Thursday, 30 October 2014

Turn an idea into a story

Turning an idea into a story.

Yesterday I showed a simple way to come up with ideas. Now I'll quickly show how to 
develop one of those further.
 I'll take this one -'a bully locks the hero in a cave, to kill him for kicks.''

For me, a script is split into four acts, each about twenty five minutes long. Each of those acts is a story and should end decisively - so the first thing to do is work out what will happen at the end of those acts, your story points. 

So, clearly, the hero gets locked in the cave at the end of act one (25 minutes in). That's the story set up.

Next plot point will be him escaping, so let's put that at the end of act two (fifty minutes in). 

This is the most important break point. It corresponds exactly to the interval in a theatre. The audience is about to go off and have a drink for ten minutes. You make sure they come back, and talk about the play while they are gone, by dropping a plot twist just before the interval. (It corresponds to the midpoint in the traditional three act structure.)

Where do you go now? Again, I think this is pretty obvious - in the start of the next act, the hero locks the bully in the cave, for revenge. You don't want the villain escaping too - we've done that - so instead let's have the hero having a change of heart and, eventually, letting him out. So that's your third act.  

Why would he let him out? Well let's say the hero discovers more about the bully's difficult life, his abusive stepdad and so on. And understanding leads to sympathy.

And that gives us the platform for the last act - we'll use the abusive stepdad. So the bully and the victim will take him on together, and I guess, end up collaborating to shut him in the cave. And that'll be the story for the ending.

So that was easy. Now I have the main story beats. Now look at it and see how the beats further shape the story - if you're going to spend the whole of act 2 in a cave, better make it a network - so that it can explored - and full of traps and difficulties - going to be down there a long time. Aren't people going to be looking for the missing kid? yes, so let's set it somewhere very rural. Or set it a hundred years ago. We have this abusive stepdad who ends up giving us the ending - can't just have a character popping out of nowhere, so better make sure he's written in at the beginning. 

And once you've got the the plot points, start asking yourself a bunch of questions and 'what ifs' - what if it was set in the future? Or the distant past? What is the arena of the story - where is it set? How old are the characters? Change everyone's age and sex, see if it would work better that way. 

When you've decided on that, flesh out the characters. Add extra characters (only if you really need them) and (if it's really necessary) a subplot - and make sure that this all relates to the theme; in this case it's 'brutalisation' - so let's maybe add an abused pet dog or a war going on in the background or something.  

Easy. You don't have to have everything worked out before you start writing, but you ought to know at least the main plot points.    



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