Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Crafty Screenwriting on hooks

I mentioned way back in my synopsising of Presentation Zen that I was going to have to do a bit more reading about the 'how to' part of how to construct a story. That reminded me that of a script-writing manual that I felt might have some relevance - Crafty Screenwriting by Alex Epstein.

Alex advocates coming up with a hook - a description that encapsulates your story in a nutshell and intrigues the audience into wanting to know more. He also fiercely advocates NOT writing down your story for as long as possible, and instead actually telling it to people.

The idea of the hook resonates with the advice I keep reading about reducing your story or presentation down to its core idea, to a single catchy phrase. Why would you do this? Well, I think Alex provides some really good insight here: we all have multiple demands placed on our attention every day - so how do you cut through the noise and make someone pay attention to you?

You have to make them want to know what happens next.

So, a hook is a fresh idea that instantly makes showbiz people want to read your script, and audiences want to see your movie. It makes people want to see how it turns out. Alex provides some examples, such as:
  • A puppeteer finds a secret tunnel into John Malkovich's brain
  • There's a bomb on a crowded city bus. If the bus slows down below 50 miles per hour, the bomb goes off
  • Three film-makers goes missing in the woods while taping a documentary about a legendary witch. A year later their footage is found.
Hooks are fresh. Intriguing. Simple.


debbie said...

You mean 'There are snakes - on a plane' didn't make the list of compelling movie hooks? Clearly he is not into Art films.

hix said...

So true! But also, so pre-SoaP. Hard to imagine that such a time existed.

Also, I have now heard an hilarious story about how Gino got angry at that film because it wasn't filled with as much hard-core badassery as he expected. I must ask him about it sometime. (Or perhaps he has blogged it.)