McKee's 10 Commandments of Story, and why they matter for Brand Strategy
McKEE’S TEN COMMANDMENTS of SCREENWRITING ) stra tegy d b ran e r for y matt y the (and wh
1. THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THE CRISIS ORCLIMAX OUT OF THE PROTAGONIST’S HANDS (OR, NO ‘DEUS EX MACHINA’ ENDINGS).
1. Deus Ex Machina = NO FOR SCREENWRITING: If the world’s about to end, let it. No “And then I woke up.” FOR PLANNING: Your PRODUCT is your protagonist, and IT must be responsible for any beneﬁt/conﬂict you’re inciting. Don’t pull something completely foreign or disparate out of thin air.
2. THOU SHALT NOT MAKE LIFE EASY FOR THE PROTAGONIST (OR, NOTHINGPROGRESSES EXCEPT THROUGH CONFLICT).
2. Conﬂict makes the world go ‘round. FOR SCREENWRITING: Your hero has to overcome hardship, and if it’s going to be interesting to your audience, it can’t be easy. FOR PLANNING: Easy is a cop out. Yes, you can check a box, but without some conﬂict, your content’s not going to resonate.
3. THOU SHALT NOT USE FALSE MYSTERY OR SURPRISE.
3. Keep it real. FOR SCREENWRITING: Your payoff has to be a real PAYOFF. FOR PLANNING: Know your target well enough to know what’s going to resonate. If it’s something that’s NOT, don’t do it.
4. R-E-S-P-E-C-T FOR SCREENWRITING: Your audience isn’t dumb. Don’t treat them like they are. FOR PLANNING: Know exactly who your target is, and learn to love them (or at least appreciate them).
5. THOU SHALT HAVE A GOD-LIKEKNOWLEDGE OF YOUR UNIVERSE.
5. Be the master of your domain. FOR SCREENWRITING: It’s about knowing 1. the ﬁctional realm you’re creating as well as your hometown and 2. understanding your audience’s reality outside of a darkened movie theater. FOR PLANNING: It’s all in the details. Do your research and know the minutia of your target’s existence.
6. THOU SHALT USE COMPLEXITY RATHER THAN COMPLICATION.
6. Why’d you have to go and make things so complicated? FOR SCREENWRITING: Just because a lot’s going on doesn’t mean your story’s compelling. There’s more to it than simple action. FOR PLANNING: Live and die by your key idea. A strong one can be the difference between complex and complicated.
7. THOU SHALT TAKE YOUR CHARACTERS TO THE END OF THE LINE.
7. FIN FOR SCREENWRITING: The story isn’t over until your hero has faced the gravest challenge possible (within the realm of your story) and a ﬁnal, IRREVOCABLE conclusion has been reached. FOR PLANNING: Complete the circle across all touchpoints. Don’t leave questions unanswered.
9. Start with a bang. FOR SCREENWRITING: Start big and immediately. Your inciting incident should be, ideally, on the ﬁrst page of your script, but can be no later than the third. If you haven’t ﬁgured out a way to grab ‘em by then, you’re screwed. FOR PLANNING: Make your mark at the start.
10. Writing is rewriting. FOR SCREENWRITING: If your ﬁrst draft’s the same as what you see on screen, you’re doing it wrong (or you are possibly in an alternate universe because that has never, ever happened in the entire history of cinema). FOR PLANNING: Let your idea sit, and come back to it. Collaborate, get feedback. Tweak.