Balancing character and plot in action movies

September 9th, 2016 by

justwrite7 posed a question: “How does one balance character and plot in a plot-driven script,” in particular for the action genre. That goes straight to the oft-repeated conundrum: character or plot, when it should probably go plot from character. But before we go there, let’s start with one of the great icons of action-dramas Clint Eastwood.

You hear a lot of stories about Eastwood in Hollywood. It’s been said that whenever he reads a script in preparation for an acting gig, his favorite tool is a red pen, as he trims (red-lines) dialogue, sometimes by as much as half. That would suggest he’s less interested in character, right?

Well, how about this story, which may or may not be true as I’ve never seen the supposed movie in question to verify it (maybe someone here has). As the story goes, Clint was making one of those spaghetti westerns he shot in Italy in the mid-6os, one in which he played a ruthless gunman. Opening scene: A long shot of Clint atop his horse, riding through parched terrain. Finally reaches a watering hole, revealing both he and his horse are covered with dust — they’ve been riding a long time. Stiff, Clint works his way off the horse and makes for the water. His lips parched and cracked, he takes off his hat and scoops it into the cool, clear water, raises the hat… then holds it out so the horse can drink first.

Now tell me that Clint doesn’t know a thing or two about character. He’s a bad guy in the movie, but he knows very well the viewer has to connect with the character in some way. What better gesture than for Clint’s character to extend this kindness to his horse? Talk about instant sympathy! And he pulls it off without any dialogue.

What’s my point? If readers are saying they “want more character,” a writer should not confuse that to mean, “I need to spend more time letting my characters talk about their feelings.” As justwrite7 says, “The problem with my exposition is that it always sounds like exposition.” That’s not just your problem; it’s a universal issue because exposition is basically information and facts, which is why one of my writing mantras is, “Exposition = Death.” As the story about Clint demonstrates, it is possible for a character to express aspects of their persona through actions.

Let me zero in with this question: is the critique from your readers about all your characters or is it mostly / usually about the Protagonist? It could be that you need to dig a bit deeper into all your characters, then expose a bit more of them on the page. However, I suspect the issue may be primarily with your Protagonist.

The Protagonist is almost always the single most important character in a movie. They are the character who typically goes through the biggest personal transformation, the most difficult challenges, more often than not confronting a Nemesis character. Not only that, one of the Protagonist’s key functions from a storytelling perspective is they are the conduit for a reader to enter into the narrative, the ‘eyes’ through which the reader ‘sees’ the events of the story as they unfold. So when I hear a comment like, “The story needs more character depth” or “It feels episodic,” the problem can be that the reader simply doesn’t care enough about the story’s Protagonist.

One of a screenwriters primary goals is to get the reader to become emotionally in the Protagonist. And in an action script, it’s almost always a requisite that the reader feel sympathy, or at least empathy for the Protagonist.

Therefore, it’s critical for the writer to dig into the psychological life of their characters, especially the Protagonist, their Internal World which is comprised of emotions, feelings, memories, needs, patterns of behavior, defense mechanisms, truths, half-truths, lies, and so forth.

A writer needs to source as much of that as possible in order to understand the character, but that does not mean, particularly for an action movie, you have to blurt all of that psychological ‘stuff’ in the story. Rather, look for key dynamics, especially archetypal elements at work.

We already talked about Iron Man, a good superhero-action movie, so let’s look at that story’s Protagonist figure, Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr. What do we learn about Tony through that ‘newsreel’ upfront? That his father was a titan of the business community, founding Stark Enterprises, a company that developed, manufactured, and sold weapons. That young Tony was a whiz with electronics, mechanical engineering, and computers at a very early age. That Tony was accepted to MIT when he 15 and graduated at the top of his class. And that he inherited Stark Enterprises when his father died unexpectedly.

Okay, based upon that raw data, let’s explore some possibilities of what might be going on in Tony’s Internal World. First, why did Tony excel at electronics, machinery, and computers so young? Perhaps that instinct is in his genes. Or isn’t it also feasible that young Tony pushed himself to excel in order to gain his father’s praise, perhaps even his father’s attention? Being the President and CEO of an international corporation, it seems likely Tony’s father was away a good bit of the time, maybe one of those businessmen who had little time for his family. In any event, his father’s shadow fell deeply and darkly across young Tony and was a contributing factor to who he became.

And what has he become when we first meet him in the movie? He jet-sets around the world. He is cocksure about everything he does. He is impulsive. He is a pleasure-seeker, especially when it comes to women, and a thrill-seeker as well. He is always on the go and perpetually behind schedule due to his self-consumption. He is a driven businessman, relishing and enjoying the most extreme perks as he travels through life.

That’s all what see through his actions and hear through his dialogue in the External World. But how might we interpret what is going on in Tony’s Internal World as an adult? In my view, I think Tony is a deeply conflicted person who is struggling to repress feelings of loss, anger, and guilt about his father: loss that his father is dead, perhaps even a deeper loss that his father was never much there for Tony when he was a boy and growing up; anger over his father leaving Tony with his father’s legacy, the business; and guilt about feeling anger toward his father.

I suspect Tony has a love-hate relationship with his father just as it turns out he has a love-hate relationship with Stark Enterprises. And I don’t think it’s a stretch to look at Tony’s seemingly ego-maniacal, pleasure and thrill-seeking behavior as simply his ongoing attempts to avoid dealing with his internal conflicts.

Oh, Scott, you’ve gone way too far with this psycho-babble take! Perhaps I have gone overboard. But puzzle me this: if Tony isn’t a deeply conflicted person ‘inside’, at least having some measure of antipathy toward making weapons, how is it that he switches world views from ‘hawk’ to ‘dove’ on a dime? Sure, he was kidnapped, he bonded with Yinsen, but the seeds of those experiences and Yinsen’s ‘wisdom’ have to find some receptive ‘soil’ in which to grow. I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that the makings of Tony’s turnaround were already ‘inside’ him as a result of the experiences of his youth and growing up.

If you don’t buy my argument, at least suspend your skepticism and allow me to run with my thesis one step further to ask — so what is “Iron Man?” In my view, the symbolic and ’emotional’ meaning of Tony inside the Iron Man suit is about synthesis, Tony’s attempt, even if he’s not aware of it consciously, to reconcile with his father — the Iron Man suit symbolically Tony’s father and Tony inside symbolically his young child-self.

How convenient because at the end of the story, when he goes against orders and announces, “I am Iron Man,” isn’t he claiming that synthesis? But there is still a tension: can he use violence, the means of his father, to counteract violence, as opposed to his initial turnaround response, which was to stop making weapons? That’s a nice tension to have for the umpteen sequels we’ll doubtless see from this smash-hit franchise.

So we’ve gone from Clint Eastwood to Iron Man and what have we learned? Perhaps that I’m full of it! Setting aside my specific analysis of Iron Man, two things: (1) Dig deeper into your characters, most especially your Protagonist, making sure that you do what you can to get the reader emotionally invested in them; (2) When digging around your Protagonist’s Internal World, look for core psychological and emotional dynamics, not so much the events that may have happened to them, i.e., their father died unexpectedly, but rather the Protagonist’s key responses to those events. If you can zero in on those deep, underlying emotional strains at work in the Protagonist’s inner psyche, you will likely find what you need to give your script “more character.”

[Originally posted May 21, 2008]

Video: “MCU Supercut – The Road to Civil War”

February 26th, 2016 by

The other day, screenwriter John Gary tweeted this:

I watched the video. It’s really strong. Check it out:

“Richly human and expressive.” Yes. Every frame of destruction counterbalanced by human faces. Characters. Beset by fears. Self-doubt. Regret. Conviction. Hope amid conflict.

We live in an era where spectacle is top-line in big budget movie franchises. Yet Aristotle, who knew his way around Story, asserted that of the six primary components of narrative, spectacle ought to exist at the bottom of the list.

At the very least, the studios who oversee the development and production of these superhero movies can spend as much time crafting characters — real characters with bones and hearts that can break — to give meaning to all of their bombastic eye-candy.

Marvel, you achieved that with this supercut.

Let’s see if you can hit that mark with your next round of movies.

Black List Writers on the Craft

September 1st, 2015 by

In August, I featured many of the Black List writers I have interviewed, zeroing in on their approaches and insights into several key areas of the writing craft.

Black List logo

Here are links to each of those series:

How do you come up with story concepts?

Black List writers on the craft: Story Concepts (Part 1) – Waiting for inspiration to strike

Black List writers on the craft: Story Concepts (Part 2) – Reading to surface story concepts

Black List writers on the craft: Story Concepts (Part 3) – Sourcing story ideas from the real world

Black List writers on the craft: Story Concepts (Part 4) – Finding inspiration for story concepts from feelings

Black List writers on the craft: Story Concepts (Part 5) – Using questions as a starting point for generating story ideas

Black List writers on the craft: Story Concepts (Part 6) – Assessing and developing story ideas

Black List writers on the craft: Story Concepts (Part 7) – Honing one’s skill at generating and developing story ideas

What aspects of story prep do you devote the most time and focus to?

Black List writers on the craft: Story Prep (Part 1) – Research

Black List writers on the craft: Story Prep (Part 2) – Characters as the focal point of prep

Black List writers on the craft: Story Prep (Part 3) – Not using an outline as part of prep process

Black List writers on the craft: Story Prep (Part 4) – “Preliminary” outlines

Black List writers on the craft: Story Prep (Part 5) – Working with an extensive outline

Black List writers on the craft: Story Prep (Part 6) – Comprehensive approach to story prep

How do you develop your characters?

Black List writers on the craft: Characters (Part 1) – Real people

Black List writers on the craft: Characters (Part 2) – Brainstorming and asking questions

Black List writers on the craft: Characters (Part 3) – Biography

Black List writers on the craft: Characters (Part 4) – Finding a character’s voice

Black List writers on the craft: Characters (Part 5) – Insider Tips

How do you understand and work with the concept of ‘theme’?

Black List writers on the craft: Theme (Part 1) – What is theme?

Black List writers on the craft: Theme (Part 2) – Begin the story-crafting process with theme

Black List writers on the craft: Theme (Part 3) – Discover theme during the writing process

Black List writers on the craft: Theme (Part 4) – Not come off as “preachy”

Black List writers on the craft: Theme (Part 5) – Being personal

In a few months, I’ll continue the series with more observations from Black List writers. Until then, I encourage you to read what these writers have to say about some key aspects of the craft. Wisdom in their words.

The Relationship of Character to Plot

January 30th, 2015 by

We had such an active and great group for my recent Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling class, I have extended our time together for another week. In one of our teleconferences, I was talking about the importance of working with our characters to inform the plotting process. Indeed, I said that what I have been exploring for years now are ways to put meat on the bones of the old adage: Character = Plot. One of the writers in the Pixar class, Deborah, posted this on the course site forums:

Have had an instructor counterpoint when I shared your point on Character = Plot:

Plot is what tests character. 

Thoughts? Further exploration of this subject? Mutually exclusive or synchronized companions?

My response:

I would not disagree with that. The events in the Plot serve as obstacles, roadblocks, and reversals, each of which offers a challenge. However I would argue that in a well-constructed story, those events are not random, but in fact are intimately tied to the characters in the narrative, most importantly the Protagonist. The specific nature of the Protagonist’s life circumstances — who they are and what they do — as well as their psychological journey – their Narrative Imperative, if you will — will almost inevitably inform the creative process when surfacing possible plot elements.

So, for example, why did Indiana Jones get called in to look for the Ark of the Covenant? Of course, he is an archeologist and known for finding lost treasures, so his life circumstances create the opportunity for the ensuing adventure. But in terms of his psychological journey, he begins the story as a skeptic about anything related to the supernatural. The Ark proves itself to be quite supernatural, so by the end of the story, Indiana has had his world view expanded on that front. That represents something of a change for his character.

Another minor example: Snakes. He hates snakes. Well, so a smart writer like Lawrence Kasdan will come up with the idea of dropping Indy into a pit filled with them.

Yet another example: In order to pursue the Ark, he needs a headstone which just so happens to be in the possession of Marion Ravenwood… who just so happens to be an ex-flame of Indy. Actually not coincidence at all as one could argue that this is part of Indiana’s Call To Adventure: To resolve an unresolved love affair.

I find this to be a fruitful way to think about the relationship between character and plot, that the latter emerges from the former. It hearkens back to that question I love to ask: Why does this story have to happen to this character at this time? The Call To Adventure is not random, but specific to the Protagonist. It is the Universe’s way of saying to them, “Enough of this inauthentic life you’ve been living. You need to leave your Old Ways of Being and go out into the New World to discover your True Self… which is lying dormant inside you, but now ready to wake up and come to life.”

So yes, plot tests character. But in a well-constructed story the events of the plot are intimately tied to, indeed can emerge from the very nature of the Protagonist’s life circumstances and psychological destiny.

At the end of the day, these type of aphorisms are best looked at as tools to help develop and craft stories. If one works for you, great. If not, don’t use it. I happen to like very much the idea of Character = Plot if for no other reason than it constantly reminds me to focus my energy on the individuals whose story it is: The Characters.

What are your thoughts? If you have some observations, head to comments for further discussion.

I’ve got another excellent 1-week Screenwriting Master Class course starting on Monday exploring six story summaries any writer looking to work in Hollywood would be well-served in learning: Logline, Synopsis, Breakdown, Treatment, Scriptment and Beat Sheet. Why don’t you join me and the terrific group of writers who have already signed up for the class? For more information, go here.

Reader Question: What to do if I’m good with plot, but weak with characters?

October 30th, 2014 by

Question via Twitter from @MahinWriter:

My issue: I can outline plot, but my character arcs feel weak. Got a blog post for that!?

It’s an important question and I appreciate you asking it, Michael, because with all the emphasis on screenplay structure in the online screenwriting universe — and by structure, most ‘gurus’ mean plot — there are a lot of script floating around that where writers hit the mark in terms of plot points and page count, but have created formulaic stories with little or no emotional resonance. And where should that emotional resonance come from? Why, characters, of course!

So the short answer is this: Spend more time with your characters! How to develop them? Try these techniques:

Questionnaire: A series of questions about your characters. Here is an example:

What is your name?

How old are you?

How would you describe your physical appearance?

How do you feel about the way you look?

Who are your parents?

Describe your relationship with your mother.

Describe your relationship with your father.

Who is the most important person in your life? Why?

Are you in love?

If so, describe your lover and your relationship with them.

If not, why not?

Describe what your soul-mate would be like.

Do you believe in God?

If so, describe your relationship with God.

If not, why not?

When did you stop believing in God?

Do you consider yourself to be an optimist or a pessimist? Why?

What do you do for a living?

If you like your job, explain why.

If not explain why not.

In ten years, where will you be and what will you be doing?

Please fill in the following…

My biggest strengths are…

My biggest weaknesses are…

I am most proud of…

I am most ashamed of…

I am most angry about…

And finally, be as honest as you can with this question…

I am most afraid of…

Biography: You act as historian and construct a life for your character, focusing on key relationships and events that may come into play in terms of their personality and events in your story.

Interview: Assume the role of a reporter, police detective, someone with a vested interest in getting information from a character, then go at them in the first person voice.

Sit-downs: This is the most ‘mystical’ of the techniques, but can also be one of the most valuable. Close the door, shut off your phone, sit at your computer, put your hands on your keyboard, close your eyes, and summon up an image of the character in question. If you can’t form a face, focus on one prominent feature — hands, hair, shoes, eyes. Then sit with them… and type. Don’t open your eyes, don’t edit what you’re typing, just write down the impressions, thoughts and feelings that come into your consciousness. Do this at least for a half-hour. Now what you end up with may be 90% misspelled crap, but even if just 10% of what you have on paper is gold, you’re ahead of the game. And in my experience, that 10% is often essential stuff, keys to the character. Do this exercise with all of your primary characters. You may choose to do it several times with your Protagonist and others over the course of your prep-writing as they evolve to check in with them.

Archetypes: At some point, it’s helpful to drill down and see what your main characters’ essential narrative function is, then you can ascribe to them one of the five primary character archetypes: Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, Trickster. But there are a whole host of other archetypes and you can consider each of your main characters in relation to them from a list like this one. For instance a Mentor who is a martyr is entirely different than a thief, an Attractor who is a virgin is different than a femme fatale.

Bottom line you are trying to do three things: (1) Go into your characters so you dig up key aspects of who they are. (2) Identify what their respective narrative functions are. (3) Understand how they work together as an ensemble especially in relation to the Protagonist’s metamorphosis journey.

Through that, hopefully the characters will come to life in your imagination and in your writing, it will be much more about them telling the story than you, and your plot will benefit from it.

Readers, do you have any other suggestions? Please head to comments and opine away!

Reader Question: What are some ways to visualize the inner world of a character?

October 2nd, 2014 by

From Anton:

I would be really interested in hearing from you on methods of how to show the inner world of a protagonist, in pictures rather than using a voice over. For example, in the french film ”A Prophet”, the protagonist speaks to the ghost of the man he killed, wich I understand is a way of showing how the protagonist copes with the pressure of being locked up in prison and learning from that experience. Or, why not, in Black Swan, where the protagonist’s inner conflicts are shown in hallucinative visions of seeing her self… I guess there are a million other ways, and I would love a discussion of that.

Best regards from Sweden and a struggling writer.

First off Anton, I think it’s safe to say that all writers are struggling writers, at least in the sense that tasked with wrangling a story into being, that process is almost assuredly a challenging one. So from one struggling writer to another — I greet you in the name of Creativity!

I applaud your instinct to push to find a visual way to communicate what is transpiring in a story’s Internal World. One of the most common errors I see when teaching college students is they tend to rely on dialogue to carry the story. I remind them often: Movies are primarily a visual medium. They are known as motion pictures. Both words spotlight film’s visual essence.

The two examples you note are instances where something the character was experiencing inside is projected into the External World in the form of visions, one of them to the point where the Protagonist is able to communicate with the ‘ghost.’ Other examples of that: Bogart in Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam and Parcher in A Beautiful Mind.

You can also take the reader inside a character’s mind. A great example of that occurs in American Beauty where Lester has recurring fantasies about Angela:

Something similar are flashbacks where the reader – again – goes inside the mind of a character to remember a specific event in the character’s past. There’s a notable moment like that in the movie Ordinary People in which Conrad has a breakthrough as he remembers the drowning death of his brother:

Of course one obvious way characters convey what is going on inside is through their actions, sometimes in direct opposition to their words. There’s a famous example of this in It’s a Wonderful Life:

George Bailey says he doesn’t want any plastics, he doesn’t want any ground floors, he doesn’t want to get married ever. But then, his actions show otherwise as he and Mary end up in a major clinch.

Those are some examples. How about it, GITS readers: What other ways can a writer expose what is going on in a character’s inner world besides through dialogue?

[Originally posted Mar 18, 2011]

Screenwriting Back to Basics, Day 4: Character = Function

June 19th, 2014 by

Yesterday we looked at one basic screenwriting principle: Plot = Structure. Today another one:

Character = Function

There are three points worth making re this principle. The first is pretty simple: Every character in a screenplay has to be there for a reason. That reason is their narrative function, how who they are and what they do is tied to the story’s narrative. This pertains at a macro and micro level: Each character has a function to the overall narrative as well as to each scene.

The idea of character = function is specifically relevant to screenplays which are unique literary forms. They are shorter than novels, therefore the story is more compressed. As screenwriters, we have to be judicious in the choices we make re our characters, and the best way I know to make those decisions and shape the roster of our story’s characters is to identify their respective narrative functions.

This may be a foreign concept to you. You may even bristle at the idea. Characters are supposed to be multilayered, flesh-and-blood individuals. How do I get there as a writer thinking about them in terms of function? This leads me to my second point:

Determining a character’s narrative function helps you to understand their core essence. Once you grasp what is at the foundation of a character’s being, then you can develop their entire psychological construct guided by that knowledge.

Take Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. He is a vicious killer, nicknamed “Hannibal the Cannibal” because his propensity is to eat his victims. If we just looked at Lecter from those surface details, we might be inclined to think that he is the story’s Nemesis character. But I would suggest that is not the case. In my view, Lecter’s narrative function is to provide key information in the movie’s serial killer case and force the Protagonist Clarice Starling to confront the seminal events of her past — her father’s murder, being orphaned, shipped off to her uncle’s farm in Montana, witnessing the spring slaughter of the lambs, trying to escape with one of the lambs — in order for her to find the courage to take on her real Nemesis character Buffalo Bill.

In other words, Lecter’s narrative function is Mentor, guiding Clarice through the Buffalo Bill case file and into her psychoanalytic ‘treatment’. The knowledge of Lecter’s core essence in relation to the Protagonist doubtless informed novelist Thomas Harris and screenwriter Ted Tally as they crafted his character.

My third point: In most movies, there are five main narrative functions at work, characterized by these primary character archetypes: Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Nemesis, Trickster. For example, here is the character archetype breakdown for The Silence of the Lambs:

Protagonist – Clarice Starling
Nemesis – Buffalo Bill
Attractor – Catherine Martin (kidnap victim)
Mentor – Hannibal Lecter
Trickster – Dr. Alex Chilton

I see these five character archetypes in movie after movie after movie. In fact, I’m inclined to believe that there may be an innate structure of Protagonist-Nemesis-Attractor-Mentor-Trickster akin to Aristotle’s idea of a story having a Beginning, Middle, and End and Joseph Campbell’s articulation of The Hero’s Journey.

In any event, a screenwriter is well-advised to develop and shape their characters with at least one eye on their respective narrative functions.

Note: In the book “The Silence of the Lambs,” Jack Crawford, the FBI official who assigns Clarice to interview Lecter, then brings her onto the Buffalo Bill case, is more of an Attractor character, intended to be a surrogate father figure. In the movie, Crawford’s role is cut down significantly from the script — which is cut down already quite a bit from the book — so that he comes off more as a Trickster.

To learn more about my theory of character archetypes, you can read these blog posts in which I analyze several movies from this perspective:

The Wizard of Oz

True Grit

Inception

The Silence of the Lambs

The Town

Bridesmaids

Shakespeare In Love

Gladiator

Up

Star Trek

This week, I’ll be posting something every day to remind us of a fundamental principle of screenwriting, just to make sure we’re not overlooking something obvious.

Character = Function

September 2nd, 2013 by

In a screenplay, characters exist for a reason. Unlike a novel, a writer doesn’t have unlimited time to introduce characters willy nilly, rather the limitations of a script’s length compels us to handle characters with one eye always on how they connect to the plot. Moreover almost all movies feature a Protagonist who goes through some sort of metamorphosis. As a result, it’s almost certain all of the primary and even secondary characters in a story tie into and support the Protagonist’s transformation.

All of this translates into a 3rd essential screenwriting principle I teach in the Core content of The Quest:

Character = Function

This may sound reductionist. It is precisely the opposite. Much like an actor asks, “What’s my motivation,” digging down into the core of their character’s persona, so, too, do we as screenwriters delve into characters to determine what their core essence is and how that plays out in terms of their respective narrative functions. Once we make those discoveries, we can shape our characters in unlimited ways, all the while playing to how they function in relation to the narrative.

That is the starting point of Core III: Character, a 1-week online class I will be teaching starting on Monday, September 9. In this course, you will learn about:

* Five primary character archetypes: Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, Trickster

* Protagonist Metamorphosis Arc

* Nemesis as opposition and ‘shadow’

* Attractor as the character most connected to a Protagonist’s emotional development

* Mentor as the character most connected to a Protagonist’s intellectual development

* Trickster as the character who tests the Protagonist’s will

* Different Protagonist paradigms

* Working with archetypes and switching Protagonists

And much more. The course consists of four components:

  • Lectures: There are six lectures written by me, each posting Monday through Saturday.
  • Writing Exercises: These optional exercises offer you the opportunity to workshop one of your own loglines and receive feedback from class members and myself.
  • Teleconference: We will have a Skype teleconference call to discuss course material.
  • Forums: The online course site has forums where you may post questions / comments.

We will analyze the following movies: The Wizard of Oz, The Apartment, The Silence of the Lambs, Slumdog Millionaire, Citizen Kane, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Life Is Beautiful,

For those of you who have not taken an online class, the interface is extremely easy. Plus online classes can be an amazing experience. Most of the activities you can do on your own time — download and read lectures, review and respond to forum discussions, upload loglines and track comments. In addition, I’ve been teaching online for over a decade and it never ceases to amaze me how much of a community emerges in such an environment.

Core III: Character is one of eight classes in the Core curriculum. Here is the schedule for all of them this fall, the only time I will be offering these courses in 2013:

August 26: Core I: Plot

September 2: Core II: Concept

September 9: Core III: Character

September 16: Core IV: Style

September 30: Core V: Dialogue

October 21: Core VI: Scene

November 4: Core VII: Theme

November 18: Core VIII: Time

Choose one or two depending upon your interests and needs. Or if you’re really serious and want to save some coin (nearly 50% off), consider The Core Package which gives you immediate access to the content for all eight Core classes which you can go through at your own pace, as well as the option of taking each 1-week online course.

“Joining Scott’s class is one of the best decisions anyone could make when deciding to embark on the journey of writing a screenplay. His passion for teaching and screenwriting could not be more inspirational. I couldn’t wish for a better teacher and mentor!” — Theodora von Auersperg

I have spent years studying Carl Jung, who was a huge influence on Joseph Campbell, and as the Hero’s Journey may act as a paradigm for narrative generally, I am convinced there is a similar universality in movies relative to these five character archetypes. Moreover these archetypes are a key to character-based screenwriting, providing writers a non-formulaic way to engage the story-crafting process.

For information on Core III: Character, which begins September 9, go here.

For The Core Package, go here.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you!

Go On Your Own Quest — Week 3: Character

August 2nd, 2013 by

The 2013 version of The Quest starts Week 3 today. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by because you can Go On Your Own Quest by following the structure of The Quest to dig into screenwriting theory [Core – 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep – 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages – 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Plus you can join The Black Board, the Official Online Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, another free resource to help keep you inspired and on target at you Go On Your Own Quest from FADE IN to FADE OUT on the first draft of your original screenplay.

This week, we are reflecting on the subject of Character, mirroring the content the Questers are engaged with in Core III: Character, working through six lectures I have written building off the 3rd Essential Screenwriting Principle: Character = Function.

For those of you who plan to Go On Your Own Quest, we began our week-long discussion on Character Monday asking this question: Are you more comfortable writing character or plot? You can read that discussion here. Tuesday this question: What techniques do you use to develop your characters? That discussion here. Wednesday: Why is the Protagonist so important to a story? Discussion here. Yesterday’s question: Why is a Nemesis so important to a story? Discussion here. Today’s question:

* How do fill out your story’s cast of characters?

If you’d like to access the same Core content as the writers participating in The Quest, I will be teaching Core II: Concept starting Monday, September 2. More information on that 1-week online class here.

Why wait? You can have immediate access to the content of all eight Core classes by signing up for The Core Package. This enables you to go through all of the Core lectures (48 total, each written by me), tips, techniques and optional writing exercises on a self-paced basis as well as take any of the 1-week classes as I offer them. Plus The Core Package offers a nearly 50% savings compared to if you took each Core class separately. For more information on this unique offer, go here.

Meanwhile I encourage you to head to comments to discuss today’s questions about Concept. And for a related discussion on The Black Board, check out these topics:

For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.

Onward!

Go On Your Own Quest — Week 3: Character

August 1st, 2013 by

The 2013 version of The Quest starts Week 3 today. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by because you can Go On Your Own Quest by following the structure of The Quest to dig into screenwriting theory [Core – 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep – 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages – 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Plus you can join The Black Board, the Official Online Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, another free resource to help keep you inspired and on target at you Go On Your Own Quest from FADE IN to FADE OUT on the first draft of your original screenplay.

This week, we are reflecting on the subject of Character, mirroring the content the Questers are engaged with in Core III: Character, working through six lectures I have written building off the 3rd Essential Screenwriting Principle: Character = Function.

For those of you who plan to Go On Your Own Quest, we began our week-long discussion on Character Monday asking this question: Are you more comfortable writing character or plot? You can read that discussion here. Tuesday this question: What techniques do you use to develop your characters? That discussion here. Yesterday: Why is the Protagonist so important to a story? Discussion here. Today’s question:

* Why is a Nemesis so important to a story?

If you’d like to access the same Core content as the writers participating in The Quest, I will be teaching Core III: Character starting Monday, September 9. More information on that 1-week online class here.

Why wait? You can have immediate access to the content of all eight Core classes by signing up for The Core Package. This enables you to go through all of the Core lectures (48 total, each written by me), tips, techniques and optional writing exercises on a self-paced basis as well as take any of the 1-week classes as I offer them. Plus The Core Package offers a nearly 50% savings compared to if you took each Core class separately. For more information on this unique offer, go here.

Meanwhile I encourage you to head to comments to discuss today’s questions about Concept. And for a related discussion on The Black Board, check out these topics:

Write a Worthy Nemesis

More Related Discussions

For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.