6.18: The Hollywood Formula, with Lou Anders

Lou Anders, Hugo-winning editorial director from Pyr books, joins Mary, Dan, and Howard at Dragon*Con for a discussion of the Hollywood Formula. Lou shared this with Mary originally, and she used it to tighten up some of her work. It’s useful enough that we decided to invite Lou onto the ‘cast to share it with everybody else, too.

The formula centers around three characters – the protagonist, the antagonist, and the relationship character. Lou explains how these terms have, in this formula, different meanings than we might be accustomed to.

Among the things that we learn:  The Dark Knight has an antagonist none of us could guess, Die Hard and Stargate are third-act movies, and Howard is criminally ignorant of classic cinema.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Dervish House, by Ian McDonald, narrated by Jonathan Davis

Writing Prompt: Using the Hollywood Formula, come up with a protagonist, an antagonist, and a relationship character.

Credit Where Credit Is Due: Lou got the Hollywood Formula from Dan Decker.

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139 thoughts on “6.18: The Hollywood Formula, with Lou Anders”

  1. Loved this pdocast – makes me want to give the lessons taught as an Ignite speech.

    Question: So I get Harvey Keitel as the antagonist in Thelma and Louise. Surprising yet inevitable, that one.

    But in T&L, who is the relationship character? Is it T for L and vice versa? Since we’re in some ways treating the women as a single protagonist, could they also be their own relationship character?

  2. Hi Arne,
    I believe that Thelma is the protagonist and Louise is the relationship character. After all, Louis has already been three (“You know how I feel about Texas”) whereas Thelma goes from passive (needing husband’s permission) to aggressive (robbing banks and taking charge). She’s the one who undergoes growth and change. However, my mentor believes it is a “split main” with both of them as co-protagonists, serving as each other’s relationship character.

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  4. Re-listened to this ep yesterday and the more I try working through this formula the more I realise what it is I hate about Hollywood movies.

    If you use this formula aren’t you just going to churn out the same kind of unoriginal and ‘formulaic’ dross that Hollywood produces?

  5. I loved this episode — it helped me clarify my thinking about some parts of the novel I’m trying to write now. Unfortunately, the formula kind of leaves me scratching my head. Lou tells us that we’re supposed to give our protagonist a concrete, achievable goal. What if the goal is concrete, but unachievable? Or, at least unachievable in the first book?

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