For this assignment you’re still George Lucas so glue on your beard and your glasses and let’s get to work. You should be staring at a piece of 3-holed paper with five plot points on it; you’ve INCITED your young farm boy to get a taste of adventure, you’ve made him realize at the MIDPOINT that this isn’t just fun and games, he’s LOST IT ALL when you killed his mentor, made him see that he’s going to have to get over the SETBACK of an ineffective targeting system (“sword”) by looking inward during his moment of truth and using his “elixir” to win the SUPERFREAK… I mean Star War.
Right now you’re thinking, “But, Rob, that’s only 5 plot points! It’s not a story!” Calm down, George. Let’s take a deep breath and follow these steps:
Take out another piece of 3-holed college ruled paper (yes, we’re going to burn through some paper here) and number it from 1 to 15. Skip a line between each number.
Now, fill in the plot points you had from last week like this:
3. Inciting Incident (INC/INC),
8. Midpoint (MP),
10. End of Act 2 (EA2),
13. Setback (SB),
14. SUPERFREAK!!! (SUPERFREAK!!!)
Can you see it yet? Probably not. Okay, now let’s fill in “the corners”.
1. Act One: Intro Hero
5. Act Two: The New World
Get it? You’re going to have to introduce your hero at the top of the movie. You know that, so fill it in. You also know that you’re going to cross over into Act 2 at around a half an hour into your movie and, when you do, you’re going to need to introduce that world to your audience… so fill that in too.
Now, logically, if 10 is the “End of Act Two” then 11 is the beginning of Act Three: “The hero’s new plan”. And if 14 is the Superfreak then 15 is obviously the epilogue. Something to leave the audience with a smile. We ended TREASURE PLANET with a welcome home party. THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG ended with the festive opening of Tiana’s Place. Pull out, cut to black and wait for the applause. And, yes, I imagine people laughing and applauding when I write. What about it?
Now, you’ve introduced your hero with all of his goodness and his flaws. For now we know he’s handy with a “sword” so he should probably be tech savvy in this high tech world of the future. Beat 2 would be a good time to introduce his antagonist. All we know about him so far is that he kills our mentor and he’s got something bad brewing that our hero is going to have to stop. That’s all we need to know for now.
If Beat 5 is our hero’s transition into the New World, Beat 4 has to end with the destruction of his old one. This is where his farm could burn down and his surrogate parents could bite the dust. It should close the door on our hero living the rest of his life as a farm boy. Remember, Beat 3 is where the hero receives his “call to action” via robot or owl or FedEx (We still haven’t worked that one out yet). So, Beat 3 can cover a lot of real estate for you. It can include an investigation of the message, tracking down somebody who can make sense of it, even a little glimpse into the world of Act 2.
Beat 4 can also carry a lot of water. How are you going to get to this “new world”? Maybe there’s a character or two who can get you there. Now, you can get a cup of Yerba Mate and think for a bit. What’s a good character to introduce here to spice up the narrative? You’ve got a young naive farm boy and you’ve already contrasted him with an old wizard. Who else? Well, look at your description. You took young and gave yourself old. Now take naive and… okay, you’re way ahead of me because you’re a genius. You could really get a lot of mileage out of a street savvy honcho whose been around the block a few times. Also, you know that your Superfreak is going to be a war and you’re not going to get much pugilism out of your old man so you can paint this guy as a little dangerous and have some fun with that too. And a furry sidekick would be nice. Okay, I’m just messing with you but, creatively, now would be a good time to go weird. My point here is that sometimes brilliant writing is just a matter of seeing your own work through.
This is a good place to take a break. But, before we go, I want to do some housekeeping. I make a huge distinction between “Beat Sheets” and “Writing Guides”. Beat sheets get the story down. You can comfortably sit in a meeting and pitch from your beat sheet. The beats may be out of order, but the story is clean. A Writing Guide is what you’ll create before you write. You’re the only person that will see it and it will cover every single sequence you write. We’ll get to that and more next week.
Later this week we’ll fill in what’s left and then get ready to put it all together in our Writing Guide next week. If you’re like me, you’re probably champing at the bit to write some of these sequences. Go for it. They’re like test animation. You get to see how your characters talk, how their drive takes them from scene to scene. And, yes, you’re probably going to throw it out like the burned pancake you make to test the grill but we’re writers. We’re not afraid to write.
See you later this week!