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How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part III

If you have not already, please read the Nicholl Fellowship introductory article.

The How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship is a series of articles:

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part I

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part II

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part III

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part IV

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part V
How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part VI

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part VII

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part VIII

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part IX

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part X

What Makes a Great Story?

The Austin Film Festival asked this question to Greg Beal, Director of the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting; Franklin Leonard, Founder of The Black List; and AFF Screenplay Competition Director Matt Dy.

GREG BEAL: For me, Graham Parker’s song title “Passion Is No Ordinary Word” should apply to every story. If the writer truly cares about her story, her characters and the moments of true feeling she’s conveying, it appears on the page and on screen. If she can make her characters live and laugh and survive, then I have the opportunity to live through them, feel with them and learn from them.

FRANKLIN LEONARD: A beginning, middle, and end that keeps the audience interested in what happens next, elicits emotion of some sort of emotion (anything from fear to laughter to awe to sadness), and lives the audience viewing some aspect of their lives - no matter how small - differently than they did before being exposed to it.

MATT DY: A strong story is one that takes you on a journey without realizing it. When you’re reading a truly engaging script, the words fly off the page and you’re anxious to get to the next scene rather than thumbing through to see how many pages you have left. It’s easier said than done but it’s what every writer should strive for.

Nicholl Fellowship Scoring: The Most Important Criteria Is...

The Nicholl Fellowship team answered this burning question on their Facebook page:

No matter how we discuss or define the scoring criteria for the Academy Nicholl readers and judges, one criteria stands alone above all others - S-T-O-R-Y. Create a wonderful, intriguing story that causes readers to need to turn pages to find out what happens next - and you’ve written a script that will be noticed.

This isn’t to suggest that other criteria will be ignored when the story is good - as it is difficult to write an exceptional screenplay filled with an enticing story without engaging characters and dialogue, solid craft and execution and at least a modicum of originality - but some minor faults may be overlooked.

When we discuss story, we include a number of components - premise, subject matter, storytelling and conflict - and ask many questions, including but not limited to:

Reel Authors advise on this topic in multiple articles including:

Story is King

Concept is Key

The Three Act Structure

The Stakes: Set Them High
Drama and Conflict

Your Script Must Emote Well

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Related articles on this site

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Nicholl Fellowship - introductory article

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part I: What are Nicholl judges looking for?

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part II: What Makes a Great Script - the Nicholl answers

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part III: What Makes a Great Story?

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part IV: Nicholl Fellowship advises on Screenplay Dialogue

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part V: Nicholl Fellowship advises on Screenplay Characters

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part VI: Nicholl and AFF Screenplay Competition Directors talk Screenplay Conflict

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part VII: Nicholl Fellowship advises on Verbose Descriptions

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part VIII: Nicholl Fellowship advises on Screenplay Formatting

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part IX: Nicholl Reader Comments

How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship - Part X: Additional FAQ

External links

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Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Competition - home page

Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting - Facebook page

Example Nicholl-winning scripts

AFF Interview: Greg Beal, Franklin Leonard and Matt Dy

AbsoluteWrite: An Interview With Greg Beal

Moviebytes: Interview with Greg Beal: An Inside Look at the Nicholl Fellowships