A few points about plot points


Time for a quick refresher course, chums.

Today’s topic: plot points. What they are and what they represent.

I’ve always seen plot points as pivotal moments in the story; events that change the situation for your protagonist, usually in a negative manner, and ask/reiterate the central question (Will your hero achieve their goal?).

Having solid plot points also helps establish your story’s structure. Without it, all you’ve got is a big convoluted mess, and who wants to read that?

Although this uses a 110-page script as an example, plot points don’t have to happen exactly at those pages. A few more or less is totally acceptable. I’ve also opted to use fairly recognizable examples to emphasize each plot point.

Pencils ready? Let’s begin.

Page 3 – statement of theme. What’s the overall message of your story? The theme should also be incorporated in some fashion into each scene throughout the course of the story. (“No McFly in the history of Hill Valley has ever amounted to anything!” “Yeah, well, history’s gonna change.”)

Page 10 – inciting incident. The event that shakes up you protagonist’s world, and asks the central question of the story. (Will Indy get the Ark before the Nazis?)

Page 17 – a twist to further complicate things for the protagonist. (“Alderaan? I can’t go with you to Alderaan!”)

End of Act One (page 25-30) – Your protagonist leaves behind their old world and enters a new one to achieve their goal. Also repeats the central question. (Marty arrives in 1955)

Page 45 – another twist to complicate things for the protagonist (Indy saves Marion, destroys her bar. “I’m your goddamned partner!”)

Midpoint/Point of No Return (page 55-60) – your protagonist becomes fully committed to achieving their goal (Brody decides to go after the shark after his son barely survives the latest attack)

Page 75 – yet another twist to really complicate things for your protagonist (Vader kills Ben as Luke & Co escape)

End of Act Two (page 90) – All is lost. Your protagonist is totally screwed with no apparent way out. Makes it seem like the answer to your central question is “no”. (The Nazis get the Ark).

Climax (page 95-100) – final showdown between your protagonist and antagonist. (Rebels attack the Death Star. Marty must hit the wire when the lightning hits. Nazis open the Ark. The shark attacks the Orca, eats Quint.)

Resolution (page 100-105) – Aftermath of the climax. Central question gets answered. (Rebels victorious. Marty returns to 1985. Brody & Hooper survive. Indy delivers the Ark.)

Denouement (page 105-110) – How your protagonist’s world is now different from what it used to be (but not necessarily better). (Marty’s family is successful. The Ark gets crated and goes into a warehouse. Luke & Han hailed as heroes. Brody doesn’t hate the water anymore.)

So there you have it. Do the plot points of your story match up with these? Just something to think about. And feel free to watch the movies represented here (or one of your own personal favorites, or one similar to yours) to see all those plot points in action.

It just might be some of the most fun homework you’ll ever have.

Being a blast from their past

Hi. Remember me?

Earlier this year, I attended the Great American PitchFest, where in addition to fine-tuning my pitching skills, made some great personal and professional contacts.

Among the latter was a production company who was very interested in my fantasy-adventure. They ultimately passed, not because the script wasn’t for them, but because they’d found another project.

At the end of that email, they included the offer for me to stay in touch. This was in June.

Jump ahead a few months to last week. Sorting through old emails, I’d found that one and figured now was as good a time as any to reconnect. I sent a brief note reminding them who I was, asking about that other project, and if they were still interested in my script.

They remembered me, the other one was progressing nicely, and they definitely were.

A few days later, I had a very pleasant hour-long phone call with one of the partners (the other had a last-minute scheduling problem). We discussed my script, some of their other projects and a few related and not-related topics.

The call ended with them wanting to continue the conversation after the holidays, making sure the other partner would be on hand.

Will anything come of this? I don’t know, but for now, it’s very encouraging. Am I glad I sent that follow-up email? Damn straight.

Sometimes it feels as if the door gets totally slammed shut in your face, but there’s a chance they might leave it open for you just a little bit – enough for you to take advantage of it somewhere down the line.

Who wouldn’t rather have someone say “It’s not for us, but stay in touch” instead of just “Thanks, but no thanks”?

If you do get that open invitation, make the most of that time by working on something else. Your initial project may have gotten their attention or piqued their interest, so this way you can redirect all that nervous energy into your writing and be ready if they ask “What else have you got?” in that second go-round.

Be patient. And courteous. And respectful. A lot of these folks are working just as hard on their own projects as you are on yours. The last thing they need is dealing with a pushy writer bombarding them with emails.

Still flying, still buttressing

Helping support writers since 2009!

The post from earlier this week was all about my excitement about my new story idea. Little did I realize what kind of effect that would have on some readers.

“The enthusiasm oozing from your blog post is contagious. I have a story line that is brewing, too! Thanks for the encouragement here!”

Shucks, folks. I’m speechless. (“Oozing”? “Contagious”? Makes me feel like I require medical attention.)

It kind of reminded me of this post from 2 1/2 years ago.

Those that have been following this blog for a while know what a big proponent I am about networking and supporting those within your network.

I’ve been extremely fortunate to have not only established solid relationships with several writers of considerable talent, but been the fortunate recipient of their advice and guidance in helping me hone my writing skills. In turn, I don’t hesitate when one of them asks me for my two cents about their latest project.

Hard as this might be for some to believe, being nice to people actually has its benefits, and isn’t that difficult.

Or is it?

As has been well documented here, I’ve had several online encounters with those who make comments of an overly negative nature (which, a majority of the time, don’t include anything that actually helps).

It truly amazes me when somebody I’ve never met, and most likely never will meet, has no problem spitting out harsh and condescending answers to what are generally simple questions, or somebody just seeking some helpful insight or advice.

Whatever their reason, what exactly is the point of acting like this? If anything, it makes me want to avoid you at all costs. I’m already doing a bang-up job being full of self-doubt. I don’t need your help.

I strive to be the opposite of that, and help people out when I can. It’s in my nature.

And if you’re reading this, I sincerely hope it’s in yours as well.

Rip-roaring and ready to go yet again


That’s me. All charged up.

Over the past week or so, the idea for a new story has been slowly developing inside my head.

Even though most of my attention continues to be focused on completing other projects, that seed has been planted and I work out a few details about it when I can.

This is just the beginning of the whole process, and my work is definitely cut out for me. Like with any script, it’s going to be tough.

But I also have to admit I’m quite thrilled about it.

There’s just something about coming up with a new idea that really reinvigorates your creative process. You’re excited about the story, the potential within it and possibly even (gasp!) looking forward to writing it.

I certainly doubt I’m the only who experiences this.

As expected, there will be days I get frustrated about any number of things related to this, which is par for the course. But I’ve also been doing this for a while, so the positive days steadily continue to outnumber the negative.

As has also been my experience, some of those negative days will most likely include outside comments of a tearing-down nature. Fortunately, I’ve developed a thick skin over the years and learned to ignore the ramblings of self-proclaimed “experts”.

For now, everything is still in the early-early development stage. It took a while just to come up with a good logline, and even that will probably still need work. Now I’m just figuring out the plot points. There’s no rush, especially since I already have several other scripts that require my attentions.

I like the concept of this one, and am really looking forward to seeing how things work out with it.

What comes after the light bulb?

light bulb
This is how it starts

Being a writer means your creativeness is always running, or at least should be. It never shuts off, and sometimes kicks in when you least expect it.

Inspiration can hit anytime, but are you prepared for when it does?

You could be doing something you do practically every day or see something seemingly normal, and all of a sudden think, “Hey! There’s a story here!” It could be whatever you can imagine: the basis for a short, an episode of a webseries, or part of a feature.

Then there’s the thrill as your mind races through all the potential possibilities. What if THIS happened? Or THIS? Ooh! I love THIS! It’s like a shot of adrenaline into the right side of your brain.

When the idea hits, do you immediately write it down, or is it suddenly burned into your brain so deeply that there’s no way you could possibly forget any part of it?

Of course, it’s one thing to come up with the idea. How far do you go with it? Does it lose its luster after a few days, and then you just give up completely? Do you hold onto it because there’s just SO MUCH POTENTIAL here? Do you tinker around with it, file it away, then come back to it weeks or months later?

How original an idea is it? Can you think of something that’s similar? Who’s your target audience? Is it something you yourself would actually pay to see?

Let’s also not forget that this is all based on your thinking. You love the idea, but what if somebody says “I don’t get it” or all you get is a shrug? Do you think the idea is worth developing? Is it one you’re prepared to slave away on for an extended period of time?

It’s easy to come up with the ideas, but definitely not easy to turn them into quality, fleshed-out screenplays. It takes a long time to get the hang of doing this, let alone doing it well. But don’t let the difficulty or length of the journey dissuade you from at least trying.

Start with the idea, and take it from there.