10 Screenwriting Lessons from Fight Club (Free Script Download)
Want to learn screenwriting from the “Fight Club” script PDF? We have 10 lessons to shake up your world. Read on!
Fight Club burst onto the scene in 1999 and the walls of both men and women's dorm rooms were never the same. The shirtless photo of a bloody and bruised Brad Pitt became an idol to people all over the world and still stands out amongst his filmography as one of his best performances. Where were you when you first heard about Fight Club? You know, the movie with the ending you had to see to believe?
I read about it on a website called Mutant Reviewers From Hell, which looks like it still exists. Then I snuck a VHS copy home from the library and watched it after my parents went to sleep. Because I was a bad boy. When you're a young impressionable man, Fight Club might sail over your head. As an adult, I look back on it and see the multi-layered attack on toxic masculinity, but as a 12-year-old all I cared about was the action.
Now, I'm rewatching to learn some writing lessons for myself. Lucky for me, Behind the Curtain put together a collection of sound bites from Chuck Palahniuk (book author), Jim Uhls (screenwriter), and David Fincher (director) where they explain how Fight Club happened and what they learned from working on the movie.
Don't worry, they're allowed to talk about this one.
10 Screenwriting Lessons from the Fight Club script PDF
1. Go to Church
The idea for the book came from Palahniuk going back and forth volunteering at church. He got to see hospice people first hand and learned what it was like to go to these support groups. Inspiration is all around you. Let your weird or most interesting impulses carry you forward. Sometimes the way to be inspired to write comes from getting out of the house. Don't be afraid to live in the real world,
2. Create a character with a code
We love characters with codes here. It makes them easy to define and can inform all sorts of things when you develop them. Whether you're developing protagonists, antagonists, or minor characters, details about their lives and internal struggles matter. A code can put that at the forefront. So when Tyler talks about what he believes in this world, we get to see who he truly is...sort of.
3. Find structure in chaos
The world is full of crazy people. And most of them work mundane jobs. When you're coming up with your characters think about what elements of their chaotic world can define them. Could it be a car? Or maybe even just their name? As a writer, it's your job to bring structure to the world and its actions.
4. Give your world rules
We talk a lot about making your stories believable. That means adding rules to the world that define the tone. Fight Club exists in the real world but also has a few twists. We have to say the laws of physics are generally applied here, but there has to be some suspension of disbelief as we see how far and wide Fight Club has grown. In essence, to believe the world we have to disbelieve the first rule of fight club. People did talk about it, evangelize it, and it spread. That way, we also can buy into the ending and a big plot twist.
5. The book is just a guide
Adaptations are very tricky. The general rule here is just to use the parts that you like of the source material. You don't have to be so beholden to the book or article that it derails your voice and your control of the story. You want to use the work to tell the best version that fills your movie or TV show.
6. Write outside the script
One of the best pieces of advice I heard in the Behind the Curtain video was that screenwriter Jim Uhls interviews the characters to find their voice and motivations. This exercise is a great way to understand how each character may act in the situations within the script. We can also learn what motivates them at earlier times as well. This backstory can then be built into the story at hand or just given to the actors if they need to go method.
7. Finish your draft and rewrite it
It's nice to hear when professional writers struggle. Uhls knew that once he was done his first draft of Fight Club it was so messy it would kill the project. Instead of sending it in, he sat down and reworked every idea and every angle. Even though he conducted his own page one rewrite, he took the time and effort to make sure the movie went forward. Refine at every level!
8. Voiceover should be disembodied and add another layer
We did a whole post on this, so I'll keep it brief, but the only reason to have a voiceover in your work is to add another layer to the story. Fight Club uses VO to add to the "unreliable narrator" aspect fo the story. Lots of times what we see generally contradicts what we hear. We also use it to get a window inside our narrator's soul. We understand what they feel on the inside, which is useful when it’s something we can't show on the outside.
9. Pitch it at a party
Here's another helpful hint from Uhls. If you're at a party, pitch your story idea and see what parts everyone latches onto. If people get bored or don't find it relatable, then they'll generally ignore it. But if you tap into a part of them that is excited or generally interested in the project, they'll impart pieces of themselves onto the project. You'll get to see what parts they love and care about, and then highlight those in your draft.
10. Write out of order to get the scent of blood
I've been trying this one recently myself. If you're stuck or scared, try writing scenes out of order. If they flow, then keep at it. No one said you have to put it all together in a straight line. Write the scenes that worked for you and that you're most excited to tackle. Work your way through the story one step at a time and then assemble it later. This can help alleviate the stress of a blank page as well.
What's next? Learn from the No Country from Old Men screenplay!
There were two competing films shooting in Texas at the same time in the summer of 2006. No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood were shot less than 50 miles away from each other. And legend has it No Country had to shut down shooting for one day due to the smoke from the scene where the oil rig caught fire in There Will Be Blood. While we already covered the There Will Be Blood script, I want to spend today going over No Country For Old Men's screenplay.
We'll cover the opening, ending, themes, and some of the standout dialogue from No Country for Old Men.
Click the link to learn more!