THURSDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:

MARTELL'S STORY CREATION METHOD


Years ago, someone over on Wordplay asked how you turn an idea into a story, and I posted this answer. This is the main method I use for coming up with script ideas, then developing them into the kind of stories that Hollywood is interested in, yet are still something that is personal to me that I am passionate about. So I thought I'd share it with all of you...

Martell's story creation method:

1) What's *your* problem or emotional issue? Every script is autobiographical, even if it's about time travel and aliens. So the first thing to do is figure out what emotional issue you want to explore for how-ever long it takes you to write the script. You need to remain involved and passionate about the script, and that means you're going to find a "plot seed" that touches you on an emotional level. Dig deep within yourself and find that emotional issue you've been trying to avoid. Something that scares you. Why? Because that's the most powerful thing you have - your own fears and your own issues. That's what makes a script uniquely yours. Make your script personal!

2) That emotional problem is now your protagonist's problem. That means you get to live the fantasy of being your protagonist while you're writing... but the price you're going to pay for pretending you're SPIDER-MAN or whatever cool person you're writing about is that you are going to explore emotional stuff that scares you. And you're going to have to be honest, even with yourself. That ain't easy. Most of us became writers to escape reality, but a good writer shares their emotions with the audience, Just open a vein and bleed.

3) You need to find a big, exciting plot problem that forces them to deal with their emotional issues. I did a past tip on this HERE. So if your character is afraid they'll never measure up to their famous father, your story tosses them into the same situation that made their father famous... and all they can do is fail. You need an external plot that *forces* your protagonist to deal with their emotional issues (which are also your emotional issues).

Buy The Godfather DVDs

4) Next thing to do is tinker. Tinker with the plot idea and make sure it's the coolest it can be. Let's say your story is about three sons who want to curry favor with their aging father so that they will be chosen to take over the family plumbing business. Each of the sons is struggling for their father's love, and the plumbing business is just a symbol for that love. The audience will understand that on an emotional level - but who would pay $10 to see a movie about plumbing? So let's tinker a bit - and change plumbing to the Mafia. Now our three sons are trying to win their father's love so that he'll pass on control of the Mafia family to them... and that's THE GODFATHER. Lots of people would be interested in a movie about the inner workings of the Mafia, but underneath it's still the same story. It's *your* emotional issues - winning the love and respect of your father, just with machine guns and double crosses and that sex scene on page 13 of the novel. The emotional scenes will be the same, but the story will be more excitingt and more interesting.

Also, it will be much easier to write about your own emotional problems when you are wearing this "mask" - no one will ever guess that these are your issues, because your script is about a Mafia family. You aren't in the Mafia, so it couldn't be about you, right? You are writing about fictional characters in a fictional situation, so it's much easier to be honest about the emotions. The more personal your story, the more you need to tinker in order to be honest. That seems like a contradiction, but it's true. You can be more honest if your story is about the Mafia or space aliens than if it's about someone just like you. Wearing a disguise allows you to speak the truth.

Things to consider when tinkering: "global stakes" (how will this event change the world), "emotional stakes" (how will this event be the turning point in this character's life) and the deadline (why *must* the protagonist deal with this event) and the cousin of deadline - the "or else factor" (if the protag fails, how will this screw up everything so bad that it will hurt the people sitting in the cinema?).

Buy The DVD!

5) Now let the story stew. I know you want to write it right away, but the more you let the story simmer, the more little ideas you'll come up with. All of those cool little ideas are the difference between the first and second MATRIX movies. They needed to let the last two scripts simmer a lot longer. You don't want a half-baked script!

6) Also think about relationships between all of your characters and the emotional issues you're exploring in the story. In the first SHREK, screenplay by Terry Rossio & Ted Elliott, all of the characters explored the theme - Shrek is afraid that nobody will like him because he's an ogre so he pushes them away first, Donkey is a total kiss ass so that people will like him, Fiona has a night-time weight problem that she has to keep secret... every single character is exploring the emotional issue in a *different* way. Watch the movie again and you'll see all of this in action. I think of all of my characters as different ways to explore whatever is at the heart of my story - they aren't just there to take up space. How does each character explore a different aspect of that issue you're exploring?

Matrix DVD - Buy it!

7) Think about the way your *scenes* explore the emotional issue, too. Why is that Neo isn't able to escape the Agents when they come to his office in the first MATRIX? He's out on that ledge, and if he can get to the window washer's platform he can get away. But he can't get to the platform because he doesn't believe in himself enough to get around that pillar that blocks the ledge. It's Neo's emotional issue being explored in an action scene! Why can't Neo win against Morpheus in that big martial arts fight? Since the fight is a simulation, and takes place in their *minds*, the only reason why Neo loses is because he doesn't believe he can win. Every single action scene in THE MATRIX forces Neo to deal with his lack of belief in himself! They are all *character scenes*! That's something to stew on, too. How does each scene explore your emotional issue?

Eventually you get to the part where you write the script, and by then you've got this cool idea with high stakes that explores an emotional issue in scene after scene... and that's the basis of a story that is both exciting and emotionally involving.


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SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING

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Over 460 pages packed with tips and techniques. How to write a plot twist, the four kinds of suspense (and how to create it), reversals, ten ways to invent new action scenes, secrets and lies, creating the ultimate villain, five kinds of love interests, MORE! CLICK HERE!

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Class CDs CLASSES ON CD! Take a class on CD! GUERRILLA MARKETING - NO AGENT? NO PROBLEM! and WRITING THRILLERS (2 CDs). Full length classes on CD. Now Available: IDEAS & CREATIVITY, WRITING HORROR, WRITING INDIE FILMS, more!
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MY OTHER SITES

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

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Producing my own scripts, investment possibilities, pipe dreams.

NAKED SCREENWRITING CDs

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.
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My nineteen produced films, interviews with me in magazines, several sample scripts, my available scripts list... And MORE!
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Available Scripts

E BOOKS PAGE

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.
E BOOKS: BLUE BOOKS & NOVELLETES

BOOKLETS & PRODUCTS

bluebook FIRST STRIKE BLUE BOOKS
Each Blue Book is 48 pages and focuses on a different aspect of screenwriting. Dialogue. Visual Storytelling. Your First Ten Pages. Act 2 Booster. Protagonists. Great Endings.
Seventeen Blue Books now available!

THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING OUT OF PRINT!