Film Crit Hulk Smash: HULK SMASHES THE PUNY PARADIGMS OF FILM CRITICISM WITH HULK-SIZED SEMIOTICAL ESSAYS ONSTORYTELLING, CINEMATIC PRINCIPLES, AND MEDIA THEORY! HULK EVEN MAKE PRACTICAL HOW-TO GUIDES! See More...

Screenwriting 101 Vol. 2 of 2

Hulk delivers a seven-part tome on the tenets of screenwriting. Following are Parts 5-7.

Screenwriting101 Vol. 2 of 2

THIS PART TWO OF TWO. PART ONE HERE

PART FIVE - - HOW TO TELL THE STORY - STRUCTURALLY

NOTE: THE CORRESPONDING PICTURE TO PART FIVE, SHOWN ABOVE, CAN DIE IN A FIRE.

SO PARSING OUT THE STRUCTURE OF A SCREENPLAY IS COMMONLY REFERRED TO AS "BREAKING A STORY." IT FEELS LIKE A BETTER PHRASE THAN"CONSTRUCTING" BECAUSE THAT WORD FEELS LIKE ROUGH ASSEMBLAGE. WHEREAS BREAKING A STORY IS ABOUT TAKING THE IDEA ITSELF, YOUR INCLINATION + THE STORY ALREADY LOCKED IN YOUR MIND, AND BREAKING IT DOWN SO YOU UNDERSTAND IT ON  STRUCTURAL LEVEL. IT'S MORE LIKE YOU ARE MANIPULATING WHAT YOU INSTINCTUALLY HAVE AND KNOW. LIKE WORKING WITH PLAY-DOH OR SOMETHING. HULK LIKES THAT THINKING MUCH, MUCH BETTER.

ANYCRAP, LET'S LOOK AT HOW TO PROPERLY BREAK A STORY.

20. ECONOMY IS YOUR NEW SECOND BEST FRIEND

A FRIEND OF HULK'S SAID SOMETHING FASCINATING RECENTLY. HE MADE THE COMMENT THAT THERE'S NOT A SINGLE  SUMMER TENT-POLE RELEASED IN THE LAST TEN YEARS THAT COULDN'T STAND TO LOSE AT LEAST 15-20 MINUTES.

THIS IS A TRUTH.

IT IS STUNNING HOW MANY MOVIES TODAY TELL THEIR STORIES WITH TON OF FAT. AND NO, HULK NOT TALKING ABOUT MERE "PACING" WHICH ISBUILT IN THE EDIT AND DIRECTION (AND WHICH IS ACTUALLY EXECUTED FASTER THAN EVER THESE DAYS). HULK TALKING ABOUT SCRIPT-LEVELFAT. HULK TALKING ABOUT WHOLE SCENES THAT HAVE NO PURPOSE OTHER THAN TO BE "FUNNY" OR "COOL." HULK WILL GET INTO THE INCLINATIONS THAT CREATE THIS STORY FAT IN THE NEXT FEW POINTS ( MOSTLY HOW WRITERS TODAY DON'T KNOW HOW TO COMBINE CHARACTERIZATIONWITH PLOTTING), BUT THE POINT IS THAT YOU REALLY, REALLY NEED TO EMBRACE THE CONCEPT OF ECONOMY. IT SHOULD BE THE HUGE THOUGHTIN THE BACK OF YOUR HEAD. REPEAT IT AGAIN AND AGAIN: TELL ONLY AS MUCH STORY AS YOU NEED... AND IF YOU'RE TELLINGMORE THAN YOU NEED, WELL THEN THERE BETTER BE A DAMN GOOD REASON FOR IT.

BY VALUING ECONOMY FROM THE ONSET, IT HELPS YOU CREATE A TIGHT, FOCUSED, EXCITING SCRIPT. IF YOU DO THAT THEN INTEGRATING CHARACTERIZATION, NUANCE AND THEME IS ACTUALLY FAR EASIER TO INCORPORATE THAN GOING IN THE OTHER DIRECTION. TRUST WHEN HULK SAYS ITIS FAR MORE DIFFICULT TO TAKE A LUMBERING STORY, FULL OF THOROUGH CHARACTERIZATION AND THEMATIC EXPLORATION, AND THEN SOMEHOWPARSE IT DOWN INTO A TIGHT STORY. IT'S SO MUCH HARDER. SO GO THE OTHER DIRECTION.

IN EVERY KIND OF STORY, EVEN THE MOST CASUAL CHARTER PIECES, EVEN FILMS WITH A LEISURELY EDITING PACE, YOU STILL WANT THE CHARACTER'S EVOLUTION TO BE PROPULSIVE. EVEN WITH THE MOST INTIMATE, HUMAN STORIES, YOU ALWAYS WANT TO ENTER EACH SCENE WITH ANEW SENSE OF PURPOSE AND INTEREST.

AND IN ORDER TO DO THAT YOU HAVE TO UNLEARN POINTS #21-22.

21. THE MYTH OF 3 ACT STRUCTURE.

SO HULK THINK 3 ACT STRUCTURE CAUSES A WHOLE LOT OF BULLSHIT. ONCE YOU'VE READ ABOUT THE CONCEPT AND GET THE BASIC IDEA (IT'S JUST A SLIGHTLY-MORE FANCY WAY OF SAYING "BEGINNING, MIDDLE, AND END), THEN YOU CAN PRETTY MUCH LEAVE IT RIGHT WHERE ITIS. THE IDEA THAT 3 ACT STRUCTURE IS THE BEST WAY TO APPROACH STORYTELLING IS A FREAKIN' MYTH. THE FACT THAT IT IS THE MOST POPULAR ONLY TELLS YOU WAY SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE BAD STRUCTURE IN THEIR WRITING.

HULK LINKED TO THIS OLD COLUMN LAST WEEK SO THAT YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO GO LINKING BACK TO SOME OTHER LONG ARTICLE IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS ONE, BUT IF YOU DIDN'T HAVE A CHANCE TO READ IT, HULK WILL NOW GIVE THE SHORT VERSION.

FIRST OFF, JUST KNOW THAT HULK ISN'T SAYING "YOU CAN'T BOIL A STORY DOWN TO THREE ACTS IN SOME WAY THAT MAKE STORY SENSE" BECAUSE OF COURSE YOU CAN. HULK'S POINT THAT USING 3 ACT STRUCTURE AS YOUR WRITING MODEL WILL LIKELY PRODUCE SOME OF THE LAZIEST SCREENWRITING ON THE PLANET.

EVERY TIME HULK READS A SCRIPT WHERE SOMEONE SO BLAZINGLY STICKS TO 3 ACT STRUCTURE, THE SAME PROBLEMS SEEP OUT AGAIN AND AGAIN. 3 ACT STRUCTURE STALLS OUT YOUR ACTION. THE 2ND ACT OR "MIDDLE" ALWAYS FEELS LIKE A WASTEFUL WASH WHERE NOTHING HAPPENS WITHCHARACTER AND PLOT. IT'S MERELY SPINNING WHEELS BEFORE THE CLIMAX. IT JUST DOESN'T FOSTER NARRATIVE PROPULSION. THAT'S BECAUSE IT REVERSE ENGINEERS STRUCTURE IN MOST REDUCTIVE WAY POSSIBLE.

AND REMEMBER, WHEN YOU BOIL DOWN AN IDEA INTO ITS MOST BASIC ELEMENTS, YOU ARE THEREFORE BOILING DOWN AN IDEA INTO ITS MOST BASIC ELEMENTS. YOU WILL ONLY HAVE THE INSPIRATION TO CREATE SOMETHING JUST AS BASIC AS YOUR ANALYSIS. WHICH MEANS YOU COULD ALSO BE DISCOUNTING A LARGE NUMBER OF ELEMENTS THAT WERE USED TO CREATE THAT RICH AND FULLY TEXTURED STORY YOU SO UNCEREMONIOUSLY BOILED DOWN INTO 3 ACTS. HULK FIND THIS ALL REALLY TROUBLESOME.

SO WHAT IS PRACTICAL, HELPFUL DEFINITION FOR AN ACT? AN ACT IS ANY TIME A CHARACTER MAKES A DECISION FROM WHICH THEY CAN NO LONGER GO BACK.

HULK THINKS THAT'S PRETTY DAMN PRACTICAL. AS SUCH, A FILM CAN HAVE ANY NUMBER OF ACTS. REALLY. DO WHATEVER MAKES THE MOSTSENSE FOR YOUR PARTICULAR STORY, WITH YOUR PARTICULAR AMOUNT OF CHARACTERS, AND YOUR PARTICULAR CHARACTERS' JOURNEYS. IS THE CHARACTER GOING TO EVOLVE THROUGH A LOT OF STAGES IN LIFE? ARE THEY GOING TO LEARN ONE SIMPLE LESSON? WHAT SORT OF COMPLEXITIES ARE THEY FACING? ARE THE PROBLEMS SHORT TERM? LONG TERM? DO THE PROBLEMS EVOLVE TOO?

THESE SORTS OF QUESTIONS DICTATE YOUR STRUCTURE. AS KIND OF GO-TO-MODEL HULK DOES LARGELY ENJOY SHAKESPEARE'S 5 ACT MODELWHICH BREAKS DOWN THINGS IN A KIND OF HELPFUL WAY AND REALLY SEEMS TO FIT THE STANDARD LENGTH OF A SCREENPLAY (YOU'D BE SHOCKED HOW OFTEN PEOPLE TRY TO USE 3 ACT STRUCTURE AND FIND THEMSELVES STALLING OUT AT 50-70 PAGES).

WITH SHAKESPEARE, THERE IS ACT 1 - THE INTRODUCTION, WHICH ESTABLISHES PRE-EXISTING CONFLICTS AND THE NEEDS AND WANTS OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS. ACT 2 - THE INSTIGATION, WHICH INTRODUCES HOW THE MAIN CONFLICT OF THE STORY COMES TO BE, WHICH IS OFTEN SOMETHING THAT COMPLICATES THE PRE-EXISTING CONFLICT TO BOOT. THEN THERE IS ACT 3 - THE TURN, IN WHICH THERE IS SOME GRAVE TURNING POINT THAT FLIPS THE CONFLICT ON ITS HEAD AND HAS GRAVE CONSEQUENCES FOR ALL (THESE ARE OFTEN SHAKESPEARE'S BEST ACTS. THEY ARE FULL OF LARGE, BOLD ACTION THAT ARE NORMALLY RESERVED FOR "CLIMAXES" OF MOST 3 ACT FILMS. BY MOVING THESE GRAND GESTURE TO EARLIER IN THE STORY, THEY THUS HAVE THE POWER TO BOTH SHOCK THE AUDIENCE AND SHAPE THE STORY FURTHER. IT'S BRILLIANT STORYTELLING). THEN THERE IS ACT 4 - THE SPIRAL, IN WHICH THE RESULTS OF THE TURN GAIN STEAM AND PROPEL TOWARD THE ENDING (WHAT IS INTERESTING IS HOW MOST ACT 4S LOOK LIKE THE ENTIRE ACT 2S OF 3 ACT STRUCTURE. WHICH MEANS THERE A LOT OF BACK AND FORTH AND SETUP FOR FINALE, BUT IT WORKS MUCH BETTER IN SHAKESPEARE BECAUSE THE ACTS ARE SO SHORT, AND HECTIC AND FEELS LIKE TIME IS RUNNINGOUT. MEANWHILE, IT DOESN'T WORK IN 3 ACT STRUCTURE BECAUSE THEY TRY TO DO THIS FOR 40 PAGES IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MOVIE ANDIT JUST COMPLETELY LACKS IMPORTANCE). FINALLY THERE IS ACT 5 - THE CLIMAX, WHICH BRINGS THE NARRATIVE TO A RESOLUTION AND HAMMERS HOME THE FINAL THEMATIC MESSAGES OF THE ENTIRE PIECE (THE ENDING IS THE CONCEIT!).

BUT AGAIN, THIS IS JUST A MUCH MORE INTERESTING MODEL FOR PROPULSIVE STORYTELLING, BUT ANY NUMBER OF ACTS WILL DO. MALCOLM X IS 9 ACTS IN HULK'S ESTIMATION. SOME FILMS ARE UPWARDS OF 20. THERE'S EVEN A WAY THAT EVERY SINGLE SCENE SHOULD FEEL LIKE IT'S OWN MINI-ACT THAT ACCOMPLISHES SOME STORY POINT AND PROPELS YOU FURTHER, IT'S JUST WETEND TO RESERVE THE TERM "ACT BREAK" FOR THESE MAJOR SORT OF GESTURES. BUT REALLY EVERY SCENE IN A FILM SHOULD BE ACCOMPLISHINGSOMETHING, JUST ON A DIFFERENT SCALE.

WE'RE GOING TO EXPLORE ALL THE POSSIBLE WAYS TO APPROACH THE SHAPE OF YOUR STORY IN THE NEXT FEW POINTS, BUT JUST REMEMBERTHAT USING 3 ACT STRUCTURE AS YOUR "GUIDE" IS ONE THE MOST REDUCTIVE, UNHELPFUL THING YOU CAN DO. IT'S A MODEL THAT JUST MAKES ONE'S MOVIE LOOK LIKE EVERY OTHER BAD MOVIE.

BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY IT WILL NOT HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER WRITER.

22. DO NOT USE HERO JOURNEYS EITHER - IT IS A CRUTCH

THIS WAS ALSO LINKED TO IN THE PREAMBLE ARTICLE AND RAISES SIMILAR PROBLEMS. NOW, OF COURSE THE HERO JOURNEY CAN BE USED JUST FINE IN A LOT CASES, BUT HULK'S MAIN PROBLEM WITH THE STRUCTURE IS HOW IT SIMILARLY REDUCES THE CONCEPT OF PROPULSION IN FAVOR OF THEME ALONE. BUT REALLY IT'S MUCH WORSE THAN THAT. SO MANY WRITERS USE IT AS CRUTCH NOWADAYS THAT THE BEATS ARE SO OVERUSED AND SOOOOOOO FAMILIAR AT THIS POINT THAT IT'S ALMOST COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE TO THE GOAL INVOLVING THEAUDIENCE. AND SINCE IT'S A CRUTCH, THE WRITERS OFTEN DON'T EVEN CARE ABOUT THE THEMES INVOLVED AND HIT THESE BEATS BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT THEY THINK STORIES DO.

SCREW IF IT MAKES SENSE FOR CHARACTER AND THIS PLOT, I'M DOING WHAT CAMPBELL SAYS I SHOULD DO!

YEAHHHHH, THE PROBLEM WITH THAT IS THAT'S NOT WHAT CAMPBELL SAID YOU SHOULD DO. WHAT DOES HULK MEAN? HULK MEANS THAT JOESEPH CAMBPELL NEVER MEANT FOR THE HERO JOURNEY TO BE A STRUCTURAL WRITING GUIDE!

THE HERO JOURNEY WAS A WAY OF APPRAISING ANCIENT MYTH TO UNDERSTAND THE CULTURAL RELEVANCY AND ANTHROPOLOGICAL TIES THAT BIND.MEANING IT WAS AN ACADEMIC AND THEMATIC APPRAISAL. IT WAS NOT EVER MEANT TO BE THOUGHT OF AS STRUCTURAL GUIDE. HULK KNOW THATGEORGE LUCAS USED IT AS HIS INSPIRATION, AND THUS EVERYONE IS NOW USING IT AS THEIR INSPIRATION, BUT THE THINGS THAT MAKE STAR WARS A GOOD NARRATIVE, WHETHER IT BE THE CHARACTERIZATION, THE PROPULSION, THE SCENE-TO-SCENE GOAL-ORIENTATED STRUCTURE, HAVE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE FACT THAT HE WAS TAPPING INTO THESE COMMON ARCHAIC MYTHS THAT CAMPBELL DESCRIBED. THAT FOR THEME AND THEME ALONE.

LOOK. THE HERO'S JOURNEY SEEMS LIKE IT'S A STRUCTURE BECAUSE OF THE CIRCLE AND THE POINTS ALONG THE WAY AND ALL THAT OTHER STUFF, BUT IT DOESN'T APPROPRIATE STORYTELLING AND HOW TO EXECUTE CONFLICT RESOLUTION. IT JUST DOESN'T. HULK THINKS IT'S TRULY AWESOME FOR IDENTIFYING THEMES AND MOTIFS, BUT IT WAS NEVER MEANT TO BE A "HOW-TO-WRITE!" STRUCTURAL TOOL.

TO BRING THIS POINT AND THE PREVIOUS ONE ALL TOGETHER: GREEN LANTERN WAS A FILM THAT WAS ABSOLUTELY RUINED BYITS NAIVE WILL TO ADHERE TO BOTH 3 ACT STRUCTURE AND HERO'S JOURNEY (IT'S A 2 FOR 1!). YOU CAN ABSOLUTELY FEEL BOTH MODELS' DIRTY MITTS ALL OVER THE THING, WITH NO UNDERSTANDING OF THE OTHER VALUES THE STORY NEEDS TO FILL THOSE CONCEPTS IN.THE ENTIRE SECOND ACT JUST LOAFS AROUND WAITING FOR THINGS TO HAPPEN. REALLY. IT'S ALL SUPPOSED TO BE PART OF SOME "TRIAL"BUT IT'S NOT EVEN THAT. IT'S JUST AN EXTENSION OF "THE REFUSAL" THAT GOES ON FOR-FUCKING-EVER. IT'S AN ENDLESS DELAY OF PEP-TALKS AND THIS FAUX-MANUFACTURED "CONFLICT" BECAUSE THE WRITERS ARE SO AFRAID TO MOVE THE STORY AND CHARACTERS ALONG TO THE POINTS THEY'RE RESERVING FOR ACT 3. WASTING AN AUDIENCE'S "NARRATIVE TIME" IS WORST KIND OF OFFENSE TO HULK (AGAIN, NOT TALKING ABOUT SLOW-PACED EDITING. HULK ACTUALLY LIKES THAT. NARRATIVE TIME IS DIFFERENT). AND WHEN THE OBLIGATORY CLIMAXCOMES IT FEELS APROPOS OF NOTHING BUT MERE EXPECTATION. IT'S WHOLLY UNEARNED AND DISTANCES ITSELF FROM ANYTHING THAT COMEBEFORE. EVEN THE ACT 1 TRANSITION IS GARBAGE. IT ISN'T EVEN REALLY AN "ACT" BECAUSE HAL JORDON DOESN'T EVEN MAKE ACHOICE TO GO TO PLANET OA. THE RING JUST TAKES HIM THERE. AND HE THEN SPENDS THE ENTIRETY OF THIS SUPPOSED "ACT 2" GOING BACK ON THAT TRANSITION. THE ENTIRE FILM HAS ONE ACTUAL DECISION RIGHT BEFORE THE LAST BATTLE.

THIS IS A COMPLETE FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND WHAT STORYTELLING REALLY MEANS.

HULK FEELS THE FILM IS ONE OF THE LAZIEST, MOST-STORY-DEAF SCRIPTS EVER WRITTEN. REALLY. NONE OF IT IS WHAT YOU WANT IN HOW TOTELL A STORY. AND HULK REALLY WORRIES THAT PART OF THE REASON IS BECAUSE THEY SO DESPERATELY CLUNG TO 3 ACT STRUCTURE AND THEHERO JOURNEY, THINKING IT WOULD HANDLE EVERYTHING THEY NEEDED.

DAMMIT ALL, HULK SMASH! YOU, THE PERSON HULK WRITING TO NOW, STAY AWAY FROM THEM! YOU WANT TO BE PROPULSIVE! AND.. AND... SORRY HULK CALM DOWN NOW. [CLEARS VOICE] ... HULK JUST WANT TO SUGGEST TO YOU THAT THERE ARE OTHER MODELS OUT THERE WHICH HELP YOUWRITE MUCH BETTER WORK.

YOU MAY ARGUE "BUT HULK YOU TALK ABOUT OTHER STRUCTURE  MODEL TO USE. AREN'T THOSE JUST AS REDUCTIVE?" NO, NOT REALLY. IT'S A FAIR POINT OF COURSE, BECAUSE ALL THESE MODELS ARE INDEED REDUCTIVE, BUT THERE IS A SPECIFIC WAY THAT THEREDUCTIVE ANGLES OF EACH ALL HELP SOLVE CERTAIN PROBLEMS ONE ENCOUNTERS IN WRITING. AND HULK FINDS THAT ASIDE FROM A FEW THEMATIC POINTS IN THE HERO JOURNEY, THESE TWO POPULAR MODELS WON'T SOLVE MUCH OF ANYTHING.

BUT HULK REALLY BELIEVE THERE ARE SOME OTHER MODELS THAT WILL HELP.

SO LET'S LOOK AT THEM, SHALL WE?

23. THE SEQUENTIAL APPROACH

THE SEQUENTIAL APPROACH IS MORE DETAILED THAN THIS, BUT BASICALLY IT AMOUNTS TO "SIT DOWN AND START WRITING THE STORY LOGICALLY FROM POINT A TO POINT B."

... YEAH... THIS IS A HORRIBLE WAY TO WRITE SCREENPLAYS IF YOU'VE NEVER WRITTEN ONE BEFORE.

CHANCES ARE IT IS WILL CREATE A RUN-ON, PURPOSELESS STORY. IT WILL SHOW A LACK OF FORETHOUGHT. IDEAS WILL BE LOST AND THE STORY WILL SIMPLY MEANDER TO PLACES IT NEVER FELT LIKE IT WOULD BELONG. HULK SEES SCRIPTS THAT WERE CLEARLY WRITTEN THIS WAY TIME AND TIME AGAIN, WHERE THE STORY JUST PLAIN RUNS OUT STEAM WITH NO REAL SENSE OF HOW TO RESOLVE IT.

BUT THE VALUE OF THE SEQUENTIAL APPROACH BECOMES STARTLINGLY APPARENT LATER ON IN YOUR DEVELOPMENT. ONCE YOU'VE ALREADY HAD A GOOD DEAL EXPERIENCE WITH STRUCTURE AND HEAVILY OUTLINING, IT CAN RE-INTRODUCE THE MOST BASIC LOGICAL FORM OF WRITING. YOUSEE, SO MANY INTERMEDIATE WRITERS GET CAUGHT UP IN THE GAME OF BEATS AND STRUCTURE AND CHARACTER POINTS THAT THEY'LL END UPWRITING THESE LITTLE DISCONNECT SCENES. THE STORY IS THIS SCENE AND THEN IT'S THAT SCENE, ETC. THEY'LL WORK EACH WORKLIKE THEIR OWN LITTLE PLAYS. IT WORKS IN TERMS OF MAKING YOUR OUTLINE LOOK GOOD AND WELL-REALIZED, BUT OVER-RELYING ON THOSE METHODS ALSO HURTS THE OVERALL FLOW. BECAUSE NO MATTER WHAT MOST STRUCTURAL OUTLINES CREATE FLOW PROBLEMS. THEY JUST DO. AND IN COMPARISON, THE LOGICAL PROCESS OF WRITING SEQUENTIALLY CAN SO HELPFUL WHEN YOU FINISH A SCENE AND SAY "WELL NOW I GO HERE OF COURSE!"

MEANING THAT SEQUENTIAL APPROACH IS BEST USED AS A KIND OF INTERMITTENT TOOL. START WITH HEAVILY PLANNED ARCS, BUT DON'T BE AFRAID TO MOMENTARILY LOSE YOURSELF IN THE FLOW OF THE WRITING (PARTICULARLY IF IT THE FIRST DRAFT). BUT ALWAYS TAKE PIT STOPS TO REFOCUS. BE SURE THAT WHERE YOU'RE GOING FITS BACK INTO THE OUTLINE. GO BACK AND FORTH, BUT NEVER BE AFRAID TO GIVE INTO WHAT SCENE DICTATES MIGHT HAPPEN NEXT.

ONCE YOU'RE DONE, YOU STILL KEEP GOING BACK WORKING IT INTO YOUR BEATS. THE WHOLE THING IS A DIFFICULT BALANCING ACT (ONCEHULK EXPLAINS THE NEXT FEW BEATS, ACHIEVING THIS BALANCE WILL MAKE MUCH MORE SENSE), BUT REALLY THE IMPORTANT THING IS TO REALIZE THAT FLOW IS ALWAYS CRITICAL TO ORGANIC STORY PROPULSION..

BUT HOW DO YOU BE SURE WHAT "FLOWS" ACTUALLY MAKES SENSE?

24. TREY PARKER + MATT STONES': "THEREFORE / BUTS" NOT "ANDS"

WATCH THIS VIDEO OF THE SOUTH PARK GUYS UNEXPECTEDLY SHOW UP IN AN NYU SCREENWRITING CLASS AND DROP SOME KNOWLEDGE BOMBS. (PROP'S TO HULK'S FRIEND DAVE FOR FINDING IT). REALLY. WATCH IT. IT'S 2 MINUTES. HULK SWEAR:

THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST SUCCINCT AND HELPFUL THINGS THAT HULK HAS EVER COME ACROSS IN EXPLAINING THE PROCESS OF WRITING. SINCEFINDING IT, HULK HAS NOT ONLY SPREAD THE WORD, BUT USED IT TIME AND TIME AGAIN. HULK REALLY NOT EVEN NEED TO EXPAND ON IT BECAUSE IT SO FREAKING CLEAR. IT EVEN ADDRESSES THE SINGLE MOST RELEVANT PROBLEM IN TODAY'S WRITING AND THAT IS A LACK OF NARRATIVE PURPOSE TO THE ACTION ONE SEEING ON SCREEN.

SIMPLY PUT: "THEREFORE'S" AND "BUTS" CREATE THE SENSE OF PROPULSION.

THE "AND THENS" STOP THE NARRATIVE COLD.

IT'S NO ACCIDENT THAT THE SOUTH PARK GUYS HAVE BECOME BETTER WRITERS WITH EVERY PASSING SEASON OF THE SHOW. THEY HAVE ALWAYS BEEN FUNNY AND SMART, BUT AFTER 10 YEARS THEY HAVE FINALLY LEARNED TO SHAPE THEIR STORYTELLING. MEANING THESHOW HAS GONE FROM BEING FLIPPANT AND FUNNY, TO NOW THEY ARE BEING DOWNRIGHT RESONANT. A PUNK ASS SHOW THAT CAN TELL STORIES MIND, BODY, AND SOUL. AND THAT'S REALLY SOMETHING.

SO LOOK AT YOUR STORIES. LOOK AT EVERY SCENE. IF THE ONLY WAY TO LINE UP THE BEATS IS WITH "AND THEN" THEN YOU'RE IN TROUBLE. FIND YOUR "THEREFORES" AND "BUTS."

START RESHAPING YOUR PURPOSE!

25. DAN HARMON'S CIRCLES

THERE ARE, OF COURSE, FAR MORE COMPLEX MODELS TO CREATE THIS SAME SENSE OF PROPULSION.

THERE WAS A RECENT WIRED ARTICLE WHERE THE INCREDIBLE DAN HARMON, CREATOR OF COMMUNITY, DELVED INTO HIS STRUCTURAL APPROACH THE SHOW. CHECK IT OUT HERE.NOW THIS MODEL HAS A VERY SPECIFIC PURPOSE TO TV SITCOMS, BUT THE FORM IS RATHER INTERESTING AND CAN BE APPLIED TO MANY OTHERFORMS OF STORYTELLING. THE SHORT VERSION OF HIS CHARACTER-CONFLICT-STRUCTURE LOOK LIKE THIS:

1. A CHARACTER IS IN A ZONE OF COMFORT

2. BUT THEY WANT SOMETHING.

3. THE ENTER AN UNFAMILIAR SITUATION

4. ADAPT TO IT

5. GET WHAT THEY WANT

6. PAY A HEAVY PRICE FOR IT

7. THEN RETURN TO THEIR FAMILIAR SITUATION

8. HAVING CHANGED.

IT IS A WONDERFUL WAY TO LOOK AT STORYTELLING BECAUSE IT IS A DIRECT MODEL FOR SHOWING HOW A CHARACTER CHANGES. IT IS A PERFECT MODEL FOR ACHIEVING CATHARSIS.

THIS MODEL NOT ONLY FOSTERS GOOD CHARACTERIZATION, NOT ONLY INCORPORATES SOME THEMATIC IDEA OF WHAT HUMAN BEINGS WANT, BUT ALSO REQUIRES A SENSE OF NARRATIVE PROPULSION AND PURPOSE TO EACH SCENE. 8 LITTLE STORY BEATS THAT CAN BE MANIFESTED OVER A WHOLEMOVIE, AN EPISODE OF TELEVISION, 8 SCENES, 8 LITTLE MOMENTS, OR EVEN, IF YOU'RE REALLY GOOD, A SINGLE BRIEF INTERACTION.

THE COMPLEXITY OF HOW HARMON APPROACHES THESE CIRCLES IS FASCINATING, BUT IT IS IMPORTANT TO RECOGNIZE THAT THIS PARTICULAR MODEL IS SOMETHING HE PERSONALLY UNDERSTANDS IN EVERY FACET. IT IS HIS METHOD. WHEREAS THIS WHOLE ANALYSIS IS ABOUT HOWYOU INCORPORATE IT IN INTO YOUR METHOD. EVEN IF IT MAY HELP YOU SOLVE A WHOLE BUNCH OF PROBLEMS IN YOUR SCRIPT, IT JUST MIGHT NOT MAKE PERFECT SENSE FOR YOUR NON-SITCOM APPROACH.

SO THE REAL LESSON TO TAKE FROM DAN HARMON'S CIRCLES IS HOW MUCH WORK AND THOUGHT HE PUTS INTO HIS CHARACTER ARCS, AND HOWHARD HE WORKS AT GETTING HIS STORIES TO BREAK TO THEM.

WHICHEVER STRUCTURAL METHODS YOU END UP INCORPORATING, YOU SHOULD BE WORKING JUST AS HARD.

MOVING ON!

26. THE SNOW FLAKE METHOD

A LOT OF TIMES, PARTICULARLY WHEN APPROACHING LONGER STORIES LIKE SEASON-LONG TV ARCS OR NOVELS, PEOPLE WILL HAVE TROUBLE FINDING WAYS TO ENRICH THE STORY WITH DETAIL WHILE STILL REMAINING RELEVANT TO THE CONCEIT. SURE WE HAVE POINT #10'S CHARACTERTREES, BUT THAT'S DOESN'T SOLVE A LOT OF LONG-FORM STRUCTURE PROBLEMS. THAT'S WHEN HULK FINDS THE SNOWFLAKE METHODHELPFUL.

TAKE A LOOK, IT GETS TO THE GOOD STUFF AT "THE TEN STEPS OF DESIGN."

THERE'S A LOT THAT GOES INTO IT, AND AGAIN THE LINK IS SO CLEAR THAT HULK JUST DOESN'T WANT TO REGURGITATE IT, BUT THEIDEA IS TO REALLY  FLESH OUT THE IDEAS IN THROUGH-LINES THROUGH EVERY FACET OF THE APPROACH. IT CAN BE A FASCINATING EXERCISE TO TAKE YOUR CORE IDEA AND EXTRAPOLATE IT INTO SINGULAR DETAILS. YOU BASICALLY ASK YOURSELF:

"WHAT ARE THE SCENARIOS IN WHICH MY CORE IDEA WOULD BEST MANIFEST ITSELF?"

LET'S GO BACK TO OUR AWESOME SIX FEET UNDER EXAMPLE, WHICH SEEMED TO USE THE SNOWFLAKE METHOD. ALAN BALLASKED HIMSELF, WHAT SCENARIOS WOULD CONFRONTING MORTALITY BEST MANIFEST ITSELF? AND HE FOUND ANSWERS: WORKING IN A FUNERAL HOME, FATHER DYING, CONSTANTLY TAKING IN DEAD BODIES, CONSTANTLY DEALING WITH GRIEVING LOVED ONES. HULK HAVE NO IDEA IF BALL IS A SNOWFLAKE-METHOD GUY, BUT WHEN HULK LOOKS AT HIS WORK IT SURE LOOKS LIKE IT. ALL CENTRAL THEME EXTRAPOLATED INTO PLOTTING, CHARACTER, AND SINGULAR DETAILS.

AT THIS JUNCTURE, YOU MAY HAVE REALIZED THAT WHOLE POINT OF THESE STRUCTURES IS TO HAVE AS MANY DIFFERENT WAYS OF ATTACKING DIFFERENT KINDS OF STORY PROBLEMS. THIS IS PERFECT BECAUSE WRITING IS LARGELY ABOUT PROBLEM SOLVING. YOU WRITE. EVERYTHING SEEMSGREAT. YOU HIT A SNAG. YOU TRY AND FIGURE IT OUT.

THAT'S WRITING.

SO DEPENDING ON WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING TO SOLVE, THERE ARE SO MANY MODELS TO INCORPORATE INTO YOUR FAVORITE METHOD. SO THAT BEING SAID, LETS LOOK AT HULK'S FAVORITE METHOD AND USE THE ENTIRE STORY-BREAKING / INSPIRATION PROCESS WE'VE LEARNED SOFAR. IT'S REALLY A TWO PART PROCESS. THE FIRST IS:

27. BREAKING INTO CONCURRENT ARCS

ONE OF THE BEST PLACES TO START REALLY ORGANIZING YOUR STRUCTURE IS TO LOOK AT ALL THE ARCS IN YOUR STORY AND LAY THEM OUT ASINDIVIDUAL STORIES.

HULK COULD COME UP WITH A FUN ANALYSIS OF A MOVIE THAT WE ALL KNOW AND COULD WORK WITH, BUT BECAUSE HULK KEEPS TALKING ABOUT THE PROBLEMS OF REVERSE ENGINEERING, LET'S GO IN A DIFFERENT DIRECTION INSTEAD. HULK WILL NOW COME UP WITH A MADE-UP STORY RIGHT HERE ON THE SPOT... HULK SWEAR THIS WHAT HULK DOING AND IT PROBABLY GOING TO BE PRETTY BAD. AGAIN, HULK SWEAR HULK WON'T REFINE THE IDEA SO IT WILL BE BAD, BUT AT LEAST YOU CAN SEE THE ORGANIC PROCESS:

UM... SO, LIKE, A DOCTOR HAS JOURNEYED TO A SMALL AIDS HOSPITAL IN AFRICA, TO REBUILD HIS LIFE AFTER A PAINFUL DIVORCE... YOUKNOW THIS KINDA STORY. IT MAKES UP THE WORLD OF MELODRAMA AND SUCH. SO IN THIS STORY THE DOCTOR HAS TO FACE HIS OWN PAST AND PAIN AND YADA YADA YADA YOU GET IT, BUT ALSO.....  THERE'S A BOSS WHO RUNS THE HOSPITAL IN A VERY COUNTER-INTUITIVE WAYTHAT IS DIFFERENT FROM THE DOCTOR'S OWN EXPERIENCE. AND THIS IS NOT JUST IN TERMS OF MEDICAL LOGISTICS, BUT REGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE AND WHAT IS "BEST FOR EVERYONE." THE BOSS WON'T TAKE CERTAIN RISKS AND WILL ONLY DO WHAT THEY CAN DO TO KEEP THE SYSTEM IN BALANCE. AND THERE IS ALSO ANOTHER MAIN CHARACTER AND SHE IS A CO-WORKER AT THE HOSPITAL AND LOVE INTEREST TO HELP HIM REBUILD HIS LIFE. THAT SOUNDS LIKE THREE GOOD PLACES TO START.

NOW... HULK NOT JUST INTERESTED IN SOMETHING AS SIMPLE AS THOSE CHARACTER ARCHETYPES. HULK REALLY WANTS TO EXPLORE THE REAL-LIFE CONCEPTS OF COMPASSION VS. PRACTICALITY IN A BUREAUCRACY.  PLUS, HULK REALLY INTERESTED IN THE STATE OF HEALTH AND POLITICS IN AFRICA. SO NOW WE HAVE SOME THEMES HULK FINDS COMPELLING. SO THE MAIN CHARACTER AND THE BOSS WILL HAVE A DISAGREEMENT OVER THE PROPER TREATMENT OF AIDS, WHERE THE MAIN CHARACTER IS PRO-PRACTICALITY WITH SAFE SEX AND THE BOSS IS RELIGIOUS WITH THEOLD STANCE OF ABSTINENCE. BUT HULK DOESN'T WANT IT TO BE THIS SIMPLE GOOD / BAD DYNAMIC. LET'S REVERSE IT THEN. THE BOSS WILL ALSO HAVE A VERY PRACTICAL APPROACH TO NOT HELPING FOLKS WHO CAN'T BE HELPED AND WILL ONLY GET OTHERS SICK, WHERE AS THE MAIN CHARACTER SEES THAT AS LACKING COMPASSION. THEY BOTH HAVE THEIR IDEALS, AND THEY BOTH HAVE THEIR SENSE OF PRACTICALITY. COOL.

SO HULK BEGINS TO WORK WITH THESE IDEAS, BLAH BLAH BLAH BUT AT CERTAIN POINT IN BRAINSTORMING PROCESS HULK WOULD SIT DOWN TO MAP OUT THE THREE ARCS.

-RELATIONSHIP WITH BOSS

-RELATIONSHIP WITH CO-WORKER

-RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS SELF / PAST

AND FOR EACH OF THESE ARCS HULK WOULD PLAN OUT A STORY FOR THAT MAKES SENSE ON ITS OWN. THEY WOULD NOT SIMPLY BE "ELEMENTS" OFA LARGER STORY, BUT THEIR OWN COMPLETE STORIES, INDEPENDENT OF ANYTHING ELSE. ALSO, HULK WOULD NOT WASTE ANYTHING. HULK WOULDLIST OUT EACH SCENE, WHICH WOULD COMPRISE EACH BEAT OF THE STORY. THIS WOULD ALLOW HULK TO BE SURE THAT EACH BEAT REALLY ACCOMPLISHED SOMETHING.

HULK WON'T DO IT FOR ALL OF THEM, BUT HERE'S A QUICK + DIRTY TREATMENT (THAT AGAIN IS UNEDITED) OF WHAT THE STORY BEATS WOULD LOOK LIKE FOR ONE OF THE ARCS.

-RELATIONSHIP WITH BOSS: DOCTOR MEETS BOSS AND NOTICES THEIR DIFFERENT LIFE APPROACHES. THE DOCTOR FEELS ALIENATED. THE DOCTORTHEN SEES THE BOSS'S PRAGMATIC UNCOMPASSIONATE STYLE IN ACTION AND IT GIVES HIM ETHICAL CONCERN, SO THEY COME INTO A CONFLICT OVER IT. THE DOCTOR STICKS TO HIS GUNS ON A DIFFERENT CASE AND SAVES A PATIENT WHO A DANGER TO OTHERS. IT IS A SUCCESS ANDEVERYONE ELSE FINE, MUCH TO THE DISMAY OF THE BOSS, THE MAIN DOCTOR FEELS EMBOLDENED BY THIS SUCCESS, SO THE NEXT TIME THE DOCTOR DOES THIS SAME THING, IT IS LESS SUCCESSFUL. HIS EMBOLDENED ATTITUDE WAS MISPLACED SO HE THEN HE SEES NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCESOF THIS DECISION. A DECISION CAUSES OTHERS TO GET SICK, THE DOCTOR SEES HOW HIS EMBOLDENED ATTITUDE HAS UNDERMINED THE BOSSES ABILITY TO RUN THE HOSPITAL, THE NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES FOR SPIRAL, THE PROBLEMS ARE RIGHTED BY THE TWO APPRECIATING THE OTHER AND COMING TO WORK TOGETHER.

NOW THIS IS EXAMPLE ISN'T THAT GOOD OR FOCUSED, AND IN FACT IT IS THE KIND OF HOSPITAL PLOT LINE WE'VE SEEN A MILLIONTIMES BEFORE, BUT THAT JUST MAKES IT PERFECT FOR OUR PURPOSES. SINCE THEY ARE ALL FAMILIAR STORY BEATS YOU IMPLICITLY "GET" THEBARE BONES OF THE STORY, WE CAN NOW  TALK ABOUT WHERE IT CAN PROPERLY GO.

THE FIRST STEP WOULD BE THAT THESE BEATS NEED TO BE FLESHED OUT IN AN ORGANIC AND ACCURATE MANNER. THE STORY, LIKE ANY STORY,COULD EASILY FEEL FORCED. BUT THE BEATS COULD EASILY FEEL NATURAL AS ANYTHING TOO. EITHER WAY, WE HAVE WHAT WE NEED. WE DON'T NEED ANY MORE SCENES THAN WHAT IS CONVEYED IN THAT DESCRIPTION OF THE ARC. SO WE HAVE ECONOMY. NOTICE HULK DOES NOTDOUBLE UP ON CONFLICTS WHICH SAY THE SAME THING. THERE IS AN INCIDENT THAT SHOWS A GOOD REACTION. AND INCIDENT THAT SHOWS A BAD REACTION. WE DON'T NEED ANY MORE THAN THAT. THOSE TWO CASES ALONE WILL PROPEL THE STORY WHERE IT NEEDS TO GO.

NEXT. HULK WOULD DO THIS FOR THE OTHER ARC WITH THE COWORKER RELATIONSHIP AND THE ARC WITH HIS PAST / SELF. AGAIN, WE DO THISTO BE SURE EACH ELEMENT IS A SINGULAR, COMPLETE STORY.

... BUT THESE ARE NOT THREE SEPARATE STORIES, ARE THEY?

NOT AT ALL. THIS IS A MOVIE, OR A TV SHOW, OR A NOVEL, OR WHATEVER. AND AS SUCH IT IS ONE THING. WHICH MEANS THE ARCSNEED TO BE INGRAINED INTO A SINGULAR STORY.

THIS IS WHERE YOU DO THE 2ND PART OF THE BREAKING PROCESS AND:

28. MERGE INTO CONFLICTING ARCS

HULK USES THE FOLLOWING MOVIE ALL THE TIME WHEN TALKING ABOUT SCREENWRITING, NOT BECAUSE IT'S A STUNNING EXAMPLE OF INNOVATIVE WRITING, BUT BECAUSE IT ONLY TRIES TO DO THE MOST BASIC THINGS AND IT GETS THEM SO, SO RIGHT.

THE MOVIE IS KUNG FU PANDA.

REALLY? YES.

THE THING HULK LOVES ABOUT THE FILM IS HOW IT BALANCES THE RELATIONSHIPS AND PLOT MECHANICS TO KEEP THEM ALL VERY UNIFIED. THERE IS PO, THE DIM-WITTED PANDA CHOSEN TO BE THE DRAGON WARRIOR BY MASTER OOGWAY AND MEANT TO UNLOCK THE POWER OF THE DRAGON SCROLL. THERE IS TIGRESS, THE ONE WHO WAS IN LINE TO BE THE DRAGON WARRIOR AND IS NOW DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED AT NOT BEING CHOSEN. THERE IS TAI LUNG THE VILLAINOUS FORMER PUPIL WHO WANTS TO UNLOCK THE POWER OF THE DRAGON SCROLL FOR HIMSELF. AND ALL THREE ARE LINKED TO MASTER SHIFU WHO FAILED IN TRAINING TAI LUNG BECAUSE HE LOVED HIM TOO MUCH AND GAVE INTO ALL TAIL LUNG'S INDULGENTBEHAVIORS. TO CORRECT HIS MISTAKES, SHIFU WAS  FAR TOO HARD ON HIS NEXT PUPIL TIGRESS, WHO HE IMBUES WITH FAR TOO MUCH DESIRE TO PLEASE HIM. AND THEN SHIFU IS FACED WITH TRAINING THE IDIOTIC, BUT WELL-MEANING PO, A TASK HE DOES NOT WANT OR UNDERSTAND, ESPECIALLY BECAUSE IT WAS MEANT FOR TIGRESS. AND THEN GUIDING OVER ALL OF THEM, PARTICULARLY SHIFU'S FRUSTRATIONS, IS MASTER OOGWAY, THE ONE WHO CHOSE PO AS DRAGON WARRIOR AND GUIDES ALL FIVE OF THESE CHARACTERS WITH A QUIET SENSE OF ZEN AND DESTINY.

5 MAIN CHARACTERS. 5 DIFFERENT SETS OF RELATIONSHIPS. THEY ALL HAVE MOTIVES TO RELATE TO EACH OTHER. THEY ALL HAVE REASONS TODISLIKE EACH OTHER AND PROVIDE CONFLICT. BUT BEST OF ALL THEY ARE ALL "INTERESTED PARTIES" IN THE MAIN PLOT OF OBTAINING THE DRAGON SCROLL. THEY ALL HAVE A REAL STAKE IN THE STORY AND ACTION. THEY ARE NOT CHARACTERS MADE BE FOILS FOR EACH OTHER. THEY AREALL REAL PEOPLE WITH REAL STAKES. THE FILM DOES NOT WASTE OF THIS GREAT DYNAMIC EITHER. WHEN THE DRAGON SCROLL IS UNLOCKED, INMOMENT OF CONVERGING PLOT, IT REALLY ALLOWS THEM TO COME TO A REAL CATHARSIS ABOUT THE UNDERSTANDING OF THEMSELVES AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO ONE ANOTHER, PO'S EMBRACING OF HIS OWN ZEN-LIKE ABILITIES, TIGRESS'S WILL TO ACCEPT PO AS DRAGON WARRIOR, SHIFU'S REALIZATION OF HIS BLINDING PRE-JUDGEMENT OF PO, AND EVEN IN THE CASE OF REVEALING TAI LUNG'S OWN PRIDE AND WEAKNESS. THE MOVIE COMES TOGETHER FOR EVERY CHARACTER ARC AND EVERY RELATIONSHIP, ALL IN A SINGULAR NARRATIVE MOMENT.

HULK JUST HAS TO SAY IT, BUT THE BASIC MECHANICS OF PLOTTING AND CHARACTER IN THIS FILM ARE FUCKING PERFECT.

IT'S ALSO SOMEWHAT FUNNY AND HAS SOME REALLY GOOD KUNG FU.

SO AGAIN WE RETURN TO HULK'S SILLY AFRICAN DOCTOR MOVIE THAT WE JUST MADE UP AND IS NOWHERE NEAR AS GOOD. WE DON'T WANT IT FEEL LIKE 3 SEPARATE MOVIES, WE WANT TO GO ALL KUNG FU PANDA ON THIS SHIT. WE WANT IT TO CONVERGE. SO WEESSENTIALLY "START OVER" WITH THE MULTIPLE ARCS. THAT'S RIGHT WE DON'T JUST AUGMENT WHAT IS ALREADY THERE TO MAKE IT WORK. THAT WOULD BE HALF-ASSED AND ULTIMATELY MAKE THINGS STILL FEEL DISCONNECTED. WE NEED TO CONVERGE THE RELATIONSHIPS. WE NEEDINTERESTED PARTIES. WE NEED STAKES AND DIFFERENT WANTS ALL CENTERING AROUND THE CENTRAL SETTING AND NARRATIVE. WE NEED TO FINDOUR UNIFYING CONCEPT OF A "DRAGON SCROLL" EVEN THOUGH IT PROBABLY WON'T BE A TANGIBLE OBJECT AND INSTEAD SOME CONCEPT THATIS FAR MORE ETHEREAL.

WE NEED TO MAKE IT ONE STORY.

WHICH MEANS ALL THOSE ARCS WE JUST MADE IN POINT #27? THEY DON'T MATTER. THEY WERE A ROUGH DRAFT TO HELP US BE SURE WE DIDN'T SKIRT ANYONE'S RELATIONSHIPS. NOW IS THE TIME TO COMPLETELY ASSIMILATE THEM TOGETHER BY STARTING OVER.

THE TAI LUNG EXAMPLE ABOVE MADE HULK THINK ABOUT ABOUT ADDING ANOTHER CHARACTER TO THE MIX WHO WOULD COMPLICATE THE WHOLE THING AND ADD ANOTHER LAYER OF CONFLICT. THEY COULD BE ANOTHER CO-WORKER IN THE HOSPITAL. THEY COULD CREATE A LOVE TRIANGLE AND HAVE A RADICALLY DIFFERENT, INHUMANE IDEA OF HOW THE HOSPITAL SHOULD BE RUN, ONE THAT WOULD SURELY SINK THE HOSPITALS DIRECTION. THE INCLUSION OF THIS CHARACTER WOULD BE PRODUCTIVE. IT WOULD MAKE FOR A CLEAR 'WRONG" IN THE SCENARIO. IT WOULD PROVIDE THEAUDIENCE WITH EMPATHY FOR THE OTHER MAIN CHARACTERS AND HATE FOR THIS JERK-FACE. IT WOULD BASICALLY SET UP DEFAULT ROOTING SCENARIOS WE WANT IN THE FILM. IT WOULD BE TOTALLY EFFECTIVE AND WORTHWHILE.

... IT ALSO NOT THE KIND OF HUMAN STORY HULK INTERESTED IN TELLING.

FOR ONE, IT'S JUST TOO DAMN MANIPULATIVE. HULK KNOWS THIS MELODRAMATIC STORY LIKELY CAN'T BE TURNED INTO HIGH-ART OR ANYTHING, BUT HULK'S PARTICULAR INCLINATION WOULD BE TO MAKE THIS SCRIPT MORE QUIET, NUANCED, AND WELL-OBSERVED. AND THAT MEANS NO ABJECT VILLAINS. BUT SINCE WE STILL WANT THE INNER-CONFLICT THE VILLAIN PROVIDES, IT WOULD THEN MAKE SENSE TO TAKE SOMEOF THOSE SAME 3RD PARTY CLASHING MOTIVES, AND GIVE IT TO A NON-EVIL CHARACTER. HOW ABOUT THE LOVE INTEREST CO-WORKER? THIS WOULD BE GOOD BECAUSE BEFORE THIS HULK HADN'T REALLY A STRONG IDEA OF THE CHARACTER'S FAULTS. SADLY, SHE WAS JUST ONE OF THOSE FOILS WHO COULD "MAKE THE DOCTOR REALIZE HE NEEDS LOVE" OR SOMETHING STUPID. BUT GIVING HER A CONTENTION AND DIFFERING VIEWPOINT ON WHAT DIRECTION THE HOSPITAL SHOULD GO IN. DOING THIS PROVIDE STAKES AND CONFLICT. IT WOULD MAKER HER RELEVANT TO THESTORY AND NOT JUST RELEVANT TO THE MAIN DOCTORS CATHARSIS. IT WOULD HELP MAKE HER TEXTURED AND REAL. WE WOULD GET THE SAME CONFLICT THE VILLAIN WOULD HAVE PROVIDED, BUT IN THIS VERSION HER HUMANITY  WOULD MAKE HER VIEW SEEM MORE HUMAN.

BUT WHAT COULD THIS THIRD DIRECTION FOR THE HOSPITAL ACTUALLY BE? WELL, HULK VERY INTERESTED IN THE POLITICS OF AFRICA AS WELL, SO MAYBE THE 3RD CHARACTER SHOULD WANT TO REACH OUT TO THE LOCAL ARMY OR DESPOT WHO, DESPITE THEIR ATROCITIES, HAVE RESOURCESTHAT COULD HELP. BOTH THE BOSS AND THE MAIN CHARACTER SHOULD WANT TO STICK TO THE HOSPITAL'S CRUCIAL INDEPENDENCE. IT WOULD MAKE FOR A STORY IN WHICH ALL 3 MAIN CHARACTERS HAD SIGNIFICANT INTEREST IN THE DIRECTION OF THE HOSPITAL (IE THE PLOT), BUTALSO THE MAIN THEME OF IDEALISM VS. PRACTICALITY. IT WOULD GIVE ALL THREE CHARACTERS DIFFERENT RELATIONSHIPS WITH ONE ANOTHER.PLUS BY ADDING THIS ARMY/DESPOT CHARACTER WE WOULD THEN HAVE AN OUTSIDE FORCE WHICH HELPS US AUTOMATICALLY EMPATHIZE WITH EVERYONE WITHIN THE HOSPITAL'S TEAM. BUT AGAIN, NONE OF THIS WOULD BE SO CUT AND DRIED BY THE END. THEY WOULD ALL COME TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT EACH OTHERS' VIEW OF IDEALISM VS. PRACTICALITY.

IT IS THE MERGING OF CONFLICTING ARCS. AND IT IS HOW ONE WRITES ONE SINGULAR STORY.

NOW, HULK SHOULD MENTION THAT FIGURING OUT A SCENE ORDER IS TOO BIG A SUBJECT TO GET INTO HERE...  THAT MAY SOUND CRAZY,BUT IT'S ITS OWN 8,000 WORD COLUMN. HULK WILL COVER THAT WHEN THE TIME COMES, BUT YOUR APPROACH SHOULD BE PRETTY LOGICAL. JUST SORT OF PUT IT TOGETHER AND TRY TO INCLUDE AS MANY OF THE CHARACTERS IN EACH SCENE AS POSSIBLE, EXCEPT WHEN THEY HAVE TO BEALONE OR IN PAIRS. USE LOGIC.

THERE IS ALSO ONE THING ABOUT HULK'S AFRICAN DOCTOR MOVIE EXAMPLE THAT HULK HAVE TO TALK ABOUT: EARLY ON HULK REALIZED SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT. IT HAS TO DEAL WITH POINT #17 AND THE TREATMENT OF WOMEN IN FILM. YOU'LL NOTICE HULK IMMEDIATELY WENT TO THE "DEFAULT MALE PROTAGONIST" AND ALSO THE DEFAULT "FEMALE SUPPORT FIGURE." NEITHER OF THESE OPTIONS ARE GOOD FIRST INCLINATIONS. YOU MAY EVEN REALIZE THAT THIS STORY, WITH ALL ITS CAPACITY FOR MELODRAMA AND BY TOTAL ADMISSION A SOMEWHAT GREYS ANATOMY-LIKE PLOT, REALLY MAKES MORE SENSE IF THE MAIN CHARACTER WAS FEMALE.... HULK TOTALLY AGREES... THAT'SA GOOD SELL FOR THIS MOVIE... BUT HERE'S THE THING. BECAUSE THE TONE OF THE STORY COULD FEEL SO MUCH LIKE FODDER FOR A KINDOF EXPLOITATIVE FEMALE STORY (SOMETHING ALMOST LIFETIME-ESQUE), HULK WOULD LIKE TO TRY TO PUSH IT IN A DIFFERENT DIRECTION ANDEMBRACE AN A-TRADITIONAL TONAL APPROACH. IT WOULD BE A MALE DOCTOR IN TOUCH WITH EMOTIONS AND A SIMPLE RELATE-ABLE STORY. HULKWOULDN'T WANT IT TO BE "AIMED AT AN AUDIENCE" BUT SOMETHING MORE ORGANIC, NUANCED, AND AIMED AT EVERYONE. IT A CASE WHEREHULK WOULD GO THE OPPOSITE OF INTUITION FOR MAIN CHARACTER'S GENDER, BUT ALL FOR A VERY SPECIFIC EFFECT.

THIS IS WHAT HULK TALKS ABOUT WHEN TALKING ABOUT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE AUTHOR. THINK ABOUT THESE KIND OF MATTERS AND EFFECTS CONSTANTLY. THEY WILL TOTALLY INFORM YOUR THEMES. AND WITH ENOUGH DISCUSSION HULK WOULD EASILY BE OPEN TO SWITCHING BACK THESEXES OF THE TWO COWORKERS, SO THAT THE FEMALE WAS THE PROTAGONIST. HULK WOULDN'T WORRY ABOUT DOING THAT IN THE SLIGHTEST.DO YOU KNOW WHY?

BECAUSE THEY'RE PEOPLE. NOT GENDERS. AND WRITING THEM AS PEOPLE MAKES FOR BETTER CHARACTERIZATION. YOU CAN SWITCH GENDERSIN SCRIPTS ALL THE TIME AND UNLESS YOU'RE MAKING PENIS AND VAGINA JOKES OR SOMETHING (WHICH SOMETHING HULK WOULD TOTALLY DO) THE EFFECTS AREN'T THAT BIG A DEAL. THE GENDER DOESN'T MATTER THE WAY YOU THINK IT DOES. SO DON'T WORRY SO MUCH ABOUT IT. IN THE END, THEY WILL EITHER BE PLAYED BY AN ACTOR OR AN ACTRESS SO THE AUDIENCE WILL BE ABLE TO KNOW. YOU DON'T HAVE TO WRITE IT TO TELL THEM.

BUT EVEN AS HULK ESCHEWS THE GENDER LINES AND ESPOUSES ON THE PRINCIPALS OF MELODRAMA HERE, THE PRINCIPALS OF MELODRAMA DO NOTAPPLY TO ALL FORMS OF STORIES. THAT'S WHY YOU SHOULD:

29. LEARN YOUR GENRE CONVENTIONS

DO YOU REALIZE HOW MANY "MYSTERIES" AND PROCEDURALS HULK READS WHERE IT IS COMPLETELY CLEAR THAT THE AUTHOR HAS NEVER ACTUALLYSTUDIED MYSTERIES? AND ARE TOTALLY JUST COPYING WHAT HAPPENS ON TV? IT ABOUT HALF THE TIME. ALL HULK WANTS IS FOR THEM DO PICK UP ANY DAMN BOOK ON THE SUBJECT AND LEARN CONVENTIONS OF NOIR OR MYSTERY OR DETECTIVE WORK OR WHATEVER THE HECK THEY'RE WRITING. IT'S NOT ABOUT SIMPLY APING THE STORYTELLING MODELS, BUT THE FACT THAT DON'T UNDERSTAND THE TONE EITHER. THEY JUST SORT OF PICK UP ON SOME BASIC TEXTURES FROM SORTA KINDA WATCHING IT ONCE AND AWHILE (CSI SHOWS DOTHIS! ETC). AND THAT IS CRAP THINKING.

MOSTLY BECAUSE IT CREATES CRAPPY SCRIPTS.

THE TRUTH IS THAT TO EVEN BEGIN TRYING TO DISCUSSING ALL THE RULES OF GENRE CONVENTIONS WOULD ENTAIL ANOTHER 30,000 WORD COLUMN. DON'T WORRY THOUGH, WE'LL BREAK UP GENRE INTO INDIVIDUAL COLUMNS FOR SOME POINT DOWN THE ROAD. HULK JUST WANT TO INSIST IF YOU WRITING A WESTERN. IT SHOULD LOOK LIKE YOU'VE SEEN A WESTERN BEFORE - COUGH COWBOYS & ALIENS COUGH... SORRY, THAT MAY SEEM LIKE A CHEAP SHOT, BUT IT REALLY DIDN'T SEEM LIKE IT KNEW THE FIRST THINGABOUT THE GENRE BEYOND THE IMPORTANCE OF WEARING COWBOY HATS. AND IF YOU'RE WRITING HORROR, YOU SHOULD KNOW THE MECHANICSOF A SCARE AND WHEN TO LAY THE MECHANICS ON THICK OR LIGHT. THERE'S AN ENTIRE RHYTHM TO A HORROR FILM AND YOU'D BE SHOCKED HOW OFTEN PEOPLE MISUSE AND ABUSE IT (OR NOT EVEN UNDERSTAND IT. HULK LOOKIN' AT YOU WICKER MAN REMAKE!).

BUT THE REAL REASON YOU NEED TO KNOW YOUR GENRE CONVENTIONS, ISN'T JUST FOR THESE TONAL REASONS, BUT BECAUSE THEY EACH HAVE A PSYCHOLOGY TO HOW THEY WORK.

MOST OF THE TIME IT IS ABOUT THE PSYCHOLOGY OF RELEASE. FOR EXAMPLE, ALL GENRES AND FILMS USE SIMILAR CAUSE + EFFECT MODELS TOACHIEVE  SOME FORM OF ANTICIPATION AND RELEASE. EACH GENRE THEN LINES UP WITH A DIFFERENT EMOTION: HORROR FILMS USE THISTWO WAYS. WHEN YOU ARE EXCITED FOR THE KILL, IT UTILIZES ANTICIPATION AND THEN USES A MOMENT OF SHOCK TO SEND YOU INTO ELATION.BUT WHEN YOU FEAR THE KILL IT TRIES TO ESTABLISH TENSION FOLLOWED BY A MOMENT OF RELEASING THE AUDIENCE FROM TENSION, WHICH MAKES IT "OK" TO WATCH AGAIN. THE TWO PSYCHOLOGIES COMPLETELY INFORM HOW ONE ONE SHOULD WRITE AND STAGE THE ACTION OF THE HORRORIN ANY GIVEN MOMENT. YOU HAVE TO ASK THE QUESTION, DOES THE AUDIENCE WANT THIS PARTICULAR CHARACTER TO DIE? OR NOT WANT THIS PARTICULAR CHARACTER TO DIE? AND GO FROM THERE.

IF YOU LOOK AT ACTION FILMS THE CAUSE AND EFFECT NEEDS TO MANIFEST ITSELF BY CREATING TENSION FOLLOWED BY A MOMENT OF ELATIONAND IMPACT (ARE THEY GOING TO DO IT?!?! THEY DID IT!!!) EVEN THOUGH YOU KNOW THAT IN MOST ACTIONS FILMS THE HEROES WILL SUCCEED, THAT DOESN'T ACTUALLY MATTER. THE FILM'S SUCCESS IS IN TRICKING THE AUDIENCE'S BRAIN, THROUGH WHOLLY VISCERAL FILM-MAKING TECHNIQUES, TO FEEL FOR A SPLIT SECOND LIKE THEY MAYBE THEY WON'T. (GOING BACK TO URGENCY VS. MYSTERY, THERE IS A REASON ACTION FILMS WORK WELL WITH CLEAR STAKES AND COMPLETELY OBVIOUS URGENCY. IT'S VISCERAL).

THESE CAUSE + EFFECT MODELS ARE EVERYWHERE AND PART OF EVERY KIND OF GENRE. TO UNDERSTAND THEM IS PARAMOUNT TO YOUR ABILITY TOWRITE. IT EVEN GOES TO THEMATIC MOTIFS LIKE UNDERSTANDING HOW GOOD WESTERNS ARE OFTEN ABOUT "THE END OF THINGS." OR THAT ROMANTIC COMEDIES DEPEND ON THE AUDIENCES FALLING IN LOVE WITH THE CHARACTERS BEFORE THE CHARACTERS DO WITH EACH OTHER (THERE'SA REASON THE RECENT ROMANTIC COMEDIES HAVE COMPLETELY FAILED WHEN THEY GO FOR THEY SLEPT WITH EACH OTHER! NOW THEY HAVE TOFIGURE IT OUT! IT DOESN'T PLAY INTO THE BASIC SENSE OF HOW THE CAUSE + EFFECT WORKS... KNOCKED UP NOTWITHSTANDING BECAUSE THAT MOVIE ACTUALLY GOES FOR OTHER AVENUES OF NARRATIVE RESONANCE AND SUCCEEDS BRILLIANTLY.)

UNDERSTANDING THE PSYCHOLOGY OF HOW A GENRE WORKS WILL GIVE YOU PRECISELY WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE YOUR OWN FILM WORK.... AND YES, EVERY FILM IS TECHNICALLY A GENRE FILM.

NOW THAT WE'VE COVERED "BREAKING" STORIES, WE SHOULD LOOK AT A FEW MICRO PROBLEMS AND DEVICES THAT SHOW UP IN WRITING...

30. "PAGE 17"

THE TERM "PAGE 17" IS A STRANGE PHENOMENON REVEALED TO HULK BY AN OLD MENTOR.

HE SAID THAT IF YOU LOOK THROUGH MOST GOOD SCREENPLAYS, FOR SOME REASON THE MOVIE'S MAIN PLOT OR ACTION KICKS INTO PLACE ON EXACTLY PAGE 17... HE SPENT A CAREER LOOKING INTO IT... HULK CHECKED INTO IT TOO... HE'S ACTUALLY RIGHT.

IT'S ALMOST BIZARRE, BUT IF YOUR READ A TON OF SCRIPTS, "PAGE 17" OF THESE 90-120+ PAGE SCREENPLAYS SEEM TO BE THIS NATURALLY OCCURRING POINT IN THE MAIN PLOT WHERE THE STORY REALLY GETS GOING. EVEN SOMETHING AS NON TRADITIONAL AS THE FIRST CHAPTEROF INGLORIOUS BASTERDS IS 17 PAGES (SORRY, HULK JUST CHECKED, IT'S 17.5). IT'S LIKE THE "SCREENWRITINGPI" OR SOMETHING, THIS NATURALLY OCCURRING PAGE NUMBER WERE IT "FEELS RIGHT" TO REALLY START EMBARKING DOWN THE MAIN NARRATIVEPATH.

PERHAPS THIS IS APROPOS OF NOTHING, BUT HULK SEES IT IS YET ANOTHER TOOL AT YOUR DISPOSAL. HAVE YOU STARTED YOUR MAIN PLOT TOOFAST? HAVE YOU DELAYED IT FOR TOO LONG? IF IT'S PAGE 33 AND THE MAIN PLOT OF YOUR STORY HASN'T GOTTEN GOING YET, ALL BECAUSE YOU'RE STILL "SETTING THINGS UP," THEN CHANCES ARE THAT IS A BAD THING.

IT'S NOT AS IF YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO GET YOUR MAIN STORY COOKING BY PAGE 17, BUT HULK WOULD LIKE TO SUGGEST IF YOU'RE GOING MUCH EARLIER OR MUCH LATER THAN THAT PAGE NUMBER, THEN PERHAPS YOU SHOULD PROBABLY HAVE A REALLY GOOD REASON TODO SO, THAT'S ALL. DON'T LET IT BE DUE TO LAZINESS.

31. IF YOU USE CHARACTERS, THEY SHOULD LIKELY BE REUSED

AGAIN, THESE ARE GUIDELINES. BUT SO OFTEN WE ARE INTRODUCED TO CERTAIN CHARACTERS IN A STORY, WHO ACHIEVE SOME TEMPORARY GOALIN A SCENE. COMIC RELIEF. EXPOSITION. SPURRING FORTH A NEW PLOT. WHATEVER. AND OFTEN THEY WILL THEN DISAPPEAR... IT DOESN'TWORK THAT WELL FOR YOUR STORY ECONOMY.

HULK KNOWS HULK KEEPS PICKING ON THE MOVIE (PERHAPS FAIRLY SO), BUT IN GREEN LANTERN WE ARE INTRODUCED TO HALJORDAN'S FAMILY IN AN OPENING SCENE. THEY CLEARLY DO IT TO MAKE HIM SEEM ALL HUMAN AND CARING AND STUFF. IT'S SO FREAKING MANIPULATIVE IT'S JUST STUPID. BUT THEN... WE PROMPTLY NEVER HEAR FROM THEM AGAIN... WHATSOEVER.

SORRY, BUT IT WAS ONE OF THE MOST LAUGHABLE THINGS HULK'S EVER SEEN. NOT JUST FOR IN-MOVIE LOGIC TERMS, BUT CHARACTER CONSISTENCY TOO. YOU FIGURE HE'D CARE ABOUT HIS FAMILY WHEN ALL OF A SUDDEN SHIT STARTED GOING DOWN WITH THE CITY GETTING EATENBY PARALLAX, BUT HEY WHATEVER. HULK GUESS THERE'S FAR MORE BORING THINGS TO DO WHEN YOUR FAMILY IN TROUBLE. BUT HEY, IT'S JUST OFFENSE FROM A TERRIBLE SCRIPT (WHO KNOWS THOUGH, MAYBE SOMETHING ENDED UP IN THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR AND HULK JUST BEING MEAN).

BUT THE REAL REASON IT SUCKS IS BECAUSE IT FEELS LIKE WASTED NARRATIVE TIME. THE AUDIENCE CAN INHERENTLY SENSE MESSY AND SCATTERED STORYTELLING. THEY SENSE WHEN THINGS DON'T FEEL IMPORTANT OR NECESSARY. LIKE IN HULK'S EXAMPLE WITH HOW THE CHARACTERS IN KUNG FU PANDA CONVERGE AND HAVE STAKES IN EACH OTHER BECAUSE IT MAKES FOR A RELEVANT STORY. SIMPLY PUT, THERE SHOULD BE REASONS CHARACTERS ARE PART OF THE STORY. THEY SHOULD SERVE PURPOSES BEYOND "I LIKE WHAT THEY DO FOR THE HEROIN THIS ONE PARTICULAR SCENE."

THE STORIES WE WEAVE AND HAVE CONNECTIONS. EVEN SOMETHING AS SILLY AS ANIMAL HOUSE, DOESN'T JUST BRING INOTIS DAY AND THE KNIGHTS FOR A GOOD TIMES SEQUENCE, BUT LATER RETURNS TO THEM TO MAKE A VERY DIFFERENT IMPRESSION (COMPLETE WITH CRITICISM OF WHITE-ASSUMPTION, BUT ALSO SOME OLD-SCHOOL RACIST OVERTONES!... OKAY, REALLY IT'S THE "PRIMITIVE CULTURES"JOKE THAT IS TRULY DATED, BUT IT'S FUCKING AWFUL. MEANWHILE, THE REST OF THE MOVIE IS STILL PRETTY AMAZING. SORRY FOR THE TANGENT). ANYCRAP, THE POINT IS YOU SHOULD ALWAYS TRY TO LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE ALL THE CHARACTERS HAVE AS MUCH RELEVANCY TO THE STORY AS POSSIBLE.

AND THAT MEANS FINDING FUN AND INTERESTING WAYS TO BRING THEM BACK. AS A GREAT EXAMPLE, THINK ABOUT THE WAY CURB YOURENTHUSIASM PLOTS ARE CONSTRUCTED WHERE EVERYTHING ALWAYS SEEMS TO COME BACK AND BE RELEVANT. WHETHER COMEDY, DRAMA, SHORT OR LONG NARRATIVE, FIND WAYS TO DO THINGS LIKE THAT. IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE SO PERFECT AND HAVE LITTLE NEAT BOWS ON IT,BUT THERE IS SURELY AN ORGANIC WAY NOT TO WASTE CHARACTERS.

BECAUSE THE MORE THE CHARACTERS FEEL LIKE TANGENTS, THEN THE MORE THEY'LL FEEL LIKE TANGENTS.

32. BEWARE DEUS EX MACHINA

DEUS EX MACHINA WORKS WHEN IT IS THE POINT.

TO CLARIFY: THERE ARE SO MANY STORIES WHERE AT THE LAST SECOND THE HAND OF "GOD" OR FATE OR WHATEVER COMES IN SAVES THE CHARACTERS FROM CERTAIN DOOM. THESE MOMENTS ARE SO OUT OF NOWHERE AND OFTEN UNDESERVED THAT EVEN THE MOST UNAWARE AUDIENCE MEMBER WILL BE TEMPTED TO CALL "BULLSHIT!" AT THE SCREEN. THERE ARE THE RITUAL WORST OFFENDERS OF THIS DEVICE (LIKE LAZY OLD ENTOURAGE), BUT ON THE SPECTRUM OF USE THERE CERTAINLY LESS-HORRIBLE EXAMPLES OF STORIES THAT DO IT QUITE WELL.

AS HULK SAID ABOVE, DEUS EX MACHINA WORKS BEST IT IS THE POINT OF THE STORY. USUALLY THIS REQUIRES SOME SORT OF ENGAGEMENT OFTHE IDEA OF FAITH, THAT A CHARACTER ESPOUSES SOME BELIEVE THAT THE UNIVERSE IS TRYING TO  GUIDE THEM, OR THAT HE TRUSTS HEWILL BE SAVED. HULK TALKED A LITTLE CRAP ABOUT THE STORYTELLING PROBLEMS IN LOST BEFORE, BUT THAT WAS PERHAPSUNDESERVED. FOR THAT SHOW HAD AMAZING CHARACTERIZATION AND DEEP-TISSUE THEMATIC RESONANCE. THEY WERE ALSO QUITE GOOD IN HOW THEY HANDLED THIS PARTICULAR DEVICE. THE BEST EXAMPLE OF WHICH WAS IN SEASON ONE EPISODE APPROPRIATELY TITLED "DEUS EX MACHINA."SPOILERS AND SUCH, BUT IN THE EPISODE JOHN LOCKE, A MAN WHO HAS RECENTLY FOUND HIS FAITH THROUGH EXTRAORDINARY MEANS, ONCE AGAIN BEGINS TO QUESTION IT. A VISION HAD BROUGHT HIM TO A MYSTERIOUS HATCH ON THE ISLAND, ONE HE DESPERATELY HAS TRIED TO OPEN INORDER TO UNLOCK THE MYSTERIES WITHIN. OVER A GREAT DEAL OF TIME HE FINDS NO SUCCESS IN TRYING TO OPEN IT. HIS ANGER GROWS. ANDONE NIGHT HE STARES DOWN INTO THE HATCH AND SLAMS HIS FISTS AGAINST THE WINDOW. HE SCREAMS AND YELLS TO WHATEVER IS WITHIN. HETHEN YELLS OUT TO THE UNIVERSE, WHY HAD THEY CURSED HIM WITH THE VISION? WHAT DID THE WORLD WANT FROM HIM? WHY WAS HE SUPPOSEDTO OPEN THIS HATCH? WHY WOULD THE UNIVERSE BE SO CRUEL AS TO TAUNT WITH THIS IMPOSSIBLE TASK? HE SCREAMS AND CRIES INTO THE HATCH AS THE MUSIC SWELLS. HE IS AT HIS WITS END WITH HIS VERY SENSE FAITH... AND THEN... EVER SO QUIETLY... A LIGHT COMES ON WITHIN THE HATCH... IT SHINES ON JOHN'S FACE AND UP INTO THE NIGHT SKY.... END EPISODE.

IT'S ONE OF THE MORE BEAUTIFUL MOMENTS HULK HAS EVER SEEN ON TELEVISION.

AND THAT IS BECAUSE IT FINDS SUCH MEANING IN THIS TINIEST OF GESTURES, ONE THAT SPEAKS SO DEEPLY TO THE NARRATIVE AND THEMES AT PLAY. THE SIMPLE DEVICE OF A LIGHT TURING ON, AS WELL AS THE FOCUS OF THE ENTIRE EPISODE LEADING UP TO THE DEVICE, IS ABOUT THE VERY PURPOSE OF DEUX EX MACHINA ITSELF. AND FOR THAT REASON THEY TURN THE DEVICE NOT JUST INTO SOMETHING THAT "WORKS" WITHINTHE NARRATIVE CONTEXT OF THE SHOW, BUT SOMETHING THAT SWOONS WITH MEANING AND RESONANCE. IT IS PERFECT WRITING.

SO WHEN YOU CONSIDER USING DEUS EX MACHINA IN YOUR OWN WORK, THINK OF THIS ONE STUNNING EXAMPLE. ASK YOURSELF, WHY AM I USINGTHIS "EASY" SOLUTION? IS THIS THE ONLY WAY I CAN SOLVE THE PROBLEM? AND IF SO, THINK ABOUT THE NATURE OF THE DEVICE AND WHAT ITACTUALLY MEANS ON A THEMATIC LEVEL. DOES THAT FIT YOUR OWN THEMES? IS IT APPROPRIATE FOR YOUR CHARACTER?

DEUS EX MACHINA WORKS WHEN IT IS THE POINT.

33. BEWARE THE OPENING FLASH-FORWARD

NO THIS ISN'T MORE LOST STUFF. THE KIND OF OPENING FLASH-FORWARD HULK TALKING HERE ABOUT HAPPENS ALL THETIME AND HULK MENTIONED IT BEFORE IN THE PRE-EXISTING CONFLICT POINT. WHAT HULK TALKING ABOUT IS WHEN A MOVIE WILL START OFF WITH SOME MOMENT FROM THE CLIMAX OR LATER SCENE, WHEN THINGS ARE ALL HEIGHTENED AND DRAMATIC AND STUFF. WHY DO THIS? BECAUSEIT LETS THE AUDIENCE KNOW STUFF IS GOING TO GO DOWN IN THIS MOVIE! THAT IT WILL GET ALL SERIOUS! THAT THE PROTAGONIST WILL ENDUP IN SOME CRAZY SITUATION! THAT'S, YOU KNOW, FULL OF DRAMA AND STUFF!

HULK POLITELY ASKS: SO THE FUCK WHAT?

WHAT IS THE REAL POINT OF THAT? OF COURSE THE AUDIENCE KNOWS THAT KIND OF STUFF IS COMING. THAT'S PROBABLY WHY THEY BOUGHTA TICKET. HULK GET THE DESIRE TO LET AN AUDIENCE KNOW WHAT KIND OF CRAZINESS IS COMING SO IT DOESN'T TAKE THEM OFF GUARD,BUT SO OFTEN THE FLASH-FORWARD IS APROPOS OF NOTHING ELSE. AND AFTER IT'S OVER, THE NARRATIVE WILL JUST JUMP BACK TO THE REAL BEGINNING OF THE STORY. HULK SEES THE DEVICE USED SO DAMN MUCH THESE DAYS AND NOT ONLY IS IT UBIQUITOUS IT'S ALSO POORLYDONE. A QUICK-SEEMING AND CHEAP SOLUTION TO... HULK NOT EVEN SURE WHAT... MAKING THINGS SEEM SERIOUS? AREN'T THERE SO MANYBETTER WAYS OF DOING THAT? LIKE WITH THE WHOLE "PRE-EXISTING CONFLICT" THING HULK MENTIONED?

HONESTLY, A LOT OF TIME HULK FEELS LIKE WRITERS USE IT "BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT MOVIES DO." UGH. IT'S JUST SO DEVOID OF TACT.

NOW THIS ISN'T TO MAKE IT SEEM LIKE THE DEVICE IS COMPLETELY UNUSABLE, AS THERE ARE SOME WAYS IT WORKS. FOR INSTANCE, IT WAS A COMMON DEVICE ON THE FIRST FEW SEASONS OF BREAKING BAD. SOMETIMES THEY WORKED SPECTACULARLY. THEY'D START WITH A FEW SCATTERED IMAGES WE BARELY UNDERSTAND. THEY WILL BUILD A COMPLETE SENSE OF MYSTERY AS TO WHAT WE'RE EVEN SEEING. THERE IS LITERALLY NO COMPREHENSION SO IT WORKS LIKE A MYSTERY TO BE PIECED TOGETHER. "OH, THAT'S THAT OBJECT FROM..." ETC. IT'S USED AS CLUES. IT'S NOT JUST JUMPING AHEAD, SHOWING OFF THE ANSWER AND THEN ASKING "HOW ARE THESE CHARACTERS GOING TO END UP IN THIS CRAZY SITUATION!?!?!" WHICH IS WHAT SO MANY FUCKING SCRIPTS DO. AND THE TIMES BREAKING BAD DID GIVE AWAY ACTUAL CONTEXT AND INFORMATION, IT WAS OFTEN A PIECE OF TOTAL MISDIRECTION.

BUT IF YOU'RE JUST DOING IT SO YOUR STORY STARTS OFF ALL CLIMAX-Y AND SERIOUS THEN YOU'RE NOT ONLY WASTING THE AUDIENCES TIME, BUT YOU'RE ROBBING YOUR CLIMAX OF IMPORTANT RESONANCE. YOU'RE SUBCONSCIOUSLY MAKING THE AUDIENCE FEEL LIKE THEY'RE JUST WAITING UNTIL WE GET THERE AGAIN. AND EVEN IF BREAKING BAD USED IT WELL FOR TWO WHOLE YEARS, THERE'S A REAL REASON THEY STOPPED USING IT. THERE'S ONLY SO MUCH EVEN THEY COULD DO WITH IT.

THE OPENING FLASH-FORWARD IS HORRIBLY OVERUSED DEVICE, SO BE WARY.

34. DON'T FUCK WITH THE AUDIENCE JUST TO FUCK WITH THE AUDIENCE

THE FOLLOWING IS HULK'S GENERAL PIECE OF ADVICE ABOUT LIFE: IF YOU START ANY SENTENCE WITH "WOULDN'T IT BE COOL IF..." DON'T DO IT.  JUST DON'T DO IT.

WHEN IT COMES TO STORYTELLING SPECIFICALLY, THE REASON IS SIMPLE. ASKING THAT QUESTION IMPLIES YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT THE RESULT FIRST. YOU ARE PROBABLY THINKING ABOUT SOME ABSTRACT IDEA OF HOW AUDIENCE WILL REACT. YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT THE WAYS STORIES ARE NORMALLY TOLD AND HOW YOU WANT TO BE DIFFERENT.  YOU ARE THINKING NOT ABOUT HOW PEOPLE WILL BE COMPELLED OR ENGAGED,BUT HOW THEY WILL SIT BACK AND BE AMAZED BECAUSE YOU DID SOMETHING DIFFERENT AND "COOL."

HULK HAS MENTIONED TIME AND TIME AGAIN IN THESE COLUMNS ABOUT HOW TRYING TO PURSUE COOL IS A POOR AIM, BECAUSE IT ALWAYS REEKSOF FALSE INTENTION. IT ALWAYS SEEMS DESPERATE AND UNEARNED. IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BEING A VALID OPTION FOR THE STORY.IT WILL BE LIKE A MARKETING EXECUTIVE TRYING TO IDENTIFY WHAT THE HIP KIDS ARE INTO. IT'S TRUE EVEN IF YOU'RE A COOL,FORWARD-THINKING, PROGRESSIVE PERSON. IT WILL FEEL CALCULATED AND COLD. THE PURSUIT OF COOL OR WHAT'S "DIFFERENT"  WILL ALWAYS SEEM DISINGENUOUS.

SO TRY TO TELL YOUR STORY. WHEN IT COMES TO NARRATIVE, DON'T ACTIVELY TRY TO BE DIFFERENT FOR DIFFERENT'S SAKE. BECAUSE IT WILL JUST END UP SEEMING LIKE YOU'RE FUCKING WITH THE AUDIENCE.

LOOK NO FURTHER THAN THE CURRENT DEBACLE WITH ENDING OF THE DEVIL INSIDE. THE STUDIO / FILMMAKERS WENT ALONG WITH DOING SOMETHING "DIFFERENT" AND IN MOMENT OF COMPLETE STUPIDITY THEY DID SOMETHING THEY THOUGHT MIGHT BE COOL. SPOILERS IF YOU WANT TO SEE A HORRIBLE MOVIE: THE FILM ENDS ABRUPTLY AND TELLS THEM THEY CAN CONTINUE THE EXPERIENCE WITH THE STORY ON A WEBSITE, THUS SHIFTING IT INTO SOME FORM OF TRANSMEDIA LAMENESS... WELL GUESS FUCKING WHAT? DID THE FILMMAKERS NOT REALIZETHAT, NARRATIVELY-SPEAKING, THEY WERE DOING THE MOST RIDICULOUS THING IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD?

DEVIN HAD A GREAT ARTICLE ABOUT IT HOW THE DECISION, EVEN IF UNINTENTIONAL, MADE IT SEEM LIKE THEY WERE EFFECTIVELY CHEATING THE AUDIENCE AND THUS THEY GOT FUCKING PISSED. HULK AGREES, BUT REALLY WANTS TO HAMMER THE POINT HOME THAT IT WAS HOW THE URL CALLED TO ATTENTION THE FACT THEY WERE EXPOSING AN INCOMPLETE NARRATIVE, BY IMPLYING THERE WAS MORE NARRATIVE TO BE HELD ELSEWHERE. THEY DID SOMETHING WORSE THAN JUST HAVING AN UNRESOLVED ENDING... THEY MADE IT SEEM LIKE THE NARRATIVE WAS PURPOSEFULLY INCOMPLETE.

HERE'S THE FILMMAKER'S EXPLANATION:

"The stories always have a very Hollywood ending. And we're doing the antithesis of that. I know some people love it and some people f*cking hate it but it gets people talking. We're just trying to make it realistic. Not every situation ends perfectly or the way you want it to end." (VIA BLOODY DISGUSTING)

...

...

...

... SORRY.

NOW THAT HULK HAS THAT OUT OF SYSTEM LET'S ANALYZE WHY THAT COMMENT MIGHT BE THE WORST THING EVER SAID BY A FILMMAKER.

THE FIRST PROBLEM IS THAT HE MAKES IT CLEAR HE'S OKAY JUST FUCKING WITH THE AUDIENCE TO GET A REACTION. SECOND, WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH REALISM? NOTHING, THAT'S WHAT. THIRD, HE'S OBVIOUSLY NOT TRYING TO TELL A STORY BUT JUSTDO "THE OPPOSITE" AS IF THAT SOMEHOW IS ATTRACTIVE OR COOL OR BADASS. IT'S JUST CONTRARIANISM APROPOS OF NOTHING. FOURTH, HE PLAYS THE "GET PEOPLE TALKING" CARD WHICH ONLY MATTERS IF YOU'RE PUSHING A PRODUCT LIKE A SALESMAN, NOT A SO-CALLEDARTIST. FIFTH, HE PLAYS THE "PURPOSEFULLY-WITHOLDING MESSAGE" CARD, THUS IMPLYING WE'RE JUST MAD AT THE ENDING BECAUSE THEFILM DIDN'T END HOW WE WANTED IT TO, THUS IMPLYING WE'RE JUST A BUNCH OF HAPLESS DUMB-FARTS WHO NEED TO BE PLACATED.

FOR ALL FIVE OF THOSE REASONS HULK WOULD LIKE TO POLITELY SUGGEST THIS GUY CAN GO SIT IN THE CORNER OF DIRECTOR JAIL AND THINKABOUT WHAT HE'S DONE.

BECAUSE THE MOST GRAVE PROBLEM WITH ALL THESE STATEMENTS IS THAT THERE IS CLEARLY NO UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT NARRATIVE EVEN MEANS. NONE. HIS "HOLLYWOOD ENDING" COMMENT SHOWS THAT HE PERCEIVES NOTHING ABOUT HOW ENDINGS WORK. HE SEEMS TO THINK THAT ANYTHINGWITH RESOLUTION IS AKIN TO HAVING THE CHARACTERS RIDE OFF INTO THE SUNSET HAND IN HAND. IT'S ASININE. REMEMBER WHAT HULK SAID EARLIER ABOUT HOW THE ENDING IS A CHANCE TO RAM HOME THEMES? WELL MOST FOUND FOOTAGE FILMS TEND TO END ABRUPTLY, BUT AT LEAST MOST OF THEM HAVE AN ENDING GESTURE LIKE THAT MANAGES TO DO SOMETHING. THEY WILL AT LEAST REVEAL WHO THE BAD GUY ACTUALLY IS, OR SHOW THAT EVERYONE ELSE IS STILL ALIVE IS TOTALLY FUCKED OR SOMETHING BUT. THIS ONE JUST ENDS ON ANOTHER ACTION BEAT INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM OTHER ACTION BEATS BEFORE. THE FILM AND HIS ENSUING COMMENTS ARE ENOUGH EVIDENCE TO SHOWCASE THAT THIS PERSONCOULD NOT POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND LESS OF WHAT A STORY IS, HOW IT WORKS, OR WHY IT MATTERS.

IF  "THE ENDING IS THE CONCEIT" THEN THIS FILMS CONCEIT WAS TOTAL INEPTITUDE.

SO TO ALL OF YOU, HULK WANT YOU TO KNOW STORYTELLING IS NOT SOME "GAME" WHERE YOU MESS WITH THE AUDIENCE. IT'S AN ART. IFYOU WANT TO GO IN BOLD NARRATIVE DIRECTIONS, YOU START WITH THE FAMILIAR TROPES AND YOU CAREFULLY BRING THE AUDIENCE ON A JOURNEY, OFTEN TO PLACES THAT ARE UNCOMFORTABLE, BUT YOU DO SO WITH A GUIDING HAND. YOU CAN BRING ALWAYS AN AUDIENCE TO AN ANTAGONISTIC PLACE, BUT YOU CAN'T DO IT IN ANTAGONISTIC WAY. AND IF YOU DO? YOU BETTER BE DAMN SURE THAT AUDIENCE'S ANGERED REACTION IS THE EXACT RESULT YOU WANT (WHICH IS WHY IN ITS MOST BASIC SENSE, HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 "WORKS" FOR ITS FILMMAKER).

SO WHILE EVERYONE IS GOING AROUND SAYING THE DEVIL INSIDE IS "FUCKING STUPID," THERE'S A REAL REASON WHYEVERYONE IS SO DAMN ANGRY. THEY SHOWED THE DEEPEST LACK OF UNDERSTANDING OF WHY PEOPLE WATCH MOVIES. YOU CAN'T TAKE TURNS OR SURPRISES AND MESS WITH EXPECTATION WITHOUT HAVING A DAMN GOOD REASON FOR THEM.

YOU HAVE TO NEGOTIATE YOUR DROPPING OF ONE ELEMENT OF GOOD NARRATIVE MAKING, AND FULLY EMBRACE ONE OF THE OTHER ELEMENTS FROMOUR WORKING DEFINITION. DROPPING THEME? IT BETTER MAKE PERFECT SENSE FOR THE TEXTURE, CHARACTER, OR REALITY. DROPPING NARRATIVEECONOMY AND PROPULSION? BETTER MAKE PERFECT SENSE FOR THEME. FOR INSTANCE, THE CHANGE OF NARRATIVE DIRECTION IN NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN IS EASILY FELT, BUT HAS A STUNNING THEMATIC RESONANCE. BY REMOVING SHACKLES OF NARRATIVE RESTRICTION,THE FILM IS FREE TO EXPLORE SOMETHING COMPLETELY ABSTRACT, EVEN DOWNRIGHT POETIC. AS A RESULT, WHAT COULD HAVE JUST BEEN TIGHT, WELL-REALIZED ACTION FILMS, BECOMES ON ONE OF THE BEST FILMS OF ALL TIME.

BUT ALSO REMEMBER THAT FOR ALL THE PEOPLE WHO EITHER WEREN'T PERCEPTIVE TO THEMATIC STUFF OR JUST NOT THAT INTO IT, THE ENDING OF NO COUNTRY REALLY RUBBED THEM THE WRONG WAY. AND IT'S BECAUSE IT ESCHEWED THE MOST BASIC EXPECTATIONS OF NARRATIVE. BUT THE COENS UNDERSTAND AND EXPECT THOSE LIMITATIONS. THEY UNDERSTAND THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO DEFTLY WEAVE IN AND OUT NARRATIVE IN ORDER TO CREATE NEW THEMATIC MEANINGS. SURE, THE COEN BROTHERS DEFY EXPECTATIONS OF STORYTELLING CONSTANTLY, BUT THEY DO SO ONLY TO ENGAGE DEEP QUESTIONS BEHIND LIFE.

THEY DON'T SIT AROUND AND GO "WOULDN'T IT BE COOL IF?"

35. WRITING IS RE-WRITING

FINISH THE FIRST DRAFT. THEN DO AT LEAST, LIKE, 7 REWRITES... AT LEAST.

THE SIMPLEST TRUTH IS THAT A FIRST DRAFT IS NOTHING. IT IS NOT PROOF YOU HAVE WRITTEN A STORY, BUT PROOF YOU HAVE WRITTEN A CERTAIN NUMBER OF PAGES. HULK HAS NEVER REALLY READ A GOOD FIRST DRAFT OF ANYTHING. SO THE WAY HULK ALWAYS LIKES TO WRITE IS TO JUST GET A FIRST DRAFT OVER AND DONE WITH SO THAT HULK CAN THEN BE ON HULK'S WAY WITH ALL THE FUN EDITING PROCESS.

EDITING IS FUN.

THERE IS THE OLD ADAGE THAT "WRITING IS RE-WRITING." HULK FEELS IT IS TRUE BECAUSE THAT IS WHEN YOU GET TO SHAPE THE ACTUAL STORY. WHEN IT'S A BAD SCRIPT, WHICH THEY ALL ARE AT FIRST, YOU CAN RESHAPE IT THROUGH SHEER COMMITMENT TO MAKE IT A GOOD SCRIPT. AND THE BEST PART ABOUT REFINING YOUR SCRIPT IS, YOU KNOW, YOU CAN STILL MAKE GREAT CHANGES WITH ZERO NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES (UNLIKE WHEN YOU START FILMING).  HULK LOVES EDITING SCRIPTS. IT'S WHEN THE STORY ACTUALLY FEELS ALIVE.

PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON TALKED ABOUT WRITING ONCE AND SAID, TO PARAPHRASE, THAT WRITING IS LIKE IRONING. YOU HAVE THIS RUMPLED MESS THAT'S STILL A SHIRT AND EVERYTHING, BUT YOU KEEP GOING OVER IT AGAIN AND AGAIN TIL IT'S SMOOTH. EACH PASS STRAIGHTENS THE SHIRT, ACCOMPLISHING ITS JOB UNTIL YOU HAVE EXACTLY WHAT YOU NEED.

SO HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU'RE DONE?

IT'LL BE "DONE" WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE JUST TINKERING WITH IT. YOU'LL MAKING SMALL INCREMENTAL CHANGES WHICH, SURE MIGHT BE WELL AND GOOD, BUT THEY ARE PROVIDING NO DEEPER OVERHAUL OR UNDERSTANDING TO THE PIECE ITSELF. SO HULK THINK YOU SHOULD ONLY GET ONE ROUND OF TINKERING AND THEN IT SHOULD BE OUT OF YOUR HANDS AND WITH OTHER, TRUSTED EYEBALLS. TO EITHER BE APPROVED OF, OR TO TELL YOU WHAT IT REALLY NEEDS.

NO SCRIPT EVER FEELS PERFECT. THERE IS ONLY THE TIME TO LET IT GO.

36. WHEN & HOW TO DISREGARD THESE GUIDELINES

AND SO AT LAST THIS MASSIVE PART FIVE COMES TO A CLOSE (TWO MORE PARTS TO GO! WHOOO!)

HULK SAID THESE WERE ALL GUIDELINES, NOT RULES. AND HULK MEANT IT.

YOUR IDEA. YOUR STORY. THE THING THAT COMPELS YOU. THAT IS WHAT MATTERS. EVERYTHING SHOULD CATER TO IT. YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED THAT THROUGHOUT ALL THESE GUIDELINES, HULK KEPT BRINGING UP EXCEPTIONS TO RULES. SOMETIMES THEY WERE EXCEPTIONS THAT WORKED ANDSOMETIMES THEY DIDN'T WORK. THE ONES THAT DIDN'T WORK WERE EITHER HAPHAZARD, UNCONSCIOUS REACTIONS OR FLIPPANT, COUNTER-INTUITIVE GESTURES. WHILE THE ONES THAT WORKED WERE JUSTIFIED BECAUSE THEY ONLY ABANDONED ONE ELEMENT OF OUR GOOD NARRATIVE DEFINITION TO DEEPLY EXPLORE ANOTHER ELEMENT OF OUR DEFINITION. THE GOOD EXCEPTIONS NEGOTIATE AND APPROXIMATE, WHETHER IT PLOT, CONTEXT, CHARACTER, TEXTURE, THEMATIC, ETC.

SO DO WHAT MAKES SENSE FOR THE KIND OF STORY YOU WANT TO TELL.

BE WILLING TO SAY "FUCK BATTLES IN THE LAST ACT." IF THAT'S WHAT IT CALLS FOR. TARANTINO’S KILL BILL VOL. II KNEW THAT AFTER THE BATTLE AGAINST THE 88, HE COULDN'T TOP IT ACTION-WISE. SO HE HAD A BRILLIANT 5 MINUTE MONOLOGUE, SUMMING UP THE ENTIRE VIEWPOINT OF CHARACTER, FOLLOWED BY AN EQUALLY CLIMACTIC DISCUSSION OVER DINNER, AND FINALLY 5 SECONDS OF INTENSE FIGHTING... IT WAS A HUNDRED TIMES MORE INTERESTING THAN ANY POSSIBLE BATTLE. HE DID WHAT MADE SENSE FORTHAT STORY.

SO DO WHAT MAKES SENSE FOR YOUR STORY.

MIKE LEIGH'S HAPPY GO LUCKY ESCHEWS EVERY RULE OF TRADITIONAL ROMANTIC COMEDIES TO SAY SOMETHING FAR MOREINSIGHTFUL ABOUT THE NATURE OF LIFE AND HAPPINESS.

DO WHAT MAKES SENSE FOR YOUR STORY.

ANIMAL HOUSE ESSENTIALLY STOP THE MOVIE AND HAS A FULL-ON DANCE NUMBER TO "SHOUT." IT HALTS THE NARRATIVE ANDSUCCEEDS ONLY BECAUSE IT IS A PURE JOY FROM START TO FINISH.

DO WHAT MAKES SENSE FOR YOUR STORY.

THE ENDING OF NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN TOSSES ASIDE ALL NARRATIVE PROPULSION TO WAX PHILOSOPHICAL ON THE NATUREOF LIFE AND RESOLUTION ITSELF. IT POKES INWARD AT EACH OF THE CHARACTERS, CUTTING TO THE BONE OF THEIR ESSENCE, BUT LEAVING THESE OTHER BIG CATHARTIC GESTURES OFF-SCREEN. AND YET IT ALL RESONATES WITH A SIMPLE SPEECH, AL

DO WHAT MAKES SENSE FOR YOUR STORY.

SHANE CARRUTH'S PRIMER GLEEFULLY BREAKS EVERY SINGLE RULE ABOUT NARRATIVE, CONCEPT, AND COHERENCE. AS SUCH, A LOT OF PEOPLE CAN’T EVEN WATCH IT. BUT FOR SOME FOLKS, HE MANAGES TO CREATE ONE OF THE MORE BRAZEN, INTERESTING FILMS EVER MADE. IT SO CONCENTRATES ON THE CONCEPTS OF SCIENTIFIC VERACITY THAT IT CAPTURES ITS RESONANT THEMATIC TRUTHS THROUGH THE SUBJECT ITSELF (MUCH LIKE THE ZODIAC AND CONTAGION EXAMPLES), ONLY HIS SUBJECT IS ONE OF THE MOST COMPLEX THEORETICAL CONCEPTS ON THE PLANET. THIS COMPLETELY UNAPOLOGETIC TREATMENT OF SCIENTIFIC ACCURACY VIA PLOTTING RESULTS IN A STUNNING, DISTINCT, ORIGINAL FILM. THE FILMMAKER PURSUED AN UNCOMMON VIEW THAT COMPELLED HIM AND THUS REVEALED A NEW VIEW THAT COMPELLED US.

DO WHAT MAKES SENSE FOR YOUR STORY.

BUT JUST KNOW THIS... EVERY SINGLE RULE OR GUIDELINE THAT IS BEING BROKEN IN THE EXAMPLES LISTED HAS DAMN GOOD REASONS FOR WHY. IT'S NOT "JUST CAUSE IT WOULD BE NEAT." THEY WEREN'T MAKING SOME TOTALLY PEDESTRIAN MOVIE AND THEN BROKE A RULE BECAUSE "IT'S MORE REAL!" THEY WEREN'T EVEN JUST "GOING WITH THEIR GUT," A THING THAT HULK BETS MANY OF YOU WOULD WANT TO DO. HINT: THAT COULD JUST BE YOUR VISCERAL, CONTRARIAN ID TALKING. AND THAT'S NOT SOMETHING YOU WANT TO TRUST WITH STORY.

NO. THOSE EXAMPLES OF EXCEPTIONS SUCCEED BECAUSE IT MAKES COMPLETE SENSE FOR THOSE STORIES. IT'S ALMOST AS IF THAT HAD TO GO THERE TO SEE THEIR CONCEITS THROUGH.

THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WITH HOW EVERYONE IS BREAKING THE RULES NOWAWAYS IS NOT BECAUSE IT'S ROBBING US OF TRADITIONAL NARRATIVE POWER, THOUGH THAT SUCKS, IT'S BECAUSE NO ONE SEEMS TO EVEN UNDERSTAND WHY THE RULES ARE EVEN THERE. IF THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT THE RULE SAYS AND HOW IT WORKS, THEY THEREFORE CAN'T UNDERSTAND WHAT BREAKING THE RULE SAYS EITHER. THEY'RE JUST TRYING TO BE "DIFFERENT" ... AND HULK SAYS FUCK THAT.

WORSE, THERE'S SOME FOLKS WHO REALLY DON'T EVEN KNOW THE RULES ARE ANYMORE.

THERE'S GOTTA BE A REASON FOR ALL OF THIS, RIGHT? WHY DON'T WE KNOW THE RULES ANYMORE? WHAT HAPPENED? AND WHY DO WE JUST SLAM FORWARD WITH THIS FAUX-UNDERSTANDING OF FILMMAKING?

IT ALL SPEAKS TO AN EVOLUTION OF FILMMAKING. IF YOU FORGIVE HULK FOR INDULGING THIS BIT OF A HISTORY-LESSON, BUT BACK IN THE GOLDEN AGE OF HOLLYWOOD EVERYONE PRETTY MUCH KNEW THE NARRATIVE RULES. MOVIES HAD A VERY SET CRAFT. THEY KNEW ALL THE BEATS. WRITERS WERE ALL STABLED IN THE STUDIO SYSTEM AND THEY WOULD EVEN HAVE DIFFERENT ROLES. THERE WOULD BE A STRUCTURE GUY. A DIALOGUEGUY. THE DIRECTOR HAD A ROLE. MOVIES AND STORYTELLING WERE ON AN ASSEMBLY LINE. YES THIS PRODUCED A LOT OF SIMILAR WORK, BUT IT WAS DOWNRIGHT PROFESSIONAL STUFF. AND BESIDES, ALL THE BEST WRITERS / FILMMAKERS KNEW HOW TO SNEAK SUBVERSION RIGHT INTO IT ANYWAY SO THE ARTISTIC INCLINATION WAS ABLE TO FLOURISH TOO. THE POINT IS THAT THE AUTHORS CREATED GOOD STORIES, WELL-TOLD.

THE 60/70'S CHANGED THE PARADIGM. THE SYSTEM HAD BEEN "WORKING" SO WELL FOR SO LONG, BUT A GOOD DEAL OF STORYTELLERS GOT LAZY WITHIN THOSE CONSTRUCTS. WHICH MEANS MOVIES IN GENERAL GOT LAZY TOO. WHEN THIS WAS COUPLED WITH SERIOUS CHANGES IN COUNTER-CULTURE, IT RESULTED IN THE AUDIENCE GENUINELY TIRING OF THE HOLLYWOOD SYSTEM. NEW AUDIENCES WANTED AN ALTERNATIVE, SO THEY TURNED TO NEW FILMMAKERS. THEY DIDN'T HAVE RESOURCES SO THE CONSTRUCTION WAS MESSY. NATURAL. OUTDOORS. THUS, MOVIES BROKE THEMOLD. THE TEXTURES, STORIES, IDEAS ALL RESONATED IN A PERFECT WAY FOR THE TIME AND PLACE. OF COURSE, THE HUGE SUCCESS OF SOME BLOCKBUSTERS IN THE 70'S PAVED THE WAY FOR ANOTHER ROUND OF STUDIO DOMINANCE, ALL DONE THROUGH THE HOMOGENIZED, BIG BUSINESS80'S. BUT AGAIN, THINGS CHANGED. WE HAD ANOTHER REACTION TO "THE MAN" WITH THE 90'S INDEPENDENT FILM BOOM. AGAIN THE FILMS WENT MESSY. NATURAL. OUTDOORS. BUT ALAS, THE INDEPENDENT MOVEMENT WAS HOMOGENIZED AGAIN AS CORPORATIONS ARE NOW RUNNING  "INDIE STUDIOS" TOO.

THE PURPOSE OF ALL THIS HISTORY IS TO HIGHLIGHT THE FACT THERE HAVE BEEN EBBS AND FLOWS TO THE NATURE OF THE BUSINESS FOR... PRETTY MUCH ALWAYS. THERE IS ALWAYS A DICHOTOMY: TO WORK WITHIN THE SYSTEM, OR TO WORK OUTSIDE THE SYSTEM. DEPENDING ON THE DIRECTION OF THE TREND IT MAKES IT EASIER TO DO ONE OR THE OTHER, BUT STORYTELLERS, AT LEAST THE ONES WE LIONIZE, ALWAYS SEEM TO HAVE IMPLICIT DESIRE TO SNUB THE DOMINANT CULTURE OR POPULAR MODELS AND EMBRACE THE MOST ARTISTIC CONSTRUCTS AND FORMS. IT IS ANIDOLIZATION OF PERPETUAL REBELLION. THE 90'S INDEPENDENT FILMMAKERS REBELLED AGAINST THE HOMOGENIZED 80'S MODEL, BUT THEY WERE ALSO IN LOVE WITH THE 60/70'S POETS OF THEIR DAY, AND SOUGHT TO EMULATE THEM.

IT'S ALL VERY ROMANTIC SOUNDING... BUT THE PROBLEM WITH THIS, AND WHY NO ONE SEEMS TO GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THE RULES ANYMORE,IS BECAUSE WE HAVE FALLEN IN LOVE THE CADENCE OF THIS REBELLIOUS WORK.

THINK ABOUT THE 90'S BOOM. TARANTINO HAS HAD HUNDREDS OF EMULATORS, BUT THE REASON NO ONE COMES CLOSE TO BEING AS GOOD ASHIM IS THEY ONLY TAKE THE TANGIBLE STUFF. THE COOL SUITS. THE SWEARS. THE OUT-OF-ORDER STORYTELLING. THE IRONIC SENSE OF MUSICAND BLOODY GUNFIGHTS. THEY GET THE IDEA THAT PEOPLE TALK, BUT NOT HOW THEY TALK. THEY MISS THE VERY SIMPLE ELEMENTS OF NARRATIVE PROPULSION, OBJECTIVES, AND CLEAR STAKES. HIS STORY TELLING ISN'T OUT OF ORDER FOR NO REASON, BUT INSTEAD TO REVEAL THE STORY IN A FASCINATING THEMATIC EVOLUTION. PEOPLE OBSESSES OVER HIS CADENCE, WHICH IS TOTALLY NEAT AND STUFF, BUTIT'S NOT WHY HIS FILMS WORK.

THIS HAS ALWAYS BEEN TRUE. PEOPLE RIP-OFF ALTMAN, SCORSESE, SPIELBERG, LUCAS, ETC. BUT THE REASON THOSE RIP-OFFS FEEL SO FALSEIS NOT BECAUSE THEY ARE DERIVATIVE, BUT BECAUSE THEY FAIL TO RECOGNIZE THE MOST BASIC DYNAMICS OF GOOD NARRATIVE STORYTELLING.LET'S GO SUPER-RECENT:

SUPER 8 USURPS ALL THE LANGUAGE AND CADENCE OF SPIELBERG'S FILMS, BUT IT FAILS BECAUSE IT DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO MAKE THE MONSTER ELEMENTS CONNECT THEMATICALLY TO THE STORY (UNLIKE JAWS + ET). REALLY, IT DOESN'T GET TWO CENTRAL COMPONENTS OF OUR GOOD NARRATIVE DEFINITION.

ATTACK THE BLOCK SUCCEEDS BECAUSE IT TAKES THE INSPIRATION OF CARPENTER AND DANTE AND FILTERS THOSE MOTIFS AND APPROACH INTO ITS OWN PERSONAL STORY AND TEXTURE. PLUS IT HAS DEEP THEMATIC IDEAS. IT GETS ALL FOUR COMPONENTS OF HULK'SGOOD NARRATIVE DEFINITION.

STORY RULES. CADENCE IS OVERRATED.

AND BECAUSE HULK HAS TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE EXCEPTION FOR JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING, YES THE CADENCE/STYLE OF YOUR SCRIPT AND FILM IS  GREAT TOOL FOR SPEAKING TO CERTAIN AUDIENCES. BUT STYLIZATION IS NOT NEARLY AS CRITICAL AS THE INTENTION AND HONESTY OF YOUR WELL-MEANING STORY. IT DOESN'T MATTER WHERE YOU COME FROM AND WHO YOU'RE WORKING FOR, YOU CAN BE OPERATING SUBVERSIVELY WITHIN THE SYSTEM, OR YOU CAN BE CHUCKING ROCKS FROM THE OUTSIDE WITH AN INDEPENDENT BENT. YOU CAN BE TELLING A TRADITIONAL STORY OR YOU CAN BE USING WILDLY INVENTIVE META FORM. IT REALLY MAKES NO DIFFERENCE TO HULK. THE MEANING OF THE STORY, AND ITS ABILITY TO RESONATE FOR THE AUDIENCE, IS WHAT MAKES THE NARRATIVE THING WORK.

HULK DOESN'T CARE WHAT KIND OF CONCEPTUAL STORY YOU ARE TELLING, OR WHAT STRUCTURE YOU ARE USING...  JUST THINK ABOUTWHAT YOU ARE SAYING. APPROACH YOUR STORIES IN TERMS OF MIND, BODY, AND SOUL. ASK YOURSELF QUESTIONS. WHAT DOES THIS ACTION MEAN? WHAT AM I IMPLYING WITH THIS CHARACTER'S BEHAVIOR?

KNOW WHEN YOU'RE FOLLOWING THE RULES AND KNOW WHEN YOU'RE BREAKING THEM.

KNOW WHO YOU ARE REACHING AND WHY.

BE CONSCIOUS.

PART SIX - HOW TO TELL A STORY - SCREENPLAY-SPECIFIC INSTRUCTION

OF COURSE, THERE IS THE FORMAT OF THE SCREEN PLAY ITSELF. THE REASON HULK WAITED ALL THE WAY UNTIL PART SIX TO TALK ABOUT IT IS BECAUSE THE FUNDAMENTALS OF GOOD STORYTELLING ARE WAY, WAAAAAAAAY MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHAT BASICALLY AMOUNTS TO A MATTER OF PROPER FORMATTING. THE THINGS YOU ARE ABOUT TO LEARN ARE SIMPLE AND EASILY APPLIED. BUT THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT HULK DOES NOT THINK FORMATTING AND SCREENPLAY ETIQUETTE AREN'T IMPORTANT. THEY ARE JUST NOT SUPER IMPORTANT.

SO ASIDE FROM THE VERY BASICS LIKE GRAMMAR AND SPELLING, THERE ARE OTHER BASIC THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW LIKE  WHAT SCENE HEADINGS ARE, HOW TO NUMBER SCENES, ETC. BUT THESE ARE MATTERS ARE EASILY LEARNED FROM READING ANY SCREENWRITING BOOK OR SCRIPTON THE PLANET. OR JUST GOOGLE "HOW TO FORMAT A SCREENPLAY." IT SO EASY HULK NOT GOING TO EVEN LINK TO IT. THE POINT IS IT IS SONOT NECESSARY FOR THIS COLUMN AND WOULD WASTE YOUR TIME.

WHAT IS FAR MORE NECESSARY, HOWEVER, IS TO DISCUSS MORE OF THE UNSPOKEN RULES THAT CAN GREATLY IMPROVE YOUR SCRIPT.

37. KNOW IT'S BEING READ BY EVERY KIND OF PERSON

IF CHARLIE KAUFMAN, AN INCREDIBLE WRITER WHO KNOWS WHAT REALLY MAKES A GREAT SCRIPT, SAT DOWN TO READ YOUR SCRIPT YOU WOULD WANT HIM TO THINK IT'S GREAT. THIS GOES WITHOUT SAYING. THE SAME CAN BE SAID FOR IF YOUR FAVORITE ACTOR SAT DOWN TO READ YOURSCRIPT. AND THEN IF A STUDIO EXEC SAID DOWN TO READ YOUR SCRIPT YOU WOULD WANT THEM TO THINK IT'S GREAT TOO . AND IF A SCRIPT READER, WHO READS A MILLION OF THEM AND WHOSE TIME IS SHORT, SAT DOWN TO READ YOUR SCRIPT YOU WOULD WANT THEM TO THINK IT'S GREAT AND KEEP READING, FORGETTING THERE'S A NEXT ONE ON THE PILE. AND IF AN 21 YEAR OLD INTERN, WHO REALLY DOESN'T HAVE THE BREADTH OF EXPERIENCE OR PATIENCE, SAT DOWN TO READ YOUR SCRIPT YOU WOULD STILL WANT THEM TO THINK IT'S GREAT TOO.

NOW GUESS WHICH ORDER OF PEOPLE THE SCRIPT WILL BE READ IN?

YUP. YOU HAVE TO MAKE YOUR SCRIPTS ACCESSIBLE TO THE 21 YEAR OLD INTERN. SORRY FOLKS BUT WHEN YOU'RE STARTING THE GAME IT'S TRUE. NOW, THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU "CAN'T USE BIG WORDS" OR TELL A COMPLEX STORY. THAT WOULD BE NONSENSE. THE 21YEAR OLD INTERN IS ACTUALLY PRETTY SMART. WHAT IT MEANS IS THEY ARE BUSY AND CAN GET DISTRACTED. ACTUALLY, THE SAME GOES FOR ALL THOSE PEOPLE REALLY. THEIR TIME IS INVALUABLE.

WHICH MEANS YOU HAVE TO GET TO THE POINT AND NOT DILLY-DALLY IN THE DAMN DESCRIPTION.

THAT MEANS NO "WALLS OF BLACK TEXT." REALLY. HULK ONE OF THE MOST PATIENT READERS ON THE PLANET. HULK CAN READ FAST. HULK PICKS UP INFINITE JEST EVERY YEAR AND REVISITS IT. HULK FUCKING LOVES TO READ DENSE INTRICATE TEXT. HULK MEAN, LOOK AT THESE FUCKING ESSAYS. HOW COULD HULK NOT? BUT WHEN HULK SEES THAT BIG WALL OF BLACK TEXT IN A SCRIPT, HULK'S HEART JUST SINKS A LITTLE. IT JUST HAS NO REAL FUNCTION IN A SCREENPLAY. BY THE END OF PART 6 YOU'LL FULLY UNDERSTAND WHY THAT IS, BUT FOR NOW JUST ACCEPT THAT IT IS. AND THIS REALITY JUST MEANS IT IS NEVER PRODUCTIVE TO READ. IT'S CERTAINLY NEVER ANY FUNTO READ. IT'S NEVER COMPELLING. YOU MAY THINK IT'S IMPORTANT, OR RELEVANT, OR INTERESTING, OR CAREFULLY CONSTRUCTED. BUT TO THE READER IT'S JUST NOT. IT'S JUST CLEAR YOU'RE WORRYING TOO MUCH ABOUT SOMEONE NOT DOING EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT WITH THE DETAIL. THAT'S NOT GOOD SCREENWRITING.

SO WHEN DESCRIBING THE ACTION, BE AS BRIEF AND CONCISE AS POSSIBLE. IT'S THE SAME THING AS HULK'S "HAVE NARRATIVE ECONOMY!" LESSON ONLY IT APPLIES TO THE ACTUAL TEXT AND NOT THE STORY. THE SECOND THINGS START TO GET DENSE IN THE DESCRIPTION, EVERY READER WILL TUNE OUT. IT IS AN ABSOLUTELY FIXTURE OF THE BUSINESS. THESE ARE BUSY-AS-SHIT PEOPLE. MOST OF THEM WILL SIMPLY GLANCE AT THE ACTION TO GET A SENSE OF WHAT'S HAPPENING AND THEN JUST GO BACK TO THE DIALOGUE.

SO BE BRIEF AND MOVE ON.

BUT AT THE SAME TIME YOU CAN'T HAVE NOTHING EITHER. BECAUSE WHAT YOU WRITE IN THE NON-DIALOGUE SECTIONS IS STILLVITALLY IMPORTANT TO THE STORY, IT STILL HAS TO BE CONVEYED WITH PURPOSE. BECAUSE THE DIRECTOR WILL ABSOLUTELY USE IT TO GO INTO PRODUCTION, THE CRITICAL DETAILS HAVE TO BE THERE. WHICH MEANS THAT YOU, THE WRITER, HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO BALANCE THE NEEDS OF ECONOMY WITH THE NEEDS OF RELEVANT INFORMATION.

AND WOULDN'T YOU KNOW? HERE'S A WAY TO DO THAT:

38. THE GOLDEN RULE OF DESCRIPTION

"WRITE ONLY WHAT WE CAN SEE."

THIS IS AN IMPORTANT ONE. IF YOU'RE WRITING "HE GREW UP IN A SMALL TOWN BACK..." IN YOUR ACTION LINES YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG. IT MAY BE HELPFUL FOR THE FILMMAKERS IN TRYING TO DECIDE WHO TO CAST ETC, BUT THE ONLY INFORMATION THAT SHOULD BE CONVEYEDIS WHAT THE AUDIENCE COULD SEE IN THE THEATER.

FOR ONE, ANY GOOD DIRECTOR WILL SIT DOWN AND LOOK AT A PARAGRAPH THAT HAS NOTHING BUT CHARACTER HISTORY AND SAY "HOW THE FUCKCAN I SHOW THAT?" AND THE PROMPTLY TOSS YOUR SCRIPT IN THE GARBAGE. IF THEY LIKE THE STORY, THEN THEY'LL JUST IGNORE IT ANDDO WHAT THEY WANT. SO INSTEAD, A GOOD SCRIPT CONVEYS THE INFORMATION THAT CAN BE SEEN. THE DETAILS LIKE: AGE, CLOTHING, POSTURE, VOICE, AND ACTIONS. THESE DETAILS DON'T HAVE TO BE REDUCTIVE AND LIMITING, BUT AN OPPORTUNITY. REALLY TRY TO SAY SOMETHING WITH THIS AGE, CLOTHING, POSTURE, VOICE, AND ACTIONS. USE THEM TO REALLY SAY SOMETHING ABOUT THE CHARACTER.

YOU DO THIS IN THE SCRIPT BECAUSE, FUCKIN HELL, IT'S EXACTLY WHAT THE MOVIE NEEDS TO DO TOO. IT CAN'T JUST START READING YOUR ACTION LINES. SO THEY NEED TO CONVEY VISUAL INFORMATION!

SORRY IF HULK SEEMS ANGRY AND SMASHY ABOUT THIS ONE, BUT YOU'D BE AMAZED HOW MANY PEOPLE DON'T REALIZE THIS VERY SIMPLE FACET OF HOW THE SCRIPT SHOULD BE INFORMING THE MOVIE HOW TO WORK. IF YOU NEED TO ESTABLISH THAT SOMEONE WORKED ON A FARM? DON'T WRITE "SHE USED TO WORK ON A FARM." THERE'S NOTHING YOU CAN DO WITH THAT. INSTEAD WRITE ABOUT HOW SHE HAS PICTURESUP OF HER WITH HER FAMILY ON FARM OR SOMETHING TANGIBLE LIKE THAT. IT MAY BE LAME, BUT IT'S AT LEAST SOMETHING THAT CAN BESHOWN.

HULK'S OLD ACTION-SCENE COLUMN-PARTNER TOM TOWNEND (CINEMATOGRAPHER OF ATTACK THE BLOCK!) BROUGHT UP THEGREAT EXAMPLE OF HANDLING EXPOSITION WITH EXAMPLE FROM SILKWOOD. MERYL STREEP'S CHARACTER IS ON A PLANE AND SHE'S ABOUT TO BE HANDED FOOD. SHE GOES TO GRAB HER WALLET TO PAY, BUT ATTENDANT INFORMS HER THEY'RE FREE. THE MEANING IS CLEAR: SHE'S NEVER BEEN ON A PLANE BEFORE... THIS WAS LONG BEFORE THE AIRLINES WENT BROKE AND YOU HAD TOSTART PAYING FOR SHIT. BUT THE ATTENTION TO DETAIL SPEAKS VOLUMES ABOUT CHARACTER.

SINCE YOU CAN'T JUST GO INTO THE DESCRIPTION AND WRITE THE HISTORY OF THE CHARACTER, EMBRACE THESE OPPORTUNITIES TO FIT ITIN ELSEWHERE. GOING BACK TO CHARACTER TREES (POINT #10) TRY TO FIT YOUR "FEET" DETAILS INTO THE STORY WITH OTHER WAYS: GROIN,THROAT, AND CROWN.

IF YOU WRITE SOMETHING WE CAN'T SEE, IS NOT JUST MERE FAUX PAS, NOT JUST A COMPLETELY WASTED OPPORTUNITY, BUT A WRITING HABIT THAT WILL ACTIVELY MAKE THE MOVIE WORSE. YOU'RE PUTTING AN IDEA INTO THE FILMMAKERS HEAD THAT WILL MAKE TOTAL SENSE FORYOUR STORY, HELP THEM GET IT, BUT IT WON'T HELP THE AUDIENCE GET IT.

GUESS WHO MATTERS THE MOST?

THE GOLDEN RULE FIXES ALL: WRITE ONLY WHAT WE CAN SEE.

39. OH BY THE WAY, YOU ARE NOT THE DIRECTOR

THIS RULE SEEMS TO GO MORE AND MORE BY THE WAYSIDE, BUT HERE'S THE THING: IF YOU ARE SUBMITTING THIS SCRIPT, CHANCES ARE YOU ARE NOT THE DIRECTOR. THEY WILL WANT TO HIRE ANOTHER PERSON. WHICH MEANS IF YOU MENTION CAMERA MOVES OR ANYTHING THAT SHOULDBE IN THE SHOOTING SCRIPT ONLY, THEN YOU ARE TOTALLY OVERSTEPPING YOUR BOUNDS. THE DIRECTOR MIGHT EVEN BE PISSED OFFENOUGH ABOUT TO COMPLETELY DISREGARD YOUR ADVICE AND ACTIVELY DO THE OPPOSITE(EVEN IF IT'S GOOD)... HULK'S SEEN IT HAPPEN.

SO AS A WRITER, HOW DO YOU, LIKE, CONVEY WHAT SHOULD BE SEEN? THE ANSWER IS SIMPLE: YOU DON'T. BUT THERE ARE STILL A FEW TRICKS ONE CAN USE TO CONVEY NOT ONLY WHAT SHOULD BE SHOWN, BUT HOW TOO. HERE'S HULK'S BEST EXAMPLE OF HOW TO IMPLY MOVEMENT WITH WORDS. SAY YOU WANT TO SHOW SOMETHING UP CLOSE THEN HAVE THE CAMERA PULL OUT OR CUT FURTHER BACK TO SHOW THEWHOLE THING. TO DO THAT YOU SAY SOMETHING LIKE THIS:

"A DELICATE HAND GLIDES OVER A 1952 CHEVY BEL AIR. THE HAND BELONGS TO ANITA JONES (20'S), FRESH-FACED MIDWESTERN SMILE, WITH A BAD HOME-SPUN BLONDE DYE JOB AND A DISCOUNT PINK DRESS. SHE PROCEEDS TO WAVE TO THE CROWD."

NOW. HULK JUST MADE THIS UP. BUT WHAT DOES IT TELL YOU? IT CONVEYS A CAMERA MOTION WITHOUT AN ACTUAL NOTE OF CAMERA MOTION. THE "BELONGS TO" BIT IS GREAT TRICK FOR IMPLYING WE SHOULD BE UP CLOSE AND THEN BACK OUT. JUST LIKE YOU WANT TO DO WITH ACTION LINES, YOU SHOW DON'T TELL.

BUT GOING BACK TO POINT #38 JUST BEFORE THIS, THE INFORMATION ALSO CONVEYS A GOOD DEAL ABOUT CHARACTER. IT SHOWS SHE'S WORKING A CAR SHOW. THE "MIDWESTERN" TERM IMPLIES NOT ONLY A LOOK, BUT A PERSONALITY TYPE THAT GOES ALONG WITH IT (WITHOUT JUST SAYING "SHE'S THE PERSONALITY TYPE"). YOU SHOW HER D.I.Y APPROACH TO HER APPEARANCE AND THIS IMPLIES SHE DOESN'T HAVE MUCH MONEY.

WRITING THESE SORTS OF LINES, WHICH INHERENTLY CONVEY CHARACTER, MEANING, SETTING, INFORMATION, AND CINEMATICS, IS EXCEPTIONALLY DIFFICULT AND TAKES A LOT OF TIME. HULK PROBABLY SPENT 20 MINUTES ON THAT ONE LINE AND IT JUST GOING UP AS AN EXAMPLE IN A COLUMN. THIS IS HOW YOU NEED TO APPROACH DESCRIPTION.

THIS IS ALL PART OF WHAT HULK LIKES TO CALL:

40. THE POETIC ART OF ACTION LINES

PAUL ATTANASIO PROBABLY WRITES THE BEST SCREENPLAYS IN HOLLYWOOD.

THAT IS NOT TO SAY HE WRITES THE BEST STORIES THAT WILL BECOME THE BEST MOVIES, THOUGH HE'S OBVIOUSLY DONE SOME AMAZING WORK. THIS IS TO SAY THAT HE WRITES THE BEST FOR THE MEDIUM OF SCREENPLAYS. HIS ACTION LINES ARE POETIC, RESONANT. THEY ALLOW THEDIRECTORS TO MAKE THE BEST POSSIBLE MOVIES. EVEN WHEN HIS CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS GET A LITTLE TOO MUCH IN THE WAY OF THINGS "YOU CAN'T SEE" THEY ARE STILL THESE TANGIBLE, BEAUTIFUL CONCEPTS THAT CAN COME ACROSS IN THE PERFORMANCE OF THE CHARACTER. BUT REALLY IT'S HIS ABILITY TO CONVEY INFORMATION IN BEAUTIFUL, SMALL BITS. AND OFTEN THE WRITING IS SO GOOD AND SO CONCISE,YOU JUST DON'T REALLY MIND HIS RULE-BREAKING.

CHECK THESE FUCKING OUT:

"HERBIE STEMPEL, Herbert the great, early 40s and overweight. Marine haircut and shabby suit. A Job for his generation - - exiled to the Boroughs, flayed by grey-flannel insults, scourged by lowly status, grudge-laden before God.

"CHARLES VAN DOREN, 30s, handsome, well-born, debonair, self-deprecating, perfect. the lithe build of a man who has never beenmade to run uphill. An endearing blankness -- the boy availability of a man still in search of himself.

THESE ARE BOTH FROM QUIZ SHOW... WHICH IS ONE OF THE BEST SCRIPTS EVER WRITTEN (THOUGH THE MOVIE ALMOST LETSA BAD ACCENT DESTROY A PERFECT FILM), BUT THE REAL REASON IT'S WONDERFUL, PARTICULARLY FOR THIS COLUMN, IS THAT IT SHOWS YOU HOW TO WRITE SCRIPTS. CONCISE. TO THE POINT. GORGEOUS PROSE. HILARIOUS DIALOGUE. POIGNANT DIALOGUE. HILARIOUSLY POIGNANT DIALOGUE. IT'S ALL THERE.

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW TO WRITE BEAUTIFULLY IN THE FORMAT, IT SHOULD BE YOUR BIBLE.

SERIOUSLY, DOWNLOAD THE PDF ANDKEEP IT FOREVER:

BUT LET US REALLY HAMMER THIS POINT HOME:

41. DON'T WASTE OPPORTUNITIES TO SAY SOMETHING

IN ROBERT TOWNE'S INCREDIBLE SCRIPT FOR CHINATOWN (THOUGH HE ISN'T AFRAID TO GO ON FOR BIG WALLS OF TEXT... IT WAS A DIFFERENT ERA) THERE IS THIS REALLY NEAT LITTLE DETAIL THAT EXEMPLIFIES SOMETHING THAT DOESN'T HAPPEN ENOUGH IN SCREENWRITING.

JAKE GITTES IS A PRIVATE DETECTIVE WHO HAS JUST INFORMED ONE OF HIS CLIENTS THAT, YES, HIS WIFE IS CHEATING ON HIM. TO CONSOLETHE POOR CHAP JAKE DOES THE FOLLOWING:

"Gittes reaches into his desk and pulls out a shot glass, quickly selects a cheaper bottle of bourbon from several fifths of more expensive whiskeys."

THE IMPLICATION OF THIS MAY SEEM OBVIOUS, THAT GITTES IS "CHEAP" OR SOMETHING, BUT THE FACT THAT HE HAS THEM ALL LINED UP ANDREADY TO GO IN HIS OFFICE SAYS SOMETHING ELSE... IT IMPLIES THAT JAKE KNOWS THE CLIENT WON'T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.

WHAT MAY SEEM LIKE A SMALL DETAIL IN THE SCRIPT IS ACTUALLY A DETAIL THAT CAN BE SUSSED OUT TO SEVERAL OTHER IMPLICATIONS. IT'S A BRILLIANT LITTLE GESTURE OF WHICH TOWNE IS A MASTER. REALLY, HULK READ A SHIT TON OF SCRIPTS AND THESE OPPORTUNITIES ARE RARELY EXPLORED. SO HULK WANT YOU TO EMBRACE THE KIND OF HIGH-DEGREE STORYTELLING EVIDENT IN THESE TINY DETAILS. EMBRACE THEHIGH STANDARD. ALWAYS TRY TO ALWAYS SAY SOMETHING. EVEN TRY TO SAY MULTIPLE THINGS AT ONCE.

EVERY DETAIL IN YOUR SCRIPT CAN MATTER IF YOU REALLY WANT IT TO. DON'T WASTE OPPORTUNITIES TO SAY SOMETHING!

42. AND IF YOU WANT TO BE COLLOQUIAL...

SO WHILE ATTANASIO AND TOWNE REPRESENT THE FORMAL END OF THE SPECTRUM OF SCREENWRITING, ON THE OTHER SIDE THERE ARE MORE COLLOQUIAL WRITERS.

FOR INSTANCE, THERE IS SHANE BLACK.

SHANE BLACK WAS THE FIRST MILLION DOLLAR SCREENWRITER. HE WROTE THE LETHAL WEAPON MOVIES AND THE LASTBOY SCOUT. HE THEN SORT OF WENT TO WRITER JAIL FOR THE LAST ACTION HERO AND THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT, BUT HE RETURNED IN A BIG, BIG WAY WITH KISS KISS, BANG BANG (IT'S A HILARIOUS, GREAT FILM IF YOU'VE NEVER SEEN IT). BUT WHEN HE STARTED OUT, ONE OF THE THINGS HE BECAME FAMOUS FOR WAS BEING VERY COLLOQUIAL IN THE SCRIPTS. HE DIRECTLY ENGAGED THE READER AND WOULD SAY THINGS LIKE: "THIS IS THE SCENE THAT'S SO FUCKING GOOD, THE AUDIENCE WILL JUST WHIP IT OUT AND START JERKING OFF RIGHT THERE IN THE THEATER!"

... IT MADE AN IMPRESSION.

WHICH IS TO SAY A LOT OF PEOPLE LIKED IT AND FOUND IT FUNNY, AND A LOT OF THE OLD SCHOOL THOUGHT HE WAS PISSING ON THE CRAFT.BOTH ARE FAIR REACTIONS. BUT WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO SAY ABOUT IT, HULK THINKS THE SCRIPTS BEHIND THAT COLLOQUIAL PROSE WERE USUALLY PRETTY GOOD (EVEN IF THE SCENES USUALLY WEREN'T GOOD ENOUGH THAT THE AUDIENCE WOULD START JERKING OFF). BUT EVEN IF THATBASIC GOODNESS WAS REALLY WHAT MATTERED, ALL THE LOVE AND ALL THE HATE ALSO SPAWNED A LOT OF IMITATORS. WHAT CAN HULK SAY? ITALL JUST KEEPS COMING BACK TO PEOPLE FIXATING ON THE TANGIBLE DETAILS INSTEAD OF TONE. SO THEY FIXATED ON HIS BEING COLLOQUIAL.MAYBE THEY THOUGHT THAT WAS THE SECRET OR SOMETHING, HULK DUNNO. BUT SOME DO FINE WITH IT. SOME DO NOT.

ALL HULK HAVE TO SAY ON THE MATTER IS THIS: IF YOU'RE GOING TO GO COLLOQUIAL, THEN LET'S GET SOMETHING STRAIGHT... YOUHAVE TO BE REALLY FUCKING FUNNY.

THAT'S ALL THERE IS TO IT. BECAUSE IF YOU'RE NOT ACTIVELY MAKING THE READER LAUGH THAN THERE'S, QUITE LITERALLY, NO POINT TO DOING IT. SERIOUSLY. NONE. YOU'RE ALREADY PISSING ON THE CONCEPT OF ECONOMY. AND BY BREAKING THE 4TH WALL JUST SAY "I KNOW YOU'RE A PERSON/ HULK WHO IS READING THIS. LET'S JUST TRY AND CHEER YOU UP!" IT BETTER BE GOOD. BUT THERE ISN'T ANYTHING ELSE THE READER CAN CAN DO WITH IT OTHER THAN LAUGH. IT CERTAINLY WON'T MAKE THE MOVIE ANY BETTER. IT CERTAINLY WON'T CONVEY TO THE DIRECTOR HOW TO MAKE THE MOVIE ANY FUNNIER. THE AUDIENCE SURE CAN'T SEE THE FUNNY LINE.

IT ADDS NOTHING OF VALUE TO THE FILM. THE ONLY THING IT CAN DO IS MAKE THE READER LAUGH, WHICH ADMITTEDLY IS SOMETHING TO BE APPRECIATED IN THE LONG SLOG OF READING SCRIPTS.

BUT IF IT DOESN'T MAKE HULK LAUGH, THEN IT'S JUST GARBAGE FOR WASTING HULK'S TIME... WHICH MEANS SOME READER MIGHTTHROW IT IN THE GARBAGE TO BOOT.

THOSE ARE THE STAKES. BE WARNED.

43. VOICE OVER... PERHAPS, TRY NOT USING IT

VOICE OVER IS ONE OF THE MOST OVERUSED DEVICES IN THE HISTORY OF CINEMA. IT IS USED TO EXPLAIN THINGS THAT DON'T NEED EXPLAINING AND WOULD BEST BE LEFT TO BEING SHOWN THROUGH ACTUAL CINEMA. OR THEY ARE OFTEN ISSUES THAT WOULD BE BEST LEFT TO BEING EXPLORED BY DRAMATIC MEANS. EVEN THE MOST UNAWARE AUDIENCES FIND VOICE OVER TO BE PRETTY UN-ENGAGING.

WHY IS THAT? BECAUSE VOICE-OVER ALWAYS TELLS, AND NEVER SHOWS.

WHAT PERHAPS SPEAKS TO THE DEVICE'S ASSURED LAZINESS IS HOW FUCKING INCONSISTENT IT IS TOO. IF YOU'RE GOING TO USE NARRATION AT THE BEGINNING OF YOUR FILM, THEN YOU HAVE TO USE IT AT THE END (COUGH THE DESCENDANTS COUGH). OTHERWISE YOU'RE JUST CHEATING. THEN THERE'S THAT HILARIOUS TIME THE VOICE OVER SHOWED UP IN A COUPLE SCENES IN THE MIDDLE OFWE DON'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE AND THEN PROMPTLY DISAPPEARED FOR THE REST OF THE FILM. THESE SORTS OF USES ONLY CONFIRM THE LAZINESS. THOSE FILMS USED IT JUST WHEN THEY NEEDED IT TO SOLVE SOME WEIRD, STUPID PROBLEM OF EXPOSITION. THEN THEY PROMPTLY DUMPED IT.

THE REAL PROBLEM HERE, AND WHAT EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO USES IT TENDS NOT TO REALIZE, IS THAT WHEN VOICE OVER GOES IN AND OUTHAPHAZARDLY, YOU ARE ALTERING THE RULES OF YOUR "MOVIE UNIVERSE." YOU ARE SAYING THE STORY COMES FROM THIS PERSON'S PERSPECTIVE AND THEY ARE A KIND OF "GOD OF PERSPECTIVE" IN THIS MOVIE. THAT'S WHAT VOICE OVER REALLY MEANS TO YOUR TONE. AND IT HAS A HUGE IMPACT TO HOW YOUR AUDIENCE SUBCONSCIOUSLY THINKS ABOUT THE FILM'S REALITY. SO WHEN THE MOVIE SUDDENLY FUCKING DITCHES THE VOICE OVER AND BECOMES A REGULAR MOVIE APROPOS OF NOTHING, THEN THE AUDIENCE CAN FEEL IT. YOU ARE ESSENTIALLY SAYING YOU HAVE MADE TWO DIFFERENT KINDS OF UNIVERSES IN YOUR FILM. AND THAT'S CHEATING. WORSE, IT'S DESTRUCTIVE TO THE INTENT OF YOUR STORYTELLING.

THERE ARE OF COURSE, A TON OF EXAMPLES OF GREAT VOICE OVER.

ALL THE MALICK FILMS EMPLOY THE DEVICE TO STUNNING AFFECT. BUT HECK, THE DUDE IS BASICALLY WRITING POETRY WHICH GOES ALONG WITH THE STUNNING BEAUTY OF HIS IMAGERY. AND REALLY, HE'S ONE OF A KIND. ANOTHER EXAMPLE IS IN THE INFORMANT!WHERE THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE PLOT IS INTENTIONALLY UNDERCUT BY GOING INTO THE HEAD OF MATT DAMON'S RIDICULOUS MAIN CHARACTER, WHERE HE'LL SUDDENLY START RUMINATING ON PANTIES IN JAPANESE VENDING MACHINES. THERE IS NO INFORMATION OR EXPOSITION, BUT PURE CHARACTERIZATION AND HILARITY. THIS DOESN'T MAKE IT NARRATIVE NONSENSE THOUGH AS IT SERVES TWO OBVIOUS FUNCTIONS: IT HELPS BALANCE THE COMEDIC TONE WITH THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE STORY, AND IT HELPS EXPLAIN JUST WHAT KIND OF BATSHIT GUY WOULD GODOWN THIS SILLY, EXTREME PATH. HULK THINKS IT'S GREAT. AND THEN THERE'S THE VOICE OVER IN THE COEN'S RAISING ARIZONA, WHICH DOES THE EXACT OPPOSITE. H.I. MCDUNNOUGH, WHO ON THE SURFACE A COMPLETE HICK CRIMINAL, HAS THIS LOFTY, BEAUTIFUL, POETIC NARRATION THAT ACTUALLY COUNTERS THE HILARITY OF THE WORLD OF THE FILM, BY GIVING IT THIS DEEP POETIC RESONANCE AND MAKES THE WHOLE THING A KIND LOFTY, WEIRD, WONDERFUL FAIRY TALE.

THERE'S ALWAYS A WAY TO USE A DEVICE WELL.

JUST DON'T BE LAZY ABOUT IT. VOICE OVER CAN LEND A NICE FEELING OF ATMOSPHERE, CHARACTERIZATION, AND TONE, BUT BE CAREFULWITH HOW IT AFFECTS YOUR UNIVERSE. IF YOU REALLY NEED IT AND DON'T WANT TO FUCK WITH YOUR UNIVERSE, THEN TRY A FEW SIMPLE TRICKS TO USE IT MORE ORGANICALLY. LIKE HAVE ONE CHARACTER LITERALLY TELLING A STORY THAT CAN OVERLAP INTO THE NEXT SCENE AND EFFECTIVELY BE USED LIKE VOICE-OVER. THIS WAY YOU GET THE TONAL AND INFORMATION EFFECT YOU WANT WITHOUT GETTING THE TONAL EFFECTYOU DON'T WANT. BUT AGAIN YOU HAVE TO BE CONSISTENT ABOUT IT.

BUT REALLY, ALWAYS TRY NOT USING IT FIRST... YOU'D BE SURPRISED HOW WELL PLAIN OLD NARRATIVE WORKS.

44. THE PRACTICAL ART OF DIALOGUE

HULK TALKED IN THE INTRODUCTION ABOUT KNOWING THE STRUGGLE OF WRITING. WELL... HULK KNOWS THIS STRUGGLE. IT HULK'S BIGGEST OBSTACLE. HULK KNOWS THIS. HULK JUST DOES NOT HAVE THE EAR FOR IT, ESPECIALLY WHILE WRITING THE FIRST FEW DRAFTS. SOFOR HULK TO REALLY WORK WITH DIALOGUE, IT TAKES TIME, PATIENCE, AND A LOT OF LESSON-LEARNING.

SO HERE THE FOLLOWING ARE HARD-EARNED LESSONS THAT HULK HAS COME TO KNOW:

A). ELIMINATE THE FOLLOWING IN DIALOGUE: "UMS", "LIKES", AND "YOU KNOWS."

IF YOU WANT IT TO BE SOMETHING ORGANIC AND SOUNDS LIKE HOW REAL PEOPLE TALK, THEN THAT'S FOR THE ACTOR TO DECIDE. SERIOUSLY. IF YOU'RE TRYING TO GET AN ACTOR TO TIME THEIR UMS, LIKES, AND YOU KNOWS TO YOUR EXACT SPECIFICATIONS AND CADENCE, THENYOU ARE GOING TO GET THE MOST HOLLOW SOUNDING FAKE NONSENSE EVER. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO MAKE THESE KIND OF NATURAL PAUSES SEEM UNFORCED. SO TAKE EM OUT. PLUS THEY'RE NOT NECESSARY ANYWAY AND WILL COMPLETELY STALL THE READER JUST TRYING TO GET THE MEANING OF YOUR WORDS. REALLY MAKE THEM GO BYE BYE.

B) YOU WANT YOUR CHARACTER'S DIALOGUE TO BE MORE CLEAR AND ON POINT THAN YOU'D ASSUME.

DON'T LAYER THE DIALOGUE IN A LOT OF QUALIFYING AND ANTICIPATION. NANCY MEYERS MOVIES TEND TO DO THAT HORRIBLY. STUFF LIKE"WELL, I WAS GOING TO SAY...." AND "I THINK i REALLY JUST NEED TO COME OUT, AND LET YOU KNOW THAT." UGHHHHHHHH. HAVE YOU EVERSEEN THE HOLIDAY? IT'S LIKE 2 HOURS OF CHARACTERS SPUTTERING OUT STUFF BEFORE THE CHARACTERS TALK AND HAVEOPINIONS. IT DOESN'T COME OFF LIKE "ORGANIC SPEECH," IT COMES OFF LIKE HULK'S ASS. ADDING THESE KIND OF QUALIFIERS JUST SLOWS DOWN THE ENTIRE RHYTHM AND IMPORT. IT PREVENTS THE AUDIENCE FROM FOLLOWING ALONG AND ENGAGING AND RESPONDING BECAUSE THEY'RE MILES AHEAD OF THE CHARACTER'S THEMSELVES. SO JUST SAY WHAT YOU FREAKIN' MEAN. BE TERSE AND TO THE POINT. YOUMAY WORRY THAT DOING SO WILL MAKE YOUR CHARACTERS SOUND TERSE AND TO THE POINT, BUT IT WON'T. MOVIES FORGIVE A LOT OF BREVITY. IT WILL BE ORGANIC BECAUSE IT WON'T SOUND LIKE REAL LIFE. IT WILL MAKE THEM SOUND LIKE THEY'RE IN A DAMNMOVIE. WHICH THEY ARE. THERE'S A REASON CHARACTERS TALK LIKE THAT IN FILMS AND IT'S BECAUSE THAT'S HOW THE AUDIENCENEEDS THEM TO BE.

C) YOUR CHARACTERS CAN'T ALL TALK THE SAME WAY.

YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO HEAR ONE PERSON IN A SCENE AND KNOW WHO THEY ARE JUST BY THE DIALOGUE. ACHIEVING THIS CAN BE REALLY DIFFICULT, BUT IT'S TRUE. YOU CAN'T JUST RELY ON THE ACTORS TO DO IT FOR YOU. WHEN HULK READS COMEDIES 1/4 OF THEM HAVE ALLTHEIR CHARACTERS IN THE GENERIC FUNNY PITHY VOICE, AND 1/4 OF THE OTHERS HAVE THEIR CHARACTERS ALL TALK LIKE THE AUTHOR. IT SUCKS (FYI, THE OTHER 1/4  OF COMEDY SCRIPTS ARE REALLY FUNNY , AND THE LAST 1/4 ARE NOT FUNNY WHATSOEVER). SO CONCENTRATE ON HAVING YOUR CHARACTERS HAVE DIFFERENT VOICES. IF THIS IS A BIG PROBLEM FOR YOU, HULK HAVE A FEW PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS. IF IT HELPS, THINK OF A BUNCH OF DIFFERENT ACTORS IN YOUR HEAD, ALL WITH UNIQUE CADENCES. THROW IN STEVE BUSCEMI, WITH... UM... DENNISLEARY AND, LIKE, CAROL KING OR SOMETHING. OR WHOEVER! HULK KNOWS THIS SOUND STUPID, BUT IT WILL HONESTLY HELP YOU DIFFERENTIATETHEM IN YOUR HEAD. WHEN WHATEVER ACTOR COMES IN TO PLAY THEM THEY WILL BRING THE CHARACTER A MORE ORGANIC CENTER, THAN THE EXTREMES YOU USED IN YOUR HEAD. IT'S JUST A WAY OF MAKING THEIR VOICES SEPARATE. A MERE MEANS TO AN END.

BUT HONESTLY, THERE'S A SURE FIRE WAY OF FIXING MOST OF THESE DIALOGUE PROBLEMS...

45. FINAL + BESTEST ADVICE EVER: READ YOUR ENTIRE SCREENPLAY OUT LOUD... MANY TIMES.

THIS WILL SOLVE A LOT OF THE PROBLEMS MENTIONED NOT JUST IN THE LAST POINT ABOUT DIALOGUE, BUT ALL THE 45 POINTS MENTIONED SOFAR.

YOU'LL HEAR YOUR SCRIPT OUT LOUD AND BE LIKE "OH THAT SOUNDS LIKE CRAP" OR "OH THAT'S A WEIRD THING TO SAY" OR "OH THAT TOTALLY WASN'T NECESSARY." YOU'LL GET A SENSE OF HOW YOUR SCENES ARE PACED AND IF ANY OF THE SCENES DON'T MAKE SENSE NEAR EACH OTHER. HAVE A COUPLE FRIENDS READ IT WITH YOU AND TALK ABOUT IT.

HULK REALLY CAN'T TELL YOU ENOUGH HOW MUCH YOU NEED TO DO THIS.

JUST BY GETTING THE DAMn THING OUTSIDE YOUR HEAD, IT SOLVES SO MANY PROBLEMS INHERENTLY. YOU'LL KNOW EXACTLY WHAT TO DO WITH IT ONCE IT'S "REAL." LIKE WITH THE ACTION LINES THAT GO ON AND ON? GUESS WHAT? IF YOU GET BORED READING THEM, THE THE PERSON READING YOUR SCRIPT WILL GET BORED READING THEM. SO YOU'LL KNOW EXACTLY WHAT TO CUT. READING A SCREENPLAY OUT LOUD SHOULD INFORM YOU. IT SHOULD SPEAK TO THE EXACT KIND OF MOVIE YOU WANT TO WRITE.

TO THE ANECDOTE!

AND NOW, HULK WILL SPEAK TO THE POWER OF WHAT READING A SCREENPLAY OUT LOUD CAN DO FOR YOU. WE CAN ALL AGREE THAT THESOCIAL NETWORK WAS PRETTY MUCH GREAT, RIGHT? IT HAS SUCH A WONDERFUL USE OF DIALOGUE, SMART COMMENTARY, INSIGHTFUL DETAILS, RESONANT THEMES, AND A PROPULSIVE SENSE OF STORYTELLING... HEY... WAIT A MINUTE! ISN'T THAT JUST ALL THE THINGS HULKMENTIONED BACK IN PART 1 OF THIS ESSAY!?!? WHEN HULK TALKED ABOUT WHAT MAKES A GOOD NARRATIVE??? HULK IS BRINGING IT FULL CIRCLE ON Y'ALL!

SO ON TO THE ACTUAL ANECDOTE. HULK JUST DID A PODCAST WITH WILL FROM THE SILVERTONGUE ONLINE U.K. (HULK WILL LINK SOON!) AND HE TOLD A STORY THAT HULK HAD NEVER HEARD BEFORE. DURING PREPRODUCTION ON THE FILM, DAVID FINCHER APPARENTLY HAD AARON SORKIN SIT DOWN FOR HIM, AND IN ONE SITTING HE HAD SORKIN READ THE SCRIPT OUT LOUD. HE WANTED TO KNOW THE PACE, INFLECTION, ANDSENSE OF RHYTHM THAT BELONGED IN THE SCRIPT. SO AARON SAT THERE, READ THE ENTIRE MOVIE OUT LOUD, JUST AS HE HAD PICTURED IT. IT TOOK HIM 2 HOURS AND 1 MINUTE TO READ THE WHOLE THING.

THE FINAL RUNNING TIME OF THE FILM? 2 HOURS 1 MINUTE.

THE LESSON IS CLEAR FOLKS: READ YOUR SCRIPT OUT LOUD AND HULK WILL GUARANTEE YOU WILL WIN AN OSCAR.

... OKAY, IT WON'T DO THAT BUT WILL MAKE YOUR SCRIPT WAY, WAY BETTER IN EVERY SENSE.

PART SEVEN - NOW HERE COMES THE HARD PART

AND THUS WE COME TO THE FINAL PART OF OUR JOURNEY, AND HULK HAS TO START IT WITH SOME BAD NEWS.

HULK HATE TO BREAK IT TO YOU, BUT NONE OF THE THINGS HULK JUST TOLD YOU ACTUALLY MATTER.

... THAT SOUND YOU HEAR IS EVERYONE'S HEARTS FALLING DOWN INTO THEIR BUTTS.

THE REASON IT DOESN'T MATTER IS BECAUSE EVERYTHING HULK JUST TOLD YOU IS NOT SOMETHING THAT CAN BE EASILY PARSED OUT OVERPLANNING SESSIONS. YOU MAY NOW UNDERSTAND IT. YOU MAY NOW REALLY BE EAGER TO START TRYING TO APPLY IT. BUT IT CANNOT BE FULLY APPLIED WITH SIMPLE AWARENESS. FOR ONE, THERE ARE SO MANY DETAILS ABOUT HOW AND WHY TO CREATE A STORY, THAT WHEN WE SIT DOWN TOACTUALLY DO IT, IT REVEALS ITSELF AS DYSFUNCTIONAL. WE'LL JUST BE TRYING TO THINK OF THAT ONE THING, THAT ONE GOAL, AND THECONTENTS OF THIS ENTIRE ESSAY WILL FALL OUT OR OUR BRAINS LIKE IT TEFLON.

WHICH MEANS THAT WRITERS HAVE TO TAKE THESE DEVICES AND CONCEPTS AND INGRAIN THEM INTO THEIR PROCESS. THESE ELEMENTSMUST BE SEARED INTO THEIR BRAINS SO THEY ARE COMPLETELY AUTOMATIC. ONLY THEN WILL THE WRITING PROCESS, AND THE WRITING ITSELF,TRULY FEEL ORGANIC. ONLY THEN CAN YOU WRITE "SEQUENTIALLY AND WITH FLOW" AND STILL INCLUDE ALL THE CRITICAL ELEMENTS OF STORYTELLING AND STRUCTURE THAT HULK HAS BEEN FAWNING OVER FOR THE ENTIRE COLUMN. BECAUSE THE SIMPLEST TRUTH IS THAT YOU REALLY NEED THAT SPEED. THERE IS A CERTAIN KIND OF ON-THE-FLY WRITING CHOPS THAT ARE DESPERATELY NEEDED IF ONE PLANS TO BE A WORKING WRITERIN FILM AND TELEVISION.

SURE YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO HAMMER OUT SOMETHING GOOD IN THE COURSE OF A YEAR, BUT WHAT ABOUT WHEN YOU'RE HANDED A RE-WRITEJOB AND THE THING STARTS SHOOTING IN A WEEK? WHAT ABOUT THE FACT THAT IT'S THE END OF THE SEASON AND YOU HAVE TO WRITE AN ENTIRE EPISODE IN TWO STRAIGHT ALL NIGHT SESSIONS? THAT'S JUST AS MUCH PART OF BEING A WRITER AS ANYTHING ELSE IN THIS BUSINESS.

BUT EVEN THEN. EVEN IF YOU'RE A WRITER WHO SOMEHOW HAS ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD. CHANCES ARE IF YOU CAN'T WRITE ORGANICALLY, THEN YOUR WORK WON'T BE ORGANIC EITHER.

SO IT HAS TO BE INGRAINED.

... BUT HOW THE HELL DO YOU DO THAT?

HULK HAS REGULARLY CITED MALCOLM GLADWELL'S THEORY FROM "OUTLIERS" THAT IT TAKES 10,000 HOURS TO BECOME TRULY GOOD AT ANYTHING. IT TAKES PRACTICE. FOCUS. REPETITION. THE SAME WAY A BASEBALL PLAYER PRACTICES HITTING A BALL OVER AND OVER AGAIN UNTIL EACH REACTION BECOMES SIMPLE MUSCLE MEMORY. A WRITER MUST DO THE SAME. IDENTIFYING SCRIPT PROBLEMS, SEEING NARRATIVE SHIFTS, RECOGNIZING FALSE-SOUNDING DIALOGUE. THESE ARE ALL THINGS THAT MUST BE INGRAINED AND EASILY RECOGNIZED THOUGH THE SAME KIND OF MUSCLE MEMORY PUT ON DISPLAY BY A GREAT BASEBALL PLAYER. AND TO GET TO THAT POINT TAKES 10,000 HOURS OF WRITING. 10,000 HOURS OF SOLVING YOUR OWN SCRIPT PROBLEMS. 10,000 HOURS OF THINKING ABOUT THINGS LIKE CHARACTER MOTIVE, STORY STRUCTURE, AND THE ART OF CINEMA.

AND IF YOU WRITE EVERY DAY, THEN 10,000 HOURS USUALLY TAKES ABOUT... 10 YEARS.

HULK CANNOT HELP IF THIS REALITY SCARES YOU. SO OFTEN HULK TALKS TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE DREAMS OF WRITING SCRIPTS AND SO OFTEN THEY ARE NOT EVEN CLOSE TO THAT FIGURE. SOME OF YOU ARE STILL YOUNG AND IN SCHOOL AND IN THE PERFECT PLACE TO START. SOME OF YOU ARE... A BIT BEHIND. BUT IF YOU REALLY WANT IT, THEN YOU CANNOT LET THAT REALITY STOP YOU. YOU HAVE TO BE READY TO PUT IN YOUR 10 YEARS. AND HULK CAN REALLY SPEAK TO THE TRUTH OF THAT 10,000 HOUR FIGURE. IT WASN'T UNTIL 10 YEARS IN THAT HULK'S WRITING BECAME EVEN REMOTELY PASSABLE. AND SUDDENLY, IT FELT LIKE HULK WOKE UP ONE DAY AND IT ALL CLICKED. YES, THE PROCESS WAS ACTUALLY RATHER GRADUAL, BUT ALL THESE THINGS HULK "KNEW" HAD BECOME SOMETHING HULK ACTUALLY "UNDERSTOOD."GOING BACK TO POINT #24HULK MENTIONED THAT IT TOOK THE SOUTH PARK GUYS ABOUT 10 YEARS TO REALLY UNDERSTAND STORYTELLING AND HOW TO APPROACH THEIR SHOW... THAT WASN'T AN ACCIDENT. THINGS TAKE TIME. THINGS TAKE WORK.

SO FOR ALL THESE PAGES AND PAGES OF PRACTICAL ADVICE, ADVICE THAT HULK REALLY, TRULY BELIEVES IN, IN CASE THAT'S NOT OBVIOUS, THERE IS STILL NO QUICK FIX. YOU HAVE TO LEARN TO INCORPORATE THOSE IDEAS INTO YOUR DEEPEST ESSENCE AS A WRITER. YOU HAVE TO PRACTICE WITH THEM LIKE A BASEBALL PLAYER WOULD. AND LIKE A BASEBALL PLAYER, YOU'LL FIND YOUR OWN STRENGTHS OVER TIME. YOU'LL FIND YOU ALREADY HAVE A LOT OF THE SKILLS AND TRAINING YOU NEED TO BE GOOD AT STRUCTURE. OR PERHAPS YOU'VE BEEN TRAINING AS A GOOD LISTENER SO YOU HAVE AN EAR FOR DIALOGUE. MAYBE YOU HAVE THE SKILLS TO BE ECONOMICAL. BUT NO MATTER WHAT YOURSKILLS BECOME AND HOW THEY MANIFEST THEMSELVES IT WILL TAKE UNBELIEVABLE AMOUNTS OF WORK.

THIS IS SCARY. AND YOU HAVE TWO POSSIBLE REACTIONS:

1) DAMN... I... DON'T THINK I CAN DO THAT. I DON'T THINK I HAVE TIME, AND I MEAN... THAT'S SO MUCH. I WANT TO,I REALLY WANT TO BE A WRITER, BUT I JUST DON'T THINK I CAN DO IT.

2) OKAY, FINE. WHATEVER. THAT'S NOT GOING TO STOP ME.

IF YOU ANSWERED LIKE #1 THEN YOU LIKE THE IDEA OF WRITING. YOU LIKE THE THINGS IT MAKES YOU FEEL, OR PERHAPS THE LIFESTYLE ORACCLAIM YOU THINK IT WILL AFFORD YOU. AND  IF YOU ANSWERED LIKE #2, THEN YOU ARE A WRITER.

SO IT IS TIME TO START WRITING. GO DO YOUR FIRST SCREENPLAY. JUST WRITE THE DAMN THING. DO IT. AND ONCE YOU FINISH IT, YES IT'S GOING TO BE TERRIBLE. BUT THAT'S TOTALLY OKAY. SIT DOWN. WRITE ANOTHER ONE. DO IT BETTER. THEN DO IT AGAIN. AND AGAIN. DON'T LOOK AT THEM AS YOUR BE ALL END ALL, BUT ANOTHER STEP IN THE PROCESS. LEARN HOW TO CRAFT STORIES. THEN WRITE ANOTHER. AND ANOTHER. GET BETTER. DON'T WORRY YOU'RE "WASTING GOOD IDEAS" BECAUSE THE VALUE OF THE IDEA AND THE INSPIRATION NEVER GOES AWAY EVEN IF THE SCRIPT IS CRAP. YOU CAN ALWAYS COME BACK AND RE-DO THE IDEA ONCE YOU'RE BETTER AT WRITING.HULK'S DONE THAT ALL THE TIME. JUST KEEP WRITING THEM. HULK WROTE OVER 70 SCREENPLAYS BEFORE EVEN ONE WORKING PROFESSIONAL,SAID "HEY THIS IS PRETTY GOOD!" AND FROM THERE, GETTING SOMETHING ACTUALLY MADE IS EVEN HARDER. YES, IT TAKES LUCK TO GET THERIGHT OPPORTUNITY, BUT YOU GOTTA BE SURE YOU CAN DELIVER WHEN THE OPPORTUNITY COMES.

JUST REMEMBER, IT IS SCARY AS ALL HELL. BUT YOU ARE NOT ALONE. YOU HAVE THOUSANDS OF OTHER WRITERS WITH YOU... AND YOU HAVE HULK.

HULK KNOWS THAT SOUNDS CHEESY AS ALL HELL, BUT HULK MEAN IT: YOU HAVE A HULK ON YOUR SIDE. HULK WANTS YOU TO WIN. HULK EVEN HATES THAT THIS OH-SO-NECESSARY 10,000 HOUR MESSAGE IS DOMINATING THE LAST SECTION OF THIS ARTICLE. YES, HULK NEEDS TO WARN YOU, BUT HULK WOULD RATHER INSPIRE YOU. SO IN THAT SPIRIT, HULK JUST WANTS TO FINISH THIS SUCKER WITH A LITTLE EXPLANATIONOF ONE OF HULK'S HEROES.

THE MAN IN THE LEAD IMAGE OF THIS PART SEVEN IS A GUY NAMED PADDY CHAYEFSKY. HE IS ONE OF THE GREATEST SCREENWRITERS OF ALL TIME.

CHAYEFSKY'S SUCCESS WAS DUE IN LARGE PART TO THE FACT THAT HE WAS, FIRST AND FOREMOST, A WRITER IN GENERAL. HE WROTE PLAYS, NOVELS, TELEVISION, AND EVEN CRITICISM (HULK LIKES CRITICISM TOO IN CASE YOU HAVEN'T NOTICED). PADDY  CHAYEFSKY APPROACHED HIS CRAFT WITH REMARKABLE SENSE UNDERSTANDING. HIS STYLE ALWAYS SEEMED TO VARY. YOU COULD ALWAYS RECOGNIZE HIS FOCUS ANDINTELLIGENCE, BUT NEVER AN OVERPOWERING "STYLE" THAT DOMINATED HIS WORK. HIS VOICE COULD MUTATE AT A MOMENT'S NOTICE. HE COULD TRANSCEND GENRE, TONE, COMEDY, DRAMA, MEDIUM, FORM, AND EVEN LANGUAGE. HE COULD EXPLORE THE SIMPLEST STORIES ABOUT DECENTHUMAN BEINGS AND ETHOS (MARTY), THE GROWING STATE OF THE NYC SOCIAL SCENE LONG BEFORE CAPOTE EVEN THOUGHT OF BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S (THE BACHELOR PARTY), THE INCREDIBLE THEMATIC REALITIES OF BUREAUCRACY AND PERSONALWILL (THE HOSPITAL), THE HARDCORE SCI-FI AND HORROR CONCEPTS OF TRIPPY GENETICS (ALTERED STATES), THE AHEAD-OF-ITS-TIME VIEWS OF SEXUALITY AND BECOME A FORERUNNER TO LATE 60'S CINEMA (THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY), AND IN HIS MAGNUM OPUS, HE MANAGED TO PENETRATE THE DEEPEST LAYERS OF SATIRE TO THE POINT WHERE HE BASICALLY FORETOLD THE FUTURE OF TELEVISION AND AMERICAN CULTURE AT LARGE (NETWORK). IF YOU NEED A COMPARISON THEN CHAYEFSKY WAS SORT OF A PORTO-CHARLIE KAUFMAN AND CERTAINLY EVERY BIT AS MUCH OF A GENIUS.

BUT CHAYEFSKY DIDN'T JUST WORK ON THESE LAUDED PROJECTS, WHICH EARNED HIM THE MOST LONE SCREENWRITING OSCARS OF ANYONE INHISTORY; HE SPENT MOST OF HIS CAREER AS A "WORKING WRITER" DURING THE GOLDEN AGE OF TELEVISION. BACK IN COLLEGE HULK HUNTED DOWN MOST OF HIS LESSER-SEEN STUFF AND THE ONE THING THAT ALWAYS BECOMES SO AMAZINGLY CLEAR ABOUT HIS WORK IS THAT EVEN WITH HIS THIS UTILITARIAN TV WORK, HE SO COMPLETELY UNDERSTOOD WHAT HE NEEDS TO DO AND EXPLORE WITH THE STORY. WHILE HE FAMOUSLYHATED THE WAY HOLLYWOOD ENCROACHED ON STORYTELLING AND THE AUTHOR'S DUTY CALLING IT "DEMOCRACY AT ITS UGLIEST," HE STILL NEVER, EVER LET THAT IMPACT THE QUALITY, NOR THE EFFORT THAT WENT INTO HIS WORK. HE KNEW HOW TO WRITE BIG AND SMALL, BROAD AND NUANCED, WHEN TO FOLLOW RULES AND WHEN TO ABSOLUTELY SHATTER THEM.

THE RANGE, TOTALITY, UNDERSTANDING, AND HUMANITY OF PADDY CHAYEFSKY INSPIRES HULK EVERY SINGLE DAY.

HE IS EVERYTHING WE SHOULD EVER WANT TO BE IN A SCREENWRITER.

HE INSPIRES HULK TO WRITE SOMETHING LIKE THIS COLUMN.

THE WRITING OF THIS COLUMN WAS A BIT OF A STRANGE JOURNEY FOR HULK. FOR ONE, IT'S NOT REALLY A COLUMN AND MORE LIKE A BOOK. HULK'S BEEN WORKING ON IT FOR ABOUT 4 MONTHS. A WEEK AGO, HULK WAS CLOSE ENOUGH THAT HULK THOUGHT IT WOULD EASILY BE DONEBY LAST SUNDAY. WELL... HULK DECIDED TO INCLUDE A FEW MORE POINTS AND SUDDENLY IT SPIRALED. HATING THE FACT IT WAS COMING AFTER PROMISED, HULK'S SPENT THE LAST 4 NIGHTS GETTING ABOUT AN HOUR OF SLEEP. THE DELAY WAS THE RIGHT DECISION HOWEVER. HULK SINCERELY HOPES YOU AGREE.

BUT WHY WOULD YOU WRITE SOMETHING LIKE THIS HULK? WHAT IS THE PURPOSE?

ON ONE LEVEL, HULK WAS EXCITED ABOUT THE IDEA OF TRYING TO CONVEY THE SUM TOTAL OF ALMOST ALL OF HULK'S KNOWLEDGE ABOUT STORYTELLING AND SCREENWRITING. OF TRYING TO MAKE IT A SINGULAR COMPLETE THOUGHT. A STORY OF WRITING WITH A THROUGH-LINE THAT WOULD MAYBE SPEAK TO YOU. BAND ON SOME SMALL LEVEL, THIS COLUMN FEELS COMPLETE, AND YET... HULK STILL FEEL LIKE BARELY SCRATCHINGTHE SURFACE. AS CRAZY AS IT SOUNDS, HULK LOOKS OVER WHAT IS WRITTEN AND STILLS SEES SO MUCH MORE THAT CAN BE SAID.

WHICH MEANS, THE NEXT STEP FALLS TO YOU.

THIS COLUMN IS ONLY BUT THE FIRST STEP IN A LONGER CONVERSATION. HAVING FINALLY WRITTEN THIS BEHEMOTH, HULK FINALLY FEELS FREETO GO ON AND TALK ABOUT FEW SCRIPTS SPECIFICALLY OR DELVE INTO MORE NUANCED IDEAS. GOING FORWARD, THIS COLUMN BECOMES THE RESOURCE TO LOOK BACK ON FOR HULK, A STEPPING-STONE ONTO OTHER DISCUSSIONS AND EVEN BETTER INSIGHTS.

AND HULK WANTS TO TALK ABOUT ALL OF THOSE IDEAS WITH YOU.

HULK WANTS US TO FLESH THEM OUT AND MAKE THEM FEEL REAL AND UNDERSTOOD. HULK HOPES THAT MAYBE YOU CAN HELP HULK EVEN REFINE THOSE IDEAS TOO. TO TEACH THE HULK THE MANY THINGS THAT HULK HAS YET TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT A SUBJECT THAT CAN ONLY BE TAMED, BUT NEVER MASTERED. HULK WROTE THIS SO WE COULD BOTH BECOME BETTER WRITERS. AND IF WE REALLY WANT TO MAKE IT HAPPEN, THEN WE CAN ALLBE SOMETHING OF A SOUNDING BOARD FOR ONE ANOTHER. HULK SAYS THIS WITHOUT A HINT OF CYNICISM OR DISINTEREST. THE INTERNET IS FULL OF YELLING AND CONTENTION AND UGLINESS AND HULK WANTS TO CREATE A PLACE WHERE WE CAN DO WAY BETTER THAN THAT.

BECAUSE SECRETLY WE ARE WAY BETTER THAN THAT.

HULK GENUINELY WANTS TO CHANGE HOW WE REGARD THE INTERNET. HULK KNOW THAT SOUNDS FREAKIN' INSANE, BUT IT'S TRUE. HULKBASICALLY JUST WROTE A BOOK AND HERE IT IS.

IT'S FOR YOU. IT'S FREE.

SO WRITE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW AS HULK PROMISE TO RETURN TO THIS COLUMN AGAIN AND AGAIN OVER TIME. DISAGREE WITH ONE OF HULK'S DEFINITIONS? NEEDS HELP BREAKING A STORY? CAN'T FIGURE OUT A CHARACTER'S PATH? WRITE. ASK. HELP. AND FEEL FREE TODROP HULK A LINE ANY TIME AT FILMCRITHULK@GMAIL.COM. IT CAN GET A LITTLE BACKED UPAT TIMES, BUT HULK READS EVERY SINGLE THING HULK IS SENT AND WILL ALWAYS TRY TO GET TO EVERY SINGLE PERSON. RIGHT NOW HULK ABOUT 60 HULK-MAILS BEHIND (SOME GOING BACK TO OCTOBER) , SO PLEASE BE PATIENT BECAUSE HULK FULLY RESPOND TO EACH ONE.

BUT REALLY, WHY DO ALL THIS, HULK?

THE SAME REASON HULK EXPLAINED AT THE BEGINNING. BECAUSE HULK KNOWS THE STRUGGLE. IT IS ENDLESS WAR WITH ONE'S ONE BRAIN.IT IS LONESOME. DIFFICULT. AND OFTEN INFURIATING.

... SO WHO WOULD WANT TO GO THROUGH THAT ALONE?

<3 HULK

*THIS PICTURE WAS GENEROUSLY GIVEN TO BY HULK-READER YANICK BELZIL. SO PLEASE REPAY THAT GENEROSITY OUT SOME MORE OF HIS GREATSTUFF HERE, HERE AND FOLLOW HERE.

Film Crit Hulk's photo About the Author: FILM CRIT HULK WAS CREATED IN A CHAOTIC LAB EXPERIMENT INVOLVING GAMMARADIATION, TELEPODS, AND THE GHOST OF PAULINE KAEL. NOW HULK HAVE DEEP AND ABIDING LOVE CINEMA.