Thursday, October 20, 2016

New SCRIPTMONK article in Creative Screenwriting on the Plot Pattern Phenomenon

 This week I had another article published in Creative Screenwriting online, this one introducing the basic principles and theory behind plot patterns -- a phenomenon by which nearly every successful American film over the past several decades comes to unintentionally conform to one of sixteen (or thirty-four, depending on how specific you wish to be) structural patterns of plot despite extreme differences in premise, genre, style and tone.

Since the subject of plot patterns takes up over 200 pages of Screenwriting and The Unified Theory of Narrative, Part II it was difficult to summarize the entire concept in a mere six-page article. Because of this, I had to take significant effort just to not sound like a crazy person. The shocking regularity of the plot patterns found in Hollywood and American Independent cinema is one of the most incredible discoveries of all my years studying screencraft -- made all the more incredible by the fact that it seems to have gone almost entirely unnoticed until now. Yet with a full background and the heaps of evidence I have found to support it, the plot pattern phenomenon turns out to be just as "crazy" as the idea that the earth revolves around the sun.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Official Announcement: Unified Theory of Narrative Part II FINALLY Available!

At long, long last (about six months after my original, and now hilariously optimistic, March 2016 projected completion date), I am happy to announce that Screenwriting and The Unified Theory of Narrative, Part II: Genre, Pattern & The Concept of Total Meaning is finally finished and available for purchase. (Follow this link for the Amazon page.) I would like to thank everyone for their patience. Little did I realize that my final installment would eventually require nearly 400 pages (over twice as long as Part I) to include everything needed to fully complete the Unified Theory model.

Here is the synopsis from the back cover:
Part II: Genre, Pattern & The Concept of Total Meaning completes the Unified Theory of Narrative by going far beneath the surface to reveal cinematic storytelling’s hidden structures of meaning. No previous book has explored the thematic dimension of screencraft in such depth or detail; using an interdisciplinary approach to explain the psychological, sociological, and cultural constructs which have shaped the feature film into the complex form of narrative we know today.

In Part II you will find:
The properties of myth behind all storytelling
The purpose and origin of cinematic genres
The phenomenon of plot patterns and its connection to cultural belief
The explicit lessons found in protagonist psychology
The ideological nature of dramatic conflict
And, most importantly, the connection between these elements and our most basic psychological and sociological needs.

Part II: Genre, Pattern & The Concept of Total Meaning is about far more than screencraft. It is about the intimate relationship between storytelling and humanity itself. Since its beginnings, humanity has used story to make sense of its world, express its beliefs, and give life a sense of order and meaning. By revealing the cinematic story’s ideological structures, and ultimately unifying them with the physical elements presented in Part I, Genre, Pattern & The Concept of Total Meaning shows how modern cinematic storytelling continues this tradition; resulting in an endless multitude of narratives, each doing their part to serve human society with lessons, arguments, and statements of belief.
Although I wrote this synopsis myself, I think it fails to do the book full justice. It was incredibly difficult to summarize the work into three simple paragraph because it is about so much. Part II not only completes my “theory of everything,” but is – in a very limited sense – truly about “everything,” and how this everything expresses itself through our use of story. In many ways, this book reveals the connections between art and the social sciences, going great lengths to explain why storytelling always has and always will be so important to humanity’s social and psychological well-being. Yet at the same time, this information is kept practical by detailing the specific structures and dramatic elements found in the feature film which allow it to continually serve these needs.

On this practical side, Part II explains the cinematic narrative’s complex method of communication through a five-layer structure of meaning. In this structure, you will find: how genres and narrative modes create metaphorical arenas to explore social problems; how plot patterns* are used to propose acceptable solutions; how the psychological factors of protagonist suggest ways we may achieve this solution by presenting lessons on human thought and behavior; and finally, how the storyteller delivers his or her personal opinions on all such issues through the choice of thematic resolution** and aesthetic specialization. Part II then reveals how this five-layer structure of meaning connects with the basic unified narrative structure found in Part I to create an ideologically-unified story where the abstract is made physical, proving philosophical arguments through the guise of dramatic action.

(* Originally proposed on this blog in 2011 (and altered significantly since then upon further investigation), the plot pattern phenomenon is definitely the most shocking (and thus sure to be the most controversial) of my discoveries – and will no doubt be the chief draw to most readers. Part II presents the structural details of all sixteen common plot patterns and their thirty-four subtypes for the first time.)

(**Thematic resolution was originally discussed in Part I as a crucial part of the basic unified narrative structure. By serving a role in both models, its elements ultimately act as the nexus point to connect the cinematic story’s external and internal structures, creating a truly unified theory of narrative.)

I admit this may sound like some dense stuff and potentially a lot to handle. But like my previous books, I have striven to keep material in layman’s terms and explain complicated concepts in clear and simple ways – all the while focusing on the individual screenwriter so he or she may better understand his or her medium and create more effective stories. Both Part I and Part II are available in paperback through multiple online retailers. The eBook versions are available exclusively through Amazon.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Update on Screenwriting & The Unified Theory of Narrative Part II

Hello everyone. When I released The Unified Theory of Narrative Part I back in November, I expected Part II to be finished and available by March or April. Yet now it is April 15th and that is clearly not the case. Wrapping up the final revisions of Part II has been a real grind (it is about twice the length of Part I and gets into some pretty heady subject matter), but it is slowly and steadily moving along. Barring some major breakdown or act of God, I now expect it to be available in July or (I hope not) August.

Just to whet your appetites, along with the completion of the Unified Theory of Narrative (a process that connects the basic unified narrative structure found in Part I with the cinematic five-layered structure of meaning to be introduced in Part II), Part II will also contain a full and complete analysis of my theory of the Sixteen Common Plot Patterns of Hollywood and American Independent Cinema, as first introduced years ago in an article on this blog. (Yes, I know I originally believed there to be 20 plot patterns, and then 21, but through the exhaustive analysis of literally hundreds of films I can conclusively declare there to be exactly sixteen common plot patterns, with thirty-four subtypes.) Enough for a book in itself (I expect the chapters on plot patterns to clock in at around 200 pages) the book will go into significant detail to explain exactly what plot patterns are, how they function, and why they have come to exist -- along with detailed breakdowns on all thirty-four subtypes illustrated by diverse collections of popular films. (Would you believe Chinatown and WALL-E follow the same basic underlying plot structure? Or that True Grit and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy are pretty much the same film? Whodathunkit?)

Meanwhile, you can read an adapted excerpt from Chapter 1-3 of Part I published on Creative Screenwriting Magazine online. It introduces the Thematic Argument, the structure by which the cinematic narrative communicates its theme. It's not exactly advanced stuff (mattering on what your definition of "advanced" is), but lays the groundwork for the more complex material on the connections between theme, plot, and character found later in the book.

Friday, November 13, 2015

OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: "Screenwriting & The Unified Theory of Narrative, Part I" Finally Officially Exists

This week saw the debut of the first volume of my new book Screenwriting and The Unified Theory of Narrative, the fruit of my last year’s worth labor (and reason why there have been so few new articles on this blog during that time). Part I: The Unified Narrative Structure is now available from Amazon in eBook and paperback. Part II: Genre, Pattern, and the Concept of Total Meaning is expected to follow some time in the first half of 2016.

(You can check out the Amazon page here for Kindle and paperback.)

You may be wondering what exactly is the “unified theory of narrative” and what the book is all about. First off, I have to say this is not a how-to book. It is also not a book for beginners. It is an advanced study of practical narrative theory. “Practical” meaning is not full of useless academic debate and boring critical ramblings. This book was written to be used as an active resource for those who wish to not only understand cinematic storytelling, but use such knowledge to create better and more effective stories of their own. It will not guide you by the hand to create a screenplay by the numbers, but will hopefully give you a complete and comprehensive understanding of how cinematic stories really (REALLY) work in order to elucidate the storytelling process and make putting a script together far easier.

Most works on screencraft overlook the fact that the true purpose of a storytelling is to communicate meaning from artist to an audience. Stories are social tools. They hold cultures and societies together by providing lessons and enforcing shared ideas and beliefs. For this reason, Screenwriting and The Unified Theory of Narrative focuses far more upon theme and ideological communication than anything I have encountered on the subject so far. The emphasis is not only upon theme and meaning itself, but more importantly upon how plot and character express such meanings, whether it is done overtly or hidden deep within subtext.

But I am getting off-track. The title “Unified Theory of Narrative” was inspired by the concept of the unified field theory in physics. From Einstein to Stephen Hawking, physicists have searched for a single theory that would explain all the fundamental forces of the universe, one theory that would unite all other theories and show how everything fits together (something that has yet to be conclusively found). In the same way, in screencraft there are dozens upon dozens of concepts on plot, concepts on character, concepts on theme and genre and so on. Analysts have spent decades disassembled cinematic stories as if they were enormous machines, but with all of this a big question has always remained: How do all of these concepts fit together? I have said before that the field of screencraft is like a child who has taken apart a watch to see how it works, but now cannot figure out to put all the parts back together so the watch will work again. Anyone with any experience watching movies should realize that a great story is not a collection of independent parts, but a holistic experience where where all elements meld together to create a single line of action that ultimately resolves itself to express a single message or meaning. Therefore, a true understanding of the form, function, and power of the cinematic narrative cannot be found by focusing on the parts, but how those parts interact to create a singular experience. A dissected animal is a dead animal. Even if you staple all the parts back together, it is still dead. Therefore, if screencraft is to provide any real help to cinematic storytellers, deconstruction needs to transition into re-construction. In short, we need to find a way to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again.

As the title suggests, Part I: The Unified Narrative Structure focuses upon narrative structure, particularly how the structures of plot, character, and theme work together to create a singular and unified story experience. Starting my study where I left off with Screenwriting Down to the Atoms, I was surprised to discover that my quest for a unified structure was actually somewhat easy as soon as I discovered one simple thing. I will not get too far ahead of myself, but I found that all successful Hollywood and American Independent feature films of traditional form fit into four categories of narrative types based upon the combined outcomes of their Story Spines and Character Arcs (which I have labeled Celebratory, Cautionary, Tragic, and Cynical). After an advanced breakdown of over 300 feature films made over the last fifty years (along with an impressive multi-colored Excel spreadsheet) I found that the interactions between plot, character, and theme were exactly the same in all four types of narrative. The only differences came down to two essential factors; one structural and the other based upon the audience’s perception of story content. Yet from this one basic model comes the endless variety of stories found in Hollywood and American Independent filmmaking; regardless of style, tone, or genre; regardless of whether the film has a happy ending or a sad one; regardless of whether the film be a serious Oscar contender or pure pop entertainment.

Chapter 1-1 recognizes the many errors that have been made in the study of screencraft to date, along with the causes for confusion and frustration felt by many developing screenwriters. It then sets a course by which this may be rectified.

Chapter 1-2 establishes the most basic principles of cinematic storytelling; namely the process of narrative communication through dramatic action, the relationship between narrative rules and the physical limitations of the cinematic medium, and story’s three-dimensional trinity of plot, character, and theme.

Chapter 1-3 introduces the three primary structural components of the unified narrative; namely the structure of plot (the Story Spine), the structure of character (the protagonist’s Character Arc), and the structure of theme (the Thematic Argument).

Chapter 1-4 wades into deeper waters by revealing the basic means by which these three structural dimensions interact; first with the symbiotic relationship between the Story Spine and Character Arc, and then with how this interaction combines with the Thematic Argument to express the story’s basic meaning.

Chapter 1-5 brings it all together to reveal the basic unified narrative structure which unites all traditional Hollywood and American Independent films under a single model, aided by an essential concept called World Alignment.

Chapter 1-6 provides twelve sample films to support this model, three for each narrative type: Back to the Future, Rocky, The Shawshank Redemption, Raging Bull, Amadeus, Citizen Kane, Chinatown, Braveheart, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Godfather, The Silence of the Lambs, and Apocalypse Now.

Chapter 1-7 recognizes causes for deviation from the standard unified structure as well as the existence of alternative structures.

Due to its sole focus on structure, Part I is shorter than my last book. Part II will be twice as long, as it takes a far more macroscopic look at cinematic storytelling beyond its structural superficialities. In it, you will find not only a detailed breakdown of my 16 Plot Patterns* of American film, along with their 33 sub-patterns, but a detailed theory explaining how these patterns combine with the elements of genre and mode, the selection of the story’s protagonist, and other factors, unified by the properties of myth to communicate each cinematic story’s total meaning.

(*Yeah, I know my first article on the subject said there were 20 patterns, but all my subsequent study has narrowed this to only 16 primary categories, most with two or three sub-categories.)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Screenwriting & the Unified Theory of Narrative update

No new updates to provide per say, other than Part I of the new book is still on track to be finished and available within a week of November 1st despite my chronic bouts of insomnia. As for now, here is a preview of the cover design for Parts I & II.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"A Brief History of SCREENCRAFT and its Current Problems"

(The following article has been adapted from a section omitted from an early draft of my new book, Screenwriting and the Unified Theory of Narrative. Originally intended to occupy “Chapter 1: The Failure of Screencraft,” the section has been edited and reprinted here.)

Much of the confusion found in the investigation of screencraft arises from the fact that its history has been a short one. Though narrative cinema has existed for about one hundred and twenty years, serious academic analysis of its form and structure only began in earnest roughly four decades ago. The growth of the cinematic narrative from its birth to its current position as the world’s most dominant mode of storytelling did not begin under close academic scrutiny. In its early stages, the cinema was ignored by all but a handful of critics for reason that moving pictures were widely considered little more than low-brow entertainment and thus unworthy of serious artistic evaluation. In fact, it took several decades for cinema's proponents to convince the world that cinema was indeed an “art.” Yet even among the academic minds who supported the medium, the storytelling component of cinema was paid little attention. Rather, the critics preferred debating aesthetic concepts, leaving narrative study as a neglected child. Instead, the process by which cinematic storytelling found its form was largely motivated by economic concerns.

From its beginnings, the cinema was recognized not so much for its potential as art, but its potential as popular entertainment. The earliest of film producers were businessmen, many with backgrounds in the management and promotion of live entertainment. These men recognized that this new invention could have the same appeal as the traveling troupes of actors, musicians, and comedians common at the time, yet could be distributed far and wide at fraction of the cost. Yet the business of entertainment is still a business, and businesses requires consistent profit. So, to ensure a predictable return on investment, early producers created films with content they had already seen crowds enjoy. This led to films based on certain narrative “formulas.” Audiences may complain that the movies of today are formulaic, but early narrative films of the silent era were so repetitive that they often presented the identical story again and again, the only difference being changes in actors or setting. This may sound like anything but an artistic process, but what few if any realized was that these early attempts to engender a consistently-positive audience response began the process by which cinema would sort out what types of storytelling were well-suited for its medium and which were not. Cinema became subject to a Darwinean survival of the the fittest where the successes spawned innumerable offspring while the failures were discarded and forgotten.

These films seem extremely rickety by today's standards because the medium had not yet found the ideal ways to tell its stories though montage and the moving image. Some early films were simply filmed stage plays. Others tried to imitate literature. But neither of these older methods of execution were a successful match for the cinematic form. The motion picture possessed certain qualities found in no other forms of storytelling. This gave the cinema unique advantages as well as limitations. With the help of such innovators as D.W. Griffith, Edmund Porter, and later the likes of V.I. Pudovkin and Sergei Eisenstein, the cinematic narrative eventually found its own language, one which accentuated its advantages and avoided its disadvantages, allowing cinema to come into its own as an unique method of storytelling with it own particular rules and structures.

In such a way, the cinematic narrative form eventually “found itself,” much like how an animal species eventually evolves into perfect adaptation to its environment through natural selection. This was not done by plan, but through trial and error. With time and technical advancements, the feature film became standardized to a certain length and presentational style. After decades of hits and misses, trial and error, innovation and imitation, the cinematic narrative found a vague form which provided consistent success.

The remarkable thing about this process was that by pursuing economic concerns, the cinema grasped in the dark and unwittingly found the principles by which it might become an art. By responding to the positive or negative reactions of the audience, filmmaking stumbled upon the rules of viewership and the techniques which could be used to garner a desired response. Screencraft “learned” proper structure and technique in the same way as one trains a dog. With every reward or rebuke, the cinema eventually learned to keep its behaviors within proper and effective parameters.

By overviewing the Darwin-esque process by which narrative cinema evolved from its childish beginnings to a sophisticated art form, we may conclude that the “rules” that determine an individual narrative film’s success or failure are predicated on two things:
  1. How well the story's form, structure, and content fit the specific technical requirements of the feature film's required length and audio/visual form (the physical factors of the cinematic medium).
  2. The story's ability to elicit a satisfactory intellectual, emotional, and visceral response from its viewer via the execution of that story's content (the psychological factors of viewership).
Once cinematic storytelling had learned to adapt itself to these factors (settling into the the proper groove, if you will), the evolution of cinematic storytelling became somewhat stable for a number of decades. In America, this is critically known as the “Classic Hollywood” period or the “Golden Age of Filmmaking.” Though there were hits and misses, bad films and good ones, nearly every film managed to achieve somewhat consistent results. 

Though the 1960s were known as a time of great upheaval in the world of cinema; a decade of furious academic debate and experimentation, beginning in Europe and eventually spreading across the world; this influence was once more largely limited to the realm of aesthetics. The narrative component of cinema was again a neglected child and, as far as Hollywood was concerned, remained relatively unchanged.

It was not until the initial excitement of this “New Wave” began to subside in the early-to-mid 1970s that the film industry met its next crucial turning point, one which finally pushed the narrative component of filmmaking to the forefront of critical interest. This period is known for the rise of the first generation of entirely film school educated filmmakers, including the likes of Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, and Francis Ford Coppola. Educated in both the traditional styles of classic Hollywood and the experimentation of the New Wave, this generation set itself apart in that they did not seem to view themselves as engineers of spectacle or experimentative artists, but rather embraced the role of master storytellers. With their emphasis on story, this generation initiated the “blockbuster era” of Hollywood, creating films which achieved both critical praise and enormous commercial success. It was with this that Hollywood finally woke up to the preeminent place that storytelling held in the creation of successful feature films.

It was in this same environment that an academic interest arose in the realm of screenwriting. Strongly influenced by Aristotle’s Poetics (the first known work of dramatic theory, written circa 335 BC), writer-analysts attempted to apply the Aristotelian method of inquiry to the cinematic narrative, just as Aristotle had done with Greek tragedy, in an attempt to discover just what made a good cinematic narrative, what made a bad one, and why. The Aristotelian method is marked by the use of categorization in order to organize complex systems based upon observable similarities. The analyst then attempts to isolate “invariants” – traits consistently repeated from one instance to the next. If enough invariants are found, this may suggest a logical pattern. With over seventy years of evidence now in front of them, the analysts of cinema could reflect intellectually upon the cinema's past successes and failures, and through comparison and contrast seek out the previously unnamed factors that separated the “good” films from the “bad.” Essentially, these dramatists wished to find a way to do by intentional design what cinematic storytelling had previously found success doing by accident or intuition. In this way, the modern field of screencraft was born.

It should be noted however that like the early producers of the silent era, this study was once again motivated more so by commercial and economic reasons than the artistic or academic. The film industry remained as it had always been; a business. A successful business demanded consistent profits, which in this case meant a consistent supply of blockbuster films. At the time, studios still tried to predict success by old fashioned formulas based on superficial elements, such as the story's setting, genre, premise, or star cast. These methods did not prove entirely reliable, producing just as many bad films as good ones. Aware of this, the dramatists of this period hoped to identify some magic formula that if imitated could produced successful results every time. If this sorcerer's stone could be found, it would theoretically mean everyone involved could win. Better-written films meant a larger number of successful films. This meant more profit for the studios, more successful careers for the writers and directors, and more enjoyable experiences for audiences. Theoretically, this narrative alchemy could provide the best for everyone.

Through their study, these dramatists reached the same conclusion as Aristotle before them: the key was structure, structure, structure. Early books on this subject cobbled together crude cave paintings of what story events ought to happen when, how characters should behave, and what actions they should take at given moments. They quickly labeled this vague form as a universal pattern all cinematic narratives must follow. While these “script gurus” would later expand upon this original structure and add their own interpretations, the basic paradigm remained generally the same since its beginnings.

One cannot overlook the effect this new school of thought eventually had upon Hollywood. In the effort to produce consistent successes, many writers, producers, and even executives took these methods to heart. This achieved positive results, but found drawbacks as well. First, the cinema's newfound emphasis on structure had a stabilizing and normalizing effect on the narrative content of Hollywood films. This indeed brought more consistent audience success. But it also had a homogenizing effect on narrative output. Hollywood storytelling transitioned from a reliance on formulas to one on patterns. While the producers of earlier eras sought to imitate superficial content which had seen previous success, this new era aspired to provide fresh and original content which nevertheless followed the same basic structural patterns, creating stories which felt familiar, yet were superficially different. This ultimately gave rise to the oft-repeated studio request, “Give me something the same, but different.”

Unfortunately, there were also great flaws in Hollywood's new narrative religion. Certain difficulties arise when the Aristotelian method of inquiry is applied to the art of storytelling. Firstly, the method assumes that everything in a given system can be separated into clearly distinct categories where every instance is either this or that, fish or foul, with nothing in between. However, artists and audiences alike tend to value originality and avoid such obvious genericism. Secondly, in most fields of investigative study, the rules this method seeks to uncover are eternal and unchanging. Fields such as physics, mathematics, geology, and even biology all seek principles outside of man's control which have always remained the same and always will. However, unless it is viewed from a strictly historical standpoint, storytelling is very much a living and constantly evolving thing. New stories are created every day and the societies and cultures that both create and consume them exist under a constant state of change.
Furthermore, the “script gurus” behind these new paradigms made the mistake of evaluating success or failure from the same narrow mindset as the producers of the early silent era. They saw only WHAT was successful, but rarely considered WHY. Their methods only copied what seemed to be successful structures while overlooking the physical and psychological factors which acted as the underlying determinants of that particular structure's success. They understood the result, but not the cause. The form, but not the function. With only such superficial knowledge, the structures taught by the gurus were too stubborn and inflexible. The methods were unable to explain and often ignored successful films which did not match the pattern and were unable to adapt themselves to unique or nontraditional story concepts which did not fit Hollywood's usual mold. By understanding the what, but not the why, scripts created in strict adherence to the gurus' patterns often rang hollow with audiences despite technically being what was considered structurally sound. Many writers reacted to screencraft like schoolchildern who memorized their lesson word for word, but made no effort to understand what the lesson meant.

In addition, the evaluative methods used by the “gurus” were often highly suspect. First, the pool of evidence from which they drew their conclusions was far too shallow, often consisting of only a few dozen mega-hit films, chosen based on the author's personal taste or ease with which their principles could be related. This did not provide a wide enough data set to prove anything “universal.” Therefore, the reasoning found in these methods remained highly selective and contained massive blindspots. Second, the majority of early investigation sought only similarities and ignored differences. Rarely in these texts does one find an attempt to explain a critically or commercially successful film which does not fit the pattern. In an effort to defend the hypothesis, aberrant successes were usually overlooked, intentionally ignored, or written off as flukes. Finally, the conclusions drawn from these small selections were quite often educated guesses or personal opinions passed off as fact. Yet still, many accepted these notions as truth despite the lack of anything resembling a scientific method based on evidence and experimentation considered necessary in every other serious field of inquiry.

As such, Hollywood’s narrative “religion” indeed currently remains much more like a religion than any serious field of investigation. Nevertheless, many writers and producers accepted its tenets as iron-clad truths, regardless of the fact that later analysts found cause to regard many early conclusions as inaccurate, incomplete, or in some cases false. As critical voices have pointed out with increasing frequency in recent years, these flaws have grown to have a stultifying effect on Hollywood films. Out of a desire to guarantee consistent commercial success, many on the creative end have embraced this strict and unresponsive “one road” approach to narrative, causing audiences to complain that films have become stale, repetitive and formulaic. Ironically, the economic concerns which once fueled the expansion and refinement of the cinematic narrative have now caused the industry to reverse course. The desire for consistency and predictability now acts to limit the possibilities of cinematic storytelling. This is primarily because the inflexible application of the current teachings of screencraft is built on a fallacy. The “universal” formulas, as they have been preached to developing writers and producers, are not in fact or in any way universal, and are not ideally-suited to every story told.

If any further progress is to be made in the study of screencraft, analysts must question previous claims, test existing presumptions, and abandon the outdated Aristotelian method of inquiry. We must no longer look solely at what is successful, but seek to understand why. By understanding the causes of success or failure in relation to the intellectual, emotional, and sociological needs to the audience, we may reach a more flexible and accurate method to understand the field of cinematic storytelling and its proper execution.

Monday, July 6, 2015


It has been in the works for almost a year now (and has been the reason for my serious neglect of this blog), so I believe the time has come to make the announcement official. Since August of last year I have been pouring every free hour into the creation of my follow-up to Screenwriting Down to the Atoms and by far my most ambitious project to date. The new book, currently titled Screenwriting and the Unified Theory of Narrative is expected to be finished and available in two installments, starting this Fall.

Screenwriting and the Unified Theory of Narrative is not a how-to book. It is an advanced guide on cinematic narrative theory for experienced readers containing nothing but new and original material found nowhere else and taught by no one else.

What is the Unified Theory of Narrative? As far as screencraft goes, it is a theory of everything. It is a theory meant to explain all existing theories. It is a structure which take into account all other structures. It attempts to answer all current questions on the cinematic narrative and come as close as possible to providing a truly universal model to explain the form, purpose, and execution of story as found in the Hollywood and American Independent film. In other words, if I were a mad scientist, this would be my doomsday device.

But the book is about far more than form and structure. It is more so about how the cinematic story communicates meaning. It examines the personal, cultural, and social dimensions of storytelling and explains how the feature-length film uses its unique physical and narrative properties to communicate its message to an audience.

The first installment, Part I: The Unified Cinematic Structure should be available in both ebook and paperback in October or November 2015. The second installment, Part II: Genre, Pattern & the Concept of Total Meaning should follow in three to four months, and soon after a full edition containing both sections in one volume.

Updates to follow.