We’ve all said some variation of the following while watching a crappy movie: “I can write a movie WAY better than this!” Admit it, you have. But have you ever actually tried to sit down and write a 110 page screenplay that makes the reader stay focused from start to finish and by the end they are begging you to find a way to make your script into a movie?
The reason isn’t that your idea sucks, more than likely it’s because your story lacks a sense of focus, depth, and momentum. We’ve all seen movies that lose out interest and even make us leave the theater wondering why anyone wasted their time and money to bring what you just saw to the big screen. Sometimes it’s the studio making a movie ultimately suck; but a majority of the time it all goes back to the fundamentals of story.
A lot of books – and I mean A LOT of books – have been written about screenwriting. Syd Field, Robert McKee, John Truby, Blake Snyder, Linda Seger, and host of others have mined the mysterious fields of the screenplay in order to tell new and experienced writers the perfect formula for writing a selling script.
While these books do their best to make simplify a very complex process, they often become caught up in their own rhetoric and make the new writer so self-aware of rules, formulas, formats, charts and graphs that they freeze and give up without writing a word.
So how do you go from frozen in time with your fingers poised over the keys to actually writing and completing a draft of a screenplay? The answer lies in Eric Edson’s The Story Solution. This book breaks each aspect of a screenplay down into bite-size pieces that enable the writer to carefully construct their story and have it fully formed before they ever start to write in script format.
What I liked best about the book was that it was very conversational. You never feel as if Edson is speaking down to you like some masterful oracle who knows more than you. He uses current films to exemplify his points and he does something other screenwriting books rarely do: he actually has examples of films that DIDN’T work and explains why.
While it’s nice to learn about The Godfather and why it’s a well-structured film, it’s also nice to see why other films don’t have the amount of story or other aspects needed in order to make them a commercial success. And it makes sense that a film that has a solid story, strong hero, and even stronger villain can generate plenty of success at the box office.
Edson shows the reader how to create a protagonist (hero) that audiences will like, how to make that hero change over the course of the film, and what types of characters can be used to help the hero along his journey. I really liked his emphasis on the villain and his explanations as to why the antagonist is so important and instrumental to the overall structure and development of the story and its hero.
After a general overview of screenplay/story structure, we get into the meat and potatoes of Edson’s genius: Hero Goal Sequences. He posits that each well-written screenplay contains 23 of these sequences that help guide your hero and the audiences through the course of the story.
How exactly does it work? Does it really work on any commercially successful film? Edson not only explains in great detail how it works but also uses more than enough examples from commercially successful movies to prove his point. And you know what? It actually works!
Each chapter is filled with exercises that allow you to try out Edson’s methodology before you even begin the oftentimes harrowing journey into writing an actual script. Once you gain the confidence needed to go forward and take those first few steps you’ll quickly come to realize that Edson’s approach is an excellent guide to making your story come alive.
Not only is the book an ideal must-read for screenwriters and novelists, but it’s also a great book for those who just love and enjoy film. I learned a lot about story structure and character that has since made me a more critical thinker when it comes to watching films. Being able to identify and analyze a movie on a deeper level is something that this book enables you to do and in turn makes you a participant in your viewing experience.
The Story Solution is a fantastic and entertaining read, a solid instructional tool, and a great way to delve deeper into the world of screenwriting and film. I highly recommend it.
The Story Solution is available NOW online or at your local bookstore.