Only haters hate rom-coms

John and Craig talk romantic comedies with screenwriter Tess Morris, whose film Man Up is unapologetically part of the genre.

When do characters deserve to die?

Like Devin Faraci, one death in Jurassic World stuck out for me, because it didn’t feel deserved. But was does “deserved” really mean?

The Automatic Gate

As a screenwriter, I’m always looking for ticking clocks to increase the tension in a story. One my favorite sub-tropes is the Automatic Gate.

The 200th Episode Live Show

Craig, John, and Aline record the 200th episode of Scriptnotes live with a worldwide audience listening in — and chiming in — as they discuss TV showrunning and whether quality really counts at the box office.

What is a Cinderella story, anyway?

Linda Holmes examines what we mean when talk about Cinderella.

Rude Awakenings

As longtime readers know, I love me a supercut. This one by Roman Holiday explores the trope of characters sitting up in bed after a nightmare.

Lotteries, lightning strikes and twist endings

John and Craig look at the nature of fluke hits, everything from #alexfromtarget to huge spec sales. Is luck just luck, or is it about how often you play the game? Where does talent fit in?

The Tentpoles of 2019

Craig and John discuss the 31 superhero movies slated for the next few years. Is it good business or a trainwreck in the making?


Craig loves the 1990 blockbuster Ghost. John? Ditto. Written by Bruce Joel Rubin and directed by Jerry Zucker, Ghost set the template for the modern romantic drama. It was Twilight before Twilight, Titanic before Titanic. It won hearts, weekends and Oscars, including best screenplay.

Unlikable heroes and genre expectations

Chloe Angyal has a great look back at My Best Friend’s Wedding, which in many ways subverts rom-com tropes.

Adapting The Wizard of Oz

Gregory Maguire, author of the novel Wicked, takes a look at screenwriter Noel Langley’s early draft of the script for The Wizard of Oz.

The Contract between Writers and Readers

John and Craig look at the implicit contract made between screenwriters and readers — and ultimately, movies and their audience. That’s a natural introduction to our Three Page Challenge and the three new entries we look at this week.

101: Q&A from the live show

In this special bonus episode, John and Craig answer listener questions from the 100th episode with help from guests Rawson Thurber and Aline Brosh McKenna.

Bechdel and Batman

It’s a week of pondering other people’s opinions. First, Craig and John take a look at the Bechdel Test: is it a useful metric for screenwriters, or just meaningless checkbox-ticking?

The pressure of PG-13

To some degree it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you make most of your blockbusters PG-13, most blockbusters will be PG-13.

How to write Groundhog Day

I’ve only just started reading Danny Rubin’s How to Write Groundhog Day, but it’s promising enough that I think many screenwriters will want to take a look at it this weekend.

Wishing Pixar were braver

Theresa Couchman wishes Pixar hadn’t played into princess tropes for their first female-driven movie.

From Captain Trips to Bowden’s Malady

In the spirit of the season, let us say thanks to Wikipedia for this comprehensive list of fictional diseases.

Stay away from this girl

Wait, how did I not know the Manic Pixie Dream Girl existed as a trope?

Aline Brosh McKenna and the BlackBerry 3

NY Times has a nice piece on Aline Brosh McKenna, screenwriter of “the BlackBerry 3.”

R-rated comedies to the rescue

Superhero movies continue to make money, but the rise of very profitable R-rated comedies is the box office story of the summer.

H.P. Lovecraft’s Commonplace Book

Bruce Sterling publishes a list of Lovecraft’s undeveloped story ideas.

Get better flashlights

The Lazy Self-Indulgent Book Reviewer asks why graduates of Starfleet Academy lug around physical cylinders that emit light from one end? Why don’t they all have chip implants in their palms that glow when activated?

That’ll teach her

Tad Friend points out that funny women in movies must not only be gorgeous; they must fall down and then sob, knowing it’s all their fault.

On Google, and evil

It’s remarkable how much my appreciation for Google has shifted over the last year or two. I use their products, but I don’t love the company anymore. In fact, I’m kind of nervous about them.