Think there are only a few basic plots? Dramatica sees well over 30,000 unique. 'No other story software offers this level of involvement. Associate Producer.
You’re an author, and you want to. After all, the juice seems to be flowing toward self-publishers, more authors are rethinking their approach to publishing, and new opportunities seem to be opening up to self-publishers every day. The indie spirit in self-publishing leads lots of authors to want to take ownership of the entire process of book making, not just the writing. For most people trying to create a truly professional-looking book, the best solution will be to simply hire a professional. But there’s no reason you can’t produce a reasonable-looking book if you’re willing to put in the time and educate yourself about books, and about the software you’ll use to create your book. Here’s a guide to help you get oriented to this task if you decide to do it yourself.
Guide to Book Design & Page Layout Software There are three levels of software generally available to you if you decide to go the do-it-yourself (DIY) route: • Word processors— has long had a chokehold on the word processing market due to its complete domination of the corporate environment. And don’t forget all those PCs that came with MS Office pre-installed on them. Most people use Word, and we also have the useful open source that reads and writes Word files, too.
Other choices in this range include Apple’s; and, word processors that are also story development tools;, the old PC warhorse still in production, and a host of others. These are the programs writers are most familiar with, and in which you’ve probably spent the last couple of years writing your book.
• Layout programs—Since the advent of “desktop publishing” programs have been available that perform the functions usually taken care of by a layout artist. Now we have programs like and to perform these functions. They allow you to bring together all the parts of a publication and manipulate them, then output the resulting job to a variety of devices for reproduction. • Hybrids—There is also a midrange type of software that attempts to combine the word processing functions with layout functions.
For instance, Microsoft Publisher is popular for flyers, business brochures and similar projects, and there are a lot of templates available to make creating jobs easier. Likewise, Apple’s Pages is really a hybrid and can be used either as a word processor or as a layout engine, depending on the type of document you create. This category is showing the most growth in recent months, with more programs coming onto the market that attempt to be “all things to all people.” Now Pages offers, as does Storyist. Any program that provides a clean word processing environment as well as the ability to combine text, graphics and output to reproduction devices might fall into this category.
Which Option is Right For You? It’s pretty seductive to use your word processor for putting your book together. After all, you’re already familiar with the program and that should save you a ton of time. But a word processor is a poor choice for some kinds of books: • Illustrated books—It can be very frustrating to try to position graphics with any precision in a word processor. These programs usually lack sophisticated color-handling also, limiting their use for illustrated books. • Heavily formatted books—The more formatting involved, like sidebars, pull quotes, tables, charts, illustrations and anchored graphics, the less appropriate a word processor is as a layout solution.
• Typographically sophisticated books—Word processors do not have the very fine typographic controls you find in sophisticated layout programs. And hyphenation and justification of text simply will not look as polished as it would in dedicated software. Pros and Cons for Each Type of Software No matter what you choose to use as a vehicle to publish your book, there are tradeoffs. They are not always apparent, and might not affect you from day one of your project, but before you lock yourself into one solution or another, consider these: • Word processors, Pro and Con • Pro: You already know how to use it • Pro: The least expensive of the three alternatives, particularly if you already own it. • Pro: The shortest learning curve of the three types of programs • Con: You may not know how to use the functions you’ll need to do your book.
• Con: Get ready to be frustrated if you’re trying to do exact placement of images on your pages • Con: Your options to output your pages may be severely limited, and you’ll have no support for color corrections, color calibration or many other advanced functions needed for some kinds of books. • Hybrids, Pro and Con • Pro: Less expensive than dedicated layout programs. • Pro: Easier to learn than dedicated layout programs. • Pro: Pre-built templates are available to get you started. • Con: Compromised functions of both word processors and layout programs may fail to satisfy or give the range of options of either type of program separately.
• Con: Idiosyncratic. These programs may use “dumbed down” functions and language to describe the processes in an attempt to appeal to the widest variety of users. • Con: You may be frustrated by the availability of some, but not all, the functions of a higher-level layout program.
• Layout programs, Pro and Con • Pro: You get complete control of your pages, with precise placement of all elements. • Pro: Robust support for output to all kinds of reproduction devices from low-end to high-end reproduction • Pro: Huge market of add-on and supplemental programs that supply even more functionality to these programs, and integrate with image editing functions as well. • Con: These babies are expensive to buy, and if you will only do one book, it may be hard to justify the expense. • Con: If you haven’t used this type of software before, get ready for some intensive training. And you can start by trying to figure out what a “pica” is. • Con: The variety and precision of commands and functions can be overwhelming for new users.
Recommendations What kind of software you end up using to do your book will rely on lots of factors. But generally speaking, I would recommend: • Word processors if you’re on a budget, if your book is basically running text without much formatting, or if you only want to print up a few books for private use. You can dedicate yourself to learning how to manipulate these programs into producing a decent-looking book, but it may not be the best use of your time. Microsoft Word remains my choice here.
• Hybrid programs if you’re willing to pay a few dollars for software that will give you a lot more flexibility with page layout, effects, placement of non-text elements. And if you are only a casual user, these programs will be easier to learn. I’m impressed with Apple’s Pages for layout and output to EPUB. • Page layout programs if you foresee doing more than one book a year, you like the idea of learning printing terms and procedures, or if you want to have complete control of an illustrated or heavily-formatted book. Keep in mind that the first books you produce will still look like first efforts. Plan to devote time to learning the software with some kind of training before diving into your project.
Standards here include Adobe InDesign and Quark Xpress. And if you do decide to design and produce your own book, check out the page on this blog. It will give you a leg up in getting your book to press.
This is a great site — thank you! I produce family history books from my interviews with clients and have had to find a new printer/binder for my projects. I’ve been dong my layout just fine in Pages, but the export to pdf apparently ends up with the black text and black and white photos all in color. The printer/binders are telling that I will have to pay for all color printing, unless I do something to fix this. I’m very confused about what and how to make the black100% black, and the color as CMYK, within the same document, in order to meet the printers’ requirements. (the black text is selected as black in Pages, and the b/w photos are lowest saturation.) Is there a way to fix this. For future projects I have just gotten the new InDesign, and I hope that will resolve this.
Very much welcome suggestions!! Hello, After reading all the posts here on your excellent advice and replies as a newbie, I went for Serif Pageplus X9, which sounded very attractive from its website. However, after paying the very modest fee (£22) and going to the download link, I saw the file size was 1.2 GB, which is way above my 500 MB/day allowance! Pity they couldn’t let you know the file size beforehand! Luckily (?) I also ordered the recovery disc, which they say I can use to load the file. While now waiting for the disc to arrive I decided to have a look at Scribus.
I heeded the “warnings” of the learning curve and patiently watch several U-tube tutorials and felt confident to give it a try but I am getting stuck at first base: no matter how I try to copy my Word file into a text box as per video, I cannot get to my Word file. I can see the folder it is in, but cannot open the folder. I have tried putting the file directly onto my PC desktop and in the Documents folder, but I still can only see folders. Does anyone know what I’m doing wrong!? Regards Lawrence.
Hi Joel – Hope you can help me. My club consists of 26 chapters nationwide. Each year, we publish a 75-100 page magazine that includes basic information pages and a summary of information for each chapter. Each chapter submits the content for their chapter and we want to provide a pre-formatted template into which they can type and insert their photos. The individual submissions would be concatenated into the annual journal.
What would you suggest we use to provide this type of template, consolidate the entries and create a print-ready pdf? Bill, I got an email with your comment in it, but for the life of me, I can’t find it here. Anyway I’m presuming that you’re speaking of print versions of your books. First off, Word is not a viable tool for professional book design and layout. For one thing, it’s a word processor, not a page layout program. So it’s tools on not designed to optimize all the elements that go into a book.
When you use Quark or InDesign there are Book options that allow you to do each chapter separately, keeping files sizes more manageable, and then joining them in a Book folder. Then, too, when exporting (or distilling) a PDF for the printer–we don’t generally send InDy orvQuark files out to printers anymore–there are some options for optimizing graphic files for the purpose of bringing their sizes down. But perhaps most important of all is to optimize them in Photoshop before importing them into your page layout doc. If you want to discuss this further, feel freelance to contact me. Joel, Stephen, or anyone who can help me, I have written/published three books on golf and golf courses. I used Word exclusively.
I was able to accept the layout compromises and the limitations of image manipulation, and I am satisfied with the products. There are pictures on every page which leads to very large files and the reason for my question. Several times as the files got over 300 KB, the program crashed, and I split the book into sections based on the size of the file.
When I combined the sections, the manuscript had to be compressed. Now I am getting to create a second edition of one of the books, and I need to be mindful of the size of the section files. How should I handle the large files?
I like th Word product, for obvious reasons which you identify, but the size of my files is a problem. Thanks, Bill. I also agree with Stephen, Word is not a good tool to use in designing a book.
Word does crash when the file is too big and you can lose all you work. When designing a book I use Scribus and find it great. Some books I have produced have a many images which makes the file very large. So when I export the PDF file to be printed it can be over 1GB. I just divide it into a couple of PDF files to send to the printing company.
Designing a book will be so much easier using another program, I will never use Word again, its a battle. I’m actually going back to QuarkXPress for my next upgrade–leaving behind InDesign because of this hideous subscription deal Adobe’s insisting on so that users pay perpetually to use it. I’ve also been playing with Scribus and have begun to write a book about the process of using it for book design. It’s not to be just a how-to for step-by-stepping thru the design and layout process using Scribus, but a rumination on developing an aesthetic for book design and using Scribus’ tools to make books that are more than just containers for words and pictures.
I started with Microsoft Word but have moved onto Scribus. Its a good program, yes there is a learning curve but it does all I want for text and images. I can even show the bleed area on the page, something I could never do in Word. Of course the best part its free and they are always updating the program. InDesign is costly and probably harder to learn.
I am completed 8 books now and even my first couple in Word I have redesign them in Scribus. Its good for layout of images, resizing, etc. Last 2 books have been hardcover with a dust jacket, Scribus does it perfectly for me. Forget Word its a battle to do want you want in book design, go for Scribus. Block paragraphs are fine for indented material for the purpose of highlighting from main text.
But if used throughout a book–in other words, no first line indent for new paragraphs, I think it looks like the writer didn’t go to far in school and never learned the fundamentals of writing. In which case, I, as a reader, would wonder whether I should waste my time seeing whether the substance of that person’s writing is as wanting as his or her structure. I mean, you did ask (tho’ not necessarily me, but in a public place nonetheless).
Mike, I do have to agree with Joel’s last bit of advice. I’ll admit to a vested interest, as a book designer, but I’m seeing a disturbing trend of DIYers who, after busting their guts writing a book, don’t grasp or don’t care that the book their writing becomes is more than just a container of their words. I say it all the time to self-publishers: the idea is to make a book that is at least as good as books published by traditional publishers, if not better. There are more books than ever being published. You have to give readers a sense that yours is one they want to part with their hard-earned money for the privilege of reading. So give them something that shows real care was taken in its creation. A professional book designer/layout artist gives you your best chance at that.
Joel, I need some help. My husband and I are editors for our local genealogical society and we publish a quarterly journal, which has about 48-52 pages plus front and back covers. It is really difficult using Word for the layout with all the elements we have to incorporate. We bought Publisher thinking this would be easier, but lo and behold, it doesn’t let you create an index, and we must have an Index at the back of each Journal!! Do you have any suggestions for us?? Thanks for your help.
I use Scribus, its great and free. I am onto my 10th book now and have used Scribus for the last 8 books. I started with Word would never go back to it.
Scribus it good for text and images, formatting, etc. Does take a little to learn the various parts. I learnt by using to make a book. Word has a problem with size, when you have lots of images, it crashes. Scribus once you have finished your book, the file can be exported as a PDF, which I send onto the printer. I would totally recommend Scribus.
Sorry about your problem with installing PagePlus X6. As I said I’ve not tried PagePlus Starter and I hadn’t noticed that their web site says Win XP to Win 8 but only 32-bit. Before I upgraded to PPX7 I was running PPX6 perfectly successfully both on my laptop and my desktop, both of which are Win7 Pro 64-bit SP1. In fact, I am still running PPX6 on my laptop. Since most of my DTP work is done on my desktop with a nice big screen that is the only one I have upgraded to to PPX7.
I see that Serif are still selling PPX6 for only £19.99 in UK which is a lot less than PPX7. I’m not sure what it costs outside UK. Perhaps that might be worth trying? PPX7 does have a few bells and whistles over PPX6 but I doubt that they would be a great advantage for the project you described. Hope this helps. I edited a special interest magazine for around 10 years.
It was professionally printed by a specialist short run magazine printer. During my time as editor, more and more of the design support work was discontinued by the printers as they stripped out costs from their own operation. We were also PC based rather than Apple and that was the exception rather than the norm in the design world. Eventually we had to do all the design ourselves to the point where we just uploaded the.pdfs of the finished magazine onto their website. To do this and get a professional product we invested in InDesign. Descargar Driver De Audio Para Windows Xp Profesional 2002. It did everything we needed but there turned out to be a long learning curve, diverting me from my editing role. I am a writer not a designer.
So I focussed on writing and editing and a colleague went on a course and learned how to use it for our small team. That was a few years ago. I gave up being editor around 2 years ago and have turned my hand to writing.
I have written a book of prose and poems with a lot of illustrations (mostly hand drawn) which I would like to publish as a limited run for family and friends and grandchildren. It is in Word and I have scanned in all the illustrations. Is there anything less sophisticated than InDesign you would recommend for doing the layout, given I have a “graphical eye” but no InDesign skills and not really time, or inclination to be honest, to learn them? I still work on a PC BTW. I’ve found the pc-based Serif PagePlus great for (very!) limited run books, in my case family history stories with half-tone and vector illustrations. I have found it easy to use, and much better value than MS Publisher. Disclaimers; it is some years since I compared the two products – things might have changed since then – and I have been using the various iterations of PagePlus for some years now so I have had some time to become familiar with its interface.
I can send the output directly for PagePlus to PDF for uploading to Lulu and have been more than happy with both. There’s a free version (PagePlus Starter) which I have not used and a review of the current version X7 at Hope this helps. Hi Jeanne, I saw your comment and have wondered the same thing in the past. I now have been using Creative Cloud for about eight months. My rationale for making the leap is similar to yours in that my software all became dinosaurs and with my most recent computer upgrade buried all but Freehand.
I could not buy all new software for financial reasons and in my search discovered Creative Cloud. I went with the full package that allowed the download of several of their software, i.e.: Muse, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Edge and their fontsI’m in designer Heaven for the same amount I pay for our phone bill. You can go for fewer software downloads for less per monthI think it is limited to two or three. I have used Adobe products all my professional career and really only had a short downtime learning what all the new bells and whistles I had missed through updates that I did not take on. I find their products quite user friendly. They have a vast amount of learning videos and forums for user questions and I bought the Classroom In A Book Guides for Muse and InDesign and I was up and running in no time. I don’t know Publisher so I cannot tell you how they compare.
My advice is if you have many books to put together and more websites to build, it is worth the leap. I am a professional designer and I’m not giving it up any time soon.
I would be interested to see what other comments you get. I’m an artist and designed my website and books using MS Publishera very outdated program, I understand, and the newer version is not user friendlyand features in the old version have become deactivated somehow through automatic software updates. So I need new programs, but which?
When I was finally ready to upload my first book designs to blurb, I saw it didn’t accept Publisher files and I loathe preformatted templates, being a creative person. They only accept Adobe products but I’m wondering how much of a learning curve I’m going to have and if it’s worth getting involved in their new “Cloud” subscription arrangement since they’ve discontinued actual programs that one can purchase on disc.
What do you suggest? Thanks, Jeanne. Hey I really love your blogs Joel. My situation is pretty straightforward, I’m writing a novel, and was getting my head very wrapped up in ‘fonts’, and now the layout question, although this is before I’ve even written much.. My only issue is that somehow my sense of design is somehow connected to the things I write on my page..
Does that make any sense at all? The fonts i use, to the layout I have set up, all affect the way that I write because of what i ‘see’, and I wonder what is your advice to take some of the burden off, if I decide to just focus on the story, and hire someone to do the layout professionally later, considering I have some issue with what I’m looking at for the duration of the writing experience... Should I bother with fonts? Or maybe I am answering my own question, and it is sort of in-between.. As long as I give it a look that supports my general vision for the time-being.. For some reason I worry that it won’t ‘look right’ when I get to the end, and will want to change too many things..
I have already acquired a few good fonts I like though, but I’m not sure if Open Office reveals the depth of the font, and that would explain why I can’t print it to look good right now.. Is this true? Sorry for the long question, especially if it is not completely on topic. But it’s a key thing for me!
Hollywood movies are simple. Though writing a successful Hollywood movie is certainly not easy, the stories for mainstream Hollywood films are all built on only three basic components: character, desire and conflict. All film stories portray a hero who faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles as he or she pursues a compelling objective. Whether it's Clarice Starling trying to stop Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs, Captain Miller Saving Private Ryan, or Billy Elliott trying to gain admission to a ballet school, all these protagonists confront overwhelming conflict in their pursuit of some visible goal.
Plot structure simply determines the sequence of events that lead the hero toward this objective. And whether you're writing romantic comedies, suspense thrillers, historical dramas or big budget science fiction, all successful Hollywood movies follow the same basic structure. In a properly structured movie, the story consists of six basic stages, which are defined by five key turning points in the plot. Not only are these turning points always the same; they always occupy the same positions in the story. So what happens at the 25% point of a 90-miniute comedy will be identical to what happens at the same percentage of a three-hour epic.
These percentages apply both to the running time of the film and the pages of your screenplay. Since one script page equals approximately one minute on the screen, the 75% mark of a 120-page screenplay will occur at page 90, or about 90 minutes into the two-hour film. As I explain this six-stage process below, I'll refer to dozens of recent successful films. But I also want to take two recent blockbusters through this entire structural process: Susannah Grant's screenplay for Erin Brockovich; and Gladiator, written by David H.
Franzoni, John Logan and William Nicholson. One is a contemporary drama based on a true story; the other is a sweeping, action-filled, historical epic. But as different as these two films are in style, genre, length and subject matter, both made more than a hundred million dollars world wide, both were among the most critically acclaimed films of 2000, and both employ the same basic plot structure.
STAGE I: The Setup • Erin Brokovich: Erin is a broke, unemployed single mother who can't find a job, gets hit by a car, and loses her lawsuit. • Gladiator: Maximus, Rome's most powerful, and most popular, general, leads his troops to victory in their final battle. The opening 10% of your screenplay must draw the reader, and the audience, into the initial setting of the story, must reveal the everyday life your hero has been living, and must establish identification with your hero by making her sympathetic, threatened, likable, funny and/or powerful. Cast Away transports us into the world of a FedEx executive, shows him as likable and good at his job, and creates sympathy and worry when he must leave the woman he loves at Christmas to fly off in dangerous weather. Similarly, Bowfinger humorously reveals the sad existence of a good hearted but hapless director hustling to get a movie off the ground. Or think of the dangerous world of WWII submarines in U 571, or Lowell Bergman's mysterious, threatening pursuit of a story at the beginning of The Insider. These setups pull us out of our own existence and into the captivating world the screenwriter has created.
TURNING POINT #1: The Opportunity (10%) • Erin Brokovich: Erin forces Ed Masry to give her a job. • Gladiator: Maximus is offered a reward by Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and he says he wants to go home.
Ten percent of the way into your screenplay, your hero must be presented with an opportunity, which will create a new, visible desire, and will start the character on her journey. This is the point where Neo is taken to meet Morpheus and wants to learn about The Matrix, or where Ike gets fired and wants to go meet the Runaway Bride.
Notice that the desire created by the opportunity is not the specific goal that defines your story concept, or the finish line your hero must cross at the end of the film. It is rather a desire to move into. STAGE 2: The New Situation • Erin Brokovich: Erin begins working for Ed Masry's law firm, meets her neighbor George, starts looking into a case In Hinkley, California, involving PG&E, but gets fired.
• Gladiator: Maximus is asked by the dying Emperor to take control of Rome and give it back to the people, in spite of the ambition of his son Commodus. For the next 15% of the story, your hero will react to the new situation that resulted from the opportunity. During this stage, the hero gets acclimated to the new surroundings, tries to figure out what's going on, or formulates a specific plan for accomplishing his overall goal: Fletcher has to figure out that he's been cursed to tell the truth in Liar, Liar; and Mrs. Doubtfire devises the plan for seeing his children.
Very often story structure follows geography, as the opportunity takes your hero to a new location: boarding the cruise ships in Titanic and The Talented Mr. Ripley; going to Cincinnati to bury his father in Rain Man; the President taking off on Air Force One. In most movies, the hero enters this new situation willingly, often with a feeling of excitement and anticipation, or at least believing that the new problem he faces can be easily solved. But as the conflict starts to build, he begins to realize he's up against far greater obstacles than he realized, until finally he comes to. TURNING POINT #2: The Change of Plans (25%) • Erin Brokovich: Erin gets rehired to help win a suit against PG&E.
• Gladiator: Maximus, after learning that Commodus has murdered his father, vows to stop the new emperor and carry out Marcus Aurelius' wishes. Something must happen to your hero one-fourth of the way through your screenplay that will transform the original desire into a specific, visible goal with a clearly defined end point. This is the scene where your story concept is defined, and your hero's outer motivation is revealed. Outer motivation is my term for the visible finish line the audience is rooting for your hero to achieve by the end of the film.
It is here that Tess discovers that Katherine has stolen her idea in Working Girl, and now wants to close the deal herself by posing as a broker. This is what we're rooting for Tess to do, and we know that when she's accomplished this goal (or failed to), the movie will be over. This is arguably the most important structural principle you can master. If your hero's visible goal is defined too early in your script, the story will run out of steam long before the climax. If the outer motivation isn't defined until the half way point, the reader will have lost interest and moved on to another screenplay.
You've probably noticed how often I've used the word visible in this article. I want to prevent any confusion between the plot of your movie and the inner journey your hero takes. Structure is a formula for laying out the events we see on the screen. Your characters' growth or arc, which will be gradually revealed throughout the story, grows out of their pursuit of the visible goal, but it doesn't conform to these strict turning points. This is one of those principles that sounds simple, but is hard to incorporate in your writing.
Hollywood movies are built on what the characters do as they pursue a clearly defined endpoint or outcome. Because much of what we respond to emotionally grows out of the hero's longings, wounds, fears, courage and growth, we often focus on these elements as we develop our stories. But these invisible components of the story can emerge effectively only if they grow out of a simple, visible desire. On rare occasions, as in My Best Friend's Wedding or The American President, the outer motivation (breaking up the wedding; passing the crime bill) is declared at the 10% mark, but the plan for accomplishing the goal won't be defined, and no action will be taken, until the one-quarter mark. It is at that point that your hero begins to experience. STAGE III: Progress • Erin Brokovich: Erin gathers evidence, gets Hinkley residents to hire Ed to represent them, and gets romantically involved with George.
• Gladiator: Maximus is taken to be killed, escapes to find his family murdered, and is captured and sold to Proximo, who makes him a powerful gladiator. For the next 25% of your story, your hero's plan seems to be working as he takes action to achieve his goal: Ethan Hunt begins closing in on the villain in Mission: Impossible 2; or Pat gets involved with the woman of his dreams in There's Something About Mary. This is not to say that this stage is without conflict. But whatever obstacles your hero faces, he is able to avoid or overcome them as he approaches. TURNING POINT #3: The Point of No Return (50%) • Erin Brokovich: Erin and Ed file the lawsuit, risking dismissal by the judge, which would destroy any hope of a settlement. • Gladiator: Maximus arrives in Rome, determined to win the crowd as a Gladiator so he can destroy Commodus.
At the exact midpoint of your screenplay, your hero must fully commit to her goal. Up to this point, she had the option of turning back, giving up on her plan, and returning to the life she was living at the beginning of the film. But now your hero must burn her bridges behind her and put both feet in (never let it be said that I can't work two hackneyed metaphors into the same sentence). It is at precisely this moment that Thelma and Louise rob the grocery store, that Truman crosses the bridge in The Truman Show, and that Rose makes love with Jack in Titanic.
These heroes are taking a much bigger risk, and exposing themselves to much greater jeopardy, than at any previous time in those films. As a result of passing this point of no return, your hero must now face STAGE IV: Complications and Higher Stakes • Erin Brokovich: Erin sees less and less of George and her kids, Ed brings in a big firm that tries to squeeze Erin out of the picture and alienates the Hinkley plaintiffs. • Gladiator: Maximus faces much greater battles in the arena, becomes a hero to the Roman people, and reveals his true identity to Commodus. For the next 25% of your story, the obstacles become bigger and more frequent, achieving the visible goal becomes far more difficult, and your hero has much more to lose if he fails. After Mitch McDeere begins collecting evidence against The Firm at that movie's midpoint, he now must hide what he's doing from both the mob and the FBI (complications), and failure will result in either prison or death (higher stakes).
The conflict continues to build until, just as it seems that success is within your hero's grasp, he suffers. TURNING POINT #4: The Major Setback (75%) • Erin Brokovich: Most of the plaintiffs withdraw due to the bungled efforts of the new lawyers, and George leaves Erin. • Gladiator: Maximus, declaring he is only a gladiator with no power, refuses to see Gracchus, the leader of the Senate, and Commodus plots to destroy both Maximus and the Senate. Around page 90 of your screenplay, something must happen to your hero that makes it seem to the audience that all is lost: Carol dumps Melvin in As Good As It Gets; Morpheus is captured in The Matrix; and Annie Reed declares, “Sleepless in Seattle is history.” If you're writing a romantic comedy like Working Girl or What Women Want, this is the point where your hero's deception is revealed and the lovers break up. These disastrous events leave your hero with only one option. He can't return to the life he was living at the beginning of the film, since he eliminated that possibility when he passed the point of no return. And the plan he thought would lead to success is out the window.
So his only choice is to make one, last, all-or-nothing, do-or-die effort as he enters. STAGE V: The Final Push • Erin Brokovich: Erin must rally the Hinkley families to agree to binding arbitration and find evidence incriminating the PG&E corporate office.
• Gladiator: Maximus conspires to escape from Proximo, lead his former troops against Commodus, and give power over Rome to the Senate. Beaten and battered, your hero must now risk everything she has, and give every ounce of strength and courage she possesses, to achieve her ultimate goal: Thelma and Louise must outrun the FBI to reach the border; and the Kennedy's must attempt one final negotiation with the Soviets in 13 Days.
During this stage of your script, the conflict is overwhelming, the pace has accelerated, and everything must work against your hero, until she reaches. TURNING POINT #5: The Climax (90-99%) • Erin Brokovich: Erin and Ed win a $330 million dollar settlement and George returns. • Gladiator: Maximus has his final battle with Commodus in the arena. Several things must occur at the climax of the film: the hero must face the biggest obstacle of the entire story; she must determine her own fate; and the outer motivation must be resolved once and for all. This is the big moment where our heroes go into the Twister; the Men In Black go up against the giant alien, and the Jewish factory workers make their escape in Schindler's List. Notice that the climax can occur anywhere from the 90% point of your screenplay to the last couple minutes of the movie.
The exact placement will be determined by the amount of time you need for. STAGE VI: The Aftermath • Erin Brokovich: Erin gets a $2 million bonus, and continues working with Ed. • Gladiator: Maximus is united with his family in death, and his body carried away in honor by the new leaders of the Roman republic. No movie ends precisely with the resolution of the hero's objective; you must allow the audience to experience the emotion you have elicited in the exciting, sad or romantic climax. You may also need to explain any unanswered questions for the audience, and you want to reveal the new life the hero is living now that he's completed his journey. In movies like Rocky, Thelma and Louise and The Truman Show, there is little to explain, and the writer's goal is to leave the audience stunned or elated. So the climax occurs near the very end of the film.
But in most romantic comedies, mysteries and dramas, the aftermath will include the final five or ten pages of the script. Understanding these stages and turning points provides you with an effective template for developing and writing your screenplay. Is your story concept defined at the one-quarter mark?
Is your hero's goal truly visible, with a clearly implied outcome, and not just an inner desire for success, acceptance or self worth? Have you fully introduced your hero before presenting her with an opportunity around page 10? Does she suffer a major setback 75% of the way into your script? But a word of caution: don't let all these percentages block your creativity. Structure is an effective tool for rewriting and strengthening the emotional impact of your story.
But you don't want to be imprisoned by it. Come up with characters you love and a story that ignites your passion. Then apply these structural principles, to ensure that your screenplay will powerfully touch the widest possible audience. About Michael Hauge MICHAEL HAUGE is a story expert, author and lecturer who works with writers, filmmakers, marketers, business leaders, attorneys and public speakers, both in Hollywood and around the world. He has coached screenwriters, producers, stars and directors on projects for every major studio and network, most recently THE KARATE KID and CONCUSSION for Will Smith and Overbrook Entertainment; MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE for Columbia Pictures; BAKUGAN for Universal Pictures, and LOVE, ROSIE for SONY Pictures and Constantin Film. Michael is the best selling author of Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read, as well as the new 20th Anniversary Edition of his classic book Writing Screenplays That Sell.
A number of Michael’s seminars, including The Hero’s 2 Journeys with Christopher Vogler and Add Hollywood Magic to Your Stories, are available on DVD, CD and digital format through his web site, and through booksellers throughout the world. Michael has a Masters Degree in Education from the University of Georgia.
He has worked in Hollywood for the past 35 years, and has presented seminars, lectures and keynotes in person and online to more than 70,000 participants worldwide. He lives in Sherman Oaks, California.