Screenwriting II — Week 9 & 10 — Spring 2014

March 29, 2014

Hello there,

A short post this week.
In class we talked about different approaches to writing dialogue. Below are several links to good articles on the craft of dialogue writing.


THIS IS A TERRIFIC MEMO from the playwright and screenwriter David Mamet to the writers of The Unit, the TV show that was popular for a spell. It covers all the important points of drama we talk about in class.

No homework this week. But those of you who wants to read his/her BREAK UP scene in class, please bring the scene with you. Alternatively, you can email the scene to me and I’ll beam it on the screen in class, so we can read it together.

Screenwriting II — Week 10

November 14, 2013

Posted on: Wednesday, November 13, 2013

 Greetings all,Great class!  We spent three and a half hours discussing Thelma and Louise — reading scenes from the screenplay (final draft) and watching clips from the film. We also mapped out Thelma’s and Louise’s character arcs. Note how the characters and their worldview change throughout their journey.  Try to apply the same technique to your stories.
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What is the world of your characters? How are they introduced?

What happens at the Inciting Incident (Call to Adventure)?

What about the end of Act I (Crossing the Threshold)?

Did you find the Midpoint for your story? What happens at Midpoint? (Hint: Something unexpected happens that changes the way your protagonist looks at the world. Her plan doesn’t apply anymore. The character makes a choice, which connects the first part of Act II with the second part of Act II)

The Crises. McKee and Truby suggest it should come at the end of Act II. Vogler believes the right place to have it is closer to Midpoint (the Ordeal). Where does it fit in your story?

How does your Act II end?

Act III is not just the Climax and Resolution. After your character makes a decision at the end of Act II, she moves toward her goal with greater intensity. What happens to your character as she approaches the confrontation with her opponent(s)?

Those of you who haven’t read the Thelma and Louise screenplay, you should. First, it was your assignment for the class. Second, you learn more from reading great screenplays than from books on how to write screenplays.

Some of you are not clear yet on what makes a beat. If what happens in a scene moves the story forward or adds to the development of your main character, that scene a BEAT.

If what happens in a scene does not move the story forward and adds to the development of your main character, that scene is NOT A BEAT.  It’s a transitional scene. Every beat is a scene; but not every scene is a beat.

Example: Joe walks with Jane to the liquor store. He tells her that he loves her.

Joe and Jane buy wine and banter with the store owner.

Joe and Jane come home and cook dinner. Jane tells Joe she doesn’t love him.

It’s clear that beat two is not a real beat. You can include it in the screenplay,  but you don’t need it in the outline. If you think you must have the banter with the store owner, make it a part of the first beat.

Joe and Jane walk to the liquor store. They banter with the store owner. Joe tells Jane he loves her.

A slight adjustment. But now you have the “banter” part and the “I love you” part in the same beat.

Your assignment for Monday, Nov. 18:

1. Step Outline / Beat Sheet: Act II (the entire act, which should include a Midpoint, the Ordeal (crisis), and the Second Act break / the Reward (plot point) that takes us into Act III. The plot point at the end of Act I (Crossing the Threshold) is part of Act I.

Refer to  your  Sequence Outline.  There are four sequences in Act II that consist of APPROXIMATELY 20 to 30 beats. Include ONLY the beats that move the story forward and/or add a new dimension (deepen) your main character.

2. Read McKee (ch. 16-20);   Vogler (pp.155-215)
There will be another quiz in the next two weeks; so don’t forget to do your reading.

3. Comment on your groupmates’ work.

Let me know if you have questions.