Our Screenwriting Tips selection today deals with PLOT.
866: The most powerful method for refining motivation and stakes in your script is to ask, “So what?”. So what if the protagonist loves a man her parents disapprove of? So what if the villain learns all about the hero’s plan? So what if the main character doesn’t get that big promotion she wanted? And so on.
863: The point of plot is to break through your protagonist’s outer persona and reveal the true character within. To use an unsavory metaphor: you’re the interrogator, your protag is the prisoner, and your script is the rack.
850: Every skill, trait or item your protagonist uses to get out of a tight spot should be set up earlier in the script. A hitherto unmentioned ability to speak Latin is just as jarring as a hitherto unmentioned gun.
848: Don’t think of the end of Act Three as being about answering questions and tying off threads. Think of it as getting the protagonist to the point where there’s no more story to tell.
828: Your job is to upset the scales. Force characters who love each other into conflict and competition. Force characters who hate each other to work together.
811: Your protagonist’s past is not the key to their character arc. Their present is. The most important events in their emotional journey need to take place in your script’s timeline, not before it.
781: If you find yourself writing a scene in which one character walks in and describes what just happened off-screen… stop. You’re writing a play. This is supposed to be a screenplay — “show, don’t tell”, remember?
733: In reality, people don’t always have perfect back-and-forth conversations. They’re often just waiting for the right moment to say something they really want to say. Use this fact to create turning points that flip your scenes around.
722: When you come up with a ‘big idea’ (e.g. a world where nobody can lie, a future where vampires rule over humans), don’t go with the first protagonist or plot that springs to mind. Think around the big idea — consider every angle and version until you find the right one for you.
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