Tutorial on Screenwriting and story writing from Quackacast 68
ozoneocean at 2:57AM, March 12, 2012
This is the first part of Bane's screenwriting and story type and structure lecture from Quackcast 68.
This is all by Banes- http://www.drunkduck.com/user/Banes/ [..]
From this Quackcast here:
OKAY, now on to screenwriting part ONE!
A lot of these ideas and the story types will be taken from the
screenwriting books, which are film industry standard these days.
There’s a LOT of crossover here with the hero’s journey laid out last week.
This version has been refined for movies by Blake Snyder in his great,
fun book, ‘Save the Cat’ (as well as explored in Syd Field’s books and
1. OPENING IMAGE
In the beginning, we have an opening that sets the tone.
2. The THEME should be hinted at near the beginning, too! What’s the story ABOUT, under the surface?
3. SET UP
Generally things begin in the main character or characters’ NORMAL LIFE or NORMAL STATE.
We see how they live and what they’re all about, and what the world (and
yes, the ‘tone’) of the story is. The protagonist (and the world) may be
miserable or happy, comfortable or un- , but there is generally a sense
of “incompleteness” to the protagonist, the world, or both.
In Joseph Campbell’s ‘hero’s journey’, this is the “call of the mentor”.
The point is, it’s usuallly “something happens to” the
protagonist...it’s not a choice. And he resists!
This is the letter that arrives, the phone call, spotting an asteroid
through a telescope, and it’s amazing how often this happens...in a
movie...at right about minute 12.
In the Strangers, the late-night pounding on the door...minute 12. In
VACANCY, it’s the...well, the late-night pounding on the door...minute
After the catalyst, there’s a little waffling. A HESITATION. What should I do? What’s going on? What are the specifics?
This is an odd section, but practically every movie does it! We need to pause, and prepare, and....resist. And debate.
6. ACT 2:
The character goes into a “NEW WORLD”, entering unfamiliar territory. It should be a CHOICE the hero makes at this point (it usually is. Though not always). We
begin the quest! We go on the date with the girl! The private detective
takes the job! Play your first Dodgeball game! The 40 year old virgin
goes out to try his luck! The crew lands their ship and heads into the
literal alien world (like in Alien). Things are DIFFERENT in this
7. FUN and GAMES
Now we’re in “the new world” of obstacles, challenges, and...the premise.
This is where we show what the movie IS. Losers struggling to play
baseball...or Dodgeball! John McClane stalking/taking out the
terrorists! Jason stalking or stabbing naked, annoying teenagers! The
couple dating! Cops on the case, tracking the serial killer! The
Ghostbusters are...you know. Busting. Ghosts. Often, a MONTAGE happens
in here somewhere.
In here, the B-story is explored, too. The secondary story that reflects the theme of the story. (often it’s the ‘love story’). Anyway, things are going along well, or suspensefully, or whatever the movie requires, until...
“Stuff gets real”, if you will. We’ve seen the premise, but now the stakes are
raised, things are heavier, and there’s some pressure on our heroes. A
good place for those “time bombs” to start!
It can either be a “false victory moment” (often a kiss happens here! Or a party!)
...Or a “false defeat” (when an Alien bursts out of your chest. Hey, there was a party there, too!)
Why do I keep going back to Dodgeball? I don’t know...but at the Midpoint
of Dodgeball, the training is over and the tournament begins!
10. Bad Guys Close In
Worse things start to happen. Things aren’t working. The bad guys are
regrouping, the team is arguing. Or maybe it seems to be going okay for
the heroes...but the pressure’s definitely on.
Another possible place for a montage.
11. ALL IS LOST:
Before they can win, things get bad. Really bad. Things are worse than they were when the story started.
Often there is DEATH (or a hint of death) at this point.
This is where the mentor dies, the team realizes they cannot win, or you’ve
lost your love seemingly forever. It’s the low point. It’s all over.
12. DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
This is another hesitation. Another resistance. But a darker one than
earlier. It seems hopeless. The hero wants to quit. There’s no point! I
give up! Why have you forsaken me, Lord?
Yet another common place for a sad montage. Owen Wilson walks around sad in
Wedding Crashers, having lost his girl. The Star Wars gang have escaped
the Death Star, but Luke is bummed out, having lost Ben Kenobi.
13. BREAK INTO ACT 3
Finally, the protagonist rallies back! Can be a pretty stirring moment in a story!
A new strength or inspiration or...will...propels the hero to continue the struggle.
This is often an inspiring moment in a movie. In Dodgeball (last time),
Vince Vaughn comes back to lead his team! In the remake of “Insomnia”,
Al Pacino recovers from the darkness he’s descended into, picks up his
badge, and goes to catch the killer! It’s often a heroic moment.
The protagonist uses what she’s learned in the course of the story to
overcome her challenges. She uses what she has learned throughout the
journey....and she wins!
Once in awhile, of course, the protagonist LOSES. But that’s another story...
15. FINAL IMAGE:
In the end, the character and/or his world has changed! We are at a very different place!
This FINAL IMAGE is different from the OPENING IMAGE, or ought to be!
MEANWHILE...Like we mentioned, under the surface of PLOT, there should be a THEME. A good story is ABOUT something. So aside from what the hero wants on a PLOT level, there’s something she NEEDS on a deeper level. This is
“growth”. The POINT. “Emotional resonance”. “Relatability”. All that
powerful stuff is the reason stories exist!
STORY TYPES! GENRE!
This is not the same as what we sometimes think of as “genre”. There’s no
comedy, horror, or drama listed here. Because those are really TONES as
opposed to stories.
So it’s not that. It’s a matter of some basic elements that exist in
certain types of stories. It’s more about WHAT’S HAPPENING in the story.
(Y’all can read SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder for an exploration of these
genres. If you have the interest, it’s a great book! But we’ll cover ‘em
all in the next couple Quackcasts, too!)
GENRE 1: The Golden Fleece!
This type of movie is centered around a GOAL. A PRIZE. A specific...DEALIE.
It’s definitely the most applicable to the HERO’S JOURNEY, MONOMYTH thing!
If it has to do with gathering a team, or going on the road....good chance
it’s this kind of movie. You start off at “home”. Then you gather your
team (or your resources) and set off to seek your fortune!
…..And you learn stuff along the way. Inner stuff. (the real power of stories).
In the end, you try and pull off your plan/achieve the ultimate victory!
A lot of the fun of these flicks is meeting the various characters who make up the team.
The hero and his team go on a journey after some specific goal. When you
think of movies, this is the type of thing many people think of,
probably. It encompasses a broad range of flicks...
EPIC JOURNEY - Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Three Kings, Saving Private Ryan,...Antz and Toy Story fit here, too!
BUDDY ROAD MOVIES - Planes Trains And Automobiles, Vacation, Little Miss Sunshine, Back to the Future, and (again, a fave of mine) Midnight Run
CONMEN and CAPERS - The Sting, Ocean’s Eleven, Confidence, Tower Heist.
ESCAPE movies - The Great Escape, Escape from Alcatraz
REVENGE movies - Kill Bill, Death Sentence, SOLO JOURNEYS and BIOGRAPHICAL - Cast Away, Capote, About Schmidt, Love Liza.
SPORTS MOVIES - Rocky, Bad News Bears, Moneyball, Dodgeball, Any Given Sunday, etc etc etc...
An interesting thing about stories in general...but particularly this
type...is that the GOAL/PRIZE is often NOT achieved. But the “inner”
goal (the ‘theme’ or growing as a person) IS achieved.
...See Rocky, the Bad News Bears, and Midnight
Run for when the heroes DON’T get the victory they were after, but end
up “winning” in the end, regardless! Because they heroes have won on the
“theme” level. They’ve learned the life lessons they needed.
EXAMPLE on Drunk Duck:
“The Garden” by Deepcheese, is one example
GENRE 2: MONSTER IN THE HOUSE
The MONOMYTH structure is very, very cool. It can be applied to many, many stories.
But it probably explains stories like “Lord of the Rings”, Star Wars and
Ocean’s Eleven much better than it explains....say, “The Raven”, or
“The Exorcist”. Or “Fatal Attraction”
This next genre is quite different from the JOURNEY stories we’ve been discussing!
In this “Monster” genre, maybe the most often imitated genre in the world
of movies, the protagonist and his/her friends are hunted by a MONSTER
of some kind. Several variations exist:
- Pure MONSTER monsters - like in Alien, Jaws, the Descent, or (one o’ my faves)-TREMORS...
- SERIAL KILLERS - Psycho, Halloween, Friday the 13th and Scream movies...
GHOSTS, Demons, and OTHERDIMENSIONAL HORRORS - Paranormal Activity, The Exorcist, Nightmare on Elm Street...the Grudge, the Ring...
DOMESTIC MONSTERS - Fatal Attraction, Play Misty for Me, Poison Ivy,
the Roommate...even the Cable Guy! ...oh, and don’t forget Pacific
Heights, with our buddy Michael Keaton as the scary “monster”!
In these movies, there is probably a protagonist or “hero” of some kind,
and they will probably go through the character arc and stuff...but the
MONSTER is really the “star”.
The MONSTER is usually driving the action in these stories. The heroes are on the run! Until they fight back, of course!
...But it’s NOT the protagonist. It’s powerful, more than human in some way (even if by way of insanity and EVIL.
They work best if the characters are in an enclosed or limited space that
they can’t leave (witness ALIEN, trapped in the ship, JAWS, stuck on a
sinking boat in the middle of nowhere, etc. It works better if there’s
no easy escape!
A lot of these stories are defined by SIN. Remember that old movie,
Scream, where we were told “Don’t drink! Don’t have sex! Or you die”?
It’s that type of thing.
-Those great old EC comics often involved some nasty killer or nasty person
getting their supernatural comeuppance. Or it’s a ‘sin’ of society
around the hero - sex in those slasher movies, greed in JAWS that keeps
the lake open, that clueless hospital administration that let Michael
Myers out of the hospital...even in the great PSYCHO, Janet Leigh steals
money and skips town...which is how she ends up renting a room from
So, yeah. The idea that we brought the “monster” on ourselves somehow is
often a big part of these stories. It can be harder-hitting that way. The plot of these stories, the heroes’ motivation...well, just don’t get killed!
OTHER MEDIUM EXAMPLES:
BOOKS/LITERATURE: The Shining, It, Ghost Story...The Raven...
COMICS: Old EC comics/Weird Tales had a LOT of these.
TV SERIES: Many episodes of the Twilight Zone, the Outer Limits...the X-FILES, Supernatural.
EXAMPLE on DD
It’s a collection of short stories, but an example on Drunk Duck is a comic
called FULL MOON STORIES. Lots of monsters/ghosts/horrors there!
Full Moon Stories by VegaX:
You can see how these MONSTER stories are quite DIFFERENT from GOLDEN FLEECE stories, right? ‘Cuz they ARE different!
But wait...what about Groundhog Day? What about High Fidelity? What about
Glengarry Glen Ross and...Lord help us...Napoleon Dynamite?
Tune in next week, True Believers!
THE END...FOR NOW....