How to Write a Screenplay or Tell a Better Story

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For anyone who wants to tell a better story, or specifically write a screenplay, I thought I'd share advice I've learned on the road. I wrote this for friends who've wanted me to give them a one hour crash course on storytelling and screenwriting. I hope this helps!

Text of How to Write a Screenplay or Tell a Better Story

  • How to write a screenplay. Or tell a better story. by Victor Pieiro[storystuff]
  • First things rst.Whats your idea?
  • It should have a HOOK. It should be HIGH CONCEPT. Which really means...It should be awesome.
  • high concept: adj. a story based on a striking andeasily communicable plot or idea(Oxford English Dictionary)
  • Awesome ideas. A cop who has to kill robots might be a robot himself. During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaurs to run amok. A suicidal family man is given the opportunity to see what the world would be like if he had never been born. A guy who complains about God too often is given almighty powers to teach him how difcult it is to run the world. After an Alaskan town is plunged into darkness for a month, it is attacked by a bloodthirsty gang of vampires.
  • You need a PLOT and a STORY.
  • Plot the hero WANTING something one event causing another
  • Story the hero NEEDING something revealing the heros character
  • Okay, youve got your awesome idea.Tell it to me in one line.
  • Your one-line idea, or LOGLINE, should include orsuggest these three elements:Someone (the hero) wants something (the goal) butis blocked by something (the adversary).
  • Awesome loglines An 8-year-old boy, who is accidentally left behind while his family ies to France for Christmas, has to defend his home against idiotic burglars. A cowboy toy is profoundly threatened and jealous when a fancy spaceman toy supplants him as top toy in a boys room. A weatherman nds himself living the same day over and over again. A naive young man battles heartless authorities to protect the life of his girlfriend when its revealed that shes not human shes a mermaid.
  • If it helps, you can also describe the TONE of your moviewith an X meets Y, X with Y or X in Y one-liner.
  • Pocahontas In Space
  • blair witch meets Godzilla
  • hamlet with lions
  • jaws with other creatures
  • For bonus points, give me:Your idea in one word. (This is your THEME.)
  • revenge.
  • family.
  • character.
  • Okay, you have an idea.Whos your hero?
  • To dene your hero, ask:What does he WANT?What does he NEED?
  • A WANT is external.A NEED is internal.
  • WANTS: Parents to Meet NEEDS: Courage
  • WANTS: MoneyNEEDS: Trust/Love
  • WANTS: TomorrowNEEDS: To Appreciate Today
  • WANTS: To Defeat Doc Ock NEEDS: Confidence
  • One more question.Whats his FLAW?[What he NEEDS is related to his FLAW.]
  • FEAR.
  • INDECISION..
  • SELF-DOUBT.
  • Okay, youve got a hero.Whos the adversary? [Note: They might not be a villain.]
  • An adversary embodies the heros FLAW.An adversary forces the hero to face his FLAW.
  • Adversary.
  • ADVERSARY.
  • ADVERSARY.
  • ADVERSARY.
  • Idea? Check. Hero? Check. Adversary? Check.Lets talk STRUCTURE.
  • Most lms (and many stories) have THREE ACTS. Each ACT is made up of SEQUENCES. Each SEQUENCE is made up of SCENES. Each SCENE is made up of BEATS.
  • MOVIE = ACT ACT ACT SEQUENCE SEQUENCE SEQUENCE= SEQUENCE SEQUENCE SEQUENCE SEQUENCE SEQUENCE SEQUENCE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE= SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE SCENE BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT= BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT
  • Beat the smallest unit in a script/story an exchange of action & reaction
  • Scene a continuous action in a specic location functions as a mini-story has a protagonist with a goal the protagonists must face an obstacle a scene either moves the story forward or reveals info about the character
  • Sequence several scenes that build up to a bigger climax each sequence has a mini-goal sequences end in turning points turning point = a goal achieved or lost turning point = the story changing direction
  • Act several sequences that build up to a climax the climax is a a major turning point
  • Stories also tend to have the following SIGNPOSTS.
  • A day in the life.Show us what the heros world is like, introduce all themain characters, introduce the heros aw(s). MIDPOINT ACT I ACT II ACT III
  • The SPARK!Something happens and the heros world is FLIPPED ONITS HEAD. This is where the HOOK comes in. You canalso consider this THE CALL TO ADVENTURE. MIDPOINT ACT I ACT II ACT III
  • Do I Stay or Do I Go?The hero must decide whether to embark on thisadventure (or take this new opportunity). 99% of the timeshe will REFUSE INITIALLY and something will drive herto make the decision and GO! MIDPOINT ACT I ACT II ACT III
  • Into the New WorldThe hero (boldly) ventures into the new world, which isthe OPPOSITE of the world shes lived in up to this point. MIDPOINT ACT I ACT II ACT III
  • What is love?The new world often comes with a few new characters,including the LOVE INTEREST. He usually representswhat the hero NEEDS. MIDPOINT ACT I ACT II ACT III
  • Melt Their Faces OffRemember that awesome HOOK you thought up? Pay itoff here. The hero has fun with her new powers orsituation. The audience should LOVE this part. MIDPOINT ACT I ACT II ACT III
  • Crossing the RubiconIn other words, this is the POINT OF NO RETURN. Thehero must do something which she cant undo, whichwill soon plunge her into the NIGHTMARE... but notquite yet. MIDPOINT ACT I ACT II ACT III
  • False VictoryThe hero gets a moment of clarity, and everything seemslike its going to be okay shes going to prevail...[Note: sometimes this is False Defeat.] MIDPOINT ACT I ACT II ACT III