Two! Subjects Include: What Is Act Two? Inside Moves, The 2 Ps: Purpose & Pacing, The 4Ds: Dilemma, Denial, Drama and Decision, Momentum, the Two Act Twos, Subplot Prisms, Deadlines, Drive, Levels Of Conflict, Escalation, When Act Two Begins and When Act Two Ends, Scene Order, Bite Sized Pieces, Common Act Two Issues, Plot Devices For Act Two, and dozens of others. Over 67,000 words (that’s well over 200 pages) of tools and techniques to get you through the desert of Act Two alive!
Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is well over 200 pages!
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*** SUPPORTING CHARACTER SECRETS *** - For Kindle! (Exclusive)
Expanded version with more techniques to flesh out your Supporting Characters and make them individuals. Using the hit movie BRIDESMAIDS as well as other comedies like THE HANGOVER and TED and HIGH FIDELITY and
40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN and many other examples we look at ways to make your Supporting Characters come alive on the page.
Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is around 170 pages!
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ADVICE FROM 1920!
*** VINTAGE #1: HOW TO WRITE PHOTOPLAYS *** - For Kindle!
Screenwriting books have been around as long as films have. This series reprints vintage screenwriting books with a new introduction and history, plus new articles which look at how these lessons from almost 100 years ago apply to today’s screenplays. Anita Loos book is filled with information which still applies.
In addition to the full text of the original book, you get the full screenplay to Miss Loos' hit THE LOVE EXPERT, plus several new articles on the time period and women in Hollywood.
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I WRITE PICTURES!
*** VISUAL STORYTELLING *** - For Kindle! (exclusive)
Show Don't Tell - but *how* do you do that? Here are techniques to tell stories visually! Using Oscar Winning Films and Oscar Nominated Films as our primary examples: from the first Best Picture Winner "Sunrise" (1927) to the Oscar Nominated "The Artist" (which takes place in 1927) with stops along the way Pixar's "Up" and Best Original Screenplay Winner "Breaking Away" (a small indie style drama - told visually) as well as "Witness" and other Oscar Winners as examples... plus RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 200 pages!
ONLY $4.99 - and no postage!
*** YOUR IDEA MACHINE *** - For Kindle!
*** YOUR IDEA MACHINE *** - For Nook!
Expanded version with more ways to find great ideas! Your screenplay is going to begin with an idea. There are good ideas and bad ideas and commercial ideas and personal ideas. But where do you find ideas in the first place? This handbook explores different methods for finding or generating ideas, and combining those ideas into concepts that sell. The Idea Bank, Fifteen Places To Find Ideas, Good Ideas And Bad Ideas, Ideas From Locations And Elements, Keeping Track Of Your Ideas, Idea Theft - What Can You Do? Weird Ways To Connect Ideas, Combing Ideas To Create Concepts, High Concepts - What Are They? Creating The Killer Concept, Substitution - Lion Tamers & Hitmen, Creating Blockbuster Concepts, Magnification And The Matrix, Conflict Within Concept, Concepts With Visual Conflict, Avoiding Episodic Concepts, much more! Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 175 pages!
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PRO DIALOGUE TECHNIQUES!
*** DIALOGUE SECRETS *** - For Kindle!
*** DIALOGUE SECRETS *** - For Nook!
Expanded version with more ways to create interesting dialogue! How to remove bad dialogue (and what *is* bad dialogue), First Hand Dialogue, Awful Exposition, Realism, 50 Professional Dialogue Techniques you can use *today*, Subtext, Subtitles, Humor, Sizzling Banter, *Anti-Dialogue*, Speeches, and more. Tools you can use to make your dialogue sizzle! Special sections that use dialogue examples from movies as diverse as "Bringing Up Baby", "Psycho", "Double Indemnity", "Notorious", the Oscar nominated "You Can Count On Me", "His Girl Friday", and many more! Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 175 pages!
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Use your creative energy to focus on the content; let Final Draft take care of the style. Final Draft is the number-one selling application specifically designed for writing movie scripts, television episodics and stage plays. Its ease-of-use and time-saving features have attracted writers for almost two decades positioning Final Draft as the Professional Screenwriters Choice. Final Draft power users include Academy, Emmy and BAFTA award winning writers like Oliver Stone, Tom Hanks, Alan Ball, J.J. Abrams, James Cameron and more.
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E BOOKS PAGE
E BOOKS: New Blue Books and Novelettes!
I am expanding all of the Blue Books from around 44 pages of
text to around 200 pages! Some are over 250 pages! See what is availabale and what is coming soon!Also, I've been writing Novelletes and there
will soon be novels.
E BOOKS: BLUE BOOKS & NOVELLETES
MY OTHER SITES
B MOVIE WORLD
Cult Films, Exploitation, Bikers & Women In Prison, Monster Movies.
FIRST STRIKE PRODUCTIONS
Producing my own scripts, investment possibilities, pipe dreams.
NAKED SCREENWRITING MP3s
The NAKED SCREENWRITING CLASS ON MP3!
The 2001 London Class on 8 MP3s! Recorded *live* the morning after the Raindance Film Festival
wrapped. The two day class on 8MP3s, plus a workbook, plus a bonus MP3 with PDFs.
The 2 Day Class on MP3!
Every screenwriting book in the world!
In Association With Amazon.com
From the latest screenwriting book to
guides for finding agents and producers... all with at the
BOOKLETS & PRODUCTS
FIRST STRIKE BLUE BOOKS
Each Blue Book is 48
pages and focuses on a different aspect of screenwriting. Dialogue. Visual Storytelling. Your First Ten Pages. Act 2 Booster. Protagonists. Great Endings.
Seventeen Blue Books now available!
THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING The Best Nuts & Bolts Screenwriting Book On The
nineteen produced films, interviews with me in magazines,
several sample scripts, my available scripts list... And MORE!
CLASSES ON MP3
CLASSES ON MP3! Take a class on MP3! GUERRILLA MARKETING - NO AGENT? NO PROBLEM! and WRITING THRILLERS (2 Full length classes on MP3). Now Available: IDEAS & CREATIVITY, WRITING HORROR, WRITING INDIE FILMS, more!
Take classes on MP3!