The Montauk pitch book was created by the Duffer Brothers to help pitch their "Montauk" story concept to networks, alongside a pilot script. Created with the intention of resembling a Stephen King novel, it also contained images and story element comparisons to classic '80s films, such as E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Stand By Me. The book gives a basic outline of the show's original plot, as well as short descriptions of each of the major characters.
Introduction and Influences
The book introduces Montauk as an eight-hour sci-fi horror epic taking place in Long Island in 1980. It details how it's a “love letter to the golden age of Steven Spielberg and Stephen King”, drawing inspiration from the supernatural classics of the era.
The following is the story verbatim from the book:
- We begin at Camp Hero in the fall of 1980, a few months before the base will be shut down by the U.S. Government. A mysterious experiment has gone horribly awry. And something has gotten out.
- On this very night, a young boy, Will Byers, vanishes into thin air. His disappearance has a potent effect on the small town community, particularly on his best friend, Mike Wheeler, his brother, Jonathan, his mother, Joyce, and the reluctant chief of police, Jim “Hop” Hopper. We will follow each of these characters as they grapple with and investigate Will's disappearance.
- As they peel back the layers of this mystery, they will all arrive at the same shocking conclusion: Will was abducted by supernatural entities which were inadvertently released during an experiment. These entities exist between dimensions and have begun to feed on life from our world – Will's disappearance is only the beginning...
- Over the course of the series, the “tear” or “rip” that separates their world from ours will begin to spread across Montauk like a supernatural cancer. This cancer will manifest itself in increasingly bizarre paranormal ways. Electrical fields will be disrupted. Strange fungi will grow on structures and people. A heavy fog will drift in from the Atlantic. The temperature will plummet. Food will rot. Gravity will fluctuate. People will glimpse bizarre entities in their homes and businesses. There will be an escalating number of “vanishings.” The entire town will become “haunted” – and in grave danger. If people can disappear... can an entire town?
- In order to save Will and the town, our heroes will have to outsmart Federal Agents, and tap into the preternatural abilities of a mysterious child telepath named Eleven, who has recently escaped from Camp Hero. Eleven will ultimately give them access to this “in-between” dimension, a nightmarish reflection of our own, where they will find themselves face to face with unimaginable horrors – horrors from which some of them will never escape. Those who do will be forever changed.
The book explains that the show would be structured like a film, separated into three acts. Act One (episodes 1-3) would've depicted the disappearance of Will Byers and the effects it would have on the community. Hopper's investigation would be obstructed by federal agents, while Mike would bond with Eleven. Jonathan would become fixated on a supernatural “tear” he discovered in his shed, and Joyce would have made supernatural contact with Will. The act would conclude with all characters coming to the realization that Will was abducted by supernatural forces and “taken into a realm which exists beyond human senses.”
Act Two (episodes 4-6) would've focused on the town of Montauk becoming increasingly “haunted,” and the previously peripheral characters Mr. Clarke and Terry Ives playing major roles. Mike would have traveled into the alternate dimension and brought back proof that Will was still alive. The second act would've ended with all of the separated characters and storylines coming together.
Act Three (episodes 7-8) would've involved the characters working together to outsmart the military, entering the alternate dimension and saving Will, and closing the “tear” for good.
While the book states that the series would conclude with no loose ends, it also gives details on a potential sequel. The sequel would take place ten years later in the '90s, with the dispersed characters reuniting when horror re-emerges in the town of Montauk.
Tone and Style
The book gives guidelines on the show's style and tone. The visual style would be energetic and cinematic with bold framing. The cinematography would be dark and constantly on the move with fast pacing.
Period details would be featured to give the show a fun nostalgia factor, but not to overwhelm the story and characters. These guidelines were the same for the show's music, with classic songs only being heard from radios and televisions, while most of the music would be original.
The book gives short descriptions of each of the major characters, giving details on their backstories in addition to a basic outline of each character's arc. The characters are grouped into four groups: The Kids, The Outsider, The Teenagers, and The Adults.
- Mike Wheeler is twelve. He is a cute kid, but a birthmark on his left cheek leads to much bullying and near-crippling insecurity. He has never had a first kiss, much less a girlfriend. He escapes his insecurities through reading fantasy novels, spending time with his three best friends (Lucas, Dustin, and Will), and retreating into his own vivid imagination. The Dungeon Master of his Dungeons and Dragons group, he writes sprawling adventures with fantastical monsters. When he finds himself on a real adventure, facing real monsters, he will discover a courage he didn't know he had. By the end, he will even kiss a girl.
- Lucas Conley, twelve, is Mike's best friend. He lives only a few houses away. He is scrawny, short, loudmouthed. Initially a source of comic relief, his character will darken and deepen over the course of the series. His wealthy parents are in the midst of costly divorce; vitriolic arguments are a daily occurrence. As a result, he will grow angry, and destructive. His attitude will land his friends in danger more than once and put his friendship with Mike to the test.
- Will Byers, twelve, is a sweet, sensitive kid with sexual identity issues. He only recently came to the realization that he does not fit into the 1980s definition of “normal.” His innocent choices, such as colorful clothes, prove a constant source of bullying. Like Mike, Will escapes through fantasy gaming, where he can be himself, uninhibited. He has a close relationship with his mother, Joyce. His brother, Jonathan, helps raise him in lieu of their father, who abandoned them four years ago.
- Dustin Henderson, twelve, is the “King Geek.” He is overweight and wears oversized glasses. His supportive parents are nerds themselves and are supportive of his choices and hobbies. However, Dustin finds less acceptance at school, where he is often bullied for his weight and interests. He frequently bickers with Lucas; their arguments are good-natured at first, but escalate as the stakes rise.
- Eleven was an orphan with telekinesis. Her preternatural abilities have been linked to genetic mutations caused by her mother's drug use. When she was just two years old, she was taken for experiments by a clandestine faction of the U.S. Military. She has subsequently lived out a majority of her life in a small cell beneath Camp Hero. During this time, she and a group of other children (One to Ten) were subjected to a series of painful, dangerous experiments. Her powers proved greater than the other children, and she began to receive special attention from Agent One. Outside of Agent One, she has little experience interacting with others and has no memory of the outside world. When she escapes the laboratory at the start of our series, she finds herself experiencing real life for the first time. This proves both terrifying... and thrilling. If Mike is the Elliot of our show, Eleven is our “E.T.”
- Jonathan Byers, sixteen, is mysterious, quiet, with artistic leanings and a lifelong love (and talent) for photography. He finds his social life constantly stifled by his responsibilities to his family. He works at the local movie theatre to help his mother pay rent; the rest of his time is spent taking care of his kid brother, Will. While he loves his family very much, he also feels burdened by them. He has no friends at school and has never had a girlfriend. Over the course of the series, he will begin a relationship with Nancy Wheeler. This will force him to open up and, for the first time, let someone in.
- Nancy Wheeler, sixteen, is an awkward, booksmart teen who is in the early stages of becoming a woman. But with her newfound looks comes unexpected pain; her first fling with Steve, a popular teen, leads to heartbreak and humiliation. This experience will unexpectedly lead her into the arms of another: Jonathan. With his help, she will experience love for the first time... and find herself.
- Jim “Hop” Hopper, early 40s, is the Chief of Montauk police. He grep up in Montauk but moved to the city immediately post-graduation. He made a happy life there, but it all shattered when a tragic car accident killed his four-year-old daughter. He retreated to his hometown and now lives a hedonistic lifestyle in a shack by the beach. He drinks heavily, chain smokes, and abuses Tuinal, a potent barbiturate popular at the time (which has since been banned). Hopper took the job of Chief not to help others but because it required little of him. After all, nothing bad ever happens in Montauk. Or so he thought. This changes when Will goes missing. In order to stop this evil from spreading, Hopper will have no choice but to confront the darkness of his past.
- Joyce Byers, early 40s, is the single mother of Will and Jonathan. She struggles to raise them while holding down two low-paying jobs with long hours. She chain smokes, speaks with a thick Long Island accent, and has blunt manners. Despite all this, she is a loving mother who would go to incredible lengths to protect her boys. Over the course of the show, Joyce's desperation will lead her into an unexpected and rocky relationship with Hopper.
- Mr. Clarke, 35, is the rock star of the local middle school. Charismatic, charming, handsome, and whip-smart, he is the closest thing our series has to Indiana Jones. Mr. Clarke will become increasingly essential as the show moves forward, as he will be key to solving the mystery of what has happened in Montauk. He will ultimately help our heroes breach the Tear in Act Three.
- Terry Ives, 40, mentioned only passingly in the pilot, will play an important role in episodes to come. An anti-social hermit and local movie theatre projectionist with the looks of a serial killer (balding hair, big oval glasses), Terry is a conspiracy nut and has been investigating Camp Hero for a decade. Although initially derided by Hopper and others, he will become an unexpected, albeit reluctant, hero in the dark days ahead. He might even make a friend or two along the way.
- The cover of the pitch book was created by taking the paperback cover of the Stephen King novel Firestarter and placing an image of a bicycle over it. The specific version used was a rare black variant of the novel's first edition.
- The time-jump of the potential sequel was directly inspired by Stephen King's It. The reason this concept was abandoned was because Netflix felt people would become so invested in the characters that they would want to see the continuation of their stories. The Duffers came to agree with this decision, and instead planned a multiple season arc.
- As with the pilot script, the book reveals that several characters' stories were initially intended to go in very different directions. Some elements of the characters' backstories are also different.
- One of the most altered characters is Terry Ives, being a male conspiracy theorist instead of a mother who participated in MKUltra, and whose child was taken away. It's possible this character eventually became Murray Bauman.
- In the series, Sarah Hopper died from cancer while the book explains she was killed in a car accident.
- The book also reveals that Jonathan and Nancy were originally planned to enter a relationship; the same with Hopper and Joyce.
- The subject of Will's sexual identity has long been a debate among fans. While the pitch book does reveal that Will's character was initially conceived to have issues with his sexual identity, it is unclear if these issues carried over to the final product.
- The book also mentions the other test subjects that were experimented on alongside Eleven, which, so far, have not been mentioned at all in the series.
Montauk Pitch Book created by the Duffer Brothers
- ↑ "The Duffer Brothers Talk 'Stranger Things' Influences, 'It' Dreams and Netflix Phase 2" The Hollywood Reporter. August 1, 2017.
- ↑ ”Stranger Things Was Originally An Anthology Series” Screen Rant. August 2, 2017.