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Old 02-20-2018, 05:10 PM   #1
AAAslan
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Idea Excellent Screenwriting Tips? I got you, fam!

Hey, everyone!

My name is Aki, and I just wanted to invite you to take a look at the free content on my blog/Patreon page. I'm so thankful for the warm welcome IndieTalk has given me, and would love to build a dialogue with all you brilliant peeps!

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/storycrafteraki

Here is my most recent article addressing Loglines!

Enjoy!

------------------------------------------------------

THOUGHTS ON LOGLINES!

I'm gonna take a crack at this but, remember, in the end this is just advice/use your own judgement.

Alright, well, to me, a Logline is basically a HOOK! to grab your audiences's attention. You're simplifying your intricate/beautiful story into a sentence or two. Which is a skill in its own.

Depending on who you are/that particular story, you can choose whether to:

write the Logline before the script,

write the Logline after the script, or,

not write a Logline at all!

Whatever you choose, I personally don't think there is a right/wrong answer.

But, there are a few things you want to include in your Logline to better convey what your story is about.

Protagonist - You have to give a sense of who the main character is.

In your Logline, don't use names or any other specific, yet useless, identifiers. Unless your character is well-known (Wonder Woman, John Mcclane, Oprah, Shrek!), mentioning them by name doesn't really contribute much.

"Wide-eyed romantic," "guilt-ridden veteran," "suicidal immortal" are good examples because they give us a sense of who these characters are; regardless of what they look like, how old they are, what their gender is, and especially what they're names are.

Those characters can range in appearance and name, and still maintain that core personality!

Protagonist's Goal - Putting what your characters (external) want/what they are trying to achieve in the Logline is ideal.

Notice that I wrote "external"; meaning, a goal that is visual, which, in turn, makes it easy to measure. For example:

The story is about a wide-eyed romantic who wants to escape Super-Max prison.
The story is about a guilt-ridden veteran who wants to win America's Got Talent.
The story is about a suicidal immortal who wants to become a human.
Okay, stop!

Having a sense of your protagonist and their goal are what I consider crucial to writing a Logline.

But, I'd be cheating y'all if I didn't mention that some sources out there recommend adding a little more to your Logline for it to be complete.

That being said, I think giving a sense of your Protag and your Protag's Goal are enough, and, the elements I'm going to mention next are optional/up to you to decide to use or not, girls and boys!

Antagonist - Try and give the main conflict in your story a face; even if it's just life itself.

By "conflict" here I mean what's the thing standing in their way of catching their break/what they want.

And, that 'thing' is the one piece of them that they are not willing to surrender.

The story is about a wide-eyed romantic who wants to escape Super-Max prison, but has to give up their love to do it.
The story is about a guilt-ridden veteran who wants to win America's Got Talent, but has to face his demons to do so.
The story is about a suicidal immortal who wants to become a human, but must sacrifice humanity in the process.
Realize that these 'Antagonists' are abstracts! Meaning, they can take whatever shape you/your story wish for them to take!

For the wide-eyed romantic, 'love' can mean a fe/male inmate, fe/male officer, or something extreme like a psychological persona they've built to survive the hardships of prison/their very real ability to love.

For the guilt-ridden vet, 'demons' could mean PTSD, the families of the men, women and/or children he killed in the line of duty, or, again, if we're going to extreme, literal demons!

For the suicidal immortal, 'humanity' can range from one person (a lover or a surrogate daughter/son) to the actual billions of lives populating the planet!

The idea here is that you're giving the 'essence' of your story, without weighing the words down with colorful detail.

Details come later, when your audience are reading/watching your script/film.

Genre - Here is where you hint at the landscape of your story, and do a little world building.

The story is about a wide-eyed romantic in 2320 Japan, who wants to escape Super-Max prison, but has to give up their love to do it.
The story is about a guilt-ridden veteran in modern day Mexico, who wants to win America's Got Talent, but has to face his demons to do so.
The story is about a suicidal immortal in a dystopian future who wants to become a human, but must sacrifice humanity in the process.
Mentioning elements specific to your genre will help answer a few questions before your listener asks them.

For the wide-eyed romantic, the genre can easily be Sci-Fi.

The guilt-ridden vet story will likely be a gritty and/or heartfelt drama.

And, the suicidal immortal story can take place in either a Sci-Fi or Fantasy setting, depending on how you play it.

Well, that's all I've got for ya, fam!

Hope that was helpful!

Write on!

Aki, out!
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Old 02-20-2018, 11:33 PM   #2
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This is very intuitive.
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Old 02-21-2018, 01:09 AM   #3
AAAslan
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Thank you, sir!

Glad you like it!

Got quite a bit more on my blog! Feel free to check it out: https://www.patreon.com/storycrafteraki
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Old 02-21-2018, 04:04 PM   #4
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Idea Screenwriting Advice/Calling All IndieTalk-ers!

Hey, everyone!

My name is Aki, and I just wanted to invite you to take a look at the free content on my blog/Patreon page. I'm so thankful for the warm welcome IndieTalk has given me, and would love to build a dialogue with all you brilliant peeps!

Aki's FREE Patreon!

Here is my most recent article addressing Archetypes!

Enjoy!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Shout-out! Victoria Lynn Schmidt's 45 Master Characters inspired this article, and I highly recommend you check her work out!

Victoria Lynn Shcmidt's 45 Master Characters!

Creating characters can be challenging (read, fun as FAK!), but, lucky for us, the literary Divine, in all her infinite wisdom, has generously given us a tool to help us along the way....also, Carl Jung chipped in! #GiveRespectWhereItsDue

Before we jump into the meaty bits, I want to quickly mention something that I believe to be true, but have met, even befriended, others that do not. (I know, right? Being besties with brilliant, civil minds that disagree with you; what's the world coming to? XP)

Character comes from plot, AND, plot comes from character.

There's a back-and-forth going on about which is more important/will dictate the success of your story. And, as far as I'm concerned, both can't stand without the other. Here's a rather simplistic example:

You have a character that is deathly afraid of fire because of past trauma (we'll discuss Wounds in a bit). Now, would it make sense to make his climactic obstacle (plot) one where he has to face off against sharks in water, or, is it more emotionally impactful, knowing what we know about the character's fear, to have him run into a burning building to save his baby?

The reverse approach (plot to character) is also true.

If you've designed a world with intricate foundations and wish to populate it with characters, said world/environments will establish the kinds of characters you place in it.

Certain characters will be powerful in the political arena but perhaps at a disadvantage in the ghettos/mean streets. Others could be capable corporate sharks but hapless when it comes to the fun-filled, always romantic night-life. The places and environments you've created will decide which characters are powerful and which are not.

When I think of world-building, my mind immediately goes to the great master...

George R. R. Martin.

Also, and this was a bit of a "eureka!" moment for yours truly, I realized that Archetypes fall into two camps: Structural (plot) and personality (character); and both must be considered in relation to the protagonist.

Let's say you decided to write a story in the Romance genre. That means your protag will inevitably have a Love Interest character (plot) that fulfills a very specific role. But, that Love Interest's personality (character) can range from being a pugnacious, fiercely independent Amazon Archetype to the blissfully naive and innocent Persephone Archetype. Which is to say that this single character has an Archetypal Coupling that roots it into both Plot and Character.

With that said, let's talk Archetypes.

ARCHETYPES

Archetypes, as I define them, are the beams in your proverbial house. The skeleton in your body. The 'cone' in 'ice cream cone.' They're universal blue-prints that have existed across time and in every human culture since we were tickle-fighting sabertooths.

I think of an Archetype as a weave of values and beliefs that prompt specific and natural (to the character) reactions to conflict. This means that characters based on an Archetype will have varying views, values, reactions, attitudes towards other characters, motivations, fears and what they consider important.

ARCHETYPAL COUPLING

So, let's see this concept of Archetypal Coupling in action, starting with Structural Archetypes.

We're sticking to the basics and discussing an Archetype that is found in every story: The Hero.

We're all familiar with this Archetype.

The Hero, regardless of gender, is:

The main character and protagonist of the story.

The character who is the main focus of the telling, and whose actions drive the plot.

The character whose goal and outer motivation dictate what the story will be about. And,

The character we, as the audience, most identify with.

Basically, there wouldn't be The Matrix without Neo. No Aladdin without Aladdin. No Wonder Woman without, uh, Wonder Woman.

Now, this character, whomever they may be, has been bestowed the Archetype of The Hero by you, the writer. But, that's just their structural role. Meaning, their personality has yet to be fleshed-out, and can be...well, anything!

Jumping over to Personality Archetypes and to Schmidt's 45 Master Characters.

The Archetypes that Schmidt shares are gender-specific; and I tend to agree with her for making this distinction. Why?

Yes, we all grow up as humans and there are similarities in our experiences; but, growing up as a woman can be/is very different from experiencing the world as a man.

The Archetype we'll address is one that I both love and have noticed becoming more popular in recent years. We're talking about the Amazon Archetype, girls and boys!

Here are some of the Amazon's potential positive traits, according to Schmidt:

*Fiercely independent.

*A feminist, even if it isn't spoken in the story.

*Is willing and able to fight to the death to defend herself.

*Stands up for her cause.

*"Prefers to live with a man instead of marrying him." I understand this as 'wants, but doesn't need.'

Some of the Amazon's potential negative traits can be:

*Too stubborn.

*Too goal-oriented/neglects other equally important aspects of life.

*Too arrogant.

*Too extreme in her approach, attitude and problem-solving.

For those of us that have seen Black Panther, the Amazon Archetype can be found in Nakia and Okoye most significantly, but can be seen throughout the rest of the female cast, to varying degrees, quite easily.

If you haven't seen Black Panther yet...dude...like, why not?!

So, in terms of Archetypal Coupling, our main character is now a Hero, from a structural/plot standpoint, and her personality is that of an Amazon, from a character standpoint.

You can have a near-infinite amount of couplings!

You can have an Anti-Hero with an Osiris/punisher personality Archetype. A Love Interest who's an Aphrodite/femme fatale Archetype. An Antagonist who's a Poseidon/artist Archetype. And so on.

Pause!

Alarms blaring!

SUPER IMPORTANT CAVEAT COMING AT YA!

It's important to remember that Archetypes are the basis of your characters, not your characters in their entirety. Meaning, you don't squeeze your beautiful, brilliant characters in an Archetypal box just cause the 'rules' say so. Archetypes are there for you to base said beautiful, brilliant characters on, and to allow them to evolve and grow organically.

There are hardly any characters in media (as far as I could tell) that fit their foundational Archetype down to the letter. These characters are simply based on the Archetype.

CHOOSING AN ARCHETYPE

Here's a list that always helps me decide on an Archetypal Coupling. The list isn't in any particular order, so feel free to jump around jump, jump! when deciding on where to start.

*Physical Traits: Simply put, your character's appearance is their history in visual form.

Check out this article for a lil' more deets: Thoughts On Physical Traits!
*Wound: This is the character-defining event/trauma that forms both the character's personality and the daily struggles that come with it.

For example, Jessica Jones's Wound is her fucked-up, year-long rape by Kilgrave.

Check out this article for more info on character Wounds: Thoughts On Wounds!

*Uniqueness: This is the stage where I pretend to be this character's best friend. I ask myself questions like:

How is this character different from others in my life?

Why do I like them?

Why are they so quirky?

Are they an unapologetic kid at heart?

Do they only solves problems with her fists?

Can they control the wind/are able to fly/value freedom above all else?

Are they super comfortable in their sexuality? Are they asexual?

Do I, and other characters, respect/fear/disregard this character?

Have fun with this one. Play. Take this character out to the beach or a movie. How would they act?

*Treasures: I'll start with giving you the question you should ask at this stage, then I will tell you why it's important.

Question: What is the most important thing/person/etc...in the world to this character?

Why knowing the answer to this question is important: Because it will dictate plot.

Knowing things she can't live without and won't risk losing will help you establish raising stakes and character-defining moments and decisions. Do they care about their family? If so, would they risk their fame and fortune to make sure their family is happy?

A great example of this is in Nolan's The Dark Knight, when (spoiler) the Joker forces Batman to choose between Rachel (love) and Dent (Gotham).

If you haven't seen The Dark Knight yet...dude...like, whyyyyyyyy?!

Also, knowing what this character values and is after will help you establish their external goal for the story. Do they want to win a dance competition? Do they want to escape prison? Do they want to eat the world's biggest pizza in one sitting!?

*Fears: What would paralyze them?

Makes them take pause, even if the person they value most is in jeopardy?

This will be most effective when combined with the character's Wound/past trauma. It's far more dramatic to watch a cripplingly shy introvert confront her bullies than seeing Chuck Norris beat on a bunch of douchbags.

The shy introvert has to overcome an incredible amount of emotional and psychological crap to stand up for herself--which is both hard and impressive-- while Chuck Norris just gotta roundhouse a few skulls.

Life-altering Side-note: The only one that can bully Chuck Norris is, in fact, Chuck Norris. #TrueStory

**Relation to Protag*: This is crucial, because it not only addresses the relationship from a structural standpoint (plot), but a personality standpoint as well.

If you're deciding on an Archetype for your main character, then your Structural Archetype will probably be The Hero or Anti-Hero. Usually.

But if your deciding on an Archetype for secondary character, you need to consider their structural role first.

Are they a Sidekick that's there to aid the Hero and be their voice of reason and moral compass? (Sam from Lord of the Rings)

Are they a Mentor that's trying to guide and impart knowledge on the Hero? (Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid).

Figure out how they're supposed to help or hinder the main character first, then choose an Archetype that best suits and amplifies their abilities and qualities.

Once you have a sense of your character after considering the elements above, time to leaf through the many Archetypes and see which one you want/think fits your character most. There are far too many Archetypes to list in this article, so, check out Schmidt's 45 Master Characters, or, if you're a fellow starving college kid, hit up tvtropes.org for some inspiration.

Fair warning, though: You know how you (royal 'you') can sometimes get caught in a porn-nado?

...No...just me?

Okay. Well, my point is: tvtropes.org is FULL of amazing literary insight, so, try not to get lost in the sauce and get caught up in a literary tornado....a lit-nado!

Before I let you besties go, here's a final tip on how to generate plot through Archetypes; for if/when you get stuck in your writing.

FISH OUT OF WATER

This is a basic writing technique that both screenplay and prose writers employ consistently. It's called the Fish Out of Water technique. If you haven't heard about this before, don't worry, I got you, fam!

The Fish Out of Water technique, young grasshopper, is when you put a character in an environment where they have almost no power, don't know how to act, are all-around incompetent and, most importantly, where they are incredibly uncomfortable.

For example, picture a football linebacker with all his power and bulging biceps finding himself having to win a salsa dancing competition.

The linebacker is most at home on the field, where he can crash and power through his problems. On the dance floor, that approach won't really bring him much success, just an assault charge.

The reason the Fish Out of Water works so well is because it forces your character to grow and change.

The linebacker will have to be patient, learn how to be humble, respect those around him and the discipline of dance, and, most importantly, learn how to Beso like a boss-o!

So, take whatever Archetypal Coupling combo that you wanna play with and put them in situations where they're extremely uncomfortable and where they must learn a specific lesson.

Once you find a combo you're happy with, start expanding and crafting a story around it!

Hope that helps, gang!

Write on!

Aki, out!

P.S. I really wanna thank Ashok Allu for being my very FIRST patron! Ashok, if you're reading this: you a real one!

Last edited by AAAslan; 02-23-2018 at 02:10 PM.
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Old 02-23-2018, 01:26 AM   #5
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Idea 5 GREAT Writing Exercises!

So we all get stuck. We get stuck on character arcs. We get stuck on plot beats. We get stuck on the toilet when we realize that there's no more T.P. and you got poopy butt and only have 10 minutes to shower, get dressed and drive to work.

.....

AnyWHO, here are some exercises to help you,



to get out of your rut and maybe see your fantastic story from a different angle/perspective.



Exercise 1: Wedding Photo

This exercise will most likely include the love-birds in your story, mostly because it's focus is geared towards sweet, sweet romance. The goal of this exercise is to help you tap into your leads' relationship by skipping to the end and reverse-engineering said relationship.

So, whatcha gotta do?

- Pick a wedding photo, either from your family or a super adorbs couple off the internet (in a non-stalker-y way) and place your characters in it. Then, ask yourself:

How would your characters look like?

What would they wear?

What time of the day would this picture be taken?

Are your characters so carefree and family-oriented that they invite their family to take the photo with them?!

What's the cake look like?

What kind of music is playing?

Who would be there on their special day?

What type of wedding would it be? Would it be the standard, Hollywood movie wedding, or do their cultures dictate their special day?

Where the heck is this wedding, even!?!

- I recommend doing this exercise in prose. Describe this moment in as much colorful detail as possible, using all five(plus) senses. Meaning, write it in prose first, then you can script-a-fy it for funsies! You could even go 'purple' (excessive/unnecessary detail) if you want! The idea is to have as much 'ammo' as possible for when you...

- Write it in script.

Prose gives you permission to experience the environment, and it's only after you've done that can you wedge in the precise action and trim the excess detail in script form.

For me, doing this exercise gets me feeling closer to my characters. I'll be the first to admit that I'm a sucker for romance. When I think about Ken and Eve, how beautiful and tragic their love really is, I get my ass a one-way ticket to sappy-town, slap on some baby-making music, maybe light a candle or two, and live that blissful moment they share...Shit gets emotional, famsters!



Exercise 2: Weekend Challenge

This exercise has very little rules; meaning, you'll have more than a fair opportunity to let your creativity run wild and freak flag fly!

Guidelines:

- Two days means two pages of script.

- Your two characters are: The protagonist and antagonist.

- Start: The protag watches the antag arrive to stay for the weekend.

- Conflict: The antag wants something that the protag has, and will work to get it over the weekend. Whether the antag does or does not get it will depend on you; but, honestly, that's not the point. The point is to see how those two play, maneuver, even fight one another.

- The MacGuffin/'something' has to carry meaning to both of them. Think metaphor. So, the item has to possess value in meaning but also in aesthetic (read, visual).

- Optional Legendary Mode: Use only ONE dialogue line per character.

The point of this exercises is to see how your two most important characters will act/react to one another. With such low stakes (keeping/getting the something), hints of their values, standards and tactics will start to emerge as the story unfolds. You'll learn what each character does to unbalance the other, what their go-to tactics are and to what extremes they're willing to go.

You have a lot of freedom here.

Is your protag rich and live in a mansion? Does your antag have to Uber, or even walk, to your protag's house? Is this Black Friday weekend? Does the protag know that the antag wants this 'something'? And so on.

Be creative.



Exercise 3: Trauma Trip-up

This purpose of this exercise is to help you get a better understanding of your character's Wound (link).

Rules:

- One page script.

- No dialogue.

- One character.

- Plot: Your character is in their house, going about their day, when they find something from their past that triggers an emotional reaction; whatever that may be.

Is your character a rape survivor and he finds news clippings about the event? Did she at one point miscarry and accidentally stumbles upon a hand-made blanket for the baby? Did he find his kid sister's goggles years after she drowned and he failed to save her?

It's heavy stuff, but, we grow when we face the dark reflections of ourselves.



Exercise 4: She Said, He Said

This is a dialogue exercise, my lovelies; and it has three stages.

Stage One is flat out having your characters say what they want and mean.

Stage Two, which is the meatiest part, is having them imply and use subtext to express what they want and mean.

Stage Three is where you consider their backgrounds, culture, education levels, and give them the language people in that particular demographic would use.

Example:

Stage One: "I want a divorce."

Stage Two: "They say absence makes the heart grow fonder but, when we're together, I just feel your absence. Apart? I feel nothing at all."

Stage Three: (Shakespearean) "My once dear beloved, they say-eth absence-eth make-eths the heart-eth grow fonder...eth...Just get your shit and get out, dude!"

...teehee!

Okay, here are some rules:

- Pick only two characters and explore their relationship.

- Inject conflict from the get-go.

- First Stage: State the conflict (be it an item, disagreement, event, etc...) flat out.

- Second Stage: Don't state their point of contention/conflict flat out. Instead, hint, imply and subtly parcel out the clues as to what they're arguing about. Are they ironic? Do they use jokes to subvert their point? Are they passive-aggressive? Is one of them a bad communicator/has a hard time articulating their point? This is where you go H.A.M. with all that brilliant creativity of yours!

- Third Stage: Based on your characters, how would they address one another? Would they have pet-names or use 'sir' or 'ma'am'? Do they have verbal tics ("you know," "like," "for sure," etc...)?

Alright, here are some scenarios you can put your characters in:

+ It's raining, your characters missed their bus and are stuck together for the next hour.

+ Character 1 asks Character 2 to share a horrifying experience, and, Character 2 uses metaphors (sports, music, dancing, cooking, etc...) to describe this experience.

+ Your characters are being watched and must resort to saying the opposite of what they mean to convey what they actually mean. Ex.: Stop humming, it makes me nervous = Keep humming, it calms me down.

Feel free to mess around with these and make them your own. Are working on a father/daughter relationship? Is it actually a train station and not a bus station? Are the characters in the third scenario out in public and watched by highly trained squirrel assassins?!



Exercise 5: Scene Copycat!

We're changing things up a little with this one.

Here, you will:

1. Pick a scene you love, love, love,

2. Watch it, then,

3. You write it!

Don't actually look at the scene in its respective script. Watch the movie, then write the scene as efficiently as you can. Meaning,

- simple action lines,

- 'better' dialogue, be it through removing or improving dialogue (I believe in you!), and all while you,

- maintain the emotional impact/beats of the scene.

As you write your fave scene, ask yourself:

- What's the point of this scene? Is it purely exposition? Does it build characters? Does it further the plot? All/none of the above?

- What's charging this scene with emotion? What's at the center of it? Is it a relationship? A tragedy? A joke?

- What are the elements of the environment that are most relevant? Do I really need to describe every bench in this park? Every letter on this keyboard? Every gosh-darn piece of silverware on that immaculately prepped table?

These exercises aren't meant to be rigid, just to help shake things loose in your head so you stop being so critical/a perfectionist!

"Morty, good music comes from people who are relaxed. Just hit a button, Morty!"

#GetSchwifty, kids!

Hope that helps!

Write on!

Aki, out!

P.S. I really wanna thank Ashok Allu for being my very FIRST patron! Ashok, if you're reading this: you a real one!

Last edited by AAAslan; 02-25-2018 at 09:13 PM. Reason: WalterB's EXCELLENT ADVICE!
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Old 02-23-2018, 02:08 PM   #6
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Idea Character-Defining Choices 101!

(This is an excerpt from my book, In the Box)

A Character-Defining Choice is a choice that:

Reveals character,

demonstrates (shows) how active the character is by moving the plot forward, and,

defies audience expectations.

These are nearly-impossible decisions that your Protagonist must make against powerful odds with high stakes. And, because of the stressful nature of these decisions, the character has no choice but to reveal her/his true nature to the audience.

Once the character is faced with a Character-Defining Choice and chooses, we, the audience, get to see what is truly important to them and who they really are.

In The Matrix, Neo, despite being told by the Oracle that he’s not The One, decides to save Morpheus from the Agents anyway; knowing full-well that it will likely be a suicide mission.

In Hot Fuzz, Police Officer Danny Butterman, with his criminal father in his sights, decides not to shoot him as he runs away trying to escape custody. (Also, Point Break)

Hell, even Friends, on the episode titled “The One Where No One’s Ready,” Ross, trying to show Rachel how much she means to him, agrees to “drink the fat” from a cup (thanks, Joey).

Now, a Character-Defining Choice, in fact, every choice, boils down to three things:

The character has a goal (Motivation),

The character has an obstacle, and,

The character has two valid options for accomplishing said goal.

But what separates a Character-Defining Choice from other choices are the stakes.

This next part is very important, so, pay attention to this one!

TYPES OF CHOICES TO AVOID

False Choices

False Choices are something you should avoid at all costs, and should not give them to your characters if you can help it; which, by the way, you can!

A False Choice can manifest in one of two ways:

The first, a Win-Win situation.

In a Win-Win situation, there is no wrong answer. The character ultimately doesn’t risk anything. They both lose nothing and gain something.

For example, a character having to choose between becoming the most powerful person in the world or finding true love.

That’s not a decision, that’s an idyllic fantasy; and while us writers deal with the fantastic, this isn’t it!

The next manifestation of a False Choice is:

Reactive Decision

In this instance, the character is faced with a decision where s/he will either do nothing (very bad!!), or do what the audience expects them to do (boring!).

For example, our hero, insert name of any action hero ever, with all his powers and north-facing moral compass, watches the train hurdle towards the damsel in distress that’s tied to the tracks.

(Spoiler: sarcasm ahead!)

Oh, no. What ever will he do?

Save the girl, or let her die?

facepalm

A Reactive Decision is a complete cop-out by the writer, and is incredibly unfair for the character.

A Reactive Decision doesn’t pressure the character at all. It doesn’t push them to grow and evolve. It stops their Character Arc dead in its tracks.

In a Reactive Decision, the character has no choice but to keep going through the motions and continue to do what they’ve always done!

There is no conflict, no drama, and, ultimately, no story!

AVOIDING FALSE CHOICES

Avoiding False Choices can be done in one of two ways: Lose-Lose situations, and “Psych!” Decisions.

First, Lose-Lose situations.

A Lose-Lose situation is likely the most powerful Character-Defining Choice you can ever give your characters.

In this situation, your character, regardless of what she or he chooses, will lose something precious.

There is no all-out victory. There is no leaving unscathed.

The character, despite all their abilities and resources, is going to lose something very dear; and, for better or worse, they have to choose. It is an impossible choice, but, nevertheless, one that clearly reveals character.

And, for a perfect example, we look no further than Christopher Nolan’s

The Dark Knight.

In one of the most memorable Character-Defining Choices/scenes in recent memory, Batman, believing the Joker’s words, must choose between saving Rachel, the woman that he loves, and Harvey, Gotham City’s White Knight and best hope.

This choice, along with its stakes and consequences, is heavily connected to Bruce Wayne’s/Batman’s character.

Saving Rachel would mean that Batman, more specifically Bruce Wayne, would get to keep his oldest and dearest friend, whom he loves, out of harm’s way and away from the Joker.

Saving Harvey would mean that Batman would no longer have to exist. Bruce Wayne can finally live a normal life, and Gotham City would be safe from crime; without needing the Batman.

The cost of this decision, regardless of what Batman chooses, will be severe.

Losing either Rachel or Harvey would cost Batman an incredible amount. So, whomever Batman chooses to save will demonstrate what he values more (love or Gotham City) and show the audience (and Bruce himself) what kind of character he is.

Regardless whom he chooses to save, in this intense, impossibly difficult moment, in this one decision, we will know Batman’s true character.

The stakes are high and the tension mounting.

Then, Batman chooses Rachel.

In that moment, Bruce realizes that his resolve to punish criminals and keep his city safe, that the Batman, is overshadowed by Bruce’s love for Rachel. We as the audience realize that Gotham, from that point on, will always come second to Bruce Wayne.

At this point, from a character perspective, the outcome of that decision, what happens next, is irrelevant.

But, frick that! We’re still talking about it cause it’s so. Freaking. Awesome!

So, Bruce chooses Rachel, something that a lot of us expected.

But, so did the Joker.

Despite everything that Bruce is capable of, with all his training, gadgets and resources, we see Bruce fail! (By Oprah, Nolan is such a great writer!)

The Joker had found Batman’s biggest weakness and masterfully exploited it.

Bruce arrives at the address Joker gave him. He finds Harvey there, not Rachel.

The Joker had tricked Batman.

Gordon and the rest of the Gotham P.D. fail to reach Rachel in time.

Rachel dies.

Bruce loses the most important thing he has in his life.

At the start of the movie, Bruce Wayne was a man torn between personal desires (love, normal life) and duty (protecting the innocent), and after making the decision to save Rachel, he, and we the audience, knew where he stood.

It’s important to remember that Nolan dramatized all this all while moving the Plot forward in a “no turning back” direction.

You should strive to put your characters in impossible situations like that.

The second way to avoid False Choices is through

“Psych!” Decisions.

A “Psych!” Decision is when a character actively does something that the audience doesn’t expect, but is still in line with their character.

This decision must both reveal Character and move the Plot forward; both being criteria that I’ve stressed more than once in this book.

But, please re-read that last part of that definition.

“…is still in line with their character.”

Meaning, don’t simply have your characters do something crazy just for shock and awe. It has to be a decision that sprouts from their personality, out of who they are. It can’t come out of left field!

For this, we’re discussing the brilliant

Sherlock Holmes 2.

While being attacked by Moriarty’s men on the train, Sherlock, Watson and Mary must find a way out.

In the scene, Watson works to hold off their attackers. While Watson does this, Sherlock, in true Sherlock fashion, throws Mary out of the moving train and into the river far below.

Now, as the audience, we expected Sherlock to save the day with a clever solution that kept all of our heroes safe. We expected him to fight off Moriarty’s men with Watson, his bestie/P.I.C., and get them all out of danger; or, at the very least, keep Mary, Watson’s take-no-nonsense wifey, from harm!

And, he does; sorta.

Sherlock’s goal from the beginning wasn’t to just stop Moriarty from harming Watson and Mary. It was to get Watson to go adventuring with him again. One last case.

And Sherlock does just that!

He cleverly stopped Moriarty’s men, kept Mary safe, and pretty much trapped Watson into going to solve the case with him; all while giving the audience an exciting and unexpected “Psych!” solution to their problem.

Important Note:

As a writer, you must remember that a character’s Motivations—what they want—will affect the many Obstacles they must face.

Sherlock wants Watson and Mary safe. (Want)

So, the writers have Moriarty attack Watson and Mary; because they are one of Sherlock’s weaknesses. (Obstacle)

Sherlock wants Watson back as his partner. (Want)

So, Sherlock must cleverly persuade/trap Watson into helping him. (Obstacle)

Remember, these are Character-Defining Choices. They are present in the story, but should be shown sparingly to the audience.

Why?

Because you have to take the time to establish how important the other characters and consequences of each decision are to your Protagonist first, before giving your Protagonist the decision.

Otherwise, the audience will not be invested.

Choosing between jam or jelly does not a character-defining moment make!

(But if you can attach stakes and conflict to a decision like that as a writer, I would totally come and watch your movie!)

The key to making any Character-Defining Choice, is to have both your character and the audience feel something.

Phew! We’ve covered a lot about Character, so far!

Now we know all the internal elements of Character: Defining Moments, Needs, Fear and Character-Defining Choices.

Hope that helps, fam!

Thanks for reading!

Write on!

Aki, out!

P.S. I really wanna thank Ashok Allu for being my very FIRST patron! Ashok, if you're reading this: you a real one!

Last edited by AAAslan; 02-25-2018 at 09:13 PM. Reason: WalterB's EXCELLENT ADVICE!
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Old 02-23-2018, 04:00 PM   #7
buscando
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Hi
Just wondering, how long have you been screenwriting, & do you have an agent?
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Old 02-24-2018, 07:36 PM   #8
AAAslan
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Hey, Buscando!

I've been screenwriting for...going on six years now, and, nope, I do not have an agent at the moment. *sad face*

Thanks for the question(s)!
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Old 02-25-2018, 06:33 AM   #9
WalterB
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I can't give you this writing advice:
starting 3 posts in the same thread the same way creates the illusion of double posting, so people won't continue reading, even if only the intro is the same. :p
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Old 02-25-2018, 09:09 PM   #10
AAAslan
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Idea Thoughts On Horror!

The Horror genre has always been of interest to me, but I never really put my booty to the leather of my desk chair and wrote something about it. Well, by some miracle, I managed to kick procrastination to the curb and actually get 'er done!

Also, this one is dedicated to Veronique for the generous support!

Veronique, thank you for being my SECOND patron on Patreon...This one is for you! Hope you like it!

The Uncanny. One of the most powerful keys used to create truly great "I gotta go change my underwear now, thanks" caliber of horror! Let's get into it!

UNCANNY

Before I define what the Uncanny is, here's something that you MUST remember. Seriously, if you take anything away from this article, it's this:

Horror is 100% about disempowerment and feeling fear in safe places.

The goal of storytelling, regardless of genre, is to have your audience feel something. For horror, if you can create a story that makes your audience feel so uncomfortable that they question their sense of safety, then, in my opinion, you've succeeded as a writer.

What is the Uncanny?

Simply put, the Uncanny is anything that looks almost familiar, but not quite; and it triggers a feeling of discomfort in us. It's something that is out of place, something that we know shouldn't be there, but is there anyway. It's something that happens but we know shouldn't be happening.

Masks are unnerving because of their static expressions. Our brains are used to match body language with its respective expression. If someone is happy, they smile and jump up and down/dance/arm-pump/etc...! With masks, we don't know what the person behind them actually intends. We can't see their face to discern if they want to harm us or not. It can be very uncomfortable. Clowns are creep for the same reason....

...freakin' clowns, bro.

Okay, a quick note on...

Pacing In Horror

Like sex, it's all about the build-up/foreplay. Release, as most would mistakenly define it, is intense but momentary. In reality, release actually starts right at the build-up! That's how I want you to view your scawy, scawy story from now on!

Try and have long moments of doubt, uncertainty and ambiguity in the telling; building tension in the quiet moments. While watching, we should be saying,

Us: "Something is there, I know it. But...is it behind the curtain? Under the bed? Will it fall from above?"

Us: "AH! Goddamn it, Satan! Got me again!"

Use this approach sparingly, though, because it can be desensitizing to your audience. They will eventually get used to it and expect it.

Believe it or not, the audience will actually feel better/relieved after 'surviving' each brush with fear. Subconsciously, our reptilian brain knows this hasn't/won't kill(ed) us! That's why we laugh after every scare, thinking,

"lol, I'm so dumb!"

To avoid that, use Red Herrings to misdirect. As in, have moments where you slow down the pacing, turn the setting threatening (check SETTING) and then have it be...nothing. Literally, don't do a shitty jump-scare (check Jump-Scares Suck), just trick the audience. That way, they'll never be sure whether you're going to scare them or just pull their collective leg(s)!

Jump-Scares Suck

Let's quickly mention how jump-scares are designed.

There are three parts to a jump-scare: Setup, False Alarm, and Boo!

In a Jump-Scare Setup, we ask questions:

Why is does this space suddenly feel dangerous? Am I safe here? Is something watching me? What's lurking in the darkness? What does it want to do to me? And, so on.

In a Jump-Scare False Alarm, those questions are answered by an unoriginal high-pitched SCREECH and an almost always poor, startled pussy cat!

False Alarms rely on misdirection (kitty) so that we lower our guard enough for...

The Boo! moment. Here, we realize that we had cause to be scared all along, except, we fudged up and let our guard down.

The reason why jump-scares suck is because they are, at this point in cinema, pretty overdone. We're kinda, sorta, pretty much desensitized to them.

For most of us, all they do is startle us without expanding on the story or it's emotional content. We just jump because of the loud-ass SCHREEEEEEECH!

But, there is a way to subvert it, fam! Check it!

To breathe some life into these moments of tension, try replacing the False Alarm stage with your monster's Calling Card Sound Effect (read MONSTER) and place your monster in the scene.

The Setup/buildup here can either be short, which will scare the bejesus outta your audience, or long, which will draaaawww out the tension, have us holding our breath and make us, in a great way, wish you'd just scare us already!

Forgoing the traditional loud SCREECH with silence is also an incredibly effective alternative in most cases.

If the tension in a scene has been established well and our Rooting Interest for the character exists, then the WHAM! (non)diegetic sound can be done away with.

Subverting the jump-scare in that way means the audience will never feel in control, and they'll find it difficult to nail-down when you hit 'em with a deliciously terrifying moment!

Alright, let's talk about the basic elements present in the many sub-genres of the Horror genre.

PROTAGONIST

First thing you need to realize: Horror comes from the relationship between monster and your protagonist. If you don't take extra care of that relationship, it's Bad News Bears, girls and boys.

Now, let's talk about how to design your hero.

Average Jo/anne:
We have to identify with your protag. The best way to do that in horror is that they must be average, blue-collar, everyday people. They're not uniquely qualified to face off against the source of all evil or be particularly able to stop an army of zombies. They're just normal people placed in really, really shitty circumstances.

The more capable your hero is, the more you drift away from horror and slip into action flick territory.

'Do you even lift, bro?!':
Your protag has to be weaker than your antagonist, that simple.

That's why horror story heroes are usually kids, babysitters, writers and so on. They are by no means equipped, trained or prepared to take on their respective horrors.

That being said, not all horror protagonists are built the same. Actually, the way you decide to end your story will dictate the type of hero that drives it!

Types of Horror Heroes

Your first flavor of hero is the Conqueror.

This is the hero that actually manages to kick evil right in the kaboos and take back the night! S/he starts off weak and incompetent, and ends up a Judo-chopping, bubble-gum chewin', level 99 monster slayer.

We feel empowered by the time this hero's story concludes, because, well, they just showed us that they'll be okay. That, even for a normal person like them, there's hope to defeating the worst evils out there. And, if they can do it, so can we.

Typically, this type of hero, understandably, takes horror down a peg for us. Meaning, we're not that disturbed or terrified by the end of the film. Because the hero made the monster their b-word!

The second flavor of hero is, you guessed it, the Fallen.

This hero is the one that fights, struggles and bleeds, and yet, they ultimately fail.

When watching a story with this kind of hero, we truly feel dis-empowered. Because, they fought, as we would've. They struggled, as we would've. They were resourceful, as we would've. They tried their best to survive, as we would've. But, despite everything they've done, they, and by extension us, were doomed from the start. The monster was just toying with us. Did we even stand a chance, or have an iota of power to begin with?

This type of hero makes us realize how small we are in the larger scheme of things. How NOT in control we truly are. If you can write a story with this kind of hero, you're right where you're supposed to be as a write!

The third type of hero is a very interesting one: the Ogre.

This is the hero that we, as the story develops, realize is actually the true monster of the story!

We are terrified of this hero for the very simple reason that, well, they are us! We connected with them, felt their fear, cared for what they cared about, and walked in their shoes this entire story only to realize that we are the monster in the dark. That we all have a dark, insidious nature in us, and that it can overtake us.

We start to wonder: Do I have dark impulses? How easy is it for me to be a monster? Am I a monster?

Writing a hero like this takes, hell, I'm not gonna sugar-coat it: It takes a LOT of craft and understanding of the human psyche! Not impossible, by any means, just tricky to pull off! But don't let that stop ya! (Seriously, don't let it!)

Okay, so now that we know what the Uncanny is and how to tend to your protag, let's discuss the world in which to put your poor, unsuspecting hero!

SETTING

Like I've mentioned before:

Horror is 100% about disempowerment and feeling fear in safe places.

So, the trick to crafting a truly sinister setting is turning the safe and mundane places into terrifying ones.

To do that, you have to recognize that this world your placing us/your hero into must:

Make us feel vulnerable in all the worst ways, and,

Make us feel like we're really not supposed to be here.

That's your aim whenever you brainstorm your horror setting, always. So let's talk about how to actually do that in a practical sense.

Uncanny-fy it!

Remember the definition of Uncanny, class?

Something that almost looks familiar.

So, in terms of setting, start off by building your world to look as normal as possible, then give it a twisted face-lift.

Let's say your story is taking place in a small town with a local supermarket, barbershop, bar, etc... Seems like a chill place to live.

But, what if you suddenly realize that the clocks in this town spin counterclockwise?

What if it has doors that just don't lead anywhere?

When the people in town get hurt, they simply apologize, pick up their severed limbs and hop away with a smile.

The birds above never seem to make noise when you look at them, but, when you walk away, you can swear you hear them whisper your name.

Barren trees that are there one day seem to shift spots the next.

You get the idea. Root your world in our world, then push it that extra creepy step further!

Sense Control!

Humans rely heavily on our sense of sight; we always have. It's why we're all, at some point or another, are or continue to be afraid of the dark. Not being able to see quite literally threatens our sense survival. Which, incidentally, makes it a great quality for a horror setting to have!

Design it so that your characters' visibility is limited, even non-existent, in this world. (Lights Out - short film) It turns us helpless, defenseless; because, despite knowing that there is something out there, we can't see it coming, and the tension from that is just as unbearable as the characters' slap-stick death scene!

Manipulating our hearing is also key.

Imagine this:

You're in the middle of the street by your house. It's late, no one's around, and you're just taking your puppy out to pee for the 467th time today. Then, you realize how quiet it is.

Your puppy puckers its ears up, staring into the dark. You look where it's looking. You don't see anything...but, you realize you hear something. It's faint, but it seems to not only be getting closer, but it's all around you now.

"Eff-this hard!," you say as you football-carry your puppy and run back into the house!

You look out of your window to see what sort of hellspawn almost ended your life, only to realize that it was just some old homeless dude pushing his house/cart.

As the saying goes, "the ear is easier to trick than the eye." So, by giving us an Uncanny sound, you not only signal danger, but you also let us, the audience, fill in that danger ourselves. In short, we freak ourselves out with our imagination!

Side-note: That totally didn't happen to me and I totally was not scared. #TrueStoryBro

Having a setting that limits your characters' movements is also ideal.

We experience the world, dare I say, explore it, through our bodies. Seems obvious, but, if our bodies' ability to move freely is constricted, we freak out!

Ever been trapped in an elevator?

Locked in a closet?

Been at the bottom of dog-pile?

Situations where we experience Cleithrophobia trigger a not-so-comfortable response in our brain and, if the situation is not resolved, we panic.

So place your characters in places where they feel/are literally stuck, don't have many paths of escape, and where their movements are extremely limited.

Bro-tip: Watch The Descent (2005).

Another way to limit your characters' movements, even if they can physically move, is by making the outside environment itself hostile.

For example: space.

It's cold, empty, the definition of isolation; and, the only thing standing between it and your hero are a few feet of space-station metal. Anything happens to that fragile shell and your hero is done for! Where else would they go? They are literally surrounded by death!

Here are a couple more examples of horror settings that you might recognize:

A cabin in the woods:
Isolated and remote? Check.

The woods around it is a hostile environment? Check.

Our senses and movement can/will be limited in it?

You bet your blonde, fumbling-through-the-woods kester they will!

Arctic station:
Isolated and remote?

No...Wait, I mean, yes! XD

The barren, frozen tundra around it is a hostile environment?

Say it with me, "tun-dra!"

Our sense and movement can/will be limited?

...frozen TUN-DRA!

Special Settings

There are other settings that are worth mentioning for their uniqueness, but still follow the "rules of physics/natural world don't apply" established by the Uncanny.

These worlds are usually different iterations of Hell (Hell Raiser, Nightmare On Elm Street, Supernatural, etc...) and a character's fractured psychological landscape.

Your creativity will dictate what these worlds will look like, but, it's safe to say that they probably won't look anything like, or function anything like, our normal world.

History!

You can also imbue a location with a horrifying and violent history, parceling the details bit by bit as the story unfolds.

You want to keep the mystery behind it all, because, as the old saying goes, "knowledge is power," and if we know everything there is to know about the setting, we will feel empowered and emboldened.

Think asylums, hospitals, prisons, abandoned towns, etc...

As a final note on setting that will bridge us nicely to the next crucial horror element, Monster, is making your setting the monster of the story!

No one said your setting can't possess (pun!) sinister intent and actively try and kill your characters.

MONSTER

Ah, the monster. Everyone's favorite part of the story. I can't tell you how many hours I've spent trying to think up the most vile, disgusting, terrifying, AWESOME agent of pure evil! sigh I miss kindergarten...

Okay, Aki, focus!

A monster can be anything that represents our/your character's fear.

Remember, since your protag is a representation of us, their fear must also be universal/one that we all experience. If you lock-onto a universal fear, which is the crucial part, dramatizing it can be really, really fun!

At that point, your monster can be a person, a virus, a bug, a monster/demon/aliens/ghost, a god-DAMN MIME!

freaks out

JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT ALREADY!

So, here are a few tips to creating your monster:

Calling Card Sound Effect: Regardless of the monster you create, use sound effects as an omen/to signal that the monster is coming. (See Sense Control - Sound)
You got that creepy gurgling sound from the Grudge. (Predator does a similar sound, as well.)

Pyramid Head's great knife scraping against the floor from Silent Hill, along with that hair-raising siren that goes off when shit is about to go down!

Make the monster Uncanny: This means that they must be twisted enough in both appearance and movement.
Think Pazuzu from the timeless The Exorcist, Brundlefly from the 1986 The Fly, Pale Man from Pan's Labyrinth, or the Sugarplum Fairy from Cabin in the Woods. (Shesh, now, that's a face for radio!)

Don't make your monster too foreign for us to understand. Root their physiology in ours and then twist it in creative ways.

Mystery: Hide as much of the monster as possible for as long as possible. Remember, we are most afraid of what we don't know.
Meaning, the person that can most terrify us is actually ourselves; and, when given the chance, we will literally fill in the gaps in our knowledge with the most creative, yet terrifying details.

So, try to show a silhouette/just enough of your monster, and let your audience color in the detail.

Monster/Hero: Try to connect your monster to your hero.
Antagonists are the hero's greatest teacher. They give them the opportunity to destroy the weakest part of themselves through trials, tribulations and good ol' fashion finger-lickin' terror!

If your hero is hiding or denying an aspect of their personality, design a monster that represents the dark, dark extreme of that trait.

If your hero finds it hard to express love, have their monster embody the destruction of love, be it through violence (serial killer that attacks couples) or violation (rape, as fucked up as it is).

Whatever the circumstance, connect the monster to your hero, otherwise, that intimate connection between them won't be so intimate, and the story will feel like a place holder; meaning, if you can swap your villain with any other, what's that say about the solidity of your hero?

Phew, we covered a lot! I think it's time to wrap it up!

No, wait! One more tip!

ENDINGS

By the time you reach the end of your third act, you'll more than likely, or, at least you should've, answered the basic question your story posses:

Will this hero succeed against this evil?

If you did, kudos, kiddo! But, you're still not done!

If you wish to leave your audience unnerved, pose another question. Add a teaser scene where they have to ask themselves:

Is this evil really dead?

This will cement to them, even on a subconscious level, that danger and horror doesn't stop just because this story is over...Horror is all around.

laughs in sinister



Hope that helps, fam!

Write on!

Aki, out!

IF YOU FOUND THIS HELPFUL, PLEASE CHECK OUT MY FREE PATREON PAGE FOR MORE TIPS!

Thanks, everyone!

P.S. If you're feeling up to it, I'd love some feedback! Let's get a good conversation going, girls and boys!

Last edited by AAAslan; 02-25-2018 at 09:10 PM. Reason: WalterB's EXCELLENT ADVICE!
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Old 02-25-2018, 09:11 PM   #11
AAAslan
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Thank you so much, WalterB! You're absolutely right!
Can't believe I didn't catch that sooner!
Appreciate it!
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Old 03-11-2018, 06:05 PM   #12
AAAslan
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Idea 5-Person Band!!!

(Link FULL essay at the end--word count cap won't let me post it all!)

Five-Person Bands are everywhere in media. Literally. I was honestly shocked by the amount of films, TV shows, animated series, Anime, boy-bands and everything in between that used the Five-Person Band as its core foundation. Hell, Joss Whedon's entire career is built on this writing tool:

Buffy, Angel, Firefly several franchises later Avengers, and, yes, even the frustrating Justice League.

So, what is the Five-Person...wait, before that, I just want to note that I'll be calling this trope "Five-Person Band" instead of "Five-Man Band" for two reasons:

One - Accuracy, because gender has little sway over the inner machinations of this trope; and,

Two - Cause it's 2018 and inclusivity, yo! Now that I've alienated all the bigots in my audience (buh-bye now!), let's get back to business.

As I define it, the Five-Person Band describes a group of archetypes that both challenge and compliment one another, and are banded and maintained by genuine friendship.

Notice the word "archetypes" here. I note it out because the Five-Person Band is just a versatile tool that can be used as a very loose foundation for your cast if need be. You don't need to force your characters to fit into these archetypes. It's perfectly fine for them to grow and evolve from the basic foundations set by the Five-Person Band. So, don't be so rigid, mkay?

Good!

If you want to learn more about archetypes, check out this lil' betty.

ARCHETYPES IN THE FIVE-PERSON BAND

There are five core roles in the Five-Person Band. They go by several names, but I'll be giving them labels that, to me, make for better descriptors. BUTT, since you girls and boys will probably be doing even more research on this trope (as you should!), I'll also be calling them by their traditional names.

The five archetypes are:

Leader/Poster Child

Lancer/Maverick

Heart/Essence

Big Guy/Berserker

Smart Guy/Genius

Let's discuss each one in kind.

POSTER CHILD

The Leader/Poster Child is the person the team is built around. They're the ones that decide the group's direction. Since the Poster Child will more than likely be the one driving the story/plot, they'll be the most relatable to the audience.

Some stories place another Five-Person Band archetype as the protagonist (Megamind/The Genius archetype, Deadpool/Anti-hero and Jester), but most will have the Poster Child take center-stage and dictate the direction of the telling. Hell, they'll even have her/his face plastered smack in the middle of the movie poster! (Poster Child. Get it?!)

The P.C. can, more often than not, be the cliché brand of heroic, with a moral compass that points hardcore north! Think Superman, Spider-Man, Captain America, Wonder Woman, Black Panther, Jesus, pretty much every superhero out there (with a few exceptions)....Wait, ALSO Jesus! LOL!

In terms of their relation to the other characters in the Band, the P.C. will have a strong connection to all of them, in one form or another. Which makes sense, since the P.C. is more than likely the reason why the group is together in the first place.

What makes each P.C. different from other P.C.s in other stories is their leadership style, and how they oscillate between said styles.

You'll also notice that, as we go down the list, the scale moves from 'most calculating' to 'most socially charismatic.' That's not to say that the later styles don't allow for an intellectual P.C.; only that P.C.s that fall in said later styles tend to (blatantly) inspire their Band through their personality rather than skills, and vice versa.

First style: Playmaker.

This style means that your P.C. will have a very clear and precise vision for the Band from the beginning. They know what the team will be after, who will be doing what, and what the potential problems will be. Think Ender from Ender's Game and the real-world Sun Tzu. (Art of War, anyone?)

Being a brilliant tactician goes hand-in-hand with this leadership style, so, if you're P.C.'s main style is this, them being three steps ahead of the antagonist will come as no surprise.

Second style: Stoic.

A wealth of experience is what sets this P.C. from the others. No one can argue that they've seen some shit, and, because of that, they're able to put together an excellent plan of attack and stay cool when the pressure is on. Even if they don't have time to sit down and design the perfect plan, they can adapt extremely well to situations. The Die Hard franchise's John McClane is a great example.

This type of leader won't waste time with words, and will usually let their actions do the ass-kickin'. Because they know what's important to them--their self-selected duty or love for their crew, typically--they were pretty much built to lead. Basically, Batman, Cap'n America and Annabeth from the Percy Jackson series.

Third style: Daredevil.

Not to be confused with the fan-boy-ing hard Netflix series, the daredevil is pretty much every shonen anime lead character out there, people!

The daredevil P.C. will have absolutely no filter and no problem expressing themselves unapologetically. ("Believe it!") They're also willing, with a very much reckless disregard to personal safety and an attitude that somehow circumvents basic survival instincts, to brave any danger, no matter how, big, small, cosmic or otherwise.

Thanks to the way they are, the daredevil P.C. will tend to get their Band into trouble almost as much, if not more, than they would getting them out. Mal from Firefly would fall into this leadership style; along with: Queen Daenerys from GoT, House from House and Kirk from the Star Trek franchise.

Fourth style: Charmer.

We're talkin' pure, unfiltered passion and allure here, fam.

Forget competence--of which this P.C. will surely have--the Band that is lead by a Charmer P.C. will be inspired almost exclusively by her/his passion, beliefs and personality. The P.C. doesn't need to be the strongest, fastest, smartest or any -est out there to lead this Five-Person Band. They just need to be themselves. That's all the Band needs for them to follow.

Whedon's Buffy and Angel are both solid examples of this leadership style. The Vampire Diaries' Stefan Salvatore also falls in this category. My boy, the one and only Luffy from One Piece absou-fookin-lotely falls in this style of leadership. Ned Stark (R.I.P.) from GoT more than qualifies as well. Since I can't go too long without mentioning superheroes, Wonder Woman and Superman also make the list....Oh, shit! Almost forgot: Goku from DBZ, yo!

Your P.C. will likely cycle through at least a couple of these styles as your story progresses and from high-pressure situation to high-pressure situation. You may have noticed that some of the example/characters I gave can straddle a couple of these leadership styles, and, you'd be right!

A P.C. can employ a number of leadership styles depending on the situation they're in; just, be careful not to give them a leadership style that strays too far from their personality. For example, Luffy and Goku aren't exactly known for their intellect. Having either of them slip into a Playmaker style/design a foolproof plan addressing structural weak points, escape routes and well-drawn schematics isn't really their thing. Fighting geniuses they are, pop-ups and coloring books are more their speed, respectfully!

MAVERICK

Oh, shit, it's about to reach some serious levels of stone-cold devil-may-care savagery up in hurr! Ladies and gentleman, the wild ones are in the building! We can't properly study the Maverick without first realizing how reliant this archetype is to the Poster Child. In fact, if you don't first design your Poster Child, you won't properly be able to construct your Maverick. The reason for this is simple:

The Maverick is the Poster Child's foil!

That means that the Maverick is the opposite of the P.C. in many ways; ergo, it's structural archetype is heavily dictated by that of the P.C.'s and its traits.

If the P.C. is democratic, the Maverick will be headstrong and authoritative. If the Maverick is a recluse, that will likely mean that your P.C. is a social butterfly. If your P.C. is a close-range fighter, a 'boy-scout' and honorable, then your Maverick will likely be a sniper, a trickster and doesn't mind a white lie or ten.

Because of this dichotomy in their personalities and values, there is gonna be plenty of friction (read, drama!) between these two. They'll likely be (friendly) rivals; the Maverick having no problem pushing the Poster Child's buttons, and the Poster Child being largely unaffected (secretly totally is) by the Maverick's efforts/still continues to lead the Band as they always have.

Some P.C./Maverick pairings are:

Goku and Vegeta, Captain America and Iron Man, Kirk and Spock, Stefan and Damon Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries, Dante and Virgil from Devil May Cry (more like 'Virgil and Dante', despite Virgil being the more straight-laced one and Dante being the protag), Xavier to Erik/Magneto from the X-Men franchise, Buffy and Faith from Buffy, Angel and Spike from Angel, Naruto and Sasuke from Naruto, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo from Star Wars, Gon and Killua from Hunter x Hunter and SO many more, my peeps!

Even though the P.C. and Maverick are constantly fighting for dominance, they will ultimately both fight for the same side, despite having different ways of going about it. While the audience will come to appreciate the mutual respect these two have for one another, the Maverick will probably be the crowd fave; mostly because they're the edgier of the two.

A reoccurring pattern that you'll quickly recognize is that the Maverick will have probably grown on the "wrong side of the tracks," unlike the P.C.; and may have even been a once-upon-a-time baddie themselves!

The fact that the Maverick has overcome so much and still continues to fight for our side, to the bitter end no less, both excites and prompts a #SlowClap.

That being said, the Maverick will likely be the one to cut corners/be a little inconsistent in terms of where their moral compass points. They're more than likely to have an "ends justifies the means" mindset, and, as long as they get what they want (stop the Big Bad, keep love interest/Essence safe, etc...), collateral damage is more than acceptable.

If the Maverick were to, at one point in the story, take over the Five-Person Band, expect their leadership style to very much conflict with that of your P.C.'s; with the final outcome being that the Maverick realizes they are not ready to lead, and that the team is better off following the P.C. (Bro tip: Watch 2007's TMNT film)

ESSENCE

Now we've come to the--wait for it--'heart' of the Five-Person Band, everyone. #Puns

The Essence is, without a doubt, not just the emotional center of the team, but also the glue that holds it together. This character will be the one that maintains the group's copacetic dynamic. Without the Essence, the team will have a very hard time getting along and, to no one's surprise, will probably end up disbanding. THAT's how crucial the Essence is to the Five-Person Band.

Since the Essence is the most emotionally stable, the Band comes to rely on them to be the only constant in their crazy, drama-filled, every-changing emotional landscape. The group depends on the Essence, whether they admit it or even realize it or not, to keep them centered and from going off the rails.

The Essence is always there to encourage the group to play nice and stick together, despite the constant presence of both external AND internal feuds the group has to face; feuds that the Essence manages to resolve thanks to their talent at playing peacemaker. If Katara from The Last Airbender comes to mind, you're on the right track!

A quick note on gender:

When it comes to the Essence's gender, traditionally, it has been female. But, that doesn't mean that this is always the case; even recently. If you've ever watched the epic Steven Universe, the legendary Hunter X Hunter, the fan-fave Marvel's Agents of Shield and animated juggernaut Rick and Morty, you probably noticed that Steven, Gon, Agent Son-of-Col and Morty are all the emotional centers of their respective shows.

So, in this, and, matter of fact, all the archetypes in the Five-Person Band, gender is kinda irrelevant, to be honest. Don't be afraid to play. Hell, maybe that's how we create a new 'normal;' whatever that is! fart noise

End of quick note!

In term of team relations, the Essence can be/is usually the love interest to both the P.C. and the Maverick; making for some serious romantic, three-is-a-crowd shananigans! The Essence can even prompt a crush from the Genius, if/when the Genius happens to be younger.

This is because the Band is incredibly overprotective of the Essence (a fact that you can exploit to great effect as a writer), and they will put all personal and external qualms aside if ever the Essence is at risk. When, as a writer, you do/time this story event right, jeopardizing the Essence and prompting the Band to act can inspire and invigorate your audience; evoking in them the same exact cocktail of feels and instincts that your characters are experiencing.

Very, very powerful story beat here, gang.

The Band knows, subconsciously in most cases, that without the Essence, they would stray too far into the extremes of their archetypes, become disconnected from the outside world as a group, neglect protecting the innocent and, more importantly, stop operating as their best selves.

In short, no Essence, no Band.

(HAD TO REMOVE B/C OF WORD COUNT CAP!)

Phew, done!

Hope y'all found this helpful! I really love this trope, and think I'm going to be working on mastering it a lot more for the time being.

And, as always, hit me up with your feedback! Let's NERD OUT!

Here's the link to the FULL ESSAY ON MY PATREON BLOG

Thanks, everyone!

Write on!

Aki!
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Old 06-14-2018, 11:16 PM   #13
AAAslan
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Posts: 13
Idea Screenwriter's Cheat Sheet

I've always wondered what a script "doctor" or a producer did with your script. I mean, the great ones, I'm told, can take a look at your script and, somehow, be it due to divine, natural gift or an infernal contract they've signed with the Dark Prince, they know where you done fudged up!

How?! Like, for serious, how?

What do they look for? What questions do they ask? And, what are these questions that they ask consistently, for every story?

Well, fam, that's what we'll try and figure out today. Today, we're gonna put together a list of questions that you should ask yourself whenever you have a story idea, an outline, or even a finished script. Today, we're putting together the Screenwriter's Cheat Sheet!

Keep in mind, I'm putting these questions in no particular order; since, you know, they're all important and stuffs.

Is your story made for independent film or a studio production?

I open with this question because it is one of the first things I was exposed to in almost every single one of my screenwriting classes; and because, if you're reading this, you're likely an fellow ambitious whipper-snapper trying to create some serious art and not Wes Anderson.

Moving on.

You always have to consider your resources, especially if you're starting out.

If you're a college student with little capital and writing your first short film, I doubt you'll have the budget to fund a script loaded with visual effects, multiple exotic locations, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as your lead and Hans Zimmer to score.

Your best bet is to see what locations you yourself have access to with ease; i.e., your house, a park, a friend's house, etc... Or, ask your friend's permission to use their house or whatever you need and see if they're gracious enough to let you. Beyond that, you can ask local businesses, as well. If they agree to let you use their location, be very grateful and show them how much you appreciate it; just make sure you aren't taken advantage of in the process.

Then, you hit up your local schools, JCs and theaters in search of actors that want to boost up their resumes by working pro-bono. You'll find a lot of opportunity there and will build up a good list of contacts.

As far as equipment, you ask if you can rent some, or--and you'll be surprised how effective this can be-- you post on your Facebook page if anyone has insert film equipment here that you can borrow for a day-shoot. If someone steps up and offers their gear, again, be very thankful and, just as importantly, don't be a douche and damage their equipment.

Then, once you spend however long playing producer and gathering up your crew, nail down locations and set your schedules, you put your directing hat on and shoot the film in a day or two. Try not to go over that if you're just starting out.

I'm doing the art of directing and cinematography a great injustice here by skipping over them this way, but just know that they're crazy important and you'll learn a lot from jumping in a trying to practice them as a film student. They're not the point of this specific article, is all.

This is also the part where I tell you to start learning how to edit/use Adobe Premiere and After Effects. There are a ton of great YouTube channels that teach you that (check out this link, or, you can check out sites like Lynda.com for courses.

Bonus tip: For those of you that live in Sonoma County, getting a Sonoma County library card will grant you access to Lynda.com's entire library for free; which includes far more than just editing/filmmaking content. It's honestly a fucking steal.

What's the genre?

This is a question I never really consider when I write my scripts; and it always bites me in the ass. I usually end up going for the fantasy/Sin City style of gritty action without realizing it. Sometime it works, sometime it doesn't; either way, the story is affected.

Every genre has its own specific convention, and I'm going to write something on each of the major genres soon. But, consider the horror genre for now. Regardless what sub-genre it is--slasher, zombie, etc...--the story requires a "monster." Can't have a horror film without a Big Bad Wolf.

The romance genre dictates that you have a love interest to your protag, or multiple love interests, even. Believe it or not, you're love interest will probably end up being your protag's "monster"/antagonist.

Action stories need a badass, "my hands are registered weapons" lead that will probably end up in a shoot-em-up extravaganza with the bad guy.

Fantasy stories use quests, wizards, races and might heavily draw from Campbell's ever-popular mono-myth.

Superhero stories might also draw from the mono-myth, but also demand that you have superpowers, costumes, potentially a side-kick and a world-saving scheme.

Sci-fi might employ alternate timelines, spaceships aliens and/or multiple dimensions.

These are quick, surface-level examples, but you get the point.

Consider the genre your story will be in, because it will influence your world-building, character archetypes and general aesthetic.

Who is your audience?

Much like your consideration of genre, deciding your demographic will dictate, at the very least, the tone of your film, the medium in which you deliver it in, how you articulate your theme, the complexity of your plot and whether or not you can have and show butt-stuff.

Consider Batman, my dear reader; hell, we could've picked other superheroes, but Bats is the best example.

Anywho...Batman has been portrayed in comics, animated features, cartoons, glorious 1960's live-action and even MORE glorious, Christopher-Nolan-live-action. Each of these mediums is influenced by and influences both the story and the audience consuming it.

Generally, animated features will be geared towards younger audience members; but we've all seen some that deliver incredibly mature and thought provoking themes. Live-action is subject to the same spectrum that spans from goofy, yet light-hearted, to gritty-but-sprinkled-with-comedy. The point is, realizing the type of audience member you're speaking to will help you better determine the type of dramatic language to best serve as your vehicle for your story. And you want to give your story the best chance you can to be best experienced by your audience.

What is the thematic question?

Theme was a mess of mystery to me for a long time, having studied and been exposed to different 'gurus's different, even conflicting, definitions of it. But, the simplest way I can put it is:

Theme is the point of your story.

Every joke has a punch-line. Every story has a message. Every film has a point. Every telling has a theme.

If we consider your theme as the lesson you're trying to teach your audience, then your story is how you do it. Think about it, what is the best way humans learn? Seriously, take a quick second to come up with an answer.

As far as I'm concerned, it's experience.

If someone told me "war is awful," I would nod my head and go, "sure;" not really understanding the depth of meaning in those words. But, if I was dropped smack-dab in the middle of Iraq with a band of soldiers facing off against insurgents, I would have a far better, incredibly more visceral understanding of "war is awful."

Now, as writers, stories are the closest thing we have to experience. We can flat-out tell our audience the message behind our story: "War sucks donkey balls, bruh." But, it's far better for our audience if we showed them.

Now, we can't fly them to the Death Star or walk them to Mordor, but we can show them characters that can/will. We can show them who these characters are, what they care about, how they risk everything for their personal purpose, how they suffer and overcome, and, ultimately, if they succeed or fail.

What I'm trying to say is, your theme needs to be dramatized for it to be internalized and understood. That's what stories do, they show us the wisdom inherent in our actions.

"Country above self," "love conquers all," "bacon is king."

For those of you thinking that last one was a real theme, it wasn't; but it totally should be.

Your thematic question is one posed in every scene of your story; and, more than that, it's answered by your theme.

For example, if your thematic question is, "how can you best honor your family?," then your theme can/will be, "by putting their needs before your own." This should be shown to the audience through your characters actions; be it in the positive/the character did put family first, or the negative/the character didn't put family first.

Since showing the answer to the thematic question--showing the theme--is the point of you telling this story, it would make sense that the more your hero fails in accomplishing this answer, the further away they get from their goal and the more they suffer.

Let's say your hero wants to get that big promotion in their company; that's their Bull's Eye, which we'll talk about in a later question. So, they're after this big promotion, but, at a point in the film, you, the brilliant writer that you are, force them to decide between betraying their sister and guaranteeing that they'd fall into their boss's good graces, or, honor their sister and jeopardize all the work they've done towards getting that promotion.

Now, if your protag doesn't betray their family, they'll either get the job through different means or won't get the job but realize that what they really needed was something else entirely and will get that instead; depending on how you write it.

If the protag does screw their sister over, they'll have the job, but realize that having it tastes bland, even disgusting, now that they've compromised their character and shit on this all-too-important bond.

Write down your thematic question and its theme/answer and keep it in front of you at all times when you write. It'll keep your writing focused and your scenes tight.

Who is your protagonist?

Your protagonist is the character most connected to the audience. Theirs is the purpose we root for. Whatever they want to achieve, we want them to achieve. They're the character we most care about, the character who is most active/moves the storyline forward, and the character with the most screen-time. Your protagonist is your main character.

That being said, and beyond their structural/story role, your protagonist can be anyone. They can be a literal lowly ant or God herself; it doesn't matter, actually. It only matters insofar as how they relate to the story. Their story has to be the most interesting one in that story world; which implies that they themselves must be the most interesting character in that story world.

This point is crucial for two reasons. The first is for the sake of the audience. If you don't give the audience your 'best' character--in this case, the character that will evoke the most emotion in them--then you're severely underselling your story and shortchanging your audience.

The second is for your own sake as a writer. If you don't choose a character that excites you, impresses you, even surprises you during the long writing process, you're going to find yourself hard-pressed to keep writing. You're going to be spending a lot of time with this character. So much so that you'll likely get to know them more than you know anyone; maybe even yourself. So, it's a good idea to take a second to pick a character that, to you, is very fun; and to also be willing to change your main character if they don't fit this criteria.

Personally, I like to learn as much about my lead as possible: Favorite pastime, books, songs, color, music, who their idols are, their brand of humor, how they choose to solve problems, are they a toilet-paper-roll-rolls-over or rolls-under kinda person...you know, important stuff. Butt, when it comes down to it, there are three basic elements that you must know about your protagonist. If you don't know those three, it doesn't matter if you know what your character weighed when they were born or which hand they jack-off with. If you don't know those three elements, you don't know your character.

Those three elements are: The character's Bull's Eye, their Wound, and their Flaw.

What is your protag's Bull's Eye?

Bull's Eye is a term I use to better illustrate, for myself, what other's call Outer Motivation, Goal, External Motivation, and anything that means what your hero is after.

You need to know what your hero will be chasing throughout your story because........

Rest of article.
More good shit.
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