William Goldman––screenwriter of "Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid," "Marathon Man," and "All the President's Men"––was once asked how to write a screenplay. It's easy, he answered, you just put a sheet of paper into a typewriter and type Fade In.
Yep, that is true, but before you waste six months of your life trying to write the next Butch, you need to ask yourself one question punk: Do you have a hook?
Here, courtesy of Alex Epstein, author of Crafty Screenwriting (the best how-to book I've read, and I've read them all) an explanation of The Hook:
A hook is the concept of the picture in a nutshell. Not just any concept. A hook is a fresh idea for a story that instantly makes show business people interested in reading your script, and then makes the audience want to see your movie.
So let's play guess the movie from the hook:
(A) A man is about to commit suicide when an angel shows him what his town would be like if he had never lived.
(B) Two people who hate each other write each other anonymously and fall in love.
(C) A bunch of unemployed Brits decide to put on a striptease act to earn some money.
(D) Three filmmakers went into the woods to tape a documentary on a legendary witch. These are the tapes we found after they disappeared.
(E) A puppeteer finds a secret tunnel into John Malkovich's brain. (That's a gimme.)
(F) There's a bomb on a crowded city bus. If the bus slows below 50 miles an hour, the bomb will go off.
(G) A man discovers he has been replaced by his clone.
(H) A journalist finds a heart wrenching love letter in a bottle. She tracks down the man who wrote it, and falls in love with him.
(I) An eccentric scientist recreates dinosaurs from fossilized DNA and opens a theme park. They run amok.
(A) It's a Wonderful Life
(B) The Shop Around the Corner, You've Got Mail
(C) The Full Monty
(D) The Blair Witch Project
(E) Being John Malkovich
(G) The Sixth Day
(H) Message In A Bottle
(I) If you need the answer to this one you're in the wrong class.
Alex mentored me in writing my first screenplay–––for a fee, he'll do the same for you.