Chasing Success

Chasing Success

We writers realize that the chances of any one thing we write being “successful” are slim. At least that’s true if we define “successful” as “reaching an audience,” “getting produced or published,” “bringing in income,” or even “advancing a career in some way, like...
Perfect Counterparts

Perfect Counterparts

What makes an audience root for two people to be together? The Save the Cat books have a name for the type of story where the primary external conflict is that two people who are “perfect counterparts” have something big in the way of “living happily ever after.” It’s...
Web of Conflict

Web of Conflict

What’s the key thing to focus on when developing a TV series idea? The answer is simple: the characters. Specifically, a web of entertaining-to-watch characters who have conflicted relationships with each other. Ideally, you would also have a big, intriguing,...
Script coverage services

Script coverage services

What exactly is script coverage?  Is it a good thing to pay for, and how is it different from script consulting? I’m glad you asked. When someone “covers” a script, they analyze its perceived strengths and weaknesses, and write up a brief report about them.  The...
8 Characters of Comedy

8 Characters of Comedy

When I work with anyone developing a half-hour pilot, I always recommend Scott Sedita’s book The Eight Characters of Comedy.  Written primarily for actors (Sedita is an acting coach in Los Angeles), it can also greatly help writers.  It presents eight archetypes found...
95% is Problem-Solving

95% is Problem-Solving

Billy Ray, writer-director of the new SECRET IN THEIR EYES, and screenwriter of CAPTAIN PHILLIPS and THE HUNGER GAMES, was recently interviewed on the WGA’s podcast.  Among other words of wisdom he had about screenwriting was this quote: “If you are a mechanic,...
The Idea is EVERYTHING

The Idea is EVERYTHING

I’ve consistently found that most of the notes I have on any script I read — and certainly all of the most important ones — are notes I would have had on the basic idea behind the story, if it had been pitched to me before it was written. And so, the #1 piece of...
Two types of TV stories

Two types of TV stories

Somehow an article I wrote for Script Magazine a while back never got added to my own website — and it’s about an important topic that I teach TV writers about all the time: the two different kinds of TV stories, and why it’s important to know which...
Why They Make Bad Movies

Why They Make Bad Movies

Beginning screenwriters often are shocked to hear how competitive the field is, and how difficult it is to break into.  If only the writers with the very best skill, craft, artistry and ideas are able to sell their material or get hired, how does that jibe with the...
Unmet Needs

Unmet Needs

I think the best television characters want something they can never have — and spend every episode pursuing it.  What makes them compelling is that they are under siege, in some way, by the world around them, and unable to secure that version of their life that they...
How I got my big break

How I got my big break

I was recently interviewed for Ashley Meyers’ “sellingyourscreenplay.com” video podcast, about how I got my professional start as a screenwriter, and some of the key things I’ve learned along the way. It’s a free one hour video: the...
Flaws and Character Arc

Flaws and Character Arc

The best movies tend to have a growth arc for the main character.  In the end, they have often somehow become better versions of themselves, as well as having solved some big problem in their world.  This means they have to start the movie as the “not best version of...
Internal Stakes

Internal Stakes

The main character in a movie generally has a big problem that it takes the whole movie to solve. And this is what a professional reader of a script is generally focused on understanding first.  What is that problem?  Why will it be so difficult to solve that it takes...
Audiences are sadists

Audiences are sadists

If I could sum up the number one most common overall weakness in screenplays I read, it would be that the main character does not have a big enough overall problem, and a high enough level of difficulty and complications as they try to solve it. When you get the...
The Problem with Flashbacks

The Problem with Flashbacks

Jumping around in time with flashbacks can be confusing in a script, and can make it hard for a reader to get oriented and settle into one particular story, in a specific time frame.  And this is what tends to really grab readers — a discrete challenge for a main...
Gordy Hoffman interview

Gordy Hoffman interview

Gordy Hoffman, award-winning Writer-Director (and founder/judge of the BlueCat Screenwriting Competition — which I believe is one of the top ten contests out there) recently interviewed me for BlueCat’s blog.  Then I interviewed him back!.  Here are his answers...
Screenwriting contests

Screenwriting contests

Screenwriting contests — are they a good idea? Agents and managers I’ve talked to have emphasized that there are handful of top competitions that can be a feather in a writer’s cap, if one place REALLY highly in them.  And these can be mentioned at the bottom of an...
Screenwriting’s #1 rule

Screenwriting’s #1 rule

Show, don’t tell.   These are probably some of the first words any of us ever heard in a screenwriting class. At first, it might seem obvious.  Film and television are visual media.  You always want to give the audience something to watch.  It’s boring to...
Unlikable Main Characters

Unlikable Main Characters

With the rise of somewhat unlikable main characters in cable dramas like The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and True Detective, anti-heroes are everywhere.  We don’t need to “sympathize” or even “root for” the main character(s) in a story anymore, it seems — as long as...
In defense of formula

In defense of formula

Script Magazine has just published my new article where I discuss the issue of “formulaic” writing, and the use of story structure paradigms to help guide the process of crafting a screenplay. It begins thusly: Writers often rebel against the idea that a...
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