Some of you know that I’ve been enrolled in the screenwriting certification program at the New School, and about to start my 3rd semester in a few weeks.
Through the program, I’ve been developing my own screenplay—a dark comedy tentatively entitled Naco. Now, my goal is to get the script as awesome as it can possibly be so that it sells. Yep, this is to be a commercial script, meaning I want whoever reads it to think, “Yeah, I’d go see this in a movie theater.” And that someone is not only a Hollywood type, but also you, your neighbor, partner, bookie, relative-in-the-industry (hint, hint)… basically anyone who enjoys watching movies.
Alex Epstein, the author of Crafty Screenwriting, stresses that it’s critical for a script to have a hook. Unless you’re Tarantino or the scion of some mega-movie producer, a hookless script (and all the hard work you put into it) will die a quiet death. One of many millions that fail to get past even the most junior script reader or development exec. (In all fairness, I think Tarantino’s scripts have great hooks; they don’t always get made into great films, but that’s another issue.)
I think my script has a good hook. But I want to be sure, and that’s where you can help. First off, here it is, presented as a logline:
“Arrogant young jerk fakes his own kidnapping for the ransom money, but his wealthy parents, thrilled to be rid of him, won’t pay.”
This is basically the setup, the amount of story information presented in the first 20 pages or so. It doesn’t mention why he wants the money, or why his parents are pleased he’s out of their lives. All will be revealed as it unfolds. What I’m trying to establish here is that there’s enough in that logline to make anyone react, “I gotta know what happens next!”
So you tell me:
> Are you interested in finding out what happens next?
> Does it remind you of other movies?
> What questions come to mind when you read the logline?
Now compare that with this logline, which is how my story is currently structured:
“Middle-aged loser and pretend-Green Beret is hired by the mob to bring back a guy who owes money, but then helps him fake his kidnapping for a share of the ransom money.”
Which would you rather see? (If it’s neither, please don’t be afraid to let me know.) The nut is still there—the faked kidnapping—but now it’s the wannabe’s story instead of the arrogant jerk. As much as I’m drawn to this other character—and the whole fascinating subculture of special forces frauds and poseurs—it feels unsatisfactory to me.
Thoughts? And I’m open to all sorts of questions or comments about setting, character arc, tone, character motivations. Because it helps me make the story better when I bounce ideas off people and get their feedback. Thanks.