An outline is a reality check.

I’m skeptical of people who are too vocal about never outlining. For every one person who doesn’t need to outline, there are a hundred that do. Some people seem to see any form out outlining as a form of hackery or cheating. Breaking down a story into beats? Cheating. Identifying a premise and then identifyingContinue reading “An outline is a reality check.”

The Beats of a Screenplay.

If I’ve learned anything in years of discussing screenwriting online, it’s that people have an unending appetite for being told that they CAN write, but that they violently resent being told HOW to write. Even the merest suggestion of assumed orthodoxy can set off flame wars. Writers rarely agree on anything. People hear beats and theyContinue reading “The Beats of a Screenplay.”

Common beginner problem: A fear of outlining, even at the rewrite stage.

My platonic ideal of developing a screenplay: This December, I taught an online class about outlining. I broke development into 6 phases. Express an idea as a logline. Expand logline as a one page precis that delineates act breaks. Break the one page in a series of 30-50 distinct beats, 7 words per beat. FleshContinue reading “Common beginner problem: A fear of outlining, even at the rewrite stage.”

People outline imperfectly. That is a good thing.

This December, I taught an online class about outlining. I broke development into 6 phases. Express an idea as a simple premise. Expand logline as a one page precis that delineates act breaks. Break the one page in a series of 30-50 distinct beats, 7 words per beat. Flesh out the beats into 100-300 wordsContinue reading “People outline imperfectly. That is a good thing.”

Beat sheets and how to use them

A “beat sheet” is a form of an outline. In this form, you can think of each beat as an individual unit of plot, so a beat sheet in an outline that’s specific purpose is to touch on each of those.  (John August’s screenwriting.io). Note that beat sheets are also commonly written after there isContinue reading “Beat sheets and how to use them”

From idea to rewrite in seven (not so) easy steps!!!

People love breaking life’s challenges into “X Number of Easy Steps.”  Life loves to make these people look like fools.  Anything worth doing is more complicated than it looks, anything that promises easy competence is setting you up for failure. That being said, I’m sure this easy seven step guide will be totally different!  SoContinue reading “From idea to rewrite in seven (not so) easy steps!!!”

A simple trick that separates a weak logline from a strong one.

“Torn by his daughter’s suicide, an existentialist writer must recapture his faith in humanity while journeying in a magic wonderland.”  Not a real logline, but I’ve read dozens that were very similar. Loglines like this skirt around the actual meat of the movie. They don’t have a single picture in them. I get the goal,Continue reading “A simple trick that separates a weak logline from a strong one.”

40 beats – The bridge from one page synopsis to outline.

My basic advice: scripts start with an idea, then a logline, then a 200-word version to test if the story fits into the three act structure.   The next step between the test and the outline/treatment is a list of roughly 40 beats. That’s not a hard number, some scripts go 30 beats, some go 50,Continue reading “40 beats – The bridge from one page synopsis to outline.”

How to write a mediocre logline

Nine months ago I wrote this post. It became one of my most popular blogs. I’ve come to realize that the words “mediocre” and “logline” were poor choices, because it opened me up to a lot of repetitive arguments about what is or isn’t a logline. I clarified my thinking and renamed this: The PremiseContinue reading “How to write a mediocre logline”

The handle: A quick test to see if your script falls into the three act paradigm.

* Note: There are a million ways to write a script.  The three act structure isn’t the only way, but executives tend to talk in the three act paradigm, so it’s useful to writers, even if they don’t subscribe to it. If you use a different paradigm to understand story, I’d love to hear aboutContinue reading “The handle: A quick test to see if your script falls into the three act paradigm.”