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Something Startling Happens: The 120 Story Beats Every Writer Needs to Know Paperback – October 1, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Having sold over 100 scripts and written for virtually every network and studio, I learned early how vital structure was to crafting a successful script. This book can be an invaluable tool in building a professional career." -- Marc Scott Zicree, The Twilight Zone Companion, Star Trek - The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Babylon 5

"A dazzling new nuts-a-bolts story guide that reveals the extremely important "in betweens" left out in other screenwriting books. The perfect companion to Blake Snyder's Save The Cat." -- John Philip Dayton (Executive Producer, Director, Writer, The Waltons, Eight Is Enough, Matlock, The Ray Bradbury Theatre).

Todd Klick demystifies how to approach the script-writing process. He will give you tons of "aha" thoughts, and will help you interpret story in a way that will give you answers. -- Jen Grisanti, author of Story Line: Finding Gold In Your Life Story, Writing Instructor for Writers on the Verge with NBC, blogger for The Huffington Post
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions (October 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1615930590
  • ISBN-13: 978-1615930593
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #819,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Derek S. Olson on January 17, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have never before posted a review of anything on Amazon. But after reading the first 1/3 of this book, I feel compelled to offer a perspective on this book's Amazon page that differs from all the other written reviews, many of which I suspect to be written by friends of this book's author.

First I want to say that I am a writer (working one in Hollywood) that is immensely appreciative of any material out there that seeks to help and inspire others who have recognized the burning desire in themselves to get their voice heard through the most powerful mediums of modern storytelling, TV and Film. I'm not one of those screenwriters who walks around town talking down on writing gurus and instructors. If you can manage to carve out an enjoyable life that is related to your passion, more power to you. Everyone should be so lucky.

However. This book has the power to obstruct one's growth as a writer. I feel if you read this book, and take its theories, and minute-by-minute movie analysis (literally -- this book posits that each minute i.e. individual page of a screenplay has a specific and different goal than the page behind and in front of it) you are doing yourself a huge disservice as a writer. It's really bizarre, and if wasn't so bizarre, I probably would have stopped reading well before reaching the 1/3 mark. Here's an example: Minute 23 - Something Scary Happens. The author then references many different movies, citing instances at Minute 23 where one character aims a gun at another, where a patient tells a doctor he cannot be fixed, where a love interest experiences an inconvenience at work... on and on... with an absurdly broad interpretation of the word "scary." There are dozens of examples.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Something startling happens" suffers from the same malady that plagues all high school literature essays: the human mind can see patterns and connections in anything when it wants to, regardless of the actual relevance of the discovery. Klick creates his slick one-liner beats and proceeds to force his selected movies to it, at times clearly taking an overly literal interpretation of the beat-name to achieve it, and at others straining at the edges of the concept or theme to slot them in. If Sam Schmam dodges a potato in minute 106, that apparently is just as important as Neo dodging bullets - it's the focussing illusion. You're looking for a duck in every beat, even though sometimes the duck just happened to be flying in the background. Even if it's a completely non-meaningful duck, apparently it counts as one of Klick's beats.

Not all movies fit the beats (Star Wars has a number of missing moments) and the book ends at 120 minutes, leaving several movie analyses unfinished (great help to us there, then. He claims to have created up to 180 beats, but he'll only put 120 in the book, even though several movies aren't finished by beat 120. Thanks for that.)

Klick makes no attempt to look at the underlying meaning or cause behind these beats - what is it that makes 'the dodge' such a common trope in minute 106? What is it evoking in the audience, what is it trying to achieve? What is its purpose? Not one word on this, perhaps the most crucial aspect of any kind of plot analysis. The result is a colour-by-numbers guide that allows for superficial analysis of a script (do I have a dodge on page 106? Oh good.) but no understanding of why this particular order of beats is (apparently) so magical.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I'm sure the author spent a lot of time analyzing films and seeing the patterns that he came up with for this book, and I won't take that away from him. However, this book is not an effective way to learn to write screenplays. His system of beats is not inherent in every movie and the beats that do link are often stretched to the point of being unrealistic.

Also, for those reviews that state that this is a worthy companion to Save The Cat, please don't be misled by that. This is nothing like, or in any way relevant to those books. At all.

As a a professional in the industry, and student of the craft, this is not an efficient way to write. Every scene serves the individual story that you are telling, not a page count or specific beat. Read this if you must, but take it with a grain of salt. The only valuable thing that this book might be good for would be to help break a little writer's block, but little else.

I will admit that this is the first book on the craft that I actually wish I could return because I found no value in it. I applaud the author for finding a system that might work for him, but I believe that it will do little for others.
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I agree completely with all the 1-star reviews. If I could give this book zero stars, I would.

The thesis of the book is complete hogwash. It's wrong-headed, reductive and pathetic (particularly in the author's attempts to shoe-horn his thesis into the various film examples). There's nothing here of value. In fact, if anything, reading this book will confuse you and set you back. It's paradigm without intelligence. You can add this title to the increasingly large pile of books by non-writers (or unsuccessful writers) trying to cash in on the magic-formula, strike-it-rich screenwriting book craze. Sad, sad, sad...

They should rename this book Something Predictable Happens (at Each Exact Minute, Every Time, in Every Script).

I never bother to write reviews. But this time, I just had to get the word out. Caveat emptor!
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