Once again I was not at the American Film Market is - first time in a couple of decades - but you can probably read my series of reports from 2010 on my blog. One of the standard elements of AFM are "flaps" - a page with the movie's poster on one side and a one page synopsis on the other side, Every movie has one... *needs* one in order to sell to all of the foreign territories. If *you* don't write the synopsis on the back of the flap, some salesman for the company will write it... do you really want some sales dude to write the synopsis for your film?

So, writing a one page synopsis is part of the screenwriter's job - I don't love it or hate it, I just do it.

I frequently use treatments and loglines as part of my writing process. By putting the story down on paper I can find out if I REALLY know what the story is about before I start writing 110 pages. It's a way to identify the important scenes, and make sure they connect. Sometimes things that seem to make complete sense in my mind make no sense at all on the page. It's the difference between the connections between characters and scenes and story that work in my imagination and what works in the more linear real world. If I don't know the essence of the story to write a logline, I'm not ready to write to do the 110 page version...

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But one pagers are a sales tool *for the screenplay*. They aren't something I write to get a better handle on the story so that I can go to script, they're something I write after I've finished the script in order to sell it. Ink Tip always wants a one page synopsis of your script, and so do many of the producers I query. Instead of giving away the plot beat-by-beat, I think of the synopsis as the back of a paperback book. It's the big story hook, the character and his or her main conflict, and a couple of really cool story highlights. I end on a cliff hanger (that big act 3 problem). It's designed to make the reader want to grab my script and start reading, NOT to give them all of the story beats so they can "pass" without reading it. Once you read the back of the paperback, you shell out the money to buy the book and find out WHAT HAPPENS.

My one pagers are usually used by the production company for the back of their sales "flaps" (8.5 x 11 cards with the poster on the front and the synopsis on the back, given to foreign distributors in hopes they'll buy the rights to the film), and have also ended up as the back of the DVD or BluRay packaging! Basically the synopsis BECOMES the back of the paperback book - used to entice customers to buy my video instead of any of the others. Sometimes these synopsis end up on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon - because it's easier to use a synopsis that already exists than to hore a writer to create one. And the great thing about this is that the Netflix customer ends up with the synopsis of the story that reflects what *I* want them to know.

Think of the synopsis as a sales tool. It's purpose isn't to tell the story, it's to SELL the story. Look at paperback books. Don't worry about beginning, middle and end: they'll have to read the script for the details. Write a 250 word pitch for your script. One kick-ass page designed to hook the reader and make them beg for the script. That means we aren't giving away the ending, and we're using as many cliff-hanger questions as we can to make them wonder how your protagonist is ever going to get out of this mess.

* * *


When pretty college student Maggie Shanner receives and invitation to her great grand-father "Big Daddy" Wingfield's 104th birthday celebration, it's a chance for her to get out from under her mother's thumb for an entire week. Her over-protective mother, Catherine, wants her to dump her boyfriend and live at home until she meets Mr. Right and gets married... and stay away from her crazy great-grandfather. Big Daddy Wingfield is a patent medicine millionaire who lives alone on private island off the coast of Florida. No one has seen him for decades. Catherine hints that he's a recluse because of some strange dark incident in his past. A sinister family secret.

Maggie and her abrasive opportunist boyfriend Stanley join the other great grandchildren for a week on the private island paradise: failed ex-quarterback Brick and his trailer-trash wife Charlotte, plus aggressive lesbian poet Blanche. Why would Big Daddy invite only the great grand kids... unless he's thinking of revising his will to include some of them? All five begin plotting against each other to gain "first position" in Big Daddy's will, with Stanley pulling every dirty trick in the book to come out on top.

But once they arrive on the spooky private island, the fight to be included in the will becomes a fight for survival... because something lurks in the swamps surrounding Big Daddy's mansion. Something that feeds at night...

A frightening genetic mutation: half-man, half-alligator. A ferocious freak that hides in the tall grass, lurks in the shadows, and attacks when you least expect it. Tearing off limbs with its razor-sharp teeth. Chomping a human torso in half with its powerful jaws. The result of one of Big Daddy's experiments gone wrong?

With no way off the island, Maggie and the others must stay alive long enough to discover the family secret behind the half-man, half alligator freak. The secret to why Big Daddy may be 104 years old, but only looks 50. The secret to why Catherine waited until she was in her late 30s before giving birth to Maggie.

Because these five aren't in competition for a place in the will, Big Daddy is really trying to find the best experiment subject (with his DNA) so that he can create a new half-man, half-gator to regenerate internal organs so that he can stay forever young. He's found the fountain of youth in Florida... and it's gators! That creature who stalks the swamps at night, feeding on human flesh... is Maggie's half-brother!

GATORBABY is a tale that blends the terror of JAWS with the Southern Gothic sensibilities of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. One horror-filled week trapped on an island with a monster... and no way to escape it's powerful jaws.

Every family has its secrets, but this one has teeth!

* * *

The idea is to give the reader the basic story. Though I've left my contact information off this example (I don't want all of you to call me a 3am), you need to have a phone number and e-mail address on your synopsis so that they can get in touch with you if they want to read your script. Here's another example...

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* * *


FACT: Right before the war in Afghanistan the National Security Administration ramped up their gene splicing experiments, combining genetic material from the super-intelligent German Shepard search & rescue dog created for the Army's 41st Scout Dog Division (Rover-7) with genetic materials from desert dwelling scorpions to create the ultimate tunnel dog designed to search the caves of Afghanistan for Osama Bin Laden and the Al Quaida terrorists. The genetic mutations, know as "splicers" in the scientific community, were never deployed. Al Quaeda and Osama became old news and we refocused on Iraq and Saddam. Who cares if Osama is still hiding in some tunnel in Afghanistan? The half dog, half scorpion "splicers" continue to be bread in a Los Angeles area laboratory for possible use in some other war.

FICTION: When a rolling black out interrupts power to the electronic cages, several of the beasts escape... all but one was recovered. Unfortunately, that one was pregnant. The biotech scientist in charge of the program, Franklin Murnau, believes the splicer went into the subway tunnels to give birth to its litter. Subway passengers are beginning to disappear - eaten by the splicers - and ridership is down. After the 100th passenger is eaten, the Mayor closes the subway for 48 hours to allow a Special Forces team to eradicate the beasts.

To find the beasts in the miles of subway tunnels and sewers that stretch under the city of Los Angeles, General Matheson wants the super-intelligent Rover-7 search and rescue dog (Sevi) from Fort Benning. Sevi has a genius IQ and has been fitted with a communications device which translates the dog's brainwaves into English so that a human handler with a special headset can understand him. (Timmy doesn't need to interpret Lassie's barks to know there's trouble at the old mill, he can hear his thoughts.) Matheson doesn't want Sevi's handler, burned out Army Sgt. Paul Johnson, but the dog insists... the two are a team. Sevi doesn't care that Paul blew a mission during Desert Storm because he became paralyzed by fear... the two are best friends.

In the maze of tunnels under the city the Special Forces team (five men and two women), General Matheson, splicer creator Murnau, Sevi and Paul search the shadows for the escaped creatures. The splicers have the advantage - they were designed to hunt in tunnels. Springing from the darkness, scorpion tail piercing the body armor of Special Forces soldiers; soon it becomes the ultimate battle between man and beast... with Sevi somewhere in between. These splicers were created with his genetic material - they are like his children. All bad seeds.

After being attacked by a pack of splicers, half of the Special Forces team are killed and Paul and Sevi become separated in the labyrinth of tunnels. Can Paul survive without his best friend? Will Sevi help the humans, or run with the pack? Will the splicers continue to multiply and take over LA - feasting on humans?

SPLICERS is a sci-fi action script in the tradition of "A Boy And His Dog", "Aliens" and the classic "Them" about the ultimate battle between man and beast.

* * *
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This page is also a sample of your writing, so if your script is a comedy the reader should laugh outloud a couple of times, be left in suspense if it's a thriller, cry if it's a drama. The tone of the synopsis is connected to the genre of your script. A gritty and realistic synopsis for a light comedy isn't going to work!

By the way, lately I've been putting my synopsis on the back of mock-up posters. My theory is that it makes the script seem more like a film... more real. Also, it shows the producer how the finished film might be sold.

* * *


A 737 on the Chicago to DC shuttle run has been hijacked.

Onboard the plane: 5 hijackers with a bomb wired to explode if the plane ventures below 20,000 feet. Their demands: Freedom for a dozen comrades picked up in the post-9-11 sweeps... Strange - because the hijackers are American.

Also onboard: Burned out bodyguard Jackson Bolt, on his way to DC for a Congressional hearing concerning the whistle blower assassinated while under his protection. With no way to get an anti-terrorist team onto the plane, it's up to Bolt to save the passengers... Without repeating his past mistakes.

As the 737 enters the holding pattern for Washington National Airport, another scenario presents itself: What if the bomb is nuclear, and the hijacker's REAL plan is to destroy Washington DC, and throw the United States government into chaos? Is this the second wave of terrorism?

Or could it be a group of clever thieves cashing in on post-9-11 paranoia to ransom a plane full of passengers for millions? Or is there something valuable on the plane? Is this a mid-air heist? Disguised to look like an act of terrorism?

Bolt, armed only with a cell phone and a Samsonite suitcase, must play a deadly game of cat and mouse with the thieves... While convincing a trigger happy Homeland Security Agent *not* to blast them from the sky. With no where to run, and very few places to hide, he must secretly organize his fellow passengers against the thieves. But time and airplane fuel are running out...

One of the passengers is working for the thieves. Providing them with inside information about him. Is it the single mom? The quiet businessman? The sexy business woman? The father returned from his son's funeral? Or the stewardess Bolt has been flirting with? Who can he trust? Who will betray him?

"ALTITUDE" is a non-stop thrill ride in the tradition of "Die Hard", "Speed", and "The Taking Of Pelham 1-2-3". This is one plane you don't want to miss!

* * *

If you've pitched your script to the producer, you've probably given them 250 word already! The producer has enough info to decide if they're going to read it or not. The synopsis is just a reminder of what you've said. I frequently send one pagers to producers - it's more than a logline but less than a treatment. They can get a good idea of who the protagonist is, the concept, and how the conflict escalates... but only have to read a single page. If the producer reads my synopsis and requests a script, I always send a synopsis for ANOTHER script with the requested script. That way I always have a chance. Part of this job is just keeping your scripts in circulation until the right script hits the right producer and BINGO!

You've just got a read.

You may think you can do a better job writing a synopsis than any of mine... and you're probably right.


How Do I do That?



New to screenwriting? You probably have questions! How do I get an Agent? How do I write a phone conversation? Do I need a Mentor? What’s does VO and OC and OS mean? What is proper screenplay format? Should I use a pen name? Do I need to movie to Hollywood? What’s the difference between a Producer and a Production Manager, and which should I sell my script to? How do I write a Text Message? Should I Copyright or WGA register my script? Can I Direct or Star? How do I write an Improvised scene? Overcoming Writer’s Block? How do I write a Sex Scene? And many many more! This book has the answers to the 101 Most Asked Questions from new screenwriters! Plus a Glossary of terms so that you can sound like a pro! Everything you need to know to begin writing your screenplay!

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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.

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Mitch Robertson stepped over the body of an ex-child star turned sex tape star turned pop star and entered the room, spotted a gun on the floor and picked it up... careful not to spill his coffee with three pumps of mocha syrup from Penny’s Coffee Shop. That coffee was gold, the only thing keeping him going in this dazed state of wakefulness. The gun felt light. Holding it, he saw the silhouette of an 80s action star sitting sideways on a tipped over chair. Motionless. Was he dead? Mitch was still hung over from the Awards Party the night before, and wondered whether this was all some sort of crazy nightmare that he would wake up from... but when he tripped over the brown legs of a bottomless Superhero, flaccid junk encased in a condom but still wearing his mask, and hit the edge of the sofa, gun skittering and coffee spilling, he realized that it was all very real. What the hell had happened here?"

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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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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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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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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!

ONLY $4.99 - and no postage!



*** 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!

ONLY $4.99 - and no postage!


All About Rewrites!


Rewriting In Waves?

*** REWRITES Blue Book! - For Kindle!

The end is just the beginning! You’ve finished your story, but now the rewriting begins! This 405 page book shows you how to rewrite your screenplay or novel to perfection. Everything from Character Consistency to Shoeboxing to How To Give And Receive Notes to 15 Solutions If Your Script’s Too Long! and 15 Solutions If Your Script’s Too Short! to Finding The Cause Of A Story Problem to Good Notes Vs. Bad Notes to Finding Beta Readers to Avoiding Predictability to Learning To Be Objective About Your Work to Script Killer Notes and Notes From Idiots to Production Rewrites and What The Page Colors Mean? and a Complete Rewrite Checklist! The complete book on Rewriting Your Story!

ONLY $4.99 - and no postage!

All About Endings!



The Perfect Ending For Your Story!

The First Ten Pages Of Your Screenplay Are Critical,
But What About The Last 10 Pages?

Creating the perfect ending to your story! This 100,000 word book shows you how to end your story with a bang, rather than a whimper. Everything from Resolution Order to Act Three Tools to Happy or Sad Endings? to How The Beginning Of Your Story Has Clues To The Ending (in case you were having trouble figuring out how the story should end) to Falling Action to How To Avoid Bad Endings to Writing The Perfect Twist Ending to Setting Up Sequels & Series to Emotional Resolutions to How To Write Post Credit Sequences to Avoiding Deus Ex Machinas, to 20 Different Types Of Ends (and how to write them) and much more! Everything about endings for your screenplay or novel!

Only: $4.99

NO KINDLE REQUIRED! Get the *free* app (any device, except your Mr. Coffee) on the order page on Amazon!




Distilling Your Screenplay!

Loglines, Treatments, Pitching, Look Books, Pitch Decks, One Pagers, Rip-O-Matics?

You have written a brilliant 110 page screenplay, but how do you get anyone to read it? You need to distill it down into some form of verbal moonshine or story rocket fuel that will ignite that bored development executive or manager or agent and get them to request your screenplay. But how do you shrink those 110 pages into a 25 word logline or a 2 minute elevator pitch or a one page synopsis or a short paragraph? This 100,000 word book shows you how! Everything you need to know! From common logline mistakes (and how to solve them) to how your pitch can reveal story problems to the 4 types of pitches!

272 Pages - ONLY $4.99!



*** BREAKING IN BLUE BOOK *** - For Kindle!

Should really be called the BUSINESS BLUE BOOK because it covers almost everything you will need to know for your screenwriting career: from thinking like a producer and learning to speak their language, to query letters and finding a manager or agent, to making connections (at home and in Hollywood) and networking, to the different kinds of meetings you are will have at Studios, to the difference between a producer and a studio, to landing an assignment at that meeting and what is required of you when you are working under contract, to contracts and options and lawyers and... when to run from a deal! 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!



Movie Magic Screenwriter is the best selling screenplay formatting software and the choice of Hollywood professionals. Screenwriter automatically formats while you write so you can focus on what you're writing, not where it goes on the page. It also formats for television, stage, novels and comic book scripts so you've got an all in one package for any story you want to write. Academy Award Tech Winner!

* * * Buy It!

copyright 2024 by William C. Martell

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bluebook 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.

Furious Action Class

Cult Films, Exploitation, Bikers & Women In Prison, Monster Movies.

Producing my own scripts, investment possibilities, pipe dreams.


Naked Class The NAKED SCREENWRITING CLASS ON CD! The 2001 London Class on 8 CDs! Recorded *live* the morning after the Raindance Film Festival wrapped. The two day class on 8CDs, plus a workbook, plus a bonus CD with PDFs.
The 2 Day Class on CD!


Every screenwriting book in the world!
In Association With
From the latest screenwriting book to guides for finding agents and producers... all with at the discount!


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 Market!


My nineteen produced films, interviews with me in magazines, several sample scripts, my available scripts list... And MORE!
...............................BILL'S CORNER

Available Scripts


Take classes on CD!