Friday, November 08, 2019

Huge Huntress sale & new audiobook!


SHADOW MOON is now in print and audio!!
                
It’s been a longer time coming than expected, but we were working on a special audiobook for Shadow Moon, and - it’s here!   

Of course RC Bray is back (Voice Arts Award Winner for Huntress Moon) and produced the book with his new audiobook company, Blue Heron Audio - with male and female narration, this time.




I want to reward everyone for their patience, so here are a couple of great deals for you.
  
SHADOW MOON is FREE!

For November 8-11, you can get the ebook of Shadow Moon for free! The book is also available at www.FreeMysteryEbooks.com , where you can also download 29 other mystery titles for free (pick and choose, or in the US, download all the titles with just two clicks).

And for those of you who need to catch up…

BOOKS 1-5 OF THE HUNTRESS SERIES ON SALE

Books 1-5 in the series are also on sale for Kindle in November, 

Just 99 cents US - (through November 30)

And 99p UK (through November 10 only)



                                               Shop the series

So there you are - the entire series now available for a limited time at an incredible discount. I can't wait to hear what you think!


-        Alex

Monday, July 15, 2019

30 Free Thrillers - including Book of Shadows!

For Prime Day (July 15-16) I'm participating in a 30-thriller giveaway. You can pick and choose, or just go to the linked page, click the ADD ALL TO AMAZON CART button. and get all thirty delivered to your Kindle, including my witch thriller Book of Shadows. 


  
  Homicide detective Adam Garrett is already a rising star in the Boston police department when he and his cynical partner catch a horrifying case that could make their careers: the ritualistic murder of a wealthy college girl that appears to have Satanic elements.

The partners make a quick arrest when all evidence points to a troubled musician in a Goth band who was either dating or stalking the murdered girl. But Garrett's case is turned upside down when beautiful, mysterious Tanith Cabarrus, a practicing witch from nearby Salem, walks into the homicide bureau and insists that the real perpetrator is still at large. Tanith claims to have had psychic visions that the killer has ritually sacrificed other teenagers in his attempts to summon a powerful, ancient demon.

All Garrett's beliefs about the nature of reality will be tested as he is forced to team up with a woman he is fiercely attracted to but cannot trust, in a race to uncover a psychotic killer before he strikes again.


"A wonderfully dark thriller with amazing is-it-isn't-it suspense all the way to the end. Highly recommended." - Lee Child

"Sokoloff successfully melds a classic murder-mystery/whodunit with supernatural occult undertones." - Library Journal


"Compelling, frightening and exceptionally well-written, Book of Shadows is destined to become another hit for acclaimed horror and suspense writer Sokoloff. The incredibly tense plot and mysterious characters will keep readers up late at night, jumping at every sound, and turning the pages until they've devoured the book." - Romantic Times Book Reviews

"Fast-paced with strong characterizations, fans will enjoy this superb thriller, as Adam and the audience wonder if The Unseen could be the killer." - Publisher's Weekly


And here's a plus - the audiobook of Book of Shadows is narrated by RC Bray, my fantastic narrator from the Huntress series. Get it on Audible for $7.49 or 1 credit!




MORE ABOUT BOOK OF SHADOWS

It’s fascinating to me how when you write a book, everyone always assumes it’s about you. Few people get that sometimes, if not most times, when you write a book it’s about getting OUT of you. Just like reading is, right?



Book of Shadows is about a cynical Boston cop who teams up with a mysterious Salem witch to solve what looks like a Satanic murder.
So naturally everyone who reads it assumes that I’m a witch (that’s with a "w"). Oh, the interviewers don’t come right out and say it, but you know that’s what they’re asking.

Well, I’m not. Really. Not really. No more than any woman is a witch.
But I can’t deny that writing Book of Shadows was a really excellent opportunity for me to indulge some of my witchier nature. I wanted to dive right in and explore some of those things that make some men – and a lot of women – uncomfortable with feminine power, and feminine energy, and feminine sexuality, and feminine deity.


I was working up to this book for quite a while. I’ve been around practicing witches most of my life. That’s what happens when you grow up in California, especially Berkeley. Actually the Berkeley part pretty much explains why I write supernatural to begin with, but that’s another post. Those of you who have visited Berkeley know that Telegraph Avenue, the famous drag that ends at the Berkeley campus, is a gauntlet of clothing and craft vendors, artists, and fortunetellers, forever fixed in the sixties. Well, look a little closer, and you’ll see just how many pagans, Wiccans, and witches there actually are.

I’ve walked that gauntlet thousands of times in my life. It does something to your psyche, I’m telling you.


There was also the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, where I spent many summer days in my interestingly misspent youth. Renaissance Faires are teeming with witches (check out the Fortune Tellers’ Grove next time if you don’t believe me).

So even though I don’t actually practice, not in an organized covenish kind of way, I’ve been to a ceremony or two, and you could say I’ve been researching this book for quite some time. In fact, I think I’ve known I was going to write this book ever since I first saw a "Calling of The Corners," a Craft ceremony which is one of the ritual scenes I depict in "Book of Shadows." It’s one of the most extraordinary spiritual experiences I've ever had -- such elemental, feminine power.
And in everyday life, there some things that are just useful to know about the Craft.
I’m not much one for spells, I’m more of a meditator. But when I had to kick my evil tenants out of my rental house? A cleaning service was just not enough. You better believe that the second the locksmith was done changing the locks, I was down at the witch supply store, buying black and white candles (for protection and cleansing), and sage (smudge it for purification). I opened every window and swept the whole house widdershins (to the left, to dismiss) with a new broom dipped in salt and rosemary to dispel all lingering energy. Ritual works, and it doesn’t really matter what accoutrements you use; it’s really about the intention: in this case to cleanse, heal, and start over fresh.



Another concept of the Craft that I’ve always found particularly useful is Maiden, Mother, Crone. Those are the three aspects of the Goddess, and also the three phases of the moon, corresponding colors white, red and black. They represent the three cycles of a woman’s life – youth, womanhood and age – but women also pass through all three aspects every month when they’re menstruating, and knowing that has saved my life (and the lives of many of those around me) many a time.

The time right after your period is Maiden: you have a rush of estrogen, so you’re glowing, you’ve just dropped all that water weight, you have a ton of energy, and you’re – well, up for it. And men can sense it. Best time to snag a partner, although your choices might not be exactly the best in this phase of the cycle.



The Mother (also called Queen) phase of the month is around ovulation. You’re powerful, grounded, and can get a lot done, especially creatively, because of the pregnancy connotations. It’s a sexy time in a different way than Maiden, because there’s the extra knowledge 
that yes, you really can get pregnant right now.



The Crone phase is raging PMS and the "death" that a period often feels like. Wise people know to avoid you at this time unless they really want a faceful of truth, and I try not to schedule meetings, especially with men, when I’m in this phase. Best for me to be solitary and contemplative. And contain the damage.
But the things that come out of your mouth during this phase are the deep truth, even if they’re not pleasant, and if you remember to breathe, put the knife down, and pay attention to what you’re feeling and saying, you can learn a lot about your life and what you really need to be doing. Also your dreams will tend to be the most powerful, vivid, and significant in this phase. I know mine are.



I appreciate the earth/nature centeredness of the Craft. I like to be aware of whether the moon is waxing or waning, and focus on bringing things into my life during the waxing, and letting go of things (or people!) in the waning. And I like knowing that there is extra power and magic at the Solstices and Equinoxes; that knowledge makes me stop at least four times a year to consider what I really want to manifest in my life.

(Obviously I used all of that Moon knowledge and more in the Huntress Moon series, too…)

Let’s face it: I also like the clothes. With my hair, I’ll never be able to pull off the tailored look. I love lace and fishnets and velvet and sparkles and corsets and big jewelry. I love the candles and the scents and that every day has a color (today is white, if you’re wondering).
And there is another aspect of the Craft that has been truly important to me, spiritually. It’s about balance. I have never, ever bought the idea that God is male. It runs contrary to my entire experience of reality. I love you guys, really I do, but you’re only half the equation. I can’t see how an ultimate power could be anything but BOTH male and female. So the notion of a Goddess, in all Her forms, to me, completes the equation.



These days, we need all the feminine power we can get.

So how about you? What’s your take on witches? Are you familiar with the way witchcraft is actually practiced, or is that whole world completely mysterious to you? Or do you do the odd spell or two yourself?

-- Alexandra Sokoloff


Thursday, July 11, 2019

Put your craft on autopilot: A Star is Born setpieces

Fourth of July weekend done! It’s officially summer! Yay!!  

We all love these lazy days, and we deserve a break, right? Summer is for vacations, and spa days, and - well, let’s face it - no one feels much like writing, do they? I know I’d much rather be bingeing Big Little Lies (the jury’s still out on Stranger Things 3…)

But why not do both? Be lazy and enjoy summer AND get some writing craft work in at the same time?

As some of you know, I’ve written several books on story structure and teach a popular story structure workshop when I have time - or when the location is so great that I can’t resist. Like this one on a cruise ship to the Caribbean in November, for example.




Writers usually buy the writing workbooks and take my workshops because they’re looking for specific help with their specific books. And that’s great. But I also try to emphasize that everyone can be practicing the techniques of the Three-Act, Eight-Sequence Structure and becoming a better storyteller pretty much all the time, practically by osmosis.

We went to a looooong party over the 4th of July weekend, and nobody felt much like doing anything on Sunday, so Craig and the cat and I ended up finally watching the latest A Star is Born.

I talk a lot about story patterns (WHAT KIND OF STORY IS IT?) in my workshops, and one of the first things I do is encourage my students to identify the kind of story they’re writing. Because whatever story pattern you are writing (or patterns - there’s often more than one at work!), it’s always astonishingly useful to watch three or four movies of this story type in a row, to understand the specific structure of these stories and what elements we, the audience, keep coming back to see.

So that you can make sure to be hitting those elements in your own story, and even giving us the new or deeper take that will make your story a classic. Right?

We have many Hollywood examples of the “Star is Born” story. All four of the movies with that title (1937, 1954, 1976, 2018). Also What Price Hollywood (arguably the very first in the line), Funny Girl, and the TV show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which is an extraordinarily good, and successful, example of this story type.

I have to admit that I am particularly drawn to this story pattern because of the thematic deal with the devil aspect of it. A Star is Born never ends happily, does it? It’s a Hobson’s Choice - the heroine is always forced into a choice between fame and love. And the implication of the story line is ALWAYS that the heroine achieves fame only by sacrificing love. Even worse, the story usually says, implicitly, that the love of her life has to die in order for her to achieve fame. Or maybe what it’s saying is that even if he loves her, a man would rather die than be eclipsed by a female star.

Hopefully Mrs. Maisel will be a little more modern about it - we’ll see!

So let’s say you have an idea for a Star is Born story of your own. If you watch three or four of these Star is Born stories for common elements, you can’t help but notice that there is a scene early on in each one of these movies/shows that you could call the “Star Power” scene:  a musical or acting tour de force that makes us understand that the heroine was born to do exactly this.

It’s unique in that the heroine doesn’t just expresses her DESIRE for fame (the classic musical I WANT song) - the scene specifically has to blow us away with the force of her talent in this climactic SETPIECE.

Funny Girl is a great example of making the Heroine's Desire concrete and visual. Musicals so often do this brilliantly, in song, staging and visuals. Early in the story, Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice is fired from the chorus line of a vaudeville show because she's a terrible dancer, and, well, not exactly cover girl material. She tries to convince the producer to rehire her in a comic song ("I'm the Greatest Star") but gets thrown out of the theater anyway. Out in the alley, she makes a decision and storms back inside to try again, still singing - only to find the theater empty.  Then alone, out on stage, she has that moment that I'm sure every actor and singer and dancer in the history of the world has had - that moment of being alone on an empty stage with the entire vast history and awesome power of the theater around you. She is speechless, silenced 0 and then finishes the somg with a power and passion we haven't seen in her yet. We see, unequivocally, that she is a star.

And that turn gets her hired back. 

I love that Star Power scene and most of the rest of the movie - it's a much more entertaining and thoughtful take on the Star is Born story than the actual A Star is Born Streisand starred in in 1976.


The 2018 A Star is Born nails the Star Power scene for damn sure with Lady Gaga’s stellar turn of “La Vie En Rose” in the drag club.

Mrs. Maisel’s drunken foray into standup comedy is a fantastic, non-musical variation on the scene. Yeah, that upper Eastside housewife has the goods.



And of course in George Cukor’s 1954 A Star is Born, the iconic Judy Garland rendition of “The Man That Got Away” is not just a famous scene, but one of the best-known scenes in film history.
  
You can do this kind of scene comparison for any story question/problem you have in your own story. Screen three movies in the genre you’re writing and let the scenes those filmmakers came up with inspire you to create your own classic scenes.

Isn’t that a goal for some lazy summer writing?

So - what kind of story are you writing? And do you have other examples of the kinds of stories I've listed above, or other kinds of stories to add to the list?

Alex

------------------------------------------------

If you'd like to to see more of these story elements in action, I strongly recommend that you watch at least one and much better, three of the films I break down in the workbooks, following along with my notes.

I do full breakdowns of The Matrix, The Wizard of Oz,  Chinatown, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Romancing the Stone, Sense and Sensibility, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sea of Love, and The Mist - and act breakdowns of You've Got Mail, Jaws, Silence of the Lambs, Raiders of the Lost Ark in Stealing Hollywood.

I do full breakdowns of The Proposal, Groundhog Day, Sense and Sensibility, Romancing the Stone, Leap Year, Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sea of Love, While You Were Sleeping and New in Town in Writing Love.



 


STEALING HOLLYWOOD ebook, $3.99    
STEALING HOLLYWOOD print, $14.99











Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)

Amazon US


Barnes & Noble/Nook


Amazon UK


Amazon DE



=====================================================


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Friday, April 19, 2019

Book 6 of the Huntress Thrillers out now!

Shadow Moon, Book 6 of the Huntress/FBI Thrillers, is out today!

This book is ONLY for readers who have already read the first five books. The series unfolds over six months, one book per month, each culminating in the full moon. Along the way they delve into multiple timelines in the past. Please don't try to start at the end!

Order here for $2.99.

For those new to the series, Book 1 is Huntress Moon

Shop for all five previous books here

The series turns tropes of violence against women inside out: this haunted FBI agent  and his team is on the hunt for a female serial killer. Who kills men. Lots of them. All over the country. For years.

If you love a fictional series based on real life horrors, like The Handmaid's Tale or Mindhunter, or if you're just in the mood to see the predators LOSE, read on.

Special Agent Matthew Roarke thought he knew what evil was. He was wrong.


 
Start with Book One - Huntress Moon, and the Award-winning audiobook!


Huntress Moon  - Audiobook

Voice Arts Award for Best Audiobook Narration

Add the audiobook narration to any Huntress ebook for $3.99 or less.




Huntress Moon and my amazing narrator, RC Bray, won a Voice Arts Award for Best Audiobook Narration, Crime & Thriller.

Bob is also the multi-award-winning narrator of the blockbuster audiobook of The Martian, and you can hear his stellar narration in all six Huntress books. (Shadow Moon audiobook out in May, with Bob producing, AND with alternate male/female narration, co-performing with Rinelle Harkin!)





------------------------------------------- SPOILERS ahead! -----------------------------------------------





Does Fate connect us?

Mass killer Cara Lindstrom is in the wind, after a deadly encounter which has left FBI Special Agent Antara Singh questioning her own sanity and fitness to serve. ASAC Matthew Roarke exiles Singh to Portland to work as an assistant to his old mentor, retiring profiler Chuck Snyder—but a series of mysterious break-ins alerts Singh and Snyder to an active threat revolving around an old case: a string of brutal murders of homeless teenagers on the streets of Portland and Seattle.

Singh and Snyder must go on the road and deep into Roarke’s and Cara’s pasts to discover a pattern of destiny and interconnection that holds the key to unsolved child murders, past and present.


 Pre-order for $2.99



If you thought Bitter Moon was complex (I did!) Shadow Moon takes it a couple of notches higher, which may be why I'm a little late on it. :) The book takes place over multiple timelines,
encompassing many episodes from Roarke's and Cara's lives within the framework of a heartbreaking, excruciating, present-day case.

You'll be going on a road trip that includes stops at some of my - I mean Cara's - favorite national parks.

You'll learn things you never knew about all the characters—details and backstories that I've been incorporating into the TV episodes.

On the procedural side, as always, I'm writing about real-life failures in the criminal justice system that could so very easily be fixed with obvious and implementable real-life solutions- IF this country decided to make the elimination of sexual violence and sexual homicide a priority.

And I hope the story will also inspire you to think about the role of destiny and synchronicity in your own life. For me, that's part of the mysterious magic of this world - the signs and convergences that let me know I'm on my path.

As always, I'm looking forward to talking to you about any and all of the books in the series, your synchronicities, your fears, your triumphs, your love lives...

       -- Alex 




Friday, April 12, 2019

Scary audiobooks! The Harrowing and The Price


NEW HAUNTED AUDIOBOOKS!     
      
I have brand new audiobooks of two of my Haunted thrillers, from Tantor Audio. (Sorry, US only right now.)

But - comment on this post, and I will send an audio CD to one of the commenters!


My ghost story The Harrowing was a Bram Stoker Award nominee for Best First Horror and an Anthony Award nominee for Best First Mystery. 

Left alone in their college dormitory over the long Thanksgiving break, five misfit students confront their own demons and a mysterious presence—that may or may not be real.

Read by Rebecca Mitchell.

Poltergeist meets The Breakfast Club as five college students tangle with an ancient evil presence. Plenty of sexual tension, quick pace and engaging plot.”
—Kirkus Reviews

 “Absolutely gripping…it is easy to imagine this as a film. Once started, you won’t want to stop reading.”
—The London Times

“Sokoloff’s debut novel is an eerie ghost story that captivates readers from page one. The author creates an element of suspense that builds until the chillingly believable conclusion.”
—Romantic Times Book Reviews

 “Scary without being gory, this book has just the right blend of psychological drama, mystery, romance, and creepiness.”
—VOYA Reviews



The Price is the second of my Haunted thrillers -
a love story/horror thriller set in the world’s creepiest hospital (some fascinating research went into that!)

A Boston district attorney suspects his wife has made a terrible bargain to save the life of their dying child. 

Read by Noah Michael Levine






The Price is a gripping read full of questions about good, evil, and human nature…the devastating conclusion leaves the reader with an uncomfortable question to consider: ‘If everyone has a price, what’s yours?’”
                                 —Rue Morgue magazine

“A heartbreakingly eerie page turner.”                                    
                                     —Library Journal
            


UPCOMING APPEARANCES:
 
In the US:

April 14 (yes, tomorrow!) I’ll be at the LA Times Festival of Books, signing at the Mysterious Galaxy/Sisters in Crime booths from 1-2 pm.  Booths 367/368

May 15-19 I’m thrilled to be going back to New Orleans for the inaugural Book Lovers Con  (formerly Romantic Times). Two hundred romance, thriller and suspense authors descend on my favorite city during Jazzfest. You know you want to be there!

In the UK:

May 2-4 I’ll be at Newcastle Noir, with a whole cadre of powerhouse feminist authors from all over the world! Can’t wait!

Full list of appearances and details on my WEBSITE

So what are you guys up to, this glorious spring?

-       Alex

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Book 6 of the Huntress Thrillers - and series sale, 99c!

YES - Shadow Moon, Book 6 of the Huntress/FBI Thrillers, is now available for pre-order, for
delivery on April 19!

Pre-order here for $2.99.

Before I talk about the new book below, with spoilers - I want to remind everyone that this series is written to be read in order. So Thomas & Mercer has put the first five books of the series on sale for you to catch up - just 99c each on Amazon US.

(Huntress Moon may be $1.99 for some people.)

The series turns tropes of violence against women inside out: this haunted FBI agent  and his team is on the hunt for a female serial killer. Who kills men. Lots of them. All over the country. For years.

So if you love a fictional series based on real life horrors, like The Handmaid's Tale or Mindhunter, or if you're just in the mood to see the predators LOSE, here’s your chance to get a great deal.

Special Agent Matthew Roarke thought he knew what evil was. He was wrong.





   Start with Book One - Huntress Moon, and the Award-winning audiobook!


Huntress Moon  - Audiobook

Voice Arts Award for Best Audiobook Narration

Audiobook junkies might want to take the sale opportunity to pick up the ebooks - and add the audiobook narration for $3.99 or less.


Huntress Moon and my amazing narrator, RC Bray, won a Voice Arts Award for Best Audiobook Narration, Crime & Thriller.

Bob is also the multi-award-winning narrator of the blockbuster audiobook of The Martian, and you can hear his stellar narration in all six Huntress books.





------------------------------------------- Spoilers ahead! -----------------------------------------------





Does Fate connect us?

Mass killer Cara Lindstrom is in the wind, after a deadly encounter which has left FBI Special Agent Antara Singh questioning her own sanity and fitness to serve. ASAC Matthew Roarke exiles Singh to Portland to work as an assistant to his old mentor, retiring profiler Chuck Snyder—but a series of mysterious break-ins alerts Singh and Snyder to an active threat revolving around an old case: a string of brutal murders of homeless teenagers on the streets of Portland and Seattle.

Singh and Snyder must go on the road and deep into Roarke’s and Cara’s pasts to discover a pattern of destiny and interconnection that holds the key to unsolved child murders, past and present.
-->

 Pre-order for $2.99



If you thought Bitter Moon was complex (I did!) Shadow Moon takes it a couple of notches higher, which may be why I'm a little late on it. :) The book takes place over multiple timelines,
encompassing many episodes from Roarke's and Cara's lives within the framework of a heartbreaking, excruciating, present-day case.

You'll learn things you never knew about all the characters—details and backstories that I've been incorporating into the TV episodes.

On the procedural side, as always, I'm writing about real-life failures in the criminal justice system that could so very easily be fixed with obvious and implementable real-life solutions- IF this country decided to make the elimination of sexual violence and sexual homicide a priority.

And I hope the story will also inspire you to think about the role of destiny and synchronicity in your own life. For me, that's part of the mysterious magic of this world - the signs and convergences that me know I'm on my path.

As always, I'm looking forward to talking to you about any and all of the books in the series, your synchronicities, your fears, your triumphs, your love lives...

       -- Alex 




Thursday, February 14, 2019

Top Ten Romantic Movies

Happy Valentine's Day! Here's a romantic but thematically useful post for the day.

As many of you know by now, the first assignment I lay out in my Screenwriting Tricks workbooks, and the first exercise I have any class or workshop I teach do right up front, is a Top Ten List of favorite movies.

Because, yes, I teach story structure, but what works for me structurally is not necessarily going to do it for you. My primary goal is to teach you how to do this for yourself.



If you take the time to list, study and analyze the books and films that have had the greatest impact on you personally, or that are structurally similar to the story you’re writing, or both, that’s when you really start to master your craft. Making the lists and analyzing those stories will help you brainstorm your own, unique versions of scenes and meta-structures that work in the stories on your master list; it will help you figure out how your particular story will work. And doing this analysis will embed story structure in your head so that constructing a story becomes a fun and natural process for you.

Making a genre list is particularly useful for brainstorming and analyzing the elements of a genre or sub genre that your reader or audience will be expecting in any book or film of that genre.

So in honor of the day, I'm going to do a favorite love story list.

• Four Weddings and a Funeral
• Lost in Translation
• Next Stop Wonderland
• Notorious
• Bridget Jones’ Diary  (the book more than the movie)
• Notting Hill
• When Harry Met Sally
• Philadelphia Story
• Rebecca
• Bringing Up Baby
• Much Ado About Nothing
• Casablanca
• Sleepless in Seattle

(That’s a list of more than ten, just to demonstrate that the list is whatever you want it to be!)

So what can I learn about my own love story themes by looking at that list?



Four Weddings and a Funeral, Philadelphia Story, Sleepless in Seattle, and Lost in Translation are probably my favorites of that list.

Four Weddings appeals to me on a very personal level because writer Richard Curtis, as is his wont, is not just exploring love relationships between two people, or several sets of two people, but also the group love dynamic of a posse of friends. In fact, in that movie, the group dynamic is one of the factors keeping the hero, Charlie (Hugh Grant) from settling down to marry — and has kept every single one of the others single, except for the one truly married couple in the group, the gay couple who couldn't at the time legally marry. (Wonderful, scathing truth there, every bit as important today).

That group dynamic has always resonated deeply with me, and I imagine it struck a chord for a lot of people. Also, in terms of high concept, the film is great because most of us have experienced that totally exhausting year that every single person you know gets married and your entire social calendar revolves around weddings. I certainly could relate to Hugh Grant groaning and burying his head under a pillow as yet another embossed linen envelope arrived in the mail.

But the real beauty of Four Weddings is the underlying theme that there is something magical about a wedding that opens the door to love, not just for the couple involved, but potentially for everyone who attends. The structure of the film is a round-robin, where at each wedding at least two people find the loves of their lives, and we see one of those weddings next, or the preparation for a wedding, or at least the deepening of the relationship with a promise of marriage. This is something I think most of us would like to believe about weddings: that there is an encompassing magic there, a kairos, that invites something life-changing. That story truly delivered on that theme.

When Harry Met Sally is an enduring romantic comedy not just because of the great chemistry between Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan and the charming documentary clips of elderly couples talking about how they met and fell in love, but because it explores a strong theme: Can a man and woman ever really be friends? And we experience the great treat of watching Billy and Meg first becoming friends and then falling in love.

Next Stop Wonderland and Sleepless in Seattle are examples of the theme of the soul mate — that there is someone out there who is destined for you, and that the Universe will guide you to that person. Next Stop Wonderland shows two people whose paths cross over and over again, with all kinds of attendant signs that these two people are supposed to be together — but they don’t meet until the last few seconds of the movie. Sleepless in Seattle explores the same kind of fatedness, and similarly keeps the hero and heroine apart until the end of the movie. I admit, this kind of thing just turns me inside out: that there is one person who is all that, and that all of life is conspiring to help you find that person.

Lost in Translation is a bittersweet variation on the soul mate theme: Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson are two married people (married to other people!) in spiritual crisis who meet each other in a posh hotel in Japan. They are drawn to each other despite their marriages and the big age difference between them, and we feel a simultaneous HOPE and FEAR that they will get together. We want it at the same time we sense it’s wrong. But the story is really about — to me — the concept that we may have lived multiple past lives, with multiple lovers, and sometimes in the midst of a crisis, one of those soul mates will show up to guide you through the dark woods … but not necessarily stay with you. In the Final Battle (the film’s climax), Bill does not sleep with Scarlett, and they part ways, but their lives have been transformed by each other nonetheless.

Notting Hill is an interesting story because there’s no one person who’s the antagonist (even though Alec Baldwin does a charming turn as the rival, the movie star boyfriend). The real obstacle to Hugh Grant’s and Julia Roberts’ relationship is her fame, and each sequence explores a different aspect of that celebrity and how it keeps the couple apart.

Philadelphia Story has a very sophisticated underlying premise: Cary Grant knows that Katharine Hepburn will never be able to love him fully until she steps off her pedestal and has a roll in the mud. It’s only after she abandons herself and sleeps with Jimmy Stewart (oh, come on, you know they did!), that she is fully human to love Cary.

Try it with your own list!

Every time I teach a story structure class it’s always fascinating for me to hear people’s lists, one after another, because it gives me such an insight into the particular uniqueness of the stories each of those writers is working toward telling. The list tells you who you are as a writer. What you are really listing are your secret thematic preferences. You can learn volumes from these lists if you are willing to go deep.

I really urge you to create your list, and break those stories down to see why they have such an impact on you — because that's the kind of impact that you want to have on your readers.  Why not learn fron your favorite storytellers how to do it?

So of course, what I want today is love stories! What are yours? What romantic themes particularly resonate with you?

Happy Valentine's Day!

      - Alex


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                                          STEALING HOLLYWOOD

This workbook updates all the text in the first Screenwriting Tricks for Authors ebook with all the many tricks I’ve learned over my last few years of writing and teaching—and doubles the material of the first book, as well as adding six more full story breakdowns.

 


STEALING HOLLYWOOD ebook    $3.99
STEALING HOLLYWOOD US print  $14.99
STEALING HOLLYWOOD print, all countries 








WRITING LOVE

Writing Love is a shorter version of the workbook, using examples from love stories, romantic suspense, and romantic comedy - available in e formats for just $2.99.


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