m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...

Some Disassembly Required

Via Daring Fireball: John August advises screenwriters to improve their plotting skills through reverse-engineering.

So let me offer some good news. The stuff you’re not especially good at — story, structure, plot — can actually be learned. If you were writing in for advice about how to be funnier or more charismatic, I would have probably let your email sit in the growing folder of unanswerable questions, because those are pretty much inherent qualities.

My advice for you is to dedicate one day a week to disassembling good movies. Take existing films (and one-hour dramas) and break them down to cards. Think of yourself as an ordinary mechanic given the task of reverse-engineering a spaceship. Figure out what the pieces do, and why they were put together in that way.