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Archive for November, 2010

Passive Plagiarism? Nov 07

The Whole Internet Truth

ANOTHER UPDATE:  The Story Department article has been edited and all is well. Thanks everyone!

UPDATE: The article in question on The Story Department‘s web site has been taken down pending review. (P.S. The Story Department is still one of my favorite sources of information on screenwriting)

I consider myself a pretty fair guy. I go out of my way to cite sources of any material I use, and am even happy to promote fellow consultants if I think they’ve got something important to say.

So imagine my surprise when one of my readers pointed out that they found several of my ideas posted in a recent article on The Story Department‘s web site, without any credit.

In this post about passive protagonists, written by Jack Brislee, the following appears:

On the other hand, a passive protagonist displays some or all of the following traits.  He

has no strong desire
does not make decisions
does not pursue a goal
is reactive instead of active
allows someone else to dictate his life

Now here’s what I wrote in my post on the subject of passive protagonists earlier this year:

A passive protagonist is a main character that displays some or all of these traits:

has no strong desire
doesn’t make decisions
doesn’t pursue a goal
reactive, instead of active, as a rule
allows someone else to dictate their fate

Look familiar?

Now obviously the concept of what constitutes a passive protagonist has been around a while, but the expression of this particular concept was unique to my site.

And what about the controversial hook of Jack Brislee’s article — i.e. breaking/bending the rule of no passive protagonists?

Here’s what he has to say:

Even the most rusted on admirers of the traditional Hollywood screenwriting style admit that there are three occasions when the protagonist may be passive –

  • in the first few pages of the script, where the protagonist can be passive in his normal world
  • after the inciting incident, where the enormity of the call to adventure might result in initial refusal.
  • at the end of Act II in the “All is Lost” or “Dark Night of the Soul” moment, when the protagonist, having just been beaten up (physically, mentally or both) is consumed with self doubt and unable to act.

I’m not sure I’d qualify as a “rusted on admirer,” but here’s what I had to say in one of my posts last year:

In a Hollywood script, there really are only three allowable times that your main character can be somewhat passive:

  1. In the first few pages of your script… your protagonist can be somewhat passive in their normal world…
  2. After the catalyst/inciting incident/call to action… Sometimes the hero refuses the call flat out.
  3. When “All is Lost” — usually late in Act II… the hero gets the crap beaten out of them (either physically or mentally or both), and has a moment of crisis. The protagonist takes a moment to wallow in self doubt, after having just endured some form of tragedy or failure.

This one’s especially irksome. The point being made may not be earth-shattering — it’s more like one of those, “Hey yeah, you’re right!” kinda deals — but as far as I know, I was the first one to make the point. Is it too much to ask for a shout out? There are other authors cited in the post, just not me.

I’m happy that Jack Brislee is writing posts that show how some screenwriting rules can be broken.

But plagiarism should not be one of those rules.


Want me to read your screenplay? Please take a look at my script services.

Category: Plagiarism, Rants  | 5 Comments
Photo Quotables: Napoleon Hill Nov 04

My dear old mom has a blog where she combines two of her passions — photography and quotes. Quite often she’ll post a great picture-quote that’s applicable to screenwriting, but isn’t screenwriting specific.

Here’s today’s inspiration:

Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything. ~ Napoleon Hill

Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything. ~ Napoleon Hill

As an aspiring screenwriter, the obstacles you’ll have to overcome and the sacrifices you’ll have to make are plentiful. Beyond having talent for the craft, to make it in this business you have to really want it. Hold fast to your desire and passion for writing. It will separate you from the pack.

Picture and quote via Photo Quoto


Want me to read your screenplay? Please take a look at my script services.

Category: Quotes  | One Comment
Interview With Aaron Sorkin Nov 02

Joshua Stecker, West Coast Editor of Script Magazine, interviews screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, A Few Good Men, Charlie Wilson’s War, The American President, The West Wing).

Here are some of the topics Sorkin talks about in this 20 minute interview:

  • Aaron Sorkin InterviewThe connection between his great teachers and his success
  • How he learned to write screenplays
  • The important lesson William Goldman taught him
  • What activity he does for inspiration
  • What medium he prefers to write in
  • His screenwriting “weakness”
  • The basic rules of drama
  • Advice for aspiring screenwriters

My favorite quote from the interview (especially in light of the recent controversy over whether screenwriting can be taught):

“I can trace so much of what I do every day, when I’m writing, to what I was taught back then by my teachers at Syracuse.”

SCRIPT Magazine Close Up with Aaron Sorkin from Alejandro Seri on Vimeo.

Logline Contest: We Have A Winner! Nov 01

There were some great entries to the logline contest, but there can be only one winner. And that winner is PlucharC!

Here’s the winning logline:

One man finds out how far he will go to find his girlfriend’s cat that he traded on Craigslist for a case of what he insists is really good beer.

PlucharC even came up with a great title: “Even Trade”

I can picture Zach Galifianakis being tasked by his girlfriend to find a good home for their cat that they’re forced to give up, and making a stupid, yet inspired, decision. It’s funny, original and sounds like a premise that could actually work if executed correctly.

Zach Galifianakis

"No seriously, it's *really* good beer."

Congrats PlucharC. You’ll receive an autographed copy of Michele Wallerstein’s book: “MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career.” I’ll be in touch to collect your mailing information.

Thank you everyone for entering!

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