I have been working on a dizzying number of projects of late.
In addition to my own writing, I hear or read dozens of movie ideas, treatments, and scripts every day. And my mental muscle in dealing with them gets a regular workout. Physically, I may need more days at the gym, but mentally I am buff! I am chisled! I am the Mr. Universe of story solving.
What all this brain exercise is good for is quickness to hear and see problems. This method, the Save the Cat! method of telling stories, really works. And the 50-point checklist we’ve developed in-house to expose any story’s weakness is so valuable. If I were a financier with a movie about to go into production, I would make sure I went down that list before any script was given the green light. No matter where your story is, or where you are — from the studio level, to the individual writer — the weak points of a script are the same. And if you are not looking for ways to fix them, the result can only be less than they could be.
If you are not sending your hero all the way back to show all the problems of his world at the beginning, I will send you there to explore them. If you have all action and no meaning, I will make you look at your Theme, and figure out what B Story it ties into, and why it is not connecting to the overall plot. If you are not delivering on the premise you pitched me, I will ask you to camp out in your Fun and Games section for a while and figure out why you are not giving me the “poster” — and force you to examine the real question: Is your premise not there to begin with?
And of course when I tell you this, very often your reaction is not a happy one.
You had it all worked out! It was perfect! Everyone else liked it! Why, Blake, don’t you?
And I can only say one thing in reply, at least in my head: Resistance is futile!
But resistance also builds 12 story muscles 12 ways.
The pushback between you and me is positively gorgeous! We argue and your story begins to build muscles too. It starts to get handsomer and more quick on its feet, and the awkward pause you had while explaining it suddenly goes away because I’ve forced you to vet yourself, and given you the means to do so, and expose your blind spots, and see the story for what it really is — or isn’t.
And after it’s all over, and you say, You were right! I smile. I didn’t do anything. You did it. I didn’t find your fix. I suggested a few. But you did the work. I just pushed back and made you build your own story muscles. Be proud of yourself.
You had the guts to try something new. You dared to give up your “contempt prior to investigation” that so many lesser writers never got over. And now you can stand up taller than before all by yourself.
Resistance, turns out, may be futile, but it’s also fertile and gives birth to an amazing array of better stories, better told, and with a better chance not only of selling but succeeding!