Story and Plot


John and Craig give heroes the week off and talk bad guys. Not every movie needs a villain, but if you have one, he better be good.

The hyenas got a raw deal

The hyenas from The Lion King are hungry, yo.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Craig and John spend the entire episode discussing and dissecting RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, looking at both its structure and scene work.

Plot holes, and the myth of perseveraversity

John and Craig discuss Frankenweenie and Superhero! before cracking open the mailbox to answer listener questions.

Lego story rules

Emma Coats’s list of 22 story rules moves from useful to delightful when illustrated with Lego.

Writing better bad guys

Chuck Wendig has 25 things you should know about antagonists.

Setting, perspective and terrible numbers

It’s two parts craft and one part business as Craig and John discuss the alarming earnings report coming out of the WGA, plus a deeper look at setting and POV.

Endings for beginners

John and Craig look at how to write satisfying third acts. That doesn’t necessarily mean a happy ending, but rather one that feels earned.

Littlest Plot Shop

Craig and John take a look at the difference between plot and story with some help from the Littlest Pet Shop and Game of Thrones.

Casting and positive outcomes

Craig and John discuss the screenwriter’s role in casting, then segue to the New York Times profile of producer/executive Lindsay Doran’s approach to story.

How long is Rope?

All movies exist in unreal time, not because of cuts and gimmickry, but because the experience of watching a movie involves surrendering to that film’s reality. We go into dream mode, especially when watching something on a giant screen in a dark theater.

Dear Cindy in Blue Valentine

So, hey, you’re pregnant. And it’s not welcome news, because you’re in college and hope to go to medical school. But before you marry scruffy-cute ukelele guy, maybe think about adoption.

Symphonies and screenplays

Roger Kamien’s description of the sonata form, a building block of the classical symphony, will seem familiar to screenwriters.

The two kinds of endings

Most stories end one of two ways: resolution or logical exhaustion.

If we played by the rules right now we’d be in gym

Nick’s heard from the experts is that you need character arcs and all that jazz but he just doesn’t see that in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

How much screen time does the hero get?

Is there a unspecified limit as to how much face time a main character gets on screen?

What audiences know

Figuring out what the audience needs to know — and when they need to know it — is one of the trickiest aspects of screenwriting.

All of the other reindeer

Ostracism is a handy motivation for both heroes and villains.

Story is free

If you’re making a movie on a limited budget, it may put real constraints on your locations, schedule and cast size. But that frugality doesn’t need to limit your story. Story is free.

On protagonists

The protagonist is the character that suffers the most.

Women in film

The Bechdel test points out how rarely women characters in movies talk about anything other than men.

Writing from theme

“Theme” is a word screenwriters use without defining it clearly, but here’s a good way to think about it.

Screenwriting and the problem of evil

One of the joys of screenwriting is putting childhood terrors into words. But nihilism is not a crowd-pleaser.

How to logline a dual-plot story

If both plotlines are key to your story, you need to make that clear in the logline. Otherwise, you risk future readers feeling like you bait-and-switched them.

Can I base a character on a real asshole?

You’re naturally going to be drawn towards real-life people who are fascinating. That’s a good thing. Observe behavior. Figure out motivations and pathology. Then forget the real person.