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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Holiday Gifts for Screenwriters (Part II - Story and Character)

In this part of my Screenwriter Gift Catalog, I'm going to focus on items related to story structure and character development.

Story Structure/Writing

Million Dollar Screenwriting
Million Dollar Screenwriting e-Book -- Chris Soth is a fellow blogger, teacher, and writer, who expounds on 8-sequence method. And he's a nice guy to boot. I will also soon write a review of his 4-DVD set.
Power Structure
Power Structure -- I have not used this software extensively, but I have checked it out. If you're interested in a good organizational tool, this may be it!

Dramatica Pro
Dramatica Pro -- Not for everybody, but a very intriguing (though somewhat cold and mechanical) different approach to screenplay structure.

Dramatica -- The book that started the Dramatica system, and explicates it. Where the software is somewhat automated, this book is more of a do-it-yourself take on the material.

Crafty Screenwriting

Crafty Screenwriting -- Another product I need to write a review on soon. Alex Epstein's excellent book on writing scripts that get made. I am a big fan of his philosophy, having long viewed myself as more of a craftsman than an artist.
Eats Shoots & Leaves

Eats, Shoots & Leaves -- Not strictly about screenwriting, but an entertaining book about writing in general. This is for all the stickler grammarians out there!

Chinatown -- Another of the greatest films ever made, and a long-time favorite of mine. Towne does a masterful job of building his story slowly, but deliberately, while maintaining a subtlety throughout.

Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction -- For anyone interested in taking a few more chances with their structure. Examine this script, pull it apart, and see what makes the various storylines tick!

Memento -- Another one worth studying for its audacious structure. Here the storyline is less convoluted, but is equally intricately detailed.

Character Development

Character Pro

Character Pro -- You all know how much I love the Enneagram personality typing system. This software helps you build characters utilizing that system. I've only looked it over a bit, and have not used it extensively, but I enjoyed what I saw of it.
Literary Enneagram

The Literary Enneagram -- An excellent book that uses well-known characters from literature to illustrate the various types and subtypes. Excerpts from many novels and plays offers a window on each personality.

Writer's Guide to Character Traits
The Writer's Guide to Character Traits -- A more psychologically based study of personality types. This book looks at different character types, and examines likely childhoods, jobs, and potential psychiatric disorders, among other things.


Network -- More than just a biting satire about broadcasting and the media, Chayefsky's excellent screenplay also delivered incisive portraits of madness, greed, and duplicity.

Taxi Driver -- Unlike many of Scorsese's other films, this one was primarily a character study, in this case focusing on paranoia and madness. Schrader's screenplay is lyrically poetic, and utterly moving.

Annie Hall -- I've never got why people consider this a romantic comedy. Though it's certainly a comedy, and focuses on love and relationships, that's where the comparisons end. Maybe it is a tragicomic romance. Regardless, it works as a character study of its humorously neurotic protagonist.

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Blogger shecanfilmit said...

Annie Hall is actually a Pygmalion story that barks like a romantic comedy. I watch it about once a year and it seems each time, it is more amazing. In fact, I think I'm due for another viewing right now.

8:41 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

I hear your point, but I disagree. Sure, there are Pygmalion elements, in that he tries to make her over for himself, but that isn't the whole story. Pretty Woman would be a better example of this, and more of a romantic comedy in terms of structure.

But yes, it is definitely worthy of another viewing, always. I have the DVD!

8:49 PM  
Blogger shecanfilmit said...

Well, I respectfully agree to disagree!

I've analyzed it scene-by-scene and I think it's primarily a Pygmalion story cast as a bittersweet romantic comedy. What is it missing in your eyes that makes it something other than romantic comedy? Is it because he doesn't get the girl?

How about Chasing Amy? How would you classify that one? We had an argument about it at work the other day. (Amongst software engineers, not film people... Software engineers love to classify!)

11:03 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Actually, yes, I do think that not ending up with Annie plays a big part in my objection to it being classified as a RomCom. Comedies, in the Classical definition, end happily. And while there is the quasi-happy ending here of Alvie finding fodder for his play, I don't really think that makes it a Romantic Comedy. Because the "happy ending" doesn't apply to the romance. Thus, the film can be a comedy that is set in the world of love and relationships.

Another problem I have is that last phrase I used. It is 100% a movie about relationships, it is not a particularly "romantic" film. Sure, there are moments of that ("I lurve you" maybe), and the relationship definitely feels genuine, but where is the romance?

But don't get me wrong. I lurve that film! And you can swing over here to watch with me whenever you like! ;-)

11:20 PM  
Blogger shecanfilmit said...

I like your style! Turning a discussion about whether or not something is a romantic comedy into a pick up. Very clever, and if I lived in LA, it'd probably, cough, work. ;-)

12:58 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Ha ha. That was an entirely innocent invitation! At least until I meet you! ;-)

And to prove it, anyone else who wants to watch any DVD with me is always welcome to come by. :-)

1:23 AM  

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