How A Screenwriting Gem Can Make Your Novel All Sparkly

2014-10-11 12.38.09So back to WIK’14, the SCBWI conference I attended a few weeks ago in Birmingham.

I really wanted to get the gist of Lou Anders’ brilliant writing tips to you. But…um…I have PAGES of notes from Scrip Tips (the name of his presentation wherein he applies screen-writing techniques to novel writing ) and I’ll be lucky to a. be able to read my chicken scratching (Holy moly, that man talks fast!) and b. determine what’s good-to-know (’cause really, everything was good-to-know).

Anyway, I shall give it my best shot (see how I added a movie pun there?) and share just a couple good take-aways.

Take-away #1: Lou recommended a few books (you know all about Save the Cat, right?). So, first, these are not Save the Cat.

Check out Dan Decker’s Anatomy of a Screenplay and Jeffrey Alan Schecter’s My Story Can Beat Your Story. Screenwriting is all about story-telling so you can learn a lot from the professionals. (And I’m a visual learner, so if I have a scene from a movie that explains a point, I’m much more likely to “get” the point. Another reason why you’ll want to attend Lou Anders’ talk if he’s ever in your neighborhood: LOTS of movie visuals.)

Take-away #2: Lou talked about the all-important triangle in every movie (and how it can work in your novel).  And no, he wasn’t talking about a love triangle, but he was making a point about characters. Namely, the protagonist (who wants something–and make it something specific), the antagonist (who’s out to keep the protagonist from achieving his/her desire), and the relationship character (who accompanies the protagonist on the journey).

Now I know you know all about the protagonist and the antagonist but how about that relationship character? That’s a nifty character to have because as Lou said, the relationship character is the character who has often been on the journey before, and has something to teach or share AND this character is often the one to whom the protagonist expresses the story’s theme.

Cathy BatmanThe example I loved–because I am all about the Batman–was from the movie, The Dark Knight. Easy enough to figure out the protagonist (Batman, who wants a normal life) and I bet you’re thinking the antagonist is the Joker. But surprise, it’s Harvey Dent (who becomes Two Face).  But the relationship character, that’s simple, right?

Not so fast.

Has to be Alfred (who has pithy yet meaningful conversations with Batman/Bruce Wayne).


Oh, okay. Then it’s Morgan Freeman (who plays the guy who makes all the neat and amazing weapons, cars and stuff and often has very meaningful  and also pithy, theme-ish conversations with Batman, not to mention that it’s Morgan Freeman).


It’s…(the suspense is killing me) …the Joker!

Holy Batman, think how much richer, how much more textured this story is, with the Joker playing the role of the relationship character. Ultimately, it’s the Joker who helps Batman accept his role as the Dark Knight. They’re a lot alike, those two characters, with similar journeys.

(If you haven’t seen The Dark Knight, none of this will make sense to you. Hmmm…maybe you should read Lou Anders’ first book in the Thrones and Bones series, Frostborn. He applied all kinds of swell screenwriting stuff he’d learned, and sold his book–snap!–like that.)

The triangle–just one more gem to think about when writing your story. And maybe if you ever get a chance to hear Lou Anders’ workshop, go. Because honestly, that sparkly little gem is from the first page of my notes.



4 thoughts on “How A Screenwriting Gem Can Make Your Novel All Sparkly

  1. Hey Kathy. What an interesting post. I’m a visual learner too. I used to think (when I was a wee one) that I was the only one. Ha. Now I know there are quite a few. The gem I snagged out of your gems? I figured the antag would have been the joker. I was way off. Well, not too far. But with it being Two Face, I kind of DO get that. I hope Lou comes to our neck of the woods (NC). That would be SCHWEET. Thanks for stopping by my house today. Have a great finish to your Tuesday. (I love fishing too.)

  2. Good info to add to my Save the Cat notes which helped me ooh-gobs and continues to be my go-to when I’m writing an outline. I admit I’ve never heard of Lou Anders, but now that I have I’ll read up on him. Sounds like you had a great time at WIK!

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