Create a Compelling Protagonist

April 16th, 2014 by

In almost every movie, the most critical character is the Protagonist.

* Typically the story is told through their perspective.
* Their goal usually dictates the end point of the plot.
* All the other primary characters are somehow linked to the Protagonist.
* Normally they go through the most significant metamorphosis.
* And the Protagonist acts as the main conduit into the story for a script reader and moviegoer.

So guess what? You need to create a Protagonist that grabs a reader’s attention and keeps it for 100 pages.

How to do that?

That’s what we will be exploring in my upcoming 1-week online class “Create a Compelling Protagonist”.

Go beyond writing a ‘sympathetic’ Protagonist. Dig deeper than giving your Protagonist a ‘flaw.’ That is surface level writing. In this class, you will learn an approach that will help you immerse yourself into this key character, and craft a Protagonist worth writing… and reading.

This class not only explores proven ways to help you create a compelling character, it also lays out an approach you can use as the groundwork for developing the rest of your story.

Seven lectures, forum feedback, insider tips, 90-minute teleconference, and the opportunity to workshop your story’s Protagonist [or Protagonists].

Plus if you’re a fan of the movies Bridesmaids, The Social Network and Up, we’ll be using those as our study scripts. They offer a diverse set of Protagonists and yet the approach we will study next week shows how a writer can craft such compelling and different lead characters.

It all starts Monday, April 28. You can learn more and sign up here.

Here are some observations from writers who have taken the class with me:

“One week of Creating a Compelling Protagonist challenged me in ways I couldn’t challenge myself. If you want to develop your ideas, this is a rare opportunity at great value. Thank you, Scott!” – Brianna Garber

“I’ve taken a ton of classes, both inside and outside film school, and this was one of the best. The material provided a ton of inventive ways to approach the development of a solid, three-dimensional protagonist, and helped me dig deeper into the character’s internal world — forcing me to reject easy solutions, the first ideas that came to mind.” – Jason Young

“A class that is perfect for anyone looking to learn the primary character archetypes, their psychology, and how they relate to the protagonist. The lectures provide thorough examples of these character archetypes in modern and classic movies, and the online forums were a hotspot to ask questions about the material or anything related to screenwriting. Scott’s style of teaching is highly accessible to anyone, as he creates an environment of easy, open discussion on the subject of character and welcomes any other questions you may have along the way.” – Kristen Vincent, sold spec script “Fetch” in 2013.

This 1-week Craft course is coupled with another class: Write A Worthy Nemesis. That begins Monday, May 12. For information on that session, go here.

This is the only time I will be offering these Craft classes in 2014, so take this opportunity and sign up now!

Rewriting your script

April 7th, 2014 by

Let’s face it: Rewriting is a bitch. Or a bastard. Pick your gender specific invective. Doesn’t matter. The process is a pain no matter how you shake your fist and swear at it.

One big issue I’ve found with writers caught up in the maelstrom of rewriting is that there is no one surefire path to success. This stands to reason. Stories are organic and so a certain amount of rewriting them involves wallowing in the wilderness. That’s just the nature of things.

However I have an approach which I honestly believe can move your process forward in a big way. It’s one I use in the Pages II: Rewriting Your Script workshop, a 10-week class that guides you through a rewrite.

In this workshop, you will not only drill down into your story and understand it more clearly, if you do the work, you will get from FADE IN to FADE OUT on your next draft, and move you script toward the point you can bring it to market.

Here is an overview of the approach employed in Pages II: Rewriting Your Script:

* The first four weeks, it’s about assessing your current draft, identifying problems as well as content that works, brainstorming solutions, then working up a revision outline.

* The next four weeks, it’s knocking out your draft in quarters: Week 5 – Act One. Week 6 – The first half of Act Two. Week 7 – The second half of Act Two. Week 8 – Act Three.

* The last two weeks: Polish and Edit.

There are 10 lectures that provide prompts and tips to steer you through the rewrite, weekly due dates to compel you to do the work, and a workshop environment in which you receive constructive critiques from your fellow writers along with detailed feedback from myself, a combination of written feedback and teleconferences.

What’s more, you learn tools you can use to incorporate into your rewrite process from here on out, making your experience less bitchy / bastardy.

Here is a testimonial from Russell Simpson, a writer who has gone through the Pages II experience:

“I asked friends, trawled the internet, read the blogs and still found myself a touch bewildered by all the self-aggrandizement and shady plaudits. Then I read the brilliant BlackList Blog. And I looked up the writer. And it’s Scott Myers…

Scott’s course is superb. Scott possesses an enviable combination of honesty, bravery and mercy. As long as you are prepared to work hard, this course WILL improve your craftsmanship. I fed a feature through Scott’s dynamo brain and, out the other end is a piece of which I’m intensely proud. If you’re hesitating, stop. You’ll be thankful.”

I do not subscribe to the belief there is one approach to writing… or rewriting. Every writer is different. Every story is different. But I do know this: The process we use in Pages II has helped many, many writers solve major story issues, discover important story keys, and enable them to take their script to the next level.

If you have a script that is a complete draft, but you know needs work…

Or a partially completed draft where you got stuck and couldn’t find your way out…

Or a story you’ve rewritten multiple times, yet feel it just doesn’t work…

I encourage you to consider joining me in my upcoming Rewriting Your Script workshop which begins Monday, April 14.

For more information, go here.

For a look at my first lecture from Pages II: Rewriting Your Script, go here.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you!

Saying It Out Loud

April 1st, 2014 by

A guest post from Tom Benedek:

Before there were pens, paper, words, letters, campfires, there were stories. Using the tools of the trade, writers can refine their stories, tell them better perhaps, replicate them, distribute them eternally. But the well told story was first transmitted speaker to listener. So even though most screenwriters would prefer not to, it may be necessary, important, highly worthwhile to transmit the story we are planning to write or have written with our mouths. In Hollywood, they call it PITCHING.

I have pitched successfully and badly many times, been hired numerous times from verbal presentation in studios or productions offices. But I am no master of the pitch. Far from it. I believe that chemistry, and a certain alignment of the right story concept or approach with the right listeners results in my own success in pitching. Whenever I have succeeded in pitching, I know I have done well with what I had. And what I had in terms of story and character was, in my mind, much more important than how I presented it. If I pitched it well, I probably felt good about what I was talking about and felt a good response from my listeners.

Still, there is an art and science to pitching: how to proceed if you are caught in the “elevator” with someone who you think ought to hear about your project or if you are in a meeting with decision-makers or their representatives.

It is great to have a set of skill sets, guidelines to draw on for these situations. A solid verbal presentation ought to be an automatic for screenwriters. This can be learned, of course. This brings me to next week’s Network Hollywood class online at Screenwritingmasterclass.com – starting on April 7. There will be a wonderful selection of video interviews with managers, agents, producers, plus a set of lectures and discussions about log lines and how to get your material to these people properly. We will also be featuring a wonderful guest for our live Q and A – Stephanie Palmer of Good in the Room. Stephanie is a good friend, former studio executive and teaches-consults on the art and science of pitching, of learning to be “Good in the Room.” Each class member will get some extra materials on pitching from Stephanie’s core teaching materials, and get a chance to ask her questions “face to face” online.

For more information the upcoming session of Network Hollywood which begins Monday, April 7, go here.

Character Development Keys

March 25th, 2014 by

If there’s one question I get asked about screenwriting theory more than any other it’s what’s my deal with character archetypes? Here’s your chance to find out what that deal is with the Screenwriting Master Class course: Character Development Keys.

It’s a 1-week online class where you do pretty much everything on your own time schedule: download and read lectures, review and post comments on the public forums, upload ideas and optional writing exercises. You want to do that in bed in your pajamas sipping coffee? Be my guest!

There is one teleconference which is live, but I record and upload that, so you can even check that out on your own time, too.

As to the course itself, there are seven lectures written by yours truly:

1: Character Archetypes and Story Structure
2: Protagonist
3: Nemesis
4: Attractor
5: Mentor
6: Trickster
7: Switch Protagonist

The study script for the course: The Dark Knight, screenplay by Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan, story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, based on characters created by Bob Kane. If you’re a fan of this movie, that alone is probably reason enough to take this class because you will understand the film in a whole new way, through the lens of character archetypes.

In addition, you will get the opportunity to put the theories you learn into action by workshopping one of your own stories.

And as a bonus: I’ll be presenting a set of character development tools I have assembled over the years to help you dig into characters even further to uncover their unique personalities and voice.

This is a great chance to immerse yourself in what I consider to be one of the most fascinating and helpful ways of approaching character development and indeed, the story-crafting process as a whole: character archetypes.

All of that in only 1-week. The course runs begins Monday, March 31. And again, you can do the entire course in your pajamas! Sucking down caffeine! Devouring chocolate bon bons! The beauty of the online experience!

For more information, go here.

As always, I look forward to the opportunity to work with you!

Why write?

March 19th, 2014 by

A guest post from Tom Benedek, screenwriter (Cocoon) and co-founder of Screenwriting Master Class:

Here’s a mystery story all of us live in. Why write? I ask myself that question a lot and then — I start writing. It always seems that I am measuring the next season, set of months against a project I feel like I need to start or finish.  Creative efforts may be challenging, time consuming, frustrating, painful BUT they confirm our souls, allow us to discern existence to the world, celebrate life. Antagonists, Protagonists, Mentors, Attractors immerse our real lives. Finding a way to form them out in story, to interpret the emotional  world we each live in gives coherence to life, I think.

Learning to write scripts is a lifelong process. With each script I write, I feel as though i am starting over. Hopefully, I accumulate knowledge about how to go about it. Still, it feels like this glorious and frustrating circle — the writing process — I must relearn, as I pick up my writing tools to start again on a new script or a rewrite. Committing to go from idea to page is step into wonder and frustration each time. No one can know in advance what the result may be. There is a path leading to greatness out there. And every fade in we write is the first step own that road. If writing a script is a walk in the woods, that journey itself may be as interesting as the destination. Or there may be a great and wondrous  place awaiting the final footsteps. Either way, writing a movie is a divine thing of those of us who love film and love to write.

My Introduction to Screenwriting class is a good and safe place for new writers (and those who have written many scripts before) to get a script done. You can just work on your outline and pages or you can add in some time going over fundamentals and a few more advanced craft concepts. Here is the link.

We go over the fundamentals week by week, using some great scripts (Little Miss Sunshine, The Social Network, Gladiator, Michael Clayton, many more) as study models, but most importantly, class members work on story outlines and then write their own first drafts. It is always an adventure and great for most of us to have pacing, feedback, encouragement as we write.

If your answer to the question “Why write” is “Because I have to,” and you’re just starting out on your creative adventure, consider taking Tom’s class Introduction to Screenwriting. It begins March 24th.

How does Quentin Tarantino approach writing scenes?

March 3rd, 2014 by

From Tom Benedek, my colleague and co-founder of Screenwriting Master Class:

Happy Oscars, everyone. Several speeches last night were so inspiring. The show was slow but the talent, the movies they were a part of, glittered for me. 2013 was an interesting year for movies. Some say it was a great year. I think there were too few great movies. So – let’s all write great scripts in 2014. Onward!

I just finished my own first draft of a script and am doing a scene check (and major revision) this week before I hand it in to the producers. As always, there are “issues”. Among other things, I am looking at how I structured each scene. As usual — in a few scenes there is no conflict – heavy on exposition. Occasionally, there is an abrupt shift that is disconcerting. A few times, a montage ought to be replaced. On and on.

Which brings me to Quentin Tarantino and my upcoming scene writing class. Oscar is not a fan of violent films. However, Quentin Tarantino took home his second career best screenplay Oscar last year. Tarantino is a filmmaker of great skill and audacity. He is also one of us – a wonderful screenwriter who beat the odds through his vision and skill as a storyteller, a writer of original screenplays of high caliber.

Next week, I will be running a class worth considering – a study of scene writing, exclusively using Tarantino’s recent scripts to define certain characteristics of scene structure — to celebrate, learn and re-learn a few things about writing scenes.

The one week class starts on Monday, March 10. We will be looking at Tarantino’s use of conflict, expository, flashback, indirection, subtext, all the rest of it. He speaks to the reader a lot. His movies are sometimes violent but they are also highly emotional – romantic in the way that old Hollywood action movies often are. I think it is going to be a fun and instructive class. There will be four lectures. Class members can each post a scene for feedback and a quick revision. I hope class members will also present their favorite Tarantino scenes for discussion – so we can break them down and see how and why they tick so well so often. We all may have a little bit of Tarantino in us to unchain as we write script pages.

Consider joining me for what should be a very interesting class starting next Monday, March 10.

For more information on Writing Scenes — Tarantino Study Models with Tom Benedek, go here.

How good are you at handling exposition?

February 11th, 2014 by

In Hollywood, there is a saying I’ve heard more than once: “Exposition = Death.” Why? Because nothing can bore readers more than the delivery of setting, information, data and backstory. Yet every script, play or story you write requires you to include exposition.

That’s why I created the Screenwriting Master Class course Handling Exposition. In this unique 1-week online class, we will break down exposition into various types, then by analyzing numerous examples from well known movies, delve into six key principles and techniques on how to best handle it:

  • Exposition as Fascination
  • Exposition as Mystery
  • Exposition as Revelation
  • Exposition as Conflict
  • Exposition as Action
  • Exposition as Humor

Plus 7 insider tips on working with exposition.

In addition, you can workshop exposition in your own stories using the principles and tips you learn in the course.

And the always popular Logline Workshop.

The class consists of:

Seven lectures written by Scott Myers
Special insider tips
Daily forum Q&As
Workshop writing exercises with instructor and class feedback
A 90-minute live teleconference between instructor and class members

Trust me, you need to know how to handle exposition. That’s why I created this course. And this is the only time I’ll be teaching it in 2014!

That’s right, I’m offering this class just once this year.

So join me beginning Monday, February 17 for Handling Exposition, a 1-week immersion in this critical aspect of the screenwriting craft.

Enroll here!

Learn the craft!

February 3rd, 2014 by

There is no right way to write. Every writer is different. Every story is different.

That also means there is no right way to learn to write.

I have promoted one path on this blog for years: Read scripts. Watch movies. Write pages.

No matter what else you do, that should be the foundation of your work.

And for that path, you do not need to pay one dime. If you are motivated, persistent, resourceful and committed to doing your work on a daily basis, this is one way you can learn the craft.

Another path is to learn from people who have something to say about the craft.

But which people?

There are a lot of folks floating around out there with seminars, books, DVDs, websites, even software systems, each with their own language system. But who to trust?

Before you spend any of your hard-earned money, here are some questions you should ask:

* Have they ever been employed as an actual Hollywood writer?

* How many years of experience have they had as a professional writer?

* Are they members of the Writers’ Guild of America?

* Have they ever had a successful commercial movie produced from a script they wrote?

* How much do they know about the business of writing in Hollywood?

* How current is their knowledge of the business?

* How extensive are their contacts with legitimate Hollywood managers, agents and producers?

* What is their reputation as teachers?

If you ask all of these questions about Tom Benedek and myself, and what we do at Screenwriting Master Class, you will come away with strong affirmative answers.

In other words: We know our stuff.

Here is our schedule of classes and workshops for the next 2 months:

February 3: Craft: Story Summaries — From Loglines to Beat Sheets (Scott Myers)

February 10: Craft: Writing the Low Budget Script (Tom Benedek)

February 17: Craft: Handling Exposition (Scott Myers)

February 24: TV: Writing the Original Pilot Script (Tom Benedek)

March 3: Prep: From Concept to Outline (Scott Myers)

March 10: Craft: Writing Scenes — Tarantino Study Models (Tom Benedek)

March 17: Craft: Character Introductions (Scott Myers)

March 24: Pages I: The First Draft — Introduction to Screenwriting [TB]

March 31: Craft: Character Development Keys (Scott Myers)

In addition to these online classes, I will be in Santa Monica from March 13-16 for the four day Quest Writing Workshop. There are only a couple of spots left, so if you are interested, I encourage you to enroll now.

What you get with our classes is a unique combination of screenwriting theory and practice, led by two professional writers who are passionate about storytelling and knowledgeable as teachers. And because the courses are offered online, you can do almost all of the work on your own time and live anywhere in the world.

[In my current Story Summaries class which starts today, we have writers from Russia, Israel, England, Australia, Germany, Puerto Rico and all across the United States.]

For more on Tom’s background, go here. For mine, go here.

There are as many paths to learn the craft as there are writers.

You may choose to go your own way, immersing yourself in the world of scripts, movies and writing.

If so, good for you.

However if you want to jump-start and solidify your grasp of the craft, learning from professional writers with a proven track record of enabling writers to succeed in Hollywood…

Check out Screenwriting Master Class.

Break your story in prep

January 7th, 2014 by

A message from my friend and colleague Tom Benedek:

Happy New Year, Writers! My new year’s resolution: Pay attention to the emotional components of film genres. Look at what I’m writing in terms of its originality, quality of character and story AND how it fits into its own specific genre niche. No matter how unique a script project may be, once we send it out into the world it has to fit into a category. It may be unique in all ways yet it will not defy some categorization. So benefit from that — push the limits AND stay aware of the kind of film you are writing.

Giving birth to a new script idea is exciting, painful, vibrant. By nature, creativity is a wild beast. Of course, we are always striving for perfection. But that wild beast-creative energy often has rough ways. That is what we want.

Once in it is placed in that genre niche, it must fulfill the requirements there AND be perfect AND be wildly original. It can’t just be another one of THOSE. It has to be special, unique while having the balance which satisfies the requirements of its genre. EXAMPLE: If I am writing a gritty original TV pilot — it must be thrilling, go where no show of its kind has gone before, fit into the family of its kind of show and yet have its own vision. Clear with the script’s commercial niche, must test my own passion for the story I am working on to understand what it really means to my characters and to me. Never easy. Important to ask myself many questions and provide solid answers before I start writing.

My first Screenwritingmasterclass.com class of 2014: Prep – Starting January 13. Prep class is a great place to have some fun playing with your own inner wild beast as you develop an outline for your script project. It is a way to test story and character notions and fit things together into a cohesive whole. With the writing assignments in Prep, the story and character elements may be rolled out of your brain onto the page in solid story formation. It is a place to be wildly creative and yet strive for your own kind of perfection. We will address those genre concerns and push through those creative depths within each of us.

The official title of the class is Prep: From Concept to Outline which sums up the primary goal of this 6-week workshop: Break your story before you type FADE IN. Prep was the first course we offered through SMC and has proved to be especially popular. Why? Because if you do the work, it works.

Moreover you come away with an approach to prep-writing you can adopt and adapt for use with all your future writing projects.

We offer Prep throughout the year about every 6-7 weeks, alternating between Tom and myself. The schedule:

January 13: Tom

March 3: Scott

April 21: Tom

June 9: Scott

Go here for more information.

Jump start your screenwriting in 2014!

December 30th, 2013 by

I’m happy to provide all the free screenwriting content I do here at Go Into The Story and hope you benefit from it. In fact, I’m gratified to learn that several 2013 Black List writers and 2013 Nicholl Fellowship winners are fans of the blog.

There is also The Black Board, the Official Online Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, another free resource.

This is in keeping with my mantra: You do not need to spend a dime to learn the craft. Watch movies. Read scripts. Write pages. Immerse yourself in the world of cinema. If you have talent and persistence, that may be all you need to succeed.

That said, I do believe in the value of working with knowledgeable teachers who are passionate about movies and storytelling, and have decades of experience working in Hollywood — like Tom Benedek (who wrote Cocoon) and myself.

We launched Screenwriting Master Class three years ago because we saw a need for what we know and do: provide solid screenwriting theory grounded in the realities of life as a professional screenwriter.

Tom and I are proud to say that several writers who have worked with us as their teachers achieved notable successes in 2013. Here are just a few:

  • Matt Lintner optioned his original script “Snowballs” to Gold Key Productions targeting production in 2014. Matt worked with Tom in a rewrite class.
  • Belgium based writer Eddy Martens is being funded to write his original screenplay “Slopie” by the VAF (Flemish Audiovisual Fund). Eddy took the Core Package with Scott.
  • San Patricios, a movie written by Adair Cole, was produced this year starring Austin Nichols, Patrick John Fleuger, Kris Kristofferson, and Beau Bridges. Adair worked with Tom on the rewrite of the script.
  • Paramount Insurge acquired the spec script “Fetch” written by Kristen Vincent and Tim Moran. Scott was Kristen’s first screenwriting teacher and she has taken several online classes with him.
  • Mitchell Akselrad, whose script “Titans of Park Row” made the 2012 Black List, sold “The Gate” to Wayfare Entertainment and worked on the pilot for the upcoming AMC series “Turn”. Mitchell had Tom for a teacher at USC.
  • Legendary Pictures bought the spec script “Reminiscence” written by Lisa Joy for a reported $1.75M. She also co-wrote the pilot script for the HBO series “Westworld” which goes into production in 2014. Scott is the only screenwriting teacher Lisa has ever had.

At Screenwriting Master Class, we offer a wide variety of online courses and workshops we can tailor to meet your specific needs and help jump start your screenwriting.

For example, starting Monday, January 6, I will be leading the next session of Pages I: The First Draft. It’s a 10-week workshop in which you use a series of writing assignments to pound out pages and steer you from FADE IN to FADE OUT.

More than that, the ten lectures and supplementary material enable you to learn a professional approach to screenwriting, one you can adopt and adapt for all future script projects.

In addition, there is the value of a workshop experience:

* Weekly due dates to spur you to write pages.
* Feedback from your fellow workshop participants.
* Extensive analysis and guidance from me, acting as a writing mentor.

If you’ve worked out a story and are ready to knock out a first draft…

If you’ve started a script, but just couldn’t find the motivation to finish it…

If you’ve got lost along the way, but know you have a story worth telling…

What better way to start off the New Year than with a new story?

Join me for the The First Draft workshop by enrolling here.

While you’re at it, you can go here to check out the entire roster of exciting SMC classes and workshops through the month of June.

Onward into 2014!