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Author: Mike Boas

Plot Twists

Plot Twists

I’m not a fan of the plot twist gimmick just for gimmick’s sake. A story has to be good FIRST, and then twist can just add another layer to the fun. There are films that sacrifice logic and character to make the twist work, and that just burns me up.

In any case, this article does a good job of listing all the ways you can write a twist:

How to Write Plot Twists That Really Mess with People’s Heads

  • Anagnorisis: The sudden critical discovery of information, like the true identity of a character (The Sixth Sense, Fight Club, The Usual Suspects)
  • Analepsis: A flashback that reveals new or different information about a past event (MarnieOnce Upon a Time in the West)
  • Unreliable narrator: A realization that the narrator has lied about or manipulated information given throughout the story (Memento, Shutter Island, The Usual Suspects)
  • Peripeteia: A sudden reversal of a character’s fortune (Million Dollar BabyTitanic)
  • Poetic justice: an “ironic twist of fate” in which good is rewarded with or bad is punished by something related to the deed or misdeed (ex: a murderer being shot with the very gun he used to kill his victim, a staunch anti-drug politician being arrested for possession of narcotics)
  • Chekhov’s gun: a character or device that seems to have a minor role suddenly becomes important to the story (Buddy in The Incredibles, Rick’s grenade in The Walking Dead)
  • Red herring: a false piece of information that leads characters in the wrong direction (The DiVinci Code)
  • In medias res: starting from the middle of a narrative in order to deliver information over time (Raging BullKill Bill: Volume 2)
  • Non-linear narrative: a narrative told in non-chronological order, forcing the viewer to piece information together (Pulp FictionMulholland DriveRashomon)
  • Reverse chronology: a narrative told in reverse order, forcing the viewer to piece information together (Memento, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
  • Deus ex machina: A sudden and unexpected introduction of a character, device, or event that ruins or saves the day (War of the Worlds, Avatar)
Raise The Stakes

Raise The Stakes

There’s a great article from Gideon’s Screenwriting Tips called “25 Ways to Raise the Stakes in Your Script.” See the full article here:

Writers must explain how not achieving their goals will affect the characters, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually too. It needs to be deeply personal.Some ways to raise the stakes for your main characters by examining the repercussions if they fail:

  1. They lose the respect of their close family and friends
  2. They lose respect for themselves
  3. They lose the respect of those who depend on them
  4. They damage a professional relationship that relies on the success of the mission
  5. They will lose a bet
  6. An embarrassing misunderstanding will occur
  7. Deep emotional pain and turmoil will result
  8. They will be forced to confront their biggest fear
  9. Their belief sand moral compass are challenged
  10. A meeting or deeply wanted connection will be missed
  11. A closely-held secret is revealed
  12. A lie will prevail while the truth will be hidden
  13. A war or deep conflict will start
  14. Someone will die or be seriously injured
  15. They must sacrifice an innocent person
  16. They cause harm to somebody else
  17. They will be banished from their homeland
  18. They are forced to give up something valuable
  19. They underestimate the cost of their goal
  20. They take an unnecessary risk
  21. They are forced to change their plan or their goal
  22. A meeting or deeply wanted connection will be missed
  23. Their plan will be severely set back
  24. A villain will escape or be be set free
  25. Justice will be miscarried

BONUS LINK! Another good article on raising stakes here:

Just when you think you know first acts…

Just when you think you know first acts…

Personally, I believe the second act is the hardest part of a screenplay to write. So when a listener wrote in to Scriptnotes asking about his troubles with first acts, I was a bit perplexed. What’s the big deal?

Then John and Craig went on to lay out what the first act can and should accomplish. Wow! Now I need to reevaluate some of what I’ve written. I have a new appreciation for screenplay structure after listening.

Check out THE END OF THE BEGINNING episode of Scriptnotes at

Legal Agreements

Legal Agreements

Since we were discussing contracts at last meeting, there’s a good overview at LA Screenwriter.

Why is it a good idea to be comfortable with contracts? As Ken Aguado says…

  • Filmmaking is a business, and businesses run on contractual agreements.
  • Contractual agreements help define the business relationship between people and/or companies.
  • If you don’t define the business relationship with your collaborators or employers, they may not be your collaborators or employers for long.

See the whole article at:

5 Legal Agreements Every Screenwriter Must Know.