Plotting your way to a compelling screenplay

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be teaching a webinar on PLOT for The Writers Store on December 18 from 1:00 – 4:00 (Pacific Standard Time).


Screenwriting structure can be daunting to the best of writers if the elements are not properly understood.  In fact, screenwriting has more structure than any other form of creative writing, with the exception of certain styles of poetry.  While each element is vital to the art of screenwriting, plot is probably the most misunderstood of all. It is not story.  

Even though we can isolate each element of structure, and compartmentalize how they function in a script, this is not about a formula for writing, but having a greater understanding of the building blocks that make a story great.  Carla says, “Screenwriting is not like any other kind of writing, because it is for a visual medium.  While the elements of story (plot, storyline, character arcs, story arcs, and good dialogue are also shared in creating a work of fiction, there are a couple of fundamental differences in the process of writing for the screen.”  One major difference is the use of exposition to drive a plot forward.

Carla currently teaches screenwriting at Santa Barbara City College Continued Learning and holds regular workshops in Montecito.  She has written a dozen original screenplays and two have been optioned.


  • The difference between plot and story
  • How action is used in the plot to advance the story
  • The relationship between plot, story and character
  • Is plot just about a random sequence of events?
  • Plotting = planning
  • Timing is everything: How does timing influence the evolvement of the story?
  • How character creates plot


  • Novice and advanced screenwriters
  • Screenwriters who want a better understanding of plot
  • Writers who want to learn more about the craft of screenwriting
  • Writers who want to challenge themselves
  • Screenwriters who write in all genres
  • Screenwriters who want to learn
  • Anyone “truly” interested in writing a industry-acceptable, compelling story for the screen

For information or to sign-up, please click on the following link:


When Movies Offend Their Audience: The Controversy Surrounding “Orphan”

In our fast-paced, techno society, it seems we have a tolerance of things that once were not readily accepted, and this kind of tolerance is being seen more and more in movies. The current release, “Orphan” has become a subject of controversy, so much so that Warner Bros. actually removed the following intensely offensive line from the movie’s trailer: “It must be hard to love an adopted child as much as your own.”

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that a horror flick might make some uncomfortable, but this film seems to cross the line, especially with the adoptive parent community.

“Orphan” is about a family who adopts a young girl from an orphanage, and it becomes a living hell for the family as this girl terrorizes everyone around her. Perhaps another “Exorcist” is revisiting us, since the lead character is supernaturally evil.

Domestic Adoption Programs Coordinator for Hands Across the Water, Katie Page Sander claims that, “Language isn’t just limited to ticket buyers. “Orphan is kind of a loaded word,” says Sander. It has “negative connotations.”

Sander worries that the movie will enforce false stereotypes about adopted children, an issue she confronts every day.

In truth, there are a myriad of stereotypes about adopted children, especially if the child is an older child like “Esther” in the “Orphan, and Sander maintains, “ There’s already so many myths and misunderstandings about adoption — especially adopting older children — and this [movie] just perpetuates those myths.”

The misrepresentation is such that this film gives the impression that an adult can walk into an orphanage and pick out a kid like choosing a tube of toothpaste! Worse still, the film suggests that this is a replacement child. This is not shopping for groceries.

Realistically, how many films (especially horror) are accurate representations of real life? The word horror alone suggests that there is something within the premise of a film that is going to promote fear, shock and disgust the audience.

While many adoptive parents are up in arms, should they step back and look at what the film really is? It is an unrealistic story that is not a true representation of family life (adoptive or otherwise). If we watch a movie about a werewolf, should we worry about running into a werewolf while driving home from the theater?

On the other hand, when a film crosses the line, and offends an element of society perhaps it should be considered “poor entertainment,” and avoided like the plague!

\"Orphan\" Trailer