The law of conservation of detail (and exceptions)

The first act sets up a script. It needs to be entertaining, efficient, and most of all focused. If a first act forces me to learn something, there’d better be a damn good reason for it. If there isn’t, the useless information crowds out the useful stuff. It punishes the audience for paying attention andContinue reading “The law of conservation of detail (and exceptions)”

The first act creates context

A first act creates the context: the facts a reader needs to understand the story going forward. It contextualizes a lot of things including: Character Who are we following and what’s their deal? What’s their archetype? what are their distinct traits? What do they want? Take a movie like THE VERDICT. At no point doesContinue reading “The first act creates context”

Three act structure may be bullshit, but it’s useful bullshit.

Three act structure falls into a category I call “useful bullshit.” Typically arguments over three act structure become a tedious fight about whether it’s always the best or whether it even exists. It’s a mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain an idea without necessarily holding it to be true. Therefore, IContinue reading “Three act structure may be bullshit, but it’s useful bullshit.”

The main value of structure is that it allows writers to see how incidents radically change their story depending on where they are placed.

Three act structure. Just by using that term, I have guaranteed that a sizable percentage of the people who read this will have stopped listening. Those people are busy composing angry replies about how stupid and/or malevolent I am. I look forward to reading those. I get that people hate three act structure, but theContinue reading “The main value of structure is that it allows writers to see how incidents radically change their story depending on where they are placed.”

Conceptual specificity (or Santa Claus vs The Zombies)

Conceptual specificity:  The fun of the second act should come from the elements set up by the first act. The fun of the second act needs to come from the hook, otherwise the draft isn’t exercising the idea it purports to embody. I know that’s a long and boring mouthful, so to drive this homeContinue reading “Conceptual specificity (or Santa Claus vs The Zombies)”

Improv for screenwriters – a sketch exercise that’s useful for scene work.

This is the exercise: Pick a situation that would happen in life. Identify five typical things thats would ordinarily happen in that situation. Pick an unusual thing. Apply that unusual thing to the list you generated in step 2. Example: A lady goes to a gym to see a trainer. Unusual thing: the trainer isContinue reading “Improv for screenwriters – a sketch exercise that’s useful for scene work.”

Thoughts on Film Critic Hulk’s “Myth Of The Three Act Structure”

People occasionally cite Film Critic Hulk’s indictment of the three act structure to me. I’ve always hated it. Film Critic Hulk’s original post. My version with more standard and readable grammar. I translated it into plain English because I’ve always suspected that Film Critic Hulk uses his style to obfuscate poorly thought-out ideas and an extremely tenuousContinue reading “Thoughts on Film Critic Hulk’s “Myth Of The Three Act Structure””

How to lose a reader on the first line of a script.

DISCLAIMER: I take script confidentiality incredibly seriously. I will never talk about the specifics of someone else’s script to anyone else because I’m being asked for discretion as much as my opinion. The one exception is if someone posts a screenplay in a public forum like Reddit to solicit free opinions. In that case, I’mContinue reading “How to lose a reader on the first line of a script.”

Most second acts suck. Here’s a tip on how to fix that.

I read scripts for money. I enjoy it. I like reading, I like teaching, and reading has given me insights that have helped my own craft. But 90% of the time, I end up writing some variation of this paragraph: The script starts late – it spends 35 or so pages setting up the whysContinue reading “Most second acts suck. Here’s a tip on how to fix that.”