“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.”