Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The two pillars of a good story

The true test of a viable story--one that ultimately will lift off the page and really deliver the goods--is the strength of your plot points at the end of your structural Act I and Act II.  These are the I-beams of any well constructed story, whether it be a play, screenplay, teleplay, or any narrative fiction.  They each dictate what has to have already happened and what will happen as the story unfolds.


The plot point at  the end of Act I always spins the story in a surprising new direction and demands a set up in Act I that leads to this act ending.  And the plot point at the end of Act II has to accomplish the same--spinning the story in an unexpected way into Act III and the climactic scene and ultimate resolution of your tale, and this plot point again will dictate the developing struggle of Act II that leads to this act ending.

Of course there are a lot of other plot elements that also have to be in place like the Act I inciting incident and the the Act II mid-point, etc. etc.  But the initial development of any good story has to start with these two plot points.  Everything else can then be built on top of these essential structural pillars.

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I'm the Program Director of the low-residency MFA in Writing for Stage and Screen being offered by the New Hampshire Institute of Art.  Our last residency ran from June 22 to July 1 and we're current considering applications for starting the program next January at our residency scheduled for January 5-14, 2018.  If you're interested in finding out more about our program, email me at buzzmclaughlin@gmail.com and we can start a dialogue.

I'm also a playwright and screenwriter, producing partner in my production company Either/Or Films (The Sensation of Sight and Only Daughter) a professional script consultant, and the author of The Playwright's Process.  You can follow me on Twitter @eitherorfilms or @mfastagescreen.  I’m also on Facebook at buzzmclaughlinscriptconsulting.     

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

How to guarantee progress on your first draft...

There's a simple little practice many writers I know use (including myself) to keep them moving forward when grinding out their first draft. It's painless and almost always effective at keeping you eager to return to the work tomorrow to pick up where you left off today.


The secret is to as much as possible always stop work for the day when you're feeling good about what you've accomplished and when you knowing exactly where you'll be resuming at your next session. In other words, don't ever walk away when you're lost or frustrated with your daily progress  --that's a sure bet that you won't be thrilled to return to the work and you'll have a hard time sitting back down and having that problem staring you in the face. 

I like what playwright David Ives told me about this regarding a couple of master writers:  "John O'Hara used to stop writing every day in the middle of a sentence so that the next day he could continue that sentence and have a springboard, a way in.  Hemingway said you should always stop when you know where you're going--and never stop when you don't know what's next because you'll be lost."

A simple practice, but don't we need all the help we can muster?

                                        *                    *                   *                   *

I'm the Program Director of the low-residency MFA in Writing for Stage and Screen being offered by the New Hampshire Institute of Art.  Our last residency ran from June 22 to July 1 and we're current considering applications for starting the program next January at our residency scheduled for January 5-14, 2018.  If you're interested in finding out more about our program, email me at buzzmclaughlin@gmail.com and we can start a dialogue.

I'm also a playwright and screenwriter, producing partner in my production company Either/Or Films (The Sensation of Sight and Only Daughter) a professional script consultant, and the author of The Playwright's Process.  You can follow me on Twitter @eitherorfilms or @mfastagescreen.  I’m also on Facebook at buzzmclaughlinscriptconsulting.