The late, great William Goldman. The Godfather of using screenplay format however the hell he we want.

I wrote a Medium story I wrote a few years back on the philosophy behind the IMPROVING THE READ workshop on April 24th.

It is worth a read, but what I don’t discuss in that story is WHY I am so adamant about teaching this material and why I think it needs to be more widely taught.

I started teaching this workshop after an experience I had when I took a two-year break from writing in the mid-2000s. I had burned more than a few bridges and work had dried up. After 8 years in the business, it looked like…

I was responding to a post on a WGA Facebook group and my thoughts just kept going and going. It was long, and buried in a thread and I knew no one was going to read it.

I am not sure anyone will read this either, of course, but I thought this might at least be a better place for these thoughts.

The writer in question was refreshingly honest in explaining why he was backing the “Forward Together” slate of Phyliss Nagy and the others.

He basically didn’t think we could win.

He believed that packaging fees would continue unabated…

The second in a series of online screenwriting workshops will Saturday, April 24th, 2021. This workshop will focus exclusively on Improving The Read of your script.

The primary mission of the screenwriter has changed.

It is no longer to create a blueprint for production. It’s true that some A-list writers have this luxury, and TV writers certainly do, as their scripts are always production drafts. …

Arguably the poster child for single-minded focus and RESILIENCE in a character.

By the end of your story, one of the primary character traits your protagonist should exhibit is resilience.

Why is that? How interesting would it be if EVERY main character in cinema had this trait?

As it turns out, it’s VERY interesting.

First, resilience is the trait that audience’s admire the most. They have a tremendous emotional response to it. In this sense, resilience is audience pleasing and pleasing your audience is a good thing. Don’t be one of those people who doesn’t want to do that.

Second, and far more importantly, if your character DOESN’T exhibit resilience, it means…

“It can be subtle. As long as it’s obvious.” — Billy Wilder

Many young writers struggle to be decisive in the moments that populate their screenplays. They find it challenging to openly declare and dramatize what a single moment is about. When I push them to do so they almost always say something to the effect of, “I didn’t want to be too obvious,” or, “I didn’t want to be too on the nose.”

This is so common I thought it would worth addressing in its own post:

To begin with, who started the rumor that ‘subtle’ was some kind of goal in and of itself? I can’t think of any film…

It is about the emotional reaction to the plot. The character’s reaction and the audience’s reaction.

Too often, the new writer thinks MORE plot will save them. This is rarely, if ever, true. One of my biggest realizations from breaking down the structure of screenplays was seeing just how simple the plots actually are.

The only thing that gives plot value is that there is an emotional reaction to it. Whether it’s an event, a bit of information, whatever. It affects how a character feels and therefore affects a character’s behavior. And that emotional reaction needs time.

Don’t rush by…

Structure is perhaps the most teachable aspect of screenwriting. I suspect this is the primary reason it gets so much attention in screenwriting education. So many of the other aspects of the craft (Characterization, dialogue, and the all-important “voice”, among other things) can often rely more on god given talent and personal experience. Not so, structure! Story structure can be explained in a book!

But mastering structure is a whole other matter. …

Structure is your friend. Structure is there to help you tell your story in the best way possible. Structure is not formula, though thousands of years of storytelling has taught us a few best practices for the craft.

Simply defined:

Story Structure is choosing what the audience knows and when they know it in order to maximize dramatic effect.

That’s it. That’s all structure is. What the audience knows and when.

You will use structure whether you like it or not. You really have no choice. …

A scene from the original trilogy.

Let me preface this with three key things.

First, there are MAJOR SPOILERS here. If you haven’t seen the film, don’t read further. Frankly, I’m surprised you even clicked.

Second, while the original trilogy were important films of my childhood, I am only a casual adult fan of the franchise. I played with the Kenner action figures as a boy, but when I grew out of that, I lost interest in most things Star Wars. I never collected memorabilia and never had any desire to explore the Extended Universe. I didn’t mind the prequels. They were fine, just not special…

Tom Vaughan

A Texas screenwriter hiding out in Los Angeles. Co-Writer of WINCHESTER now available on digital. Sports fan of all teams Houston. #GoCoogs

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store