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plot construction

How True Does A True Story Need To Be?

True Stories and ‘Truth’ How ‘true’ does a ‘true story’ need to be? On the surface, this might seem obvious – but it’s NOT! Bang2writer James Hickey asks this question: Do you know if there are any copyright laws or what-have-you regarding true stories one would read on the internet, or maybe have told to them? “Based on a true story” can be problematic… but only largely cos 9/10 it’s not really true. Take the movie Wolf Creek for instance. What was that based on? The Peter Falconio case *maybe*… But it felt like a tenuous link really, more in a… Read More »How True Does A True Story Need To Be?

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What’s The Difference Between Story & Plot?

I did a guest talk at The Bournemouth University Writers’ Society last night. It was a great turn out and hosted by the marvellous and enterprising Sam Hutchinson, so if you’re a student at the uni and interested in writing (you don’t have to be a Scriptwriting student to join, so I’m told) then you should definitely get down there. Join the Facebook group here. My talk was about the difference between story & plot with sidelines into central concept, theme, audience and structure. These are elements Bang2writers often struggle with, especially at first draft, pitching or rewriting stage (especially… Read More »What’s The Difference Between Story & Plot?

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Tick-The-Box vs. Perfect Craft

So on Twitter this week came the following question – organically, rather than directly, via discussion – between myself and Dodgyjammer: What is the difference between tick-the-box screenwriting and “perfect craft”? Let’s look at them both. Tick-The-Box Screenwriting. I think this is down to one thing and one thing alone: believing a formula alone can CREATE a “successful” piece of writing and/ or filmmaking. And if we’re talking about MONEY and a *certain* level of audience satisfaction/participation, those writers/filmmakers are indeed correct. There are many films on the market which follow formula very successfully. I had a boyfriend back in… Read More »Tick-The-Box vs. Perfect Craft

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Weighing It Up: The #1 Problem of Dual Protagonists In Screenwriting

UPDATED! On Dual Protagonists One thing screenwriters love to ask B2W about is dual protagonists. It’s not difficult to see why: as writers, we often struggle to decide which of our characters is the most ‘important’. This means having not one, but two leads in our screenplays can be very alluring. But dual protagonists can be exceptionally hard to pull off. This is often because those movies we THINK have dual protagonists often well … DON’T! Those movies frequently have a sole protagonist with a very, very important secondary character. Veteran Bang2writer Hina asks about dual protagonists here: If done… Read More »Weighing It Up: The #1 Problem of Dual Protagonists In Screenwriting

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Don’t Let Your Secondary Characters Take Over

I’ve written on this blog before about back story and how it shouldn’t take over from “present events”: too often a spec script puts too much thought into back story, so the story we’re *supposed* to be watching lacks “forward thrust” (oooer). Bang2writers often believe they must put MORE back story in, at the expense of “present day” plotting, especially when it comes to secondary characters in feature-length scripts – and let’s face it, we’ve all done it and probably will again. But it’s important we realise this means we will be set off at wild tangents as we struggle… Read More »Don’t Let Your Secondary Characters Take Over

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4 Big Non Linearity Mistakes In Screenplays

Non Linearity is big news I’d venture for every ten spec screenplays I read, at least three will feature non linearity. Renowned non linear movies include Pulp Fiction, Memento, Twelve Monkeys, The Bourne Supremacy, Slumdog Millionaire, Groundhog Day and Premonition. Non-linearity sometimes finds its way into TV spec screenplays too  – particularly of the supernatural genre – usually in the form of flashback. (For the purposes of this post, note that when I say “non linearity”, I mean the “beginning, middle, end” will not necessarily be in *that* order). I love non linearity. Done well, it can really add a new… Read More »4 Big Non Linearity Mistakes In Screenplays

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Screenplay Tips # 8: Character & Plot

We all know *that* saying: characters are what they DO, not what they SAY. But what does it mean? Characters all need to have a REASON to physically be in your script. It’s no good writing someone in who is witty, vibrant or whatever, yet has no purpose. No matter how great a character is *is*, if they have no motivation or role function, they’re going to stick out like a sore thumb – and not for a good reason. As unfashionable as it is to say this, plot CAN exist without good characters, as long as they all have… Read More »Screenplay Tips # 8: Character & Plot

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Remember You’re The Writer

So this weekend on Twitter, I found myself saying the following to the lovely John Kell: As screenwriters we’re massively picky and nothing is good enuff… There does come a point where we have to say, “this is to enable [such & such]”… TV /Film not for screenwriters: no such thing as plot perfection. There’s always something to whine about. Now, before we go ballistic and say I’m attempting to give to a “get out of jail free” card to all writers of crappy material, let’s just nail one thing down. Obviously there will ALWAYS be weak/unrealistic plots and those… Read More »Remember You’re The Writer

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Back Story: Past vs Present

When I was still a new writer, I read the fantastic advice somewhere “the antagonist never realises s/he is the antagonist; they think they are the hero of the story.” It’s something I’ve strived to include in my own writing; I wanted my antagonists to have understandable motivations, because I’ve seen too many “comic book villains” in the spec pile. Whilst writers spend oodles of time on their protagonists, writers seem to rarely confess they’ve spent as much time and effort on their antagonist, which seems a shame (though it can have its own drawbacks, like falling in love with… Read More »Back Story: Past vs Present

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What A Coincidence!

As a general rule of thumb, having *something* in your plot happen as a coincidence is a bad idea. It’s just not very dramatic and *can* lead to the dreaded Deus Ex Machina, especially if your protagonist needs some help on something, whether that’s escaping jail, a maniac killer or the attentions of an overly-enamoured school teacher (or whatever, stay with me). However, we all know films and TV drama use coincidence all the time and get away with it. So what’s the difference? Well, it seems to me that if your coincidence gets your characters OUT of trouble, then… Read More »What A Coincidence!

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You Are Not Wasting Your Time

Working with lots of writers over the years, I’ve noticed more than once there is a resistance in new writers to going back to Page 1. It seems there is a feeling that, should a writer chuck out the way they’ve executed the story and reimagine it, said writer has somehow wasted their time in writing those previous drafts. But this is patently not true. For one thing, first drafts – whoever they are written by – are always pants. In even a GOOD first draft, there are plot opportunities missed; cliches or stereotypes; characters whose motivations are not clear;… Read More »You Are Not Wasting Your Time

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Plot + Easy = Myth

You don’t have to go far on this ol’ interweb to find claims that character and dialogue are the most important things in the *good* spec script. In fact, some places/people say, they are SO important a reader can forgive any other transgression including a non existent or problematic plot, because (apparently), stuff like plot can be “fixed later”. But is this actually true, or a myth? Well, if you look at the blog title, then you know what I think already and I’ll explain why in glorious technicolour, next. But, like all things in this scriptwriting malarkey, it’s hard… Read More »Plot + Easy = Myth

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