Story and Plot

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.

10 hints for index cards

Index cards are a great tool for outlining. Use them wisely.

Burn it down

As the writer, you need to burn down houses. You need to push characters out of their safe places into the big scary world — and make sure they can never get back.

Every villain is a hero

A helpful thing to remember when plotting out stories with a clear antagonist: he probably doesn’t know he’s the bad guy.

Groundhog Day and Unexplained Magic

An observation made halfway through a five-hour meeting in Beijing: in the movie Groundhog Day, it is never explained why Bill Murray’s character is stuck in a time loop.

Kurtzman and Orci on Trek and writing together

Story lessons from Star Trek, from the mouths and minds of the writers.

Take away the questions

You shouldn’t just answer questions. Get rid of them before they’re asked.

Inner struggle is not plot

Many great movies feature characters struggling against their demons, or attempting to find themselves. But that’s not plot.

Tony Gilroy in The New Yorker

The New Yorker has a terrific piece about screenwriter-director Tony Gilroy.

Things We Think About Games

On storytelling in games.

The purpose of drama, and its relationship to Cameron Diaz’s ass

David Mamet argues that even high-minded goals like social commentary ultimately become Cameron Diaz’s swirling ass — attractive distractions that ultimately lessen a movie. And he’s got a point.

Characters for an epic tale

A useful visual reference for that adventure tale you can’t work out.

Question sprint

Killing backstories, writing out lyrics and why you will always want to be writing something else (amongst other topics), explored.

Does a working writer keep improving?

Dedicate one day a week to disassembling good movies.

Scripting a short film

A short film, like a short story, can’t waste any time. Here’s what to include, and what to leave out.

Linear writing for non-linear films

How to outline and structure a non-linear story.