Dieric Bouts 1460

Critical Reflection: Or how do I get this down to 500 words?

Carson McCullers wrote beautifully. Her detailed and evocative descriptions add verisimilitude and create empathy. A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud conforms to this pattern. On a rainy dark morning, the action takes place in an all-night café that seems friendly and bright in comparison to the raw empty street.

McCullers description of paper boy’s pink little ear beneath his chinstrap and his round child eyes renders the boy’s innocence palpable.  Whilst the description of long, pale tramp with faded orange hair who brings his face out a beer mug to tell a paper boy his life story and philosophical beliefs. An experience that some readers may find relatable.

Carson McCullers creates tension, by having Leo, the bitter and stingy café owner, interrupt the indigent’s story of the unavailing search for his departed wife, with what the indigent considers a ‘vulgar’ comment, as well as repeatedly telling the indigent to ‘shut up’. Leo with his grey face, slitted eyes and pinched nose saddled by faint blue shadows (McCullers, 2008, pp. 150,152), initially appears to be a critical portrait of society’s prejudice against homeless people.

However, after the indigent has explicated his philosophy of learning to love small things such as trees, rocks, clouds, and goldfish before one can learn to love another human, with loving a woman being the climax, because loving a woman is the most difficult of all. By following these steps, the indigent believes he can love all of creation.

It is unlikely that Carson McCullers disapproved of a philosophy of life and humanity.  So it is interesting that she gives the moment of understanding, not the shallow faced, freckly twelve-year old, but to the pale faced, jeering Leo; who is interestingly enough, the only named character.

Vonnegut’s journalistic style is in great contrast to Carson McCullers, the action is fast-paced. In contrast to Carson McCullers’ A Tree, A Rock, ACloud which is set in the mundane world of 1940’s America, then Kurt Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House  is written in a distant future where the human race is struggling with overpopulation.

In Vonnegut’s world rather than control population by depriving people of pills that prolong their lives and youth to an unnatural extent. The government encourages people to use Ethical Suicide Parlors, staffed by beautiful virgins, whose lives are preserved, in the case of the heroine, into their 60’s. Rather than enforcing sterilization programs, the government enforces the use of ethical birth control pills that enable people to remain fertile whilst rendering sex pleasure-less. This is an absurd solution to the problem of over population, and indeed the story really tries to be about how totalitarian regimes repress sexuality. (Vonnegut, 1998, p. 49)

However making the “hero”, Billy the Poet a man who has made it his vocation in life to rape as many Ethical Suicide Parlor Hostesses as possible. His rape of Nancy-performed with clinical skill- is justified by Billy with the words“…If there had been any other way-“ (Vonnegut, 1998, p. 47) espousing rape as the only solution for a culture of totalitarian prudery and suicide.

This portrayal of rape as a solution to authoritarian prudery causes Welcome to the Monkey House to fail as a liberal text.

Rape is a mechanism by which men humiliate and hurt women, and the fear of the rape is a mechanism by which patriarchal cultures control women (Herman, 1984, pp. 43,47,49). By making the ‘hero’ a rapist Vonnegut is supporting rape culture; thus undermining his liberal message.

Indeed, Vonnegut must resort to quite a convoluted and unlikely dystopia to make rape ‘the only way’. Even then Billy’s prediction that Nancy, like a “strait-laced girl of a hundred years ago” who on her wedding night “cried all that night, and threw up twice” will become a sexual enthusiast with the passage of time, is unrealistic.


Herman, D. F. (1984). Rape Culture. In J. Freeman (Ed.), Women: A Feminist Perspective (3rd ed., pp. 45-53). Mayfield, California: Mountain View.

McCullers, C. (2008). A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud. In The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (pp. 147-157). London: Penguin.

Vonnegut, K. (1998). Welcome to the Monkey House. In K. Vonnegut, Welcome to the Monkey House (pp. 30-50). New York: Delta.

Dieric Bouts 1460

Lecture notes to my Screenwriting unit part 2

A premise is the motivating force behind your story. The moral or message of the story, the point you are trying to make.

Other words used are thesis, theme, root idea, central idea, goal, aim, dramatic centre, driving force, subject, purpose, plan, basic emotion, point.
Premise, as defined in Webster’s dictionary, contains all the words those other words try to express and it is less subject to misinterpretation.  The best word that encompasses all those ideas, they are all interrogating the moral.
Why is premise so important? It unifies, it gives a script thematic, intellectual and emotional unity.
The Premise of Pulp Fiction (very complex narrative), has one single premise “Only living honourably leads to true happiness because living dishonourably leads to dishonouring yourself.”
Theme is a word that often gets used in the place of premise. Premise turns the theme into something active, conflict driven and structured.
The theme of Star Wars: is the battle between good and evil.
The Premise of Star Wars:  Intuition will triumph over the rational because only intuition can think outside the box.
The theme of the Matrix: Battle between good and evil
The premise of the Matrix:  Man defeats machine because the human spirit is indefinable and unquantifiable.
Although they have the same theme, they have very different premise.
The theme of the Wizard of Oz: childish innocence and coming of age
The premise of the Wizard of Oz: you have to accept yourself because wherever you go, however far you run from yourself, there you still are.
The theme of Fight Club: the alienation of the individual in a modern, self-obsessed urban environment.
The premise of Fight Club: you have to accept yourself because wherever you go, however far you run from yourself, there you still are.
Although the themes are different, the premise is the same.

Good screenwriting is always a matter of life and death.
Figuratively or literally, destruction in some form always be hanging over your protagonist and the success of his or her ‘quest’.
That’s why it’s important that your premise be an active statement not a flat one.
Contains a pair of opposing values or ideals.
Ant that one value/notion/ideal ultimately ascends the other for an in-built reason.
A premise contains the notion of destruction/loss/failure.
Because a premise contains two opposing values, it will often also contain the implication that choosing the wrong course of action, choosing to follow one of those values through to its conclusion will lead to destruction.
This gets back to the notion that premise is essentially an argument: on the one hand this and on the other hand that.
Examples of opposing values premise:
Fakery leads to exposure and defeat because you can’t hide the truth from yourself. (Muriel’s wedding; There’s something about Mary)
A True and great love will stand up even against death. (Romeo and Juliet; Ghost)
Ruthless ambition leads to its own destruction. (Macbeth; a Few Good Men)
Opposing values lead to destruction:
A Premise contains the idea of destruction because it speaks to two opposing ‘qualities’ locked in a unity that only the destruction of one can break.
These two opposing qualities gives us our ‘unity of opposites’.
The Film Ghost tests these opposing qualities: love vs death, and it ‘proves’ that love can indeed triumph over death!
Premise and the unity of opposites: an important concept in screen writing, both at macro and micro level (right down to the scene level).
The unity of opposites sets two forces/qualities/ideals characters against each other in conflict.
The forces in conflict must be united in a relationship that cannot be broken or escaped without the destruction of both sides of the opposition (and from this destruction new hope is born).
Such as CatDog: Dog is stupid, foolish, naïve, gullible, sweet dog, whilst Cat is intelligent, witty, ambitious, all the things that Dog is not, and they are linked together inescapably.
Also seen in Fight Club.
The premise is the inner core of this unity or pairing of opposites.
Premise, unity of opposites and character.
Premise refers to an inner struggle, played out in the head and heart of your protagonist.
It informs a choice the between two opposites between two opposites he/she has to make.
American Beauty:
Premise is “true beauty is everywhere around us but we don’t see it because we don’t look/try hard enough.”
Lester Burnam and (indeed all the characters) is desperately searching for meaning, beauty, hope, validation, to feel ‘alive’. He chooses to quit his safe bourgeois job and look for beauty and ‘aliveness’ in a recreation of his idealised adolescence-red sports cars,  big muscles, blonde 16 year olds, flipping burgers. Ultimately however he chooses to reject all this when he sees the true beauty all around him that has eluded him.
Premise Man defeats machine because the human spirit is indefinable, unquantifiable and universal.
Neo ultimately has to choose between trusting the deep truth of his inherent, intangible humanity, or relying on the false ‘truth’ of his eyes and reliance on the tangible. He has to choose between the red pill and the blue pill. Between running or fighting. Between believing his eyes or believing his heart. Between the apparent blinding reality of the matrix and the more subtle, elusive, authenticity of his self.
Muriel’s Wedding
Premise: Fakery leads to exposure and defeat because you can’t hide the truth from yourself.
Muriel ultimately has to choose between her ‘successful’ but fake marriage and being an unmarried ‘failure’ but honest and real. She really has to choose between her fake and real self.
Pulp Fiction
Premise: Only honour leads to true happiness because living dishonourably leads to dishonouring yourself.
Bruce Willis has to choose between fleeing the S&M den and certainly saving himself (but living with the dishonour), and remaining there to free Marsales thus doing the honourable thing but jeopardising his safety. He also has too choose between abandoning his father’s watch and being safe, and the dishonour that would bring him and his father’s memory.
The premises are tested throughout the film: i.e. is it true that dishonour leads to misery/that only honour brings happiness.
Premise and character:
Premise is reflected in the characters themselves and their various oppositional characters.
The Matrix:
Good, human, flawed, uncertain Neo, versus evil, mechanistic, robotic, unwavering Agent Smith.
Oppositions can happen to characters on the same side: Simple “new born” Neo versus sophisticated experienced Morpheus. These characters are both on the same side.
Intuitive, loyal, committed Trinity versus rational, treacherous, selfish Cypher.
Supremely human Morpheus versus computerised government apparatchik Agents.
Wizard of Oz:
Dorothy, attempting to flee herself and her problems versus the Wicked Witch of the West/Miss Gulch (ever present).
Muriel’s Wedding:
Deceitful, cowardly free to live a lie versus brave, honest Brenda trapped in a horrible truth (her cancer).
More than one reading; only one premise
Multiple meanings
Multiple readings
Multiple inferences
Multiple implications
Many themes
But it should only have a single premise.
One premise is more than enough per script, a strong premise contains multitudes.
A strong premise can lead to a myriad of different plots.
A strong premise can be interpreted (by different writers, by different viewers) in a multitude of ways.
You have to know what you are trying to say.
Premise-coming up with your own
A well-articulated premise will assist you to find connections and directions.
Having a premise behind your script means you are actually writing about something.
·         That matters
·         That has stakes
·         That has depth
·         That has conflict.
Having these things means that your work has a point, you are trying to make a point, if you are not trying to make a point, then your work tends to be pointless. If you have nothing to say, then you’re not saying anything. If your script has no point, if there is no message in it. Then it’s just a bunch stuff that happens and it will lack that depth that it really requires.
Writing from the premise up… a warning
Creating a script entirely from the premise up can lead to three pitfalls.
·         Preaching
·         Polemic
·         Plot-less-ness
It’s much more important to have a good strong plot, and then figure out what you have said in that. Rather than start off with an ideological/emotional point it will probably be polemic and you will have an illustrated lecture. To make your point, prove your premise via character in action.
A Premise should not be weak, woolly, or passive:
“Being a bit worried can maybe lead to a not very pleasant lifestyle.”
A premise is not just a statement:
“Drinking arsenic will kill you.”
We know that-so there’s no drama or conflict. This is a given; a premise should have two sides to it, otherwise there is no drama.
A premise is a simple-to-express idea that has great potential for depth.
A premise must have:
·         Two sides to it
·         Two choices in it
·         Contain the notion of movement.
A premise should ideally be a single sentence


—  The Big Five are the five most useful questions you can ask of your script or any script.
—  The Big Five interrogate the very heart of the matter of your story.
Once you understand them, you can use them to break down, interpret and discover structure and character and dramatic states and anything you want.
They interrogate the very heart of the matter of your story.

—  Whose story is it?
—  What’s the story about?
—  What’s the main dramatic question?
—  What’s the prize and what price is paid?
—  Why should we care?
The BIG FIVE Focus and express the guts of your story:
Number 1: Whose story is it?
—  Focuses on character.
—  Asks you to identify your main character.
Number 2: what’s the story about?
—  Focuses on character active in plot & logical satisfaction.
That asks you to focus on that character being active in plot. With logical satisfaction giving us the ending of the plot.
Number 3: What’s the main dramatic question?
—  Focuses on tension & momentum & structure.
What are we waiting to see in the end? What’s the drama? Where’s the tension coming from. This pays into structure.
Number 4: What’s the prize & what price is paid?
—  Focuses on dramatic weight, transformational arc & structure.
Number 5: why should we care?
—  Focuses on empathy & emotional engagement.
Why would anyone want to invest in this and pay money to go and see this?
The Power of Five:
—  When the Big Five “work”, the script is “working”.
—  With a well expressed and responsive Big Five, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. When the big five work, and you’ve answered them so they do express what the story is about, and so they all fit together. That means your story is unified and all these disparate elements; character, plot, structure, theme, premise, dramatic weight…what seem to be disparate elements  are all pulled together, when the big five work, when you’ve really nailed it and expressed it clearly
—  The Big Five are part of a teaching strategy devised by Professor Digby Wolfe during his time as a director of the Dramatic Writing Program at the University of New Mexico. They also appear as part of his "Big Six Questions" in his book Walking on Fire: the Shaping Force of Emotion in Dramatic Writing published by Southern Illinois University Press
Whose Story is it?
—  This is about the protagonist.
Responding to this means you have to:
—  It requires that you identify whom it is that does the story.
Who is the main character? Who is driving the action? Who are we caring most about? Who is it that is making the story happening?
—  Your response can be as short as that character’s name.
(Lecturer gives a character called Diane Sawyer)
Heilwig von Brandenburg, novice at the Temple of Snotra
What is the story about?
—  This is about plot.
—  It is NOT about theme.
I don’t want to be told that your story is about the battle between good and evil. So is Star Wars, So is the Matrix, so are many other films.
This is where you tell me about the plot, about the sequence of events that take place in your story. Not vague thematic notions like the battle between good and evil. But concrete stuff about the incidents that, the incidents, that happen with your character.
—  It requires that you articulate the basics of the plot, including the catalyst, crisis and climax. 
—  It must include your protagonist, with a problem, taking action to achieve an outcome.
E.g. Diane, a neglected child must battle with her bullying siblings to get attention from their mother. Or something like that, more than that, but you actually telling us what happens. It’s not just vague.

—  Your response should be only four or five sentences. (this is not the synopsis)
3) What is the main dramatic (central) question?
—  This is about drama and tension.
The main dramatic question, basically is the question where waiting to see what happens in the end. When you ask the question “what happens in the end?” that’s you’re wanting the main dramatic question answered. It’s the big question that arises out of the plot. You know “will Luke blow up the death star and save the rebellion?” Yes he will goodness me. “Will Neo learn the nature of the matrix and defeat Agent Smith?” Yes he will. Will Eddie stay with Pearl? Yes he will. There’s lots of others. With Medusa that you’re watching this week; will Medusa find true love? Yes she will, but not necessarily in the way they expect. What this means in with the main dramatic question and why it’s so important. It requires that. If you’ve got a main dramatic question it means that there actually is something we’re waiting to see in the end. It means that there is…
—  It requires that there actually be a dilemma/problem/question established in the catalyst and answered by the climax.
We’ve talked about Catalyst and Climax, this is not separate stuff from the big five. They are embodied in the big five.
—  Your response should be brief and MUST be phrased as a question.
4. What is the prize and what price is paid?
This is without doubt the hardest one. It is the trickiest one because it’s the one where the characters internal journey and external journey dovetail most precisely.
—  This is about having high stakes & dramatic weight. 
—  The protagonist must be seeking some sort of “prize”, and in order to gain that prize, he/she MUST pay a price (or else it has been too easy).  Whatever story you’re telling, they’ve got to have some sort of goal, something that that they’re struggling towards. And in order to gain that prize/achieve that goal, he or she must pay a price. They have to sacrifice something. They have to struggle at some level.  There has to be a price Or else it’s been too easy. They say they want true love; and oh there it is. They say they want to save the world; oh done it. There has to be a struggle; if you don’t have a price paid it means basically you don’t have second act because there’s been no struggle, there’s been no sense of tension and of struggling towards this being a valid goal. You’ve got to have a price. It’s not either or: you don’t have prize or a price. You only get the prize because you paid the price.

—  Number 4 is not about the risk of failure; you can’t say they ‘oh they get the prize but they ran the risk that they might not get the prize.’ ‘well yes of course they did’, but that’s not tension they have to actually struggle, you have to have to have seen the struggle for this to be achieve; it’s about the price of success.
—  This is a tricky one: your response to this may be several sentences; sometimes protagonists think they’re after one prize, only to end up with something else.
Corny example: boy meets pretty girl but fails to notice mousy girl next door. All through the film pursues pretty girl, but ultimately realises that what he wants is little mousy girl next door because she’s nice. It can be quite subtle and the goal can change as the protagonist works through the material of the story.
5.         Why should we care?
—  This is about empathy, about emotional engagement.
—  It requires that you articulate where an audience will find their emotional engagement with your script and its characters. 
—  If an audience doesn’t care about your characters and their dilemmas, then you have failed to engage them emotionally.
—  Your response to this should be a few sentences.
What this means is not that every character that you write or every character in a film or a script should be likable. It’s not that we have to like them, but we have to have some place of engagement, something that an audience member can engage with. Think about the lecture last week about the universal and the unique. Why is somebody going to watch this? Lots of new writers…many new writers want to write about unpleasant people; people who are lazy, repellent, or sexist or whatever. That’s fine, but there has to be some place in that for the audience to engage with them. Most people don’t want to hang out with unpleasant people all the time. It’s fine and interesting to create characters who are not immediately engaging because they are funny, kind, or all those things we tend to approve of…. Fine go ahead, create characters however you want, but you have to remember that you are asking someone to spend time with them. Now if they are entirely repellent why should we care? Why should we care about these people? And we have to care at some level, or else we won’t… fundamentally we won’t turn the page. Everything is about getting somebody to turn the page of your script and getting them to keep reading, then you’re getting somebody to put money in it, and then get actors involved, and then you’ve got to get audiences to come into the cinema and people to watch it on TV. It’s a big ask so we have to care at some level.
A good example of a film where ‘why should we care’ has a complex answer is “As Good as it Gets.” Starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt.
Marvin is absolutely repellent but we understand him. It is written in such a way that we understand Marvin’s struggles, and we engage with him because we also see that he is struggling with it. So you can have repellent characters but you have think about why an audience is going to spend time with them.
I would also point out that As Good as it Gets  also has some very charming characters who help keep us engaged but ultimately we are engaged with Marvin as well.
In your own work your response to why we should be… maybe a few sentences, and it shouldn’t be we care because they’re nice. Why are they nice? What do we see about them that makes them nice? Actually think about it. This is intellectual stuff…
Assignment 1#

Whose story is it?
2. What is the story about?
After Ruth’s funeral, Will is haunted by Tulip’s moos. He cannot milk her as only Ruth milked her. He think
3. What is the main dramatic (central) question?
Can Will milk Tulip? (Outer Journey)
Can Will recover from Ruth’s death? (Inner Journey)
4. What is the prize and what price is paid?
Being able to milk Tulip is the prize.  This symbolises his reconciliation to his wife’s death.
A small price is that Will scandalises his neighbours by dressing in his wife’s house coat and apron.
5. Why should we care?
Universal themes of grief and loss.

Ordinary World
Will & Ruth are happily married.  Ruth milks the cow for Will’s coffee.
Ruth dies. At the funeral, her friends help and say that he is not coping.
Call to Adventure:  Tulip moos, young man says the cow (Tulip) will suffer if she is not milked.
Refusal of the call. Will at first ignores Tulips moos because it is night.
Tulip continues on mooing.
Will chases Tulip around at night.

The hero of your journey
Audiences connect emotionally with the story through the character, rather than plot.
Audiences need the characters to experience emotional catharsis by engaging with characters (emotional proxies) dealing with problems.
To attain a sense of logical completion.
The big issues in creating meaningful and active characters.
Having a meaningful goal
That goal bringing the character into conflict with other characters.

The writer director David Mamet takes this a step or two further
Who wants what?
Who is trying to stop them?
What happens if they don’t get it?
Why now?

Motivation is the ‘why’ characters want what they want.
Motivation provides a reason for why the character should choose to leave the safety of their ordinary world.
As writers, motivation is Crucial. If a script lacks motivation, it will lack dramatic intensity and fail to convince.
More motivation
Motivation pushes the character forward, into the story. It is a mechanism at the beginning of the story that Forces the character to be involved.
Without motivation, good solid motivation, the audiences won’t believe in or feel compelled by the character and their journey and struggle.
Motivation is now.
Motivation should be shown.
Motivation is what comes together when the protagonist undergoes the.
As a character motives
From motivation to goal
From catalyst to climax;
From triggering event to conclusion
From Act 1 to Act 3

A well-rounded character gains something, in the character terms, via their participation in the story:
Luke gains a sense of purpose and the Force
Dorothy gains a sense of where her true home lies. (Wizard of Oz)
Lester gains a sense of family. (American Beauty)
Gavin gains his sense of self-respect. (Splintered)
A transformational arc maps a character’s emotional, personal, character-based reactions to the sequence of events that comprise your plot.
A transformational arc indicates the degree to which the script engages with the characters as dimensional beings, not mere functionaries of the plot.
The transformational arc maps the ‘inner journey’ of a character (the plot line maps the ‘outer journey’)
Without a transformational arc, the character remains static, in character terms. (Think James Bond).
The wizard of Oz highlights the ultimate dovetailing of
The inner journey, with the outer journey;
The transformational arc with the plot.
Character growth with story progression.
The wizard of Oz is a film about:
Self (inner) and adventure (Outer).
About identity and physical danger.

Function the main function is of the protagonist is to do the story-to make it happen.
His/her point of view is usually the dominant POV. We tend to view the story through the protagonist.
The protagonist is usually the character for whom we care the most.
The mentor protagonist:
A mentor is a character who has effectively complete his/her transformational arc.
He/she is essentially full ‘at one with?

Small Things:
Protagonist: Jack is an Underdog.
Antagonist: Branson
Failed Mentors: Jack’s mother (single, working mother) and teacher (is given Jack’s stolen apple by Branson)
Mentor: Gordon (very comfortable in his own skin).
Jack is being bullied by Branson who steals his Nutella sandwiches, apples and beetles. Gordon comes up with a plan for Jack’s beetle to beat Branson’s slow stag beetle.
This plan fails when Branson kills Jack’s beetle in the race, this symbolizes Gordon suffering from mentor occupational hazard. Thus Jack must outsmart Branson by giving him dung beetle food sandwich.
Jan Van Eyck

Lecture notes to my Screenwriting unit (intensive winter semester)

The drama starts

The Three Act Structure
“Tragedy is the imitation of an action that is complete.”
Aristotle; Poetics
An action that is complete.”
Human experience of time, and events in time, includes an understanding of a period of time…

….a period of time passing…

…and a period of time ending.

The Japanese express it thus:
So applying that thinking to the creation of dramatic…
Tragedy is the imitation of an action that is complete.
So applying that thinking to the creation of dramatic screenplays –

The drama starts close to the incentive moment…
Involves order falling into chaos…
And returning ultimately to order.
Aristotle in his “Poetics” says:
“Tragedy [drama], then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative, with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its katharsis of such emotions.”
Aristotle, Poetics
From the Greek katharsis, to cleanse, purge
1: purgation
2 a: purification or purgation of the emotions (as pity and fear) primarily through art b: a purification or purgation that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension
3: elimination of a complex by bringing it to consciousness and affording it expression
Structure and audience connection
The audience needs/wants to be:
emotionally engaged with your story
logically satisfied by the story

And a solid, organic, well-wrought structure is the key to this control.
Why does structure dominate screenwriting?
“The reason for structure’s dominance is that the pattern of feelings and sensations largely determines whether the audience will find the experience satisfying or not. Without the compelling experience that occurs when the cumulative pattern of highs and lows creates a successful design, a story can easily become a random collection of interesting moments, too erratic to provide deep emotional satisfaction for the viewers.”
Dona Cooper, Writing Great Screenplays for Film and Television
The structure schema:

“There is something rotten in the state of Denmark.”
“Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi.  You’re my only hope.”
Star Wars 
“If happy little blue birds fly / why, oh why can’t I?”
The Wizard of Oz
Sets up the plot
Hooks the audience
Establishes mood, tone, pace, theme
Introduces protagonist & most major characters
Provides the “inciting incident”
Raises the central question
Establishes basic elements of the backstory
Identifies areas/lines of conflict
Establishes the antagonist
Contains the major catalyst for the action
The catalyst
the moment/sequence that brings all the threads of the Act I set-up to a head
Provides momentum and motivation and really starts the story.
Once the protagonist undergoes the catalyst, there is no turning back.
The catalyst raises the main dramatic (central) question.
The catalyst is the greatest push that gets the action going.

The catalyst is a moment of great decision/commitment (usually on the part of the protagonist).
The catalyst must occur within Act I (actually signals the end of Act I).

ACTS – identifying beginnings and ends.
each scene turns the drama in a minor but significant way;
a series of scenes builds into a sequence that turns the drama in a moderate, more impactful way;
And a series of sequences build into the Act, a movement that turns on a major reversal in the value-charged condition of the character’s life.
“An Act is a series of sequences that peaks in a climactic scene which causes a major reversal of values, more powerful in its impact than any previous sequence or scene.”
Robert McKee
ACT II/the middle act/the crisis act
“Life is pain Princess.  Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.”
The Princess Bride

“It seems unfair to presume I won’t be able to learn.”
American Beauty

“I have a bad feeling about this.”
Star Wars
Act II sees the situation that was set up in Act I developed.
We find out more
The cause-effect chain may diverge, taking us into new directions
The situation becomes more complicated – more events take place, more information is revealed, motivations may be revealed to be double edged
The stakes rise
The characters, more or less united at the catalyst are placed under increasing pressure leading to the crisis…
The crisis
the moment of drama that represents the greatest danger (physical/emotional/mental/spiritual)
the greatest loss
creates a new dilemma for the protagonist
Always involves a “death” of some sort.
Is the moment at which it seems least likely that everything will work out alright “in the end”?
Is the moment at which the central question seems to be answered in the negative.
Can be “played out” over a sequence – is not necessarily a single “moment”
Watching the protagonist emerge from the crisis to “fight on” gives the audience a renewed sense of hope.
The crisis occurs towards or right at the end of Act II.
“Le Roi est Mort.  Vive le Roi! - The King is Dead.  Long Live the King!”
European traditional

“Sure I could have been king.  But, in my own way, I am king.  Hail to the king, baby!”
Evil Dead 3 - Army of Darkness

“That’ll do Pig. That’ll do.”
Act III is the act where things are resolved, questions answered, ends tied up.
We get very little “new” information in this act; it’s all about seeing how the pieces fall.
What had diverged and split and unraveled in Act II “comes together” in Act III.
The final act should be the most dramatic – go out with a bang rather than the proverbial whimper…in other words, Act III gives us the climax…
The climax

The moment of greatest drama.
The moment that answers the central question.
The moment that allows the protagonist to use all the knowledge, skills, experience he/she has gained since the catalyst.
The climax is always right at the end of the Act III and is the effective end of your script.
The central question is the question audiences want answered when they ask “…and what happened in the end?”
The catalyst raises the central question.
The crisis re-states the central question and may seem to answer it (in the negative).
The climax answers the central question (usually in the positive).
Climaxes – making them memorable:
“Cinema is a combination of spectacle and truth” Francois Truffaut
Spectacle – an ending written for the eye
(This is a visual medium remember.)

Truth – an ending that “sums up” and concentrates all the meaning and emotion of your story.
Photography is truth.  Cinema is truth at 24 frames a second. “
Jean Luc Godard

Splintered (Short Australian film)
Gavin-on the outside
Protagonist: Gavin
Main Dramatic Question: Will Gavin redeem himself? Can Gavin get Kane to forgive him?
Ordinary World: Boys robbing houses
Refusal of the Call: Gavin does not stop the homeowner from bashing Kane
Meeting the Mentor: Doesn’t listen to the mentor (listens to the cowardly angel)
Tests, Allies, and Enemies: three visits: he is late, 2nd visit Kane doesn’t show up, 3rd visit gives the magazines. Tests: gives magazines to Kane, Grumpy Goal Guard.
Approach to the inmost cave: holds Kane’s hand
Inmost cave: Kane head-butts Gavin, guard beats Kane
Rebirth: Gavin attacks the guard.
New Life: Kane is standing up, whilst Gavin lies on the ground.

Plot points for Splintered
Gavin and Kane are robbing people’s houses.
Home owner comes home, and beats up Kane, because he is a thief.
Gavin does not hit the Home owner with the sports trophy and runs away.
Off-screen: Kane goes to Gaol.
Gavin visits Kane in Gaol:
1st visit Gavin arrives late to visit.
2nd visit Kane doesn’t show up, Gavin gives the guard a magazine.
Gavin returns to the house and gets a toy.
3rd visit Gavin tries to give the toy to Kane.
This leads to fight with the Prison guard.


What the hell is half-and-half? Apparently it's not an Arnold Palmer

Pumpkin, Corn, and Bell Pepper Chowder
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Serve this chowder with crisp Maryland Beaten Biscuits (page 312).
·         4 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
·         1 medium onion, finely diced
·         2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
·         6 cups chicken broth
·         One 12-ounce (340 grams, but most cans in Australia are 420 grams) can of creamed corn
·         2 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into ¼-inch cubes
·         1 cup fresh or caned pumpkin cut into  ¼-inch cubes (I used a segment of my Queensland blue, which was more than a cup)
·         ½ medium green bell pepper/capsicum, seeded and finely diced (I hate recipes that call for ‘half of an X, so I am using the full capsicum)
·         3 ears of fresh corn (there was no loose corn at Coles, so I bought a pack which had 4 cut ears)
·         1 pint/ 473 Millilitres half-and-half (what is this?)
·         Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
·         ¼ cup diced seeded red bell pepper for garnish (I am using a bullhorn chili)
In a large a large, heavy saucepan, fry the bacon over moderate heat till almost crisp, add the onion, and cook, stirring, till softened, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onion and cook stirring 2 minutes longer
Add the broth, stir, and bring to a boil. Add the creamed corn and bring slowly to a boil, stirring. Strain through a coarse sieve into another large, heavy saucepan, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Add the potatoes, pumpkin, and green bell pepper to the liquid, cut the kernels off the ears of corn, and add the mixture along with any milk  scraped from the ears. Bring to a low boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer till the potatoes and pumpkin are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the half-and-half and salt and pepper, stir well, and bring back to a simmer. Serve the chowder in deep soup bowls and garnish the tops of each portion with diced red bell peppers. (Villas 2007, 100)

Villas, James. 2007. The Glory of Southern Cooking. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

Well I have subsequently made this dish (with 6 slices of bacon) and it was extremely delicious and filling. 
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Paolo Uccello

So I have a Queensland Blue that weighs over 5 pounds... Or Buridan's Ass, Pumpkin Soup Edition.

I cannot decide which pumpkin soup to make. I will use the left over pumpkin to make  Pumpkin Custard with Cookie crumb crust (and probably a lot of other things). Can't decide which soup to go with.

Ash-e Kadu Tanbal
(Pumpkin pottage with rice and lentils, Tehran Province style)
8 to 10 servings
·         2 Ibs/90.185 grams fresh pumpkin
·         ½ cup rice
·         1 cup lentils or yellow split peas
·         2 cups plain yoghurt
·         2 Tablespoon brown sugar
·         Spices:
·         1 tsp salt
·         1 tsp nutmeg

Directions for Cooking
1.      Remove the skin and cut pumpkin pulp into 1-inch cubes
2.      Place pumpkin with rice, lentils or  split peas, 6 cups water, and salt in a large pot; bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, or until pumpkin becomes soft. If the ash becomes too thick, add more water.
3.      Just before serving, stir in yogurt, nutmeg and brown sugar.
OPTIONAL: When serving, stir in some croutons or pieces of Nan-e Khoshkeh(Iranian cracker bread; see recipe in the “breads” section. (Ghanoonparvar 1982-2006, 133)

Pumpkin Soup
·         3 ¼ pounds/1.474 kilograms pumpkin, peeled, seeded and diced
·         4 cups milk
·         2 heaping tablespoons butter
·         Salt and pepper
·         1 quantity croutons (p.183)
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves 6
Put the pumpkin in a large pan, pour in 6 1/3 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes, or until tender. Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Return to the pan, stir in the milk, season with salt and pepper and simmer for another 5 minutes. Put the butter and croutons into a tureen, pour the soup over them and serve. (Mathiot 2009, 194)

Pumpkin Soup
·         3 tablespoons olive oil
·         2 leeks, chopped and rinsed well
·         Scant 1 cup diced potatoes
·         About 1 ½ pounds/680 grams West Indian Pumpkin or butternut squash
·         2 ¼ cups hot milk
·         ½ teaspoon meat extract, Maggi Seasoning or beef soup base
·         Salt
Makes 3 ½ quarts/ 3.31 Litres
Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the leeks and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the potato and pumpkin, pour in 6 ¼ cups water, and season lightly with salt (remember that the meat extract or Maggi Seasoning will be salty). Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for about 45.  Remove the pan from the heat, and let cool slightly. Process the mixture, in batches, in a blender or food processor. Return to a clean pan and add the milk. Reheat gently and stir in the meat extract or Maggi Seasoning. Serve in a soup tureen.
Note: if you prefer, you can omit the potatoes and use 3 ¼ pounds/ 1.474 kilograms pumpkin instead. (Ortega, Ortega and Mariscal 2007, 103)


Ghanoonparvar, M. R. 1982-2006. Persian Cuisinine: Traditional, Regional, and Modern Foods. Costa Mesa, California: Mazda Publishers, Inc.

Mathiot, Ginette. 2009. I Know How to Cook. Translated by Imogen Forster. New York: Phaidon Press Limited.

Ortega, Simone, Ines Ortega, and Javier Mariscal. 2007. 1080 Recipes. Translated by Equipo D'Edicion. New York: Phaidon Press.

Lorenzo Monaco

My Dad wants me to make these dishes, he saw the recipe in a magazine

Pork chops with rhubarb
Serves 2

·         2*250 gram pork chops, 2.5 cm thick
·         ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
·         ½ teaspoon sea salt
·         Pinch of dried crushed chili
·         1 tablespoon sunflower oil
·         2 rashers bacon, chopped
·         1 leek, cut into thin rounds
·         Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
·         ¾ cup apple juice
·         2 stems rhubarb, cut into 4 cm pieces

Pound fennel, salt and chili; rub into pork.
Heat oil in a pan and add bacon and leeks; cook until leeks soften.
Add chops; cook for 2 minutes each side. Add orange zest, juice and apple juice; bring to boil, reduce heat and smmer for 5 minutes. Add rhubarb; cook for 55 minutes, gently swirling sauce. Remove chops and rhubarb; thicken sauce and season, then pour over pork.
Serves with mashed potato. (Herbert, 2014, p. 34)
Rhubarb Self-saucing pudding
Serves 6
·         90gram soft butter, plus extra for greasing
·         800 gram rhubarb, cut into 2.5 cm pieces
·         Juice and grated zest of 2 oranges
·         220 grams caster sugar
·         3 medium eggs, separated
·         75gram self-raising flour
·         200 ml milk
Preheat oven to 180˚C. Lightly grease a 2 litre ovenproof dish. Put rhubarb, orange juice and 3 tablespoons sugar in a pan and simmer gently for 7 minutes, until fruit is partly cooked. Place a sieve over a bowl and pour in rhubarb and juice; set aside to cool. Beat butter, remaining sugar and zest until pale and fluffy; add egg yolks, one at a time. Gradually mix in flour, milk and 150 ml of reserved juices, alternative each one and mixing well after each addition. Whisk egg whites to soft peaks and fold in. Place rhubarb in base of dish and spoon over batter. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until top is golden. Serve with cream or ice cream. (Herbert, 2014, p. 34)

Herbert, D. (2014, May 17-18). Autumn bounty. The Weekend Australian Magazine. (C. Midap, Ed.) Sydney, New South Wales, Australia: News PTY Limited.
Lorenzo Monaco

Are these supposed to be lenten versions of the same dish

Trying to find an Elena Molokhovets desert recipe that didn't involve like 90 egg yolks. I went to the Lenten section (also to match the lenten mushroom soup) and found this incredibly unclear recipe.

Fast Day Dough for sweet pirogs

(postnoe testo dlja sladkikh pirogov)

For 6 person. Early in the morning in the morning prepare a dough from 1 ½ glasses warm water, 1 ½ zolotniki dry yeast diluted in a little warm water, and 2 glasses fine wheat flour. Let the dough rise, beat thoroughly with a spatula, ad add 1 teaspoon salt and 2 spoons poppy seed, sunflower seed, or olive oil beaten with ½ glass sugar. For flavouring, add 10 cardamom seeds, lemon zest, 2-3 drops rose or lemon oil, vanilla, or cinnamon. Add the rest of the flour and knead.. Let it rise, shape into a rimmed circular pie, fill with apples, etc.  Decorate the top with strips of dough, and let rise. Paint with honey mixed with water and bake in the oven.

(Use 1½ -2 pounds flour in all.)

(Molokhovets, 1992, p. 582)

Which I think might be a Fast Day version of this dish. But I am not sure.

Open-faced sweet pie with apples or fresh berries

(Pirog sladkij s jablokami, ili svezhimi jagodami)

Ingredients (for 6 person)

·         6-9 apples

·         (lemon zest, ¼ glass currants)

·         ½ glass sugar

·         Cinnamon

·         ½ spoon butter

·         (1-2 wineglassses wine)

·         Or 1 pound/453.6 grams, nearly 3 glasses, fresh berries  and ½ glass sugar

·         For the yeast dough

·         ¾ glass milk

·         1-2 spoons yeast, or 1 zolotnk dried yeast

·         1 pound/453.6 grams, or 3 glasses flour

·         ¼ pound/113.398 grams butter

·         2-3 egg yolks

·         1/8 glass sugar and cinnamon or 3-4 ground cardamom seeds

·         1 egg to paint the dough

·         Or, ingredients for short or puff pastry.

Prepare the yeast dough. Peel 6-9 apples, chop them fine, and fry them lightly with ½ glasses sugar, a little cinnamon, and 1 spoon of butter. Add a wineglass or 2 of wine, finely chopped lemon zest, and, if desired, scalded currants. Stew all this until the mixture thickens. After the dough has risen, roll out a thin circle, top it with the prepared apples, surround with a thin rim of pastry, cover with a lattice that same dough, paint with egg, and bake. Or, instead of the apples, cover the dough with jam or fresh berries and sprinkle with sugar. Serve sugar separately. This same pie may also be made from short or puff pastry. (Molokhovets, 1992, p. 380)


Molokhovets, E. (1992). Classic Russian Cooking: Elena Molokhovets' A Gift to young housewives (2nd ed.). (J. Toomre, Trans.) Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

These recipes feel similar, I have bought pink moscato for the wine (she doesn't say red or white wine, so this seems like a good compromise). Not sure what to substitute for butter should be when making the apples.

Petrus Christus

Should I use fresh mushrooms

Mushroom Noodle Soup with Vermicelli or Macaroni

·         1/8-1/4 pounds or 56-113 Grams mushrooms
·         1-2 onions
·         ¼ pounds macaroni or, 1  1/3 glasses flour for the noodles
·         (12 potatoes)
·         2-3 bay leaves
·         Greens
·         2 carrots
·         1 celery root
·         1 parsley root
·         1 leek
·         10-15 allspice berries
·         1-2 spoons oil
·         Black pepper
Boil the dried mushrooms with 1 onion and a  little allspice. Strain the bouillon and finely chop the mushrooms. Fry 1 finely chopped onion in 1 spoon of sunflower or nut oil, add the mushrooms, barely fry them, and dilute with mushroom bouillon. Meanwhile, drop homemade noodles or Italian macaroni into boiling water, drain in a colander, and rinse with cold water. Let the mushroom bouillon come to a boil, then add the noodles and cook until done. To serve, sprinkle with greens. Potatoes, boiled separately, maybe to these noodles.
(Molokhovets 1992, 550)
Molokhovets, Elena. 1992. Classic Russian Cooking: Elena Molokhovets' A Gift to young housewives. 2nd. Translated by Joyce Toomre. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

See it's easier for me to get fresh mushrooms, but what kind of modifications to the recipe would I have to make if I did use fresh mushrooms instead of dried ones.
Petrus Christus

today I cooked...

with spaghetti squash. Mum's previous experience with it (via my father's terrible cooking) were not favourable. But following this recipe from the Veganomicon yielded excellent results. I even came back for seconds. I did however use more like 2 cups of wine,1 onion and 1 golden shallot, rather than buying jalapeños I just used the Thai chillies that I keep in the freezer. I also used dried black eyed peas as I do not like canned food; neither grocer had black beans so I used black eyed peas which I soaked for a day then cooked in a pressure cooker.

Spaghetti Squash Mexicana with Tropical Avocado Salsa Fresca

Serves 4 to 6

Time: 1 Hour 15 minutes

1 spaghetti squash (around 3 pounds/1360 Grams)

Tropical Salsa Fresca:

1 cup chopped tomato ( ½ inch chunks)

I cup chopped pineapple, mango or papaya ( ½ inch chunks)

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into ½ inch chunks

¼ cup lightly packed chopped fresh coriander/cilantro

Juice of 1 lime

Bean mixture

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 medium sized yellow onion, diced.

2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped small

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed

1 ½ teaspoons chile powder

½ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup red cooking wine

1 cup fresh or frozen corn (if frozen partially thawed)

1 (15 ounces/425 grams)can black beans, drained and rinsed  (1 ½ cups)

2 teaspoons hot sauce, or to taste

First bake the squash: preheat the oven to 375˚F/190˚C. Cut the squash in half across its waist (widthwise) Scoop out the seeds. Prick the squash halves with a fork five or six times. Fill a baking dish with about an inch of water and place the squash cut sie down in the dish. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the skin is easily pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, prepare the salsa:

In a small mixing bowl, toss all those ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Then prepare the bean mixture:

Preheat a large, heavy-bottomed skilled over medium-high heat and saute the onions and jalapeños in the oil for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and coriander seesd, and saute for 2 more minutes. Add the remaining spices, salt, and the wine, raised the heat, and boil for about 2 minutes, stirring often.

Lower the heat and add the corn, black beans, and hot sauce. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the corn is heated through and the wine has reduced.

If the squash is not done by this point, cover the bean mixture. If they cool by the time the squash is ready, then gently reheat. The bean mixture should be hot when served.

When your squash is ready, remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes until you can handle it without burning yourself. Cut the squash halves  in half lengthwise. Shred and scoop out the flesh with a spoon, add  the bean mixture, and toss with tongs to separate the strings and mix.

Divide among individual plates and top with salsa fresca.

Serve immediately. (Moskowitz & Romero, 2007, pp. 178-179)


Moskowitz, I. C., & Romero, T. H. (2007). The Veganomicon. Cambridge, MA: De Capo Press.

Dieric Bouts 1460

A book by Blema S. Steinberg: Women in Power

The Personalities and leadership Styles of of Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, and Margaret Thatcher.
This was a really useful book for anyone trying to create strong female leaders. After all fiction should ultimately have some basis in the empirical reality that we live in.
Mother India: Gandhi was the product of a caste system and India's political royalty to boot, the woman was mildly narcissistic and had a giant sense of entitlement; she would probably be the most useful if you are writing about aristocratic characters, since she was more or less a product of such a society.
Probably the worst on feminist grounds since female infanticide increased whilst she was prime minister. However she was a socialist and feminists are therefore inclined to be sympathetic.
Her regime was also corrupt, and she was authoritarian, remaining in power by non-democratic means.
Fun Fact: My mother is of the opinion that Gandhi probably had her husband murdered...
The Jewish Grandmother: Golda Meir began life as a plucky girl who had to fight for her education and against a marriage to a man twice her age, she married a man of artistic temperament, lived on a kibbutz, and eventually became prime minister of Israel. Interestingly enough for a woman who was so dumpy and grandmotherly (apparently Golda's Shoes is an Israeli expression that means 'ugly old things' after the orthopaedic shoes Meir wore) , she seems to have been the one with the most boyfriends (after her marriage collapsed she seems to have had about 4 boyfriends: all of them rather gifted and handsome... one in particular is described as tall and broad shouldered)*.  Also the best parent of the three
Fun Fact: My father often blames the fact that the Israel's nearly lost the Yom Kippur war on Meir's feminine sensibility (that is the inability to act with sufficient ruthlessness), but it seems that it was more or less a combination of factors (lack of education, the downside of the dominating and conscientious personality patterns, slight paranoia meant that she restricted her circle to the kitchen cabinet)...
The Iron Lady: Margaret Thatcher
dominating, ideological,  driven by moral intensity... easily the best prime minister of the three. Preferable to Gandhi (since all people, male and female alike, benefit from a strong economy),but had engaged in psychological splitting (seeing her father as the all good parent, and her mother as the all bad parent) and therefore had a fraught relationship with other women her whole life. This would account for the lack of women in her cabinet, and her antagonistic relationship with the feminist movement (although she regarded Marxism as evil, and sadly the Feminist movement has been intensely co-opted by Marxism). If you were a feminist author, you might look at Thatcher's childhood and relationships with other women as a way to create a female villain. This does not change the fact that Thatcher was over all rather heroic (driven as she was by a desire to fight evil), if we are generous, we could argue that her opposition to abortion reform and gay rights was a function of her religiosity (Thatcher was brought up Methodist and seems to be the most pious of the three) though Steinberg later notes that when one of her cabinet colleagues was accused of homosexual cruising, she was amazingly loyal and supportive.
Thatcher dressed conservatively, but she enjoyed being sexy. She was blonde and seems taller than the other two women: the sort of woman that men say they find sexy, yet she seems to have only been linked to Dennis Thatcher**, and therefore comes across as rather maidenly.

*To which I say good on her!
** Despite the fact that she liked to surround herself with handsome men of a certain age. To which I say good on her!