Monday, October 23, 2006

Plot Twists

Okay, life took over for a little while, but now I'm finally able to get back to the blog. Every once in a while I need to leave the revolution and pay some bills back on the home front.


Here's a subject that is near and dear to my heart -- plot twists.

Other than "The Sixth Sense," which seems to appear on everyone's list, what are the twists that really took your breath away? They don't have to be the ending; sometimes it's that moment in the middle when the whole film spins off in an unexpected direction.

Being a big Twilight Zone fan, there is nothing that stays in my memory as much as a great unexpected twist that sheds light on the entire story. I passionately hunt out those possibilities in nearly every story I write, because those are the moments that grab me most. So here's what I'd like to know:

1) What are you favorite twists (film and television)?
2) What made the twist work?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Godfather

It's interesting how and when the inciting incident is introduced in films of different genres and lengths. I was just watching The Godfather the other night and I noticed how 45 minutes go by before Don Corleone is shot. That's 45 minutes, and no one complains that it takes too long, because we are busy enjoying:

a) the interaction of the characters and their hidden world
b) the introduction of the Sollozzo subplot
c) the Corleone family dynamic

You'd damn well better be entertaining and a master of your craft if you're going to put your inciting incident 45 minutes into the film.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Inciting Incident

What better way to start off this blog than with a discussion about inciting incidents? That moment when the protag’s world is turned upside-down and they must commit themselves to a goal. Whether it’s getting the girl, or getting the killer, this is the moment that sets the story in motion. The inciting incident in an average (110 page) script, comes in at about page ten. That means you have ten precious pages to set up the characters, the world, the status quo before you rock the boat with your inciting incident.

In Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, it’s the moment when Frodo must take on the responsibility of the ring and leave the Shire. In Star Wars, it’s the moment when Luke gets the distress message from Leia. In The Sixth Sense, it’s when Bruce Willis gets shot. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana is offered the job of finding the ark of the covenant.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. As McKee mentions in his wonderful book “Story”, the inciting incident for Rocky (the offer to fight Apollo Creed) comes in rather late, so the first thirty minutes are spent getting to know Rocky and Adrian. It’s the rare exception.

This is a rather easy exercise in most films. Find those moments in a few films, just as an exercise in film analysis, and post them here for reference. Can you think of any that were handled exceptionally? Any that failed miserably?

Inaugural Post

Let’s talk about the craft.

I hope to create an environment that is stimulating and thought-provoking. What are your favorite films and what makes them tick? What are the standards of spec script writing and how are they changing? Real screenwriters are passionate about their craft. They strive to feed a beast that will never be satisfied, but can sometimes be tamed. Keep your flamethrower at home, but feel free to rant. Share your thoughts, your tirades, and your dreams.