Steven Barnes' Free Writing Class!

"Introduction to Screenwriting"
Week One
Although this class is entitled "Intro to Screenwriting", it's my belief that, in general, writing is writing. In fact, in order to understand how to write for the screen--large or small--one must first have an intimate understanding of the structure and function of story. I've written for television and film, books and short stories, comic books and stage. The most important lessons I've learned along the way have been those which deal with the difference between the "Inner" and "Outer" aspects of writing, that is -- the technical craft as opposed to the emotional or spiritual aspects of the game. It is my intent to teach you not just about the structures of Character and Plotting, but also about how your own inner life interacts with your writing in such a way to create art--or at least craft. What is "Art?" That is an old question, which has been endlessly debated by people much smarter than me. Nonetheless, I'll take my crack at it: "Art is Self-Expression." Wait, you ask. Is that it? Is that all there is? Does that mean that if my 2-year old dips his hand into the potty and smears a handful of goo on the wall and says: "Looky what I did!" that that is Art? Yep. That's exactly what I mean. The question of whether or not something is Art is completely separate from the question of whether it is RECOGNIZED as being so. It transcends the question of judgment, and needs not be labeled or acknowledged to be what it is. It is a private, personal truth. On the other hand, SUCCESSFUL art, or COMMERCIAL art is Self Expression plus Communication. If we take the position (and I do) that Art is also an attempt to communicate, to share a vision or emotional state with another, or with the culture at large, then you must care about the person on the other end. The market. The audience. And even, yes, the critic. Balancing these two needs--to be utterly true to your own vision, and to care about the feedback from the market--is one of the things which drives artists insane. The purest artists are probably those who don't give a damn about the audience. And these are starving in oneroom Efficiency apartments all over the country. Commercial artists who care about the market place but don't express themselves as individuals, often make excellent livings, but often are plagued with a nagging sense that their lives are incomplete. The most fortunate, I suppose, are those who follow their own heart, but have an instinct for what the audience wants, as well. Directors like Steven Spielberg have an awesomely developed instinct for what the public wants. On the one hand, he makes a product to please himself, and to hell with the rest of the world. On the other hand, he loves sneaking into movie theaters to watch his films with a live audience. He listens to what they react to, and how they react. He is attuning his cinematic antennae. So both of these states of mind are important, and what I hope to do is set you along the road to developing your own commercial sense, while still keeping in touch with the absolutely unique aspects of who you are as an artist, and a human being.

"A story is a Swiss watch timed to a beating heart". In other words, in order to write one must have both passion and intellect, knowledge and feeling. It is my intent to help you find both. "But isn't screenwriting completely different from book writing.?" Nope, not at all. A screenplay is about 120 pages of a decent book, and is conveyed largely in visual images. Aside from these and some inevitable market considerations, storytelling is storytelling. If you wish to learn screenwriting format, I would suggest getting in touch with The Writer's Computer Store in West Los Angeles, and simply buying a piece of their fine software, especially Final Draft. This will teach you all of this you need. No more on that subject--let's concentrate on writing, shall we?

One of the first questions which must be answered is: What is a story? There are as many answers as there are writers, but one excellent model is the following:  Situation:  Character:  Objective:  Opponent:  Disaster: Here's how it works, using the movie "Goldfinger" as my subject. Situation: When gold is being smuggled out of England in large quantities, Character: Secret agent 007 James Bond Objective: Wants to learn how it is being accomplished. But little does he realize that Opponent: Industrialist (and dirty dog) Auric Goldfinger Disaster: Is smuggling gold to finance his real goal--the destruction of Fort Knox with an Atom Bomb!!

I would suggest that you watch any good movie at least twice. Once for pure entertainment, and then a second time specifically for pattern analysis. Even bad movies can be useful. If you find yourself getting bored, just pop back out of the cinematic flow, and notice how they are putting the pieces together. Sometimes the best education in magic comes from watching a drunken old magician. You can see the pigeon poking its head out of the hidden pocket, the edge of an ace up the frayed sleeve. I remember watching Mohammed Ali's last fights. His skills had eroded so badly that you could finally see how he accomplished his magic--and at his best, magic it was. So any exposure to story-telling can enrich you. You never know when or where you will glean an invaluable insight.

Have you ever turned on your television at One O'clock in the morning, intending to watch something for a few minutes, and getting stuck watching some lousy show or other for two bleary hours? Even if it's lousy? I think that this has happened to most of us. The reason is that storytelling is based on a cyclic rise and fall of tension, similar to the buildup and break down of sexual excitation, or muscular exertion:   GOAL CONFLICT


These first three represent the "Rising phase"    REACTION DILEMMA DECISION

These three represent the "falling" or "plateau" phase. The goal of a character in a story should parallel your own goals and concerns. There must be some point of emotional entry, so that you can empathize--and accordingly, your intended audience can care about the events which take place. For instance: GOAL: To be a working writer Initial efforts rejected by soulless DISASTER: Hollywood heathens.

To forgo pleasures and companionship in CONFLICT: order to find the time and energy to write Pain, disappointment. Fear that you're not REACTION: good enough. Resorting to the bottle, the needle, and abusing the family dog. Do you quit, and avoid further pain and possible suicidal depression? Or go on, try DILEMMA: again, and be true to your inner muse, fickle bitch though she often is? To go to Steve BArnes' web page, and try to DECISION: gain the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed. (Good decision!)

See how this works? By breaking a story down in such a fashion, it matches the actual processes that we go through as human beings in our attempts to solve problems. This cycle (GOAL_CONFLICT_DISASTER) is the ACTION, while (REACTION_DILEMMA_DECISION) is the REACTION. This cycle of Action/Reaction feeds the entire art of story. A single story may have 10-20 such cycles, rising in intensity, as the heroine struggles to fulfill her destiny or avoid her fate.

The important thing here is that you see how this process mirrors your own life struggle-making this connection allows you to be honest about the emotions experienced by your characters. And this emotional honesty is absolutely important. Whether a child confronted by a Velociraptor, or a Moor confronted by accusations of his wife's infidelity, what is absolutely important is that the emotions be believable IN CONTEXT. The most absurd or fantastical situations become believable if the emotions are realistically scaled.

It is my intent in this class to give you every tool you need to succeed. Not merely the technical skills, but also the skills of managing your energy and focus to create the work itself--and also to keep the external structure of your life balanced so that your efforts don't destroy your family and career (both of which I've seen happen)


Write your life story. relationship. Exercise every day. fall in love. Disaster" model. Character. Intro Week One Week Two Week Three Week Four Week Nine Week Five Week Six Week Seven Week Eight . Use the "Situation. GET A LIFE!!! Have fun with this. the eventual victory. hopes. Opponent. brisk walk. at least a short. Objective. get out with friends--in other words. Start from today. Let's see some good deaths! 2. Keep a dream Diary. the struggle. Have a family.1. Put in that first sale!!! You MUST include goals in health. All of your major dreams. This will be VERY important for those of you who have trouble with ideas--but important for anyone who wants to become more aware of the structure of their own mind and creative wellspring. Put in a sense of the span of your life and times. and goals. and run it until the day you die. and break down a popular feature film. and career.

it is a hollow. because they don't have a clear notion of both aspects. soaring above it all. The intellectual approach to plotting or analysis will help you when things are going badly. open the engine. Scott McCloud in his superb book UNDERSTANDING COMICS follows the development of a creative project through six stages (or describes how one may be dissected or defined): 1. one is organic. but don't get to enjoy your success. void of the only thing you truly have to offer the world--yourself. or destroy your health or family in the process. direct inquiry with your own inwardness. if you succeed. This is the core philosophy. 5. and then we had better the hell know how to touch the plane down. Artists who have only one or the other approach are limiting their chances for success. 4. The two approaches must be combined to create the deepest synergy. To put it another way--good writing should be like flying. most central level of the pearl. you must always be aware of the prices that people pay to achieve their goals. where is the sense in that? This is especially important to the writer or actress. or when you are beginning your path. 2. After all. and fix whatever is wrong. they let you fly. the combination of joy and desperation which flows beneath the surface of even the most confident-appearing individuals. I suggest that you view life as a tapestry. Idea/purpose Form Idiom Structure Craft Surface Idea/Purpose is the deepest. And where else are you to gain such knowledge except in self-discovery? Life lived as a tapestry To promote self-awareness. Together.Steven Barnes' Free Writing Class! "Introduction to Screenwriting" Week Two Welcome back! One of the things most important to me is the integration of art and life. 3. and a daily attempt to answer the one unanswerable question in the universe: "Who Am I?" will you clarify your own values sufficiently to ever have anything of substance or value to give to the world. Left-brained writing is like building a cathedral. Right-brained writing is like giving birth to a beautiful baby. As you create characters. 6. But the realm of the intellect operates to enable the heart to soar. That is--when it's going perfectly. After all--if your work doesn't reflect your life philosophies. a daily interaction with others. shallow thing. Left and Right brained writing It is important to have both mind and heart engaged with your writing process. and only by a daily. . Far too many writers simply crash and burn. One is technical. weaving together your work and your life into a seamless whole. But the engine often sputters. the lies they sustain to keep relationships together.

or to people the viewer/reader knows. With a love story. in the opening scene of OUTBREAK. Where do you start? You start with the minimum amount of scene necessary to allow your viewer/reader to enter the story world. or at the end and work your way backwards. and then get them into trouble. in terms of a work's public acceptance. Some movies ("Ordinary People") are almost all understructure. horrifies. or Male and Female. The best films. It may be nine or ten years old. That is your choice. The "Understructure" consists of the interconnected emotions which motivate the human beings to move through your fictional landscape. The nature of that charge is less important than its quantity--that is. but at least I have one. With a detective story it can be very brief (an explosion of gunfire in an alley). and people are a mixture of both polarities. My theory demands that a story contain a certain amount of emotional charge. God. perhaps merely a mismatch between desire to communicate and environmental receptivity to same. been unspoken. . everywhere. all the time. down or sideways. or thirteen. It is important to honor the part of you that originally sought to speak up. sensualizes--or whatever else they need. Hooking your reader Hooking your reader/viewer is a fairly simple process--you introduce a character. chances are that you want to take time to build up the characters before you intersect them. establish your characters. These are more advanced techniques. I suggest you simply start at the beginning. Why do people write? I think that in general. This is just a theory. For instance. no one has really been introduced. lots of feelings. This doesn't imply a dysfunction at all. excites. In other words. No piece of work will appeal to everyone. I do. But if there is honest emotion clearly expressed. simultaneously. One could call these two distinctions Yang and Yin. note that an overdose of either isn't a pretty sight. or watch films. Your personal philosophy might well demand that that charge be one of love. To that end. to adjust their emotional tension levels up. and find out what he/she may have to say which has. knows of. or courage. if they had been able to simply talk it out. as yet. whatever you like--I'm not into political correctness. or would like to know. or older. they would have. books. How to create empathy? By showing how the character is similar to the viewer/reader. and explore it in your work and life. or anger. people write to complete a communication loop which was or is incomplete in some other aspect of their lives. however. More on this next week. "Oh. It is valuable to make contact with this youngster. or fear. Few events. What's yours? Find it. they will gravitate toward fiction which relaxes. You can even create a prospective problem or situation without really introducing a character.Why do people read? Barnes' theory of storytelling is that people read fiction. however. somebody is in deep trouble!" Over and Under-structure The "Overstructure" of a story is the external event sequence. create empathy. and then give that character a problem. and almost no emotion. your chance to find an audience is greatly improved. or younger. But it is also possible to start in the middle. Others ("Eraser") are all event. but everyone in the audience thought.

You frame this stimulus so as to pinpoint the precise detail that highlights the point you seek to make. and finally could care less. The next time we see them. who rarely notice that Luke seems to have traveled hundreds of light-years and crammed in months of training without ever changing his socks. They are used to collapse time. guiding your reader to feel with him.). old Darth was really a pussycat. "Scene" means ACTION. What do I mean by that? If you write scene after scene after scene of action. and start over again. Luke Skywalker and the gang evade Imperial attack ships as they leave Tattoine. You heighten the effect by describing or displaying the stimulus in terms that . look at the neat special effects. or different beats within the same scene. and "Sequel" means REACTION. at the same time. 3. To translate disaster into goal To telescope reality (writing in summary) To control tempo In other words. 5. Scene 1. does anyone know how much time has passed between the escape from Tattoine and the arrival at Alderan? Who knows? Who cares? Clearly not the audience. You pick some external phenomenon--thing. and create a sense of reality. 4. Here is how you construct one: 1. You exclude whatever is extraneous or confusing. But I digress.Scene and sequel These are the names of two different kinds of scenes. 2. Choose the effect you want the particular stimulus to have. The following concepts are extracted from Dwight Swain's wonderful book TECHNIQUES OF THE SELLING WRITER. the relaxed stage. Eventually. Note this example from STAR WARS: Han Solo. As we know by the last film. time and viewpoint at the beginning of every scene Demonstrate that your character has a goal Build to a curtain line II. Read it! I. 2. Anyway. 3. practicing with lightsabers. in terms of motivating your focal character to desired reaction and. they reach their destination--a planet which has been shattered by nasty old Grand Moff Tarkin (bet you thought Darth Vader did that evil deed. person. Establish location. they are more laid back--playing chess. 2. scenes are where things happen. etc. and it is an absolutely invaluable tool for the writer. an exciting SCENE." Excitement in a film is created by building up empathy and potential audience response during the "Sequel" stage. 3. the audience grows numb. take a breath. and "Sequels" are where people react to what has happened. didn't you? Nope. Motivation-reaction units The unity of SCENE and SEQUEL is called a "Motivation-Reaction Unit". Telescoping of time is of no small importance. circumstance. sitting back in their seats and saying: "Gee. Sequel 1. event--that you think will create this effect.

2. Physical performance. Can't think of a goal? Then your first goal is to find a goal. Without goals in all three areas. Dilemma. 3. That goal is almost always one of three things: 1. Mind. Emotion. which reflect all three major areas: Body.reflect your focal character's attitude. Resolution of the dilemma leads them to making a new DECISION. Conflict. Possession of something Relief from something Revenge for something The attempt to reach the goal leads them to a CONFLICT (Opposition) Attempt to resolve the conflict leads them to a DISASTER (the Hook). Which leads them to a new GOAL.) Time-bound. if you are committed to working smarter. grief. HOMEWORK Take two popular movies and break them down into at least one cycle of Goal. There are no unrealistic goals--just unrealistic time limits for their accomplishment. Goal setting You must have goals in your life. and not harder. Decision. and Spirit. Sex. I have an Emmy on my mantle) Realistic (anything anyone else has accomplished is POSSIBLE for you. anger. that is:     Specific Meaningful to you As-if now (I am a successful writer. Goals must be SMART. Disaster. your emotional connection to her will be stronger.  What are your character's goals? Hint: if your character's goals dovetail with your own in some way. Goals generally exist in one of seven areas: Survival. Self-Expression. joy. Where is your character's goal? And how have you experienced this same urge? MOTIVATION-REACTION UNITS SCENE: You have a character with a GOAL. embarrassment. and starts the cycle over again.) The emotions place them on the horns of a DILEMMA (survival versus patriotism is one used in almost all war movies). if not probable within a given time frame. By when will you accomplish these things? It is ENTIRELY reasonable to anticipate increasing your performance by 50% a year. Spiritual growth. Reaction. etc. . you will remain blind to the hidden destroyers sabotaging your excellence. Intellectua growth. This should be the first time that the viewer's pops his/her head up and says: "Hmmm. This is gonna get interesting!" SEQUEL The character has a REACTION: (fear.

and answer the following questions: 1. 3. Storyteller. Safety gear fails. While in your learning phase. give it the best dinosaur effects ever ever ever. JURASSIC would have been an utterly forgettable film. and determine its stability and safety. What are the character's initial goals? Do these change over the course of the film? What are the barriers to goal success? What do the characters in YOUR screenplay/teleplay/outline want? What stops them from accomplishing it? See you next week! . 2. looking for lunch. It is probably easier to understand the process of structure by analyzing Jurassic Park than something like CHINATOWN. Decision: To try to get the park operating system back on line.(All right--take for instance JURASSIC PARK. and call for a chopper to GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!!! Very simple. If the movie had been executed with the usual "B" special effects. is there? And individual characters face Dilemma: several dilemmas. There really isn't anywhere to run. and not unreasonably. However. direction and acting. most of them having to do with self-preservation versus concern for others. Yum. Conflict: Clash of beliefs--is it or is it not safe to bring dinosaurs back to life? Disaster: Reaction: Run like hell. Oops. remember to K.S. and you suddenly. in a total panic. Also: Look into the structure of the film. and toothy Meatasauruses stalk the park.: Keep It Simple.S.) Goal: To inspect the park.I. after all. have the top box office film of all time.

Apollo Creed. The Force. The basic pattern of this "Hero's Journey" goes as follows (with examples from that most obvious example of cinematic myth structure. truncated. Han Solo. the Heroic Drunk. one way or another. This power is usually one of three things. 4. in almost any story which has stood the test of time.. all over the world. Luke. The Hero takes the LEAP OF FAITH. Although I don't like to confuse you (yeah. CHARACTER. the Spontaneous Mega-Speech. In THE ROCK. In ALIENS. I know that my quotes are a little off. but I'm doing this from memory. as described by Joseph Campbell. holding their collective breath). You. in either complete. or artistically inverted form. And yeah. REACTION." ) This step always involves coming to trust a hitherto un-trusted source of power.") In DIGGSTOWN. . The Hero is PRESENTED WITH A CHALLENGE ("Your father was a great Jedi. 2. CONFLICT.). Luke is going down the trench. and that humanity has been telling this same story to itself since the beginning of time. the male scientist is offered the chance to go off and chase tornadoes. its two billion moviegoers. it is useful to look at some of the other methods which have proved useful. DISASTER remains the method of choice for diagramming basic plot structure (insuring that all basic elements are in place). Balboa says that he can't fight the Champ. STAR WARS. the Kickass Pilot. the Hero is probably the President. Ripley emerges onto the platform with Newt in tow. All seems lost. Goldie Hawn undergoes Basic training. Chewbacca. etc. Initially he/she REJECTS THE CHALLENGE. One which is WAY more than just "Useful" is the "Hero's Journey". The Hero has his/her INITIAL CONFRONTATION WITH EVIL. etc. DILEMMA.. The Hero gains ALLIES AND POWERS (Obie-Wan. 8. DISASTER.. ("Oops! My family's been conveniently slaughtered! Guess I'll follow that Yellow Brick Road. During this confrontation. yeah. ("I promised Uncle Owen I'd help him bring in the crops. DECISION is the preferred method for diagramming basic plot dynamics (regulating the flow of action). OBJECTIVE. Powers would include knowledge of the alien design. Whattaya want? I've only seen it twenty times. ("Close your eyes. and that great movie staple. the audience] when they are all gettin' righteously slaughtered over the Death Star. What's that sound? Why. Horrific moment. RENT IT. sure).") In ROCKY. Luke. In INDEPENDENCE DAY. OPPONENT.Steven Barnes' Free Writing Class! "Introduction to Screenwriting" Week Three Welcome back! Although the basic structure of: SITUATION. He gathers the Good General. (NOTE: Read "Hero With a Thousand Faces" ). You can find it. In PRIVATE BENJAMIN. a convenient computer virus. What Campbell says is that there is only one story. 7. Light saber. The Hero enters the DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL. a working saucer. the Hero is DEFEATED.) 1. Baby--") Yuck. 6. many other ways of looking at the basic questions.. too must learn the ways of the Force.."). Nicolas Cage is captured and put in a cell. 5." The Hero is forced to ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE. there are many. "It wouldn't be too good a fight. If you haven't seen this movie. Ability to handle anti-Tie-Fighter energy weapons.") In TWISTER. and finds her transport gone. Princess Leia. The Hero sets out along the ROAD OF TRIALS ("You'll not find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. the Brilliant Scientist. and his back-up men are getting blown to hell. but his mentor Obie-Wan is killed. C3PO. Lou Gossette is conned into accepting the challenge to fight 10 men. and see his invention implemented. and GOAL.. R2-D2. an ensemble film. Luke escapes the Death Star. ("Trust the Force. (This isn't Luke so much as the entire Rebel Force [and for that matter. 3.

The Student becomes the Teacher.. when Luke is ready to accept his own students. NOTE:--I am NOT saying that this is the only order for these concerns. The above is an interweaving of plot and characterization.that there may actually be good in the world. b) A higher power c) The strength and integrity of one's companions. Steve Martin forces himself to believe that something miraculous may actually have occurred. (The death star blows up) In THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE. Until the basic ones are taken care of.) This is often explicit in films. 4. the hero picks up the threads of his life and eventually opens a conservatory of music. There was a Medieval concept in play writing called the "Mindworm" which is quite useful. The feeling of love. That he may not be a complete conman. 6. I want to see that character tested to the max. people don't care much about the higher ones. because they are in essence the same thing. (or perversely. Conversely. Other examples are too numerous to mention. and eat them all up. Sex. one useful way to look at this "hierarchy" is: 1.2. however--this will reflect itself in your writing for the rest of your life. all of the car-chases in the world will have zero impact. Learning and teaching. Life and Death. Intellectual growth. Spiritual enlightenment. Interestingly. If you look too long at the argument "What's more important? Plot or character?" You'll go dizzy. perhaps. And the faster you establish one of these basic seven issues as the "At-Stake" (what does someone want? Survival? Sex? Wealth and power? Love? Learning or teaching? Discover? God-realization?) the faster your audience will identify. Clothing and shelter. The basic EVENT in "The Towering Inferno" is a building burning.) once you have established a good character. pleasing environment.a) One's own untapped ability. Physical comfort.. THE MINDWORM Imagine that there was a little worm that would crawl into the ear of your lead character. 5. In (appropriately enough) LEAP OF FAITH. religious discipline. This is exactly what a story is supposed to do. 9. fulfilled in Return of the Jedi. the more your story deals with the basic levels (1. Most recently. Over the course of a story. (Implied in Star Wars. (Or does he?) 10. Although there are always variations.3) the wider the potential audience for your story. 3. being a fully-fledged Jedi--or even more specifically. 7. Abraham Maslow suggests a hierarchy of human needs. The exploration of a plot is always the revelation of how a human being reacts to circumstance. we are supposed to learn everything important that there is to know . But the various characters are revealed and deepened as they interact with this circumstance. Core physical survival. the only way you get to know a character is by what they do. and this time is VICTORIOUS. Physical fitness Emotional balance and security. when he "Teaches" Darth Vader the way back to the Light Side of the Force. The Hero CONFRONTS EVIL AGAIN. 2. Personal expression. It is probably vital for you to have an idea what priority you DO believe in. Jimmy Stewart lets a little daylight into Lee Marvin's skull. in THAT THING YOU DO. In other words. And until your audience identifies.

in other words. and end up with a complete product. HOMEWORK: ." All courage. what if you only have a scrap of a scene. Everything you consider of importance must be shown to the audience. What would your lead character's worst nightmare be? Fondest dream? Are you beginning to see? You bounce these elements around in your mind. The situation. Why. and write that dogie down. The good news is that once you have learned this concept. you can start ANYWHERE in the process. Then. What is your character's attitude toward each of the seven major needs/personality traits? How would you describe them on each level? What happens in the script which tests them on these levels? 6. How could it turn out to be the worst thing that ever happened to them? 5. That means that the events must be scaled to match the character. What would happen just before this scene. using these basic patterns until something the size and shape of a story begins to emerge. tie. you are ready to write your story. out there on the table. Don't leave an ounce of passion. Or the end. heart--everything. Just ask yourself the following questions. to trigger it? What would happen just after this scene. How could it turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to them? 3. Who would love this situation? 4. given the tools you now possess. ingenuity. is supposed to be extreme enough to "empty them out. Or just a character. Or the beginning of a movie. heroism. or problemsolving capacity undisplayed--or you have cheated both audience and character. you rope.about the main character. you ask? Because. Who would consider this situation to be their worst nightmare? 2. Don't believe me? All right. 1. as a result of it? 7.

inverts. will be more valuable than you can believe. DILEMMA. plays against them. DISASTER. Character. student becomes teacher) Remember that these are the basic "colors" of drama. CONFLICT. Objective. I want to see: 1. confront evil--victorious. And begin to apply them to your project. though exhausting. and extract the questions I have been asking. allies and powers. DECISION) 3. leap of faith. rejection. minimalizes--all sorts of fun can be had. acceptance. REACTION. road of trials. Disaster) 2. An artist takes these apart. simply do your best to match story elements to this structure. Plot breakdown (Situation. Character (Describe your lead characters on each of the "seven levels") AND START WRITING!!! See you next week! . Dynamics (GOAL. Mythic Understructure (challenge. 4. dark night.Go back over this class. meet evil--defeated. But if you are a beginner. The mental work. Opponent.

Here's the joke: "I took my girlfriend to a party last weekend. Just print everything out. and Welcome back! You've probably noticed by now that this is pretty high-level material. Onward. 20 years older. Rodney. I'm making the assumption that some of you out there are redhot. Get together with a group of friends. The others? Well. Six foot two. there. this is Rodney. curiously enough. so let's go into it. Hell with it. and study it. or most humor. As soon as he says "I took my girlfriend to a party. is based on cruelty. For the following joke to have the appropriate effect. a Rodney Dangerfield joke. Much. She said: `George.Steven Barnes' Free Writing Class! "Introduction to Screenwriting" Week Four Hi. What is it? We said it at the beginning: "I don't get no respect". I am also tugging at my tie with one finger. But a HUGE percentage of the things that people laugh at are things they would never want happening to them. Rodney Dangerfield's personae. We have all been hurt by loved ones: abandoned. In other words. He is the perpetual underdog. and ready to trot." Excellent. We ran into her exboyfriend. This sets up the context for the joke. please imagine me 60 pounds heavier. The first time I ever understood the structure of humor was. Blue eyes." you already know what's going to happen--he is going to be shamed or abandoned. and go over it and over it and over it. this is goodbye. In fact. it's a computer class. Why is this funny? BECAUSE HUMOR IS A RELEASE OF TENSION. after all. and considerably whiter." Do you understand why this joke works? And it did: it brought the house down. Blond hair. you know he is going to get the worst of it in any conceivable situation. The reason it works is multifaceted. 1. you could probably take the information in any one week and stretch it out into an ordinary 10-week class. Repeat after me: "I don't get no respect. . Puns and certain kinds of visual or conceptual humor are excluded from this.

At least. and apply your model to each of them--until you can FEEL your way through a story. and that. dammit. until you have an instinct for what goes on under the surface. my friend." This is the ability to create tension or expectation in your audience. hundreds of television episodes. "George. because humor. The result is laughter." . If they know ahead of time how you're going to "do them.betrayed. or misunderstood. "Pulp Fiction" is a gorgeous example of a screenplay which makes complete sense in retrospect. blond hair. So. embarrassed. you must find a plot structure which works for you. or else you are operating below your level of competency. cheated on. 2. is what is known as Hack Work. Rodney is going to be abandoned. and then watch hundreds of movies. and that elusive quality known as "Art. So comedians like Dangerfield operate like cultural lightning rods. laughter occurs. The art of humor is important. WHAM. in order to be able to feel your way into a plot and turn it over to your subconscious." it won't be as devastating. Call it "Twisting the Story Line. This is crucial. and self-exploration. we empathize and say: "Better him than me". Now. 3. dramatic tension. he hits you with the punch line faster than you expected it to come. It HURTS. Only then will you be able to fix problems in your writing--and every project should be problematic. blue eyes". but LOGICAL. the entire plot and structure has to make sense in retrospect. in retrospect. the pain. and get to discharge our own anxiety. Oh. so that the reader or viewer looks back across the structure and marvels. OH. They experience our pain. THAT is what creates growth. What you want to be always pushing the edge of your ability. "We ran into her ex-boyfriend. makes sense to you. She is going to leave him cold. The result? The tension is released. we know exactly what is going to happen. horror. and humor are art of the unexpected. unexpected. When and where it happens are the only remaining questions. Yet and still. In order to manipulate plot elements artistically. Rodney. Six foot two. Suspense. suspense and dramatic tension are all part and parcel of the same thing. this is Goodbye". this is Rodney. We can already feel the anxiety building. but defies the viewer's attempts to predict its twists and turns. and then pay it off in a fashion that they don't anticipate. read hundreds of books.

this would be called insanity. obviously. The cycles of outer action/ inner reflection form the compression/release cycle which locks your viewer into the story. and what has kept you pursuing them? What is the ideal life that you envision for yourself. And that is to ask yourself the question: what are you most passionately interested in? Hmmm? What do you really care about the most? What devils you? Drives you? What imagery pops up in your dreams most regularly (and I assume you have been keeping your dream diaries. with no character at all. HOMEWORK . And there are movies which are all character and no incident. you begin to flesh your story out. or deeper and deeper levels of discovery. there ARE movies which are endless cycles of incident. In another time. at least in "My Dinner. The audience will say: "So what? Don't these people ever DO anything?" Now. In the 20th Century. rational person willing to watch flickering images against a wall for two hours. and makes a perfectly reasonable. Or the Porno section. as well as making the work of deep. There is a useful way to find the thing that you should write about. personal worth. and others like them. These crop up in art houses all the time.) What obstacles have arisen most often to stop you from getting the things you want in life? What recurring goals have you pursued. Check out "My Dinner With Andre." Well. And making a story personally relevant is the key to tapping your deepest capacities.All of these plot structures are designed to ensure that you have the basic elements in play (structure) and that they flow toward higher and higher levels of tension. This is what "addicts" them to the story." they TALK about incident. Nor can you just reveal character endlessly. and what is the price you would have to pay in order to reach it? These questions. it's called Buying Your Mercedes. and react emotionally as if it is all quite real. Check out the Kung Fu section of the local video store for some hideous examples of this. are deviling your characters as well. But you CANNOT simply have a story get tenser and tenser and tenser--the viewer will burn out. for that matter. If you tie the answers to these questions into your various characters. creates the suspension of disbelief.

What are the moments of key. How do their concerns and problems and goals dovetail with and reflect your own? How are they aspects of your own personality? 3. or what are you willing to do. mentally. How is this situation their worst nightmare? How is it the best thing that could ever happen to them? 5. 2. How does the plot "empty" these people out? Stretch them to their limits? And how does it mirror some concern in your own life. to get the viewer personally involved in their lives? 7. Who are the characters in your story? Describe them physically. What are the unexpected twists and turns. killing tension? And the payoff for the viewer? 6.1. emotionally. Why should the viewer care about these people? What have you done. WHAT ARE THE MOMENTS THAT THEY WILL TELL THEIR FRIENDS ABOUT? Good Luck! . the moments of discovery which will take your viewer's breath away? 8. such that resolving the plot is also helping you to solve your own dilemmas? 4.

the better off you are. what a character might do. go see a movie. The ability to design "Ah Hah" moments. you will be faced with choices. The key to brainstorming is that you MUST give yourself SPECIFIC permission to come up with absurd answers. More than one writer has enjoyed and excelled in the game of "How do I get Out of this?" where you specifically get your characters into a jam. 4. and then see if you can write them back out of it. Exercise. etc. And when you back yourself into a corner. there. Do massive research. that's for sure! At any rate. Specifically. you're writing a scene in which a character faces certain death-surrounded in the kitchen by vicious escaped bank robbers with a dozen guns. This is done both to give you raw material to chew over. 3. the more creativity you have.Steven Barnes' Free Writing Class! "Introduction to Screenwriting" Week Five Hi. is an incredible boon to those of us in the arts. How do we get out of this? You start brainstorming. the structure of creative breakthrough has been pretty well broken down. 2. take a nap. Otherwise you will think only in a direct. and miss the chance of genius-level breakthrough. IT IS WHEN YOUR CONSCIOUS MIND IS TOTALLY PREOCCUPIED WITH ANOTHER TASK THAT THE AH-HAH! MOMENT WILL OCCUR. Swamp yourself in every possible piece of information which might contribute to an answer. You clarify the problem. and Welcome back! CREATIVITY At every turn in your writing. For instance. When you have reached the absolute limit to what you can come up with. it will be your creativity which gets you out of it. Basically. as long as you have the quality of focus. the process works as follows: 1. and to keep your conscious mind occupied. decisions about the direction you should go. take a complete break. make love. Brainstorm every answer you can come up with. linear path. Define as clearly as possible exactly what the difficulty is. moments of unusual clarity. Keeps you alert. what someone should say. Could your .

. This is another place where the dream diaries come in useful.. Well. you can see that virtually any image you have can fit into this cycle somewhere. Hmmm. Give yourself permission to think of the absurd... would the audience go for that? Maybe not--but what if the power outage created the crisis in the first place.a tornado? Or a hurricane? What exactly IS the weather in this scene? Could it be that I never considered that? Even a bad rainstorm could wash out roads. Kill power? If this was built up properly. to who? Why? How might they want to resolve it.. kill power. Looking at the GoalConflict-Disaster-Reaction-Dilemma-Decision model. where the fractured electric lines flap about in the yard.could God reach down and take her out of this freaking situation? Well.. and you don't want to change that. and go from the impossible to the improbable to the possible to the YES! THAT WORKS! moment that we all love. but. So maybe there aren't a dozen guns. and she wrenches herself away and runs out into the storm. What if something ELSE lifted the roof up? A T-Rex? No. sparking..and it's the power coming back ON that changes the situation? Eyes adjusted to darkness don't like light.. No. How about. trap criminals in the house. and they shield their eyes.... . specifically stretching and twisting your mind..(the image of the roof being lifted up. then. and what kind of goal might result? If the image of a person--who are they? What might they want? What might their inner demons be? What about if it's a place? Or an action? Practice playing with these pieces. If the image of an object comes to you: Is it a Goal? (Does someone want it?) Is it a Disaster? Does it pose a Dilemma? If so. no. Can she appeal to their humanity? No. Hmmm... Such mental gymnastics are the tools you will need to build a career. She's 67 years old. Make it two guns. It is quite valuable to specifically exercise your creative muscles. with one leg. This is the way brainstorming works. And the light comes on. and God reaching down suddenly strikes a nerve).character be a karate expert. you've already established that one of them killed his OWN mother for taking a piece of his Juicy Fruit. Speilberg's cornered the market on Jurassic carnivores.

If this goes on "What If" is used in questions like: what if someone invented Time Travel? What if someone resurrected his dead children? What if it turned out that Santa Claus was real? "If Only" is a wish list. is to open the newspaper and give yourself one minute to find an article upon which to base a story idea. And will be for many more. If Only c. Overpopulation. There are actually three basic questions: a. one which I recommend heartily. You don't have to write the story. Although these tools have been most specifically developed in SF. this kind of exercise gives you absolutely invaluable skills. and less like puree of bat shit. Other Techniques: The science fiction game. Science fiction is specifically a game of "Whatif". inflation--all have been fodder for many many science fiction stories. "If this goes on" Observes a phenomenon. that you can generate a hundred ideas an hour for days at a time.. It is important that you have absolute confidence in your ability to think yourself out of any corner you might back yourself into. And the only way you can do that is practicing to generate creativity on demand. These exercises work. Once again.. how much more sex might we enjoy? If only health food tasted more like ice cream. and says "whoops! this could be trouble" or "this could be fun". what might we accomplish? If only human beings weren't jealous. they are invaluable in other genres as well. pollution. If only we lived for two hundred years. but DO block it out using the tools we have detailed. What if b.NEWSPAPER CLIPPING EXERCISE Another exercise. How might you adapt them to your work? Mastermind Groups . and devise others of your own. I would suggest that you try them.

But you must experiment. You may be writing drivel. he begins to be a real writer. Editing state is where you are judging the ideas that you came up with. and stay focused on your goal. If you don't mix these two states. and read enough good writing. HOMEWORK 1. you will have five times your money's worth. I believe it was Ray Bradbury who said that a writer has "A million words" of shit in him. and see how many ideas you can come up with in an hour. until you find what works best. specifically. I am NEVER blocked. So get going! Write scenes. and scenes. and describe how the plot might have spun in another direction. try getting together with two or more other writers or friends. soft Jazz or classical music works well. but you will ALWAYS be able to write. whatever.When you have a problem. AND THIS IS MOST IMPORTANT--give yourself permission to come up with silly answers. Trust me--if you will pay attention to what I said in this paragraph. Once again. For many people. Chose a favorite crisis moment in two of your favorite films. but I can ALWAYS write. Editing State Flow state is where you are just drifting. I am shocked at the number of people who go brain-dead for ideas. write raw text the next. And it is a great truth that if you write enough. Frankly. you will NEVER suffer writer's block. and that after that. 2. You may need to experiment to find the environment which best supports your optimal flow state. and scenes. Edit and plan one day. the confusion of two separate states: 1. . Flow State 2. This is the core key to breaking writers block. And I guarantee you--a hundred thousand words of lousy writing will teach you a hell of a lot more than six months of empty pages. WRITER'S BLOCK Writer's block is. I like ocean sounds and Vivaldi. writing raw text. THESE STATES MUST NEVER BE CONFUSED. you will begin to improve. Identify the core "what if" questions in five of your favorite movies. coming up with ideas. Sometimes I write lousy.

even given your current sched.3. and briefly detail the movie which could be spun out of it. Describe some of the things you can do to optimize your creative environment. What is your ideal daily output? And. 4. Chose a news story from your local paper. what are you committed to producing? Good Luck! Steven Barnes' Free Writing Class! .

episodes of MURDER. Psycho. it is probably valuable to have definitions in mind for each of the major genres--and some examples: MYSTERY. and Welcome back! Genre The world of screenwriting thrives on simple definitions. SHE WROTE. SUSPENSE.. science fiction. Mission: Impossible. why. The hero is confronted with physical challenges in every act. crime. Mystery and romance. This covers a wide range. there. FANTASY. Now. etc. Sleuth. Curse of the Demon. for effect. etc. are often combined with each other. In fact. Foreign Correspondent. for instance. Ghost and the Darkness. horror. adventure. western. The Exorcist. Aliens. Never Talk To Strangers. etc. Every Sherlock Holmes movie. one of the first questions which will be asked is: what genre is it? There are many different slots that stories fit into. and someone must determine who. When your script is first considered. what. but actions are more central to the plot. and understanding how the studios will view your work is quite important. Alien is also a horror film (as well as Science Fiction). If for no other reason that your own clarity. or escape death. . Raiders of the Lost Arc. this doesn't mean that you can't combine genres--quite the opposite. Similar to Suspense and mystery. disturbing fantasies are generally called "Horror"--this is a form of mystery where the death being dealt out is particularly obscene. etc. Something has happened. Similar to mystery. such stories involve a murder--murder being the only crime which absolutely cannot be undone. Usually. Alien and Child's Play all fit here. The question is usually whether the hero can prevent an action."Introduction to Screenwriting" Week Six Hi. but the identity of the perpetrators is not so central. or with suspense. there are certain genres which exist largely in combination with others. but dark. ADVENTURE.

Slapstick comedy. balance of overstructure/understructure etc. or transcribe for 30 minutes? 3. "Pitch" your idea to a group of friends. Close your eyes and run scenes in your mind. because the change is compounded. There are others. is being used. Watch 30 minutes of a favorite film. Dictate 30 minutes of dialogue onto a tape recorder. In many cases. Dog movies. Terminator and Day the Earth Stood Still. damn near. as was The Time Machine. Mindstorm with a friend on the telephone? 6. and take notes? 7. ROMANCE is such a consistent element that it fits into all of these. Re-write previous work? 8. there are probably as many divisions as you choose to sit down and define. and other divisions create additional slots--and in fact. If you do this. So. image systems. to read their response? 10.SCIENCE FICTION is a genre where a very specific game of "What If" is being played out. well used.. over the course of a year you will make massive strides--well more than 52% growth. and deciding what genre. An infinite combination of possibilities awaits! It's time to talk again about constructing your career.if you can only find 30 minutes a day. Use "mind Mapping" techniques on a chalk board or scratch paper to analyze the relationship of characters to plot? Little bits of time. but these are the ones that your instructor is most familiar with. Musicals. just little baby steps. Star Wars is NOT science fiction--it is fantasy which incorporates S. Brainstorm story problems on a legal pad? 5. Where does yours fit? The straight drama (Terms of Endearment. will lead you to your goal. One of the most important things you can do is to plan out your time so that you are moving toward your goals at the rate of about 1% per week.. clarifying the order of occurrence? 9. . War movies.F. what can you do toward your goal? 1. and dissect dialogue or plot? 4. Blade Runner was very definitely science fiction. and has its own conventions. you can learn a lot by watching a film for the second or third time. Ordinary People) is its own genre. Re-read previous work. Star Trek is rubbery science fiction-they've created a universe in which anything can happen. Detail 3 scenes on three index cards? 2. image systems.

a "Sprint". but because of its length. But in this. 5.000 word monster. wander around a bit. 4. all that you have is your use of language. a cumulative effect which is greater than the sum of the parts. 3. there. then graduate to Novels to pay the bills and create your catalog." If you combine this with Robert Heinleins's advice: 1. The observant student will have few problems figuring out how to adapt this to their own career. and even lecture on subjects of tangential interest--none of which can be done quite so well in a short story. Use Short stories to BUILD a publishing career. The Novel form uses the exact same tools as the short story. The nice thing about a novel is that you can get kind of lazy at times. and also quite confrontive. SHORT STORY. 2. Write Finish what you write Put it in the mail Keep it in the mail until it sells Never revise except to editorial request. The primary thing to remember in the writing of a stage play is that the motion and scope must be far more restricted than in any other form. I now want to examine some of the different mediums.Steven Barnes' Free Writing Class! "Introduction to Screenwriting" Week Seven Hi. hopefully. If you are lacking core skills. STAGE. Novels are a risky way to begin a career. or a story every other week. but the short story remains the method of choice for developing professional-level skills. In many ways the essence of the story form. one could do far worse than quote Ray Bradbury's classic advise: "Write a story a week. This is Basic story telling. and Welcome back! Writing Forms We've already dealt with the vast majority of the technical details which compose story writing. Educational as hell. it can take you YEARS to find out. In fact. In many ways. while you slog through that 200. with. NOVEL. with no time to rest. has the opportunity to interweave several stories together into a tapestry. You have an interesting model for excellence and success. Many people avoid it. my .

Accordingly. but never genuinely new or confrontational. there is never any need to flinch. or 7 or 21 parts. 2. no--they are the PRODUCT. 1. Be careful.friends. Limitations on violence mean that tension is very difficult to achieve. CABLE. is highly recommended. The experience of writing for the stage. They are completely DESPERATE for ideas. or language. So don't believe it when they say "Anything goes. and don't want to have to cut too much sex. In fact. your use of language must be absolutely exquisite. be afraid. television and film WILL steal your ideas. merely ways of looking at structure. you have nothing but human beings talking to each other. the Stage has no equal. but still limited--they LOVE those secondary sales to Fox Network. Even the classic 3-act structure is really nothing but potty breaks for Greek actors. If you KNOW that the censors are NEVER going to let anything seriously yucky onscreen. If you are protected by an agent. There are several peculiar and sometimes disturbing things about television. but they are all artificial. The 6-act structure which is used in hour-long television is gratingly artificial. It is not so intimate as stage. the viewers are not the customers. or 5. This creates a very very odd situation--they want the shows to be interesting enough to get you to tune in. In television. right. Don't even consider it otherwise. or directing scenes. go with the Syndicated stations. Be very afraid. Maps. Yuck. TELEVISION. If you want to do something a little more offbeat. Fox Network can take more chances than ABC. There is nothing about the structure of human life or experience that intrinsically breaks down into 2. but incapable of the cinema's spectacular scope. These can be useful. then go in there and pitch your widdle heart out. Everyone wants to be first to be second. Everything Network must appeal to middle America. or 3. . violence. 4. 'cause nothing's ever gonna happen that you can't handle. Commercial Television is sort of half-way between stage and movies. 5. They will teach you things that you might otherwise never guess about the interrelationship of actor to script. The fact is that the number of ideas chewed up by Hollywood in a single year would creatively Bankrupt a dozen Shakespeare's. Otherwise. who are sold to the customers (the advertisers) in joblots according to demographics.More daring than television. In theater. not the territory itself. and I thought I'd list a few of them." Yeah. Unlike the publishing industry. you would be very well served to take a few acting classes. 3. No.

It is one of the tools which will allow you to compete against people who are more . And with the advent of widescreen TV and surround sound. you'll find a way. CINEMA. I love the potential. Published quarterly. Don't both writing lots of stage directions in your script--the director will just cut them out anyway.V. Get your hands on all the movies scripts you can find. One of the things that you have to do is develop the art of "Pitching". why am I sharing my secrets with you. If you are really serious. getting sent to work in Agents offices until a connection was made. But if you are absolutely determined to get in. that's why. and read the heck out of 'em. and plan to be right in there pitching. Some worked for Hollywood temp agencies. the art of boiling your story down into a 1-5 minute essence you can tell off the top of your head to a room full of doubting execs. PRACTICE THIS ART. Six hour R-rated movies.The beautiful thing about cable is the fact that they can go seriously longform. Can't overestimate the importance of actually being on the scene where the action is happening. anyway? 'Cause I'm a nice guy. everyone I know who works in Hollywood got in a different way. Guide snippit to a full story told while you pace back and forth. and we'll call it even. There IS no direct line path for getting in. gesticulating wildly. Call 'em at 800-222-2654. In other words. verbal story-telling. you have to use the same creativity to get into the industry that you would use once you got there. As far as I'm concerned. This can be anything from a T. it is utterly impossible to get in. None at all. The average movie script is about 120 pages long. we're not far from the era where Cable may be the venue of choice. and neither will agents. One serious hint: if at ALL possible. This is where the best action is. the Brass Ring. Buy me sushi some time. So what the hell do you do? Frankly. subscribe to SCENARIO. The studios won't read unsolicited scripts. each issue contains four full-length film scripts. move to Los Angeles. Some worked in the studio Xerox room until the right connections were made. each page of which equates to one page of screen time. Some delivered scripts in Pizza boxes. So come to think of it. Some snuck onto lots and talked someone into looking at material. However.

Each should be inextricably linked to the other. fleshing out characters and situations. Practice into video tape. Answer the following question: How is this situation your lead character's worst nightmare? And how does it turn into the best thing that ever happened to them? Or. but haven't conquered their stage-fright.experienced writers. DO THIS. and how does it turn into their worst nightmare? In other words. conversely. HOMEWORK Rework your stories again. Practice into a tape recorder. how is it the best thing that ever happened to them. Good Luck! Steven Barnes' Free Writing Class! "Introduction to Screenwriting" . Practice in front of your friends. It will be immensely useful when you actually get your 10 minutes with Aaron Spelling's people. make explicit the connection between plot and character.

and personally valid. Everything else is secondary. Steven Barnes Hi. if you can't figure out what's going on without the dialogue. the importance of the visual symbols cannot be overestimated. In the actual writing of your script. Most of them are intelligent. Then perform a thought experiment. THE STORY MUST CARRY ITSELF ON THE STRENGTH OF THE VISUALS. "C" is what you spend your time writing--those ideas which are BOTH potentially salable. far more than in any other medium (including television). In general (and there are always exceptions). "B" is the set of ideas that will sell in Hollywood. Believe me." . and Welcome back! Metaphor and Symbol Welcome back! We've only got one more week to go. if necessary. One question frequently asked is how to walk the line between those projects which are emotionally rewarding. so I hope you've been busy on your assignments. "A" is the set of ideas you can come up with. if the set "A" is large enough. there is another important thing which must be kept in mind: In film. eventually the two sets will overlap--creating set "C". that you would find entertaining and emotionally rewarding to write. in film all you have is the visual symbols. the ability to come up with idea after idea all day long. your film will appeal to a smaller audience. That might be fine with you--but it is still something to take into account. and those projects Hollywood seems inclined to make. there. In essence. Take a look at the films in the top 20 of all-time box office. Films like the "Indiana Jones" or "Star Trek" movies are largely visual. What this means is that. None of them are intellectual--in other words. You should be able to turn the sound off. they aren't meditations on the nature of mind. basically. or made by very intelligent people. and still understand everything going on--or at least. as are "Jurassic Park" and "Independence Day.Week Eight Your genial host. enough to follow the thread of the story. Well--if I were you I would have infinite faith in my own innate creativity-that is.

etc. plain ordinary water. the newly released "Ransom" is very much character driven. will pick up on what you are doing and roll with it. It might be an interesting exercise to determine if its core plot twists can be deciphered without listening to the sound track. However. Obvious symbols (the American Flag symbolizing patriotism. you may have a story which is too internal. Again. Brilliant. If you are writing a television script. car chases. Perhaps not. To create art in this medium you must. and pick out the visual actions and symbols. It is important. Here's an exercise. ANYTHING which will be pictured on-screen. a red rose symbolizing love." No. meetings. it is . crashing waves for passion. love making.) are the hallmark of the student film. If not." Note the film "Diabolique. Arguments. driven more by plot than character. The director. See if the basic meaning of your story can be determined from the succession of visual images. try this exercise. you keep finding an excuse to show what time it is. If you do this carefully. In your script. which is quite enough success for anyone. your audience will get to the point where the mere flash of a clock will make them feel very uncomfortable. for which you'll need a cork board and a stack of 3X5 cards: Go through your story outline. there is heavy danger. I suspect that advertisers LOVE scripts which are heavy on dialog and exposition--so that if you leave the room to stir the soup. On the other hand.) At any rate." perhaps. established an alternative meaning for a clock. You have. began to be perceived as an evil. And this single fact will probably keep it out of the top 20. death or destruction. "Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before. you are more likely to get away with this. it may well earn over 90 million. you don't lose the thread of the story and turn the channel. hopefully. conversations. (In fact. we must still take into account the impact of the visual symbols. mortal peril. and in essence exploit the creative vocabulary established by other artists. dangerous thing. The way you do this is by showing something (say a clock) in a scene where someone is murdered. in other words. more appropriate for a novel or play than a feature film. not the Sharon Stone/Chazz Palmentieri abortion. as the expression goes. but the original French film.(Note that these are also basically "overstructure" films. Such symbols are obvious. "Time is running out.) Any way. Then every time you show a clock after that. It is one of the ultimate masterpieces of suspense. And the filmmakers created an image system where water.

Love squeaks one past. but it does seem that selfless acts have the ability to defeat even the most virulent evil. Evil is a titanic force. or act out of love. on a 3X5 card. what is your story really about? It is the subtext of the entire work. then it cannot help but express your philosophy. then love. there WILL be a meaning. WARNING! WARNING! DANGER. a core of honesty to your work. Then. and even the strongest love is a weak and ultimately futile defense. Love is a titanic force. All is lost. But if you just tell a story. I was having a "Lost in Space" flashback. and you convey the emotions honestly. and that the only times it is beaten back is when people stand together. followed by one where love triumphs. WILL ROBINSON! (Sorry. Evil. preaching to the choir. but love is stronger". but just barely. DON'T START OUT WITH A "MEANING" IN MIND. here comes the nifty part. you're sunk. If they notice it. Just tell your story. but Love is stronger 2. The next level above this is what is called Metaphor. Evil has a CRUSHING victory! Dark night of the soul time. and you begin to see the following theme: "Evil is a titanic force. at the very best. In general. Then a good deed. that your subconscious seems to have been up to something. Every scene in your script can support one or the other point of view. Let's say you are 3/4 of the way through your work.) All right. you will slowly become aware that there are patterns at work. your own world view. a theme. You notice this because there seem to be a number of scenes where evil does its nasty thing. And in that case. Follow an idea that gets you hot.very important that your audience not be consciously aware of what you have done. You have a scene where evil wins. as you race toward the conclusion. this is only determined after you have written your first draft.) If you start with a "Meaning" or a "Theme" in mind. and you will end up. and then another evil. You look at the story and realize that a theme seems to be emerging. done out . Then evil. Then. your work will almost certainly get preachy as hell. You notice that sacrifice is often necessary. post above your computer or typewriter your theme AND ITS REVERSE (COUNTER-THEME). (This is not always the case--there are definitely films which have the philosophy that Death Swallows Everything. In other words: 1. In other words. Finish your draft. but Evil is stronger Get it? Now.

which march shoulder to shoulder even unto the pits of hell. Comb through your script. especially one of a political nature. I never said it. racist. it is very important to NEVER give your audience a chance to object to what you are saying.. If you EVER get up on a soapbox. An example? It is arguable that "Courage Under Fire" has a substructure which states that women can do a "Man's" job. and if you tell anyone I said it. Hallelujah. and ultimately triumphing--and if you have established audience empathy with her. by the time the filmmakers are done with you. Just tell your story. with the meaning encoded in the structure of the events. and your "meaning" slips right past a sexist's defenses. NEVER STATE IT DIRECTLY. on the other hand. you simply show your female protagonist struggling mightily and honorably to accomplish a worthy end..this is the nasty and manipulative side of my personality coming out.J. Pretty potent propaganda! HOMEWORK . then her victories become the viewer's victories. comes back just in time ("cast your bread upon the waters. Wow.. and un-American. In other words. Gosh. just brings tears to your eyes. or anything else that you may wish to subtly propagandize for). hallelujah.of love earlier in the story. is undone by the forces of good. They don't ever hit that message "On the Nose" (in other words. I'll just deny it. practicing golf swings with O. or blacks are as good as whites. They even cast Denzel Washington in an important role. subtly connecting racism and sexism. Why? Well. and specifically say "Women are equal to men". I was miles from there at the time. TAKE THAT LINE OF DIALOG out. or Save the Environment. but they do give you alternative views of the lead character's struggles in the Gulf War. failing. you give the audience a chance to say: "No. which stands alone. and still be women. pesky stains out of that Ford Bronco. or gay is as good as straight. (Say-women are equal to men. be obvious and unsubtle about it). If you have a controversial message. doesn't it? But here's another clue: WHATEVER YOUR THEME IS. the only way not to cheer Meg Ryan is to be sexist. and it will return to you many fold") and Evil. The reason has to do with the nature of subliminal communication. and if your theme is ever stated. they're not. or washing odd." If. suffering.

4. there.1. 3. 5. 6. 2. What is your theme? What is your counter-theme? What character in your work represents each position? What scene most clearly describes your theme? In what scene is your character's moral position tested most severely? What do you want your audience to feel as they walk out of the theater? Get to work! Steven Barnes' Free Writing Class! "Introduction to Screenwriting" Week Nine Hi. and Welcome back! .

and wise--and we know that isn't the case. in most successful people. 100% believe that every human being has the ability to bring his dreams into existence. Every human being is going to have his own idea about what it takes to succeed in life. healthy. don't we? So don't worry about what's easy or what isn't. If you have the ability to consistently visualize or imagine success over the period of time necessary to achieve the goal. trained rather than innate.let's just say that if you take very seriously what I am about to lay out for you. and those of you who will sit on your thumbs and whine. are what I call the "metaprinciples"--in other words. but what I CAN say is that all of the principles given below are tested. And that ability to visualize or imagine is .OH MY GHOD! ITS THE LAST CLASS!!! How quickly time flies. and more successful than I've ever been in my life?" Until and unless the answer to that question is "Yes". more centered. everybody would be happy. since all there really is to do at this point is to evaluate your work. and to my knowledge. core beliefs.. but if it was easy. and most important words to you. everyone who has actually put them into play has gotten the results. They are the ten steps I would consider invaluable in actually reaching any goal. So here are my last. It ain't easy.. Instead. it will be of greater value than everything that has come before. It works like this: All of the information about writing . the question on everyone's mind must be: what in the world does Steve have to say to us now? Well. between those of you who will actually use the information which you paid for. actions. eh? Well. and so forth which underlie any successful life. All of these things are the "Principles" of success in the limited field called writing. ALL of that stuff won't do you a damned bit of good unless you use it. all of the technique. But what makes the difference between people who get their dreams and people who don't--in other words. I absolutely. I may well be wrong in my choices and observations. the ideas. that I have taught them to thousands of people. ask yourself: "Am I willing and prepared to become stronger. . chances are very good that you have wasted your money in this class. you can do it. You have yours. I have mine.

too young or too old? Nobody cares. Black. Order his "The Secret of Creating Your Future" tape set. Feedback from intelligent colleagues or teachers helps.1. You did this. KEEP YOUR EYES AND EARS OPEN. 4. use you. nurture yourself. There are many out there. physical health. Don't be one of these morons who knows more about auto maintenance or football statistics than he does about his own health. ANY diet that you will eventually diverge from is. one of the most important steps in breaking any old behavior pattern is to raise your energy. designed to fail. YOU are responsible for your success or failure. 5. You must let your environment. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. Robert Haas' "Eat To Win" diet is excellent. relationship. It's not up to life to be easy. Know what you want. parents. IF YOU DON'T DO IT FOR YOURSELF. In my humble opinion. and don't be afraid to go after it. There are others. most of them are designed or doomed to fail. Income is a good way to keep track. you must care for yourself. I would personally recommend the "Time Line" system taught by Tad James. Instead. Without sufficient energy. They're the best I've found. love yourself. discipline yourself. in my opinion. Gay.Diet. and consistently watching out for predators. They make me sick. THE WORLD WILL BARELY NOTICE YOUR HEARTBREAK. support yourself. It is your responsibility to be strong. and their efficiency depends largely on a match between your personality and the personality of the author. Get a catalog from him at Advanced Neuro Dynamics. WRITE YOUR GOALS DOWN!!! 3. especially endurance. and to watch out for. and USE IT. You've have to have feedback as to your progress or problems. and protect yourself from. Find them. Make sure that you have clear goals in ALL THREE major areas: career. You must have something of the same willingness to get what you want out of life. CREATE YOUR LIFE STORY. your dreams will turn to dust. in your first week. The two most important types of exercise are: 1) . FIND A GOAL SETTING SYSTEM. or anything else completely off the hook. 808-941-2021. look at diets designed to enhance athletic performance. Had a bad childhood? Get over it. heredity. Exercise. Handicapped. mate. Stay away from books on losing weight. Go back over it. In fact. including rejection letters. 2. is good feedback. discourage you. However. If you were a rabbit in the woods. you would be on the constant search for food. There are several basic steps to this. Ultimately. Any feedback. RAISE YOUR ENERGY LEVEL. SENSORY ACUITY. YOU are the cause of pleasure and pain in your life. Female. those who would hurt you.

You share goals. and simply flow around any obstacles. It can be another way of setting yourself up for failure.flexibility and alignment. FLEXIBILITY. 1%. Get enough sleep. Resolve here and now that you will keep moving forward until you have reached your goal. Exercise more intense than this is for athletes. You can walk to Disneyland--but you can't sprint there. Study the lives and actions of people who have already accomplished your chosen goals. work with a teacher. Ignore them at your peril. developing a 15-minute daily stretching program. Be gentle with yourself if you haven't been exercising for a while. Then imitate their actions. Do about 1% of it every week. it will get there. Divide the work necessary to accomplish your goal into bitesized chunks. This is vital for those of us living a creative life. Even better is to find several different people who have accomplished goals similar to the ones you hold dear. The first can be learned in a yoga class. every member is responsible for moving his goals forward. and 2) cardiovascular. and you will save yourself years and decades of wasted effort. or a dance class--if the dance class is taught by a teacher over 40 years old. 10. So is swimming. For a very full explanation of . Flexibility and Alignment. Eventually. At least twice a month. For energy. for having taken another step. Cross reference them. Walking is great. It may take a life time--but do you have anything better to do? Let's face it: ten years from now. Every week. 9. Do it. The idea is work up a light sweat. The choice is up to you. Cardiovascular. dreams. 6. One of the most valuable things you can do in reaching any goal is to find a group of like-minded people. What you are looking for here is unlearning the bad habits of posture and tension which a lifetime of imprecise motion locks into you. No more. and support. Be very careful about trying to do too much. 8. and meet with them once or twice a week (I suppose you could set this up over the Internet). and thought patterns. Minimum. you need 3-4 40 minute exercise sessions a week. Rest. NEVER GIVE UP. You need your dream time. and find out what things they ALL had in common. Do this "core" stuff religiously. Take catnaps. beliefs. Trust me: unless you are an intuitive genius at such things. Keep trying different things until you reach your goal. (and I've never met such a person). FIND ROLE MODELS. YOU NEED A TEACHER. MASTERMIND GROUPS. or ten years older and wiser. you will either be ten years older. 7. Keep your eyes on the prize. These are the most basic prerequisites to generating more energy in your life. Be like snow melt winding its way to the sea.

YOU. read "Think and Grow Rich". it's all you need. and more. Steve Barnes . The sad thing is that I know most of you won't follow the advice you paid for. by Napoleon Hill. that's it. because I genuinely want you to succeed. Well. are the one in a thousand who will actually follow through. You seem like a nice person. But. The thing that makes me happy is the possibility that you--that's right. Believe me. This grieves to do this. who will go after your dreams and not let anything stand in your way. who will follow good advice. hey--I've been wrong before. I hope it's you. This is probably the best book ever written on self improvement. Heh heh.