Turns out, just because you don't plan to write in that format doesn't mean you can't learn a whole lot from it.
Laura Pauling has an excellent post on Should writers follow screen-writing tips, with good reasons why you might, and might not. Using Save the Cat, a screen-writing book by Blake Snyder, she does a bang-up analysis of How to Train a Dragon (movie) and Princess for Hire (book). I learned a ton, and I'm waiting for my bookstore get in my order of Save the Cat.
In the meantime, I had fun looking up some screen-writing stuff on the web.
10 screen-writing tips you can learn from Raiders of the Lost Ark: at least five of these tips apply to novels as well as movies. Here's one that really jumped at me: the Power of an Active Protagonist. This refers to:
the hero who makes his own way, who drives the story forward instead of letting the story drive him. In the very first scene, it’s Indiana Jones who’s going after that gold idol. It’s him driving the pursuit of the Ark. It’s him who decides to seek out Marion. It’s him who digs in the alternate location in Cairo. Indiana Jones' CHOICES are what push this story forward.(Important to note: these are tips, not rules. Some of my favorite characters are ones that have to deal with situations that are dropped on them. But even with reactive characters, it's good that they react actively. Ahem. React actively? Anyone got a less tongue-twisterish way to say that?)
Another screen-writing post: the 11 laws of great storytelling. The first few of these 11 "laws" are specific to movies, but when you get down to #8 - #11 there are some things that novelists might prick up their ears and pay attention too as well, such as
Be aware of theme, and keep it consistent throughout the script. Theme is a tough nut to crack. When I ask my students the theme of Die Hard, they often restate the film’s core concept (or, in Hollywood terms, the “logline”), saying something like, “It’s about a cop thwarting a group of international terrorists while saving his wife and a bunch of innocent people.” While this is true, it doesn’t quite touch on theme... Die Hard is really about a man trying to reconnect with his wife.I think this applies to novelists because I've recently read several posts about what agents want out of a pitch. They want to hear your book's title, genre, wordcount, logline and THEME.
Here's a website, TheStoryDepartment.com, that provides structure analysis of many movies including Inception, Toy Story 2, Thelma and Louise, Juno, A Beautiful Mind, The Incredibles, Jaws... the list goes on. An incrediable story-teller's resource. Alot of the analysis is based on the Hero's Journey, an analysis of the universal (maybe) structure that underlies all (maybe) stories. Just to prove how powerful this Hero's Journy thingie is, at first glance you may not see much in common between James Cameron's Avatar and Disney's Pocahantas. Then again:
One last amazing resource: a series of posts called the "Hero Project" at the Cockeyed Caravan, a screen-writing blog. Look for the Hero Project in the side bar of this blog to see a list of all the posts, but it basically culminates in this amazing post, Putting It Altogether, where you get a great analysis of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo and- (be careful) - maybe an analysis of your own life, too.
Okay my writerly friends: on a scale of 1-10, how helpful do you think screen-writing tips are for novelists?
Right now I'm at 7, but like all things with me, that's subject to whims and moods (grin). On a totally unrelated note, an update on my writing progress. Stalled. Severly stalled (not blocked... just... need to push past this awkward transition scene I'm in right now).
The past week I've been having fun with this little saying:
The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
I'm soooooo not a morning person. This saying provides hope for late-risers and maybe a little also for stalled writers.