"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser


You can avoid being one of the massive majority novelists whose novel has virtually no chance of becoming a film by remaining at the drawing board until you’ve made sure:

1) You have a castable lead in your protagonist, meaning a male between thirty and fifty.

2) You have an antagonist who’s as powerful as your protagonist.

3) You have a female lead that every actress will want to play, and a romantic interest between her and the protagonist.

4) Your story has a theme that’s universal—that we all care about.

5) Your story is set in the United States, or at least has an American lead.

6) Your story is CONTEMPORARY, meaning set after 2000.

7) Your novel has a clear three-act structure, with an immediately irresistible opening and involving first act, a second act filled with twists and unexpected turns, and a conclusive, satisfying, and happy ending.

8) Your story is constructed as much as possible in scenes, which are the units of drama.

9) Your story has humor that arises from its dramatic situations.

10) Your story is a page-turner, filled with as much action as dialogue and reflection.

None of these guidelines—which are descriptive observations of what gets picked up for filmmaking rather than prescriptive rules—guarantees your success, of course. But they stack the cards in your favor. By the way, they also increase your chances for success in the book marketplace as well.

Story Merchant Ken Atchity not only produces movies but also provides strategic career coaching for writers at all levels. You can reach him at DrK@storymerchant.com.

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