Whenever I talk about genre, someone always asks why they have to write in any genre... Good question. The answer is that genres tell the audience what to expect from the movie. If we decided to go out to dinner, I might ask you what kind of food do you like? That's genre. You might like Italian food or Chinese food or Thai food or Indian food or Continental (French, or "Freedom" as we call it today) or maybe just a hamburger. We categorize foods so that we know which restaurant to go to to get the kind of food we have a taste for. It works exactly the same with movies and screenplays. If you have a taste for a comedy you might go to see HORRIBLE BOSSES. If you want science fiction you might to see DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. If you wanted a kid comedy you might see SMURFS. The genre defines the type of experience you can expect from the film. If you went to see SMURFS and it was filled with *violent* zombie attacks that scared the poop out of you, you probably wouldn't like the film... the same way you wouldn't like spinach ravioli with sweet & sour sauce. Yech! So knowing your genre is an important element in creating your story - you don't want to pour on the sweet & sour sauce if the genre is Italian food. That doesn't mean you can't be a little inventive - Wolfgang Puck puts all kinds of weird stuff on a pizza... but you knew that before you went to his restaurant. That's what he's famous for - mixing genres.

And Mixed Genre movies are popular in Hollywood. COWBOYS AND ALIENS is a western mixed with a sci-fi alien attack flick. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is an adventure with fantasy & sci-fi elements, CASABLANCA has a little of everything. I think mixing genres is a great way to come up with something new and interesting...

But you don't want to end up with an unfocused "kitchen sink" script. Figure out what the "dominant genre" is going to be. You might end up with two dominant genres - but if you end up with more than that you could be in trouble. An "Action-Comedy" or a "Romantic-Comedy" are things we understand, but what's an "Action-Horror-Western-Musical"? I have trouble imagining that... and part of selling a film (through trailer or poster) is giving the audience basic information so that they can imagine what the movie will be like.

This doesn't mean your Horror-Western can't have a great horse chase action scene or a couple of songs that the leading lady sings in the saloon... but those aren't what the movie is about. It's a Horror-Western. When the audience pays their $10 they are expecting the emotional experience that a horror-western provides (whatever that is). They have a taste for a Horror-Western, and they expect cowboys facing off for high noon shoot outs with zombies or vampires or ghosts. They don't expect them to break into song before they start shooting.

Even when we mix two genres, one will be dominant - it will set the tone for the movie. So our Horror-Western may be a horror movie that takes place in the old west. or a western about a gunslinger's ghost. The horror movie will focus on the horror aspects, using the west as a location - maybe a haunted Wells Fargo Relay Station where ghosts kill people who spend the night. The western version will use the conventions of a western, but with a supernatural element - maybe a shootout at "high midnight". Both are mixed genres, but each started with a different genre.

I think there's a difference between an Action-Comedy and a Comedy-Action. It all has to do with the tone of the story. A movie like BEVERLY HILLS COP is an action movie with a protagonist who is funny. The dominant genre is action. The story is an action story rather than a comedy story. You could remove the comedy from the story and it would still work as an action piece (in fact - it began as a Sly Stallone action film and all of the funny lines came in when they rewrote it for Eddie Murphy). A movie like THE IN-LAWS (original version) is a Comedy-Action film. It's first and foremost a comedy. The action is the background where the comedy takes place. A movie like HOT FUZZ does the "AIRPLANE thing" and sends up action movies - makes fun of them - while still keeping a straight face. You might think because everyone is so serious and the story makes sense (in a nonsense sort of way) that this is an Action-Comedy. Nope. The action scenes are over the top silly. You laugh *at* the action. That makes it a comedy first. Knowing which is the dominant genre is critical when you're dealing with tone - for an example of how important knowing your dominant genre is, take a look at HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE. What a mess! It doesn't know if it's an Action-Comedy or a Comedy-Action and ends up being neither funny nor action packed.


A couple of years ago I was doing rewrites on my horror comedy that was supposed to shoot in Hawaii (but now looks to be shelved forever)... I was thinking about this very subject.

This was an assignment, based on the producer's idea... which was kind of silly. I had suggested a variation that was more of a straight horror concept (similar to the movie BUG with Bradford Dilman), but the producer wanted his giant monster movie that was kind of silly... so the story would have to have comedy elements in order to work.

First thing I had to figure out when I was writing this script was what my dominant genre was going to be - did I want to write a comedy script with some horror or a horror script with some comedy? Was my audience people who wanted to laugh or people who wanted to be scared? This script already had a home - and the producer wanted to sell it as a horror movie. So the script would be a clever horror movie, rather than a comedy with some scares. The current low budget DVD market is for horror movies, not comedies.

SLITHER was probably one of the best reviewed films around when it came out - critics loved it - but it flopped with audiences. The problem with the movie? Funny as hell, but not scary. When audiences rent a horror movie, they want horror. That's the basic. Now, it can be funny as well - but it *must* be scary. Horror is the default genre, if you want to attract an audience. This makes complete sense if you think about the "horror audience" and the "comedy audience". Horror movies have a loyal audience - there are horror movie conventions and horror movie magazines. No comedy movie magazines, though. A horror movie audience might accept a little comedy in their film, but would a comedy audience accept suddenly having a character get chopped up with a chain saw? It's easy to see which makes more sense as the dominant genre.

So I set out to write script a clever horror movie, rather than a comedy with some scares.

How something like this usually works is the ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN theory - the comedy makes us let our guard down, so that the scares are even more frightening. We're expecting a punch line, but we get a jolt - and we jump twice as high. I like to think of it as peaks and valleys - with the horror "valleys" as the comedy "peaks" and vice-versa.

Remember the Reeces commercials where the two guys collided, and "You got peanut butter in my chocolate!" "You got chocolate in my peanut butter!" One of the things I noticed when I looked at films like this is that the peanut butter and chocolate seemed to work better un-mixed. The horror needed to be scary - and whenever a movie made fun of the horror, it didn't find a very big audience. SLITHER, which I loved, was one of the best reviewed films when it came out... but audiences stayed away. The most frightening scene in the film is when the girl in the bathtub is listening to her iPod and has no idea a million spermies are crawling toward her. That's a real horror scene. But much of the rest of the movie plays the horror for laughs - making fun of the "monster". That doesn't work very well. It's funny, but not as scary. The main "monster" is scarier as an asshole husband human than as a monster (where he does zany things) and the fat-chick who explodes is completely played for laughs. You want to keep the chocolate and peanut butter separate! Don't make fun of the monster!

A couple of my main examples when writing the script were THE HOWLING and PIRANHA (both written by John Sayles) where the scares are real... but the people are smart alecs and quirky. Both films are filled with real suspense, real scares, and the typical blood and gore you'd find in a horror movies. The horror is real horror. Both of those films got great reviews, and made tons of money. And spawned sequels (James Cameron did PIRANHA 2: THE SPAWNING). And remakes. Remake rights to PIRANHA sold to Fox a couple of years ago for a whole bunch of money... and this summer we'll get a straight horror version in 3D which will probably suck. I have no idea why they don't just remake John Sayles brilliant screenplay - do you know how much a studio would pay for a John Sayles genre script today? They'd be bidding against each other for *weeks* to get hold of a script like that... and the new version has thrown away the great Sayles script and is probably going to mess it up!

While the pirahnas are eating the guests, or the werewolf is basically raping Dee Wallace Stone in a porn theater (then, attacking and *eating* people at the resort), the characters react just like I would when confronted with a monster - nervous humor. When characters end up in a crazy situation, they acknowledge it. The films treat the threats as a *real threat* - never playing it for laughs. Oddly, this makes the comedy more funny, because it's a tension breaker. One thing that works in this cross-genre is a character who is more focused on some small issue than the big one - like the Mayor in SLITHER who has a certain soft drink requirement while his entire town is being destroyed by monsters around him (I have a character more angry about missing a football game on TV than the monster attack).

So my theory is - respect the monster (or whatever provides the scares) and find the humor in the characters and situations. But keep the chocolate and peanut butter separate. Make sure the horror part is really scary.

SLITHER may have not been a hit with the mainstream audience, but writer/director James Gunn knows how to mix it up and added comedy to superheroes and ended up with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY... which seems to be doing okay.

Our script can't be all things - it has to be a specific thing. You need to be able to focus your story so that the audience knows what to expect from the finished film, and so that *you* know what sort of elements are going to work within the framework of your story. You don't want to pour marinara sauce on your pork fried rice. Your story might combine a couple of genres and have scenes that fit in a couple more genres. But when that film ends up at Blockbuster they're going to put it on a shelf that has a sign overhead - what does that sign say? What is the dominant genre? Even when you are mixing genres, you need to know whether you have a comedy film (where people may get punched but it doesn't really hurt) or an action film (where it hurts like hell when people get punched). Knowing your genre is important in the creation of your script. If you mix genres, you need to know what genre is dominant. So what's your genre?

What kind of food do you have a taste for?

Back To School Deal! CLASSIC CLASSES @ HALF PRICE as MP3s!
Full Set Of Six: $25.






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.






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?

Only $3.99


My New Script Secrets Newsletter!




*** 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!

Only $3.99 - and no postage!

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


Brand New!


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.

Only $3.99 - and no postage!



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!

Only $5.99


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


You MUST Have This Book!



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.)

Only $9.99 - and no postage!

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


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!

$3.99 - and no postage!



*** 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!

Only $3.99 - and no postage!



*** 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!

Only $3.99 - and no postage!



*** 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!

ONLY $3.99 - and no postage!


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.

Only $3.99 - and no postage!


NEW FROM 1920?



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.

Only $2.99 - 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 $3.99 - and no postage!



*** 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 $3.99 - 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 $3.99 - and no postage!





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 $3.99 - and no postage!



*** 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 160 pages!

Only $3.99 - 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 2017 by William C. Martell

eXTReMe Tracker

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!


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.

Visual Class

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!


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!