John Truby is one of the most respected and sought-after story consultants in the film industry, and his students have gone on to pen some of Hollywood’s most successful films, including Sleepless in Seattle, Scream, and Shrek. The Anatomy of Story is his long-awaited first book, and it shares all his secrets for writing a compelling script. Based on the lessons in his award-winning class, Great Screenwriting, The Anatomy of Story draws on a broad range of philosophy and mythology, offering fresh techniques and insightful anecdotes alongside Truby’s own unique approach to building an effective, multifaceted narrative.
His new book, Anatomy of Genres, is NOW Available!
A guide to understanding the major genres of the story world by the legendary writing teacher and author of The Anatomy of Story, John Truby.
Most people think genres are simply categories on Netflix or Amazon that provide a helpful guide to making entertainment choices. Most people are wrong. Genre stories aren’t just a small subset of the films, video games, TV shows, and books that people consume. They are the all-stars of the entertainment world, comprising the vast majority of popular stories worldwide. That’s why businesses―movie studios, production companies, video game studios, and publishing houses―buy and sell them. Writers who want to succeed professionally must write the stories these businesses want to buy. Simply put, the storytelling game is won by mastering the structure of genres.
The Anatomy of Genres: How Story Forms Explain the Way the World Works is the legendary writing teacher John Truby’s step-by-step guide to understanding and using the basic building blocks of the story world. He details the three ironclad rules of successful genre writing and analyzes more than a dozen major genres and the essential plot events, or “beats,” that define each of them. As he shows, the ability to combine these beats correctly separates stories that sell from those that don’t. Truby also reveals how a single story can combine elements of different genres and how the best writers use this technique to craft unforgettable stories that stand out from the crowd.
Just as Truby’s first book, The Anatomy of Story, changed the way writers develop stories, The Anatomy of Genres will enhance their quality and expand the impact they have on the world.
Enjoy my conversation with John Truby.
John Truby 0:00
Hollywood is in the business of buying and selling genres. That's what they're actually buying. And therefore, if you're going to be a writer who sells to them, you've got to write a genre story that they want to buy. That's their product.
Alex Ferrari 0:15
This episode is brought to you by Bulletproof Script Coverage, where screenwriters go to get their scripts read by Top Hollywood Professionals. Learn more at covermyscreenplay.com I'd like to welcome back to the show returning champion, John Truby. How you doin John?
John Truby 0:32
Doing great, Alex, good to be with you again.
Alex Ferrari 0:35
Yeah, man, I listen. We're here to talk about your new book, anatomy of genres, how story forms explains the way the world works. And as we were talking before we started, this is the most insane book I have ever seen in the screenwriting space there is, or in the story, space period, it applies to all sorts of story, which is very smart on your part, sir. But it is, it's 700 Plus pages. And it is a manual that I've never seen. It doesn't exist. This thing is comprehensive. Of a book about story, story forms genre, there's just nothing else in the world that's ever been written like this in my in such. I mean, it's insane. And it took you you told me six years to write this thing.
John Truby 1:29
Six years into writing. Yeah, yeah.
Alex Ferrari 1:31
Oh, God. God bless you, brother. I mean, I mean, they got you did because God knows. It's a lot. I wrote ever 50,000 words, and I was exhausted.
John Truby 1:41
Yeah, I it was, it was exhausting. And I didn't know if I could do it, because it was such a marathon. But you know, what, what needed to be covered? what needed to be said about these different story forums, because they're so massive and so important to writers, whether it's screenwriters, novel writers, whatever, is so huge, that that that was kind of what kept me going was to know that this is going to provide help to writers that they have never had, and that especially in the current worldwide story, situation, worldwide story world. It is absolutely essential.
Alex Ferrari 2:24
Yeah, without question. So my, my first question is you in your book, the very beginning, you say world, you look at the world as story, can you kind of dive into that? A little bit of what you mean by that?
John Truby 2:36
Yeah, it's, it's, it's super important to start with that. Because, you know, we always think of the world tells stories. And we tend to think, well, this is you know, it's for entertainment. And that's great. So on, but you know, it's not a big deal. No, the world is story. The way that we understand the world is always done through story, including the way we understand ourselves. Because it's one of the things I talk about in the detective chapter. Your, your image of yourself who you are, is a story that you began telling from earliest consciousness. And it is a story that you play out every day. But so story is how we understand the world and how it how the world is organized for us. And it's done through characters. And you know, we are the hero. We have opponents out there antagonists out there that we have to deal with obstacles we have to overcome, we have goals that we want to succeed in our life, and so on. So that's how we work through the world. And what this book does is not only talk about how story shapes our understanding of the world, but how these different types of stories give us a different world view of how the world works. So each one is its own separate model of how the world works, and the genres that you write, and the genres that you'd like to watch and read, really mirror your view of how the world works. And it's something that is super important in the book that to get into each genre expresses a life philosophy, and that's why they're so powerful. That's why they're so popular with audiences is not just that they're a sequence of plot beats, that that are really compressed to tell a great story. No, each genre has its own view for how to live successfully in this world. And so, the the stories that you go back to let's say you love action stories, it's because the philosophy of life that an action story tells is something that that generates that that appeals to your sense of how you want to live in the world how you try it'll live in the world. And it it reaffirms your values by which you live. And so and so you know, for example, you you have people, you know who go who read tons of romance novels, love romantic comedies and so on, they go back to them again. And again, they're not going back to those stories because they are looking to be surprised by the plot beats, they know the plot beats, they love the plot beats, they love to see it played out, but there's no surprise there know what's playing out, what they are really going back to again, and again is to get that reaffirmation of the values and the life philosophy that Romans gives us.
Alex Ferrari 5:44
So it's, that's why revenge films are like montcada. Monte Cristo is so you know, well, people love revenge stories, because it's a form of justice, you're wrong doing something that was you were wrong than many of us, if not most, if not all of us feel wronged at certain points, and we'd love to get what we consider justice in our life. So that's just a small example of what you're talking about.
John Truby 6:07
And in fact, the crime chapter is all about justice is all about that's the larger thematic issue that it's dealing with. And what what each of these genres do is they come up with a dramatic sequence of plot events, to express that deeper thematic view.
Alex Ferrari 6:29
So you mentioned something that was very powerful. And before we get into the nuts and bolts of story, but when you said that we have been telling ourselves and living our own stories, since conception is basically since we came out into the world, and that story is told to us by our parents, our community, our religion, all of that is, is kind of imprinted is downloaded into a Matrix style, because we come in pretty much a blank hard drive, if you will. Yeah. And that's brought in, and then a lot of the limiting beliefs that humanity has about themselves, is stories, we tell each other like, oh, I can, I can never make more than $100,000 a year, I can never lose that weight. These are stories that we tell ourselves. Right?
John Truby 7:12
Right. Absolutely. Right. And and those, those stories are miniature ideologies. They are many, they're not just different thoughts. No, they're a pattern, a sequence of thoughts that hang together, that we formed very early on. And therefore changing those is very difficult, because we keep going back to playing out that same script, that that same story sequence, that maybe it worked, when we first created that story. But typically, when we get older, we don't need that story. And that story is not actually justified by our life. But we are so hung up on that story that we made, what I talk about in in the anatomy of story book, in terms of stuff that I call the ghost, is that it's it's so deeply embedded from very early on, that's a very hard story for us to get beyond and one of the, one of the marks of a good story is to get you as the audience's the reader to see the ideology, ideological story in your own mind in your own life, and say, Hey, wait a minute. There's a lot of flaws in that you can do better than that. And, and, and by showing us characters going through a similar life situation that we are doing, basically creating an avatar for us. We then are able to say, Hey, maybe I can have a self revelation of my own, and say, Wait a minute, I'm making that mistake, too. And it's really holding me back.
Alex Ferrari 8:50
And I mean, when you look at I mean, I don't know how many times you've read a story or watched a movie, and afterwards you were a changed person, especially when you're younger when you watch certain movies. You watch the godfather. Yeah. And I mean, it's all about family. It's not about the mob, it's about family, you watch Goodfellas in the same genre, you might want to go to Shawshank you know those kinds of films, move you and change you the matrix, right changed people's perception about life and their worldview and their ideologies. And and it's such a powerful tool. It's honestly a very powerful responsibility as storytellers of what we put out into the world because it does. It does affect the world in general.
John Truby 9:37
Yeah. And interestingly enough, all of the films that you just mentioned, I talked about heavily in the book because they are so fundamental, not just as a story that was meaningful to us. But the stories that actually formed that particular genre. You tell him that, you know, the godfather in Goodfellas, they're right up there in the top five gangster stories ever made. And they when we think of the ideology, the life philosophy that's embedded in the gangster story. A lot of it is coming through those particular films.
Alex Ferrari 10:18
And those films. They, like I said, they change society, there are films that that just change the way you look at life. And again, in there's novels upon novels that changed the way I mean, when when Frankenstein showed up, it completely changed the way I mean, when Christmas carol showed up. It completely changed. You know, when Shakespeare showed up, it completely changed the perspective of story. And is it because when we when we were watching or reading story, or listening to a story and around the campfire, when we identify ourselves, we put ourselves in that story. We're like, hey, you know what? I feel like I was wrongly imprisoned in my marriage, or in this partnership with this business person, a businessman that I'm with. And that's why I connect so heavily to Shawshank, let's say, or I feel wronged. And that's why I just love Count of Monte Cristo, and I want revenge. And I want to feel that getting getting justice, is that why these stories move society in so many ways?
John Truby 11:22
Well, there's a couple of things going on. One is the impact that they have on the individual viewer, individual reader in terms of touching something, either an experience that they've had from early on, or wrong that they've experienced, but remember it is it at that level, it's even below genre, because we're talking about, we're taking the basic setup of any story, including our own, which is on the hero, but I've got these opponents who are preventing me from getting the goal in my life. And so when when I am prevented or even wronged, this is so deeply felt, because you're talking about your entire life passage. And if it's a big enough, wrong, it can destroy you for your whole life. So when you see something like Count of Monte Cristo, which is probably the greatest revenge story ever done, and it's so beautifully done, and it's got all fantastical elements with the Chateau de F, and all these kinds of things, and you know, it's still fantastic. What he's got, and he's got these, but what it's interesting, that writer was probably the apex of plot in the history of story. So it's interesting. You mentioned that particular one, this guy was the master of plot, do and do loss. Exactly. And and what genres do is, they are plot systems. So it's not just that it's about revenge. It's about the way he shaped this revenge story. wronged by three people. He goes to prison this and fantastical prison that he escaped from it. And then he takes revenge, not on one, not on two on three guys. And it's so beautifully plotted out. That's what in this is really the source of why I wrote the book was it was a deep need, and pain that I saw. And I've seen for the last 10 years that writers have it, especially in screenwriting, but also a novel and television, right, which is the great distinction that between the top 1% of writers, the top 1% of professional writers, and everybody else is the ability to plot. That's it. You know, character development, super important dialogue, obviously, very important, so and so forth. But what distinguishes those who really succeed, and in screenwriting, we're talking about a very small percentage to do. So what is it? What is it, I had to put my finger on it, but what it is, is the ability to plot and unfortunately, for decades, the tools that writers have had in screenwriting, to be able to come up with a plot that would work at the top 1%. Were just, they just weren't there. I mean, 3x structure, save the cat these kinds of things. They're fine when you're first starting out. But if you're talking about for example, in 3x structures, two or three major plot, plot beats in the story, that's not going to get you close to a plot that's complex enough to work at that high professional level. Just to give you an example, a successful film will have anywhere from 10 to 12. Major plot beats not two to 310 to 12. And in fact, the last 20 years one of the biggest trends in screenwriting and in film industry in general, is the densification of plot. And there was there droop, demanding more plot per two hours, because that's all you got. Right? Unless you're James Cameron, you just got two hours, right? So how do you get more plot, what you do is a, you have to use genres. And two, you have to mix genres. And this is something I talked about in the opening chapter, when I talk about the three unwritten rules of the entertainment business today. One is, it's a genre world. Hollywood is in the business of buying and selling genres. That's what they're actually buying. And therefore, if you're going to be a writer who sells to them, you've got to write a genre story that they want to buy. That's their product. Right? The second rule is, you have to mix two to four genres. It used to be 30 years ago, you could write a single genre story, no more, especially since the initial the original Star Wars came out. It's all about combining genres. And why because you give them you give them two to three times the number of plot beats. That's the real reason. And so you got this super dense plot, because you're bouncing back and forth, for between the 15 to 20 plot beats of each of those genres. So you've got upwards of 60 plot beats that you're working on, in a script, which, which, in a mixed genre scrip, so this was what I was trying to see was, Okay, if that's the world we're dealing with, as writers, what is the solution, the solution is, you got to write a book that lays out all the plot beats for for the 14 major genres, from which 99% 99.9% of all stories in the world come from either singly or more likely, in a mixture of two to four. And so that's where I started laying out. Each chapter, lays out the plot, first of all lays out the plot beats, the unique plot beats of that particular genre, because that's your first job. As a writer, you got to beat those beats, you've got to hit those beats, if you don't hit all the beats of that form. People who love that form will get really pissed off. Right, you so that's your first job. But that's just job one. Then what I talked about, which, with the third unwritten rule of Hollywood, is that if you just hit the beats of that form, that's going to get you in the ballpark. But how do you separate yourself from everybody else writing that job? Right? Because I always tell writers, you're not competing against everybody in Hollywood writing a script, you're competing against the people writing in your genre, you got to write it better than they do. And how do you write it better than they do? You have to transcend the genre.
Alex Ferrari 18:10
So in you know, I remember growing up in the 70s and 80s, where plot points and stories were simpler. And if you go back in the 40s, and 50s. I mean, they're super, super simple. were things that would get what you would get away with, then you just couldn't get away with in the 70s and 80s. And now that we are bombarded with so much story so often, from so many different mediums, whether it's video games, or store plays, or screenplay movies, or novels, or you know, social media stories, like there's just so many different kinds of stories, we've also seen, like my generation is probably the first generation because I'm the video store generation to, to watch movies again and again in the cable generation. And there's just so much content that we grew up on that we've seen plots. Now I see my daughters who are young, and they call out plot points in movies, they're like, that's the bad guy. Oh, he's just gonna and I hear and I'm like, my god, they're so trained already. Right? That the writers of today can't write the script of the 70s or 80s or 90s, early 2000s Even Oh, it has to be more complex it has to do and I love the IDF and if we can go through the top 10 or 20 movies of all time every single one of them combined genre Yes. Every every there's not one that's a straight story. It's a love story to tell the story action store and they're all called together and anytime you make genre, like a horror comedy, with maybe a love story tapped in there. That's that's the thing and people always ask like, Why did avatar become the biggest movie of all time? It's such a big like a lot of people Call it a basic plot we've all seen it's like Dances with Wolves meets FernGully meets Pocahontas. Yeah. But not only because of the spectacle, but he through how many genres are in that movie,
John Truby 20:11
You come over to just a perfect example. Because avatar, and this is what Cameron does repeatedly combined these genres, myth, action, love, you don't get three better genres for worldwide success than those three. And he knows those forms form backward. And he knows how to combine the forms. And this is one of the difficulties that writers have. Many writers understand that they can't write a single genre story anymore. So they say, okay, yeah, I gotta mix genres. But saying it and doing it are two very different things. It's very complex, because the the genre beats in one genre may cancel out the genre beats in another genre. Because they're telling, they're telling that the overall story, what makes a great story, they're telling it in different ways, with different beats and different sequences. So mixing them is very tricky. A guy like Cameron with avatar, not only was able to combine those three very popular forms, in an almost perfect seamless way. But in this is the other part of what the book is all about. It was that. And this is something that that almost no writers get now, which is that that top 1% is not just writing complex plots, with mixed genre stories, they are expressing advanced theme through that complex plot. And that's why I want to talk about in the second half of the chapter after I've gone through the beats of that particular form. I've talked about what is the theme, what is the life philosophy that this genre is expressing. And if you can tap into that, and do it in a new way that we haven't seen before, then the audience is going to just go through the roof. And that's what that's what camera is able to do with avatar. And something I talk about in the myth chapter of the book. I talk extensively about avatar, I talk about it as the first of the new female myth story. Female myth is a story form that has been gone for 3000 years in Western culture. And just in the last 15 years, it's come back and it's come back with a vengeance, I believe it's going to be one of the major forms in worldwide storytelling in every medium for the next few decades and beyond. Why, and and it's because the female myth, you know, with things like hero's journey and so on, we hear about Joseph Campbell, we hear about this mono myth that supposedly all the all stories are this mono myth. Wrong. I have a bit of a major disagreement with Joseph Campbell. And of course, I, I presume to the root because he's one of the greats. But I believe this mono myth idea is really wrong. It's based on the fact that the stories that he's talking about, were all male myth stories, because it says the female myth was wiped out 3000 years ago, when Hunter societies basically male myth, societies wiped out gatherer societies, which is basically agriculture societies. And so what happened was, you have this, the this male myth that that Campbell is talking about, is really a male warrior myth. And those beats, yes, those are the beats of a male warrior story. But those are not the only kind of myths stories that are out there. And with avatar, what happened was, you see not only the overall movement of that story is not only from a technological society, to a nature society. More importantly, it is the movement over the over that script and over that film, from a male myth story to a female myth story. And the way each handles the basic beats of myth. And the basic beats of story are radically different. And he was able to see this and lock into it. And then you had things like gravity inside out. These are female mysteries with massive worldwide appeal. And if you break them down, you see that they're telling the story to myth, form, and overall story structure in a fundamentally different way than male myths. maleness stories are told, and what they're very hard to do. They're very and I talk about exactly how you do that how you write the female ms story in that chapter, but is going to be huge on talent. I keep telling people, this thing is huge. And if you want to express the theme of the female myth, which is, in my opinion, a superior theme than the male myth theme, you need to learn how to tell this story because it is going to be huge.
Alex Ferrari 25:30
And on top of that with other other genres Heath Austin, there were obviously action and sci fi and, and a few other dazzles that hit in the notes. As you were talking, I was thinking back through his filmography. And you're absolutely right, every single James Cameron movie for other than Parana to the spawning. But from Terminator on, it's all he combines those three main things. But there's always a love story. There's always a love story in his movies. And there's always action. And there's always myth. There's always cultural, you know, societal conversations like in Titanic, and in the abyss. He has big themes. He deals in very big themes where, you know, you've got corporate, you know, in Aliens is all about the corporation, and the Abyss it was all about the corporation and the humanity of connecting with aliens underneath the water. And in Aliens, it was connected with that. And I remember I think I watched I think it was his masterclass, which, if you haven't seen, it's just wonderful to watch. But he talked about aliens. And he goes, if I would have made a movie about a bunch of Marines fighting a bunch of space roaches, it wouldn't have worked. This movie is about two mothers protecting their young. Yeah. And I was like, Holy crap. I can't believe I never saw that before. But he's, he broke it down. It was pretty fascinating to see.
John Truby 27:04
Yeah, and this is this is what I try to get across to readers in the book, which is that the many of them will understand the importance of knowing what these plot beats are for each genre. What what but for decades, there's been this idea that if you want to, you know, there's a famous line, if you want to send a message, send it Western Union. In other words, you know, don't get heavy handed with the theme. And there's a certain truth to that you don't want to be heavy handed with. But that doesn't mean that would you go to the opposite extreme. And you say, Well, I'm not going to get into theme at all, no, the real key to success is having that complex plot that gives the reader and the viewer, this really exciting, twisty kind of story that they're not expecting, but also a deeper theme with which is expressed under the surface, through the plot beats through the genre beats, that tells a larger theme that the audience can hook into without being preached to. This is the key thing, if you can combine. And that's why Why saying the book genres are plot systems, they are also theme systems. The theme systems are the part that most people do not understand and therefore are not tapping into. And if you as the writer can tap into both of those plots system and theme system, there's nobody's going to touch you, you are not going to be a whole different league.
Alex Ferrari 28:32
Right! And if you look like I mean, and I can will bring up Shawshank probably a few more times in this conversation. But when you look at Shawshank, I mean, the spiritual undertones of that film, which is not preachy, in the least they never mentioned it they never say it. It's but I mean, literally him coming out. Sorry, spoiler alert. If you haven't seen Shawshank guys, you could fast forward for about a minute or two.
John Truby 28:57
Who in the audience is going to have not seen Josh?
Alex Ferrari 29:00
I mean, if you haven't heard this fast forward about a minute, guys, but when he comes out at the end, and literally is spit out of crap into a basically a resurrection scene, and he's resurrected. There's so many themes, so many things that that is touching upon, that Frank Darabont did and see the Kingdom I'm not sure how much about Steven or was Frank, but it was so beautifully and artistically done. That that is why it connects I think at such a high level with so many people. And when I ask people about why do you like that movie? They can't put their finger on it. There's just something about that story that just makes you connect to it. Is that fair?
John Truby 29:44
I think it's one of I always thought this is one of the hardest movies to try to explain to people why it was so popular. Because on the surface it looks it's a prison escape movie.
Alex Ferrari 29:57
How simple it's basic. Right?
John Truby 29:59
You know? The guy is gonna get out of prison. Okay, so, you know, it's like, what I made one of the biggest mistakes in my, in my life. What before Titanic came out, I said, this isn't going to be successful or I know what's gonna happen? You know? It's not
Alex Ferrari 30:15
You're not the only one, I said the exact same thing. Like we all know the boat goes down, like why am I watching this
John Truby 30:20
Right! Not only do we know what's gonna happen, it's really depressing. So but you know, that shows you what I know but but the point is in Shawshank. It's not going to be up, although how you get from point A to point B, the plotting in that, and that's one of the reasons that I am such a huge fan of it is that with plotting within a confines like that is much more difficult. And, and in what he does plot wise. And then, as you just said, tying the theme, which is also expressed through his friendship. Tying that theme into that plot beat in that overall success story is brilliant. And again, I don't know either. How much of it is Stephen King, and how much he was the screenwriter for Shawshank. But I do know that it is a beautiful example of what I'm talking about in terms of knowing your plot beats, but also using them to express a unique and powerful theme.
Alex Ferrari 31:24
Right. And also, I mean, there's a love story in there between read and an Andy. I mean, there's a friendship love story there that is so powerful as well. And so it basically drives the movie that that relationship just drives the movie completely. It I mean, we should one day, John, you and I should just sit down and have a two hour conversation about just Shawshank and let's break it down for everybody because it's just one of those movies that you just like, why is it so like you're gonna look at the Godfather and get it and you could break it down. You could Goodfellas you get it? You look at Titanic, you get it? And you look at these popular films and you just go okay, I understand. You can break it down. But Shawshank is one of those slippery stories the way like it's the worst pitch. It's the worst title in history of cinema. And, and it took a while years before it actually got it started to pick up and pick it up. People started liking it. So alright, we'll get off the Shawshank for night now guys. So um, so let's talk about genre specifically, and I'm going to read off. And this is really interesting. I'm going to read them all off and then we can tie and talk about what you mean. Because there's there's the genre and then what it means I guess the theme of it or what it is a whore is religion. Action to success myth is the life process. memoir and coming of age is creating the self science fiction a Science Society culture is yes, Science is a story for crime is morality and justice comedy manners and morals Western The Rise and Fall of civilization. Gangster the corruption of business and politics fantasy, the art of living just so interesting. Detective and, and thriller, the mind and the truth. And love is the art of happiness. So some of those I understand. Yeah, but like horror and religion. I know you said it Adam and Eve is is the one of the first horror stories. Yeah. Can you just dive in a little bit of why horror is connected to religion. I mean, I understand an exorcist and things like that. But what is it? Sure theme.
John Truby 33:29
Let me let me let me just back up for a second. So your listeners have a little context for what those things that you just read off or because I was just talking about, if you want to step out from the from the crowd, from everybody else who is writing in your genre, you have to transcend the genre. Now there's three major ways you do that. One is you twist the beats, you do them instead of the normal sequence of beats, you flip that around, or they are an individual beat, which is normally done this way you do it that way you do it the reverse of the way it's normally done. That's the first way on the plotline. The second way you do it is that a mention that each genre expresses in underneath the surface deep down a life philosophy, which is a view of how to live a successful life. And the third way that you transcend the genre is that you explore the life story form, the life art form that is embedded in that in that genre. By that I mean these these these major activities that we do on our life are not just activities. They have a story or shape of a story. They are themselves a story. So for example, religion is a story and we're not just Talking about religious stories we're talking about religion itself is a story form. You talk about, you mentioned morality, morality and justice, which is the art form of the crime story. Morality is and I break it down in the book, it is its own story form. And it's expressed through story through your particular story. So when you're really getting to the deepest part of this, of each of these genres, you're not just expressing its own life philosophy, you're expressing that larger activity of life that we do that is so important, it shapes our entire life. So you mentioned the, the example of Adam and Eve, as one of the talked about as one of the first horror stories. And what do we have there we have the, the two heroes, Adam and Eve, they are in this utopian world. And they are visited by a monster in the form of a snake. And this snake gives them basically poise. And because of that, because the because they bite the apple, because they take the boys, they commit this moral crime, and who is this crime against the crime is against the Father, God the Father. And because they have made these mistakes, made this mistake, they are sentenced to eternal hell. And in other words, what they in this particular case, they are driven out of the garden, and this utopian world, into the harsh world outside, and they are now more, they will die. Religion is basically as a story form, when you analyze it as a story form. It is basically a combination of myth and horror. Because the sequence of beats that it goes through or miss beats, but the overall theme is horrible, which is, if you do the proper thing, you go to heaven. If you do the improper thing, you go to hell. And this is, and what I talked about in that whole first chapter on horror. And this deeper, these deeper themes that horror talks about is, it's hard. It's really about how do we avoid death? It's it is, and that's why it's the first genre I talk about, because it's the most, it's the most fundamental, it's the lowest level, but also the most fundamental of all genres. And it's, it's because as human beings, we're this magnificent artistic creatures, who are able to create amazing castles and, and, and beautiful symmetries in this in our entire world, and, and in our lives. And then all of a sudden, that stops, and it just disappears, it's gone. This, this is fundamentally impossible for us as human beings to get, we cannot see this. That seems so wrong. That seems so unfair. But it's a game that we will all lose. And so what do we try to do try besides horror, which is a form of way that we deal with it. religion itself is a story form that deals with it, and it says, okay, yes, you die. But if you act a certain way in life, you're going to have life after death. And if you don't act a certain way, you're going to go to hell, which is a dystopia forevermore. So this is, and this is, so it's, you know, it's punishment, reward and punishment. And, and I go through, I love the heart chapter, because I go through it. And I talk about one of the stories I talk about it is A Christmas Carol, which is one of the most influential, in my opinion, the most influential story about Christianity that there is, and it is, you know, very much this concept of, do you do you act? Well, in this life, if you don't, you're going to pay a price. Right? If you do, you will get eternal reward. And so this, these deeper art forms that each of these genres talks about, only the very top stories, explore those get into what that deeper thing is, and what I'm trying what I try to do in the in each chapter in the second half of each chapter, is explored how this genre it expresses those deeper art forms. And therefore how can you as the writer do that too. Because once you tap into that, again, you're you're dealing at a level that no other writer is dealing with. And, and, you know, it's interesting. I don't know if I, if I pointed this out to you before or not but, but the way that the genres are sequences, very important in the book, because what I found out, as I was always looking at what each life philosophy for each genre is, I realized that there's a ladder going on here, there's a ladder of enlightenment. And that's when it goes from the lowest to the highest, the lowest is our next. And then myth, and what are the highest three, the highest three are fantasy, which is the art of living detective and thriller, which is the art of the mind and truth, and love, which is the art of happiness. And so in reading, you know, I think of it I think most readers will, most writers reading the book are going to go to the genres that they specialize in. But if you read it in that sequence, you will track a sequence of enlightenment for how to live in this world, the way genres express it.
Alex Ferrari 41:14
John Hughes, you just blew my mind open open, sir, I, it's, it's this is this, this whole book is so revolutionary. And the way it approaches story is remarkable. When you go back to horror, horror is primal. Religion is primal, the stories of religion had to be told to us, in order for us to deal with a cause with the knowledge that we're gonna die. It's especially at the primal level, at the primal level, this is something that needed to happen. And then it also might have turned into control and instead of morals and like, you know, do this or you know, the big bad, you know, someone's gonna get you kind of thing. So you were talking about Christianity, and love for you, if you can look at, let's say, an Eastern philosophy, or Eastern religion like Buddhism, which doesn't have as much, it doesn't have a hell, it doesn't have the hell is this we are in hell, we are trying to escape this hell into enlightenment, which is to, to leave my to leave this illusion, and go into enlightenment everlasting. So it's a kind of a twist on the Christian story. Did you talk a little bit about that? And because we've been taught, we're talking about enlightenment?
John Truby 42:31
Absolutely. Because if you again, if you, if you look at all of these art forms of life, through the prism of story and story beats, it immediately breaks down so clearly, and you can see oh, this is why this is this way. And that's that way. So for example, Christianity and Western religions are very much goal focused, and it's very much goal focused to what are the things what are the actions I need to do to get to that afterlife to defeat mortality? Right. Eastern religion is the opposite of that. And what is the difference in terms of the basic seven structure steps that I talked about? Starting with weakness deed, second step is desire? Well, what is Buddhism but taking that desire step and says, No, reverse it. The trick is not to desire because your desires will take you down the road of addiction and take you into love of false value that is not going to be good for you. So it's very much anti materialistic. It's very much anti live for the future and future meaning after you're dead. No, it's how do you live now? No, all religions have moral stories. Because they're all about how do you live this life? In something like Christianity it's about how do you live this life to get you into the future life? Isn't religion is not that it's how do you live this life best and of course, keep in mind that you're also doing but much more hierarchical societies that when these when these particular region religions evolved, and so but but the point is in certain if you look at it from these basic structures steps you see the the fundamental ways in story terms of how these different religions express the right way to live but they're all expressing a view of how to live well.
Alex Ferrari 44:44
Right their roadmap on how to live basically that's what a religion generally it's a set of either philosophies or rules in Western is more rules and Eastern is more philosophy based on how to live a good life a proper life and but I love that you did You said in regards to the Western religions are much more focused on goals because you're absolutely right they are. And the Eastern philosophies and religions are not like Taoism and, and they're completely differently focused, but they all have a story on how to live life. And I bring this up because of as storytellers we can start tapping into these because these are very powerful themes. We're talking about extremely powerful themes. And, you know, if you start analyzing, I mean, something like The Matrix, the themes in there are so multi layered. Yeah, and goes so deep in the philosophy and philosophical terms, that it's, it's mind blowing, you can watch the matrix 100 times the first one 100 times and still get something new out of it, because it's just so dense.
John Truby 45:54
Well, it's in the book, I go, I talk a lot about the matrix. And one of the things I talk about is the concept of the chosen one, which is a major element in many myths, stories. And of course, the matrix is basically a combination of science fiction and myth. And that says, part of the reason that it has such power is it combines these two forms. And one of this this element of the chosen one, and a distinguished that was something you also see in science fiction that you don't see in religion you don't see in myth stories, which is the niches Superman concept the also known as the over man, and what the differences between the chosen one versus the overmanned character and Neo is basically he's, he's both his vote. In my opinion, they don't quite get to the level of requirement in philosophy, although it's a very philosophically savvy story. They don't get quite to the level of the overmanned but then, but then as I pointed out in the book, no writer has ever been able to express in, in fictional terms what the over when each is over man character would would actually be because he's a character who is of a higher level morality than than humankind.
Alex Ferrari 47:18
But isn't that isn't that Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, you know, Confucius and the list goes on and on.
John Truby 47:24
Yes, if it is commonly thought that these great religious characters are the closest actual human beings to get to Nietzsche his view of the over man, but in case of the matrix, they were they're able to ask the questions, but they don't quite go far enough in terms of and they probably are doing that on purpose. They, you know, there's a, again, there's a fear that a lot of people have, I don't want to be too, too forceful in my thematics. Because I don't want to hit people over the head with I don't want to be preachy. And you definitely don't want to do that. But the matrix is obviously one of the great science fiction films ever made. And as I say, I talk a lot about it as an IT, but especially in terms of it's because it's not science fiction, it's not myth, it's the combination of the two. And that's what kicks it to this higher low,
Alex Ferrari 48:22
And obviously has some kick ass kung fu in it, that doesn't hurt. For for its day as well, which is, you know, the term that, as far as storytellers go and spectacle is part of a spectacle is part of the storytelling process. Avatar is spectacle, as well,
John Truby 48:40
Talking about what you're talking about, there is a sub form of action, which is basically the samurai movie, it's the same thing in Star Wars, it's the it's the same thing in a lot of these movies that have the big spectacle. So you're talking myth, action, and science fiction, that is an incredibly powerful combination of forms. And one of these I talked about in the book is that it's really a great technique for success is to combine genres that are not normally combined.
Alex Ferrari 49:12
Now, right, mixing them throwing them all together,
John Truby 49:14
Alex Ferrari 50:41
So just looking at your genres here, which is I mean, I would suggest every writer take that list, I read off, photocopy and put it on their, on their wall, because you could just start looking like well, what if I threw a comedy Western, that's Blazing Saddles, okay. And you start throwing things together, and the one that I just threw together as we were talking, horror love story. That's Bride of Frankenstein, essentially. Right?
John Truby 51:07
That would be an example. Yeah, but there's not that's not a very common one is not it is not, it's a great idea for a combination
Alex Ferrari 51:15
Because it's just it's you're taking the highest and the lowest on the, on the on the ladder, and slamming them together where they shouldn't mix because love is at a much higher quote unquote, vibration than horror, which is at a very low, primal, right? Vibration, if you will,
John Truby 51:33
Especially when you break it down into structured terms. And the plot beats, you see exactly why, which is the desire. And the desire line is one of the most important things that determines that defines the genre in terms of how it works. What is it is Ireland? What is it Caroline is the goal of the hero? Okay, what does the hero want in this story, and so that the desire Line tracks the entire plot. So all those plot beats, or, or landmarks on that desire line, on that goal line there steps beats to getting that goal. So the one of the reasons that Har is the lowest level is its desire line is the lowest desire you can have, which is to escape. And so it's a very reactive desire line. Love is the most active and it's the highest level in terms of, it's not just I want to form an attraction with another person. No, it's how do I live my life in love with another human being, so that both of us are at the highest level of human being that we can be. So combining that escape with how do I find that person who I can be my best self with? That's why they're almost never combined. But that's, that is the challenge, but that's always the opportunity, which is if you can figure out how to do that. Nobody else is doing it. And you stand out and everybody says, Wow, that person is brilliant.
Alex Ferrari 53:11
Well, that's what exactly what happened with Jim Hart when he wrote Dracula, Bram Stoker's Dracula with Francis Coppola, that is a perfect example of a love horror story. And this is pretty, I mean, as beautifully executed of that genre of that mixture of genre that I've ever seen, because it is a true love story. Pretty off
John Truby 53:32
I admit to you, I have not seen it since it came out so I don't really remember it.
Alex Ferrari 53:38
But it is about remember I made a post that literally the tagline is love never dies. Because it's this you know, gender you know, multi, you know, generational love story between the two main characters. And it's just, you know, reincarnation and multiple, I mean, it's just a pretty deep conversation. But again, that's one of those examples of that. Now, Ken, let's because a lot of people are probably listening going, okay, great, multiple genres. Great. Let's throw let's throw some movies out. And let's see how we can see what those genres are combined and see if we can kind of give examples so people kind of understand why certain things are successes. So we've talked about avatar and the matrix Fight Club let's see if you can you can you do something with Fight Club.
John Truby 54:24
Fight Club is really interesting. And I talk about fight club, in the in the detective story. And I talk about it as because I talked about really high level detective stories are about the mind itself. They're about how does the mind soul problems? How do we How does the mind operate at the highest level which is truth? And this end quote is a detective form. The way you live a good life is you become very good at understanding Finding where is the where does the truth lie. And then, of course, in a social world, with all the facades that we face day every day, that's very hard to do. But it's essential, it can mean our life, we could die if we don't make that we don't have that understanding. And so what you get with Fight Club is, it's a story about I talk about it as one of the sub genres of transcended detective stories, which is a story about the self, the story of the Senator Lee, literally, the first thing that we talked about, we were talking about, you know, what is story story is, we live through story from the day we're born, because we're, we start to immediately form that sense of I am a unique individual, I am a self. And I'm different from that person, who may be an ally, to me, that's mom, or is a little bit older, people who try to prevent me from getting my desires, those are opponents, right. And so we formed this sense of self. But that sense of self is not necessary. And it usually becomes hardened into someone I saw ideology, which we talked about. But at the level of Fight Club, what happens is that and there's other stories like this, to deal with this, like breathless, which is a famous French New Wave story, which is, when you get into the technological world, it's highly technological, the ability to divide the self from the image becomes magnified exponentially. And as soon as you are able to divide the image of the self from the self, then the ability to essentially destroy yourself goes way up. And what you get there in Fight Club, is, you get a guy who is he is in deep trouble, right? And so he creates again, I don't want to give it away to anybody who's never
Alex Ferrari 57:10
Again, for it fast forward about a minute or two right now, if you haven't seen Fight Club,
John Truby 57:13
Yeah. But he creates this alter ego, who we think is his ally, becomes his opponent. But it's actually the image of himself that he would like to be. But in doing that, and dividing himself off from himself, and having it be somebody who is basically, you know, the Id run rampant. He goes down a series of path of destruction that can only you know, they've, he basically pulls back from it at the end. But it is a very destructive sequence. So that's why I think fightclub was very unique and very advanced, in terms of what it's trying to do, of focusing on the war within the self,
Alex Ferrari 58:05
Which is a war that we're all fighting. Yeah, throughout life, you know, they were always get That's the voice in our head, telling us not to eat the cheesecake, or to eat the cheesecake and then beat ourselves up afterwards, later that night.
John Truby 58:20
And that's why it's so fundamental to the mind itself, which is the is somebody talked about throughout the book, that all this comes off the ability of the human mind, to project to create an image of not only itself, but of anything. And so, so examples you just gave a perfect example. I am me, but I'm also somebody who would like to eat that cheesecake, but I know I can project forward, if I eat that cheesecake, I'm gonna add five pounds into I'm really gonna like the way I look with five pounds, and all that extra fat. No, I'm not, but I really want it. So we're at war with ourselves. Every day, in every decision that we make, there is some level of conflict going on. And if you don't learn to manage that, and of course, Fight Club has many stories zoo just takes it to its logical extreme, you get this massive destruction.
Alex Ferrari 59:16
You know, I want to go a little deeper into what we're talking about here about the self because I think this is and the ability to project because as storytellers and anybody else listening who might not be a storyteller, I think it's fascinating to understand that the reason why stories even work is because of our own ability to project into the future to connect with the characters. That's why when a dog watches it doesn't, doesn't do so well. Unless there's, you know, a cat in the video or something. But generally speaking, that ability in when we're all these examples we're talking about, let me throw an example out to you because this is such a classic. It was one of my top 10 films of All time and arguably one of my favorite Stanley Kubrick films, The Shining. Yeah, there is so much going on in The Shining. It is such a dense, dense film. But on the on the surface, it's not every I think every single movie we've kind of brought out on the surface, it doesn't seem like what's going on behind. There's multiple layers about it. There's something psychological about the shining, that just just digs into you in a way that normal horror. Doesn't doesn't do, because it's yeah, it's horrific. And yeah, there's some graphic Gore in it, but it's, it's not?
John Truby 1:00:43
Well, Alex, that's, that's because you put your finger on one of the main transcendent our films ever made. Right? It is a trend, it's because it transcends the form. And I talk in a book, I break it down, I talk about why is this a transcendent horror story. And one of the things is that, you know, in a basic horror story, you've got this external monster, who's constantly attacking, and we get the problems are hitting the same beat, and bam, bam, bam, and so and so the very low level plot, that's why Asia heart is probably the least respected over all genres, although when it's done at a high level
Alex Ferrari 1:01:24
Silence of the Lambs, yeah, right.
John Truby 1:01:28
Well, Silence of the Lambs this is actually thriller, but thriller, and I talked about this in the book thriller is actually a combination of detective and horror. Got it. And, but but the point is, with with the shining, you get, instead of the external opponent, he is the external police, both the hero and the external opponent, because he is projecting this image. And what he's really fighting against the prison that he is, in is of his own making. And so you know, he's his, his sense of responsibility, his drive to be successful, you know, his, and it's so great that it's about a writer. We all know what it's like, you know, all work, and no play makes Jack a dull boy, generically. You know, and he is so driven, because he's going off to this Overlook Hotel, to try to write this book. Right. And, and so all that's doing is putting him into this, this haunted house, basically, it's a haunted hotel, but puts him in a haunted house. And I talk in in our chapter, that haunted house is simply the character's great fear made physical and then we force them to live in the opponent, especially in a transcendent horror story, is the opponent's the heroes greatest fear turned into a character that then attacks him constantly. Now, most horror stories don't get to that level, they don't get to that metaphorical thematic level. But the shining does. And and one of the things that that I talked about in The Shining dim that why it's so great is because they connect the heroes, great flaws, weakness need, with the flaw of the house with the flaw the hotel, the hotel has a ghost. And it's the same ghost that Jack has only Jack's goes to the beginning, which is that he's gotten in trouble with social services, with physically abusing his son, whereas the ghost for the house is that this guy murdered his family. But what you see there is Jack's ghost, Jack's weakness is at a much lower level than that of the house. But it plants the seeds of potential for him to commit that same crime at the very end of the story. So there's just all kinds of reasons why the shining is this transcendent horror story, in my opinion, one of the all time greats. And it's, but it again, it goes to that idea that if you want to get to that level, as a writer, you've got to go to the transcendent level. And you got to know how to do that. And so and that's why, basically, this book was not just about how do you write a story in this form? It's how do you write a great story in this form?
Alex Ferrari 1:04:20
And I love that what you're saying is like, instead of the outside in, it's inside out, yes, fight and that's what makes that horror movie. So so because it is it's a representation of what we deal with on a daily basis, which is more horrific than any monster trying to come at us. It is the monster inside that little voice, that little thing that is being projected out to an extreme, obviously in the story, but that's probably one of the reasons why it is so unsettling and that's the best word I can use for that though. It is on settling. It is horrific in a unset way where, you know, Friday the 13th or nightmare before November, and I'm St. They are just fun rides of like I get scared, right? There's none of that in the shining, the shining, I always said shining was psychological I couldn't, I didn't have the language to understand what was going on, I think you've finally just helped me with that.
John Truby 1:05:19
And one of the major things for transcending every form, every genre is this personal psychological element. In other words, what we're trying to do is because Because keep in mind, the hero of each of these genres, is in some way a mythical character. It is the cowboy, the detective, and so on. They're an iconic character. So and there's great power in that that's why they're the genres. And that's why the genres are the All Stars of the story world. They've got the each one is led by an iconic type. But the trick then is use the power of that type, but then individualize it with those psychological dramatic elements. That's why I talk in the book about the really top transcend stories in every genre, take that, that genre plot system, combine it with drama techniques, which is not actually a genre, technically speaking genre. But it's, it's, it's story techniques that are very personal, with a very highly detailed hero, with a very personal opponent, typically within the family, typically, to deal with moral problems, and so on. So you're taking those kinds of techniques, combining them with these genre beats and genre elements and type elements. That combination is incredibly powerful. And shiny is just an example of that. You got all the elements of horror, but it's coming in at this really super personal psychological level, that you can't watch it and not think, man, especially if you're a writer, not think, hey, that could be me.
Alex Ferrari 1:06:56
It is it is pulling strings, that you as a writer know what strings you're pulling, but the audience member is not aware of it. Right? And Hitchcock did that so beautifully. In that special in that run of 678 films that he did that were you know, from psycho on that were, they just connect and they're pulling on certain strings in your psyche, that you walk out going, I don't know what I just went through. It's like when you watch the shining, you're like, I can't express to you, the Shawshank I can't express to you what I'm feeling or how I got there. So I think this is a, this would be a really interesting exercise. Can we go through a few of the genres? And can you give an example of a transcendent film in the genre?
John Truby 1:07:43
Absolutely. So Action. Action, first of all, you got to start with Seven Samurai with the greatest action film ever made, and it's transcended. And I'd make the argument that it's probably the best film ever made. Now, obviously, that that's a that's a personal opinion, but I go through a lot of reasons why it is and why is it because it is a it is a action epic, it's basically combining acts taking action, the act the key action elements, putting it to it, the epic level which in epic, the definition the story definition of Epic is the fate of the nation is determined by the actions of a single individual or family. And so, when you and by the way, this is one of the ways that all of the genres can go to the transcendent level, you take the form and you make an epic out of it, you take it to the national level. So seven you got to start with Seven Samurai other other story action stories that define the form diehard is is to this day, it is beat for beat. It is great stories if you look at you go all the way back to the original great action, great action epic, which is the Iliad. And you look at and in this in the book I talk about about sub genres, certain sub genres of each form. And the because action is about keeping score. Actions about do use How do you succeed and so in anything where you keep score, that's what we're action is involved. So I talked about some form of sports stories. And there you've got things like Rocky which is a combination of sports story plus love story. And you've got what I think is probably the best quote sports story film ever made, which is the hustler brilliant script. Absolutely brilliant. Yeah, who also did what was the chest thing that that that was on? It was on Netflix a couple years ago?
Alex Ferrari 1:09:51
Oh, um, the intimate intimidation game. No, no intimidation game. No. Yeah, the God I know which one Queens gambit. Thank you. Thanks.
John Truby 1:10:00
Written by the same guy does Queens gambit which is also terrific. But then you look at you look at also talk a lot in the action. form of Mad Mad Max Fury row. Oh, yeah, I mean, this thing is just No, it's very simplistic action on the level that you talked about action as the cleanest desert island of St. John. And basically it's restored here. We go to there, we get to there we find it, there's nothing there we go back, straight, literally straight line run right there. But the way that he adds, he kicks those action elements up to the epic level and adds horror to it. Again, it's as good as it gets in that action for
Alex Ferrari 1:10:46
Now, let's talk about myth. Yeah.
John Truby 1:10:49
Well, with myth you've got, you know, again, you go back to the original I talk about the Odyssey as one of the keys to is one of the transcendent ones. Lord of the Rings, of course, is in myth form, I break down Lord of the Rings as the ultimate male myth story. Also talk about Wizard of Oz as a female Mr. It's one of the first and it she goes on a journey, but the way she handles the beads is very different than a male in that story. also talks about Star Wars A New Hope. This story is a combination of that four or five genres. The most important one is myth. And, and that brace basically brought on the modern world of film, everything, everything after Star Wars, it talked about this right in the opening chapter, the book, everything in everything before Star Wars was was primarily a single genre movie, everything after his multi genre movie, and it was, it was all that because Hollywood, Hollywood execs realized, oh my god, if we mix up these genres, we get four times the plot beats than if we have one genre. And and, and the fact that its primary genre was myth, and that combination is key. Mixing genres. Myth is the most popular genre form there is. So and that's why, for example, James Cameron Hughes always uses it.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:25
But why, why is it so popular,
John Truby 1:12:29
Because it transcends cultural differences. So for example, comedy is very tough to get a worldwide hit with because so many of the references are to that particular culture. And even within a subculture, where as myth, the story beats of the myth journey, are, are something that everyone will pass through, because what myth is, as they talked about, in terms of what that art form is that that myth is actually dealing with, it's the life journey. And so it's, it's a, it's a metaphorical expression of the life journey, we will all go through. And that's something everybody around the world in any culture can understand and can be moved by. So So in terms of you get Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Wizard of Oz, I talk about Black Panther, extremely important film on for a number of reasons. And, and Avatar, those are the big ones.
Alex Ferrari 1:13:27
Coming of Age, which is also really interesting one,
John Truby 1:13:30
Yes. Coming of age, I talked about that in the memoir chapter, because they're both what they are fiction and nonfiction versions of creating the self. And so with coming of age, you've got things like moonlight. Cinema, Paradiso, Koto, recently, was tremendously powerful. I think you look at that movie, and you think, you know, that that was basically TV movie from the 80s. Right? What Why would that be? Why would that be so popular and so powerful? Well, it's because the things of the TV movies of the 80s did, which was tell a dramatic story that is highly personal, that is highly moving, but done it with a twist. That's really powerful. You know, it's like when King's speech came out, won the Academy Award. You know, that's a TV movie when he's talking about well, what they're doing there is very powerful. It's again, you using genre with tremendous dramatic elements and that combination is unbeatable. So you got caught up and and of course you've got To Kill a Mockingbird
Alex Ferrari 1:14:43
And yeah, now one of my favorite genres is sci fi. Yeah, I can I can. I mean, ones that I think that do it and now tell me if you agree or not, Blade Runner, alien but aliens throwing horror in there as well, too. Terminator, Jesus and Terminator two, both are bat at the abyss, you just got that James campus.
John Truby 1:15:06
Those are what you're talking about a lot of those are at least some of those are they're not primarily science fiction, in turn, why? Because, yes, they have the science fiction overlay in terms of the world in terms of setting the future, for example, but what you what you want to look at when you're trying to identify what is the primary genre that's being done here is where the structured beats, what are the plot beats that they're tracking? Okay. So when you're talking about science fiction, and sometimes it's difficult to pull them apart, you can't see what a what the primary form is. But I in science fiction I talk about the matrix is primarily science fiction, but it's got a myth addition to it. Of course, you got 2001 arrival, which is a female myth, science fiction story. It's very holistic, it's not about battle. It's about preventing battles from happening. Very advanced this film very advanced me huge fan of that. So and you got things like Inception and inner star? These guys, these guys are the best in terms of film, understanding techniques of screenwriting, I'm not talking about necessarily, would they make a great science fiction novel, but in terms of science fiction film, using the benefits the strengths of the film medium, there's nothing there's there's no rebirth. Nice guy.
Alex Ferrari 1:16:43
One of my favorite as well, comedy, I love to hear what is a transcendent comedy?
John Truby 1:16:51
Well, first of all, comedy is really interesting, because in a way, you could argue that it is the opposite of every other form. Almost almost every other form is about accomplishing a goal. Comedy is about failure as a goal. It's about every other genre is about how things work in some way. You know, we've got problems, but they're fixable, and we're going to society is going to succeed. Well, comedies about how things don't work, right, how things are screwed up, and how the hero is incompetent, and yet somehow succeeds at the end, in spite of his incompetence. To me, the I use a lot of TV examples, because I believe that especially over the last 20 years since the sopranos, but we're really farther back to Seinfeld. TV has overcome film, in terms of the best storytelling in the world. And I think it's even close. And so I use a lot of TV examples in in comedy. The biggest example I used transcend a comedy is Seinfeld, Seinfeld revolutionary, in my opinion, even greater than then sopranos, which I put number two is the greatest series ever made. But Seinfeld, the excellence the level of excellence, per episode, per season, over nine seasons, there's nothing that matches that level of brilliance. But it's rare. It was revolutionary in terms of character. It was revolutionary in terms of plot, in comedy on revolutionary in terms of character, because you had four equal characters, not just the star, four equal characters, and you had their own like, in the classic sense of the term, that was unheard of. It was unheard of at the time, you did not do that. Right? Not just one, four of them. And then it was revolutionary and plot because you were tracking for typically four different storylines within a 22 minute episode. And they track for each one of those characters and then woven together with a kick at the end, in terms of how it all wove together, you never know really how it's going to come together. And it always did. And it was always brilliant. So in terms of comedy, I think you got to start with Seinfeld I talked about a lot about Little Miss Sunshine,
Alex Ferrari 1:19:18
Which is just watched that the other day Oh, so beautifully
John Truby 1:19:22
Groundhog Day. Perfection, perfection and the most philosophical comedy ever written by far by far. And and an interesting I talk a lot about Wedding Crashers in terms of combining Comedy genres. Because you're there you're again, why because you're getting the densification of plot, and a lot of times comedies don't have the densest plot. So what do you do? You've combined comedy forms. In this particular case they combined buddy picture with romantic comedy. Both Both of them are very popular. You put the two of them together and it's almost never done. You put the two of them together, and you have this massive hit
Alex Ferrari 1:20:09
In something like Oh god, it's just I mean, it will Dumb and Dumber. Is a buddy film mix with a quote unquote love story.
John Truby 1:20:17
Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 1:20:21
But you started looking at the biggest hits of all time as far as comedies are concerned. And you can start seeing how they it's not a simple, right straight line as far as like, Oh, it's just a buffoon, you know, doing stuff. It's, it gets complex. But the thing about common is that when you said Wedding Crashers, I was like, Oh, that doesn't seem very complex. But with the second you said, are those two general like, I guess it's, it's not on face surface? On a surface level? You really can't tell. That's what's about with other genres you can't.
John Truby 1:20:54
It's also the level of the quality of the writing. What I've said that early on that a lot of writers know that you need to mix genres, but they don't know how, because mixing is very difficult, because you don't what is the main line? What's the main desire line? Who's the hero who's driving the story? Who's the main opponent? What are the main beats that we're going to talk about, so on and so forth. So it's hard to do. So when you can mix genres in a seamless way. So the audience can't see it. That's brilliant. That that's that is, that is the level of craft that we're talking about. And that's why I wrote the book, which was to say, here's how you do it. Right? You know, these are all these great films that we love. Well, you know, what she has to I have to write something on that level? Well, it's technique, it goes down to technique, and using the old things of three act structure, and so on and so forth. That ain't gonna get you anywhere close to that the technique that's required to, to write these kind of transcendent stories.
Alex Ferrari 1:21:52
You're talking about scripts, and movies and novels and stories that are at the top 1% of nought point 1% of all stories being told right now, you're literally laying things out that these are the top five or the top 10 screenplays. Yep, of every year at the Oscars like this is what this is the kind of storytelling we're talking about, is to elevate yourself to that level. Yes, by understanding these genres and being able to combine them. And I think that so many, so many young writers don't understand that. The key, as we've been saying, in this entire conversation, is combination of genres, because that's what's interesting. We're far beyond the straight hero, woman in distress villain hero saves her from the trip. We're way beyond that, at this point.
John Truby 1:22:44
Well, you pointed out earlier, the viewer is so knowledgeable about storing because he's seen 1000s of them from the earliest age, that you know, I talked about this, and Detective Detective Story is a game that the author plays with the audience, can I get you to the end of this thing before you figure out who did it. And it's gotten harder and harder because the audience is so savvy, they know what tells to look for in terms of oh, that means that that person is probably not guilty. And that means they probably are guilty, and so on. So you got to take it, one step above that. And and what I'm saying in this book is, that is how all these genres work. The level of story that is required story mastery that is required to succeed in any of these genres is so high. And what I'm showing you, you know, me from things we've done in the past together, I'm all about being honest with riders in terms of this is what is required to be in that competition to be at that level. You know, it's like, it's like you want to play professional sports, you type at the top point 1% athletes, right? You want to play at that level, this is what you got to do. This is a training you got to get and so what I and that's why this book is 700 pages, because to break down each of these 14 genres, to the degree required to write professionally in those genres. That was the kind of detail that was required.
Alex Ferrari 1:24:17
And unlike sports, anyone could intended if you have a typewriter and a brain that understands this, you're not limited by genetics, right? Because you and I are not going to the NFL or the NBA or the MLB or NFL.
John Truby 1:24:32
I have always wanted to be the point guard for the for the Lakers.
Alex Ferrari 1:24:37
And I wanted to be a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins. You know, it's like it's just wasn't in our cards or we're doing God's work though. I'll go with that. I'll go we're doing God's work. We're trying to tell better stories out there. But that's something that it's kind of a reality bomb and truth that this is what you need to do to try Ansem to really get to a higher level of storytelling, if, if this is the craft that you want to go down. Look, we all aim to be that top 1%. But you have a better chance if you start understanding the technique a little bit more and use. And there's only so many times you can read a Tarantino script or a Shane Black script or an Aaron Sorkin script. It's kind of like reading, in many ways, unless you really understand technique. It's like reading a physics equation. Exactly. And someone's telling you this, this really is important. I'm like, I kind of understand what x is. But what is why that go?
John Truby 1:25:39
What if you don't know what you're looking for? You read those scripts. And what that's really that was a really fun script, it was really great. You have no clue as to why what is really structurally going on, that produces those effects. That's why technique is so important. And added, you know, I talked to us that sports analogy again, you know, these guys that the top athletes in their field, they weren't. They didn't just show up on the court being super talented from the beginning. Yeah, they probably had some real DNA, great natural ability in certain ways. However, they also have been getting training, coaching, deep training, probably from the age of six years old, if you want to get to the professional level. So what I'm what I try to do with this book, whereas as I mentioned earlier, it's not just how do you write the shot? Or how do you write a great one, because that's the what's what's going to be required to get set you above everybody else and get you into that 1% You got to get professional level training. Right, you got to know what to look for. And you got to know the techniques for producing it yourself.
Alex Ferrari 1:26:50
Now in the detective genre, things like knives out more recently, yeah, that I feel did a really amazing job because when I watch television shows that are like, you know, let's say procedurals, you know, cop shows, which are, you know, they're everywhere. I've gotten to the point where I could watch them and my wife and I, oh, watch him. Oh, sit there going. It's a janitor. No. And then as you and your rights that game, you're like, how far can I go till I figure it out? Yeah. And at a certain point, you're like, Well, there's only one character left that has to be that person. So it's just kind of like in TV, you kind of run out of time to do that. But in a feature or in a show, let's say if it's a long show, you have more time to kind of throw a lot of red herrings out at people. But in your opinion, what are some transcendent detective stories? Obviously, you know, we'll go back to to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who I think it was Edgar Allan Poe, who created that detective story. But gone, Doyle really took it to another place.
John Truby 1:27:51
Well, you know, I think Sherlock Holmes is still the greatest detective ever. And, but But you're right. Edgar Allan Poe created the form and hidden and had many of the beats that are still the key beats in the form. I mean, this guy Edgar Allan Poe was was so underrated in terms of his influence in the world, in the history of story. Because he not only was probably the premier master of the horror form, and what I call the psychological horror form, where you're getting that Stephen King thing with the psycho psychological elements, infusing the horror and making it even greater. He also created the detective form two radically different forms in certain ways, opposite forms. So I mean, you know, that's an incredible achievement. Um, Sherlock Holmes, to this day is probably the most popular character in storytelling and in television. One of the main ways that you pitch a show is Sherlock Holmes doing X. You know, house was Sherlock Holmes was pitching Sherlock Holmes in a hospital you know. And and what was The Mentalist was pitched as? What would happen if Sherlock Holmes and Angelina Angelina Jolie had a baby. I mean, it's just incredibly influential. But in terms of transcendent ones, I go back to vertigo. Which is, I think in many people in terms of film historians, it's in the top 10 of films ever made. But I break it down extensively in the book in terms of why is it a transcend detective story, what are the key techniques that kick in it kicked it up to that level and make it to this day that great more recently I think knives out did a lot of unique flips to the form that was very necessary now because detective story is almost completely left film and gone to television. police procedure is an example. As you say, Detective form is the most popular form in television worldwide, not just the US worldwide, but it's for that reason, it's rarely seen in film. But you have talked about Chinatown. My opinion, probably the most creative. Transcend transcendent detective story of the last 100 years is Murder on the Orient Express. And I don't want to get into why that is. But some of the things that Agatha Christie who is still in the top three in terms of detective writers, the things that she is doing there that that thematically have so much more powerful than the normal detective story, or just you just phenomenal. So I have great respect for her on the Orient Express. And, and so Chinatown and and then in terms of I talked about transcendent detective story where we're talking about the mind. The key film there is Rush Limbaugh. Oh, because you're right, were influential.
Alex Ferrari 1:31:08
But then but they also he also created a new genre of story. Oh, of course, I did that multiple times in his career, but with Russia, man, there's like the Russia mon movie like, yeah,
John Truby 1:31:19
It's the Russia mon effect. And now you can't do that without somebody saying, oh, yeah, you're doing the Russia mon effect. Yeah, he he now owns that.
Alex Ferrari 1:31:28
I mean, yeah, it was it's a historic one incident from three different perspectives, all in the same. And then you have to make the choice who's telling the truth. Right. Yeah, I mean, not only that, but it's a beauty of how we shot it. And all that stuff is crazy. Another genre love the love story. I love to hear your opinion and transcendent love stories.
John Truby 1:31:49
I could have picked all kinds of things here is just such a beautiful form. The problem with love story is that so many people write it. You know, it is romance is the most popular genre in novels, by far, by far. And romantic comedy. It's a it's a lovely combination of romance and comedy. It's extremely difficult to write well, and because it's been written so many times, again, you get that problem that you get with horror, which is you just doing the basic one. It's predictable. You can't succeed with that. But recently, I think some ones that are really stood out are Silver Linings Playbook. Yeah. And 500 Days of Summer. Yep. A you know, in the in kind of an indie thing, small level thing, but super creative in the script. Super creative and how it is flipping a lot of the beats of love story. I think you have to go back to When Harry Met Sally. As masterpiece, we Yeah, it's certainly in the top three of romantic comedies ever made. And I go back to its predecessor, which is still in the top three, which is Philadelphia Story.
Alex Ferrari 1:33:09
Ah, yeah. I mean, yeah. And then of course, there's,
John Truby 1:33:14
You look at you look at Alex, you look at the you look at that again, and it's basically a stage play, but you'll look at it again. And you will see techniques that are still used predominantly in the form. Because what we have here is we have the female lead with three male suitors. And it is the where does that come from? All comes from Jane Austen. Jane Austen is the mother of romantic comedy. She created the form, she is the master and everybody else is using her techniques. But Philadelphia Story does them beautifully in the sense that it the whole point of the love stories and not just about the guy and the girl. It's about comparing, comparing love. It's comparing marriages, it's comparing, in this case, the men because you have three very different kinds of men who will produce three very different kinds of marriages with her, and the way that they treat her and the way they look at her. And so it's just
Alex Ferrari 1:34:18
Again like my mom, it's like Mamma mia, Philadelphia stores kind of like Mamma Mia. And
John Truby 1:34:22
Remind me how that works.
Alex Ferrari 1:34:24
Mamma Mia was the three fathers. Oh, they were trying to figure out who the father is and the seizures are and and then they throw the daughter and and there's Meryl Streep singing Alba. And
John Truby 1:34:37
Yeah, I don't necessarily think of Mamma Mia with Philadelphia Story. But you make a good point you made Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 1:34:44
Exactly. And then if even going back farther in cinemas, like it happened one night with Clark Gable. That was another one. And I mean, you can't talk about romantic comedies. You know, you know politically correct or not Annie Hall is still masterpiece. Oh, yeah. I mean, is what you can separate the director. That movie is a masterpiece and it based the form of modern date romantic comedies, would you agree?
John Truby 1:35:12
Absolutely. I it is, unfortunately, because of the person. And I'm not making any judgment one way or the other. We can't talk about him. But in terms of which cannot be denied that any Hall is one of the three greatest romantic comedies and majorly transcends the form main
Alex Ferrari 1:35:37
Events in it was a 1980 that came out I think it was like 79 He 77 Yeah, something like that. It was around that time. Can you imagine that time of it's, it's, it transcends today, if that movie came out of transcendence. is it's such an influential film. There's two authors I want to just ask you about because I think both these authors transcend their genres, in so many ways, and the first one is Shakespeare. And what he was able to do, not only in one genre and multiple genres, what is going on in his storytelling that connects so much with all of us? Because he was a playwright, like many other playwrights of his day, but there's something about his storytelling. What is it about the themes of like, I mean, obviously, Romeo and Juliet, you know, is the ultimate love story tragedy? You know, you know, King Lear, Macbeth, Hamlet, I mean, Hamlet, arguably one of the most perfect stories ever written? These, what is he doing? on a on a nuts and bolts level that makes us connect so much with his storytelling?
John Truby 1:36:48
Well, you know, it's such a crucial question. That's why I talk about it quite a bit in the book. And we talk about it both in the tragedies, and in the comedies. And his, his skill is equally in both of those areas, I think most people would say is tragedies are, are at the highest level. But that may be because of the bias towards serious storytelling as opposed to Congress. And I'm not sure that that's justified. But having said that, you know, when I'm in my story class, I've always talked about him, as you know, we all consider him the greatest writer of all time. And one reason for that is that of every level of story of every level of technique, whether it be plot, character, theme, etc, etc, he is the best at that level, dialogue, he is the best at that level. So so, you know, we could go on forever in terms of what he's doing in the book I talk about in the tragedies I talked about one of the tricks that he uses, is that he matches the story with the psychological flaw of the character at that age. Zone. So in, in the romantic tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, if the tragedy evolves from the flaws of these two young people, they're very young, I think they're 14 or something in the in the play. It could be wrong, but they're very young. But but this is from the tragedy evolves from the overwhelming passion of first law, and the inability of these young people to understand how they can put not only deal with their, their families, but how they can more importantly, deal with their own passion. And that's where the true that's where the true tragedy lies. You then go to Hamlet, Hamlet is a young adult. And so the great flaw for Hamlet is he is trying to make moral sense of the world. And his flaw is not that he's not normally talked about as well. He didn't know how to make a decision. He didn't know how to act. Well know what his flaw is. He is so conscious of the moral conundrum that he is dealing with, and whether the right and wrong of what his response is going to be that it leads to the tragedy that ultimately kills him. And this is the flaw of a young person, a young adult who is still formulating their moral code. Then you get up to a Macbeth Macbeth is middle aged. And what is the key flaw there? It's when you're in middle age, it's all about ambition. You know, it's it's it's it's, it's how far do you go to get the life success that you're looking for? And then we jump way up to lear. That is the flaw of an old man. That is a flaw of somebody who does not cannot recognize When His power is over, and he cannot recognize which daughter really loves him. And so he again, these are all characters who create their own demise. Now, in the comedy chapter I talk about Shakespearean comedies and all of the techniques that, that he uses the major structure techniques that he uses to get his comic effects. One of the most important which he also used in Romeo and Juliet is mistaken identity. And this is a major This is a major technique in all comedy is mistaken identity. Or, and, and playing, taking on a role taking on a disguise, because comedy is all about facades, it's all about people put on facades to be successful and worker and loved. And then the story tracks how we pull those facades down. And so and so, you know, the second identity and, and, and role playing is one of the ways people put on facades, but because it's done in a comic vein, we get to laugh at it. Whereas in when when there's mistaken identity in Romeo and Juliet, it creates the tragedy.
Alex Ferrari 1:41:16
Yeah, something like Much Ado About Nothing or Midsummer Night's Dream it, I think, much ado about nothing, there is a mistaken identity that kind of spawns the whole, yeah, spins the story to start, I mean, and it just keeps going and going even though it was planned, you know, false identity, things like that. But that is the brilliance of that film. Or excuse me of that story. Another one I wanted to talk about author wise, and it's an ask about these authors, because it's so important, because these are the top level of these are the All Stars of writing. And it's really interesting to deconstruct why they're successful. JK Rowling, and the Harry Potter series, you know, on the surface, it's about a wizard, going to a school, some spec, there's definitely spectacle in there. We've all heard wizard stories before I met in magic stories. But there was something that connected with the worldwide audience that sent kids standing in line at a bookstore for a book and you imagine, what is it about? That that those eight books or seven books assuming those seven books that just connected with us at such a deep, deep level?
John Truby 1:42:31
Well, again, there's a ton of reasons, but I believe you have to start with how she mixed genres. That is a definitely somebody who is pre, before the writing process spent major time figuring out how am I going to combine genres here. And what did she do, she took fantasy. She took coming of age, she took elements of horror. And she used a sub genre that is very much in British storytelling, which is the Public School Story, meaning private school,
Alex Ferrari 1:43:13
All of her
John Truby 1:43:15
Boarding school based learning school. And the combination of basically coming up with a boarding school for wizards. is just is just when you think about it, of course, why didn't I think of that, because it's just so brilliant. But then you get the elements of the, and I talked about it in the coming of age check, because you get because it's such a unique coming of age story, because you're tracking every year and this kid's coming of age, you're breaking it down into literally literally seven years of his coming of age from 11 to whatever 70 And so you've got you're tracking that which makes it very personal deserves the drama elements again, you tracking that coming of age within a school environment, which is a school that everybody would have loved to go to. Right. And you're doing it with all of the great fantastic stuff that comes with the fantasy form you know, in You I mean but the immense amount of inventiveness that you know we're including the sport that they play Quidditch, you know that an entire sport that she's going to have these people play you know the the Mogul mogul, Mughals, Mughals, Mughals. Yeah the different characters in you know the fantasy character web is among the greatest ever done. The you know, the use in terms of plot of a does something I talk about my story class a lot, which is the use of the, what I call in between characters flip characters, which are characters that appear to be an ally but are really an opponent or they appear to be an opponent and they're really an ally. If she does that would just even one character Snape, that track attracts the plot for seven books?
Alex Ferrari 1:45:07
And you really don't know, you don't until the end is Yeah. Is it for me? Or is he against because sometimes it's for me, sometimes it's against me. And it keeps you like, you know, like, and then people who you who are like, Oh, this professor, he must be he's so nice he must be. And then it's Voldemort in disguise, like,
John Truby 1:45:24
Right. And that's what I was talking about earlier in terms of this is a level of plot excellence that she has, that when you combine it with the right mix of genres, and again, these are genres that have never been mixed before. You combine that with amazing cast of characters, you combine that with the technique of The Three Musketeers, really characters been one of the most popular again, we go back to do ma that the height of plot in the history of story. I mean, it's just just so many things that she's bringing to the table. Not to mention one of the best story worlds ever created, which is story worlds one of the most important trends in the last 20 years and worldwide storytelling in every medium. I mean, it just goes on and on with with what she's done there. And that is why it is the most popular series of books ever written.
Alex Ferrari 1:46:21
It is it is remarkable what she was able to do with that book series. And, and we'll be talking about I mean, there'll be talking about Harry Potter, and a 200 years, 300 years, it will be it'll be just, they'll just keep talking about it forever and ever. Because it's just done so well. And so, like when I first read the first book, I felt like, and I hadn't read a book at that age for a while. And I was like it was I called it literary crack. Because you just, you just couldn't put it down. And it was so apt. That's why I was wanting to kind of deconstruct what she was doing there. Because if we can even get a little bit of that magic on our stuff. It is a man, it definitely elevates you to another level. And the last, the last big author of our time is Stephen King. Yeah, who is a master of horror. Obviously, we I mean, I'm not saying anything that nobody knows, but and there's so many different stories and so many different things, but like just take into stories like Carrie, which was his first book, and it you know, the psychological things going on there. And the themes that he touches on? What how can you how can you kind of deconstruct what he does again, and again and again and again. And he does it so fast? And how many books is even 100?
John Truby 1:47:45
Yeah, I don't know, the guy is incredibly prolific and yet incredibly good. Really, for me, to understand Stephen King, you have to go back to Paul. And what Paul was really crucial for is, he was really the first and in certain ways the greatest obviously not nearly as prolific as Stephen King, but still may be the greatest in terms of taking her with all his very symbolic elements, very mythical elements, and grounding it in the psychological in the personal in the real. And this is like the tell tale heart, the House of Usher on the pit in the pendulum, these these kinds of things, you're getting all the power of the horror form, with making it so personal that the reader can get the terror of it, because that's really what we're talking about horror or terror. That is it is it is a genre that is about one emotion, care. Right? How do I get that? How do I get that or the reader or the viewer? And so what I think King did was he brought that to the, to the modern day. Because she you look at the great stories that he's done. They're very personal, they're very, most of them are there within a family. There is a person with a tremendous psychological flaw, that it's not some weird, otherworldly thing. It's very personal that we all can see. You know, Carrie is an example Pet Cemetery is an example. But he then takes the the foundation of the of the real individual within a family and then creates, he spells it he spins out a greater and greater harm coming from the internal flaw of that person. And that, again, is where you're combining and that's how you transcend in every in every one of these genres. You get the power of the tight the power of of the genre. And genre means type. It's a type of story. And then you combine these highly personal dramatic elements. And that that combination, I've said this in my story class forever. That is this in terms of a single strategy, there is no greater strategy in terms of having both a popular and a critical success, then those then combining those two elements, and King within the horror form, does it better than anybody's ever done?
Alex Ferrari 1:50:30
Now to start wrapping up this because we could keep talking about this for days, even if you just sat here and read your book, it would be nice. I wanted I think one of the main reasons you decided to put this book together was the art the business of selling, genre buying and selling genre and whatever form you're using, whether that be novel, whether that be screenplay without the video game, whether it be anything, can we talk a little bit about the business of buying and selling genre, so people really understand what the marketplace is looking for?
John Truby 1:51:04
Sure. The, as I mentioned, where this really happened, there's before Star Wars and there's after Star Wars, before Star Wars and I talked about in the introductory chapter, the book. The I believe it was the year before two years before Star Wars, JAWS came out. Jaws was a massive worldwide hit. Single genres story done very, really. Okay. Two years later, you have Star Wars. And everybody turned down that script, everyone. Yeah, everyone literally ether. Now, it did this. Basically what this is, is, who is it? Who is the what was the old TV show sci fi TV show, Buck Rogers, Buck Rogers, right. I see. Come on, and nobody's going to come to see this is fine. Nobody wants to watch stuff. No, no, of course. And there was a reason for it. Because sci fi films of the 50s because they didn't have the special effects. There are a lot of times they just look ridiculous, you know. So they had this unintentional come comedic effect. But the what was what they were not seeing was what that was in the script was in the script, in that he was combining all these genres in a seamless way. And that had worldwide effect. Because no matter the culture, I love that story. And I love how plot dense it is. And so what I what I was told, you know, up and up through probably the 80s the perception was in Hollywood, that Hollywood buys and sells movie stars. After Star Wars, and definitely into the 90s. And beyond, especially when you had massive success, like Pixar, no movie stars there. You hear some voices, but they're not successful because of movie stars, and other newer movie stars. Its story star, they're selling the story. That's why it's so it's not a movie star world in Hollywood anymore. It's not certainly not directors, we like to think we know the names of these directors. So what has nothing to do with that? It's and certainly not buying and selling writers, because we're screenwriters are still low person on the totem pole. Right? They're selling great story. And what that means is and what has come to, to me, especially over the last 20 years, is dense plot. And what is the key to them? It's genres. Because genres are platforms that have been tested over centuries, centuries, they've gotten rid of all the drawers, they've gotten rid of all the wasted time. It's pure story. And especially in screenplays, you know, it's all about the bones. It's pure story beat. There's no time for any padding there. And so what genres do is to give you this vehicle for telling a really well plotted story, and at the same time, hooking in a really powerful thing that also has already been worked out. That's what Hollywood that's what the Hollywood money people are looking for. And you don't think they know that you better believe they know that? They know because they've heard all the stories about Star Wars and reading Joseph Campbell and so on and so forth. They know that which is why the most popular story form genre, as I mentioned, is to this day myth because it has worldwide appeal. So typically, least with all the superhero movies, what are you getting, you're getting this story plus action, maybe love but but not even they're not really but you're getting mythic plus action, and you're getting a savior store, which is a sub form of men. So the money guys know that they know that what we're buying, we're in the business of buying and selling genres. And so you need to bring us what a story that is one hits the genre beats two dozen away we've never seen before, because if you can surprise us, you can surprise them.
Alex Ferrari 1:55:16
So is that why Marvel has basically taken over the box office? Because if you pull up Marvel and Top Gun 2022 is not a great year in the box office. There's just not enough product going out to the theatrical experience. So why is that why Marvel has just taken over? I mean, they literally taken over Hollywood. I mean, it's either a Marvel movie, or IV, obviously a big IP, but Marvel is one of those most arguably the biggest IP in cinema today. Is that why they're so successful? Because I mean, comic books have been around superheroes have been around since the 30s. In origins, in the sense that they
John Truby 1:55:59
Didn't know the power of comic books could have in terms of cinematic appeal, right, because they were comic books. But as soon as Star Wars came out, you essentially had a comic book story form with comic book characters, but done really, really well. And Stan Lee, what was the what is the trick to Marvel is that Marvel took the mid form with the superhero character, and brought in drama elements. What do I mean by that? I mean, they had main characters with flaws. And the real distinction here that you have to understand it wasn't a marvel. But this is where their lesson is clear. This is the difference between Superman and Batman. Superman was the first superhero, right, but he's perfect. The only flaw he has is a physical flaw. It's kryptonite. Right? But basically, and of course, it's also based on one of the greatest mistaken identity jokes in the history of story, which is, you know, he puts on a pair of glasses, we can't tell who
Alex Ferrari 1:57:04
Where did Superman go?
John Truby 1:57:07
Oh, but the point is, Superman would love to see his success. And he does all these great things, and he flies and blah, blah, blah. But by far the greater character. And the greater story for him is Batman. Why? Because he has massive internal flaws. And all this story plays off of that. And all of the problems with Justice play off of how far do you go to get justice before becomes revenge. And then because then you have a moral decline. And so, Marvel, if you look at all their characters, they're all whole console. And they all have these internal flaws, which in the old days, is early as the 70s are, Fargo is the 760s 60s and 70s, the the conventional wisdom in Hollywood was, you want a superhero with no flaws, because then they're not unlikable, and therefore, it'll cut into box office. And then all of a sudden, Marvel comes along and shows us and there were other examples of this. But Marvel is probably the best example of it shows us that just the opposite is the case, that when you have a superhero with real flaws, we we can feel this guy, we can understand what they're going through. And it's not just a sequence of stunts, where they fly around and you know, knock somebody across 10 buildings, and so on, so forth. So, so this is, this is why, and Marvel was able to do it not just for one superhero character, they've been able to create an entire universe of characters that interplay this story weave on their films, is amazing. I would love it's very similar to a TV writing room, in terms of how they're doing this. And, and what you what you see the complexity of how these characters are going to interplay with and interact with each other is incredible. But that's how they, they take films and basically hit the same story beats all the time, and still have that kind of success.
Alex Ferrari 1:59:18
Well, I mean, it's going back to Greek mythology, I mean, the gods, literally the gods all had flaws, the human flaws, to make them accessible, because if it was just Zeus and Venus, and everyone was perfect, and we were like, who cares? Yeah, what's interesting is that they have flaws and they in in the storytelling, whoever came up with these stories of Greek mythology, or at the time the religion of of Zeus and and all of that was that they added human elements to it and watching them you know, sleep around and do this thing and there was anger that's what made those those those characters if you're looking at it, historic point of view, so interesting, to watch.
John Truby 1:59:59
That's why That's why I talked about in the book that that Marvel and superhero movies in general, are the modern religion, they are doing exactly the same thing that the Greek gods did 2500 years ago. So there is option there are a collection of hero superheroes with superhero abilities with that also have human all too human flaws, and that combination who then go around and save the world, it's, as I say, it's, it's a sub form of myth and religion, which is the Savior story.
Alex Ferrari 2:00:36
And it's so powerful that there is a universe or a timeline where, let's say, we wipe ourselves out, and only a handful of primitive human people are around and they find the stories of Superman, and Spider Man, they they become gods. And this this, this, this mythology would easily become, or Star Wars, the myth of the Jedi, that's many people consider that a religion, because it's all the beats,
John Truby 2:01:02
It does! It is a religious story. And one of the things that contained in the book is that if you can do if you can get theme to that level, because theme at the highest level is essentially your religion that you're expressing to the audience. It's a collection of stories for how to live. And so if you can get your theme to that level without appearing to be religious, there is nothing more powerful than that. You have to hit the jackpot.
Alex Ferrari 2:01:32
And that's what all of these stories that we've been talking about have hit in one way, shape or form. I mean, the matrix and Shawshank and the storyteller is telling you their perspective on how to live life. And it was George Lucas said it very easily. Back in the day, he said, stories are the meat and potatoes of our society. That's how we, that's how we transfer over the moral code that we live. We live by this. And that's why he wanted to create something like Star Wars that passed along this insanely powerful moral code. And he wasn't hidden about that, by the way, it was hidden with all the flashiness in the spectacle.
John Truby 2:02:16
Alex Ferrari 2:02:18
But it's pretty clear. Yeah, I mean, the Jedi said, AI
John Truby 2:02:20
The Jedi is a religion, it may not be a very defined one, but it is very definitely a religion. It's it leans more toward an Eastern religion than say, a western region. No question. But the point is, that is that that combination of mixed genres, execution of the story beats, and the fact that is theoretically, a powerful religion, you know, may the force be with you who the hell on this world doesn't know that line? So the point is, that combination is unbeatable. And George Lucas, show the world how that would be in his defined storytelling. From then on.
Alex Ferrari 2:03:02
John, when is this insane book going to come out? So people can buy this book, start reading it, and, and spend a good part of their life reading it because it's pages. But where can they find when is this book coming out when it's going to be available to the public
John Truby 2:03:18
The best way, the best way to get it is to go to this website anatomyofgenres.com.
Alex Ferrari 2:03:27
And now have links to Amazon and
John Truby 2:03:29
It has links to all of the bookstores, wherever you want it. The book comes is officially out on the 29th of November. But if you would like to get your preorder in again, go to that site anatomy of genres.com. And you can make your order now and they'll send it to you as soon as available.
Alex Ferrari 2:03:49
And what and where can people find out more about you your other book anatomy of story and the courses you teach and seminars and all the stuff that you do?
John Truby 2:03:57
That's at truby.com truby.com and it has all the information you need.
Alex Ferrari 2:04:04
John, it is been an absolute pleasure talking to you. I mean, seriously, we're gonna I want to have like some spin off episodes where we just sit down and break down Shawshank matrix, Fight Club. I'm just all my favorite movies. We're just gonna sit there and wear them down to see what makes these things tick so beautifully. But I appreciate you, man so much for everything you're doing for storytellers around the world. But I think in many ways in this conversation, it I think the conversation transcended a bit in the sense that this is more about not not as much, only about not only about story, but about the self, and about our journey through life and the power. The stories have to help us along that path and the responsibilities of storytellers that we have, and you've given us a great toolbox to go into to really understand how to do that at a very high level. So, John, my friend, thank you so much for coming. back on the show, and we will do that other episode one day soon.
John Truby 2:05:03
Alex, it's always a blast talking with you, you're the best in the business. I will talk with you about any film you want anytime you want. There's nothing more fun for me to do. So thank you so much appreciate it.
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- John Truby – Official Site
- Anatomy of Genres
- The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller
- BPS 087: The Essentials of Great Screenwriting with John Truby
- BPS 001: What Makes a Good Screenplay with John Truby
- Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
- Audible – Get a Free Filmmaking or Screenwriting Audiobook