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Notes From "Story" by Robert Mckee          Page 2

to do- no murder-

14. “Midnight Run” action adventure
15. Die Hard- creative when Bruce Willis has gun strapped to his back
16. The audience is smarter than you are- when watching a film don’t you sometimes feel more intelligent than what you’re watching
17. Use your craft to stay one step ahead of the audience
18. Genre and setting should be your inspiration
19. Action-thriller must have a great scene, you will force you to do better-swim up stream- the harder you make it on yourself the better your story
20. “Best in Show” is brilliant
21. You can create a new COMBINATION but not a new genre
22. Genre change- a brilliant writer might advance a genre-like Chinatown-“Seven”
23. Psycho-drama- insane people
24. We all know we have a lunatic within
25. The people closest to you are crazy people
26. Love story- where’s the story in a love story- what’s to stop them?
27. The parents of the girl will stop them- blocking characters
28. The Graduate: her mom was the blocking characters
29. “In the mood for love” set in 1960, because not true today
30. Sleepless ends on boy meets girl-not loving, but longing
31. “N Hill” is a love story-
32. Hunger for romance is still there-“As good as it gets”
33. To sell- the writer of “Seven”- agent took phone call- made pitch- assistant read it-he had a great idea and had written it-
34. If it is of surpassing quality-it will happen-if you can really write you have no competition
35. You must find that subject that will keep  you going- what gets me going-what interests me-what’s my favorite genre- what keeps  my love for movies
36. Only one good reason to write, the kind that you love. Money is never enough
37. “What is my story” before I sign-“what’s your favorite movies”- don’t sell you soul- they are butchers-love of what you love


1. Story
2. Character
3. Meaning
4. Dialogue
5. Spectacle (beautiful photography is not where its at)
6. The worst “The English Patient”…. worst story
7. This is not the truth- get inside your characters
8. They did not act like any human being I know
9. Hunger for romance is not dead- Titanic is a romance novel for the screen
10. Titanic expresses the power of empathy
11. “The talented Mr. Ripley”
12. Interesting means “I felt nothing”
13. What a great story! Is what you want your audience to think
14. Character is story, story is character
15. Characterization is the sum total of observable qualities- when it is well done it creates a character that is unique-who is this person, really?- underneath- honest or a lyre?
16. True Character is revealed in the choices under pressure to take one action or another
17. Mask of characterization will be stripped away-
18. Put them under pressure in contrast to – don’t make them a block of cement- no one is what they appear to be- the other person inside- the one we’re working on-
19. Rambo was good at first, but he became a block of cement in other films
20. Revelation of true character, contrast character, “The Verdict”-we see his a hopeless alcoholic –the lost soul- then comes the case-his last chance in life-win justice for this victim-he will never have another real moment-
21. End of film we see him deeply change-
22. Contradictory true character-build pressure-
23. Convincingly makes choices that is truthful-audience must find it credible-
24. The events of the story are the choices the characters make- they are revealed under pressure-
25. Same characterizations different person
26. If you change the character you have to re invent the choices and actions-
27. 75% goes into telling the story- not true-when screenplay has been written and the dialogue has been added- then you are ready to shoot
28. Dialogue first is the worst way to work
29. Effort goes in design of the story
30. Greatest scene is in climax- must have in order to be good- a movie is about the last twenty minutes
31. Cousins in movie is art and dance- final part the best-the movie will not have legs
32. Characterization: age, true character: what he does- a great ending “Greed”
33. True character is same- all story is plot driven-and character driven
34. Complexity of character is inappropriate in action or comedy- kill the laughs
35. Education plot demands complex characters- and the story telling must be perfect
36. Action- what are we going to do different-simple but fascinating
37. Appropriate of character is chosen by the genre

Controlling Idea: one simple sentence that expresses the meaning of the story-
1. This becomes a guide to us
2. Story is always an emotional- non intellectual-
3. In life emotion and idea come separately- sudden emotion with sudden knowledge
4. in art we have an epiphany- when these things come together- a meaningful emotional experience- what we get from great writers, not from life
5. not just express your ideas but prove them to audience
6. story is the demonstration of truth without explanation- not a word of explanation- through the pure
7. a person can say anything- but you don’t see it till its acted out-
8. crime story is about two murders-
9. create a beautiful design of events
10. premise: inspiration: the first idea: What if? What would happen if?
11. (story about a good son who goes bad out of pride, and another son who goes to protect his father to the point of killing his brother- identical twins-convinces towns people- frames his father and damages his name-time gives evidence that dad is innocent of charges- won’t take action until its time-lies in such a way that causes death)
12. idea and counter idea-
13. build the story that they do not ultimately express- make sure scenes positive/negative with special  work on the other side-
14. there are two points view in things- writers think from all sides- positive and negative views from all sides-
15. sentence: what value is brought into life of character
16. sentence: in climax what primary value( justice will tri)
17. second half of idea: but how and why will this take place-
18. justice is restored because Dirty Harry is more violent than the criminals
19. controlling idea: how and why life changes expressed in the values over the coarse of the story
20. Idealist: love “Hannah and her sisters”- optimistic
21. Pessimist: not as we would wish it to be, but how it is- evil exists in the world- both angels and devils
22. social structure- struggle –balance between good and evil-
23. hatred: objects of pleasure- a game-
24. ironic: merges idealist and pessimistic
25. Films that end in irony tends to be the ones we love the most-
26. life cuts both ways- out of the worst of experiences something can be gained-
27. irony is not ambiguous  in one action
28. Wall Street is a down ending film
29. Network- Star 80-All that Jazz-War of the Roses-
30. Brink of self destruction then pull out – Jerry Mc-Baby Boom-Terms of Endearment-suffering is a part of life-finally excepts her age
31. Out of Africa- “I am what I own”- utterly obsessed by everything she owns
32. Dominate controlling ideas in awards-
33. why do we tell story: how and why life changes for us- stressed without explanation- even if they don’t like the idea-
34. ugliest idea: you should kill someone because you think they should be
35. Truth: when you are in the presents of it you know it-
36. Whatever the truth is- what primary value have I brought into the world-one deep primary reason- cause and value: controlling idea
37. The discovery of what you find in the writing yourself- put idea on computor-didactic – smells wrong and is not true
38. you do not know the meaning of your film until you have created the ending of your film- the ending- do I believe that this is real life-
39. an honest act of art is what you believe in-
40. Structure: audience; first: they need a reason to go through the ritual-
41. audience opens itself up-
42. rules don’t exist but principals are real
43. you must engage the interest of the audience for two hours and hold them and then pay it off in the end
44. constantly provoke questions in the audiences mind- “how will this turn out?”
46. alternation  between tension and relaxation is the rhythm of life

1. where does the energy come from?
2. mind of character: PROTAGONIST
3. could be more than one person; dirty dozen
4. all members of this group want the same thing- they suffer and benefit mutually
5. all protagonist have will-power-a willful character
6. “A street car named desire”- Blance wants escape from reality-goes insane to finally escape reality
7. they have a desire-a need-a goal- it must be conscience
8. pull him aside is ask him-what do you want?
9. conscience and unconscious desires contradict one another
10. must have the capacity to pursue their desire
11. hope is not irrational-if I bust my ass then I have a chance
12. will pursue their desire to the end of the line beyond which the audience can not imagine another-
13. don’t let audience rewrite your film
14. to the limit of human experience
15. story telling is not about the middle ground of human experience
16. * note on plot: father wants to give the sons inheritance away to build a park, and help the third generation of helpers
17. a protagonist must be likeable-empathic means “like me”
18. audience must see that the character is in some way like me
19. protagonist is the emotional door through which the audience must go
20. that character is like me; therefore, I want that character to have what I would want
21. audience is really rooting for themselves
22. taste in film determines who your friends are
23. they may not be likeable, but should evoke empathy
24. great actors want to swim upstream- draw the audience into the character
25. challenge is empathy
26. novels control your mind- dictatorial
27. camera is an x-ray machine
28. writing now: what will my character do?
29. he will always take the minimal conservative action-they will never do more or less- true to nature- it never does anything that it doesn’t have to(from the character’s point of view)
30. relative to the character’s point of view-he “thinks” if I do this- no rational process- if  I cross the street now the car is far enough away and will miss me
31. action: based on our sense of probability- keyed to what we already know about life- 99% of time we are correct-
32. NEVER! NEVER! IN A STORY: instead they get forces of antagonism when they discover necessity- what happens ( in a way you did not expect)
33. the world reacts: writer is located at the core (who am I? Me)
34. awareness that sits back there watching what you do- that is you
36. when the world does not react the way you expect- then the minds reconfigures reality- move into the next action( demands more will-power), then you are put at risk
37. greater the value, greater the risk
38. what’s the risk? What does he want? What the character wants is of no value if everything goes back to normal- what would you risk your life for- your soul for-
39. risks? Time and money? Relationships? Desk in morning? Turn off the process?
40. what is true for you is true for your character


1. Emotional truth: get inside the character
2. “A Long Day’s Journey Into Night” greatest play by an American
3. Don’t watch your character from the theatre
5. Writers are actors p. 152
6. gambling is about the moment just before you know you’ve won or lost- the rush
7. note script in Hollywood
10. subjective and objective worlds collide is where story begins
11. they gain empathy from the audience- there is that “Oh God moment”
12. Movie going is not passive- waves of energy moves through the audience


1. First: what is the outside world of my character- job?-meals?-shopping? Ect.
2. What are the economics of my world-politics?- (arrangement of power in any situation)( all human situations are built around power structures)
3. Love relationships:” he that confesses first looses-
4. power matters- back stabbing politics- if you’re 18 and have no cause you have no heart, if you’re thirty and are still involved you have no brains
5. What are the rituals for my character- driving rituals-what are the morals? What is valuable? What would they give their life for?
6. (mistake to want to be free as a writer- you want limitations-genre)
7. (why? Imagination sweats, you will create your best work)
8. what is the back story?(not biography) what are the previous significant events that the writer can use in the story)

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