Official Screenwriting Blog of The Blacklist by Scott Myers. Since selling his spec script K-9 in 1987, Scott has written 30 projects for every major Hollywood studio and broadcast network. His film writing credits include K-9 starring Jim Belushi, Alaska starring Vincent Kartheisher, and Trojan War starring Jennifer Love Hewitt.
Once again, we see a variety of approaches to a key aspect of the screenwriting craft. Test out some of these ideas in your own writing. When you find something which works in terms of character development, stick with it.
In my opinion, the Black List is the most important brand related to screenwriters and screenwriting in Hollywood. Therefore it makes sense we should study the creative processes of writers who make the list.
“We’re all born with an imagination. Everybody gets one. And I really believe — this is just from years of daily writing — that good fiction comes from the same place as our dreams. I think the desire to step into someone else’s dream world is a universal impulse that’s shared by us all. That’s what fiction is. As a writing teacher, if I say nothing else to my students, it’s this.”
Pray God you can cope I’ll stand outside This woman’s work This woman’s world Ooooh it’s hard on a man Now his part is over Now starts the craft of the Father
I know you’ve got a little life in you left I know you’ve got a lot of strength left I know you’ve got a little life in you yet I know you’ve got a lot of strength left
I should be crying but I just can’t let it show I should be hoping but I can’t stop thinking All the things we should’ve said that I never said All the things we should have done that we never did All the things we should have given but I didn’t
Oh darling make it go Make it go away
Give me these moments Give them back to me Give me that little kiss Give me your talking hands
— She’s Having a Baby (1988), written by John Hughes
The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Hospital. Today’s suggestion by @KiwiLovesYou.
Trivia: This was a very personal project for John Hughes, and he took it hard when the film didn’t do well at the box-office.
Dialogue On Dialogue: Sometimes the best dialogue is song lyrics.
In the Core content of The Quest, we work with eight screenwriting principles, and the very first one is this: Plot = Structure.
On Monday, August 26, I will be starting a new cycle of Core classes, eight of them in all, beginning with Core I: Plot.
I have reduced the price of the Core classes! Details below!
In this 1-week online course, you will learn the importance of Plot = Structure as well as:
Key theoretical concepts from Aristotle, Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung
The reality of Hollywood and the “Whammo” theory
The External World and Internal World of a screenplay universe
Metamorphosis: Screenplay structure grounded in character
Analysis of movies including Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Silence of the Lambs, Shakespeare in Love, The Verdict, The Sixth Sense, Up, and others
And much more.
Learn a comprehensive, coherent approach to screenwriting theory.
Core I: Plot consists of four components:
Lectures: There are six lectures written by me, each posting daily Monday through Saturday.
Logline Workshop: This optional writing exercise offer you the opportunity to workshop one of your own loglines.
Teleconference: We will have a Skype teleconference call to discuss course material.
Forums: The online course site has 24/7 forums where you may post questions and we engage in conversation about the craft.
For those of you who have not taken an online class, the interface is extremely easy. Plus, online classes can be an amazing experience. Most of the activities you can do on your own time — download and read lectures, review and respond to forum discussions, upload loglines and track comments. In addition, I’ve been teaching online for over a decade and it never ceases to amaze me how much of a community emerges in such an environment.
If you’re new to screenwriting, have intermediate experience, or you’ve read it all, but want to learn the basics of what I teach in The Quest — character based screenwriting — here is your chance to learn the foundation of screenplay structure that goes beyond formula.
I only teach my Core classes once a year and the 2019 cycle begins next month. Everything you need to know about screenwriting theory in this unique curriculum based on eight principles: Plot, Concept, Character, Style, Dialogue, Scene, Theme, Time.
CORE I: PLOT — A one-week class which begins with the principle Plot = Structure and explores the inner workings of the Screenplay Universe: Plotline and Themeline. Start date: August 26.
CORE II: CONCEPT — A one-week class which begins with the principle Concept = Hook and examines multiple strategies to generate, develop and assess story ideas. Start date: September 9.
CORE III: CHARACTER— A one-week class which begins with the principle Character = Function and delves into archetypes: Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, and Trickster. Start date: September 23.
CORE IV: STYLE— A one-week class which begins with the principle Style = Voice and surfaces keys to developing a distinctive writer’s personality on the page. Start date: October 7.
CORE V: DIALOGUE— A one-week class which begins with the principle Dialogue = Purpose and probes a variety of ways to write effective, entertaining dialogue. Start date: October 21.
CORE VI: SCENE— A one-week class which begins with the principle Scene = Point and provides six essential questions to ask when crafting and writing any scene. Start date: November 4.
CORE VII: THEME— A one-week class which begins with the principle Theme = Meaning and gives writers a concrete take on theme which can elevate the depth of any story. Start date: November 18.
CORE VIII: TIME — A one-week class which begins with the principle Time = Present and studies Present, Present-Past, Present-Future and time management in writing. Start date: December 2.
These eight Core classes represent decades of my work on the front lines of the entertainment business as a writer and producer, and engaging the craft as a teacher as well.
If reading ‘how to’ screenwriting books has left you confused, the Core curriculum offers a comprehensive, coherent, and cohesive approach to screenwriting theory.
This is not about secret systems or magic formulas, rather the Core content presents a story-crafting process that starts with characters, ends with characters, and discovers the story in-between. That process of engaging you with your story universe through your characters and getting you in touch with these living, breathing individuals informs every step of your creative process, leading you to story structure, themes, conflict, subplots, and all the rest. As I say, Character Based Screenwriting.
I provide feedback and am actively involved in our online chats. That includes a 90 minute teleconference for each Core class.
This cycle, I am offering a special sale price. Normally, the Core classes are $95 each. In 2019, each is on sale for $79!
A popular option is the Core Package which gives you exclusive access to the content in all eight Craft classes which you can go through on your own time and at your own pace, plus automatic enrollment in each 1-week online course — all for nearly 50% off the normal price of each individual class. If you sign up now, you can have immediate access to all of the Core content.
“I’m a huge fan of Scott’s classes, and I signed up for his Core Package, which I cannot speak highly enough about. If anyone wants to take a serious look at improving their writing, there is more than enough material to keep you busy for a few… dare I say, lifetimes? He’s the best. No bones about it.”
~ Heather Farlinger
To learn about any of the Core classes, click here.
I look forward to the opportunity to work with you!
“I don’t care if your character is likable — I only care if he or she or it is interesting and entertaining and engaging. That’s all that matters.”
Over the years, I have interviewed 50+ Black List screenwriters. Over the next four weeks, I am running a series featuring one topic per week related to the craft of writing.
This week: How do you develop your characters?
Reading through all of the responses was a fascinating exercise. Once again, this group of writers demonstrates there is no one way to approach the craft. Their respective approaches to developing their story’s characters vary from highly intuitive, even instinctual to the conscious use of specific techniques and writing exercises. In all cases, the goal is the same: To make the characters come alive in the writer’s imagination and onto the printed page.
On Monday, we featured writers who start their character development process by focusing on real people. Tuesday, writers zeroed in on brainstorming and the importance of asking questions about and to characters. Wednesday, we checked in with writers who use biographies as a tool for character development. Yesterday, we explored how some Black List writers go about discovering a character’s voice. Today, some insider tips on character development.
Carter Blanchard: “For me the story forms the character. Say you’re going to be stuck in a car for a thousand-mile drive with three people. You want the driver to be the world’s worst driver who refuses to give up the wheel. It makes the other two nervous throughout the trip. So that character starts to take on qualities based on that first situation you came up with, which is also a story point. So as I pull the story together, the characters start coming to life and each informs the other.”
David Guggenheim: “For me, it either comes out of the concept — who is the most interesting person I could drop into this specific scenario or I first start with ‘what type of person interests me’ and build a story around them.”
Takeaway: The story or even the very concept can drive character.
Aaron Guzikowski: “I grew up mostly drawing, so I have to draw scenes from my head, and then I write them so it’s the same sort of thing with characters. I get a feeling for that they look like and get pictures of their life and try putting it together that way, kind of like a mental collage.”
Kelly Marcel: “I surround my computer with pictures of my characters. If they exist then I use the real people… If they don’t then I’ll find pictures of what I think they look like and do that instead. Once I have a face I can imagine all sorts of things onto it. Then sometimes I will find odd things in old junk stores and think “Oh, Ralph would have that.” So I’ll buy it and put it by the picture. I end up with a desk full of bits and pieces by the time I finish writing something– it’s chaos.”
Takeaway: Pictures of your characters, real or imagined, and physical objects can help to evoke characters.
Eric Heisserer: “I have a few standard tools. One is the table read. Once I have a draft that I feel is ready for eyes beyond my own, I gather a group of trusted friends together and assign them roles. I just listen to them read the script and see what they infer and what they don’t get from the characters. I find dialogue that works or doesn’t. We have discussion afterwards. That helps a lot, because you’re putting these words into someone’s mouth. You’re hearing how it sounds out loud. That helps immensely.”
F. Scott Frazier: “I typically like to read back the script in one sitting and make notes along the way. By the end of it, I’ll usually have a pretty good understanding of where the characters went wrong and where they can be strengthened.”
Takeaway: Hearing your character’s dialogue read aloud can steer you deeper into who they are, their personality, and how they express themselves.
Geoff LaTulippe: “I think one thing that’s focused on WAY too much is “likability”. Fuck likability. Give me someone who’s bleak and damaged and awful any day over someone who’s just happy and saves puppies. I don’t care if your character is likable — I only care if he or she or it is interesting and entertaining and engaging. That’s all that matters.”
Takeaway: Don’t be obsessed about creating sympathetic characters, but rather focus on making them compelling.
For Part 1 of this week’s series on character development, go here.
“I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”
— The Shawshank Redemption (1994), screenplay by Frank Darabont, novella by Stephen King
The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Last Lines. Today’s suggestion by @masson_michael.
Trivia: The title of the movies in foreign countries:
The Danish title for the movie is "En Verden Udenfor," which means "A World Outside".
The Finnish title is "Rita Hayworth - Avain pakoon" ("Rita Hayworth - The Key to Escape").
The French title is "Les Evadés" ("The Escapees").
The French Canadian title is "À l'ombre de Shawshank" ("Into the Shadow of Shawshank").
The German title is "Die Verurteilten" ("The Convicts").
The Greek title is "Teleutea Exodos - Rita Hayworth" ("Last Exit - Rita Hayworth").
The Hungarian title is "A remény rabjai" ("Prisoners of Hope").
The Israeli title is "Homot Shel Tikva" ("Walls of Hope").
The Italian title is "Le ali della libertà" ("The Wings of Freedom").
The Latin-American title is "Sueños de libertad" ("Dreams of Freedom").
The Mexican title is "Sueños de Fuga" ("Dreams of Escape").
The Norwegian title is "Frihetens Regn" ("The Rain of Freedom").
The Portuguese title is "Um sonho de liberdade" ("A Dream of Freedom").
The Romanian title is "Închisoarea îngerilor" ("Angels' Prison").
The Russian title is "Pobeg iz Shoushenka" ("An Escape from Shawshank").
The Spanish title is "Cadena Perpetua" ("Life Imprisonment").
The Swedish title is "Nyckeln Till Frihet" ("The Key To Freedom").
Dialogue On Dialogue: As far as I’m concerned, hope is the central theme of the movie and it’s particularly poignant for Red as he begins in a place in which he claims, “Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.” Quite a character arc where he ends up uttering the movie’s last line: “I hope.”
Join the Daily Dialogue crew: 4,076 consecutive days and counting.
The Daily Dialogue theme for next week: Hospital.
Hospital scene in ‘The Descendants’
Movie scenes featuring a hospital. That’s our focus this week. If you have any suggestions, click Write a response and post your recommendations there.
What to do:
Copy/paste dialogue from IMDb Quotes or some other transcript source.
Copy/paste the URL of an accompanying video from YouTube or some other video source.
Any trivia about the movie which you think would be of interest to readers, we always welcome that.
I’d also ask you to think about why the dialogue is notable. Is there anything about the dialogue which provides some takeaway related to the craft of writing? If so, feel free to share your Dialogue On Dialogue.
Consecutive days of Daily Dialogue posts: 4,076.
Be a part of the proud Daily Dialogue tradition, post a suggestion in a RESPONSE, and have your name emblazoned on a blog post which will forever hold a hallowed spot in the Go Into The Story archives!
Upcoming schedule of themes:
July 22–28: Screenwriter July 29-August 4: Limousine August 5-August 11: Baseball August 12-August 18: Las Vegas August 19-August 25: Swimming
If you have any suggestions for Daily Dialogue themes, please post them in a RESPONSE and I’ll be happy to consider them for the series.
Be sure to post your ideas for this week’s theme: Hospital.
Continued thanks to all of you Daily Dialogue devotees, and your suggested dialogue and dialogue themes. Grateful for your ongoing support!