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flying wrestler by Erik@flyingwrestler.com - 3M ago

I’m lowering the price of my least expensive, introductory consultation package for TWO DAYS ONLY, from $245 to $145.

It’s called the “Fifteen and Four” and it includes a one-hour one-on-one Skype or recorded phone conference with me, to discuss material of yours that I’ve read beforehand.

This can be anything from the first 15 pages of a script plus a 4-page synopsis (hence the name “Fifteen and Four”), to 25 pages of script, to a 10-12-page outline. Or you could just send a one-page synopsis, or even a page full of loglines of ideas for potential projects you want feedback on. (If you only send a single page, the call time would increase to 90 minutes.)

If you don’t have anything ready to use this on yet, but want to lock in the discount, you can book it now and it never expires. Click here to initiate the process via Paypal, some time before 12 Noon Pacific, on Saturday, April 13, 2019.

Or if you’d rather have a Full Script Consultation, I’m offering $100 off those as well. Each option below includes a 4-page written analysis and suggestions plus a one-hour recorded follow-up conference call.


$100 OFF Full Script Consultation
Screenplay (up to 120 pages) $549.00 USDOne-hour TV script $395.00 USDHalf-hour TV script $345.00 USDShort film/script (up to 20 pages) $295.00 USD




 
Pleasee-mail me if you have any questions, and check out my script consulting page for more information, my usual rates/packages, and testimonials from writers I’ve worked with.

The post $145 Script Consultation appeared first on flying wrestler.

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flying wrestler by Erik@flyingwrestler.com - 3M ago

My favorite new series this year is PEN15 on Hulu. It’s co-creators and stars play versions of themselves at age 13. They’re best friends and outcasts at the beginning of seventh grade, in the year 2000. Amazingly, they’re surrounded by actors who are actually around 13, and somehow pull it off. It’s an R-rated look at the transition from girl to woman that I find hysterically funny, with tons of heart.

What makes it so great, I think, is the level of detailed realness. You get the sense that Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, along with co-creator Sam Zvibleman, remember every painfully awkward and cringe-worthy thing they ever said, did or experienced at that age. Because what’s depicted, while exaggerated for comedy, often feels like it’s pulled from real life with a level of authenticity that is rare and impressive.

And that is what people mean when they talk about a writer’s “voice.” It’s something highly valued by managers, agents and producers, as well screenwriting contests and virtually every other place where literary material is evaluated.

“Original Voice” may be the most frequently mentioned attribute of a script that really jumps out at such people as worth pursuing. If it feels like only that writer could’ve written it, and it seems to spring from something deeply personal within them, and maybe even reveals things that most of us spend our whole lives trying to hide, that’s a huge bonus.

I know it’s hard to do that, especially when you’re also trying to make sure your ideas are high-concept, have sufficient stakes, and are entertaining enough, etc. We can’t all just write about our own remembered life experiences and expect to succeed. We generally want to write within a recognizable genre, and use imagination to go outside ourselves to inhabit characters very different from us, going through things we never did.

And yet…

Can those people, settings, situations and actions be infused with a level of reality that is so specific, and seemingly inspired by lived life (and not just other stories) that readers feel like they’ve never seen it before in that form, and yet somehow it all feels believable?

So much of what goes wrong with scripts is that things just don’t feel, well, real enough. Characters and actions seem contrived, or vague. It’s like they’re just there to service a writer’s story decisions, instead of document aspects of the human condition that this writer knows, in such authentic detail, that it strikes the reader as powerful and impactful. It’s one of the most common notes I have on scripts, and central to the chapter on believability in my book The Idea.

Think about some of the greatest TV writing. Shows like The Wire and The Sopranos come to mind. Isn’t a lot of what makes them special the fact that you feel like you’re watching real people, almost like a documentary, with strong emotional truth, regardless of how foreign (to you) their lives are? Isn’t it that they transport you to a world of such specificity that you feel fascinated and kind of hypnotized, watching these people live their lives?

We all have subjects, settings and situations that we know well enough that we could bring them to life in this way, if we really made it our goal. And doing so greatly ups the chances that readers will want to meet us and work with us. They will want us to bring that authentic original voice to their projects — even if it seems like our work and theirs is very different. Buyers tend to prize authenticity so highly that they will assume you will bring it to whatever you do.

Is it easy to write this way? Maybe for some, who are lucky enough to have a workable story concept in which they can insert a lot of memories from their own life that will be just what the project needs. And if you’re willing to really mine those memories in a fearless way, and bring them to life in compelling scenes, then congratulations.

The rest of the time, or for the rest of us, I think the job is to find a way to get deep inside whoever and whatever we’re writing about and seek out that “realness” — no matter how foreign to us the overall story situations are — so that readers will connect. It’s the details that somehow make writing universally appealing — which come from actual life experience and understanding of human nature.

Are there some genres, some kinds of stories, where this maybe matters a bit less than others? Of course. But for a writer trying to break in, in addition to showing that you can capably write within those story types, you’re also trying to show that you have a specific voice, and can make scenes and characters come to life in this way. How you do it will be unique to you — what you focus on, remember, and feel something about.

For more on this topic, I suggest checking out my favorite book about writing, Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write.

The post Find Your Writing Voice appeared first on flying wrestler.

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flying wrestler by Erik Bork - 3M ago

As the word implies, a “Scriptment” is somewhere between a script and a treatment. It’s a complete scene-by-scene description without the dialogue. Or maybe it has some snatches of dialogue. But it’s really about telling the reader what happens, scene by scene, in the most detailed way possible without being a full script.

So is writing a scriptment a good idea?

I say “yes,” but not for the reasons one might expect.

Sometimes we hear that certain films were sold off a scriptment. You’d have to be a really established name like James Cameron to do that. Or maybe they were even shot from a scriptment, with much of the dialogue improvised.

I suggest a different use for such a document. For me, it’s a useful, even game-changing interim step between an initial outline or treatment (sometimes the words are used synonymously), and the actual script. And it can make the experience and product of the writing much better.

I typically outline my scenes in advance and have a general sense of what’s supposed to happen in them — who does what, and how the scene ends, and how it advances the story in some way.

But lo and behold, when I fire up screenwriting software and go to write the script, I immediately realize that I usually don’t know nearly enough about the specifics to be able to have a pleasant experience of these scenes flowing onto the page.

Instead, it’s often a struggle, because I realize that what I’ve outlined is too bare bones compared to the level of detail that a fully written scene would need. But now I have a blinking cursor and am supposed to write INT. LOCATION – DAY and launch into some compelling description, action and dialogue. Because I’ve already outlined it, right? So I should know!

This is where the process tends to break down. It leads to a very stifled, analytical quest to try to “figure out” the scene, which tends to not go well. I have very little creative imagination at this point. I’m usually just cursing how thin my outline is, and intimidated by the amount of information and ideas I now need to really start “writing.”

I can rough something in, but usually I will hate it. It will be discouraging. I will know it’s not that good. And I can lose faith in the project and process.

There’s a better way. In my experience, the rush to start writing actual scenes is something I need to control. Just like the rush to go from basic idea to outlining. (That’s what my book The Idea focuses on.)

I recognize that before I start writing full scenes, I need to go deeper and more detailed in the outline. I want to feel like I have everything I need to be able to write them — until the scenes feel like they WANT to be written, and will just flow out of me.

Of course I leave room for surprises, and the dialogue and action may take me to places I didn’t expect , which can be good. But I need to first have my “way into” the scene. I want a clear and solid plan for it that actually inspires me to want to write it, rather than it being a chore.

To achieve this, I like to stay in the open-ended brainstorming phase for longer than one might expect. I might have a basic idea for each scene, in an outline or treatment. But I know that’s not enough.

So I want to “play around” (and that’s the right attitude) further with what might happen in the script, and each of its scenes.

I don’t want that blinking cursor and that rigid format of a “screenplay” or “teleplay” getting in the way of that. I just want to keep asking myself questions and kind of lightly considering the possibilities until an idea comes. Then I write that down and explore it. And this is the main process of building a script.

It doesn’t have to even be in the formal scene-by-scene outline document. It’s almost better if it isn’t. It’s a happier creative process when I just show up each day to expand on the project and let it come from various directions and for various scenes. I can always add what comes to the outline later.

So I’m typically in a kind of free-form “notes document” where I let my mind wander to the first thing that comes to mind that I want (need) to know more about. And I’ll play around there and see where the ideas take me. Then I’ll jump to something else.

Or I might consider a particular scene that I’ve outlined and lightly ask what else there is to know about it. It’s like I’m channeling creative possibilities, and waiting to write until I have received enough of them that it can just pour out onto the script page.

It seems important not to be too impatient and goal-oriented in this process. I also try not to be hard on anything I’ve come up with (the “bad ideas”). I need to stay open and allow the process to work, which means being positive, flexible and relaxed. (Much as part of me just wants to get it done.)

At some point the organizational, analytical mind has to step in. I re-read these thoughts and decide which ones to use. Then I move them around into the appropriate scenes in the outline. As such, I’m expand that document into something that more resembles a scriptment.

But the goal isn’t “writing a scriptment.” And it’s definitely not to show that document to anyone. It’s just a tool I use to make sure I get the best/most ideas that will help my project. At the same time, I’m making the process of writing it — whether I’m “in the script” yet or not — as fun and productive as it can be.

The post Writing a Scriptment appeared first on flying wrestler.

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flying wrestler by Erik@flyingwrestler.com - 4M ago

Subtext is often talked about as the key to good dialogue.

But what is it, exactly, and how do we use it?

Subtext is what characters are really thinking, behind what they’re actually saying.

In the best dialogue, the two things tend to be different. The audience (and perhaps the characters) can sense what the person who’s speaking really means, wants, feels, and thinks, but they’re not coming out and saying it.

An example from the recent movie The Favorite:

Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are out shooting. Rachel asks Emma if her secrets are safe with her. Emma says “Even your biggest secret.” SPOILER ALERT: That secret is that Rachel and the queen are lesbian lovers. Emma doesn’t come out and say that part. But she reveals she knows it with these four words. And Rachel gets what she’s talking about.

Then Rachel points her gun at her and shoots! Emma falls to the ground, stunned, checks herself for wounds, and Rachel says, “If you forget to load the pellet, the gun fires, makes the sound, but releases no shot. It is a great jape, do you agree?”

What’s the subtext here? What is Rachel really thinking? What is the meaning behind her words?

To Emma (and to the audience), it’s crystal clear: “You screw with me, and I will end you.”

Now how interesting would this scene be if Emma had said, “I know you have sex with the Queen,” and after firing the gun, Rachel said, “If you tell anyone, I’ll make you regret it”?

A lot less interesting, intriguing, and compelling, right?

That’s subtext.

As in real life, good characters don’t tend to just blurt out everything they’re thinking and feeling. Unless they’re small children, perhaps, or if they’re caught off guard, or under the influence of something, when they might start to have “loose lips.”

Most of the time, though, we are a bit more guarded and calculating (even if we don’t realize it). When we speak, we’re saying what we think is the right thing to say to advance our agendas in some way. We know that hiding our full true feelings and intentions is often necessary and helpful. This doesn’t have to come off as dark and manipulative. It’s just human and normal.

Consider the classic scene in Annie Hall: Woody Allen is dropping Diane Keaton off at her apartment. They just met. There’s an attraction. So he begins making conversation about the photography on the wall, but what each of them is really thinking is subtitled for the audience. And it’s thoughts like “I wonder what she looks like naked,” and “I hope he doesn’t turn out to be schmuck like the others.”

It’s funny, because we can all relate. We’d never say those things that are really driving us in that moment. It would be a bad move on our part. It wouldn’t serve our interests.

Here, in contrast to The Favourite (where the subtext was crystal clear to both Emma and Rachel), the two characters might be only vaguely aware of what the other person is really thinking. They’re more concerned with what they themselves are thinking (and most importantly, feeling and wanting).

Robert McKee analyzes a similar (but more dramatic) scene from Casablanca in his book Story — providing the dialogue between Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, and what each is really thinking, wanting and intending, with very line of dialogue. It’s the section I remember and recommend to people most, in that classic book.

The audience usually has a pretty good idea of what the subtext is — and what the characters are going through. If they didn’t, the scene would be a lot less interesting. It might even be confusing. If we sensed there was subtext but had no idea what it was, we would just feel kind of left out. Or if we didn’t get that there was subtext, and just took everything at face value, the dialogue would feel flat, obvious, and less involving.

So how do you make sure the audience gets the subtext? In the examples above, it’s fairly obvious, even if you don’t know the characters that well. But often, “getting the subtext” is dependent on the audience (or reader) understanding what a character is going through and wanting in the scene, and what trying to achieve. And that’s what makes it interesting — the difference between what they say, and what we know is really going on.

A very common issue I see in scripts is the writer not making sure the reader/audience knows the main character well enough, and is emotionally connected with them, and experiencing the story subjectively through their point-of-view. Then it’s hard for the audience to engage fully and care enough, because they haven’t been given that deep immersion into what’s going on with the main character (in the opening pages), and aren’t being clearly shown what the character wants, thinks, feels and is trying to do, at all times. It’s best that the main character isn’t mysterious to the audience, usually. Instead we want them to feel they sort of become the character, wanting for them what they want, and caring strongly as they go about trying to get it.

If the audience is really bonded to a character in this way, where most scenes are about them trying to get what they want and encountering conflict, we will understand what they’re really thinking when they say the things they say. We will also get why they’re choosing the words they choose. We might understand this for more than one character in a scene (as in the examples above). But we especially want to get it for the character who is driving the scene with their intent, which is usually the main character of the movie (or of the currently active story in a multi-story movie or TV episode).

One last example of subtext, from a scene I was fortunate enough to write, is in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, in Episode 8: “The Last Patrol.” Damian Lewis as Maj. Dick Winters is prepping some men for a patrol he’s supposed to send them on that night. Everyone in the scene knows that one of their comrades died on a similar (seemingly pointless) patrol the night before. As he’s talking them through the plan for this coming patrol, tension rising, he ends by say something that is initially surprising, to them and to the audience:

“In the morning, you will report to me that you made it across and into German lines, but were unable to secure any live prisoners. Understand?”

After a moment, the light begins to dawn on them (and us) about what he’s really saying: they don’t have to actually go and risk their lives. They will pretend they went and then lie about it, to please Winters’ C.O. It makes for the climax of a compelling scene where these men are dreading the coming patrol he’s describing, and he’s also clearly conflicted about sending them on it. We know that much from prior scenes. We just don’t know, in advance, that he’s going to allow them to skip it. In fact, he maybe decides it right then and there. (It’s hard to know for sure.) So we momentarily share their surprise, but we also totally get where it’s coming from, because we knew he didn’t want to send them.

Imagine how less compelling the scene would’ve been if he’d simply said, “Col. Sink wants you to do another patrol tonight, but I don’t, so just give me a report in the morning that you did one, okay?” It wouldn’t even be a real scene. It would just be a line of dialogue, with little conflict or interest. It’s the build-up to a patrol we (and they) think is happening, and then that “turn” at the end, using subtext, that makes the scene.

Not every line of dialogue in every script has to be brimming with subtext. Sometimes people really do just say what they mean, think, feel and want. But in general, subtext adds depth, believability, intrigue and entertainment value. It enriches the dialogue and gets the reader more emotionally involved. It’s also a way to explore how each individual character has a different “voice” — how they express themselves in their own unique ways. This includes the extent to which they use subtext, and the kinds of things they tend to say, compared to what they really feel.

So to sum it all up, here’s what I recommend:

Work to know what your characters really want and feel, at all times, and put them into scenes where they will face conflict, where they can’t easily get what they want. Then choose dialogue that makes sense for them to use, given their agenda and feelings, but which doesn’t necessarily reveal their whole truth.

Readers and audiences will thank you.

The post Subtext appeared first on flying wrestler.

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flying wrestler by Erik Bork - 5M ago

Screenwriting contests — are they a good idea?

Agents and managers I’ve talked to have emphasized that there are handful of top competitions that can be a feather in a writer’s cap, if one place REALLY highly in them.  And these can be mentioned at the bottom of an e-mail query (after pitching whatever script you’re trying to get read).

Here is the list I’ve compiled from those conversations.  Please add comments if you have supporting or differing opinions on this.

They are in no particular order, other than the Nicholl Fellowship being universally acknowledged as the top contest, and Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab being its own special case…

Nicholl Fellowship
Austin Film Festival
Final Draft “Big Break”
Trackingb.com
Tracking-board.com
Page Awards
Scriptapalooza
Cinestory
Blue Cat
American Zoetrope
ScreenCraft
Shore Scripts
Script Pipeline

Sundance Screenwriters Lab

In television, some of the major studios and networks also offer fellowships that can be a serious launching pad for aspiring TV writers.  The big five are:

CBS Writers Mentoring Program
The Disney/ABC Writing Program
Fox Writers Lab
NBC: Writers on the Verge
The Warner Bros Television Writers’ Workshop

The post Screenwriting contests appeared first on flying wrestler.

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I’m lowering the price of my least expensive, introductory consultation package for TWO DAYS ONLY, from $245 to $145.

It’s called the “Fifteen and Four” and it includes a one-hour one-on-one Skype or recorded phone conference with me, to discuss material of yours that I’ve read beforehand.

This can be anything from the first 15 pages of a script plus a 4-page synopsis (hence the name “Fifteen and Four”), to 25 pages of script, to a 10-12-page outline. Or you could just send a one-page synopsis, or even a page full of loglines of ideas for potential projects you want feedback on. (If you only send a single page, the call time would increase to 90 minutes.)

If you don’t have anything ready to use this on yet, but want to lock in the discount, you can book it now and it never expires. Click here to initiate the process via Paypal, some time before 1:00 PM Pacific on Friday, December 28, 2018. 

Please e-mail me if you have any questions, and check out my script consulting page for more information, my other rates/packages, and testimonials from writers I’ve worked with.

The post $145 Script Consultation appeared first on flying wrestler.

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flying wrestler by Erik Bork - 8M ago

What is a B Story?

It’s a secondary story that has its own beginning, middle and end, and is focused on its own problem, separate from but intertwined with the A Story.

And it has its own main character, who may or may not be the same as the A Story’s.

Movies typically have one. For some very good reasons. But writers often have some confusion about how a B Story should work, and what it should be.

Just like the main A Story, the B Story’s main character should have a problem involving something external, which has its own significant life stakes. That means the problem isn’t only an internal issue, involving their need to grow and change in some way.

It’s true that Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat says the B Story “carries the theme” and is where the main character’s arc of potential change is tracked. It’s just that this all happens within the context of some external conflict driving the character’s agenda, where they are actively trying to solve some problem or reach some goal.

The classic use of B Story in a movie is a romantic relationship that is secondary to a non-romantic A Story. The potential romantic partner often pressures the main character, intentionally or not, to deal with their “stuff,” and consider changing. But as with most such internal growth, the character doesn’t engage in it willingly, with “growth” as the goal. No, characters (like real people) tend to avoid change, until really significant external problems force them into it. Typically the pressures of both the A and B Story problems combine to do that. But even then, the hero usually doesn’t really change until some key moment in the final act where they (usually) snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

But first, both A and B Story usually reach a rock bottom “All is Lost” moment. So if the B Story is about a relationship, it’s usually broken and over at that point, as are the main character’s hopes for their A Story goal. They will have one last chance to try to solve both in the final act.

If the B Story is a romantic relationship, something has to be in the way of it. It has to be focused on a conflict, and not going well. If two people fall for each other and get together and have a lot of sex, etc., without some looming threat to the relationship, that’s not a story. That’s a positive development for the main character. And we audiences get bored by positive developments. We thrive on problems and conflicts.

Save the Cat’s “Beat Sheet” positions “B Story” after the Break into Act Two and before the “Fun and Games section.” Meaning the B Story begins there. Or you could say its “catalyst” or “Inciting incident” happens there — the thing that rocks the main character’s world and begins the story. It will then build and complicate, like all good stories do, as its main character attempts to resolve it, or deals with its difficulties.

So classically the A and B Story in a movie have the same main character. But that’s not the only way it’s done.

In movies with romantic A Stories, each of the two people in the potential couple typically get a story. They might feel like “A” and “A minus,” almost equal in weight, instead of one main character getting both A and B Story. Each has their own problem with a beginning, middle and end. It might be about the relationship, or about something else going on in their lives.

If you look at the recent remake of A Star is Born, for example, each of the two leads has a story we pursue from their perspective. Bradley Cooper’s character has demons and an addiction that isn’t resolved, which causes problems and conflicts in his life and relationships. (Note that if it didn’t cause such problems he had to deal with, and was only internal, it wouldn’t work as well.) Meeting Lady Gaga gives him some fresh hope but also new challenges around all of that.

Lady Gaga’s character meets this man and has a whirlwind rise to fame and romance with him, but it’s all tenuous and filled with problems that make it hard to enjoy in a sustained way. (Not unlike Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.)

So there are two intertwined stories. We get to experience things from both of their subjective perspectives, going back and forth between them, throughout the movie. It’s not that the point-of-view is objective, and we’re looking AT the two of them. Instead, we look THROUGH him at times, and through her at times. It’s a subtle difference, but a crucial one. (I first got this lingo from the Dramatica theory and software for story, which has an intriguing take on how most great movies really have four “throughlines,” one each for the main character and their “influence character,” plus another about their relationship, and a fourth about the overall problem that affects everyone.)

Point-of-view is such a key thing to master in screenwriting: how to make the audience feel things from one character’s perspective, and staying in that perspective whenever we’re in their story — which means staying focused on their emotions, desires, and what they’re actively trying to do to get what they want. I explore this more in the “Relatable” chapter of my new book The Idea.

Some “ensemble” movies (and most TV episodes) have more than two stories going on, so you might have A, B, and C stories, and sometimes many more. (Usually each one has a different main character, but sometimes you’ll see a character get two stories in one TV episode, like Buffy in a typical Buffy the Vampire Slayer getting both an action/vampire story and a teen personal life story.) But the principles are always the same. At any given time, we’re in one of the stories, and focused on its main character’s current focused problem and desire, how they feel about it, and what they are doing to try to resolve it. And it builds and gets worse, leading to a crisis, then a final climactic “battle” of sorts where it gets resolved.

If you don’t have a B Story (and don’t have that “influence character” Dramatica talks about), your script might lack depth. And in a pilot, this is especially a problem, since TV is so much more ensemble based and eats up so much more story than a movie. A singular A Story usually isn’t compelling and rich enough to be the only thing going on, and sustain audience emotional investment throughout.

So a B Story really isn’t optional. But the good news is that it’s often the thing that writers are most interested in, where they get to explore the stuff that really made them want to write the script in the first place. The A Story might and probably should fit within a certain commercial genre (like the medical stories in House, M.D.) but it’s the secondary, more personal B stories that might be what the audience most connects with, what stays with them, and what also excites the writer.

As that show’s creator David Shore once said, “There is a procedural spine, but I wouldn’t watch it for the medical stories. Frankly, it would bore me.”

The post B Story appeared first on flying wrestler.

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flying wrestler by Erik@flyingwrestler.com - 8M ago

At the core of what we’re trying to do with any script is to make strangers care.

Virtually every note I give on any script ultimately connects to that goal. We want people to emotionally invest. It must matter to them what happens in our stories. And that’s because they feel something about it.

This takes three primary forms:

1. They emotionally connect to the main character(s).

2. It matters deeply to them that the overall problem/goal gets resolved.

3. The process of watching all this is really fun. Meaning they’re entertained by it.

Watching Bohemian Rhapsody recently brought this home for me.

Some have criticized it for following a formula for this kind of musical biopic — where the star rises to fame but has personal issues and conflicts that prevent them from enjoying and sustaining it in a healthy way. I was prepared to agree with this criticism. It’s also easy to find articles online about all the things they “got wrong.” Trust me that this wasn’t a result of oversight, ignorance or carelessness. Deviations from the absolute facts in true story adaptations are done because it’s believed it will make the story resonate more and be more comprehensible and compelling to audiences. And that often is the case. I once blogged about how Argo did this.

As for the “formula” note, I have also been known to defend formula, in the sense that there are principles behind “what works” that are often there for a reason — though if they’re followed in an obvious by-the-numbers way without a lot of skill, passion or originality, that can be a problem. Perhaps some felt that way about this movie.

But for me, and I’m guessing many audience members, this wasn’t an issue. Because I felt myself caring, and getting swept up in the emotion and entertainment value. I wasn’t noticing the creative choices and judging them like I often do when I’m not invested. I got sucked in.

Whether you’ve seen it or not, or feel the same way or not, let’s talk about the reasons.

1. I connected emotionally with the main character. Why? Because he had appealing qualities and struggles, while also possessing flaws. He suffered as a result of his mistakes and tried to rectify them. Generally speaking, he was “likable.” I am often a defender of “likability” as important because I believe virtually all main characters of successful film and TV scripts are easy to embrace, with a few exceptions that work for some very specific reasons. Writers often don’t realize how important it is to get the audience strongly on the main character’s side, in the opening pages, or realize how challenging it can be to achieve that in a believable way. The other thing that’s easy to miss is the importance of point-of-view, which means subjectively telling the story from the perspective of a main character whose emotions and desires are front and center, throughout. So Bohemian Rhapsody was not ultimately the story of a band, a song, or even a career. It was about a man, with a very personal, tender, difficult, emotional journey. Freddie’s feelings are what we’re focused on, most of the time.

2. As a result, the audience (or at least some of us) care that they resolve their problem. And that problem and how it develops is front and center throughout. In this case, it’s about conflicts related to closeted (and then uncloseted) sexuality that seems to threaten his happiness and the success he otherwise finds. It’s an internal issue that needs healed, but importantly, it has huge external consequences. And those are what we’re focused on. Because an internal journey on its own is usually not enough, on screen. The audience connects because of the external problems it leads to, including conflicts with others, addiction, loss of loved ones, etc.

3. The movie is wildly entertaining. Maybe it helps if you like Queen’s music, and enjoy the spectacle of seeing it brought to life in vivid cinematic ways. For an audience to keep caring, they also have to strongly enjoy the ride, and find consuming the story to be almost like “candy.” There are a lot of ways to entertain (and there’s a whole chapter in my new bookThe Idea about this), but they all come down to making the audience feel certain emotions. The music and spectacle is one aspect. There is also comedy, and poignancy, as well as romance. They consistently make choices that are designed to make it fun. Maybe some will feel they went too far at times, and it didn’t work for them. My point is that the writers and filmmakers were consciously looking to milk these things — to deliver them in ways that will impact the audience emotionally. It doesn’t just happen. But it’s important that it does.

Whatever type of script you might be writing, my advice is to make it your primary goal to capture the audience emotionally in these ways, recognizing that it’s the most important thing, and that it takes a lot of focused effort to do successfully. When you do, people will be laughing and crying, applauding, on the edge of their seats, and then telling their friends they loved it. Regardless of what some critics might have said. And isn’t that ultimately what we want?

The post It’s about EMOTION appeared first on flying wrestler.

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flying wrestler by Erik Bork - 9M ago

The show runner of a drama series I once worked on described what he wanted in the middle of an episode as being a “punch – counterpunch” dynamic between the good guys and the forces opposing them. As I coach writers these days on their projects, I often find myself using this phrase to describe how we want the second act of a movie (or main central section of any story) to feel.

No matter what your genre or medium, what stories tend to have in common is this:

A main character has a big problem to solve and/or goal to achieve, which tends to build and complicate as they actively try to resolve it. It gets worse and continually changes, in ways that entertain the audience and keep them compelled, because they’re emotionally invested in the character and a certain kind of desired outcome for them.

So one of the biggest challenges in any story is the need to keep things changing and developing in the middle, and moving forward in such a way as to keep the audience hooked.

One way to approach it is to think about what initial steps the main character might believably take, and how those might go wrong, or at least only partially right, while also resulting in more difficulties they will have to deal with in future scenes. After all, it’s characters dealing with difficulties that we audience members almost exclusively want to watch, so we’re almost always looking for how to increase those.

Often these problems and complications that result from their actions are going to come about because whoever or whatever opposes them (be it a particular human antagonist or something else), is going to “counterpunch” in response to the main character’s “punch.”

That counterpunch will put the main character in a new situation with fresh problems to deal with. And then the cycle can begin again. They punch, and their opposing forces counterpunch. Or the opposing forces punch, and they counterpunch. Either way, it should feel like a great sporting match, to some extent — in that neither team is able to easily win the day. Instead, both continue to fight, responding to what the other has brought with their own new ideas and actions. This is true in everything from action movies to romantic comedies — where the “problem” of the story is the thing in the way of a relationship.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park, The Book of Mormon, Team America: World Police) have said a key to storytelling they learned at some point was that it’s not, “This happens, then this happens.” Instead, it’s “This happens, therefore this happens” or “This happens, but this happens.” In other words, when a character takes action, it changes the situation in some way and causes more things to happen as a result, often unforeseen things that aren’t helpful to what they’re trying to do. And this often comes from a “counterpunch.”

Robert McKee also talks about this in Story: how most effective scenes involve a character (typically the main character of that story) taking action to try to get something they want in the world, and not getting the result they had hoped for and expected. And it’s the improvising that they have to do, in the face of that, which tends to be most entertaining and intriguing for the audience.

“Point of view” is a big part of this. The audience is meant to take on the subjective perspective of the “main character” of a story, and then stay with them, in virtually every scene, as they continually take action after action in pursuit of their desires, then deal with the consequences, regroup, and continue on. So good scenes generally depict that special person the audience is emotionally aligned with trying to do something, and encountering conflict.

Where writers sometimes go off track is when they depict other characters who aren’t the “main character,” separately from them. (Or write scenes where there is no real conflict or agenda someone is pursuing, but simply a sharing of information or opinions in a low-conflict way.) This generally happens because they don’t realize how important point of view is to earning and maintaining that all-important goal of “audience emotional investment.” That tends to dissipate when we leave the main character, which is why it’s generally better to meet other characters only when they do, and not separately from them.

I can imagine you’re now asking this:

“So there’s only one main character and they have to be in every single scene? That doesn’t seem right!”

Here’s how I see it: there is only one main character in a story, typically, and yes, they should be in pretty much every scene. But there might be multiple stories within one script, each with a different main character, and their stories can interweave. So in every scene we’re following the main character of one of the stories in the way described above.

Virtually every TV episode or pilot works this way, as well as many books and plays. There might be two, three, or even ten or more “stories” in one episode or work. Movies, on the other hand, usually only have one main story and a subsidiary “B Story” with the same main character as the “A Story.”

Whatever the situation in your script, and however many “stories” it has, it’s helpful to remember this one thing: we want each main character’s overall problem in each story (which hopefully is really compelling to the audience for the 7 reasons I talk about in my new book) to be front and center in every scene of their story, always developing, and generally building in difficulty and importance, because of an ongoing sequence of punch – counterpunch actions between them and whoever or whatever is against them.

If you do that, and it’s all believable and entertaining to watch — and the audience has a strong reason to care about this main character and their outcome — you will be on the right track.

The post Punch – Counterpunch appeared first on flying wrestler.

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flying wrestler by Erik Bork - 9M ago

I’ve been making the rounds of the screenwriting podcasts, blogs and other venues lately, talking about my new book THE IDEA: The Seven Elements of a Viable Story for Screen, Stage, or Fiction —  which I’m proud to announce has become a #1 bestseller in four different categories on Amazon!

Rather than blog in this space, I’ve been contributing guest articles on other sites, all touching on some aspect of the book’s premise: that the most marketable story or series ideas exhibit seven key characteristics that form an acronym of the word “PROBLEM” (since all stories, at their core, are about a problem).

The folks at Film Courage on YouTube were nice enough to interview me on camera and have started sharing chunks of our discussion on their channel. The video embedded below is a handy introduction to the concept of the book, why I wrote it, and what the “P” in “PROBLEM” stands for:

Film Courage has also posted three other videos from our interview, on how I broke into the industry, the mindset of a professional screenwriter, and why stories from one’s own life can be hard to make work.

I also sat down for two great podcasts in recent weeks: my friend Pilar Allesandra led me, cheerleader-style, through the seven PROBLEM elements at her “On the Page” podcast, and my pal Ashley Meyers grilled me for his “Selling Your Screenplay” podcast about whether the main character of The 40-Year-Old Virgin really had a “Punishing” enough problem. (The answer is yes!!)

Speaking of friends, the wonderful Jeanne Bowerman, editor of Script Magazine, had me back for her live Twitter #scriptchat, where I outlined the premise of the book and took questions, all in the form of tweets, during a furious one-hour typing session. The transcript is available here.

I’ve discussed the importance of the 7 PROBLEM elements in posts for Creative Screenwriting, Stage 32, and contributed a book excerpt to L.A. Screenwriter. I went deeper into the “Punishing” element for Shore Scripts, and what it means to be “Entertaining” on Bang2Write.

Lastly, reviews have also been coming in, and I’m thrilled to have 48 on Amazon to date, averaging five stars. I also got a nice write-up on Screencraft.

I’m so grateful to everyone who has enthusiastically participated in reading, commenting, asking questions, and generally getting the word out about the book.

More is to come soon, but in lieu of fresh posts here, I wanted to provide some links to where I’ve been!

The post Talking about THE IDEA appeared first on flying wrestler.

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