I attended a brief presentation by Truby today. While afterwards I don’t think I counted out 9 story keys in my notes, I’m sure he gave them to us. Truby offers a nice middle finger salute to three act structure, which is nice for some of us. Here are my notes, which I hope will be helpful to others.
1. Movies are a star-based system and you need a star to succeed. This is not true.
2. It’s all about who you know. Who you know is the “most over-rated element” in a screenwriters success. Many haven’t mastered the craft by the time they meet the right person
What is film? The art of change, the art of juxtaposition. As opposed to other media, Truby claims film is “pure story.”
3-Act structure leads to a weak plot, because it emphasizes only 2-3 plot points. 7-12 major plot points is much better. 3-act structure also doesn’t have a genre map, when most Hollywood movies involve 2-3 genres.
99% of movies fail at the premise
Success in writing means 1. finding your originality and 2. controlling your creativity.
To do so, create a wish-list of stories, lines of dialog, characters, etc. Then look for common elements and patterns, repeating characters or genres. Find out what you care about.
Genre. Many ideas fail because they’re developed in the wrong genre. Ways to identify genre:
Hero’s desire — best key
What follows below is the hero’s desire based on genre:
Comedy: To gain success or romance, with humorous results.
Action: To engage in combat
Crime: To catch a criminal
Detective: To find the truth (genre now only exists in television, primarily)
Fantasy: to explore an imaginary world
Horror: to defeat a monster
Masterpiece (not technically a genre): To find a deeper reality contrasting time/perspective/system
Myth: to go on a journey, ultimately leading to oneself
SciFi: to deal with the tools of a world
Thriller: to escape attack
Love and comedy are easy to cheat, because they are not naturally very plotty. These are usually the secondary genres in multi-genre stories.
Most high concept premises are failures, because the high concept only suggests 2-3 scenes.
To make your movie work, figure out what the moral problem is. What is the moral decision your main character will make. Then create a group of opponents that deal with the moral problem in different ways.
Plot: A second act issue usually means there’s a problem with the premise or the first 15 pages.
Plot is: the choreography between the hero and all the opponents. It is the interweaving of how the opponents attack the hero.
When plotting, focus on what the opposition is doing, but keep as much of the opposition hidden as possible. The more you hide, the more reveals you get into your story.
Reveals are key to plot. Make sure your reveals build in intensity.
Dialog – 80-90% of story is learned from structure, not dialog.
-dialog should not do the job of structure.
-dialog should be lean and subtle. It is the icing, not the cake.
Rewrite – Whoever said writing is rewriting made a “big mistake.” Who would say “Building a house is rebuilding a house?”
– You need to do the difficult story work up front before going to script
Find deep structure — precise set of tools to track how main character defeats an opponent, accomplishes a goal, and develops emotionally and morally in the process
Note: character changes through the plot
Note: the change is both emotional and moral
Truby teaches the 22 building blocks of any story, which helps you figure out the best sequences.
He also teaches to write original genre stories. Genre is what movie people buy and sell. Genres have requisite beats. Hitting the beats is called paying your dues, but you need to twist it. He suggests picking one primary genre, then layering in the other genres in a hybrid genre movie. He also suggests specializing in one genre, or 3 tops, because each genre is so complex. He wants everyone to write fromt their strength.
Storytelling is a lifetime commitment and successful people continue to learn new techniques (excuse me while I pat myself on the back).