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)”

Why people hate three act structure (and why I like it)

Here’s a quirk of human nature: we form opinions early, and then we cherry pick facts that support the notion we formed. Go visit /r/politics or any mac vs pc argument, and you’ll see this principle illustrated vividly. I learned 3 act structure early (Syd Field’s screenplay). It helped me, so I like it, soContinue reading “Why people hate three act structure (and why I like it)”

It’s great to have a vivid world, but your story shouldn’t feel like an excuse to show off your world.

A world-building script is a script that is heavily reliant on its setting. These are commonly genre scripts, but not always. A script that’s got an esoteric historical setting or relies on a densely woven political backstory has the same strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. MINORITY REPORT is a sci-fi world building story. Much of theContinue reading “It’s great to have a vivid world, but your story shouldn’t feel like an excuse to show off your world.”

On theme (or movies are an illustration of a moral universe).

Life is poorly written. The objectives are vague, the plotting is sloppy, and characters enter and exit without any logic or any guarantee we’ll see them again. Even if you hold there is some kind of god-like author up there, even the most devout will point out that he moves in mysterious ways. In life,Continue reading “On theme (or movies are an illustration of a moral universe).”

The map is not the territory – screenwriting rules are only guidelines.

When someone says something like a script should be between 100-120 pages, it will generally cause an argument. It’s useful to remember that these are simply guidelines, and that it’s often more useful to consider why the advice is correct (it forces a useful economy of words, and makes the script more readable to buyers)Continue reading “The map is not the territory – screenwriting rules are only guidelines.”

All modern writing is built on writing that came before.

“You’re always talking about genre. That’s for hacks! I’m a creative person who writes serious art.” I hear variations of this a lot. I’m sure it’s intended as a serious defense of a philosophy, but to me it always reads as both an excuse for a lazy understanding of genre and audience expectation, and aContinue reading “All modern writing is built on writing that came before.”