Premise test – notes on stakes.

"The stakes are not ours. They are the characters."*   Stakes are both easy and hard. It’s a category that's easy to fill in with something, hard to fill in well. Stakes are consequences. They are what will happen if the hero fails to meet his goal. If our heroes are blue collar heroes who... Continue Reading →

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How to create a goal that will carry your reader through your story.

1. ROOTING INTEREST IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN PLOT Midway through DUNKIRK, I turned to my friend and said, “Wait, is that the plane from earlier? Are sea and air narratives about to intersect?” My friend said, “I have no fucking idea. Shut up, I’m watching this.” This illustrates a truth about story telling. Everything, plot,... Continue Reading →

The Premise Test

The premise test is simple, useful, and much harder to fill out than you'd think. Its brevity glosses over a lot of complexity and theory. In practice, it's a powerful and merciless tool that exposes flawed or incomplete thinking. Used correctly, it will save you from false starts. The premise test will tell you if... Continue Reading →

The premise of a movie is like a machine that generates entertaining scenes, setpieces and ideas. These are largely explored in the second act.

Your movie concept combined with the genre of movie creates the means by which entertainment is made. For instance, a time travel comedy would probably have a lot of moments where the existence of time travel led to funny set pieces. An avalanche action movie would probably have a lot of gunplay that somehow involved... Continue Reading →

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