How to Finish Act One

How to Finish Act One

I’ve written before about the first ten pages of a screenplay, and touched on the nature of the Catalyst (which the Save the Cat “beat sheet” insists should happen on exactly page 12). But I haven’t yet focused on its “Debate Section” —...
Fun & Games Section

Fun & Games Section

Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat books called the first half of a screenplays second act the “Fun & Games section.” This is where the action shifts to an “upside down world” of some kind, where the main character will try to confront their overall story problem/goal....
Who is My Antagonist?

Who is My Antagonist?

Many writers believe their story needs a villain — a single character who is the main source of opposition in the story, or the primary “bad guy.” Since arguably all stories have a “protagonist,” don’t they all need an “antagonist”? I don’t believe they...
Out of the Bottle

Out of the Bottle

I see a lot of scripts these days where the writer initially depicts the main character as kind of a selfish jerk. This is on purpose, because they want to “arc” them to a better, nicer person in the end. I get this desire, as many of the best movies feature powerful...
Dude with a Problem

Dude with a Problem

They’re trying to kill me! That’s what’s happening in the most misunderstood of the ten “genres” in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat books. “Dude with a Problem” is misunderstood because of its name, which really describes every story. Movies are always...
Institutional-ized

Institutional-ized

When developing a screenplay (or series) idea, I’m always looking for what the main problem is. The one big problem that is really hard to solve, which becomes the main focus of the narrative. It should have huge stakes, which are not just internal, but external in...
Series = Ensemble

Series = Ensemble

When coming up with an idea for a television series, and writing a pilot script, writers often make the mistake of approaching it like a feature. Meaning, they focus on a single main character, with a single problem and goal. That’s not how television works. I can...
Degree of Difficulty

Degree of Difficulty

I often say that a good story idea focuses on one big problem that it takes the whole story to solve. What that means is that the problem has to emerge early in the story (traditionally at the “Catalyst” or “Inciting Incident,” about 10% in), and not be resolved until...
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...
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...
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