The Secret A Writer Needs To Know To Write A Great Story by William C. Martell at Story Expo


The Secret A Writer Needs To Know To Write A Great Story by

William C. Martell at Story Expo

Film Courage:  What makes a good story?

William C. Martell:  What makes a good story?  A good story… here is the thing:  there is this thing called the ‘skin jump,’ did I talk about this last time?  Good.  I’ll talk about it this time.  A skin jump is where, we as the audience, jump on to the screen and become the protagonist in the story.  And a good story has some sort of a fantasy (it doesn’t have to be a positive fantasy) that we want to explore in our life, so we skin jump and we are Elliott riding his bicycle with E.T. and it flies.  That is one of those moments where if you were to turn the camera on the audience and watch the audience they would all just be overjoyed, because we’re all Elliott in that scene for that moment!  We can become Indiana Jones and do the amazing adventure thing.  And we basically jump from the audience on to the screen which means we need a character to jump into.    A good story is about a character that fulfills some sort of dream fulfillment.  Some sort of fantasy the audience has and the reason why a film is a hit is because it ends up hitting the dream fulfillment elements of a lot of people.  And so if you can figure out the zeitgeist of the audience, what people are dreaming about right now, that is the thing that is going to pull us on to the screen.  But it doesn’t have to be a positive thing.  I did a film noir class here (referring to Story Expo 2015) and the film noir often jumps us into people that do bad things because we all secretly want to do bad things.  But we can’t, so….there’s a lot of movies about career criminals because we all some times want to break the law.  There are a lot of movies about people that do terrible, awful things that kill people that…like Horrible Bosses, that kill their bosses because we have that ‘thing’ going on inside of us.  That is the dream fulfillment of that story.

So a good movie is dream fulfillment to the audience.  The audience fantasizes about something, hopefully as part of that audience, we fantasize about some of those things, too.  A weird movie is where someone has their dream fulfillment and you go ‘What kind of a sick weirdo is that dream?’  And you see those sometimes and go “What’s going on here?”

A good story is going to allow the audience to jump into that character and take that character on an adventure.  It can be a good adventure, it can be a bad adventure but we’re going to go along with that story.  So that means there is going to be a great conflict in there some place, that means the thing that often happen is a romance of some sort or another because even if it’s E.T., it’s a boy and his dog story, but the dog is an alien and there is no more unconditional love than from your dog or ….I don’t know if your cat loves you?  But your dog loves you no matter what.  So that is something we can fantasize about, we can get into that story, we can understand that story and jump into Elliott’s life with E.T. and it’s the kid who bring the pet home that mom doesn’t want and has to hide it in the closet, one of those things, “oh, I found a stray dog,” but the stay dog is an alien.  Now the dog catcher wants him and the dog catcher’s keys and the guy from the government (in E.T.).   It’s basically finding that story and finding a new stake on that story because that could have been just a dog story but by making it the alien were not telling the story we’ve already heard, we’re telling a story that is new and different, that gives us a different experience than what we’ve had before.  I don’t know if that even answers the question?

QUESTION FOR DISCUSSION:  If you could spend the next 24 hours as any character and live in their world, which one would it be?


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Check out – The Secrets of Action Screenwriting
by William C. Martell


STORY EXPO is the world’s biggest convention of writers from all mediums,  screenwriters, TV writers, novelists, filmmakers, gamers, journalists, graphic novelists, actors, business people, comic book writers and more. Featuring over 110 world-renowned speakers, 100+ classes and 30+ exhibitors, Story Expo covers all aspects of story and writing from craft to business to pitching to career.

Learn how and where your story is best told to achieve its greatest success both financially and creatively. Take control of your stories by learning the craft, learning which medium your stories are best told, understanding the business of storytelling, identifying and using the tools and resources available to you, understanding how to package and pitch your ideas and scripts, and using social media and other techniques to start and maintain a successful writing career. Also be able to pitch your scripts and stories to top production companies, agents and managers in our Story Expo Pitching Room. This year’s Pitching Room has extraordinary companies and agencies like ICM, APA, 3 Arts and more! Plus network with your peers from around the world during a fun, over-the-top weekend. Story Expo is like Comic-Conbut for writers.




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