screenplay

Creative Objectivity

Filming my directorial debut, Interior Night, was an exhilarating and exhausting experience. I’d seen the movie a hundred times during editing, and after so many viewings it was hard to have much ...

The Protagonist’s Experience

Regardless of the medium, your reader is not interested in what your character is feeling. Seriously. In fact, if you tell your reader that Bill felt sad, dejected, elated, euphoric, or glum, your ...

Stay Curious

“The curious are always in some danger. If you are curious, you might never come home.” – Jeanette Winterson When my son was three years old, he was Captain Hook for Halloween. It was ...

No Dilemma, No Story

One thing that has been coming up a lot in my classes is the tendency for writers to “figure out” their plot. This is due, at least in part, to story structure being taught by story analysts as a ...

But That’s What Really Happened

“I’ve given my memoirs far more thought than any of my marriages. You can’t divorce a book.“—Gloria Swanson In writing fiction, we inevitably come to that moment lifted directly ...

What is My Screenplay About?

When we think of our favorite movies, there is invariably an element that is so novel, so surprising, that it ignites our imagination. Think of the character Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. ...

What Does it Mean?

Everyone has a story. It takes courage to tell it, be it memoir or fiction, because there comes a point where we must separate the facts from the truth. The challenge for the storyteller lies in ...

The Creative Process

When my son, Ray, was first learning to speak, there were so many new words each day — the syntax often fascinating and occasionally perverse. He also had a sophisticated sense of humor. He called ...

Sell Your Novel to the Movies

When I did a book tour for my first novel, someone asked, “Have you sold the film rights?” And when I said yes, there was this gasp, like I’d been showered with pixie dust because Hollywood wanted ...

Weights and Measures

PROXIMITY Do our characters have to be two thousand miles apart, or three miles apart? If we are trying to convey a sense of distance, remember that distance is relative. Let’s say that our ...

Setting Up the Argument

Story is an argument. The theme (or dramatic question) is the thesis statement, and the story is the argument played out. Any argument requires opposing forces. These forces manifest as our ...

Hold the Story Loosely

“Film is a dramatized reality and it is the director’s job to make it appear real . . . an audience should not be conscious of technique.”- David Lean HOLD THE STORY LOOSELY Our idea of the story is ...

Dilemma: The Source of Our Story

At the heart of every story lies a dilemma. It is not a question of whether or not our protagonist has a dilemma, but rather, how effectively it has been explored. By exploring our protagonist’s ...

No Good Guys, No Bad Guys

I think there are times, as a storyteller, that I can be so bull-headed about what I want to express, that I end up pushing an agenda rather than telling a story.  I create “good guys and bad ...

What Happens Next?

“Be curious, not judgmental.” – Walt Whitman   A fatal mistake many writers make in beginning a new story, is allowing themselves to be seduced by their premise. They set about trying to ...

Writing the Forbidden

“Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are so ingrained in our society we rarely stop to think about it. I can write anything I want – dark fiendish plots without fear. I can criticize the, ...

Technique

“Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.”– Martha Graham   Technique develops over time. By reading and writing, we absorb a sense of ...

Backstory

“The past is prologue.” – William Shakespeare When we are stuck, it is inevitably because some part of our backstory is unclear. Backstory refers to what happened before our story ...