Mort Albertson’s Story Hexagon
A Storytelling Revelation Brought On By A Pretty Bad Concussion
As someone who makes their living telling other people how to write, sometimes revelation hits me right smack dab in the forehead. Like just this morning I suffered a fairly strong blow to the head when I took a dip in my friend’s pool, forgetting which side was the deep end. Despite the steady stream of blood dripping from the bandage I’ve got on the wound, my writerly instincts have kicked in and presented me with this incredibly exciting take on story structure:
Every movie or TV pilot needs to start off with an awesome and informative musical montage: How does your protagonist brush their teeth? What kind of car do they drive? Do they run on a treadmill much? Make sure to set it to a hoppin’ beat like “We Built This City” by Starship. The King’s Speech didn’t start with a montage and that’s why it’s so confusing.
2. CAR CHASE
Listen, most cool movies have a car chase so don’t be afraid to just toss one in about twenty pages into your script. Readers love seeing paragraph after paragraph detailing the movement of vehicles. But you might be asking, “Why would my protagonist ever be in a car chase?” Umm, have you seen how expensive speeding tickets are these days? Boom. Instant motivation for any character to outrun the cops. That movie End of Watch got their chase scenes totally backwards by making the main characters the cops. Big mistake.
3. FIGHT THE DRAGON
Now, I don’t mean your main character needs to fight a literal dragon — unless they can in which case DEFINITELY do it. I’m talking about the metaphorical “dragon” in their life. Examples could be their parents, their boss, their spouse, a biker gang, a friend who they’re housesitting for who has a pool that’s filled with blood and they were specifically asked to not use the pool, anything! At a certain point, your protagonist needs to get in there and attack their problems. Like in The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug when Bilbo takes on the “dragon” in his life: fear of the unknown.
4. EVERYBODY’S GOTTA DANCE
Roughly fifty pages into your script, your reader’s gonna be pretty tuckered out so this is when you electrify it back to life and get all your characters to go dancing. Pulp Fiction has dancing, Dirty Dancing has dancing, Dances With Wolves probably has dancing. Learn from the masters and put some dancing in there!
5. SOMEONE DIES
I know what you’re thinking but hear me out: in writing you gotta “kill your babies” like they say but also don’t be afraid to kill adult characters too. They’re both pretty sad situations. Like in My Girl when Macauley Culkin gets eaten up by all those bees— GREAT opportunity for all the other characters to get real sad and maybe throw some stuff at a wall. Perfect movie. Also, this death really needs to happen on page 70. TRUST ME. Man, I can’t stop thinking about death now. You guys, I’ve lost a ton of blood.
6. WRAP IT UP ALREADY
I’m of the belief that every single movie is a little bit too long. In fact, I once yelled the advice “Wrap it up already!” in the middle of a short film festival and I was not kidding around. Every movie has to end so don’t overstay your welcome. Have you guys seen that movie Spider-Man? Ugh. I was like, “You guys just hit your ‘Someone Dies’ moment like fifteen minutes in with the uncle. Wrap it up already!” But then they keep going another two hours. See what I’m saying? Sometimes you’ve gotta put a second bandage on your movie to stop all that extra story blood from getting onto your friend’s carpet. In sum, wrap it up already and call your script an ambulance.