Contrived, Adj.- showing effects of planning or manipulation; "a novel with a contrived ending" Forced.

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We are the creators of our screenplays - the puppeteers who control the characters and situations and stories. But we never want the audience to see us at work. The skill of a writer is making the characters we make up seem real, the story we create seem as if it is really happening - whether that story is about a boy who brings home a left-behind alien, or a girl swept up in a tornado and taken to Oz, or a political thriller about a Presidential assassination. Everything in a film script must seem as if it happens naturally - even if we (the writers) are making it happen. Everything a character does needs to be motivated, and Newtons's 3rd Law applies to film plots just as much as it applies to the real world - for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Everything is cause and effect - nothing should be contrived or forced to happen in a screenplay. We want the audience to forget they are watching something we made up.

VANTAGE POINT begins with a bunch of really clunky dialogue - the kind of stuff that needs to be fixed because it's right up front. "Real people don't talk like that!" When you begin with a patch of bad dialogue, you begin to look for it in the rest of the film... and you find it. That's why you always want to start your screenplay strong - make sure the first ten pages are great. Sigourney Weaver plays a TV news director covering a Presidential speech on terrorism in some South American country. Her dialogue seems forced and unnatural, but it's nothing compared to the pretty Newscaster covering the biggest event in history... who goes off on her own political rant while on live TV. Of course, any Newscaster high enough up the food chain to cover a major Presidential speech like this would know better than to do any on-camera ranting - that's forcing a character to do something completely outside of their nature. It seems fake and the political rant seems scripted by some writer standing just off camera. We know this is not how a real person would behave in this situation - it's contrived. When she is scolded by Signourney, she goes back on page... and it sounds nothing like any TV news report I've ever heard - because it is a big steaming pile of exposition.

TV news broadcasts are tricky in scripts, because we see them all of the time in real life and know what they should be like - almost on a subconscious level. We've seen thousands of newscasts.... and know when it's wrong. We know when it's the writer trying to get information or a political point across. On TV news they don't preach, they report.

You always want to make sure your characters do what a real person in that position would do naturally. In this case, we have a TV reporter speaking and acting like no reporter we've ever seen before - and we've seen lots of TV reporters.

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Then the film starts to pick up steam and get pretty good for a while as Dennis Quaid and Matthew Fox play Secret Service Agents who are guarding the President (William Hurt). Except somewhere in the back of your mind a little voice nags you about things like holding a speech where a dozen world leaders including POTUS at a location with so many places where snipers might hide. In real life they would never put World Leaders on a stage in this location - it's a shooting gallery! But the story requires an assassination attempt, so instead of finding a logical and realistic location for the speech and a clever and realistic way for an assassination to take place - they give us this completely contrived situation. The President Of The United States is going to stand on a stage in front of a building with about 100 windows facing that stage and do a speech... and after he's done, a bunch of leaders from other foreign countries are going to give speeches. Look, if everyone in the US Secret Service had just been given a lobotomy, you'd think the secret service from one of the other countries would object to this location. It's impossible to control - and even though they say they've removed everyone from the building... guess what? The story requires for them to have missed an assassin! The problem with forcing the scene to take place at this location so that we can have a sniper is that it makes no sense at all... it would never happen in reality... and we've seen enough Presidential speeches on foreign soil to know how tightly controlled they are. Even if you don't figure out this shooting gallery is wrong consciously, subconsciously it just seems completely wrong.

So the President goes to make his speech... and gets shot! And then we zip back to the beginning and start again with another character...


And here's where VANTAGE POINT really goes wrong. Because the *concept* here is that each point of view is different, but they aren't. In almost every zip-back new POV we see the exact same things happening in the exact same way. Nothing different. And the film *cheats* as far as the "clues" are concerned - in two cases when Dennis Quaid looks at something we *do not see what he sees* just to hold back the information for the next POV. It's as if every other character's eye sight fails suddenly after Quaid sees what he sees... but we don't get to see it.

Until later - when the plot needs us to see it. Basically, they contrive the concept - and force us not to see what the characters see - which pulls us out of the story.

Everything else in that segment, which we get to see again, just from a different angle.

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The problem is that none of the different angles are that different - though we finally get to follow the President, and the trailer gives this away, so I don't think this is really a spoiler - the President doesn't get shot... a double does. Though this gives us a different POV, because the President watches the assassination on TV in a hotel room, it creates a massive problem...

Because this is a major meeting of world leaders to discuss terrorism. All of the other world leaders are there for real. The President's *double* is used, because of the danger of assassination... and that kind of makes sense considering they're holding this thing in a shooting gallery for no apparent reason other than the writer needed an easy way for a sniper to kill the President...

But once the fake President is introduced, what's he supposed to do? Address world leaders? Make a speech televised on every TV set in the world? This guy's a *decoy* - and he's going to make US policy in front of a world-wide audience? The writer tries to cover the gaping plot hole with this throw away line where the real President says he didn't plan to make a speech... but that makes no sense at all, because at the event he is introduced and walks up to a podium to make a speech. That is what the event is all about - it's a Presidential speech at a meeting of World Leaders. What else is he going to do? Dance? A person stands at a podium to *speak* - and all of those cameras from all of those news agencies are there to film the speech. So you wonder what would have happened if they *hadn't* shot the decoy? What if the threat was just a threat, and nothing happened? Would the decoy be making US policy? Would the decoy be talking to the other World Leaders? This whole thing is a house of cards!

The whole Presidential Decoy thing is contrived. Something that could not and would not happen in real life, but the writer *forces* it to happen to further the story. This is one of those rookie mistakes I see in new writer's scripts - they don't follow each plot thread to it's logical conclusion if the events in the story did *not* take place. The equal and opposite reaction thing. If a character sits down on a chair, and you remove the chair, the character doesn't hover where the chair's seat would be - they keep going and end up on the floor. So the only way the story works is if the characters do what the story requires them to do, and if something else had happened everything just falls apart. If *any* of the events of your story had not happened, the resulting story still has to make sense... and be possible! Or else you end up with something that's contrived. Your whole story falls on its ass.


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But we get the same impossibly contrived things happening in the same completely fake way over and over again... except for one scene that actually works! In fact, because it works so well, it points out how the rest of the story doesn't work. One scene that lives up to the promise of the concept! (If you've seen the film - it's the lovers). Then we're back to the same scene seen again and again with nothing really different.

And part of the promise of the concept is that different POVs show us different versions of facts - that two people can see the same event and see something completely different - and maybe it even *is* something different. Maybe a different POV changes *history* or changes *facts*. That's an interesting point to make... But this film doesn't make any point at all (except for that heavy handed reporter's rant) - the film misses the point of its concept. We end up with a pointless film, and a completely pointless car chase that doesn't really do anything except give us some junk-food excitement at about the time we were nodding off.


Then we come to an ending that ends up being a laugh riot. Every review has mentioned the unintentionally funny ending - and again it's rookie mistakes. The people who either allowed this end to remain in the screenplay or - and here's a frightening thought - added this crazy ending in development, need to be banished from Hollywood forever. Just kicked out. You know, maybe even the death penalty is called for in this case. So, without significant spoilers, here's where things get funny...

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First, we have an overly complicated answer to a bunch of little questions that require a criminal mastermind who has read the script and knows what every single character will do at every minute... making it contrived and silly. Characters can only know what they know - they don't have copies of the script, nor are they mind readers who can predict exactly what some other character will do at a specific time. Look at anything in your script that requires a character know something about some other character - how do they know this? Where did they get this information? One of the things that's kind of tricky are things that the audience will accept as things a character may have discovered on their own and things that are too difficult for a character to figure out on their own. This is often one of those story meeting questions you'll get - How does he know that? Look at the information - is it something a normal person could figure out? It's always better to err on the side of showing the character discovering the information... or having the character just *not* know. We don't want any psychic characters in our scripts (unless that's what the story is about).

Second, there is a plot twist where a villain is revealed... and this character could never be a villain. There is nothing in their character that would ever indicate they are a bad guy - and their occupation requires so much screening and so many background checks that it's just not possible for this person to do the twist. The relationships involved in the story also prohibit this person from being a bad guy - other characters would have known or figured it out long before any decoy President gets shot. In THE ART OF DRAMATIC WRITING Lajos Egri points out that "no honest man will becomes a thief overnight; no thief will become an honest man in the same period of time." He points out that good drama requires a character to go from one state to another (to grow, to change), but the change must be gradual. Here we have something slightly different - a character who hides their true nature from everyone around them. The problem is - their "true nature" is impossible given who they are. How would this character ever *become* this character? It seems impossible - and that yanks us out of the story. We know this could never happen - that it is not realistic. The character's "true nature" is contrived - forced upon them for the sake of a plot twist and the plot. So when this is revealed, we automatically reject it. It can not be real. This destroys the reveal - and, like a house of cards, destroys everything else in the film. Contrivance has been placed on contrivance - and the story just falls completely apart. But wait, there's more!

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Third, a character who we have seen (again and again and again) with a certain character nature - the evil terrorist villain, suddenly, and for no apparent reason, completely does a 180 and does a nice thing that destroys them. They capture themselves! They do the exact opposite of what is their established nature. This goes back to the Egri thing - radical character change takes *time* and every step must be shown in the story - but in VANTAGE POINT the villain character does a 180 change in the blink of an eye... which brings about the event that ends the film. It's so out of character that you can't help but laugh. It's ridiculous. Silly. Contrived. A terrorist who would kill hundreds of people just to make a point... allows themselves to get caught because they can't hurt *one* person that they do not know. Even if this were a nice character, their actions are against the basic human instinct for survival. But given they've just killed a whole bunch of people, it really plays false. Again, this isn't the same as a character changing - redeeming themselves. This is a person suddenly doing something really against their nature for the sake of the story. We can see the writer pulling the puppet strings - making this character do what they would never do - just so the writer can have an ending (that makes no sense).

I can't imagine reading the completely contrived ending of this script without saying "WTF?" Unless maybe there was some fancy writer footwork where things we *can not see or know* are used in the action lines to cover the complete 180 this character does. But even then, shouldn't someone have pointed out the writer's cover up? Or was there a conspiracy involved? Were the development people involved? Did they help with the cover up of this crazy ending... or just look the other way? You know, this conspiracy is more interesting than the one in the film!

You don't want to force things to happen in your story, you want it to seem as if things are happening naturally. Make sure none of your characters do something just for the sake of the plot - everything must be motivated by the specific character and the specific situation. Be careful to follow through with actions and plans to make sure they are logical - you don't want to have some Decoy President making speeches that change foreign policy! If this plot point didn't happen - would the story still make sense? Your characters should always be motivated, and all of their actions and dialogue should be what this character would do in real life... even if they are an alien stranded on Earth. The funny thing about VANTAGE POINT is that ET and THE WIZARD OF OZ are more "realistic" - the characters in those movie behave as real people would behave in those situations - and the situations themselves are "realistic". Nothing seems forced in either film. Nothing seems contrived just to move the story in a certain direction.

You don't want to write a screenplay that seems "manufactured" or "false" or "impossible" or "forced" - you want the audience to believe what they are seeing up there on that big screen is really happening.





Distilling Your Screenplay!

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

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

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Making Your Own Movie?
Writing An Indie Film?
Writing A Low Budget Genre Script To Sell?
Writing A Made For TV Holiday Movie?

You will be writing for BUDGET. On a standard spec screenplay, you don’t have to think about budget, but these types of screenplays writing with budget in mind is critical!

If you are making your own movie, budget, is even more important - and you need to think about budget *before* you write your screenplay... or you will end up with a script that you can’t afford to make (or is a struggle to make). Everyone is making their own films these days, and even if you have done it before there are lots of great techniques in this book to get more money on screen - for less money! You can make a film that looks like it cost millions for pocket change.

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NEW: Updates On Films 7 & 8 Casting!

All Six Movies analyzed! All of the mission tapes, all of the “that’s impossible!” set pieces and stunts, the cons and capers - and how these scenes work, the twists and double crosses, the tension and suspense (and how to generate it), the concept of each film as a stand alone with a different director calling the shots (broken in the sixth film), the gadgets, the masks, the stories, the co-stars and team members (one team member has been in every film), the stunts Tom Cruise actually did (and the ones he didn’t), and so much more! Over 120,000 words of fun info!


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NEW: Updates on TREADSTONE TV show!

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: Dark Fate" is set to begin a new trilogy in the Terminator story... 35 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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My New Script Secrets Newsletter!







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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*** 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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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).

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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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*** 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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*** 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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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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*** 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!

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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!

copyright 2020 by William C. Martell

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bluebook E BOOKS: New Blue Books and Novelettes!
I am expanding all of the Blue Books from around 44 pages of text to around 200 pages! Some are over 250 pages! See what is availabale and what is coming soon!Also, I've been writing Novelletes and there will soon be novels.

Furious Action Class

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

Producing my own scripts, investment possibilities, pipe dreams.


Naked Class The NAKED SCREENWRITING CLASS ON 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
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


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