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Best Screenwriting Tips, Writer's Help & Advice

Find expert screenwriting advice articles, industry leading interviews with writers, expert writing advice, screenwriting tips and answers to commonly raised questions from screenwriters, scriptwriters, filmmakers, and writers of all types. A little insider screenwriting help can go a long way toward improving the writing craft and working with screenwriting software.

The Plot Thickens -- 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life

'The moment comes when a character does or says something you hadn't thought about. At that moment he's alive and you leave it to him.' --Graham Greene Plot does not magically appear with the creation of a character; Frankenstein's monster might...

Read more... | Published: 12/06/02 | by Noah Lukeman

Dual 'Character Arcs' in 'Erin Brockovich'

Hopefully, you're not the same person you were when you were a teen. (If you're a teen, reading this, I realize the above sentence defies logic. But not to worry -- it's an illogical world, and you'll soon get used to it). Perhaps once you were sh...

Read more... | Published: 11/24/02 | by David Freeman

Victorians' Secrets: A Nineteenth-Century Guide to Screenwriting, or How the Victorians Invented the Screenplay

It may seem peculiar in the 21st century to discuss screenwriting in the same breath as anything that had to do with the 19th century. What does one have to do with the other? After all, the only visual representation that remotely resembled a mot...

Read more... | Published: 07/13/02 | by Michael Halperin

The Journey of the Antihero in Film: Exploring the Dark Side

You have, no doubt, heard of The Hero's Journey. In this article, we will explore the lesser-known ANTI-hero's journey and the uncharted dark side of the passage—the place where the dark forces live and hatch their nefarious schemes. In real life,...

Read more... | Published: 07/13/02 | by James Bonnet

Giving The Audience A Great Ride: How to Create Passion, Suspense, and Other Entertainment Dimensions

The entertainment dimensions are the pleasant sensations the audience feels when they experience your story. The most important of these feelings are those associated with the actions of the genre structures. When you isolate the plots and subplot...

Read more... | Published: 04/04/02 | by James Bonnet

Lying in the Land of Memoir: Straddling the Line Between Fact and Fiction

I've never been good at telling the truth. From the time I first encountered stories as a child, I understood that they were meant to be manipulated, details added or deleted toward a desired result. I suspect the situation is the same for most me...

Read more... | Published: 03/08/02 | by Kathleen Finneran

The Art of Self-Promotion for Writers

Much is made about the value of toiling for years in the Hollywood trenches before 'making it.' Those at the top call it 'paying your dues.' Baloney. Directors become directors by directing, producers by producing. They don't work their way up the...

Read more... | Published: 02/21/02 | by Ron Suppa

Adding Emotional Depth to a Plot Via a Subplot

One way to add that mysterious quality of emotional layers or 'depth' to a plot is to have the hero's emotional journey echoed in a subplot. Alan Ball, the screenwriter of 'American Beauty,' does this masterfully. This can be seen in how Wes Bent...

Read more... | Published: 02/07/02 | by David Freeman

The Essence of Story

What is the essence, or heart and soul, of a great story? There are seven critical elements: the change of fortune, the problem of the story, the complications, crisis, climax and resolution of the classical structure, and the threat, which is by ...

Read more... | Published: 01/04/02 | by James Bonnet

How Old is Too Old to Be a Screenwriter?

Raymond Chandler wrote his first screenplay at 56. He didn't even publish his first novel until he was 51. For the record, he wrote the original screenplays for 'Double Indemnity' and 'Strangers On A Train.' In 1939, after F. Scott Fitzgerald's c...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by D.B. Gilles

The Three Hard Truths About Agents

There's an old joke about the relationship between writers and agents: a writer comes home to find police and fire trucks crowding the street. As he scrambles out of his car, he sees that there's nothing left of his house but a pile of black dust ...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Dennis Palumbo

Great Characters - Their Best Kept Secret

Have you ever wondered why characters like Sherlock Holmes, King Arthur, Achilles, Scrooge, Dorothy and Superman go on forever? The real secret of their immortality lies in something you've probably never equated with the creation of a great chara...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by James Bonnet

The Thriller

The Thriller is one of Hollywood's most popular forms because it combines the criminality and surprise of the detective form with the danger and pressure of horror. A good thriller puts the hero in danger early and never lets up. While the thrill...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by John Truby

Secrets of Blockbuster Movies - Part II

Don't be fooled by the notion that no one knows anything. Buyers may not know if a particular script will make over $100 million, but they have a pretty good idea of certain major story characteristics found in most blockbuster scripts. The top p...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by John Truby

Secrets of Blockbuster Movies - Part I

Hollywood is interested in one thing: a script with blockbuster potential. Why? Because the revenue from films is now global. The typical hit film makes more money from foreign revenue than it does from the U.S. Couple that with the exorbitant cos...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by John Truby

The Enneagram: A Power Tool for Screenwriters

Experienced writers know that plot and character are like Siamese twins: if one is terminally diseased, the other is doomed. While a solid structure is essential to a good screenplay, it fails to guarantee characters whose behavior continually see...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Judith Searle

How To Market Your Screenplay

OK! You've got a terrific script! How do you get it read, and how do you sell it? The first step, of course, is to get good representation. One of the most important things to look for in your representative is whether or not s/he knows the market...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Kathryn Knowlton

Push Boundaries and Make No Excuses

As a script consultant, Dr. Linda Seger has worked with more than 2000 scripts, from 'The Neverending Story II' to 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.' Linda has also extensively studied the creative process, working with writers to jump-sta...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Linda Seger

How Do I Critique My Own Work?

Can writers take a long honest look at their own writing? The answer is yes, but it's difficult. When we go back to read the words we've put on the page, we not only read the actual words, we relive the emotions we felt as we were writing. We see ...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Leigh Michaels

Pretense, Pratfalls and Silly Walks: Why Characters make us Laugh

Humor is a perceptual experience that causes people to laugh. By definition, it is generated by a 'sudden radical deviation from expected patterns of behavior in a situation that concludes by being non-threatening to the perceiver.' That behavior ...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Richard Michaels Stefanik

The Three Cosmic Rules of Writing

As a veteran writer and a licensed psychotherapist specializing in writers' issues, I know enough to know there aren't any rules when it comes to writing. Except for the following, which I modestly call the Three Cosmic Rules of Writing. I'm seri...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Dennis Palumbo

Fishing for the Hook

Often you'll hear producers, agents and others whom writers must deal with asking them for more of 'a hook' to their pitches or screenplays. What exactly a hook is, is rarely spelled out; they just know they want one. It's sort of like the problem...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by William Missouri Downs

Why Good Writers Keep Journals

Journals have been the secret weapon for writers from Allen Ginsburg to Virginia Woolf to Victor Hugo. Make it your secret weapon, too. Skilled writers have developed their own voices -- unique ways to express themselves. They have learned to ope...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Ruth Folit

Do You Have to Live in Hollywood?

I wrote 'The Writer's Guide to Producers, Directors and Screenwriters' Agents' somewhat by accident. I quit Hollywood in disgust after two feature screenplays were purchased, but not filmed, this after years of options and some TV work, but no fea...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Skip Press

Six Points About Character, Plot, and Dialogue You Wish You'd Have Known Yesterday

If you could sit down in a chair next to the editor of work by James Baldwin, Elia Kazan, Jack Higgins, Jacques Barzun, David Frost, Budd Schulberg, Dylan Thomas and Lionel Trilling, what could that editor say that would be immediately helpful to ...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Sol Stein