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> 4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

This one reminds me of writing advice from South Park's Trey Parker: write better stories by figuring out how to replace all your "ands" and "buts" with "therefore".


> 20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?

This one strikes me as an especially great idea! Rewrite something bad to make it good. There are certainly some shows I've bitched about (like a lot of people) but I would have a hard time dissecting it to find what's wrong with it, and even harder time fixing it. Having to do it would certainly be educational.

A good example of the rearranging is from Nerdwriters YouTube https://youtu.be/Gksxu-yeWcU

Just a minor change in order of the same scenes completely changed a movie.

That was one of the best film critiques I've ever seen. I especially like the fact that:

- the original movie was explained because I had never heard of it; and

- a short version of the re-edited movie was spliced together so that you could see what the author had in mind.

Overall, this is a compelling demonstration of how simply changing the order in which the viewer gets information can make a so-so story great.

Also, it makes me want to see both Passengers (even though it's supposed to be predictable) and Solaris (because it's not supposed to be).

Same, I hadn't seen the movie either. I've picked up a lot of good movies lately via similar film analysing youtubers. Even though it sometimes spoils some movies, it makes others great to watch because you can appreciate the 'science behind the rainbow' even if the rainbow is not to great to look at nowadays.

I attended a screening of Passengers that was followed by a QA with the writer afterward, and it was pretty uncomfortable at times.

He said he wrote the movie because he really wanted to explore the idea that sometimes people choose love even when it has hurt them--he used the example of people who get cheated on, yet stay with their partner and work it out.

But it became clear that he was so interested in this aspect of the movie that he just could not get perspective on the central violation of Jennifer Lawrence's character, which is truly horrific. Being awoken early, to spend your entire life on a spaceship you can't escape, by someone who wants to have sex with you... that's some pretty clear callouts to core human fears like slavery, claustrophobia, rape, etc.

A plot device that was just supposed to be an obstacle to love, is totally overpowering. Based on the questions, a lot of the audience couldn't get over it, me included, so the happy ending just felt forced, hollow, and unbelievable.

I take Passengers as a great example of why it might be good sometimes for studios to bring in someone new to rewrite a script. I think any good writer, coming to that script cold, would recognize the power of the core horror and start from there.

Passengers spent a while high on "The Black List," which is a consensus list of the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood. I wonder if that put the writer in a position to maintain more than the usual amount of control for a spec script.

Christopher Nolan's "Following" and "Memento" come to mind as interesting, artistically succesful films in which scenes' chronological order bear non-obvious relation to their sequence. Wonder if anyone's mapped the chronological structure of fhe scenes. Bet there'd be an interesting shape there.

Item 4 is one I've seen elsewhere: https://www.amazon.com/Invisible-Ink-Practical-Building-Reso...

In fact, I recall a Pixar writer said it was one of his favorite books.

Actually, I found it (same blog):


Apparently the author claims neither he nor Pixar came up with it.

I've read dozens of books on storytelling and Invisible Ink is one of my favorites.

> 4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

I believe this line comes from Brian McDonald and am witness to his use of it in a writing class he led at Seattle's 911 Media Arts circa 2000. (The number in their name was in reference to the original address on E Pine St.)


He is both an accomplished writer and excellent instructor for writers. I found his guidance to work well in tandem with McKee's STORY.

His early works are of spectacular quality (e.g., White Face), and this reminds me to get caught-up on his more recent material.

Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

That leads to a cliche - the nobody who becomes a hero. That's so Pixar.

Biography movies of real people aren't like that, because real life usually isn't.

That's funny. When I read it, I don't see a prescription for that at all. What I do see is setting a proper introduction and baseline for your story, so that when it truly begins (one day...), your audience understand what about it is special and why.

it seems to me like anither short hand for describing a three act structure:

first act: once upon a time there was ____. Every day,____.

inciting incident: One day ___.

second act: Because of that, ___. Because of that, ____. third act: Until finally ____.

Just curious, what in the story spine sentence with blanks is suggesting heroes, or people at all?

> Biography movies of real people aren’t like that

There was a great comment the other day about the interview story structure, and how to make a story about average people into an interesting narrative:


It's just exposition, conflict, rising action/climax, resolution

The hero's journey is a very very popular and very old story telling mechanism.

Everyone does it and despite that, it seems not many people are getting tired of it.

Though it's quite fun to know how a movie is going to play out next, some can even surprise you in how they do it.

Movies are escapism.

If coincidences are just coincidences why do they feel so contrived?

A good rule of thumb in storytelling is that coincidences that help your protagonists will feel like the writer just cheated to get out of a corner they wrote themselves into, whereas coincidences that hurt your protagonist are more easily accepted.

If you feel you really need this lucky coincidence to save your character, you can fix that by going back earlier in the story and earning it. Your hero getting shot, and the bullet being stopped by a lighter in his pocket we've never seen before, will feel like a cheat. But if he helped a homeless guy earlier, and the homeless guy insists he take his lucky Zippo, and then the lighter saves his life, most people won't complain.

Just a little justification goes a long way, and helps make your world and story feel real and complex.

Exactly. You can have pretty much anything happen, if you put in the antecedents so that it is reasonable for it to happen.

Because in the same way we're primed to understand certain shape patterns as faces, we're primed to parse our world as a story.

A lot of "reason" is really just narrative logic. It's much more weakly predictive and less rational than scientific logic, but it's far more persuasive.

"How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?"

Are you allowed to combine multiple movies? If so them I'm off to combine "Howards End" and "The Hurt Locker" into something more to my taste....

>Are you allowed to combine multiple movies? If so them I'm off to combine "Howards End" and "The Hurt Locker" into something more to my taste....

That's a lot of what someone like Tarantino does.

combining movies was an exercise in a creative writing class I took

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