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  • Writer's picturePhil Parker

Screenwriting Tips: Toy Story 3 Writer

Michael Arndt, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Little Miss Sunshine, has put together an incredible video to give us a deep-dive look into his work on Toy Story 3. I spent a whole Sunday afternoon watching it, re-watching it, absorbing it, and taking notes.

Here are a few of the tips I gleaned from Michael's video:

INCITING INCIDENT: it can be the best or worst thing that could happen to your hero, but its importance lies in how it touches on their greatest hope/fear. For that begins the emotional arc of your story. The audience needs to care that your hero cares about this hope/fear. If your audience is empathetic, then the emotional pay-offs for them at the end of Act Two and in the Act Three climax will be a resounding success.

FIRST ACT BREAK: The inciting incident touches off your hero's long-term goal, but the First Act Break (or soon after that) gives your hero a short-term goal that will help them reach the end. For example, in The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wants to get back to Kansas, but first, she must find the Wizard. In Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hanks wants to get home too, but first, he must fulfil his duty and find Private Ryan.

MID-POINT: The 'reversal of fortune' moment in a script. Whatever goal the hero was working towards, it changes here. They have to rejig their plan, come up with a new solution because a big obstacle is in their way. BUT, as soon as the hero has a new goal, you also need to throw up a new obstacle. And if you have multiple story threads going and they all encounter reversals, make those happen as close together as possible.

The rest of Michael's insights I will leave up to you to discover. If you're familiar with the hero's journey story paradigm, much of this will be familiar to you, but Michael has a way of looking at it that is very insightful.

I hope you enjoy and get as much out of the video as I did. Mr Arndt also has some other fabulous videos you should check out:


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