Whether your script is a drama, a comedy, or a thriller there's always a decision that must be made in order to solve the external (plot) problem. If your protagonist doesn't have to make a decision that alters the course of the story, your protagonist isn't INVOLVED in the story. He's just along for the ride. Oddly enough, this is often a problem with character oriented screenplays - the character doesn't have a major decision to make in the course of the story... and that makes them unimportant! You could substitute ANY character into the story with the same exact outcome. The decision your protagonist makes is the most important part of your screenplay - it reveals the theme. The meaning of your script.

One of the big problems I often see in screenplays are "instant decisions" - a major decision that will forever change the character that is given absolutely no thought, no discussion, no importance. And that means no drama. After the decision has been made there are no ramifications or repercussions - as if no decision were made. Again, this robs the script of drama... not to mention credibility. In real life the big decisions in our lives are those moments that forever change us. Those moments that haunt us.

The higher the emotional stakes in the decision, the better the story... and the deeper you can explore the protagonist. The more difficult the decision, the more dramatic the scene.. Instead of a typical black hat/white hat Hollywood movie scenario, you want to create decisions with real moral issues. Decision where both choices are wrong and the protagonist must decide which is the lesser of two evils. This becomes a major decision, a life altering event that's loaded with drama. The audience has to think. They have to deal with big questions, rather than just sit back and be entertained. And the protagonist will probably regret his decision for the rest of his life. You want to bring the conflict to a head, forcing your character to make a tough decision and deal with gut wrenching emotions.

GONE BABY GONE will make you believe an Affleck can act (Casey, not Ben). The screenplay, co-written by Ben (who also directed) and Aaron Stockard from a great novel by Dennis Lehane (MYSTIC RIVER) is about private eye Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) who shares a license with his girlfriend Angela Gennaro. They specialize in missing persons - "skip tracing" people who have run away from creditors or spouses or other responsibilities. The Lehane novel is one in a series that has taken private eye fiction to a new level - the stories are *very* character oriented.


A little girl named Amanda has been kidnaped from her working class Boston duplex while her alcoholic mother was at a friend's watching TV. She's four years old and impossibly cute. The media jumps in, turning her into a major news story. But after three days, the police have few leads. Amanda's Aunt Bea (Amy Madigan) who lives in the other half of the duplex with her husband (the always great Titus Welliver) approach Kenzie and Gennaro to "augment the police investigation". Kenzie grew up in this neighborhood and knows everyone - people are more likely to talk to him than the police.

Gennaro begs him not to take the case. She doesn't want to be the one who finds the kid's body in a dumpster somewhere... and after three days, odds are the kid is dead. No ransom note. No word from the kidnapers. Mom's a drunk, isn't exactly the kind of person who can afford to pay ransom. That means the kid was taken for some other reason. Even if she's still alive, well, Gennaro doesn't want to be the one who finds her.

Big decision. Dramatic decision. Do you want to be the one who finds a dead 4 year old? Or would you rather tell the mother you aren't going to help find her child?

This is a great dilemma - and that's what any good dramatic decision will be - no right answer, only wrong ones.

Kenzie tells Gennaro he's got to at least go see the mother, he went to high school with her, he knows her. This makes the decision more difficult - he's going to make it face to face with the mother. Not in his office - his safe territory. Not telling the Aunt that he's not going to find the girl - that would be kind of second hand. Not on the phone or any other "conflict condom" that puts a barrier between the people involved. Kenzie and Gennaro go to the mother's duplex, where she's in seclusion, and tell her to her face that they are not going to help look for her kidnaped 4 year old child. How can anyone do that?

Gennaro breaks, and tells the mother (Amy Ryan - Oscar level performance) that they will help find her daughter. But when she says it - she instantly regrets it. She wants to help, but knows this is a story without a happy ending... and now she's part of it.

To add to the regret, the mother's side of the duplex is a hell hole. Dirty dishes and garbage all over the place. Mom's with her loud, foul mouthed best friend - both are drinking even though it's probably before 9am. Do you really want to work for this drunk Springer-guest of a mom? But they've committed - too late to turn back.

Morgan Freeman plays the head of Boston's special Child Abduction division of the Police Department, and tells Kenzie and Gennaro that the child is probably dead at this point. Freeman's character is a driven man - his own child was abducted and murdered many years ago. Kenzie wants police cooperation, Freeman doesn't want to give it to him. There's a nice scene where Kenzie forces him to make the decision that allows them access to the police files on the investigation - and the two detectives working the case...

Detective Bressant (Ed Harris) and Poole (John Ashton) are just going through the motions. They know the kid's dead, everybody does. Their only lead - a pedophile and his two junky friends have a very tenuous connection to the case. They are looking for the trio to question them. But not looking too hard.


Kenzie gets snagged by the drunk mother, who begs him to find her daughter and bring her home. She wants Kenzie to say it. He knows the kid is probably dead, and just says he'll try... but she won't settle for that. She pushes him, crying, until he promises to bring her child home. This is a great dramatic scene, and it forces Kenzie to commit to his the decision he now regrets making. But what else can he do?

Kenzie has used his neighborhood connections to uncover that the mother wasn't at her friend's watching TV, she was at a local bar getting hammered and doing drugs with her sleazy boyfriend. How irresponsible can you get? Kenzie regrets getting involved. Regrets his decision to help find the probably dead daughter.

Next he uncovers that the mother and her boyfriend were drug couriers for a local drug kingpin.... and they ripped him off for $130,000. Yikes! The girl was probably kidnaped by the drug kingpin to get his money back. This makes the mother *responsible* for the kidnaping of her own daughter. Kenzie's regrets grow... but maybe the kid is still alive?

When Kenzie tells the mother what he knows... she shows no regret at all. Sure they ripped off the drug lord for $130,000... but, you know, he never figured out they took the money, so they're safe. What's great about this story is that once Kenzie attaches himself to the case, it begins this downward spiral where one thing after another makes him wish he has never gotten involved, That he had never made the initial decision.


Kenzie decides to take this information to the two Detectives, even though he doesn't trust them. They go with the mother to find the money... and now the big decision is - trade the money for the little girl? It's illegal as hell. It's giving money to a drug lord. It requires trusting the two detectives not to run away with the $130k. It requires trusting the drug lord to give them the girl. This is making a deal with a whole bunch of devils... and Kenzie has to make a big dramatic decision.

And bad things happen.

One of Kenzie's neighborhood connections - a drug dealer - grabs him off the street and drives him to this really cruddy part of town (even cruddier than Kenzie's neighborhood), where the pedophile's two drug addict friends are hanging out. The drug dealer asks if Kenzie wants to go in with him, while he delivers some drugs, and maybe search the house for the pedophile and the kid? This is not a legal search. This is basically *helping* this drug dealer make his delivery. Not an easy decision... and the drug dealer wants Kenzie to carry his gun and be his backup if the drug deal goes south. Which side of the law is Kenzie on? There's a great line in the film where Kenzie says that half of his friends are criminals... and the other half are cops. That sums up the character - he's half cop half crook - and each side tugs at him throughout the story. Kenzie grabs the gun and becomes the drug dealer's back up in order to search the house.

The Pedophile is hidden in the apartment along with... well, maybe a kid. The missing little girl or some other kid? Kenzie can't be sure. A few decisions later, Kenzie is alone in the room with the pedophile who has done an unspeakable act. Kenzie can call the police... but he has a gun in his hand. This is a huge messy moral decision. In most movies, characters just do something... in GONE BABY GONE characters make very difficult decisions... then act... then regret the act for the rest of the movie. Kenzie agonizes over what to do... then puts the gun to the back of the pedophile's head and kills him in cold blood... then regrets his action.


A great, meaty conversation between Kenzie and Detective Bressant about morality. Kenzie was raised Catholic, and the priest says killing is never justified. Bressant says sometimes you do bad things for the right reason, and that's okay. Bressant then talks about something from his past - the time he planted evidence on a suspect. He thinks it was justified... but all of these years later it still haunts him. He still worries that he made the wrong decision - and that's why he's so adamant that he made the right one. This is a great scene, because it's all about being stuck with whatever decision you make... and living with the guilt and regret. You try to do the right thing - you weigh one awful possibility against the other - you do what seems best... and it never works out.

A good dramatic decision gives you three big meaty scenes: weighing the decision, the decision itself, then living with the result of the decision. Don't rush through the decisions, use them as big dramatic scenes. Milk them for character moments. Allow the audience to think about the decisions - what would they do? GONE BABY GONE gives all of its characters one tough decision after another. It's a very subdued film, but filled with big decisions that haunt characters for the rest of their lives. The characters, locations, and situations show us an authentic part of Boston we haven't really seen on film before. Ben Affleck shows that he can direct a movie, and that his Oscar for co-writing GOOD WILL HUNTING wasn't a fluke.

EVERY character in this film has to make a huge life altering decision... then deal with the regrets from that decision.

The movie ends with a really tough decision - both answers are wrong. Kenzie picks the one he thinks is less wrong... but is it? You know he's going to spend the rest of his life wishing he'd picked the other possibility. That this is the event that screws him up forever - he will always regret this decision. Always. How often do you give your character that big decision? How often do you give them scene after scene where they must wrestle with their decisions? Deal with the aftermath of their decisions? How do those decisions change the story... and the character? A tough decision is a great way to create big dramatic moments.

Note: Some story elements have been disguised to prevent spoilers.




*** DESCRIPTION & VOICE *** - For Kindle!


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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Alfred Hitchcock, who directed 52 movies, was known as the *Master Of Suspense*; but what exactly is suspense and how can *we* master it? How does suspense work? How can *we* create “Hitchcockian” suspense scenes in our screenplays, novels, stories and films?

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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*** 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!

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*** 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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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 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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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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He's back! The release of "Terminator: Genisys" (now on BluRay) is set to begin a new trilogy in the Terminator story... 31 years after the first film was released. What draws us to these films about a cybernetic organism from the future sent back in time? Why is there a new proposed trilogy every few years? This book looks at all five Terminator movies from a story standpoint - what makes them work (or not)? What are the techniques used to keep the characters and scenes exciting and involving? How about those secret story details you may not have noticed? Containing a detailed analysis of each of the five films so far, this book delves into the way these stories work... as well as a complete list of box office and critical statistics for each film. This book is great for writers, directors, and just fans of the series.

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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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*** 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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*** 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. * * * Buy It!

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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.
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