The Power of Truth Book – New for 2012 – Excerpt

My upcoming trade paperback, The Power of Truth: Creating Characters Who are Detectives, Secret Keepers, Skeptics, and More is in final galley form.  The book discusses at length what a Power of Truth Story is and what the emotional parameters of Power of Truth character are.

In brief:

Power of Truth characters believe the world is filled with hidden dangers, secretive enemies and concealed pitfalls. This character’s philosophy might be stated: “Everyone is hiding something.” “Trust no one.” “Question everything.” The story keeps these characters off balance, doubting those around them, and uncertain about their own perceptions.

A character driven by the Power of Truth is often the protagonist in mystery stories, mistaken or hijacked identity stories, investigative stories and detective stories. In an ensemble cast, these characters are frequently secret keepers, strategists, counselors or advisers. In whatever role they play, they look beneath the surface of things to discover what lies below or is somehow hidden from view. They believe that nothing is ever what it seems.

Many other different kinds of films and novels deal with investigation, crime, conspiracy, and deception. Not all of them are Power of Truth stories. The key is to determine what the mystery, the chase, the crime, or the investigation reveals about the main character:  What is actually at the root of the illegal act, the murder, the conspiracy, the unusual phenomena, or the disturbing occurrence?

What does the solution — and how that solution is obtained — reveal about the protagonist’s view of the world, about his or her presumed place in the world or self-identified role, or about the character’s philosophy of life and love?

How is the protagonist’s essential human struggle portrayed over the course of the story? What does the story tells us about what that character values most highly?

The answers to these questions determine what kind of story it is and what kind of protagonist pursues this line of inquiry.  Understanding and using story specifics and clearly delineating your character creates the kind of compelling story that  are emotionally authentic and which “feel real” to audiences.

POWER OF CONSCIENCE STORIES

Erin Brockovich, To Kill a Mockingbird, Silkwood and The Insider all involve some kind of criminal conspiracy. In these stories a crime is committed or evidence is falsified or covered-up. The protagonist wants to expose these crimes and stop the wrongdoers. There is duplicity and deceit in each of these stories.  But these stories are not Power of Truth stories. They explore the Power of Conscience.

Power of Conscience characters instinctively know when something is wrong, unjust, unfair, improper, corrupt, or morally out of line. Their judgment and response is swift and immutable. They are propelled forward by personal outrage and moral indignation, usually on another’s behalf.

The worst thing that could happen to a Power of Conscience character is to become morally bankrupt or become a failure in his or her own eyes (i.e. not living up to his or her own high standards).

In Erin Brockovich, To Kill a Mockingbird, Silkwood and The Insider the protagonist is clear about what happened (or is happening), what is morally right or wrong, and who is to blame. The story struggle, then, is primarily about what to do to right the wrong.

All of these stories revolve around the question: “If I am my brother’s keeper how far must I go on his behalf?”

The Power of Conscience character’s answer to the above question is usually: “All the way.”

Once the character has decided to right the wrong, the question becomes how to prevail. This character’s pursuit of justice costs him or her dearly. This character often damages, gives up, or loses his or her job, family, or other important relationships.  He or she often suffers staggering personal or financial losses during the story journey.

Power of Conscience stories are primarily about law vs. justice; answering the call to one’s higher duty; standing up for one’s moral code; and, taking responsibility for or sacrificing for another’s welfare.  These are very different issues from those at the core of Power of Truth stories.

POWER OF AMBITION STORIES

The Devil’s Advocate, Wall Street, Catch Me If You Can and The Talented Mr. Ripley all involve crimes and cover-ups to a greater or lesser degree. An element of active deception is involved in all four stories. But, again, these stories are not Power of Truth stories. In the ETB method they are defined as novels or films that are driven by the Power of Ambition.

A character driven by the Power of Ambition can be a hardworking, eager, charming optimist with a “can-do” spirit– or a lying, manipulative, deceitful backstabbing striver who will do anything to get ahead in life.

These kinds of protagonists can be aspirational characters who want to rise from a lowly station to a more exalted one. Or they can be whores (real or metaphoric), frauds, fakers, or con artists, always on the hustle and one step ahead of the law. In any case, maintaining their status, popularity, illusion of success, or perceived social importance is key.

The worst thing that could happen to a Power of Ambition character is failing in the eyes of others or failing in the eyes of the world.

In The Devil’s Advocate, Wall Street, Catch Me If You Can and The Talented Mr. Ripley, the protagonist knows that what he or others are doing is wrong or illegal. Each protagonist proceeds anyway, in order to achieve or maintain the image of wealth, prestige, status, or position he so desperately craves.

All of these stories are primarily about how much a protagonist is willing to compromise morally, professionally, or personally for material or social gain.

As Power of Ambition characters abandon their moral scruples one by one to obtain their goal, they are willing to lie, cheat, steal, or even commit murder to get ahead. They are acutely aware of others’ opinions and are willing to use any kind of fraud, trick, or deception to maintain the illusion of their social standing or external success.

In the end, when these characters have nearly lost everything that matters on a human scale, they often reform their ways and “do the right thing.”  If the story is a tragedy, they continue in their illegal or illicit ways until they and everything that matters to them is hollowed out, corrupted, or destroyed.

POWER OF WILL STORIES

The Godfather Trilogy, Scarface, The Last Seduction and The Sopranos all involve criminal activity, the suppression of evidence, and the murder of anyone who interferes. But not one of these are Power of Truth stories.  In the ETB method, these are stories are propelled by the Power of Will.

Power of Will characters are strong, lusty, larger-than-life protagonists and ferocious, indomitable adversaries. They are absolutely ruthless, stop at nothing, and are willing to use extreme violence to achieve their objectives.

These characters are relentless and unyielding. They want it all. They mean to get it all and they know just how to do it.  These are big characters who fill the screen with energy, determination, and the lust for life, sex, money, or power.

The worst thing that could happen to a Power of Will character is to be dominated, controlled, or emasculated by others.

The protagonists in The Godfather Trilogy, Scarface, The Last Seduction and The Sopranos do whatever wrong they must do to survive, to expand territory, or to conquer or dominate others. There is little struggle with morality. Everything comes down to the law of the jungle– kill or be killed. There is no ambiguity or uncertainty. Life is a battlefield. Might makes right. Winner takes all.

Never showing any sign of weakness or vulnerability is the key to every decision this character makes and every action a Power of Will protagonist takes.

These characters insist: “I had no choice. I had to protect myself, my empire, or my family.”

They sacrifice tenderness, kindness, any sense of mercy, or forgiveness to dominate the situation, This leads inevitably to the loss of their humanity, their soul, and often their lives.

Those who live by sword tend to die by the sword. The only salvation for these characters is to connect with innocence. They must become true protectors of the weak and vulnerable rather than preying on those who are an easy target.

POWER OF REASON STORIES

The Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Professional, and In the Bedroom all involve criminal activity, murder, and cover-ups. But none of these stories are Power of Truth stories either. In the ETB method these stories revolve around the Power of Reason.

A character driven by the Power of Reason is most often the expert, a technician, scientist, or professional observer in a story. These characters are calm, cool, and efficient problem-solvers who who often experience difficulty with personal and social interactions.

The worst thing that could happen to a Power of Reason character is to be overwhelmed by emotion, lose his or her objectivity, or to discover that the world is not a rational place.

Power of Reason stories are driven by logical deduction. These characters believe that there is a reasonable explanation for everything and emotion is the enemy of objectivity and rationality. They believe in science and hard facts.  They don’t suffer fools and often experience some kind of profound alienation from society.

Dr. Gregory House, the medical detective and master diagnostician in the television series House, is another great example of this kind of character and story.

Dr. House investigates each medical mystery with keen powers of observation, a razor sharp intellect, and penetrating logical deductions. He is alienated from everyone and manages to alienate those around him. A patient is more of a puzzle to be solved than a human being to be nurtured and healed.

In Power of Reason stories, ambiguity and deception might be hiding the solution to the problem or the crime, but the protagonist is absolutely clear-headed, often to the point of near inhuman dispassion.

There is little personal or emotional investment in Power of Reason investigations. The problem or mystery is merely a difficult riddle to be unraveled.

Salvation for these characters lies in embracing spontaneity and admitting the strength of emotion, the power of the spirit and the spiritual, and the other intangible mysterious forces in life.

POWER OF EXCITEMENT STORIES

The early James Bond movies, the Indiana Jones movies, Cool Hand Luke, and Iron Man, all involve criminal activity, conspiracies by those intent on world domination or personal oppression, or evil destructive plots of one sort or another.

But not one of these are Power of Truth stories. In the ETB method these are Power of Excitement stories. Explosions, fast paced adrenaline rushes and last-minute escapes are hallmarks of these kinds of stories.

Power of Excitement stories are all about narrow escapes, the thrill of the chase, the next dangerous diversion, or another daring escapade. Whether risking twenty days in “the hole” or facing almost certain death by way of snakes, sharks, or an evil international cartel, main characters in Power of Excitement stories always remain witty, charming, and boyishly up-beat.

The worst thing that could happen to a Power of Excitement character is to be trapped, boxed in, cornered, limited, contained, or domesticated.

These characters are determined to remain free spirits, agents provocateur, and untamed “wild things.”

Power of Excitement characters are usually agents of chaos in rebellion against established authority. Their rakish push-the-envelop devil-may-care attitude shakes things up in a story. Their charm, ready wit, and natural talent as an escape artist or improvisor is what usually saves the day.

Deception, betrayal, and treachery are taken in stride with a smile or a smirk, an ironic comment, a snappy retort, or a careless shrug. These characters don’t seem to take anything or anyone too seriously.

In turn, they believe their charm, good humor, and amusing personality should entitle them to an infinite supply of forgiveness, unlimited “do-overs”, and countless “second chances.”

Power of Excitement stories are all about maintaining an almost adolescent refusal to be serious, grow up, or conform in any way to authority. These characters live for the thrill of getting in and out of trouble and tend not to learn very much along the way.

POWER OF LOVE STORIES

Lethal Weapon, Tango and Cash, Rush Hour, and 48 Hours all involve criminal activity, murder, drugs, and cover-ups. But they aren’t Power of Truth stories either. These tales revolve around the Power of Love .

Male-driven Power of Love stories are buddy movies. The crime, the caper, or the conspiracy is secondary to the relationship between the two partners.

In each of these stories, the partners are different as night and day. They don’t like each other but are forced to work together because of some bureaucratic mix up, a boss’ order, or some other unavoidable situation.

Over the course of the story, the partners exchange “gifts”.

Each partner brings a different talent, a different perspective, a different background, or a different attitude which proves crucial to the partnership. These differences are key to the successful outcome of the case or the resolution of the puzzle.

Neither partner can achieve the objective, solve the mystery, or apprehend the criminal, without the other’s gifts or skills.

Over the course of the story, the two partners initially develop a grudging respect. This hard-earned friendship eventually turns into the kind of loyalty which makes each character willing to take a bullet for the other.

Any two kinds of characters can come together in a Power of Love story. The purpose of the crime or case (which typically is very forgettable) brings two distinct partners together in an unforgettable relationship.

POWER OF IDEALISM STORIES

I recently watched the film adapted from the play Equus. A young man inexplicably blinds six horses at the stable where he worked as an otherwise caring stable hand. He is committed to a mental institution and an experienced psychiatrist tries to solve the mystery and heal the boy.

The story involves duplicity, self-deception, and a horrific crime. But this isn’t a Power of Truth story, either.  Equus is a Power of Idealism story in the ETB method.

A character driven by the Power of Idealism wants to stand out from the crowd, to be extraordinary, unique and special. These characters believe that life and love should involve a grand passion. They see the world in terms of sweeping epic poetry or as a struggle of operatic proportions.

Intensity of feeling– either good or bad– makes this character’s life worth living. Power of Idealism characters believe it is better to be in pain than to feel nothing at all. Being content and complacent feels like a slow death sentence to these characters.

The worst thing that could happen to Power of Idealism character is to be boring or bored, unexceptional, under-rated, mediocre, or completely ordinary.

Dr. Martin Dysart (Richard Burton), the psychiatrist in Equus, is a disillusioned Power of Idealism character. He wonders if healing the boy of his passion and madness, only to send him into a world of monotony and dull routine, is a noble thing to do.

This film is about the price of passion and whether pain is the price of being truly alive even if for only a horrifying or intensely mad moment.

Dr. Dysart says: “Passion, you see, can only be destroyed by a doctor. It cannot be created”.

WHO THE MAIN CHARACTER IS DETERMINES
WHAT THE STORY IS ABOUT

The key to an emotionally satisfying story is to determine what the mystery, the chase, or the investigation reveals about the character.

What is at the root of the crime, the murder, the conspiracy, the unusual phenomena, or strange occurrence?

What does the solution, and how it is obtained, say about the protagonist’s view of the world, his or her philosophy, and essential human struggle?

The plot, the investigation, or the inquiry is the way a character reveals him or her self. Character is action. The actions a character takes over the course of the story tells the audience what the character truly values and what the hear of the story is.

Follow me on Pinterest

Tony Soprano is a Mafia Power of Will character. He believes that expanding his power base, extending his territory, protecting and defending what is rightfully his (according to Tony) and swiftly avenging any wrong (or perceived wrong) is how one gets along, gets ahead and stays ahead in the world. Life is a battleground.

J.K. Rowling’s Handwritten Plot Sheet

310667071

Always interesting to see how other writer’s think and conceptualize.  Even more interesting when the novel is a hit.

Post This Above Your Computer

10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer
Like this infographic? Get more content marketing tips from Copyblogger.

Getting to the Heart of the Story

I talk a lot about the Heart of the Story in my workshops and consulting. The Heart of the Story is the simplest emotional statement distilling the story’s essence.

At UCLA I always had my students do a poster for their movie. The image and logline was to be the distilled essence of their screenplay. I recently came across a blog post by Edan Leucki about another kind of assignment for the same purpose. This assignment was for a rewrite class where writers were stuck.

Go wild, I said.  Do whatever it takes, to keep writing this thing.
Melissa came to class with these…boxes.
They were cardboard jewelry gift boxes, and there were three of them, one inside the next. The first bore the title of her novel, A Tiny Upward Shove, on its face. The inside of this box contained a smaller box, decorated with a monkey (“Because…duh,” Melissa said, or something like it), and a piece of paper, which described her book’s premise.
Inside the monkey box was an even smaller box, this one decorated with a plastic heart. On the inside of the monkey box, Melissa had written a shorter version of the novel description, distilled from the notes on the piece of paper.  The smallest box — we all leaned forward to see — was empty, except Melissa had written the book’s premise on its inside.
She’d distilled it to a single sentence: “Chronicles the life of a woman who was separated from her bipolar mother and placed into foster care at 15.”
She told us she’d been struggling with how to describe her book to people who asked about it. This project forced her to find the book’s main idea, its essence.  It ended up thrilling everyone in the room.
The boxes were funny, and strange, and beautiful, and important. I keep imagining Melissa struggling to write in the margins of the smallest box, and it moves me. Making this project wasn’t novel writing, of course, but it enabled Melissa to return to her book with a fresh perspective. It helped her to keep going. That’s what we’re after, isn’t it?
Go wild, I said.  Do whatever it takes, to keep writing this thing.
Melissa came to class with these…boxes.
.
M41They were cardboard jewelry gift boxes, and there were three of them, one inside the next. The first bore the title of her novel, A Tiny Upward Shove, on its face. The inside of this box contained a smaller box, decorated with a monkey (“Because…duh,” Melissa said, or something like it), and a piece of paper, which described her book’s premise.
.
.
.
.
M5Inside the monkey box was an even smaller box, this one decorated with a plastic heart. On the inside of the monkey box, Melissa had written a shorter version of the novel description, distilled from the notes on the piece of paper.  The smallest box — we all leaned forward to see — was empty, except Melissa had written the book’s premise on its inside.
.
.
.
.
M6She’d distilled it to a single sentence: “Chronicles the life of a woman who was separated from her bipolar mother and placed into foster care at 15.”
.
She told us she’d been struggling with how to describe her book to people who asked about it. This project forced her to find the book’s main idea, its essence.  It ended up thrilling everyone in the room.
.
The boxes were funny, and strange, and beautiful, and important. I keep imagining Melissa struggling to write in the margins of the smallest box, and it moves me. Making this project wasn’t novel writing, of course, but it enabled Melissa to return to her book with a fresh perspective. It helped her to keep going. That’s what we’re after, isn’t it?
What kind of project would help you get to the Heart of the Story?
Okay, so here’s the homework part of this post:  Make … something as unwriterly as possible. No outlines, no character sketches. Instead, do something surprising and weird and beautiful and fun; the only requirement is that it provides you with a new outlook on your work, and gets you pumped to write.

Advice from John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck — Pulitzer Prize winner, Nobel laureate, love guru — with six tips on writing, culled from his altogether excellent interview it the Fall 1975 issue of The Paris Review.
Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.
Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.
Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.
If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.
Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.
If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.
http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4156/the-art-of-fiction-no-45-continued-john-steinbeck

john-steinbeckJohn Steinbeck, a Pulitzer Prize winning author (Grapes of Wrath) and Nobel laureate offers six basic tips on writing in his interview it the Fall 1975 issue of The Paris Review.

1.  Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised. (This concept of small daily incremental progress is key to long term writing success.)

2.  Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.  (Self-censorship and a constant reworking of material day-by-day is absolutely antithetical to finishing anything!)

3. Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one. (This helps to tell a story with real intimacy.  It’s just you and one other person.)

4.  If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there. (Constant forward momentum is the only way anything gets done.  Don’t let any one scene, or sequence stop or stymie you.)

5.  Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing. (Kill kill kill your darlings.)

6.  If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech. (This is excellent advice even for purely narrative passages too!)

The whole interview is here– http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4156/the-art-of-fiction-no-45-continued-john-steinbeck

Thriller Book Excerpt – Power of Truth Conundrums

300px-BigComboTrailerIn a Power of Truth story the conundrums at the heart of the main character’s inner conflict are:

Loyalty vs. Betrayal When does betrayal look like loyalty and vice versa? Who can your character trust? Can a character be loyal to someone as he or she is betraying that person? Can loyalty be an act of betrayal?

Ally vs. Enemy How does the character’s view of “good” and “evil” shift or change? Who is hiding what? Who is working behind the character’s back for good or ill? How does the character work against him or her self?

Pursuer vs. Pursued What is the character running after and what is he or she running from? How does this change or reverse itself?

Truth vs. Lie How does the “truth” move and morph depending on perspective, or new or reinterpreted information? What is really the truth, how does the truth shift or change depending on shifting perceptions? What is delusion, what is misleading and what is outright active deception?

Desire to Suspect vs. Need to Trust How does the character wrestle with suspicion, paranoia, and the aftereffects of betrayal or seeming betrayal? Can your character fully know the heart of anyone? Can your character fully trust him or her self? Can anyone ever be 100% certain of anyone or anything?

Illusion vs. Reality What is real and what is a set-up, a lie, misinformation, a conspiracy, a delusion, or hidden below the surface of things? How much of perception is preconception, prejudice, ignorance, naivety, pretense, paranoia, duplicity, trickery, or a set up?

Certainty vs. Uncertainty What can be pinned down, proven and quantified, and what will always have an element of the unknown, the mysterious, or the unexplained? Is anyone ever all “good” or all “bad”? How does the character deal with moral ambiguity, shifting perceptions, or shades of gray? Isn’t every situation a shade of gray? Aren’t all people combinations of good and evil?

All great Power of Truth stories — mysteries, thrillers, suspense, and detective stories answer these key questions.

April 2012 – Writing Lessons from Norway

P1030798At the Western Norway Film Summit I looked at a number of projects under development by writer/directors and their producers.

First of all, let me say what an inspiring range of talent there is in the region.  The films were all very different and had a wonderful local sense of place combined with the potential universal emotional appeal that gives a film “legs.”

This isn’t to say there weren’t challenges to overcome in the stories and characters in the films discussed.

Here are three key take-aways about common issues that make a film project less effective and less emotionally compelling.

CONFLICT

No matter how poetic, beautiful, or inspired the visuals in a film are, without conflict you don’t have a story.

There are three levels of conflict–

External conflict (obstacles presented by the physical environment or terrain, the weather, the society or culture, or any other obstacle presented by the larger external world of the story)

Relationship conflict (conflict or opposition between the people or creatures in the story)

Internal conflict (conflict within a character– the personal or psychological obstacles the character struggles with inside him or her self).

The Internal conflict drives the other two kinds of conflict.  By this I mean how a character deals with any challenge, opportunity, or threat depends on who they are emotionally.  Emotion always drives action.

CONSISTENT OVERALL TONE

A film’s tone should be consistent and yet surprising.  The film can and should have ups and downs, shifts and reversals, and comic or dramatic turnarounds.  But the story should an overall tone that works as an underlying point of view about the story world.

If a film is a black comedy then the ending must be funny in an ironic way or end in a sharp or biting comic twist.  You don’t want to end a warm romantic comedy with a sad, ironic, or scathing twist at the end.  Nor do you want to end a sharp dark comedy with a moment of emotional violins.

Be careful that shifts in tone fit a consistent comic or dramatic sensibility.  Comedy must, of course, have moment of drama or pathos and drama must have moments of humor or absurdity.  But reversals in tone should not be confusing, jarring, or pull the audience emotionally out of the story.

FOCUS

Detail makes for a rich story world.  Avoid details that only complicate the story plot. Strip away all details that don’t support the main character’s emotional journey.

Audiences love SIMPLE stories about COMPLEX emotions.  Complex stories about simple emotions are confusing.  There is a great difference between what is complex (consisting of many different but connected parts) and what is confusing (extraneous information that is bewildering or difficult to follow).

I find that no matter how experienced or talented a filmmaker is he or she has to keep returning to the basics in every project. It’s so easy to forget the key tenets– we all need to be reminded of what is fundamental in each new story.

How to Evaluate Stories

HOWTOEVALUATESTORIESHow to Evaluate Stories is available now on Amazon– $4.99 for a limited time–

“This little book is so packed with story wisdom it is mind boggling. Each concise suggestion is so clear and — easy —and yet as you apply them to your work, they will continue to open up and deepen in your understanding. These are the great film story tenants that the best storytellers—and executives!—know and work from. Read it, learn it, use it, because these checklists are packed with a story punch that will get you way ahead of the pack.”

—Meg LeFauve, producer, screenwriter, former President of Jodie Foster’s Egg Pictures

“Laurie’s storytelling techniques have shaved HOURS off of my work day and off of the script development process. I’ve been able to apply her lessons to film, television and even advertising projects. I wish every writer, director and ad industry professional would buy this book.”

—Bernadette Rivero, President of The Cortez Brothers production and multi-platform content company

“This is an excellent guide for any new and existing writer or producer to have by their side as they embark on a project. It gives a really clear reminder of what is vital for success”.

—Naomi Joseph, Executive Director of International Scripted Programming, Endemol Group, London

“It’s a great little guide, very useful, and dripping with truth. The creative process can be messy, murky, and bewildering, but Laurie’s short, precise story guide shines enough light for all to see.”

—Nick Malmholt, screenwriter and former Head of Drama, FremantleMedia Worldwide Drama

“This is the most comprehensive overview of screenwriting I’ve read. Why read 100 pages of some other writer’s journey when you get what you need in just a few pages? This is a quick amazing read. Don’t spend your time reading while you are trying to write.”

— Jamison Reeves, actor, writer, director

“Though I’ve written almost twenty screenplays, after reading Laurie’s How To Evaluate Stories book, I hurried to revise a treatment I’d just written. I’ll go back to this book again and again, each time I start a script, because Laurie’s clear, concise concepts about what makes a good script and a good story are dead on. This book would be helpful to any writer, novice or veteran. I highly recommend it.”

— Lisanne Sartor, screenwriter and CineStory Board President

“This is SO great and useful! It’s amazing how it dovetails with some truths I’m coming to learn about my own character as I move through the crises in my own life. I’m gonna keep it right on my desk because it reminds me WHY we write and fuels my passion for it. Having read it and used it, it’s a steal for the price.”

— Rita Augustine, screenwriter

“Laurie Hutzler’s How to Evaluate Stories is an invaluable resource for any filmmaker who wants to thoroughly “interrogate” their script, asking the tough questions. If you’re serious about telling a compelling story, one that grabs the audience and refuses to let go, read this eBook…Now!”

—Derrick Pete

“It is sound for every screenwriter to collect second opinions on a finished draft. In most cases, though, we do not get the advice we need. What we do get instead is other peoples´ version of our story. Laurie Hutzler´s concise book How To Evaluate Stories enables us to detect potential flaws ourselves.”

—Wieland Bauder, screenwriter, university teacher DffB Berlin Film School


Writing Rules from Kurt Vonnegut

kurt-vonnegutThis from Brain Pickings

Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
Every sentence must do one of two things-reveal character or advance the action.
Start as close to the end as possible.
Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things-reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.