Sunday, November 22, 2009

McKee's 10 Commandments of Writing

McKee's Ten Commandments of Writing are as follows:

ONE: Thou shalt not take the crisis/climax out of the protagonists' hands. The anti-deus ex machina commandment. No surprises!

TWO: Thou shalt not make life easy for the protagonist. Nothing progresses in a story, except through conflict. And not just physical conflict.

THREE: Thou shalt not give exposition for strictly exposition's sake. Dramatize it. Convert exposition to ammunition. Use it to turn the ending of a scene, to further the conflict.

FOUR: Thou shalt not use false mystery or cheap surprise. Don't conceal anything important that the protagonist knows. Keep us in step with him/ her.We know what s/he knows.

FIVE: Thou shalt respect your audience. The anti-hack commandment. Not all readers know your character. Very important.

SIX: Thou shalt know your world as God knows this one.The pro- research commandment.

SEVEN: Thou shalt not complicate when complexity is better. Don't multiply the complications on one level. Use all three: Intra-Personal, Inter-Personal, Extra-Personal

EIGHT: Thou shalt seek the end of the line, the negation of the negation, taking characters to the farthest reaches and depth of conflict imaginable within the story's own realm of probability.

NINE: Thou shalt not write on the nose. Put a sub text under every text.

TEN: Thou shalt rewrite.

• Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting
by Robert McKee Methuen Publishing Ltd ISBN 0413715604
"Story" deciphers the guiding structural principles that animate every classical and award-winning film, ranging from "Citizen Kane" through to modern acclaimed works like "The English Patient".

On Revision: An Excerpt From an Interview with Robert McKee on Storylink

Q: How important is the process of rewriting?

Robert McKee: It's absolutely critical. I quote Hemingway in my book who said, "The first draft of anything is shit." What's difficult for writers to come to terms with is to recognize that 90% of what we all do, no matter our talent, is not our best work. We are only capable of excellence maybe 10% of the time. So, how are you going to fill a screenplay with 100% of excellence? Everything has to have been experimented with, improvised, played with, ten times over. Ninety percent of our work must be thrown away in order to ultimately end up with the precious 10% of excellence. If, for example, you write a 120-page screenplay with 40 to 60 scenes, if you keep every single scene you write, and your so-called rewriting is just paraphrasing and re-paraphrasing dialogue, that's not rewriting, that's just polishing. Rewriting means deep structural change in character and story. THAT'S rewriting. If you keep the first draft of your 40 to 60 scenes, you can be sure that, at best, four to six of those scenes are of real quality. The rest is crap. Rewriting doesn't mean drudgery. Rewriting means re-imagining, recreating, improvising and trying all kinds of crazy ideas. That's rewriting.

Rewriting Your Screenplay

Meet the Filmmaker: Joel and Ethan Coen: A Serious Man