Tuesday, January 6, 2009



It's pretty simple, if you can't clearly answer ALL 21 of these questions then you're not ready to start writing. A builder doesn't start a home without a set of blueprints. These questions will help you create your blueprints. I originally saw a list similar to this in UCLA's graduate film school, by now it's commonplace. Good Luck!

1. What is the GENRE and TONE you are establishing?

2. Who is your PROTAGONIST? What is most relevant about his or her BACKSTORY? Why does the story start today?

3. What is the most VALUABLE aspect of his or her ORDINARY WORLD?

4. What is your protagonist’s main CHARACTER FLAW?

5. What is the THRESHOLD to the crisis (see question 8)? The threshold will occur around page 9-14 of act 1.

6. Who/what is the ANTAGONIST? (introduced prior to the end of act 1)

7. What is the specific incident that occurs at plot point 1?

8. This incident will create a CRISIS in your protagonist’s life. What is the crisis? how does this crisis create a loss of his/her destiny ( DESTINY WANTED)

9. What ACTION does he take to regain control of his destiny? What is his MAIN GOAL or PLAN in the face of crisis? What will happen if this goal is NOT attained? What’s at STAKE?

10. What is the MIDPOINT of the plot? How do the STAKES ESCALATE in the middle of act 2? What UNFORSEEN OBSTACLE is now in the way?

11. What is Plot Point 2 (end of act 2)? What is the specific incident that changes the direction of the plot? That is, the original plan (set up at the end of act 1) is now found to be completely unworkable, and thus abandoned. What is the NEW PLAN?

12. How does this incident put your character at a CROSSROADS? What EPIPHANY does your protagonist have about his life that creates new choices about his destiny? (DESTINY UNWANTED)

13. What is the NEW GOAL that grows out of this epiphany? How does the goal differ from the goal stated in #9 above?

14. How do the STAKES INTENSIFY as a result of the epiphany?

15. What is the TICKING CLOCK or deadline by which this new goal must be accomplished?

16. What is the CLIMAX? What is the SHOWDOWN between protagonist and antagonist? How has the above character flaw been overcome? What TRUTH emerges?

17. What is the END place? How much and what gets wrapped up?

18. What is the THEME of the piece? What does the ENTIRE SCREENPLAY stand for? What do you want the audience to come away with?

19. What is the ULTIMATE QUESTION posed? That is, what question are you posing allegorically in Acts 1 and 2 that get answered in act 3? And, what’s the thematic answer?

20. What’s the HOOK of the movie? That is, what is the central scenario/premise of the movie and what is the inherent conflict of the premise? Example: A guy’s best friend becomes his worst enemy. Or: A man becomes a better man by pretending to be a woman.

21. What is your working title?

(Note: His And He Is Interchangeable With Hers And She)


  1. Excellent list of question. I'm going to use this. It's great to have a check list.

  2. Thank you for this starting point. Could you explain number 6 in more detail? I am kinda stuck here.

    thank you.

  3. In simplest terms, the antagonist is your villain, Ex. Luke Skywalker/Darth Vader. It's is usually a person who opposes your hero, but it can also be something within your hero (like addiction), or something physical (the Matrix, city hall, a crooked legal system). It can be argued that Luke Skywalker isn't actually fighting Darth Vader, he's fighting the Empire, and Darth just happens to be a manifestation of that. Regardless, we always have to meet the antagonist in the first act.

  4. I'd definitely have to give your 21 questions the two thumbs UP!

    The Antagonist in my script is not a person, but the Protagonist's own "fear" of accomplishment and rejection. I hope that's possible according to your checklist.