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May 26, 2012


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L.G.C. Smith

Well said, Mysti. It takes skill to write well. Doesn't matter what it is. Thanks for the reminder.


It just makes me so sad when my friends in different camps suffer such distress. I love it all, from trashy pulp to Shakespeare...

Camille Minichino

As always, a great post, Mysti.

I remember my surprise when I tested the Rule of 17 -- Witness, Thelma & Louise ... so many films where I would have guessed "the incident" occurred much later.

It's a still a huge question, like the 3-act structure -- do these forms please us "naturally" or is it all Aristotle's fault? There goes my weekend.


That's so funny--they *teach* Witness and Thelma and Louise at UCLA in screenwriting classes!!!! I think it must be a combo--some timing evolved from the origins of the form, when reels were (12 minutes? 20 minutes?) each. Some of it must reflect the inner structures of our brains though?

Michael A. Black

Ah, Casablanca ... My all-time favorite movie. But what is Rule 17? I'll have to get a stop watch and watch it again. In all seriousness, I've always felt that good writing is good writing, regardless of the genre.


So, at about the 17 minute point in most movies (it can get tricky to time things, since sometimes credits are part of the movie, sometimes not), but right about minute 17 the explicit dramatic dilemma is revealed: in Hanna, Cate Blanchette's character provides the missing bits of exposition to clarify Hanna's mission, and her likely roadblocks. So at about 17 minutes you know who the protag is, the antag (or the antag's main agent), and the thing the protagonist is fighting for, and essentially what stands in his or her way.

All my notes are packed, or I could give a dozen other examples. Blame my aging mind, not the theory :)

When I've unpacked, I'll send you more examples.


That's really interesting about Rule 17. I'll definitely start paying attention and see how many movies follow that format.
As for genres vs. literary work, I absolutely agree that we should just love all writing. If a book is well-written, I don't care what category it falls uner.

Camille Minichino

Other examples:
In Thelma & Louise, the assault is at 17; In Rainman, Tom Cruise sees his brother for the first time at 17.


Thank you Camille! It's not always clear on first viewing that these are the lynchpins of the plot, but the fact that they are (I think!) is what gives us that feeling of inevitability without predictability. Just a theory...

Staci, be careful, being too aware of the underlying structure can ruin movie-watching for you :) Just pre-ordered your book (and got Camille's Kindle versions for my iphone), it's going to be a great summer!

Camille Minichino

Good point, Mysti. On first viewing, you don't know (unless you're using a stopwatch!) that this is the lynchpin. I want to able to do that!


Thanks, Mysti! I hope you enjoy reading it!


Oh so nicely said! A well-told tale is a well-told tale. Even though I often say I am not a fan of (fill in blank), I'll name an exception. And snobbery about genre has no place in the craft of fiction. Shall print this and save to reread.

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