Most ‘gurus’ each have their own area of expertise and angle of attack, they each follow their own agenda. And with every new light shed on the craft, different people may see that light.
Don’t they ever contradict each other? And if they do, which truth do YOU choose?
Screenwriting is a dynamic craft. What Syd Field wrote back in 1979 was state-of-the-art… but things change.
Earlier theories fall short when it comes to writing successfully for today’s audiences.
And surely Aristotle’s basic beginning-middle-end will not get you far – if applied only to the story spine.
Screenwriting principles and techniques keep getting ever more sophisticated as successful movies bend or refine the old molds and screenwriters share their secrets.
The mere fact that the gurus keep being reprinted (Field for thirty years now, Aristotle for 2,000) exposes them to obsolescence. Yet there doesn’t seem to be any flagrant contradictions between what most recognised story teachers and screenwriting authors have said.
Here is a choice of statements and claims that you may not fully agree with. Let us know what you think:
– McKee says “The finest writing not only reveals true character, but arcs”. This sweeping statement has been successfully contested by Mystery Man in a fine piece of research and clear and unbiased thinking.
– Michael Hauge once said that Inner and Outer journeys are completely separate. In an interview on this blog he tells us how he has changed his view on this, which will be included in the revision of WRITING SCREENPLAYS THAT SELL.
– In Save The Cat, Blake Snyder called the Mid Point either a “false peak” or a “false collapse”. No mention of an Inner Journey, which is essential to e.g. Michael Hauge’s approach to that crucial story point.
– Defining what we call the Inciting Incident, Billy Stoneking asks “What INITIAL PROBLEM or OPPORTUNITY confronts or is created by the main character […]” This includes the assumption that the Inciting Incident can be created by the Hero.
– Kal Bashir in his detailed and insightful Monomyth eBook says: “in Star Wars (1977), music when Luke appears signals that there is a quality about him.” But what use is it to the screenwriter?
What theory do you follow? Ever changed your mind along the way?
A very small minority of successful screenwriters denounces all theory. They follow “their gut”. But most working writers know there’s a hell of a lot you can learn from studying films and screenplays as well as reading up on modern story theory.
In my work with screenwriters, I’m learning every day and I constantly refine my own views. In the first screenwriting lesson I ever taught, I stated that the Inciting Incident should be a ‘deus ex machina’ (oh dear oh dear…). I knew darn well what a deus ex machina was but clearly hadn’t nailed the essence of the Inciting Incident yet.
I also once disagreed with Linda Aronson when she stated that Ridley Scott’s THE INSIDER was a failure. I vehemently argued against this. Boxoffice Mojo reports for THE INSIDER a worldwide Box Office of $60,289,912 and a budget of about $90,000,000.
Epic fail, Segers.
Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in acquisition, development and production. He has trained students worldwide, and worked with half a dozen Academy Award nominees. Karel speaks more European languages than you have fingers on your left hand, which he is still trying to find a use for in his hometown of Sydney, Australia. The languages, not the fingers.
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