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Making a Good Script Great

Written by Linda Seger

Published by Samuel French Trade Publishing 1994

226 Pages

Reviewed by Beth Morrow 2006– All rights reserved


Turning points, subplots, motivation, theme, beats and backstory….As a writer, you’ve no doubt heard these terms flung around as essentials of every story. But if asked to give a solid, descriptive, user-friendly definition to a writing colleague (and toss in an example from a movie for illustration purposes, just for the fun of it), could you?

Yeah. Me either. Lucky for us, Linda Seger can—and does—magnificently in her Making a Good Script Great. Now, don’t balk because it sounds like a script writer’s book (it is) and because it probably focuses on structure (it does). With an abundance of usable, pertinent and insightful information, Seger’s book is a keeper for your reference shelf.

Broken into four distinctive and information-packed sections: Story Structure, Idea Development, Character Development and A Case Study, Seger’s book goes beyond the typical how-to spiel by drawing on a variety of popular movies to define each element of structure she introduces.

She begins the book with a broad overview of the value and necessity of structure in any piece of fiction. If you’re reading to improve your plot, start here. By the time you move on to section two, you’ll have a stronger grasp of not only why your fiction needs structure but how to work it in at any stage of your manuscript. Especially of note is the information on how to strengthen your sagging middles. No, not sit ups and crunches, but that elusive swampland known as Act 2, where good beginnings sometimes stall and become the unfinished stories filling our dresser drawers.

Idea Development is relatively brief and probably the section most applicable to screenwriters looking to get Hollywood on board with their next big idea, but be sure to at least skim it. "Making It Commercial" and "Creating the Myth" will give fiction writers food for thought in developing the universal theme—the underlying emotion to help your story appeal to the widest audience possible.

Have trouble creating characters? Be sure to check out the third section on character development. The very nature of bringing a story to life via a screenplay relies on visual and verbal elements, not exposition, to create character. Translated from scripts to manuscripts, this is simple: show, don’t tell. I venture to say that even published fiction writers might learn a trick or two from Seger’s excellent advice and questions designed to strengthen and deepen character.

If you’ve got plot problems, structure issues or character concerns, be sure to pick up Linda Seger’s Making a Good Script Great. You’ll never look at movie structure the same way again….


About the author: Beth Morrow has written in just about every genre but screenwriting. A freelancer who loves writing fiction, her latest article can be found in the October 2006 Romance Writers Report on creating dynamic characters through authentic dialogue. Visit her and her almost-daily writing blog on the web at: www.bethmorrow.com


         Last updated: February 19, 2007