Craft & Career

Issue 17                                                                                           February 3, 2011

Dear Writer,

Welcome to our 17th issue.

2011!  Out with the old, in with the new.

This is the first newsletter with our new title and look.  The color template is still in flux, so send any ideas about the coolness of our couleurs.  


You'll notice there aren't endless paragraphs of stellar prose below because I have replaced the the usual form of my dramaturgical diatribes with a video blog discussion of exposition and how to put information in service of conflict.  Take a walk with me down Exposition Boulevard.


Also, I hope my very simple What Would the Boss Do? column helps you think about how to destroy cliches in your scripts.  To champion someone is to cultivate what is special in them.  If you can find your way around been-there-done-that scenarios and revitalize dead exposition, you are well on your way to finding you voice. 


The 2011 Champion Screenwriting Competition will launch in a few weeks, so if you want to be notified, make sure to double-check your settings and stay on the list that sends out updates.  We have a bunch of new prizes and categories.    


Keep writing!

Jim Mercurio 
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Jim Video Blog

Let's get digital, digital!  Let me hear your computer talk.


Exposition is information but the trick is that it shouldn't feel or function like information.  In this short video blog, I give you some new ways to think about making exposition work organically in your story.

Click my picture or the YouTube logo to check it out.

View our videos on YouTube




Here is the transcript of Gladiator that I reference in the article.  Find (Control F) the word "matron" and you will be near the beginning of the scene.



Information for information's sake is 99% of the time a huge no-no.


Look within the character orchestration to find out who might come into conflict over the "information."


If you write a line that is so subtle that the other character doesn't even pick up on it, then you need a less subtle line or a more perceptive character.


By the end of the article, you should know why to never answer "fine" when your spouse asks, "How do I look?"  And if you get an earful when you do, at least that means your spouse is a good listener.


If you want to work with Jim on your script, check out his site.  If you are willing to have your notes done as a video or audio file, you can save 15% this month on any non-coaching service.




"When I flew across the country to attend Jim's (Champion Lab) I had a high-concept screenplay I had labored with for over a year and was convinced was ready for market. Not even an inkling of doubt it was ready. After attending Jim's 3 day workshop, I realize I have at least another three months to go to take it to the level it needs to be. And I couldn't be more thrilled and motivated! Through a combination of instruction, collaboration and deep analysis of films and screenplays, Jim revealed the creative decisions professional writers made, and the craft they employed, to take their scripts to the level which attracted a-list talent. Jim has a tremendous gift for translating the whats of screenwriting into the hows, all in a way which gives you the necessary insight and inspiration to translate the learning to your own work. This workshop experience will forever alter the way I approach screenwriting. Thank you, Jim!"

                                 - Mark Reinisch

Killer Endings

Killer Endings

 and The T-Word: Theme 



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Killer Endings


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 T-Word: Theme


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A-List filmmakers with billions of dollars in box office have relied on Jim and his DVDs. You can too!

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In This Issue
Craft: Exposition Boulevard
Killer Endings Sale
WWTBD? Breaking Cliches
Quick Links



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What Would the Boss Do?




I was working on a chapter in my scene writing book about how to avoid cliches and I was thinking about how much I hate it when a story brings the most obvious next thing.

If I am listening to a bad rock song, I want to bang my head, when I hear a moment like this in the lyrics:  

Tonight, tonight, baby, you are going to make me  feel...

Hmm? What could possibly be the next word?  "...that my creative talent is slight"?  

We listen to stories -- and yes, I rock songs are stories -- because we want to be surprised.  Without creativity, change and surprise, we might as well all just plug our headphones into a metronome. Variable speed, of course.

There is a really simple song from Working on a Dream, Bruce's last album, a three-chord rocker called My Lucky Day.  

It starts out  with these two lines:

In a room where fortune falls

On a day when chance is all 

And the chorus includes:

When I've lost all the other bets I've made, Honey, you're my lucky day


Later, a verse begins with these lines:

I've seen strong hearts give way

To the burdens of the day

And later, a line begins like this

But to win, darling, we must ...

The final word rhymes with "day," right?  We have been talking about gambling and relationships as a game of chance, right?  So the final word must be "play," Right?

EEEEHHNNNNT (my onomatopoeic sound for a buzzer to signify a wrong guess)


It could be that.  We can expect that.  But Bruce breaks the cliche and completes the line with a twist:

To win, darling we must PAY.

It's surprising.  And it plays off our expectation and comes organically from the set up arena of gambling and games.

And it brings us a new thematic strand.  The clever reversal -- that subtracts one letter from the cliche -- takes us from looking at relationships as a product of luck and chance to that idea that they are actually the product of hard work.

If you see The Fighter, checkout how much power and meaning it creates merely by twisting sports movie cliches.

Here is My Lucky Day:


Unless otherwise noted, all content is copyrighted by A-List Screenwriting, LLC or James P. Mercurio.