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...
Main Character’s Problem/Goal

Main Character’s Problem/Goal

The main character of a story has a problem they want to solve. The main character of a story has a goal they want to achieve. Which is it? It’s either, and it’s both. The main character has a problem and/or a goal. Sometimes people refer to it as the...
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...
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...
What are the stakes?

What are the stakes?

It’s a constant question producers, agents and executives will ask: What are the stakes? And it’s maybe the most common thing that causes a script to “not work.” If the stakes aren’t big enough, the audience won’t tend to care, or...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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