The Ultimate Guide to Story Stakes

Master story stakes and you will be able to transform readers into raving fans and keep them turning the pages of your screenplay or novel. With this ebook, you will learn about:

  • 11 story stakes which increase tension and reader engagement
  • 8 modulating factors you can use to elicit extra emotion from your readers
  • using stakes to craft a premise with more commercial appeal
  • specific strategies to raise the stakes--even when they're already high to begin with!

* This ebook can be borrowed through Kindle Unlimited (US and UK only), which is free for the first 30 days. Please note: at this time, this writing guide is exclusively available on Amazon.

Script Structure: Lessons from Hitch

Screenplay Structure: Hitch

Hitch, written by Kevin Bisch, stars Will Smith as a “date doctor” who has trouble wooing the woman who’s caught his eye (and heart). With a gross of $368 million worldwide, it’s a fantastic example of how a romantic comedy–when well-executed–can be a major blockbuster.

Granted, it was released around Valentine’s Day. But it’s not just the timing which propelled Hitch to box office success. Hitch featured likeable stars whose chemistry sizzled.

The bromance between Hitch and his protégé Albert, played by lovable schlub Kevin James, was as, if not more, appealing than Hitch’s romance with his on-screen love interest Eva Mendes.

In addition to sizzling chemistry, Hitch has sparkling screenplay structure, which you should especially study if you’re having trouble integrating subplots into your own romantic comedy. Hitch’s mentoring of Albert not only yielded some of the best comedic payoffs in the film, it pushed the plot forward and provided a thematic counterpoint to Hitch’s blasé approach to love.

So let’s see that subplot in action, shall we?

Plot Points from Hitch

  1. We see couples in various stages of dating, accompanied by a voiceover of Hitch’s views on romance and relationships.
  2. Hitch dispenses advice to three different bachelors, and we witness their dates as they unfold.
  3. Hitch gives the men tips on how to handle the third date when the first kiss happens. After this, the men are on their own.
  4. Gossip columnist Sara Milas returns to work from her vacation. Even on a break, she managed to dig up a scoop: socialite Allegra Cole’s boyfriend was cheating on her.
  5. Sara’s boss lectures Sara, telling her there’s more to life than watching other people live it.
  6. Hitch plays pool with his best friend at a swanky bar. His friend criticizes him for being all about the short game.
  7. At the same bar, Sara meets up with her best friend, Casey, who gushes about the man she met over the weekend. Sara dismisses the guy once she realizes that this man hit on Casey while buying lingerie for another woman.
  8. Hitch smoothly extricates a good-looking woman from a gaggle of guys. We flashback to college, when Hitch lacked a single smooth move. He was in love with a girl out of his league, and the intensity of his emotion drove her away.
  9. Back in the present, Hitch meets Albert Brennaman, a guy with no coordination, no guile, “no game.” Albert is Allegra’s tax accountant, and he’s completely head-over-heels in love with her. Inspired by Albert’s earnestness, Hitch agrees to take him on as a client.
  10. In a business meeting, Albert follows Hitch’s advice to “shock and awe” Allegra. He ends up quitting his job!
  11. Back in Albert’s office, Albert freaks out. But then Allegra knocks on his door. She appreciates that he stood up for her and gives him her phone number so they can discuss her wish to invest in a friend’s design business.
  12. At the swanky bar, Hitch observes Sara. She’s trying to get rid of a creep who can’t take no for an answer. To save her, Hitch steps in and pretends to be her boyfriend.
  13. They flirt, talking about themselves in the third person. Hitch leaves, without asking Sara out.
  14. Hitch meets with a potential client, Vance Munson. He’s the guy Casey met over the weekend. When Hitch realizes that Vance wants to “hit it and quit it,” Hitch refuses to take him on. Vance doesn’t handle the rejection well.
  15. A messenger delivers a box to Sara. It contains a walky talky, which Hitch uses to finally ask her out. When she says yes, she gets another gift: it’s a wetsuit.
  16. Hitch and Sara meet up at the marina. They race each other on waverunners, but Hitch’s waverunner breaks down. When he clambers onto Sara’s, he accidentally kicks her into the water.
  17. They arrive at their destination–Ellis Island. Hitch thinks he’ll impress Sara with a private tour and a peek into a log book which contains a signature from one of Sara’s ancestors. But Hitch’s plan backfires. Turns out that ancestor was a wanted criminal, a legacy the Milas family tried to forget.
  18. Sara discusses her date with Casey; she’s agreed to see Hitch again.
  19. Albert calls Allegra to ask her to go to a fashion event with him while Hitch gives him advice in the background.
  20. Intercut Hitch giving Albert advice with Albert executing the advice…usually with comedic results. Despite Albert’s awkward dancing at the fashion event, Allegra asks him out for a second date.
  21. The papers publish photos of Albert and Allegra together. Sara’s upset she missed the scoop. Hitch chastises Albert for getting photographed, then proceeds to give Albert advice on how to kiss.
  22. Sara learns that Hitch was the one who got Albert and Allegra tickets to the event. While her boss looks on, she asks Hitch out for date #2. Is Hitch a date–or a source? Sara’s not sure.
  23. Their second date, a chef rave, is as awkward as their first because Sara’s boss is there too. He tries to suss out info about Hitch and his connection to Albert. Hitch is saved from the interrogation by a major allergic reaction.
  24. Drunk on Benadryl, Hitch wanders the streets clinging to Sara. When they reach her place, she tells him about the near-death accident her sister had when they were little. The close call taught her it’s best not to love at all.
  25. Sara wakes up and discovers Hitch is gone. But then he returns–with breakfast. He kisses her, but he doesn’t wait for her to close the 10% gap (the advice he gave to Albert earlier).
  26. Despite Sara’s warning, Casey confides to Sara that she went out with Vance. Their date ended as Sara had predicted. The upside? Vance confirmed that the “date doctor” was real.
  27. Sara chases Vance down for a lead on the date doctor story. He gives her Hitch’s card.
  28. As Albert gets a back wax, Alex calls Sara to set up another date.
  29. At a Knicks game, Sara photographs Albert and Allegra. She thinks they’re really cute together. At the end of the date, Albert kisses Allegra.
  30. Sara finally learns that Hitch is the date doctor. Choosing career over love, she plans to publish an exposé on Hitch.
  31. Sara comes to Hitch’s house for dinner and confronts him about being the date doctor.
  32. Sara’s story hits the newstands, exposing both Hitch and Albert. Albert freaks out.
  33. Sara accompanies Casey to a speed-dating event. Now, Hitch confronts Sara. He defends Albert and scolds her for using Vance as her source.
  34. A montage of loneliness. At the end, Sara apologizes to Hitch, but he brushes her off.
  35. Albert asks Hitch to fix his relationship with Allegra. Upset that Hitch is willing to give up so easily, Albert tells him off.
  36. Spurred into action, Hitch seeks out Allegra and asks her to give Albert another chance. Allegra reveals that all the things she liked about Albert were the things Hitch had advised Albert to suppress. Albert arrives to win back Allegra. Misunderstandings cleared, Albert and Allegra become a couple again.
  37. Hitch races to Sara’s apartment and tries to win her back. Their conversation is super-awkward, especially since another guy is there. Quoting Hitch, Sara suggests they go their separate ways.
  38. She gets into a car with the handsome guy. As they drive off, Hitch jumps on top of the car. It’s revealed that the handsome guy is married to Sara’s sister. Hitch and Sara reconcile.
  39. Albert and Allegra get married. Everyone dances like idiots. Hitch completes one final act of manipulation to help score a cute guy for Casey.

More Romantic Comedy Plot Points

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