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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Developing Your Screenplay

Here is some info on Field's formula and analysis of the same on Thelma and Louise:

Here is an article from

Below is the formula from Field's book:





Pinch I
Pinch II





Theme of action
Theme of action

Plot Point I
Plot point II
The Set-up



Here is a snippet from
Character and story are always intertwined, but listed in parenthesis is the stronger focus of the book.
  • The Art of Dramatic Writing, Lajos Egri - This is not for everyone. The book was written in 1946, specifically for playwriting, but I highly recommend it for screenwriting. Its depth of information converts over well for the screenplay format. (Character Development, Story Structure)
  • Aristotle's Poetics - Aristotle IS the master. He was the very first to research and analyze story structure. The fundamentals haven't changed. (Story Structure)
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell - This book is not the easiest read, but explains the hero's journey by using the classic myth structure. (Story Structure, Character Development)
  • The Writer's Journey, by Christopher Vogler - This is like the "Cliff Notes" version of The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Its content is taken directly from it, sifting out a lot, and focusing on myth structure for screenwriters. But like "Cliff Notes" it waters down the intricate details. (Story Structure)
  • Stealing Fire from the Gods, by James Bonnet - Also based on Campbell's research on mythic structure, but it also examines the structure of fables and fairly tales. It will help you apply these golden forms to you own writing and give you a new insight into story development. (Story Structure, Story Development)
  • Screenwriting From the Heart, by James Ryan - A unique approach that will help to write a character-driven screenplay. (Character Development)
  • Screenplay, by Syd Field - Known for converting plot points to page numbers. It is a good basis to begin learning screenplay structure, but WARNING -- be careful about plopping your plot points onto pre-established page numbers. This rigid form of writing makes formulaic and wooden screenplays. (Screenplay Structure)
See this too:
See this article on character development also:

Another Formula for your Script

I stumbled upon the following at

It introduces what is called narratemes. Real neat - enjoy.

The first seven narratemes introduce the initial story situation: who, where, when, how and why.

  1. Something’s Missing: Someone, (or something) is missing or is in danger in the lead character’s, (hero’s) world.
  2. The Warning: The hero is cautioned: “You are too young, inexperienced or weak." A challenge or warning.
  3. Violation: The antagonist disturbs the peace, poses a threat. Can be a real or perceived danger.
  4. Reconnaissance: The antagonist often wants to know where the children or a precious object are located.
  5. Delivery: The antagonist obtains useful information which he may use against the protagonist.
  6. Trickery: The antagonist tries to fool the hero in order to steal something of value or threaten someone important to the protagonist.
  7. Complicity: The hero falls for it hook, line and sinker and unwittingly helps the antagonist.

Now, the story really begins! In folktales the hero would leave on his/her quest by the end of this next sequence of narratemes.

  1. Villainy and Lack: The antagonist threatens or harms someone important to the hero, or something else which affects others is suddenly missing.
  2. The Challenge: The hero discovers, or is informed of the “lack" and is requested, or feels obligated to help.
  3. Counteraction: The protagonist, (as any hero would) chooses to accept the challenge or assignment despite the clear danger.
  4. Departure: The hero leaves and is, (often accidentally) joined by another character known as the “helper" or “provider."

In the next sequence, the hero sets out on his/her quest. He/she may or not get assistance from the “helper," (which may secretly be working for the antagonist) but the hero’s goal is clear at this point.

  1. The Test: The protagonist is soon challenged, either by the “helper," or someone else needing assistance, (but not necessarily the antagonist).
  2. Reaction: Our hero responds positively and bravely to the test, but may or may not succeed at this time.
  3. Acquisition: In a folktale the hero may obtain a magical object as a result of his actions. In contemporary dramas, he learns a skill or obtains important information. As a result, other characters may offer help.
  4. Transport: Usually, the hero must travel to another location to reach his goal where he is unwelcomed or will be in danger.
  5. Confrontation: The hero and antagonist fight. This may not be the climatic battle and the hero may lose this round.
  6. Injury: The hero is injured, “marked," or set back in his quest, but not mortally wounded.
  7. Victory: Our hero beats the bad guy, but his victory may only be temporary and actually strengthen the antagonist.
  8. Resolution: The initial “lack" may or may not have been fixed, but someone is rescued or something is returned through the direct efforts of the hero.

In many stories this might be the story’s end as our hero returns and all is well. However, Propp provides an additional story possibility. Many of his suggestions are optional from now on.

  1. The Hero Returns: The hero leaves the place he initially went to for his quest and heads back home.
  2. Pursuit: The hero is chased by the antagonist who tries again to kill him or take back what the hero has obtained.
  3. The Rescue: The hero narrowly escapes, often through the assistance of the “helper," or due to a new skill or moral realization.
  4. Back Home: Our hero gets back home but he/she is unrecognized or must hide from danger.
  5. The False Claim: Because the hero appears absent, others may spread false rumors or question his heroic character.
  6. The Difficult Task: This is a direct challenge to the hero who must do something which seems impossible, (i.e., get the golden fleece, fight a dragon).
  7. Task Performed: The protagonist proves again his mettle by accomplishing the impossible task.
  8. Recognition: The protagonist is acknowledged by someone who is important to the hero. He has proved himself.
  9. False Claim is Exposed: The false hero is usually revealed as a direct result of the hero having performed the impossible task.
  10. Acknowledgement: The hero is seen in a new light and his heroism is recognized by everyone else.
  11. The Hero Wins: The bad guy is vanquished by the hero in a climatic battle, usually in physical combat. The false hero is often punished as well.
  12. The Hero Returns: In folktales the hero usually marries a beautiful princess and ascends the throne. In contemporary screenplays the hero gets the girl and his character has been changed forever.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Having deliberately made up my mind to write a story in this holiday season, I struggled (again) to generate a nice hook. Then I landed on this page which gave the following ideas:

"A teenager is mistakenly sent into the past, where he must make sure his mother and father meet and fall in love; he then has to get back to the future."

"A group of ex-psychic investigators start a commercial ghost extermination business in New York City."

"A defense attorney falls in love with her client. As the trial progresses, she doesn't know if she's sleeping with an innocent man, or a murderer."

"A rotten kid captures the monster under the bed. He gets seduced into the dark underworld, to the point where he almost becomes a monster himself."

"A guy writes a letter breaking up with his girlfriend, sends it OVERNIGHT EXPRESS. He changes his mind, chases the letter across country, and falls in love along the way."