GLVWG’s Geoffrey Mehl, interviewed Michael Hauge, keynote speaker, special seminar and master class instructor for The GLVWG WriteStuff Writer’s Conference™, March 23-25, 2017 .
Michael is a story and script consultant, author, and lecturer who works with writers and filmmakers on screenplays, novels, movies, and television projects. He has coached writers, producers, stars and directors for every major film studio and network. He is also the best-selling author of Writing Screenplays That Sell and Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read. He has presented lectures and workshops to more than 70,000 writers and filmmakers around the world. In the words of Will Smith, “No one is better than Michael Hauge at finding what is most authentic in every moment of a story.”
Hauge’s Six-Stage approach to story structure divides any successful story into setup, new situation, progress, complications and higher stakes, retreat and final push, and aftermath. These stages are divided by five key turning points: opportunity, change of plans, point of no return, major setback and climax. For a more detailed explanation of his approach, go to this article on his website: STORY STRUCTURE: The 5 Key Turning Points of All Successful Screenplays
Interview by Geoffrey Mehl
GLWVG: Tell us how you expanded traditional Three-Act Theory into the Six-Stage, Five-Turning Point design and story management structure you’ll be presenting at the all-day session on Thursday.
Michael Hauge: I consider the six-stage, five-turning-point approach as an expansion of three-act structure (setup, conflict, resolution) into defining the two elements of each act and what needs to happen in each and at what points. After looking at hundreds of successful screenplays and films, plus thousands of screenplays that didn’t work, I asked, “What’s the difference?” And most of the time, it comes down to story concept and plot structure. In successful screenplays, the structure is rigidly prescribed, while in best selling novels, there’s a bit more latitude percentage-wise. But screenplays that don’t follow structure are not optioned or produced. The same is true for novels. Book publishers choose stories with these same elements. They all know audiences desire an emotional experience and that this structure is a foundation for it.
GLWVG: Writers seem to fall into two camps — pantsers and outliners. How might the seminar accommodate the preferences of each?
MH: My belief is that both processes are valid; it just depends which is the most comfortable, and which is leading the writer to a finished first draft. Work by pantsers is freer flowing, but ultimately the writer will have to put in more effort in revisions, in order to trim away scenes that don’t support the hero’s goals. Those who outline in detail lose the initial fun and adventure of simply going where the story takes them, but they will probably begin the first full draft with the story structure in place, requiring fewer major rewrites. But either way, sooner or later the writer has to pay the piper and confront the issue of plot structure.
GLVWG: What pitfalls can inexperienced writers avoid by using this concept?
MH: If you understand core structure, you can focus on your hero’s visible goal, a compelling objective with challenging obstacles your hero must overcome. Good stories are about conflict and obstacles on the way to compelling goals, not situation or desire. Without structure, stories become way too complicated. Writers without a plan usually add more plot, more characters, more goals, and the story loses its ability to elicit an emotional response.
GLWVG: Some might see these types of structures as formulaic or confining. Are they? What are the advantages of using them?
MH: The people who see structure in that way are half right. It IS a formula. But it’s not confining — it’s liberating. The blank page is an overwhelming thing to confront, but if you have some kind of framework, some litmus test about what should be in a story, what the goal and the conflict are, and how the hero transforms, creating that story becomes less intimidating. When you know that CHINATOWN, AVATAR, SHREK, THE KING’S SPEECH and 40-YEAR OLD VIRGIN all follow the same 6-Stage structure, it’s pretty hard to argue that it hinders creativity.
GLVWG: One of the topics you’ll discuss relates to pitching one’s work. How does your structure approach help queries, pitches, synopses?
MH: Queries are just a succinct paragraph or two, like the blurb on the back of a book. Pitches are verbal – one- to two-minute presentations on the phone, at conferences or at pitch fests, where the goal is simply to get your work read or seen. Synopses cover an entire story from beginning to end. Only synopses would include all six stages and five turning points; the other forms simply convey the key elements of stories, so a potential buyer can decide if they want to actually read them. When your writing a query or giving a pitch, you never want to try to tell your entire story. Instead you want to convey its potential for commercial success by revealing seven key elements of your story. I’ll reveal what these seven elements are at the conference.
GLWVG: In addition to the all-day seminar on Thursday, what other presentations will you make?
MH: On Friday, I’ll take a close look at a single film to show how it illustrates all of the principles of character and structure that I will have revealed in my all day seminar. I will also use film clips to talk about the principles and methods for writer powerful, emotionally compelling scenes for both film and fiction. And in my keynote address on Saturday, I’ll talk about how heroes of stories serve as models for how we can achieve success and fulfillment in our own lives.
GLWVG: It all sounds very exciting. Thanks for your time and sharing with us.
MH: My pleasure. I’m looking forward to seeing all of you in March!
Michael Hauge is the best selling author of Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read, as well as the new 20th Anniversary Edition of his classic book Writing Screenplays That Sell. A number of Michael’s seminars, including The Hero’s 2 Journeys with Christopher Vogler, are available on DVD, CD and streaming video through this website, and through booksellers throughout the world.
Michael has coached screenwriters, producers, stars and directors on projects for every major studio and network, most recently I AM LEGEND, HANCOCK and THE KARATE KID for Will Smith and Overbrook Entertainment; MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE for Columbia Pictures; BAKUGAN for Universal Pictures, and MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES, and LOVE, ROSIE for SONY Pictures and Constantin Film.
Michael has a Masters Degree in Education from the University of Georgia. He has worked in Hollywood for the past 35 years, and has presented seminars, lectures and keynotes in person and online to more than 70,000 participants worldwide.
And don’t forget to sign up for his seminar and master class at The Write Stuff conference March 23-25, 2017. If you sign up by December 20 during our “Cyber Weeks Discount Special”, save 20% on the regular cost of the conference.