Part 1: Is this a good story idea?
Is this an extreme situation extrapolated from a common emotion?
Is there a central relationship we haven’t seen in a story before?
Do the plot and the character arcs closely relate to each other (The plot is either the hero’s hope, the hero’s fear, or an ironic answer to hero’s question)?
Does something inside this hero have a particularly volatile reaction to this plot?
Does the hero transform the plot?
Does the plot transform the hero?
Throughout the story, is the hero the person working the hardest to solve the problem?
In the end, is the hero the only person who can solve the problem?
Is there at least one actual human being opposed to what the hero is doing?
Is this challenge something that is the not just hard for the hero to do (an obstacle) but hard for the hero to want to do (a conflict)?
Does the plot ironically contrast with the hero’s expectations?
Does this concept show us an image we haven’t seen before?
Is the concept trailer-worthy?
Does it contain a twist that is not obvious from the beginning?
Is the concept promotable without revealing the twist?
Does concept survive past the twist?
Does the dilemma last as long as the conflict?
Part 2: Is this a compelling character?
When the story begins, does the hero know exactly what he/she wants but not what he/she needs?
Does the hero cleverly and resourcefully go after what he/she wants?
Does the hero have a well-defined public self ?
Does that contrast with a hidden private self?
Is the hero misunderstood?
No matter how much the hero changes, does he/she have a default personality trait?
When the hero argues, does he/she have a consistent default strategy for uncovering information or getting others to do things?
Does the hero’s language draw from a consistent metaphor family (usually based on his/her backstory, job or developmental state)?
Does the hero have a universal public fear and a specific private fear?
Does the hero use special skills from his/her past to resolve the conflict?
Does the hero have a false statement of philosophy at the beginning of the story and a corrected statement of philosophy near the end?
Does the hero have a false goal at the beginning and a corrected goal before the climax?
Does the hero have a moment of humanity early on? (An oddball, out-of-character, or unique-but-universal moment?)
Do you know why the hero’s friends like him/her?
Do you know the three rules the hero lives by? (a.k.a. self-image)
Does the hero engage in physical exertion early on?
Does the hero work harder than other people doing the same thing?
Is the hero surrounded by bad examples that make him/her look good?
Does the hero have a long-standing personal problem that he/she will try to solve by taking advantage of an opportunity?
Does the hero’s motivation escalate?
Is the hero transformed (his/her self-esteem, ethics, philosophy or personality)?
Is there escalating conflict caused by painful dilemmas?
If you have more than one protagonist, have you polarized them in an impartial way?
Part 3: Is this the best structure?
Is there a prologue scene (maybe a framing sequence, or a killing, or a flash-forward, or a moment of absurdity, or a self-contained interaction that represents the theme)?
Does the prologue leave a big question in the viewer’s mind?
When we first meet the hero, does a long-standing personal problem become more acute, perhaps in the form a social humiliation?
Is the hero presented with an intimidating opportunity to solve that problem in the first quarter?
Is there hesitation, as the opportunity becomes more and more appealing?
Does the hero commit to pursuing the opportunity by a quarter of the way in?
Does the hero try to solve the problem the easy way throughout the second quarter?
Does the hero’s pursuit of the opportunity cause an unforeseen conflict with another person?
Does the hero enjoy some success and have some fun? Is the promise of the premise fulfilled?
Does the false promise of early success culminate in a midpoint disaster?
Does the hero lose a safe space or sheltering relationship at this point?
Does the hero start to question his/her assumptions, goals, and/or philosophy?
Does the hero try to solve the problem the hard way throughout the third quarter?
Does the hero suffer but learn as a result?
Does the hero find out who his/her real friends and real enemies are?
Are the stakes raised as the pace increases?
Is the hero forced to face the underlying dilemma?
Do the hero’s successes and/or failures lead to a spiritual crisis three-quarters of the way in?
After that crisis, does the hero finally commit to pursuing a corrected goal, which is still far away?
Before the final quarter of the movie begins, has the hero switched to being proactive, instead of reactive?
Do all strands of the story and most of the characters come together for the climactic confrontation?
Do the inner struggle and outer struggle both resolve at the climax?
Does the climax make a statement about the thematic dilemma, without answering it definitively?
Is there an epilogue/ aftermath/ denouement in which the hero’s original problem is finally resolved one way or another, as he/she realizes (and hopefully shows) how much he/she has changed?
Part 4: Is this a satisfying theme?
Can the theme be stated in terms of good vs. good?
Does the story have something to say about real life?
Is this story morally coherent?
Do the characters’ actions reflect the way the world works?
Do the difficult decisions have real consequences?
Part 5: Are you getting the most out of each scene?
Does the plot and/or character arc progress in this scene (preferably both)?
Were there expectations for this interaction established beforehand?
Were these events foreshadowed?
Is the location emotionally-charged?
Does the scene have its own mini-ticking-clock?
Do you know what outcome the audience will be rooting for in this scene?
Do you know what each character wants in this scene?
Do the characters have strategies to get what they want using tricks and traps?
Is at least one of the scene partners convinced, forced, or tricked into doing something he/she didn’t intend to do when the scene began?
Are previous questions answered?
Are new questions raised and left unanswered for now?
Have you decided if this scene will be a reversal or an escalation?
Are there hints of a character’s past?
Is there reblocking?
Is there literal push and pull, resulting in one touch?
Are there objects given or taken, representing larger values?
Is there a counterpoint moment undercutting the overall tone?
Does someone talk about something other than the plot?
Does subtext replace text as often as possible?
Do you enter the scene as late as possible?
Do you cut away as early as possible?
Can you always tell who is speaking without looking at the names?
Do you withhold exposition until the character and the audience demand to know it?
Is the dialogue bouncy?
Do these feel like real people?
Are there pithy and/or quotable lines?
Have you used misdirection to make the bombshell in this scene more shocking?
So that’s it. And if you want to actually fill it out, you can download a copy in .doc form here. Hopefully, it can help you hang a big lantern on the problems that are keeping your story from connecting with audiences.
I’ve seem to be hitting writer’s block far too often now. My grade in my creative writing class is suffering because i don’t turn in anything because i’m never really satisfied with anything i do. all my good ideas seem to turn into bad ones once i write it down. How do you get pass writers…
Mark E. Smith Guide to Writing Guide
- Day One: Hang around house all day writing bits of useless information on bits of paper.
- Day Two: Decide lack of inspiration due to too much isolation and non-fraternisation. Go to pub. Have drinks.
- Day Three: Get up and go to pub. Hold on in there a style is on its way. Through sheer boredom and drunkenness, talk to people in pub.
- Day Four: By now people in the pub should be continually getting on your nerves. Write things about them on backs of beer mats.
- Day Five: Go to pub. This is where true penmanship stamina comes into its own as by now guilt, drunkenness, the people in the pub and the fact you’re one of them should combine to enable you to write out of sheer vexation.
- Day Six: If possible, stay home. And write. If not, go to pub.
Write or Die is a new kind of writing productivity application that forces you to write by providing consequences for distraction and procrastination.
"an invention which reduces literature to an exact science"
Rather spot on article about just one of the many things wrong with the new series of Sherlock (Moffat, please find a co-writer, preferably a good one, hopefully a woman)
I think once upon a time, when you knew that the audience all visited the cinema several times a week, you could make a film with depth, but today, when people rarely go to the cinema and instead sit at home watching the same DVDs over and over again… hang on a minute…
Make interactive children’s books on the iPad itself - it was only a matter of time, right?