After the phenomenal success of my hit screenwriting book, Erwin Defeats the Elephant (based on my tip that your movie’s hero should face a challenge the size of an elephant), I’ve decided to start this blog to continue educating screenwriters. It has been a humbling pleasure to see that burgeoning and veteran screenwriters for every major blockbuster film have utilized the lessons in my book to successfully tell a well-structured three-act story — especially humbling after my recent divorce, not to editorialize (however, like I say, make your writing personal!).
• Make Your Main Character The Best He Can Be
The main character is the center, the focal point of your screenplay — our hero. For the sake of this article, we’ll name our hero after me, Erwin! (Like I say, always put yourself into your work!) Now, every emotional and plot conflict in the story revolves around the hero, Erwin. So in that case, it’s best that your hero is a cool guy, who is well liked and super awesome at playing the real guitar – not the Guitar Hero one.
• Every Movie Should Have A Leading Lady
It’s important that our Erwin have a leading lady — a total knockout to chase after. Sticking to my previously taught three-act structure, this heroine — who, let’s say is named Emma Blonski, from, I don’t know, Peoria, IL, 5’6″, with piercing blue eyes like a stoic doe — will first be noticed by your Erwin in high school, will not be attracted to him, and then will fall madly in love with Erwin when he does something awesome in Act III, like stop a terrorist plot, save the Earth from annihilation, or get unanimously voted Prom King by his peers / score the winning touchdown at the big homecoming game (if you go this route, make sure you show Erwin working out at the gym and getting ripped — it’s super important that he’s ripped).
• “Erwin Defeats The Elephant” — Addendum
As I’ve taught, Erwin must face a problem as big as an elephant. But make sure Emma is there to see him do it.
Addendum: Erwin’s antagonist, or “elephant,” is a large, negative force in his life — like a foreigner with a gun, a giant lizard monster, or an ex-wife – and must be called something like, say, Patricia. This enemy will try to get the best of your Erwin in Act II by belittling him, bringing up his absolutely platonic relationship with his mother, taking all his money and eventually divorcing him. But Erwin will prevail in Act III. He always does. And anyone who thinks differently should say it to my face!
Note: Make sure Patricia is there to see Erwin succeeding and doing just fine without her.
• Things to avoid:
— Your main character shouldn’t be so self-involved with his goal that he utterly forgets about his loved ones and dog (because putting down a beloved friend of 13 years costs a lot of unnecessary screen time that he just can’t afford right now, especially after the divorce and moving into an apartment).
— If your Erwin starts to gain a “pop tart” belly, a phrase his former leading lady might coin regarding his sudden weight gain, force your character to go work out.
— Your Erwin should not mix alcohol and antidepressants. It’s a cliché sign of depression.
— If Erwin doesn’t want to wake up every day and work on his main goal, like writing a marketable screenplay, MAKE HIM. This can be done in a montage.
— Remember: Show. Don’t tell. For example, instead of a therapist telling Erwin that he needs to get over the divorce, show your Erwin going out and having a one-night stand.
There you go, everyone! Brand new tips that I guarantee will help you sell that screenplay and get your movie made by a big studio. I can’t wait to see these tips implemented into today’s silver screen blockbusters the next time I — or a certain woman of Illinois who’s in her mid-fifties, is hopefully single, and knows how to use the Internet — goes to the theater.
Unrelated note: Please leave a comment below if you went to West Peoria High School Class of ’75 for a chance to win a FREE TRIP to Hollywood, CA!