He is called a guru of screenwriting because it’s difficult to find the exact word describing deeds that have made him popular. If you try to understand what he does, some stupid definitions will come to your mind: he travels with his seminar, he tells how history works, he teaches authors to write, and he teachers directors to make movies.
However, Robert McKee is one of the top names in the modern American film industry: he is a person who teaches Hollywood how to live. They say that the only Hollywood celebrity who has never attended McKee’s “Story” seminar was Steven Spielberg. All the others are his students, followers, and enemies.
Robert McKee knows exactly what a perfect scenario should look like. He teaches students to make every phrase of a script hit the target. Dream of becoming a really professional screenwriter? Want to write your author’s works in a way they’d sound catchy and exciting for every reader? If you want an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, or just want to improve your own prose, you’ll enjoy these writing tips from Robert McKee:
1. Choose the most important events in the life of a hero
A hero of every story has his main goal. An event is a significant change in the hero’s life, which leads him to this goal. The event should take place in every scene. There are in about 40-60 scenes in a movie, so, there is not need to re-tell all details of your hero’s life to the audience. You have no time for that. Choose the most important events of his life to let people know what kind of a person he is.
2. Create some obstacles for your hero
Place him under pressure. A story is the set of obstacles your hero overcomes to search for his dreams, and these obstacles should be both serious and clear to the audience. The hero should risk something really important to reach his goal; the choices made under pressure show his true essence. Raise your stakes with every act, revealing the max risk in the culmination.
3. Include a “turning point” to every scene
A story is constantly moving, and its driving force is actions and deeds of the hero, who is struggling to reach his goal. Do not create a “scene for exhibition,” where nothing significant happens. The information that explains the hero’s past and motivation should be given in a way it wouldn’t take a single scene from the script.
4. Create a strong antagonist
The more interesting opposing forces are – the more interesting your story will be. Negative must be as strong as positive.
5. Use words with the most specific value
Do not write “he takes a big nail”: “he takes a wedge” or “he takes a screw” will be much better. Call all objects and actions distinctly. A person who reads your script or your book should see a clear and bright picture of what you write about.
6. Write clear dialogues
A dialogue is not just talking between characters or essay writing. This is a way to say the most with the least words. Dialogues should consist of simple sentences. Do not write dialogue if you can express the same idea with heroes’ actions. Be creative visually.
7. Do Your Research
Sometimes a lack of information leads to “сreative stupor.” Remember your experience, use your imagination… But if nothing works, go to a library! Books will provide you with all the information needed. Even if you are very experienced in your subject you have only one perspective. Books will help you to live a thousand lives.
8. No Lecturing
No one is interested in teaching stories where each dialogue is similar to a lecture. After all, life is versatile. A story is a shortened version of life, and an author must be able to show polar points of view on the same problem, even if it’s obvious.
9. Do not be afraid of failure
Failures happen. 90% of what we write is mediocre at least, or it will not work out. You are a really lucky author if 10% of your stories are of a high quality.
10. Write about what you truly believe in
There is a big idea in your story, and this story should reflect your own vision of life. Your audience are not idiots, and they will feel a fake immediately. Your story is a reflection of your world. Be honest with your readers and audience.