Category Archives: Screenwriting Tips

Story Logic

I’ve found that logic flaws are not problems to be solved; they are opportunities to discover the real story waiting patiently to be uncovered.

Setting a Story in Motion at Pixar

Think about it for just a moment… have you ever seen a bad Pixar film?


Is that only because of their ever-evolving, cutting edge animation and star-powered voice acting?


As we’ve all seen time and time again, when quality visuals and star power are glittered over the top of poorly written stories it almost always leads to mediocre results (at best). So why is Pixar consistently exceptional?

Simply put, Pixar’s dedication to story is unparalleled in the entertainment industry.

Whenever I have conversations about screenwriting and the film industry with non-writer friends (often after them sharing their unmet expectations of a recent “blockbuster” film), I always like to mention how Pixar uses one writer on projects and how that’s one element of their consistent quality. Along with Pixar choosing extremely talented writers, having that singular voice even in a highly collaborative environment gives their stories, and ultimately their films, that unique Pixar glow.

So, I was tickled when John August posted a link to Toy Story 3 scribe Michael Arndt’s video on how to set a story in motion. Click here to check out the article and watch the video.

Along with being an enjoyable insight into Michael Arndt’s perspective and process, his way of presenting first act structure in this video helped me further solidify these familiar building blocks in a unique and fun way.

Thanks, Michael!

Tip: “Where’d you stop reading?”

When someone hasn’t finished reading your script, ask them, “Where’d you stop?”

“Why,” you ask?

Because if they weren’t engaged enough to keep reading, it’s sometimes a red flag that something needs fixing.  And I’ve found that if two or more people stop at the same point, there’s definitely a problem.

Tip: Elude the “Idea Serial Killer!”

As soon as a new story idea, scene, solution to a plot problem, character, bit of dialogue, etc. floats to the surface… JOT IT DOWN!

Sure, I have that comforting, confident voice too.  The one that says…

There’s no way we’ll forget a great idea like that!  You don’t need to write it down.

That’s the voice of the Idea Serial Killer and he’ll stop at nothing until all new ideas are dead forever!  Okay, while I admit that’s a bit dramatic, the only way I’ve found to elude him is to jot things down as soon as possible.

Along with losing ideas forever, another issue with trying to remember them is, if I’m taxing my unconscious by forcing it to keep track a bunch of stuff, there’s much less room to play with options for that particular new idea or leave space for new ones.

Having an iPhone with a myriad of useful writing tools makes it much harder for me to justify breaking this rule.  So, this post is as much a reminder for me as it is a tip for you.