Archives: Screenwriting

Exposition Tips – Part Two

Exposition Tips – Part Two

With spoilers for: The Dark Knight

Part One of Exposition Techniques.

8. Immersion

You know how Inception begins with a dream within a dream. That’s a perfect example of the immersion technique for me. Create a world, put the audience in the middle of it and let them figure it all out for themselves.

It sounds risky, but I don’t think it’s nearly as dangerous as people think. After all, we learn language this way. Most of your vocabulary comes from hearing how words are used, then deducing their meanings from that. You don’t need a lexicographer to tell you how to communicate.

Unconvinced? Well, try watching a film half of the way in and see how well you can follow it. Sure, it’ll be harder to understand, and a lot of scenes might lose their tension and emotional kick. But you’ll probably be able to make sense of it a lot more easily than you’d imagine. I started watching Lost half-way into the first series and I can’t remember feeling all that confused.

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Save the Catalyst?

Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! provides a kind of anatomy for the skeleton of the screenplay – 15 beats (plot events) which he claims belong in every good story. It’s a pretty ballsy claim – and one I want to question by looking at his 4th beat: the Catalyst.

As you’ve probably guessed from the name, the Catalyst is the moment that sets the wheels of the story into motion. It usually takes the form of an offer (Inception; The Talented Mr Ripley) or an assignment (Casino Royale; The Departed) or a threat (Toy Story; Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) – basically anything which will inevitably lead our hero to abandon his previous world and enter one which is entirely new. This is a beat Blake is very strict about, as he writes:

Cut it down and put it where it belongs: Page 12. … If it’s not there, the reader will get antsy. Your coverage will read: “No Plot” because you’ll have lost the reader’s attention. Page 12 – Catalyst. Do it.

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Genre Reassignment

Anyone who knows enough about Greek mythology has a kind of “a-ha” moment when they first see Blake Snyder’s 10 Genres. Of course! The Legend of the Minotaur is a ‘Monster in the House’, Hercules is a pre-Marvel ‘Superhero’ and The Golden Fleece – that’s a Golden Fleece. This is unwavering product of a deep-seated psychology. Storytelling DNA.

The trouble is: when you take a critical view of things, a lot of Blake’s genres are just too vague. Take his first genre, Monster in the House, as outlined in Goes to the Movies. The ingredients of such a genre are:

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