October 14


Writer Posts Script (Classic Post)

Princer of Persia
Photo by Loren Javier @ flickr.com
Jordan Merchner, creator of the book for the video game Prince of Persia posted his screenplay for the movie of the same name here. He is not one of the credited screenwriters on the movie (those credits belong to Boaz Yakin and Doug Miro & Carlo Bernard). Instead, he has “screen story” credit. If you want to unravel the frightening mysteries of WGA credit determination, you can do that here.

March 14


WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO HEAR HERE? (Classic Post)

Jerry MacGuire GifFor those of you who follow screenwriting blogs on a regular basis, you have a pretty good sense of what each blogger brings to the table. On this blog, I don’t do much gossip. I don’t give out names of producers or agents. I don’t have a magic answer for how to make it in the industry. I don’t have a strong enough career to justify the sorts of high-level insights found at Artful Writer or Josh Friedman’s blog.

On the other hand, I do have extensive experience with agents, managers, production executives, producers and working writers. And, I’ve written a lot. All of my scripts, whether they have sold or not, have been championed by strong agents and producers and, on occassion, A-level talent. I do have extensive training in the craft of writing. I do know, more or less, how the industry as a whole functions and how that affects the emerging writer. I do have the experience that comes with regularly submitting scripts and pitches to the mainstream Hollywood motion picture industry. I do have the background of having worked on the producing side of the business, both as a producer and in legal affairs for a studio.

I do love the craft of writing and enjoy its highs and lows: the awful feeling of putting everything I have into a draft and realizing it lies their, flat on the page, no movement, no character, nothing (what the hell was I struggling for?) followed by the incredible high of seeing that awful draft turn into something incredible through deep, hard work. It is the kind of high that is earned and, therefore, lasts. I love the feeling of reading an old script I haven’ looked at in a couple years and saying, “Wow, I did that?”

And, while nobody really knows what the hell they’re doing, I like to write about whatever orts of insight I’ve gleened over the years. In the future, I plan to continue my main focus here, namely posts that assist emerging writers in understanding what is expected of them in the industry and how to deliver it.

With all of that in mind, I throw it out to you. What would you like to see more of on this blog? What would you like to see different? This is your opportunity for feedback.

Don’t be cruel….

April 13


LET’S ASK ARISTOTLE (Classic Post)

ARISTOTLE GIFChris from somewhere asks:

Character motivation — how do you make sure the characters are sufficiently and plausibly motivated?

Too many of my stories start with the main character deciding he “wants to do something,” and this leads to the main plot. I’m starting to realize this type of motivation isn’t very strong, and I haven’t been able to make a good story about someone who just “wants to do something,” no matter how bad they want it.

Does that make sense? I think it’s a problem of motivation, and I think people can tell when a story hinges on a character doing something that they really didn’t have to do, particularly when there are many other things the character could have done that were a lot easier, less dangerous, but unfortunately less interesting.

For example, to make money the character decides to start a porn business instead of simply taking a job as an accountant, for which he has training. Or any other job. Like flipping burgers.

Thanks!

When in doubt, ask Aristotle. In his Poetics, Aristotle says:

Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete and of a certain magnitude.

The goal of your protagonist must be “of a certain magnitude”. It must be important to him or her. It is not merely something he wants, it is something he is compelled to do. His or her drive must eventually arise to the level of compulsion and obsession. Your protagonist will do anything, suffer to any extent, pay any cost to achieve his or her desire. It takes that level of commitment from your character to keep him motivated.

That level of compulsion/obsession does not come merely from external forces. It comes from something deep inside the character that he or she must do in order to be a complete person. And we as an audience must sense his deep need and know he must do this thing for the sake of his very being. Our understanding of his need is what makes us want to see whether he achieves this goal.

For example:

Sixth Sense – Malcolm believes he is a fraud and that he failed the first boy. When a second boy with the same problem comes along, he must help him in order to redeem himself. He cannot live with himself is he does not help the boy. He is driven to help Cole and suffers until he does so.

Gladiator – Maximus must exact revenge on Commodus. His happiness in the afterlife depends upon it. If he does not, he will not be happily reunited with his family. He is driven to obtain his revenge and suffers until he does so.

In The Line of Fire – Frank must protect the president at the cost of his own life. He does not know whether it was his cowardice that changed the world for the worse (when Kennedy was shot and he did not take the bullet). He will suffer until he answers that question by proving he is not a coward. He is driven to hunt the man who will shoot the president and driven to put himself in harms way to protect the president. It is not mere choice; it is compulsion.

The same compulsion you have to be a writer….