How To Memorize Plot Points (For Writers Only)

Lucas Parks and the Download of Doom

In this episode of the podcast, I tell you about the memorization process behind the writing of Lucas Parks and the Download of Doom, my first novel to feature a Memory Palace. Apparently it’s mesmerizing!

Tune in now and you’ll learn:

* How to turn a movie theater into a Memory Palace.

* How to use your dreams to create stories for novels and screenplays (it’s easy: just wake up and start writing down everything you remember and then use the plot points discussed in this podcast to structure a story around those narrative fragments).

* Why Stephen King’s 2000 word a day rule is not nearly as important as he makes it seem (and how to be relaxed about it while still getting massive amounts of writing done).

* The plot points I consider to be the most important when writing a story (like the conflict between conscious desire and unconscious need, dilemma, the visit to the underworld and the battle).

* How to get a copy of Lucas Parks and the Download of Doom for free (no catch whatsoever).

* My story as a young scholar reading Plato’s Republic while also working as a janitor in a movie theater (crazy times indeed).

* … and much, much more!

Frankly, if you’ve ever wanted to write a short story, screenplay or novel, there’s no better way to do it than to memorize the major plot points that have been with us since stories first became popular. I’ve been studying screenwriting gurus like John Truby and Robert McKee along with general ideas from narratology for ages in order to get insight into how stories work and have even served as a story consultant myself on several unproduced films and even Assault on Wall Street. Here I am on the set of that film with director Uwe Boll and the actors Dominic Purcell and Edward Furlong (yes, he played young John Connor in Terminator 2):


I got my story consulting gigs partly because of  two kind of strange and mysterious books I’ve written on screenwriting: Disaster Genre Secrets for Screenwriters and Horror Genre Secrets for Screenwriters. These are based on my lectures on American Film Genres that I gave at the Universität des Saarlandes in Germany and talk about things that really no other screenwriting books discuss using weird words like “abjection.”

Horror-Genre-199x300disastergenre-199x300Since we’re on the topic of memory skills, you might find it interesting to know that I rarely gave my lectures from memory. Why?

There was no time! Between preparing for the lectures and writing my dissertation while also running the short film club at the Uni, not to mention keeping up with my bass guitar studies …

I was swamped!

But I know Film Studies so well that I didn’t really need to memorize anything. All I had to do was draw up a few notes based on my research and preparation for the lectures and press the go button on my mind once I reached the podium. The notes guided my lectures so that I kept on track and the rest came from a different kind of memory: long term memory.

There are different ways that material gets into long term memory, and a lot of my knowledge about film that allowed me to lecture from notes got into my long term memory through Memory Palace work, particularly using the combined index card/Memory Palace method. I talked about this procedure in detailed a previous podcast episode called “How to Memorize a Textbook.”

Anyhow, I’m really happy to be able to talk about not only the various plot points I used to structure Lucas Parks and the Download of Doom, but also about how I memorized them for visiting again and again in order to deeply contemplate how to apply them to the stories I write. If you’re a writer and found this episode useful, please share it with your friends. As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at any time.


Film Studies is back in my life with this YouTube playlist all about the genres:

Enjoy and let me know if you have a chance to check it out and find anything memorable!


2 Responses to " How To Memorize Plot Points (For Writers Only) "

  1. Hi Anthony
    Thanks for posting this ‘writer’s edition’ magnetic podcast. As an aspiring writer I enjoyed listening to your ideas on how to employ the power of the mind and memory towards improving one’s writing craft skills. I even managed to place the main points on my own memory palace notice board as I was listening, so I could probably give a good run down of the main points.
    I guess we cinephiles all have at least one favourite cinema palace where we like to go and lose ourselves in stories. My current one is the Cremorne Orpheum here in Sydney, an art deco treasure house where I like to get to early just so I can imbibe in all that brass and mirrors and velvet on display in the foyer. I even remember seeing Titanic in the largest of the screening rooms, complete with its own Wurlitzer organ that rises from below the front of the stage to entertain the audience before the movie. I forget the nautical tune the organist was playing on the night, but I remember his sailor’s outfit. Magic. I gotta agree, movie houses make for great memory palaces.

    Also interested to hear your take on the benefits of writing the novel prior to tackling the screenplay. I learned this lesson with my current novel, a project that began life as a television screenplay. After working with a great producer for a while, he finally told me that I needed to write it as a novel in order to really understand the dramatic spine of the story. I’m not saying this is necessary in all cases, but I did start enjoy the writing process once I was able to let go of the research and focus on the fiction. It’s an historical novel based on a German writer who, among many other things, was one of the first writers to appreciate the benefits of integrating novels and screenplays (if only for marketing purposes). As a film scholar I’m guessing you’ve probably come across her – Frau Thea von Harbou.

    Anyway thanks again for the podcast, I look forward to reading Lucas Parks and I think I’ll mosey on over and have a look at your genre frameworks project site.

    • Hi Richard,

      Great that you could pop the plot points into your Memory Palace in real time. Being able to do this is something I’m asked about all the time, and probably your notice board idea would be the best because the mind doesn’t really need to travel. It’s a contained space. I’ll be experimenting …

      The theatre you mention looks great. There was something similar in Toronto called the Uptown which they tore down. It is featured in a novel I wrote that is far too controversial ever to see the light of day … but you might be interested in having a look at it since you like historical novels (mind you, the one I’m talking about is more of an alternative history). Mind you, I don’t think the Uptown had an organ, though it did have a huge stage that always made me think a troupe of dancers was going to appear at any minute.

      It’s definitely true that people can write screenplays without writing a novel first, but most of the great screenwriters tend to write something like a novel in terms of long character studies and what amounts to elaborate pages of Q&A. I think it’s the director’s commentary for Spartan, though it could be Red Belt where Mamet talks about how he writes sometimes 100k words to find the story before writing the screenplay in an afternoon.

      I was just thinking of Thea von Harbou the other night. I recently had two articles published in an encyclopedia on German cinema and in going through it, have found myself on a Lang binge. It started with M and now I’m thick into the Mabuse series …

      Looking forward to your novel!

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