Nicholas Reicher

Writing Your Next Blockbuster Film or Novel

Category: Screenplay (Page 1 of 2)

The Truby Rules

“Most screenplays fail at the concept level.”

This is something I’ve been seriously thinking about lately.

There’s almost a mathematical precision to writing movies, and Truby is right about this issue.

  • You must have a hook, something that makes people want to see the movie.
  • There must be conflict.
  • The audience must care about the character, and want to see them accomplish their goal.
  • There must be opposition.
  • The Characters must change or learn something as a result of the movie.

If you miss any of the 5, you’ve got a major problem. The story will fail.

To a certain extent, novels fall into the same needs. What’s the hook? Blake Snyder was of the opinion that irony was a key component.

A man loves a princess, but she’s engaged to be married to a prince. It’s good, but it’s missing something.

So let’s make him go from serf to Pirate Captain a couple of years later.

A common serf becomes an infamous pirate captain to win the love of his life, who is engaged to be married to a prince that is plotting to kill her. He must overcome challenges and defeat champions and an army to rescue her before the evil prince’s plan succeeds.

Got enough hook in there? Yes, it’s the Princess Bride.

A boxer wants a shot at the big time.

um… not enough.

Okay, lets make him partially deaf, a common every man, and make his opponent the heavy weight champion of the world. Every scene must contrast the champ with the best equipment, the best training, and the common every man boxer in a room lit by one light bulb and a would be retired manager. And it’s a fight to win not only the title, but avoid being killed in the ring and win the love of his life.


A man must expose the corruption of a Southern Asian society, because people are starving to death.

It’s an admirable plot, but you’re lacking the hook, the opposition, the conflict. Put some kind of warlord in there, actively trying to stop the reporter, add a “B” story, and you’ve got a movie or a novel. It actually got filmed, bombed at the box office, and I honestly can’t recall hearing anyone say they’ve watched it more than once. “Year of living dangerously.” I’m guessing it got sold on the strength of the title.

Karl Iglesias actually in one seminar takes people through the steps of developing a hook for a story, and proves “you don’t need special training to see a hook.” He reads through several movies that were currently in production, and of them all, I think only one of them got filmed. But he was right – you could go through it and hear – “this one has a hook, this one doesn’t.”

Cool Software You Need To Own

You know, there’s been a lot of software I’ve used and loved over the years.

Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

 My first PC I shared with my dad. He bought a spreadsheet program, and I actually used it as a word processor for a while, until we got one. I also had a Commodore 64, with all the peripherals. I even had the plotter! And I had some kind of inexpensive word processor for it, I don’t remember what kind. When I’d written my first star trek novel on it, I took in a sample chapter to New England Tech, to see if I could challenge out of the English classes. It worked.

Fast forward to the 90’s. I got a demo of Sidekick, which I wanted, but I didn’t have the money to buy it. Apparently, you can get it for free now, but it’s so outdated and probably won’t run on a 64 bit system. There was Oil Change, which I thought was the coolest program. That one was like $10, but we got it, and all it did was find updates as they came out for your programs, and install them.
Tell you what, they should come out with it again.

I guess I’m a gearhead. I like cool programs, and I can find myself getting fascinated by them. So, what am I using right now?

Evernote. Evernote was one of those things I thought, “Naah…” but gave myself a week to try. I was convinced by day two. One of the first things I’m going to do when I start making more money by writing is to get the next level of service in Evernote. It’s $3 a month, but as I recently wrote about all these pay to upgrade programs and services, you can find yourself paying hundreds a month for all these upgrades and services! Evernote is your brain on the internet, literally. It is amazing. I use it for everything – far more than I did with One-Note. Many diehards are switching to One-Note, but I’m staying put. I went the other way. I use it to clip articles I want to read later. I can write snippets in it I’ll use over and over again. One thing I keep in Evernote is the code I use for the photo credits on this website! Copy, paste. I brainstorm in it for movie scripts and novels. I often write out my beat sheets in Evernote as well. House hunting – I clip screen captures into Evernote of particular houses for sale. I’ve stored all my license numbers and serial numbers of every program I’ve purchased into Evernote. I store passwords and login names to websites in Evernote. And I can set up reminders to myself that I need to re-read an article at a later time so I don’t forget about it!

Thunderbird. I prefer having my email on my computer – that way my ISP can’t eliminate my emails. Some of them I’m even moving over to Evernote, so that way I’ll always have them. And you can even set up Senditlater, which… sends emails out later on, at a specified time. I don’t know why that’s important, but I have that capability.

Scrivener. I almost don’t even use any other word processor any more. Scrivener was $40, and I thought at first that I could write better using Ywriter. Once I began poking at Scrivener, I realized how amazing it was. If you want to change the way you write forever for the better, here’s your answer. I write all my blog posts and social media tweets/posts on it as well. Trust me on this one. People who make the plunge and buy it all say the same thing – you can’t go back to any other word processor.

Dropbox. I recently had my Windows 8.1 get corrupted, and that took an entire night of redoing and reconfiguring everything. I’d gotten Dropbox recenly before that, and everything I had in Dropbox was untouched by the disaster. I finally set up Scrivener to back up automatically to Dropbox. Every program I use that makes automated backups all goes into Dropbox. And the great news is, when I upgrade my laptop and install dropbox, once I sign in, all my files will download again!

Final Draft. I’ve got the latest version, and very glad to have it. They got with Blake Snyder and added his “save the Cat” beat board to it, and I actually use it to death! I won’t write in the script until I’ve used the beat board part of Final Draft. I actually find myself wondering how FD users ever managed to live without it! I save all my files to Dropbox, and this way my producer knows when I’m working on the script – he gets little popups that tell him when I’m modifying the script.


These are five programs I can’t live without. I also use a Bible program because I’m a man of faith, but in respect of those who may not be, I’ll avoid discussing that one as well
What programs do you use instead of these? What program can you just not live without?

5 Must Have Computer Programs for the Novelist

Like Michael Hyatt, I strongly believe in recommending programs I use a lot. I’ve found if I keep silent about a program, it just… disappears! Like Quicksite Website Builder. I loved that program back in the 1990’s.
So what am I using, and for what? Let’s take a look!

Scrivener. I can’t talk enough about how great this program is. I’ve written blog posts both recommending it, and trying to expose the madness of trying to use Libreoffice, Open Office or Microsoft Office to write a book. Scrivener has a million features that speed up the writing process alarmingly. No more “seven years to write a book”! Scrivener has a corkboard to pin ideas and scenes on, templates for locations and characters to fill in descriptions and bio’s, and more! I also write this blog in it. The eBooks I’ll be giving away in the future will also be written in Scrivener. And once I take the plunge into social media, I’ll be planning my writers’ platform campaigns on it.
Dropbox. Dropbox is more than just a cloud backup service. If you connect to a publisher or a producer via a shared folder, they know when you’re working on something. Just enough to make you paranoid when you get the dreaded message, “so and so edited your shared file…”. A recent corruption of my Windows and the mess from resetting everything has made me a sincere believer in Cloud Storage. I save all my movie scripts and my Scrivener writing files to Dropbox!
Evernote. The description of this I got from Michael Hyatt really wasn’t enough. He described it as a “note taking research tool” – but Evernote’s staff describes this as “Your brain on the internet”. They’re not wrong! I used to print PDF’s on my hard drive for later study and research, but that stopped when I got Evernote. Many Evernote users are transferring to OneNote, which makes no sense to me… I’m finding a million uses for Evernote. Seriously, I hope this service keeps going for another 50 years, so I don’t have to live without it! I clip images, web pages, Zillow house listings, articles, bookmarks! I make to do lists, notes to my self, journal entries (when I remember to! Aaaugh!), ideas, lists, appointments, contact info… and a hundred other things I’m forgetting.
Final Draft. There is no substitute for writing Screenplays. I think that Screenplay writing is a necessary skill for novelists to learn – nothing else will teach you how to be CONCISE with your words, and hard hitting with dialogue, beats and emotional impact. I know there’s other software out there for writing Screenplays… but this is really the only one you should get. Save up for it, and try Fade In until you can afford Final Draft.
Dramatica. It’s huge, bulky, poorly explained it its documentation, clunky, ugly… and there’s no substitute to make you THINK your way through your novels! It asks a million really annoying questions about how your characters interact. Your supporting character has a character arc … so how does that impact the protagonist? ARGH! A Million questions like that! It’s great. Expensive. Use Contour while you save up for it.


These are the five programs I cannot do without as a writer!

What programs do you use and recommend? Do you have a different use for the ones above? Discuss it below!

How to Organize Evernote to get Maximum Results

I’ve only recently found Evernote. Before this, I had a series of programs I used for this kind of thing, such as Notebrowser, then OneNote. Then I attended a Michael Hyatt on-line seminar, and he recommended Evernote.
So the next day, I downloaded it, gave it a try. I looked up how to use it. By Day three, I had deleted Notebrowser and OneNote off of my computer, and imported all of my data into Evernote.
So, how can you maximize your use of Evernote?

  1. Clipper browser plug in. This is an obvious “duh” moment. Get this for whatever browser you’re using. This way, you can download articles (I use Simplified Article for almost everything), and bookmarks when you get to the end of your free limit. Like Dropbox, I probably should get a premium account, because for two months running, I’ve managed to get within 5 megabytes of my limit on the free account. When I’m looking at houses on Zillow, I sometimes do a screen-shot. But that’s it. Screen-shot, bookmark, simplified article.
  2. Categories. You only have so many categories you can make. Me, I use categories and tags interchangeably. Evernote calls their categories “notebooks”, and you can make a stack of notebooks. So, under the writing stack, Ill have notebooks for articles (I’m writing), writer’s college notebook (for any on-line courses I take), and Writing. Think of it this way… notebooks are the rough category, tags are the identifiers for specifics. I’ve actually found the key to finding whatever I want is to have LESS Notebooks, and MORE tags. Michael Hyatt recently came to the same conclusion. I have a total of 8 stacks, and 9 Notebooks not associated with stacks. The Key is tags.
  3. Tags. Here’s where you get specific. You almost can’t have too many tags. I have right now about 140. You need to schedule one day a month to review your clippings and make sure everything is correctly tagged according to mentally how you want your tags to work. Like stacks, you can nest your tags. For instance, under Godzilla, you could put Mothra. Do your searches for things under Tags, and you’ll find what you’re looking for a lot faster!
    Templates. You need to have a notebook for Templates, and drag it to your task bar. See my article on Evernote Templates for why.
  4. Timers… you can schedule something in Evernote. Why? You can clip more simplified articles in one afternoon than you can read in a month. So tag them “to be read” and important ones… set a timer! It will remind you to read it.
  5. Journaling. If I could remember to do this daily, this could be a powerful tool for later work! I just keep forgetting to do this. Create a notebook and call it 2017 and just title each note with the current date.
    Checklists. I can make checklists of to-do’s, things to buy, story ideas, conference calls, etc
  6. Note taking. I often use my Evernote to take notes on things I discuss with my producer during the skype calls.
  7. Article Writing. I can plan out articles, and even write them in Evernote.

As you can see, there’s a LOT you can do with Evernote! But be aware… Proper planning prevents poor performance. Organize your Evernote, and you’ll be surprised how much more productive you can be!

How do you use Evernote? Discuss it here!

How to Master The Art of Working Harder than You Need To in Writing!

At last, the secret is revealed here! How to take years to finish your book, face frustration and delays, and the right software to keep you from finishing your novel!


A lot of people MUST be, from what I’m seeing. Let me tell you a little story from earlier this spring.

I took an online class with East Anglia University about Screenwriting, and the subject of Screenwriting software came up. The instructor (Michael) explained that the tab system for Screenplays is a little difficult, but if you just buy Magic Movie Screenwriter or Final Draft,
1. they automatically do the formatting for you
2. both have a lot of tools that reduce the workload,
3. and Final Draft is the industry standard.

No kidding, someone asked in the class discussion part – “What software should I use?”
I answered “Final Draft – you stand a better chance of being taken seriously if you just use Final Draft’. I also explained there’s a no-frills, lower cost of screen-writing software called Fade In you can use until you can afford Final Draft. And of course, Final Draft has many features you won’t find anywhere else that save a LOT of time.

Someone came in after me, and immediately chimed in that with only 6,000 hours of template formating and creation, you can get Microsoft Word to work almost kind of. Everyone began to answer excitedly, “I’m going to use Microsoft Word!!!”

Dumbfounded? It’s true! Move on to Jerry Jenkins, Michael Hyatt, and many others. In many, many, many articles I’ve read, no kidding, authors / novelists all are beginning to chime in and say, “If you want to buy one piece of inexpensive software that will DRASTICALLY change the way you write, stay tuned, I’ll give you the name of that software.” You read the article or booklet, and finally, they all tell you the same thing – if you DRASTICALLY want to change the way you write forever, then you want to buy Scrivener (no kidding, I’m writing this blog entry in Scrivener now!).

So what are most authors whose books aren’t finished after six years of writing still using? Microsoft Word.

Microsoft Word is good for BASIC tasks, and for BUSINESS writing, where linear flow is no problem. Want to drastically reduce the time and work to write a Business plan? I can tell you one $40 piece of software that will impact your job positively, and allow you to write that business plan FASTER. Answer – Scrivener.
Want to write a book? Fiction or non-fiction? Answer – Scrivener.

Want to write a movie screenplay? Answer – Fade In until you can afford it, then Final Draft.

Until you’ve tried these two software titles, you have absolutely NO IDEA how much time you’re WASTING using Microsoft Word, Open Office, LIbre Office etc. . Using Microsoft Word to write a book or Screenplay is like using a chainsaw to chop down a tree,, instead of pulling the chain and letting the chainsaw do it. It’s like buying a cart, then putting the horse in the cart and tugging it down the street.

Writing a book (fiction or non-fiction) with Microsoft Word or Open Office was okay ten years ago. You didn’t have Scrivener. You didn’t have Ywriter.

Those programs are out now, and they ENCOURAGE creativity. They ENCOURAGE editing. They ENCOURAGE speed and work-flow.

Writing a book or Screenplay with Microsoft Word (six times more expensive than Scrivener) is senseless. It costs more, slows you down, makes editing nearly impossible, and you cannot visualize your workflow as well.
Yes, you’ve got ONE DOCUMENT. Quickly, find the section where the scuba diver is pulling the shark tooth out of the sunken ship, and the head pops out, and he loses the tooth!
Unless you spend the extra time to write an index of scenes and update it daily… what page is it on? Get there in two seconds. Ready…. Go. TIME! Find it yet?

No? Because I’m already editing the scene in Scrivener.

Look at your document in Word. Who is in the scene at the coroner’s office? Quick, answer that. Who’s in that scene? I’ll wait, while you scroll through your document to first find the scene, then read it. And I’ll tell you that in less time than it took to write this sentence, I found the scene in Scrivener, took a look at the index card, and saw it was the Coroner, Chief Brody, and Hooper.

The truth about writing is that it is enjoyable, exciting, and fulfilling. The secret is to use software that enables you to look at not only PORTIONS of your book quickly, but also the entire project when you need to. Scrivener and Ywriter both have tools that allow you to focus on things like the who (is in the scene), the what (object in the scene), the where (scene location), when (the scene is) and the why (what happens in the scene) are ALL available at a glance in both programs.
You CAN’T do that in standard word processors.

If you want this benefit, act now. Get YWriter for free. Then when you’re convinced, buy Scrivener (it’s just $40) and find how much more rapidly and confidently you’re finishing that novel. I easily hit my 1,667 words a day, thanks to the word count indicator in Scrivener, and often shoot past that. It’s more work to try that in Microsoft Word.


Give these programs an honest, dedicated try. You’ll be convinced once and for all as you see your page count JUMP. I can finish a 150,000 word novel in three months with Scrivener. How long is it taking you to finish your novel?

Reading Alien part II

It was unique to me to see how both O’Bannon and Hill-Giler set up the tension (I think almost all of it was O’Bannon in the original script).
The Nostromo (originally the Snark) has only so much in terms of food, oxygen, and water. The reason is – it’s a sleeper ship. The supplies are enough for them to get the ship on course, go to sleep, do the mining, get it back on course, go to sleep, then wake up at home, very rich.
There’s a time element to the movie. What happens if they don’t get the alien on time? They die from lack of oxygen.
There’s also the element of the Alien. They can’t kill him – he has highly concentrated acid for blood.
And very quickly in the script, the Alien breaks into the food stores locker and eats their food. I kind of missed that part in the movie theater, but it’s in there.
Captain Dallas is killed, and only he has the code to unlock the computer. Supposedly.
In the shooting script, Ash is getting more and more secretive as it goes along, and now you’re getting tense, wondering what he’s up to.
Plus, they have to get the Alien before he kills all of them.
In both scripts, there’s an incident where the airlock is opened, and something blocks it open. In the first script, it’s the body of a crew member crushed by the door. In the shooting script, it’s an air cylinder.
Now they have much less oxygen – less than twelve hours. Times running out… and they’re running out of crew. It’s the “three little indians” scenario – they’ve got to get the monster, and as more people die, everyone begins counting on someone else to die so it buys them more time.
And Ash goes wild and tries to kill them, after Ripley uses the data key and figures out the code. THe computer tells her Ash is protecting the alien, so now they have to fight a robot.
Ripley hears the last of them killed, finds Dallas, but he’s about to release another alien. She kills him, and now has to hurry onto the lifeboat.
And the Alien is on it.
No wonder the movie was a hit.

Why did I stop to read a script that is 38 years old? Because Karl Iglesias recommended it in one of his books! Apparently, the narrative stacking method pioneered in that Script (or at least made famous by it) is now the preferred method by Script Readers. And whatever makes Script readers happy… gets you sold!

And out of your day job.

Script Storage Locations
I got these from Michael Heiser’s book

My Cat

Right now, my cat is sitting in my office. My wife bought a little window bed you screw into the window ledge, and right now he’s sprawled out without a care in the world.

I, on the other hand, have only written 4 pages last night in my script, and I needed 7. So today, I’m 3 pages behind the curve! I need to be at page 28 by the end of the day.

Seven Scrivener Tweaks

I’ve got a couple of followers who are writers themselves, so… here’s some Scrivener tweaks that will help out a lot!

  1. Where are you backing up to? If you haven’t specified a directory for Scrivener to back up to, it’s not backing up. it’s just overwriting what you just saved. Make a directory in Dropbox called “Scrivener backups”. Set all of your Scrivener projects to backup to that directory. After you do the first one, the rest seem to default to that. The backups are saved in a dated zip file.
  2. Keywords. These are not project keywords – I’ll deal with that next – but these are keywords. Enter keywords like “Location”, “characters, “POV”. Now when you go to Scrivenings view (third icon), theres a scroll bar with a little box at the top. Click that box, and you’ll see the keywords you just entered. You now can track who what when where why how all tracked in your Scrivenings view. Make sure you check the “word count” option, so you can see your word count per scene.
  3. Project Keywords. Okay, I just found this one recently. Under the Project menu, there is an option. project keywords. Enter in all of your major and minor characters. You can edit the little color dots – make sure you do, so that the colors are all distinct. Now, in the inspector, click on the key icon, and… (two ways – number one) click on the plus icon, and type in the name of a character in that scene. (way number two) click on the wheel and open the project keywords box, and drag the names of all the characters in that scene into the keyword box in the inspector. Why? Go to your corkboard, and look at the right hand side of every notecard! You now can see at a glance who’s in your scenes!
  4. Full Screen. I make Scrivener all colorful. But when I’m trying to concentrate on a scene, I go to full screen to start typing. You can choose a backdrop to it, or leave it black. Try both. See what makes you more productive. You can also make it translucent, so you can see your scrivener underneath it. Choose what you like. Or constantly change it. The idea is, to see what makes you more creative, and sometimes changing the display makes you more creative.
  5. Apply icon colors to… This one’s a favorite. The plain Scrivener looks good, but i like to see it more colorful. So, I apply the icon colors to almost everything. Chapters are Green, scenes are blue. Make SURE you’re taking advantage of the labels to determine “chapter” and “scene”. this is how Scrivener is set up, to deal with them in this manner.
  6. Icons – you can add icons to Scrivener, and apply those icons to a scene. I don’t do this, but apparently some people love this. You just have to install icon sets to Scrivener, and then apply them to each chapter-scene.
  7. Cover Creator – This only works in the “Compile to epub” format. Of course, you have to make your own graphic for the cover. I played with it a little, but right now, I’m working on writing and editing,and not ready to self publish.

These should get you started! What Scrivener tweaks have YOU discovered?

The difference between a novel and a screenplay

I read a throwaway comment yesterday on the difference between writing a fiction novel, and writing a screenplay.

Novels are internal – screenplays external.

Yeah. Good description. I can go for a couple paragraphs on how someone FEELS, on their thoughts, their emotions, their fears. i’ve got one scene where I dwelled on the fear a character experiences when armed troops raid their hideout and capture everyone, while one man hides in another building, wishing he had a weapon, wishing he knew how to use it, and hating himself because he just wasn’t a movie character who could dive into the fray, shoot everyone, and not break a sweat.

In a movie, it’s reduced to action, character name, and VERY truncated dialogue! Example…

CHARACTER crouches beneath the window, peering out. Fear is evident in his face.


No, no, Nooooo!

Like that.

Books have lots of dark sections on white paper. Screenplays should look like lots of white paper and isolated small dark sections. I’ve read that the people who review movie scripts simply flip through it at first wtihout reading it. If there’s not enough white paper evident… in the rejection pile it goes.

I bolded the above so you could see the difference between a screenplay sample, and my book style of writing above that. And some directors even get annoyed if I put the “Fear” part in the book. The director wants as little direction from the screenplay writer as possible. It’s called Wrylies in the industry.

And apparenlty, they all want VERY strong action verbs in every sentence. “ran” is better than “Went to.” “slid the book across the desk” is better than “Handed”.


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