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Story and Plot

This Is Working

For the first time ever, John and Craig spend an entire episode on a full-length original screenplay, K.C. Scott’s THIS IS WORKING.

K.C. Scott’s “This Is Working”

On Tuesday’s episode of Scriptnotes, we’ll be looking at K.C. Scott’s original screenplay “This Is Working,” a former Three Page Challenge entry. Listeners can download the script now so they can read it over the weekend.

The first and last thing you see

Jacob T. Swinney built a supercut comparing the first and last shots of 55 notable films.

What is a Cinderella story, anyway?

Linda Holmes examines what we mean when talk about Cinderella.

Hardy Boys, in outline form

It’s fascinating to look at something so old yet so familiar. Most modern televison writing goes through an outline stage, at which point the studio and network signs off on the story — or sends it back with notes.

The Rules (or, the Paradox of the Outlier)

John and Craig discuss this year’s screenplay Oscar winners, including the success of Birdman’s outside-the-box approach and Graham Moore’s speech.

Bad Teachers, Good Advice and the Default Male

Aline Brosh McKenna joins John and Craig to discuss the how movies featuring good mentors (Dead Poet’s Society, To Sir with Love) differ from films with bad mentors (Whiplash, The Devil Wears Prada). It’s not just that the teachers are bad guys; rather, the stories are structured completely differently.

The Conflict Episode

Craig and John discuss conflict — why it’s bad in real life but essential in screenwriting. We define six forms of conflict common in movies, then look at ways to sustain conflict within a scene and throughout a story.

Cutting Pages and Fixing Holes

It’s a clip show! John and Craig discuss cutting pages from your script, fixing plot holes, and what we’d do if we ran a studio. We’ll be back with all new episodes in 2015, the year of post-outrage rationality.

Left or Right

Tony Zhou looks at how character choice is framed as going left or right.

Hacks, Transference and Where to Begin

John and Craig talk about where to start a story — how far back should you go? The decision about whether to meet the hero as a child, in their normal rut, or mid-crisis fundamentally changes the narrative, so it’s worth exploring fully.

Development Emergencies

Vineet Dewan, who was nice enough to co-star in the Kickstarter video for Writer Emergency Pack, decided to film his own version pitched at development executives.

Austin Forever

John and guest host Susannah Grant sit down with Richard Kelly, Cary Fukunaga, Peter Gould, Dan Sterling and Mike Birbiglia to discuss the role of a writer/director, the wonder of television, and the purpose of table reads.

Writer Emergency Pack, now in pre-launch

We’re getting close to launching a new project called Writer Emergency Pack. It’s designed as a survival tool for writers. It’s not an app or a book. It’s more like a crowbar for getting unstuck. It’s for screenwriters, novelists, playwrights, students, writing teachers — anyone who deals with story.

Ghost

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.

The Mystery of the Disappearing Articles

John and Craig take a look at four new entries in the Three Page Challenge, ranging from galactic drama to medieval comedy. Along the way, they talk about the nature of one-hour teasers, trust, plausibility, and how to properly address religious authorities.

Making Things Better by Making Things Worse

John and Craig talk structure and escalation. Structure is simply what happens when. Escalation is how things get tougher.

The Rocky Shoals (pages 70-90)

Aline Brosh McKenna joins Craig and John to talk about the difficult journey through pages 70-90 of your feature. After that, we talk about procrastination, the Panic Monster and our inner Instant Gratification Monkeys.

Secrets and Lies

John and Craig discuss why most characters are liars, and how that’s actually a good thing. John offers seven suggestions for picking character names that will help your readers. Then we look at a three page challenge that’s been filmed to see what worked on the page versus on screen.

Wet Hot American Podcast

Writer-Director David Wain joins John and Craig to talk about the long journey to bring They Came Together to the screen (on June 27th), the changing nature of spoofs, and the seminal summer camp film Wet Hot American Summer.

The Angeles Crest Fiasco

Screenwriter Kelly Marcel joins John and Craig to play Fiasco, resulting in a tale of art, murder and sexual blackmail in the Hollywood Hills.

The accidental set-up

Any time you refer to a place — be it “the supermarket,” “school,” or “Boston” — you create a natural expectation that we will visit that place at some point in the story.

Michael Arndt on setting a story in motion

Michael Arndt explains some of the things he learned while working on the screenplay for Toy Story 3.

Groundhog Day

John and Craig pay their respects to Harold Ramis with an episode devoted entirely to Groundhog Day.

When you think someone stole your idea

A screenwriter sees a trailer that matches the premise of something he wrote ten years earlier. Was it idea theft, or just a good idea.