This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
John Truby is Hollywood's premier screenwriting instructor and story consultant. Over the last 25 years, more than 30,000 writers have attended his sold-out seminars around the world, with the American Film Institute declaring that Truby's "course allows a writer to succeed in the fiercely competitive climate of Hollywood." Called "the best script doctor in the movie industry," Truby regularly serves as a story consultant for major studios and production companies worldwide, and has been a script doctor and story consultant on more than 1,000 movies, sitcoms and television dramas for the likes of Disney, Sony Pictures, FOX, HBO, Alliance Atlantis, Paramount, the BBC, MTV and more. Truby's former students' work have earned more than $15 billion at the box office, and include the writers, directors and producers of such blockbusters as Pirates of the Caribbean, X-Men I/II/III, Shrek, The Surrogate (2012, with Halle Berry), House, Lost, Planet of the Apes, Scream, The Fantastic Four, The Negotiator, Star Wars, Sleepless in Seattle, Outbreak, Saving Milly and more. His classes regularly attract everyone from first-time writers to A-list writers, producers, directors, filmmakers, story executives, novelists, fiction writers and more. After a whirlwind tour that took him across Europe, Truby sat down for a full-length interview as he prepares for upcoming events in Los Angeles and New York.
Question: What questions should a writer ask him or herself prior to crafting their story?
John Truby: Most writers can't tell at the premise stage whether they've got a good story because they don't have the training to see the deep structural problems in the idea before writing it as a script. The extraordinary fact is 99% of writers fail at the premise. This is the great unknown gatekeeper that keeps most writers from being successful. If you screw up the premise, nothing you do later in the writing process will make any difference. The game's already over.
they immediately start writing script pages. A good story is linked under the surface so it builds steadily from beginning to end. Biggest mistake writers make. That's why. The idea doesn't have a clear desire line for the hero that extends throughout the story.000 movie and TV scripts." They never do. writer's block is almost always caused by not knowing where the story is going. But amateurs don't know that. Question: How much time and effort should a writer put into outlining their script and fleshing out their characters before actually writing the script? John Truby: Much more time and effort than most writers think. Don't make the mistake so many writers make of thinking. They think a script is all about finding the "high concept" premise. The idea doesn't have a strong main opponent. The seven steps are in your story right now. dig them out and make them say what you want them to say. and they inevitably write themselves into a dead-end 20-30 pages in. but they don't realize that high concept only gives you two or three big scenes. before writing script pages. and rewriting. So they don't know how to extend the high concept into a 100-page script.The biggest mistakes writers make at the premise: The idea is not original. you always want to start by figuring out the seven steps of your story. Question: You've consulted on over 1. What are the typical weaknesses you find in scripts? John Truby: I'll give you five. It's your job to find them. Also. The story idea the writer comes up with is not original. "I'll fix it in the rewrite. For every hour you put into prep work on your story. . Writers often use the wrong genre to develop the idea. or they impose a bunch of pre-determined genre beats onto the idea instead of finding the story events that are original to the idea. you save ten when it comes to writing. it. so when they get an idea.
plot and dialogue. so the plot fails to come out of character and the main character doesn't change. More importantly. That's why it's so important to figure out the story structure before you write the first draft." It's true you have to rewrite your script many times. That's why . all connected in some way but with each character being structurally different from the others. knowing the right order to rewrite. This is one of the dirty little secrets of screenwriting. and it's one of the biggest reasons many writers give up. Question: How important is the process of rewriting? John Truby: For most writers. the first thing most writers fix in the rewrite is the dialogue. That should be the last thing you fix. They are the all-stars of the story world. Writers always think they are the only person to experience this. while in fact it's the norm. It buys and sells genres. Part of the problem comes from writers following the conventional wisdom that "writing is rewriting. You have to know how to rewrite. genres are really good stories. Question: Why is it so important to master genres? John Truby: It goes back to the 1st rule of the entertainment business: it doesn't buy stars. Instead they should think of the hero as part of a web of characters. This is a disaster because once a script is written it's like cement.and they'll fix it in the rewrite. you have no chance of selling them your script. directors or writers.They don't know how to build the story on the seven major story structure steps. The other big reason why the second draft is often worse than the first comes from the fact that most writers don't realize that rewriting is a set of skills. just like crafting character. the second draft is worse than the first. First are the structural problems.just get it down on paper . among other things. and even here there is a definite order for how to rewrite to make certain that every draft is an improvement over the one that came before. If you don't know what Hollywood is really buying. It hardens in your mind and it's much harder to fix the problems. For example. But many writers think that they should write their first draft quickly . And that means. Genres are different kinds of stories. They think of the hero as a separate individual with a list of superficial character traits.
That's why you have to know these genres cold. the opponent. Plot is the sequence of events by which the hero tries to defeat the opponent and reach the goal. the key thematic question. each genre has its own set of unique story beats . Question: You've said writers often underestimate the importance of plot.anywhere from 8-15 . Why is it so important to learn. Some of the elements that determine the right genres for your story are the hero. I spend a great deal of time in my Master Class talking about how you tell which are the right genres for your unique idea. Most writers know the value of a strong main character and lean.that must be included in your script if you are to tell the story right. The two biggest mistakes writers make in plot is 1) Their story is episodic. and how do you approach teaching it? John Truby: Plot is the most underestimated of the major writing skills. which means the events are . Question: How do you determine what genre or genres your story is? John Truby: This can be very tricky. It's the artistry that sets you apart.Hollywood buys and sells them. The game is won by mastering story structure and genres. Plot is what makes the character's internal development pleasing to the audience. and most writers end up choosing the wrong genre for their story idea. Each genre takes the basic steps of story structure and twists them in unique ways. that tells the audience you are a real storyteller. and the unique story strategy inherent to each form. meaning events stand on their own but don't connect and build under the surface and 2) They hit the same beat. The bad news: Plot has more techniques you need to know than all the other major skills combined. the hero's goal in the story. hard-hitting dialogue. they think they'll just figure it out as they go. The good news: Every one of them can be learned as long as you are willing to put in the work. But when it comes to plot. Because genre is the single most important decision you make in developing a story idea. Also. which never happens. And mastering genres comes from specializing in 2 or 3 forms that highlight your strengths as a writer and express your philosophy of life.
It goes all the way back to the old romantic notion that art comes from divine intervention. the hero's surface actions while going after some kind of goal lead ultimately to character change within the hero. You know your structure is there to tell you if the creative jump you want to make is going to work. This way. Driving the plot doesn't mean a hero who takes all the action steps to succeed. structuring your story first is much more creative than just winging it. The fact is: art comes from craft. And it makes for a poor story because it means the opposition is doing very little to knock the hero off course. The results are not comparable. in fact. The second way you figure out the story structure so your creative bursts are linked to the right path. But don't you think everyday life pushes us around most of the time? In order for the audience to recognize itself in the story. shouldn't the story talk about that too? John Truby: This phrase is often misunderstood.superficially different but really all the same. the story has no personal meaning for the audience. Question: Why do some writers react negatively to the idea of structure? John Truby: They wrongly believe that it hurts creativity. the more the better. and come up with plot beats that will ultimately force that character change. Only the most action-oriented character does that. This builds conflict and forces . Result: no conflict and bad drama. When you have the right story structure for your script then each scene you write is moving you along the right path for your particular main character. The first way you write yourself into a dead-end about 2030 pages in. Question: You say character must drive the plot instead of being pushed around by the plot. Making the hero drive the plot means that the plot comes out of the weakness and need of the hero. In a good story the opponent will push the hero around a great deal. Ironically. If the writer doesn't make this connection between character and plot. because you have a strong foundation on which to take creative chances. It is practically inevitable and is one of the marks of an amateur. And the most important element of craft is structure.
Then go back to the novel and see if you want to include any of the non-structural events. all you would need to do is follow your friends around with a recording device and your dialogue would be guaranteed authentic. It is packed content. Study those beats and figure out if the novel's original structure needs to be fixed or changed in some way. I talk about a number of key writing exercises that help you find what is totally original to you. heightened talk.the hero to dig deeper to fix the great weakness that's ruining the hero's life. These may be in the script. First determine the deep structure of the novel. Just as a story is a highly selective sequence of events. And here's where it gets tricky. and that will kill your story. It sounds written. Could you please explain that? John Truby: If dialogue were real talk. So you need to learn the techniques for making highly selective language sound like it could be real. In my class. Question: What is the most important thing to know when you are adapting a book into a screenplay? John Truby: Entire books have been written on the subject of adapting a book into a screenplay. dialogue is selective. Dialogue with lots of content doesn't usually sound like real talk." They're in you. most writers . Incredibly. Question: How do writers unearth stories that want to be told? John Truby: Stories that want to be told are not "out there. so long as they contribute to the script's basic structure. Always the question arises: how do you remain true to the original material and still have the freedom to take advantage of the cinematic medium? The trick to adaptation is: find the bones. Why? Because it lacks content. Question: You write that dialogue isn't real talk. Those are the events that must be in the script. Mark every scene where a key structure step occurs. rather it's highly selective language that could be real. It would also be boring.
Fantasy. and it's a fatal mistake. Can you give us a detailed rundown of what you cover and why people keep coming back over and over? John Truby: The morning of the first day is where we set the foundation for a great script. . which are one of the secrets to crafting a surprising and unique plot. the class covers all the professional techniques in the same order that you would write your script. It's not easy. In the afternoon. we go through the 11 major genres on which 99% of movies are based. Love. The morning of the second day is devoted to plot. Then we go through the techniques you must know to turn that original seed into a professionally told story. because 99% of scripts fail right there. Masterpiece. students have a precise set of tools that they can apply to any story they write. Crime. And I believe at the end of the class. Horror. but it can be done and it's the only recipe I know that works. Then we go through the five steps to creating powerful characters. An original idea professionally told is an unbeatable combination. We cover the 7 steps of deep structure and the story beats of the 3 major variations of deep structure. Once this foundation is set. we start with the techniques for developing a winning premise. These include Action. and how to transcend your genre so you stand above the crowd. In day three. where many writers have tremendous difficulty. whether they started as a beginner or as a professional. Thriller and Mixed Genre. they are substantially better writers than they were before the class. some key structure techniques for writing each one. the single most powerful set of tools in all of storytelling. Afternoon of day two starts with a discussion of story shapes. Science Fiction. When the three days are over. Comedy. Then we dive into the techniques for constructing scenes and writing sharp dialogue.don't know. Detective. the key to every good script. This is where we learn the 22 steps of every great story. Here we get into what each genre really means under the surface. Question: Your 3-day master class on story is legendary. Myth.
My class is all about being practical. Part of what makes the class so powerful and useful to writers is that the techniques don't produce cookie cutter scripts that no one wants to read.which shows people solving life problems .and breaking it down into specific techniques that affect an audience. So each script is original and surprising at the same time. That's because the techniques are all focused on how your unique main character drives an intriguing plot. no matter what genre. Every time. It's about taking the most complex craft in the world . . Every script.Why do people keep coming back? Because for many writers it's the only thing they've found that works.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.