Read the press release on Contour.


I suppose it would be completely improper for you to drop any pearls of information you may have learned about this, LL?

It is a completely reworked version of Jeffery Schechter’s Totally Write. Which frankly, beats Save The Cat hands down - if you actually use TW and put the marketing machine for STC behind you.

The new app, Contour, will eventually be cross platform and will have ways of taking the beat sheets you generate over to other applications - Montage, Movie Outline, Sophocles, Movie Magic Screenwriter Pro, Final Draft etc.

I know this sounds as if I am generating heat for the product - but you should be able to start a script in Contour and take it all the way to where the story is nailed down and in a proper film story shape then shift it to a screenwriting application of your choice. It will remain in active development as users give feedback and change from version to version to accommodate needs.

Best of all, it is a perfect partner for Scrivener.

The press release says:

Some of Contour’s features include:

-Flesh out a main character and codify their motivations and behaviors.
-Quickly recognize archetypes which protagonists journey through in all the top movies.
-Go from concept to bulletproof outline in less time than ever before.
-Learn a flexible yet exact plot point and beat structure that works for all genres.
-Seamlessly transfer a concept into popular screenplay writing software such as Montage.
-Develop a compelling logline, one that movie studios will want to read.

I can vouch for the quality of the product.


Obviously I can’t judge till I’ve tried it, but making those kind of claims isn’t a good start. For instance: ‘loglines that Hollywood will want to read’. I’m sorry?

A logline is short. All that’s needed to get it read is to get it under somebody’s nose, then it’ll get read. Making someone want to read it is done by warming them up first, not the actual sentence. It’s badly done marketing tosh. And I say that as someone who makes a living out of writing marketing tosh.

I’m not precious about writing - formulae work. The audience likes being reassured by them. But a spec that’ll get you work has to stand out with something other scripts don’t have, and by definition, you can’t mass-produce it.

Hi spinningdoc - that is a very sound point. I will pass it on to Logan Ryan. He probably will read this anyway.

Try it and see what you think when it arrives - it won’t suit everyone but it will help others a lot.

If you belong to the school of screenplay writing that holds all structure to be religious barbarianism then it won’t sit well with you. However if you think that most people are wired to recognise patterns and structure in a story and that it makes it easier to write genre pieces rather than create forms for which there is no wiring in the brain, then it will suit you.

I am not an advocate of any formula - but a shaped beat form for a story has much appeal. It only has to be there as a shadow in a story to connect to the collective unconscious. It certainly is not a formal set of carefully timed pegs or tent poles. These are exactly my reservations with Save the Cat.

Totally Write - the source for Contour - is not the same.

Thanks for the observation about Log Lines - I did not see it and I was looking straight at it.



I seem to recall from previous conversations we’re roughly in agreement about these things. Personally I’d parallel narrative structure with musical structure: it shapes content to make it intelligible to the audience, nothing more or less. You have to be James Joyce or Schoenberg to ignore it (and actually, I can’t stand either of them), and you can follow every rule and still be terrible.

As I say I’ll hold off judging till I’ve tried it; it may be wonderful. That Scriptwriting Goldmine stuff you highlighted a while back has proved to be very useful.

I have a long history of being anti-formula in this forum. Structure, on the other hand, is vital, which is why I’m so excited about Contour. With Montage and StoryMill, Mariner has shown that they get it – they understand (as does Keith) how to make a very specific and focused app that remains flexible enough to accommodate most any approach, any style of working. Plus, they’re very responsive developers (not quite in Keith’s league, but frankly, who is? I’m beginning to think Keith is, like, six people.)

As for stuff like help with a logline or whatever, I see that in the same way I see Montage’s “Query” functionality – a little beginner-y, not something I need or would use, but definitely not something that gets in the way. It’s there if you need it, not there if you don’t. And it’s probably not adding a ton to the price (or footprint) of the app. We’re not talking Word-Bloat here – it’s not like they’re adding design tools so you can make your own poster (Note To Mariner: That Is Not A Good Idea.)

Mariner, it seems to me, is serious about capturing a healthy portion of the screenwriting app business, and they’re going about it in a smart way – with the writer in mind. I can honestly see them taking serious market share from Final Draft, which is an indispensable tool for in-production screenplays, but a crappy place for a person sitting alone in a room to spend his/her day.

Since only LL actually knows what Contour’s like, the rest of us are all spouting opinions with no factual basis, which is the most fun way to do it.

Just to chase this structure/formula thing down a bit more though, since a client’s asked me onsite and there’s not much else to occupy me…

I suspect one writer’s structure is another writer’s formula.

For instance, would describing a story like this (McKeeishly…) be describing a structure or a formula?

  1. Protagonist faces initial problem. Reacts inconclusively.
  2. Initial problem develops into something altogether more ominous. Protag is forced to take it on.
  3. Protag makes various attempts to overcome it, has some success but eventually seems to be all but defeated. His very core is at threatened.
  4. Protag makes Herculean effort (yes, yes, I know) and finally defeats the problem, but at some cost to himself.

Is this too formulaic? Too vague?

Is it of any use to anyone except academics and quackish script tutors?

I disagree that structure and formula are the same thing. Save The Cat smacks of formula to me – it takes Aristotle’s three act structure (that’s what I mean by structure, btw) and plugs it in to a page-count, beat by beat, color-by numbers equation. The very name Save The Cat (a protagonist has to do something redeeming in the first 25 pages so we can identify with him/her; i.e. save a cat) is a formulaic idea. It goes to the idea that there are mandatory behaviors and actions that need to be in a script, and I think that’s an invitation for More Of The Same.

Three acts, though… that’s just the way to tell a dramatic story. There’s a reason we still read Poetics 2,300 years later. Structure is especially important at the screenplay level. I think screenwriters tend to forget (I do this) that filming and editing are much more conducive to messing with traditional presentation than writing. David Lynch is particularly good at delivering traditional three-act dramas that are impeccably structured, and experimentally presented. He allows his experiments to overwhelm his three acts in the end, but on paper, they’re there. Even something as “experimental” in presentation as Pulp Fiction is full of solid, structured three-act storytelling – edited, acted and presented in a way that felt fresh.

I wrote a short film a couple of years ago that made it into most of the big festivals, which means I spent a lot of time watching other shorts – a form that boasts its fair share of unstructured, tone-poem work. My takeaway from that experience is that I saw a lot of pretty shots, and a LOT of insufferably dull (to my Western eyes, anyway) movies. My friends and I have a theory that the most watchable shorts are those in which someone gets shot, and I think that has something to do with structure. Guy has a gun, guy uses a gun, guy pays (or doesn’t) for doing so. The gun puts the writer in the position of the guy getting robbed at a liquor store, enforcing its will: “Give me all the money you have, and a beginning, middle and end, and put them in this bag!”

Is there anything in “Contour” that you couldn’t do in Scrivener?

It’s tempting to think that the latest piece of software is somehow going to make writing easier or provide a magic formula. I’ve done it myself when I’m in a slump. But it’s a false promise, and in a way these “solutions” prey on the poor insecure writer, much like some alternative therapies do on the desperately ill.

I wrote my first book (to be published) in Word, and a film adaptation of it (Nicholl’s semis) in Final Draft. My second book has been written in Scrivener as have many ideas developed to outline stage or further using the excellent index card and outlining modes.

Keep writing.



There’s nothing in “Word” you couldn’t do with a “typewriter” and “some paper” (at least as far as writing is concerned). Nabokov wrote on endless stacks of notecards, Kerouac on a continuous roll of paper, Shakespeare with a Quill. Obviously, Contour and Scrivener (and Word and computers and typewriters and pencils and quills) are just tools. I don’t think anyone posting in this thread is looking for Countour to be a fill-in-the blanks shortcut to finished work – the questionable selling proposition, in my opinion, of stuff like Save The Cat. I’m looking forward to it because a very smart company with a good track record for making elegant, flexible software may have found a way to make the endless chore of outlining (an endless chore I’ve come to embrace, if not enjoy) a little more efficient.

I don’t mean to be a tool myself, but I wonder why you moved from Word to Scrivener and Final Draft? You can format a script in Word. It seem disingenuous to me to question enthusiasm for a new writing app in a forum devoted to a new writing app.

Anyway. You’re right: back to work.

I may or may not have killed this thread.

Murderer. We should search the archives and see if you are a serial thread killer.

There’s an idea… In a world with AI that is benevolent not malevolent, there is a communication structure that is similar to forums but uses the AI. Some rogue Starbuck’s employee has begun a rampage of destruction by senselessly killing various forum threads. As the story unfolds we find that the earlier murders are done to learn and practice skills needed for the serial killers ultimate goal: destroying the AI.

Crap, now I have that running through my head. I am sure it is a terrible idea but now I need to go and start a scriv project.


gets out those paddle things and applies to threads chest


It depends what counts as ‘something redeeming’ I guess. Literally saving the cat and the like is crude, but doing something which allows the audience to connect to the protagonist as a human being is pretty vital if you want the audience’s emotional involvement. Doesn’t have to be nice, just human.

Short films… I went to Bristol last year. Dear God there are some terrible short films doing the rounds. I don’t think it’s helped that mostly they’re made by wannabe directors rather than wannabe writers, who love their trainsets and gorgeously framed imagery; plus their next career move is more likely to be music videos than features, so narrative technique is irrelevant. And of course they have to demonstrate they have a unique directorial voice which they all seem to interpret as ‘be weird’. Oh, and a complete contempt for any idea that they ought to be entertaining.

A note to anyone thinking of making a short: Don’t. Find a way to make a feature for the same budget. And if you absolutely HAVE to make a short, write and direct. The short I wrote and produced went to Sundance, L.A. and Tribeca, and the first question out of the mouths of the first three agents I talked to was “why didn’t you direct it?” It wasn’t until I got a feature script optioned that I got any attention at all. As a calling card, short films are worthless for writers (unless, I guess, you’re teamed with the director, Coen Bros. style). Agents and producers see shorts as a director’s medium, and assume that the story “works” (to the extent it does) because the director made it work. What, me bitter? :slight_smile:

I am amazed at the reflexive ‘ready - fire - aim’ comments here. This is akin to religious fundamentalism. Hey, it is a piece of software - you don’t like it, don’t buy it. There is no need to rip the arms off someone who does - even if reinforces a long held prejudice and makes you feel good.

I strongly suggest you read James Bonnet’s book, ‘Stealing Fire From the Gods’. It examines both sides of this very, very silly argument.


I don’t want to ‘bless’ Sean’s comments - but he is trying to say something that deserves a little open heartedness and open mindedness on a forum for screenwriters. For what it is worth he happens to be very perceptive on this matter.

Contour has a lot to recommend it.


I use Scrivener above Word for the same reason you do I imagine, it allows me to visualise structure easily. With the next level of enhancements I will also be able to do away with Final Draft.

So basically I will have one tool that takes me from research to finished draft.

It is another step to then have a piece of software that claims to do more than that for you, like STC or Contour - I’ve seen it’s previous incarnation.

Please don’t let my cynicism (@LL religious fundamentalism?!) dampen anyone’ s enthusiasm:!:

I actually wouldn’t have responded at all if Trip hadn’t put quotes on Contour. :slight_smile:

I knew they were a provocation too far… :blush:

Although it was kind of funny. :slight_smile:

I hate when I look back at a post I made online and cringe at my own level of discourse. Reading my first post in this thread makes me think, “Man. I was cranky!” Which I guess is better than “Man. I was drunk!”

One last (positive) thing on this from me: One of the things that excites me about Contour is that Mariner is doing it. I really, really like the whole Mariner line (even MacGourmet!). They released Montage before it was ready**, I think, but they are truly an asset to the Mac writing community.

**Don’t get me wrong. The current iteration of Montage (1.5) is a terrific app.