One personal note: This interview is one of the MOST VALUABLE interviews for me as starter in screenwriting!
With regard to how to write (tell) a great story, here are John Truby's suggestions:
1. Watch high-level, great films in a classic cinema, e.g. 2 films a day.
2. Takes notes while watching which common patterns (elements) you find in those films.
3. Key to sucessful storytelling: The 7 key steps of every great story. And extended: The 22 key steps of every great story. (didn't mention the steps actually.)
4. Read a lot of professional scripts, eps. with regard to the pacing of the writing. See how quickly is the story established in the script. Awake interest in the first 10 pages max.
5. Hunger Games and Avengers (both myth films), as his best script being on film
6. Regard the Hollywood hit films, as you wanna sell it to Hollywood ideally.
7. "Myth" is the most popular story form in Hollywood film (and is since many years), as it's culture-crossing.
8. You wanna use the concept of a "dream team" (allstars). It will be a big hit when combined with a myth-based story. Marvel comics has such a bank of "dream team" characters. That's why Disney bought them.
9. J.K.Rowling's Harry Potter is a very good "myth + (very modern) science ficton" example as well.
10. Understanding genres is key to for screen-writing today! He says it's No. 1 Rule in Hollywood: It buys in genres or story forms. (What genre am I working in?)
11. And how do I combine genres (because it's difficult)? Usually films are combining 2-3 genres today.
12. Ask first: What is the genre of my story? And: How combine genres? Write a genre-based story!
13. How is storytelling working in Hollywood today? Split into Major and Indie. Mainstream Hollywood is all about branding, not very creative. Get your star in Indie film companies (with an original idea).
14. "TV is the best writing in the entertainment business!" Key question: How do I write a TV script that is as good as the TV drama that is coming out of Hollywood? - "The level of excelling in TV drama has never been higher.", John Truby says.
15. Conventional "rules" do not exist or are not (or were never) true. E.g. you don't necessarily need a likable hero.
16. Scripts which "Break" the rules in scriptwriting are however successful, are not really breaking the rules but using more complex storytelling techniques or more intervowen plots or so.
17. We do need to care about the main character, BUT: the audience wants a main character with a) weaknesses and b) his goal in the story. (at minute 21:00). So the main character will have pursue his goal and by doing so will realize his weakness(es) hindering him/her to pursue further.
18. Most important element of good writing: Plot comes from character! It means: You create a goal for your hero which will enventually force that person to deal with their deap weakness. If you do that, the plot comes from the character!"
19. Not that the hero accomplishes the goal is important to the audience, BUT that he/she overcomes a great weakness. But the audience would never admit that they thinkk like that. "Because that's what makes us care about that character. [...] If they are already a perfect person, where do they go?"
20. "You have to be a able to listen to criticism!" Giving structural (constructive - non-personal) criticism is helping most: Getting to the bone of the story structure and see what is not working!
21. Form writing groups in which you give structural criticism! - "It's all about the structure!"
22. Audience gives great feedback, although they can't put in instructional feedback or jargon language.
23. It's often about the pace of a scene which gets critized by the audience - they feel it. The sequencing of the the scenes / the building of the story itself.
24. We're always too close to the script - that's why the audience's feedback is so important!
25. "Seinfeld" as the prime example of having a successful script with 4 unlikable characters - again stressing the great writing quality in TV shows or TV drama.
26. "Re-writing is one of the most misunderstood of all of the majoy writing steps - partly because of the famous saying 'Writing is re-writing'."
27. "Writing is re-writing." it's true but, see can the saying can lead to huge mistake - see 28.
28. Writers often thinkg: "Just get it on paper to overcome whatever writing block. Just get it down on paper. Don't try to be perfect because that would just stop you from writing entirely." BUT BUT: this first draft is often put into stone and the writer says "I'll fix it in the re-writing", which you won't do. So the 2nd draft is often worse. This is because of the prep work that writers should do before. It can pass weeks till you have this one further sentence in your script. So the premise is very important.
It's "the fundamental concept that drives the plot, Most premises can be expressed very simply, and many films can be identified simply from a short sentence describing the premise. For example: A lonely boy is befriended by an alien; A small town is terrorized by a shark; A small boy sees dead people." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premise_(filmmaking).
So reasearch, build the characters, analyze the structure you wanna built or have built in parts, and then write the first draft. Prep work, Prep work, Prep work.
29. In order to analyze a script he doesn't need the script, but the scene sequence of it. There he can see in 90% where the possible flaws are and come up with the solutions.
30. Do "craft homework" (prep work) before writing the first draft and in that first draft. "It will then make the re-writing process so much simpler. And it will guarantee that your 2nd draft is better - than your first draft".
31. And because re-writing so so misunderstood, it's necessary to understand that re-writing is a set of tools like just like plot, character and so on.
32. The order in which you re-write is important: Dialogue is the last thing to touch (re-write), because it's about finding the structural problems.
34. Make sure that you have a good, strong spine. ("Spine begins with discovering what your story is about through character behavior." http://www.writersstore.com/the-5-ss-of-screenwriting/) and that you have a desire line that will track and drive the story from beginning to end. So it's just like building a house (because of the strong spine thing.)
35. "Screenwriting is the most difficult craft in the world." That's why a lot of screenwriters fail.
36. Screenwriting is a commitment to life. Some people don't wanna face it and look for the "magic bullet (which they see in the 3-act structure for example).
37. "Plot is the most under-estimated of all the major writing skills."
38. The 3-act structure is nice for beginners, but not for professionals if you wanna be excellent in screenwriting!
39. "The psychological element is the biggest obstacle to a writer's success." - (with regard to writing mostly alone).
40. The writer's who work professionally are the people who are still standing." - (with regard to the psychological element of writing your script mostly alone, facing rejection again and again, over many years, and so on).
41. So professionals still commit to the craft and still stand (as said before). They have shown patience so people tell the writer finally: "You're a good writer." or "Your script is good."
42. "Most people don't know a good story. They just know: I like and I didn't like it."
43. Keep maintaining an openness to learning the craft!
44. "I can never know enough how this craft works." (John Truby about screenwriting)
45. "The better you get the higher you set the bar on yourself for the script." (John Truby about screenwriting and why it doesn't get easier the more you learn about screenwriting)
46. Every story is always totally unique. - that's you can never know enough about screenwriting.
47. Constantly challenge your own creativity.
48. "Always write a story that you both care about and that you think will an appeal a large audience."
49. If you have a writer's block, go back to your main character and find out what is unique about that person that you haven't thought of so far. And find out what is unique about that character that you are passionate about. Why do you want to tell that person's story?
50. Often scripts fail because it wasn't an original idea in the first place! So again, the premise line is important.
51. "If the idea is not original, it's important that you not write it."
52. Is the premise idea so great that you extend it to 120 pages script? - key question in the very beginning!
53. Plot is about surprising the audience.
54. Double reversal, an advanced technique: When the hero AND the main opponent learn something at the end (and change). See his additional video for that: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NG18Pr8Q24g - love stories are designed for that technique.
55. Is it on the page and is it a good script? That's the key question.
56. If you put quality on the page, you'll break through! John Truby is concinved about that!
57. Don' be worried that someone steals your idea! "That's the most overrated fear of writers".
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