Beware before you read the movie screenwriting manual by Blake Snyder: it may kill the kid hidden within yourself. As it explains in details how a Holliwood blockbuster is built, you will probably never go to pictures in the same way. Most of the mechanics will become evident.

Though, not having read it is probably a mistake. First, we see so many movies that it is a shame not understanding how it works. Second, a lot of it can be applied to the business world.

Here are my notes from the book. Though, I wrote them some time ago for my own purpose. They are probably very cryptic for anyone else.

Define the logline and know what it is about

❏ A good logline has irony, a compelling mental picture…
❏ …a good logline has a sense of audience and cost
❏ Find a killer title that says it all in a nice way
❏ List the 6 things that need fixing and ensure the get fixed
❏ Avoid cliché: give it a twist, give me the same, but different

Know your genre

❏ Movies can be categorized in 10 genres total (read the book for the list)
❏ Know other movies and what others do, great writers know

Follow a beat structure as a movie would

❏ Opening image (1”), can you suggest with a picture?
❏ The stated (5”), can you sum up the tension in a question?
❏ Set-up (10”), the starting position should be briefly defined
❏ Catalyst (12”), the twist needs to come early
❏ Debate (12-25), take time to explain why it’s not obvious
❏ Ending image that is the opposite of the opening

Build the Board with cards

❏ Split 40 scenes between Act I, Act II, Act IIbis, and Act III
❏ Color each scene / card based on emotion
❏ Ensure each scene has tension between 2 characters
❏ Ensure each scene shows a transformation

Test your story

❏ Is the story primal enough? e.g., save family, survive
❏ Does each character has a limp and an eye patch
❏ Take a step back, is there enough transformation?
❏ Are you using as many emotions as possible?
❏ Are the dialogues boring?
❏ Does it get even more interesting page after page?
❏ Ensure the hero does something, or is (s)he just there?
❏ Amplify the bad guy for tension, is it dramatic enough?
❏ Don’t tell me, show me
❏ Don’t assume people will get it, they won’t
❏ Don’t assume people will not notice, flaws are visible

Avoid mistakes

❏ Watch out for that glacier! Is there a reason to act?
❏ No black vet, are some team members doing too much?
❏ Avoid laying pipe, how many pages before it starts?
❏ Final image matters, what’s your last page?

Become an expert & get help

❏ Write on the topics you like until you become an expert
❏ Go where others are: classes, screenwriting groups, etc.
❏ Pitch your logline to as many people possible
❏ $500 to review your script is a bargain