FRIDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:
Everything is connected in a story. Every character, every conflict, every plot thread, every scene is part on that one story... that one main conflict. You can find every character and subplot on your story’s Throughline - the storyline that begins with your story’s conflict and ends with it’s resolution. Any subplot that isn’t on that throughline is filler material of some sort... and garbage. Get rid of it! As I’ve said before, a scene with your protagonist and their best friend may be on the throughline, but a scene with the best friend and their barber probably is not on the throughline. The further you get away from the protagonist struggling with their problem, the more likely you are writing for the trash can. Stay on track! Every scene and every character needs to be part of your that throughline - part of the story you are telling. Your subplots will part of that main conflict that the protagonist is struggling with... like splinter beams from a prism. Each beam illustrates a different aspect of the main conflict or shows a different step in the solution of the main conflict. Dealing with each subplot moves your protagonist closer to the solution of the main plot. Or each character's relationship to your protagonist may be a little story that helps to illustrate the theme of the big story. Everything is connected.
In the Story Blue Book we look at the Three Greek Unities - a concept that has been around for only 2,400 years that show how each part of a story is connected. There are no stray story threads that do not lead to the conclusion of the story. EVERY piece of your story adds up. In the Supporting Characters Blue Book we look at how every subplot and supporting character serves a purpose in your story and is part of the main conflict. And in the Outlines & The Thematic Blue Book we look at throughlines and theme - and how every element in a story is connected by theme and that throughline. But is that true for all movies? All stories? Can’t you write some ramshackle indie film that just goes from incident to incident without making any sense?
Let’s look at two recent movies and one older film... and for fun, our two recent movies are almost polar opposites to show how all of the pieces of a story are connected... and two of the films are indie dramas, one of which *appears* to just mosey along from scene to scene. Our blockbuster is very busy and fast paced, our new indie example appears to be practically plotless. Let’s begin with the fun blockbuster sequel superhero movie...
ANT-MAN & THE WASP (2018) might be the most fun Marvel movie ever made, and builds on the first film in interesting and fun ways. I was originally worried about the original when fellow Raindance Film Fest juror Edgar Wright left the project, but Peyton Reed and writers (Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers and Paul Rudd\ & Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari) made a great stand alone film about a very reluctant superhero and followed up with an even better film that secretly focuses on family.
The film opens in the past when a younger Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his wife Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) leave their young daughter Hope behind as they go on a mission as Ant-Man and Wasp for SHIELD to stop a Russian nuclear missile which has already been launched and is headed to the USA. In order to disarm the missile Janet must shrink down to sub atomic... the mission is a success, by Janet is now stranded in the Quantum Realm and feared dead. Pym must return home to tell his daughter that her mother is gone...
Okay, great way to start a superhero movie because it tugs at the heartstrings... and establishes our plot: Pym trying to rescue his wife Janet from the Quantum Realm. Everything in the story is connected to that. Oh, and it also introduces how characters are connected: the emotional side of this story will be about fathers and daughters. Though Pym misses his wife, his main motivation seems to be returning his daughter’s mom. Pym doesn’t get along with *anyone* and is trying to win the love of his daughter.
Present Day: Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has been under house arrest for three years after the events in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR... and is introduced playing with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) in a maze he’s built in his house... because his ankle bracelet prohibits him from leaving the house. Father and daughter scene cuts to father and daughter scene - do you think there will be more fathers and daughters in this story? You bet! Scott went into the Quantum Realm in the earlier story and is now having dreams about it - and those dreams include Janet. She’s alive.
The rest of the movie is about rescuing Janet from the Quantum Realm - Pym and his adult daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) are building a FANTASTIC VOYAGE inspired submarine that can go sub-atomic through a TIME TUNNEL inspired shrinking device, to find Janet and bring her back. And all of the complications come from that rescue mission. They need to find a way to spring Scott, since he has been “in contact” with Janet and is the key to locating her inside the Quantum Realm... which leads to involvement from comic relief antagonist FBI Agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) who is in charge of making sure that Scott serves his full sentence. They also need an expensive black market part for their shrinking device... which leads to involvement from serious antagonist Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) who sells black market technology and thinks Hope’s device has military applications that can make him rich. When Hope goes to buy the part, she is attacked by another serious antagonist, The Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) who can alter her atoms to materialize and dematerialize at will... who thinks the part can help save her from completely dematerializing. The Ghost is the adopted *daughter* of... Dr. Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) who is Pym’s very ex-partner.
We now have three sets of fathers and daughters as well as *families* for these characters who are part of the story. Each character is directly involved in the central story - and even though we have a very busy story will all kinds of subplots - those subplots are all connected to the main plot, as are all of the characters. Every scene is about one of our three protagonist characters (Ant-Man, Wasp, Pym) or one of our three antagonist characters (Jimmy Woo, Sonny, The Ghost) as those characters relate to the central story. Scott has two families who are also part of the story and reinforce the family aspects of the story which include the fathers and daughter’s: Scott’s ex-wife (Judy Greer) and her husband (Bobby Cannavale), and Scott’s “business family” - the ex-cons he works with at his security company: show stealers Michael Pena and David Dastmalchian and TIP Harris - all three comic relief characters, but every scene they are in impacts the main plot - no scenes that do not impact the rescue mission.
Here’s an example: the security company is almost bankrupt and has one big deal that can keep them going, and they need Scott to help with it. That leads to a moment where Pena’s character accidentally gives away Scott’s location. And at the end of the story, some of the equipment the company has purchased for that big job gets used to help rescue Janet by recovering the equipment. But that big deal? There are no scenes with the company they are dealing with. There are no scenes about the big deal. The only scenes are related to the central story of rescuing Janet. Part of the happy ending (spoiler) is that, as a result of capturing the bad guys preventing them from rescuing Janet, the security company’s fame lands them the big deal (and others). But there are no scenes featuring the big deal - the story is about rescuing Janet from the Quantum Realm. Every scene is on that throughline.
Three father and daughter characters - coincidence? Nope! Everything is connected.
THE OLD MAN WITH A GUN (2018) is about as far removed from ANT-MAN & THE WASP as you can get, and seems to be a rambling story filled with a bunch of semi-related incidents and characters... but looks can be deceiving. This is the “mostly true” story of career bank robber Forrest Tucker who was famous for being arrested, convicted, sent to prison... and escaping 17 times - often in amusing ways like building a boat in the prison shop - so that he could return to robbing banks.
The movie opens in 1981 Texas with Tucker (82 year old Robert Redford) entering a bank, charming the young woman behind the counter as he informs her that this is a robbery and she should put all of the money in his old briefcase. He’s such a nice old man that she isn’t scared or nervous. A sweet old guy with an old fashioned hearing aid, dressed in a nice blue suit and a hat, robbing banks. He breezes out, gets into his car, and drives away...
With the police looking for him after a robbery, he spots an old pick up truck broken down on the side of the road with an attractive older woman looking under the hood... so he pulls over and pretends to be helping her as a police car zips past. He confesses to the older woman, Jewel (Sissy Spacek) that he knows nothing about cars, and offers her a ride home. She’s a window who lives on a huge ranch and rides horses... and they begin a relaxed courtship. Having coffee and pie in a diner, and talkingh about their lives... though when she asks him what he does for a living he tells her it’s a secret. They are two single older people who aren’t really looking for a relationship, but get along with each other and accidentally develop one.
Tucker also hangs out with a pair of fellow geriatric bank robbers played by Danny Glover in an underwritten role and Tom Waits in another underwritten role but with one awesome scene stealing scene. The three of them are dubbed the “over the hill gang”, and they pull a bunch of small bank robberies as well as one great set piece armored car robbery in a huge old fashioned bank. That old hearing aid of Tucker’s is really a police scanner - so he knows the instant that silent alarms are set off and can adjust his plan accordingly. The three of these guys are old pros in all possible meanings of the phrase. They are career bank robbers who know of know other way to earn a living.
Chasing them down is Detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck), a married guy with a couple of kids who realizes that this rash of bank robberies are all being committed by the same three old guys. The FBI wants to take over the case, but Hunt continues to work it because it’s kind of in his blood to hunt bank robbers. But there is no hot pursuit, no real chases and no shoot outs - this is a laid back movie about laid back characters. Hunt’s home life gets a fair amount of screen time, which allows his wife (played by Tika Sumpter) to tell her husband, “If you caught him, you wouldn’t get to chase him anymore.”
Which is the key to the story.
Because no matter how many times Tucker is caught and thrown in prison, he escapes to continue robbing banks - it’s what he does, it’s who he is. Tucker’s *life* is robbing banks.
And Hunts *life* is chasing bank robbers.
And there’s a great scene where Jewel tells Tucker that her adult children think that she is too old to run the ranch, and want her to sell it... but running the ranch is her life.
Every character in this story is *connected* by their inability to change their nature. They have become accustomed to who they are and don’t really want to change. It would sound silly to say that they are *driven* in suck a kick back film, but each character is going to do their own thing until the day that they die. Tucker can’t imagine not robbing banks anymore than Jewel can imagine not having horses or Hunt can imagine not chasing bank robbers. And what’s fun about the story is how even *props* like an old radio or even that broken down pick up truck always manage to get back to doing what they do. Things may be old, but they still work... because that’s what they were built to do. That is their nature. Just as there are all of those fathers and daughters in ANT-MAN & THE WASP, there are characters who can’t imagine a life where they aren’t doing that one thing that they are good at in this film. Everything is connected!
And every character is connected to the spine of the story. Hunt’s family story intersects with Tucker’s bank robbery a couple of times in the story - at one point his kids become witness to a bank robbery and at another his family has dinner in the restaurant where Tucker and Jewel go for coffee and pie... leading to a nice riff on that scene from HEAT with Pacino and DeNiro... though this one takes place in the men’s room of that little restaurant. There isn’t a single character in this story who is not part of the Tucker Bank Robber story. Jewels adult children pop up in conversation, but never as physical characters... and she becomes his alibi in a pivotal scene. Every scene with Hunt and his family is *about* his hunt for Tucker. The Over The Hill Gang ends up helping Tucker rob banks... and creating problems getting away with those crimes, sometimes. There are no extraneous characters or scenes, even though this film seems like they are just making it up as they go along. In every screenplay, *all* of the pieces are part of the main story. Connected.
In the crime drama LANTANA (2001) each of the supporting characters shows a different aspect of the protagonist's conflict (the main plot), creating contrast with the protagonist which helps to define *both* characters... so everything is connected.
Anthony LaPaglia plays a detective with marital problems investigating the disappearance of a wealthy man (Geoffry Rush)'s famous wife (Barbara Hershey). The investigation focuses on the relationship between Rush and Hershey, because LaPaglia believes Rush killed her. Rush is acting suspicious and Hershey (a shrink) left this weird phone message on their machine which seems to accuse Rush of having an affair with one of her male patients.
The main plot is the disappearance (and events that lead up to it). The theme is hidden in that plot - but it's part of the mystery. LANTANA explores communications breakdowns in marriage, and that ends up being part of the big secret that Rush is hiding in the film. The reason why LaPaglia suspects he killed his wife. A major subplot is LaPagia's relationship with his wife (Kerry Armstrong) - the thrill is gone from their marriage, but neither talk about it. LaPaglia ends up having an affair. To better show the theme is communications, LaPaglia tells his partner everything, tells his wife nothing. He just doesn't communicate with his own wife. The wife doesn't communicate with him, either - she talks to her shrink (Barbara Hershey - twist!). There's another subplot with LaPaglia's partner - she has a crush on a guy but is afraid to say anything to him. She'll communicate with LaPaglia - tell him how much she likes this guy, but she never talks to the guy. There's a subplot with the woman LaPaglia is cheating with - she's separated from her husband and won't tell him where the relationship went wrong. Another subplot has to do with the woman's next door neighbors - a young couple who talk over everything (Rush tells LaPaglia that he always holds something back when talking with his wife - she doesn't really know him... this contrasts with the young couple). They show how a marriage with communication works, and that helps us see how these others don't work.
Every single one of the subplots is theme related and connected - they all help support the story in the main plot (sometimes contrasting with the Rush/Hershey relationship which is under investigation, sometimes paralleling it... always CONNECTED to the main plot in some way). Every character in the film has communications issues to deal with... they are exploring the main plot through their stories - like splinter beams that combine to form white light.
Each subplot is CONNECTED to the main plot. They aren't a succession of small obstacles that confront the protagonist, they are reflections of the central conflict. Subplots grow from the main plot - they support and enhance the main plot. They add shading to your story. Those subplot are part of the main story - and you can't tell the story without them! Removing them sends the whole story crashing to the ground. EVERY scene in your script should be required to tell the story... or it serves no purpose. Every scene in your script should contain the DNA necessary to clone the script - the conflict, the theme, the emotional dilemma.
Once you know the big emotional conflict which your protagonist will be forced to resolve, or the theme of your screenplay, you can create subplots and supporting character and even props and locations which illustrate different aspects and potential outcomes. That way you will be digging DEEPER into the story rather than grafting on unrelated things from the outside. Remember that everything in a screenplay is connected. Everything in a screenplay will be connected to the spine of the story - the THROUGHLINE. Whether your story is about superheroes or elderly bank robbers or a detective trying to solve a murder, every piece of the story is in service of that story. Nothing grafted on from the outside! No scenes with the Detective’s family that are not about his trying to capture the bank robber! Everything must be connected to that main story! Every subplot is connected to the main story. Every supporting character is connected to the main story.
More on this in Supporting Characters And Subplots Blue Book!
Can You Make It bigger?
BLOCKBUSTERS (and BEACH READS) Blue Book!
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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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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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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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THE BOOK THAT STARTED IT ALL!
*** THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING *** - For Kindle!
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READY TO BREAK IN?
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STORY: WELL TOLD!
*** STORY: WELL TOLD *** - For Kindle!
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MOVIES ARE CHARACTERS!
*** CREATING STRONG PROTAGONISTS *** - For Kindle!
*** CREATING STRONG PROTAGONISTS *** - For Nook!
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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!
Only $4.99 - and no postage!
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!
Only $4.99 - and no postage!
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.
* * * Buy It!
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!