Lessons from the Screenwriter, Part 2

First, sorry about missing last week. I was actually in LA with the subject of this post, and the two of us were literally running around last Saturday from 6:30am to about 9:00pm. I couldn’t put together a coherent thought after that, let alone write a blog.

I’ve mentioned her previously in this blog; she was the one who took a main character of mine from my spy series and broke down to me exactly why the character sucked. She was blunt, but she was right.

Anyway, I love the fact that she invites me to her screenwriting classes whenever I am in town. The professor in this class, Eric Edson, actually remembered me from the last time I had dropped in a few months ago. There is something very cathartic about being in a class with a wide scope of people who are all there to become better writers. Every time I attend, I walk out with a new writing tool or tip.

In this particular class, the students had to present a favorite movie and break it down into scenes. Next, they had to identify the hero/main character’s goal for each individual scene, who complicates the goal (because there has to be conflict in every scene, even if it is internal), and the outcome of the scene (if the goal was accomplished or not). On top of this, they still had to identify the traditional story arc moments in the story overall. It was a brilliant multi-level assignment.

So, I offer a similar challenge to my fellow novel writers. Look at your story. Does each scene have a hero goal, even if it is just making it to work on time or making small talk with the cutie at the coffee shop? Are there complications to that goal (traffic jams, nerves)? Does the scene have an ending (late to work, gets the cutie’s phone number)? If you can’t tell, then the scene may need some fine tuning and focus.

By the way, the movie we watched was The 40-Year Old Virgin. And yes, the student presenting was able to clearly identify the goal, complication, and outcome for each scene. One of my favorites was the scene where Andy, having revealed his secret to the poker crew the night before, had the goal of making it through the work day without getting teased (or at least handling it well if he did get teased). He got to work, and lasted for about 10 seconds before the comments started. Clearly, the goal was an epic fail.

I’m waiting to hear about my friend’s presentation. Her movie of choice? The Wedding Singer.


This entry was posted in Happy Thoughts, Learning From Art, The Writing Craft and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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