I have this term "Underhanded Pitch", which is something that sounds great... until you try to script it. You can pitch the story and everyone loves it! They want you to write it! Their business affairs department starts putting together a contract and they expect you to start on the script (before anyone has cut you a check). You might even be able to work out some sort of treatment... but usually that's where you hit the big stumbling blocks. An "Underhanded Pitch" is something that works as an *idea* but doesn't work at all as a *story*. Sometimes that's because it's a "TWILIGHT ZONE story" that has a beginning and a twist end, but no middle... and if you add a middle it just gets in the way of the set up and the twist end punchline ("It's a cook book!") and now the idea doesn't work. Great for a 30 minute TV episode, terrible for a 110 minute movie. But sometimes it's due to a "Conflict Condom", where the idea sets up a story where the conflict happens to someone else or someplace else or has some other barrier between the protagonist and the problem so that the conflict just doesn't matter. These are the ideas that I throw away, because no good screenplay can come from them. But after you pitch it, Business Affairs is still putting together than contract...

Buy The core DVDs

There was a lot of criticism about the scientific accuracy of THE CORE, but not much talk about the obvious story flaw. In my Script Secrets *class* I talk about the importance of starting your script with a good idea. There are two basic kinds of ideas: Producer Ideas and writer ideas. A producer comes up with an idea, realizes it's brilliant, and hires a bunch of writers to try and make it work. When the writers keep failing, the producer knows that it's the fault of those writers... they just aren't creative enough to figure out how to make it work. The other kind of ideas are Writer Ideas. A writer comes up with an idea, looks at it from every angle and if they find a problem, they throw it away and look for another idea. It may take a writer 100 ideas before they find one that actually works. Because the idea works, when they go to script, the script will most likely work.

One of the most critical aspects of any story idea is the conflict - because story IS conflict. Does this idea have a conflict that we can see? Is the conflict difficult enough to resolve that the struggle to solve it will take at least 90 minutes? Is the conflict emotional - will we care whether the protagonist solves it or not? Can the conflict escalate... or is it a "flat-line conflict"? The core conflict in your story needs to work, or the entire story won't work. No mater how great your characters, no matter how fantastic your dialogue, no matter how amazing your visual story telling... it's all for naught. The central conflict doesn't work.

The basic problem with THE CORE is that the concept avoids the conflict.

The Earth's core has stopped spinning, creating a bunch of natural disasters threatening civilization. From crazy birds who lose the ability to navigate while in flight and keep smashing into buildings and cars and people to killer lightening storms that seem to seek out famous landmarks around the world and blow them to bits. Eventually the weather will go so wacky that we will al die.

Okay - the stakes are high (one of the important things required in a script idea), but what can a protagonist do to save the world? How do we deal with this conflict?

That's where the next part of the idea kicks in. A scientist played by Aaron Eckhart theorizes that we can kick-start the Earth's core with a well placed nuclear blast. A second scientist (played wonderfully by Stanley Tucci) concurs... but how do you get the nuclear weapons to the Earth's core? Enter wacky inventor Delroy Lindo who has created a submarine that travels through the Earth, using a high powered laser to melt the rock ahead of the ship. They draft a couple of space shuttle pilots played by the ever-toothy Hilary Swank and clean-cut-Canadian Bruce Greenwood, plus a family-man weapons expert played by French actor Techy Karyo. So now we have our team of protagonists, lead by Eckhart. These folks will save the world.

Buy The ap13 DVDs

But here's where the idea kind of falls apart. When you put all of your characters into a tube and that tube doesn't really interact with anything else, you have no real conflict. The "dirt-sub" burrows into the Earth, and sometimes runs into trouble - they encounter a layer of diamonds that damage the hull of the craft, they fall into a void and the craft is damaged, etc. But these conflicts are between the "dirt-sub" and the earth - the protagonists just sit behind controls pushing buttons. The conflict may end up killing them, but the *struggle* part of the conflict is between the sub and the earth. We can't really see it happening - there are no windows on the sub (all they could see is dirt, anyway). So we have people sitting in chairs pushing buttons and yelling instead of real conflict! This is a fundamental problem with the idea itself.

You can't get the people out of the tube without losing the audience - space suits don't work in dirt, and the one time when they try to get the crew out of the sub is so silly and contrived that every critic has mentioned it in their reviews. The sub is made out of a high tech material that can withstand the heat and pressure of being deep inside the earth... but when the crew throws on space suits to go out and repair the ship you wonder how the flimsy suits can withstand the heat and pressure that only moments previously was crushing sections of the ship. Taking the crew OUT of the tube violates the concept... but keeping them inside the tube removes them from the conflict!

Many scripts (including my own ANDROID ARMY) work by trapping a group of people in a confined space, forced to battle a conflict outside while they deal with conflicts among the group. Though THE CORE can't have its characters battle the conflict outside (without being burned by lava) they could have created conflicts within the group. But, with the exception of the arrogant Stanley Tucci, everyone in the tube tends to get along and work as a team. They almost have to - they've been hand picked for this mission. Most "pressure cooker" stories trap their characters through external events - the zombie plague forces people to take shelter in a farm house in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, a riot forces people to take shelter in an abandoned police station in ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, there's a swell Stephen King story about people trapped in a grocery store when a killer storm breaks out, the scientists are trapped by an arctic blizzard and a shape-shifting alien in THE THING and the passengers are surrounded by angry Native Americans in STAGECOACH. In each case, these people don't VOLUNTEER to be trapped, as the crew does in THE CORE. Being FORCED to deal with people you don't like is different than ASKING to deal with them... so THE CORE can't really use the conflict within the group. Plus the conflicts within the "dirt-sub" aren't as interesting or important as saving the world. Who cares if Stanley Tucci is an arrogant ass when billions of people are dying?

When you cut away from the people sitting in the "dirt-sub" pushing buttons, the only thing to cut to is a hacker sitting (D.J. Squalls) in a chair typing into a computer or some guy at Mission Control watching a screen... where's the conflict in that? The hacker and the guys at Mission Control are still just pushing buttons... but they're even farther removed from the conflict than the "dirt-sub" crew!

No conflict we can see.
No conflict that has interaction with the protagonists.
The minute they get into the ship, it's boring (into the earth, and snooze inducing).

Buy The Godfather DVDs

In FANTASTIC VOYAGE (which this flick "homages" several times) the sub was cruising through the human body - which was cool. Seeing anti-bodies at work or blood flowing or trying to get through the human heart without being pulverized are exciting things to watch. Tunneling through rock is not exciting at all. In FANTASTIC VOYAGE the human body is one of the stars of the movie - it's fascinating. But dirt? Not that fascinating. A big problem is that to *make* it fascinating would require giving everyone a geology lesson that would be dull as all heck. We don't need an anatomy lesson in FANTASTIC VOYAGE, we all own human bodies and have a basic idea of how they work. Using earth as the location kills the film at the concept stage - it's just not an interesting environment. It's dirt & rock & lava.

Plus, in FANTASTIC VOYAGE they could go outside and explore! The protagonists could put on dive suits and interact with the conflict outside. Several times when the submarine was damaged, the crew had to go outside and fix it... while battling anti-bodies or blood currents or some other faucet of the conflict. This created action and dramatic situations. Can't do that in lava... so they're basically stuck in the ship. When they do venture out (to clean the crystals from the ship - scene lifted from FANTASTIC VOYAGE) we don't believe it for a minute.

Someone early on should have asked - where's the action in this concept? How do we SEE the struggle between these guys and the earth? How do we get them DOING SOMETHING instead of just sitting there in their chairs for that last two thirds of the movie? Make sure the core conflict in your idea is something that we can see. Something that involves the protagonist in DIRECT STRUGGLE rather than just sitting at a control panel pushing buttons. If the core conflict doesn't work, the story won't work... toss that idea aside and look for an idea that works!

Hey, THE CORE didn't hurt these writers... they went on to create the great show CHICAGO FIRE and CHICAGO PD and now CHICAGO MED.

Remember: No conflict condoms!






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.

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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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My New Script Secrets Newsletter!



Brand New!

*** STRUCTURING YOUR STORY *** - For Kindle!

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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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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All five "Bourne" movies (including "Legacy" and it's potential sequels) - what are the techniques used to keep the characters and scenes exciting and involving? Reinventing the thriller genre... or following the "formula"? Five films - each with an interesting experiment! A detailed analysis of each of the films, the way these thrillers 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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Over 240 pages!

*** THE TERMINATOR MOVIES *** - For Kindle!

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



*** HOOK 'EM IN TEN *** - For Kindle!

Your story doesn't get a second chance to make a great first impression, and this book shows you a bunch of techniques on how to do that. From the 12 Basic Ways To Begin Your Story, to the 3 Stars Of Your First Scene (at least one must be present) to World Building, Title Crawls, Backstory, Starting Late, Teasers and Pre Title Sequences, Establishing Theme & Motifs (using GODFATHER PART 2), Five Critical Elements, Setting Up The Rest Of The Story (with GODFATHER), and much more! With hundreds of examples ranging from Oscar winners to classic films like CASABLANCA to some of my produced films (because I know exactly why I wrote the scripts that way). Biggest Blue Book yet! Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 100,000 words - 312 pages!

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*** SCENE SECRETS *** - For Kindle!


What is a scene and how many you will need? The difference between scenes and sluglines. Put your scenes on trial for their lives! Using "Jaws" we'll look at beats within a scene. Scene DNA. Creating set pieces and high concept scenes. A famous director talks about creating memorable scenes. 12 ways to create new scenes. Creating unexpected scenes. Use dramatic tension to supercharge your scenes. Plants and payoffs in scenes. Plus transitions and buttons and the all important "flow"... and more! Over 65,000 words! Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is around 210 pages!

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50 Tips On Dialogue!

*** 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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Contained Thrillers like "Buried"? Serial Protagonists like "Place Beyond The Pines"? Multiple Connecting Stories like "Pulp Fiction"? Same Story Multiple Times like "Run, Lola, Run"?

This book focuses on 18 of Hitchcock's 52 films with wild cinema and story experiments which paved the way for modern films. Almost one hundred different experiments that you may think are recent cinema or story inventions... but some date back to Hitchcock's *silent* films! We'll examine these experiments and how they work. Great for film makers, screenwriters, film fans, producers and directors.

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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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SCRIPT SECRETS STORE - Do you have a monkey mug yet?

The new CDs are available now!


NOIR & MYSTERY80 minute CD packed with information on writing Film Noir and Mystery scripts. Using examples from CHINATOWN to OUT OF THE PAST to DOUBLE INDEMNITY you'll learn how to create stories in this dark, twisted genre. How to plant clues, red herrings, suspects, victims, spider women, fallen heroes, the funhouse mirror world of noir supporting characters... and the origins of Film Noir in literature Noir dialogue and how noir endings are different than any other genre. All of the critical elements necessary to write in this critically popular genre.
The Noir & Mystery Class is only $15 (plus $5 S&H). First 20 on Limited Black Disk!


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).

IDEAS AND CREATIVITY - 80 minute CD packed with information. Tools to find ideas that are both personal *and* commercial. Hollywood wants scripts with High Concept stories... but not stupid scripts. Developing *intelligent* high concept ideas. How to turn your personal story into a blockbuster - or find your personal story in a high concept idea. Brainstorming and being creative. Ideas and Creativity is $10.00 (plus $5 S&H)

WRITING INDIES - Writing an Indie film? This class covers everything you need to know - from Central Locations to Confined Cameos. Using examples from SWINGERS, THE COOLER, STATION AGENT and others, this 80 minute CD is packed with information. How Indoe films challenge the audience (while mainstream films reassure the audience). Structures, using BOYS DON'T CRY, RUN LOLA RUN, HILARY & JACKIE, and others as example. Writing for a budget, writing for non-actors, getting the most production value out of your budget. Writing Indies is $10.00 (plus $5 S&H)

Click here for more information on CLASS CDs!


Makes a Great Gift!



Why pay $510 for a used version of the 240 page 2000 version that used to retail for $21.95? (check it out!) when you can get the NEW EXPANDED VERSION - over 500 pages - for just $9.99? New chapters, New examples, New techniques!

"SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING is the best book on the practical nuts-and-bolts mechanics of writing a screenplay I've ever read." - Ted Elliott, co-writer of MASK OF ZORRO, SHREK, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN and the sequels (with Terry Rossio). (ie; 4 of the top 20 Box Office Hits Of ALL TIME.)

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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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*** 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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*** 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! (limited time price)



*** 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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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!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!


Over 400 Pages!

*** 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!



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!

copyright 2018 by William C. Martell

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Script Secret Store SCRIPT SECRETS STORE From Typing Monkey coffee cups to messenger bags to T shirts - everything a screenwriter needs to look sharp while working on that Oscar nomination! Get your Script Secrets Coffee Cup today!


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

Producing my own scripts, investment possibilities, pipe dreams.


Naked Class NEW! 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!


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.


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!

Furious Action Class

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

Available Scripts


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