1. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Screenwriting story development.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Selbbin, Oct 31, 2012.

    I thought I would share my personal theory on how to build a story that I sometimes suggest to new writers when I help them develop a script. This is purely my own opinion on creating a script and may be utterly wrong. But this works for me, so far it works for them, and hopefully it may work for you...

    For me this is a good way to remember how the elements of a story operate, and the role they play. This might even help for novels.

    Rules.

    In order to find the story, your character must be restricted by rules. Without rules, literally anything can happen. You start in a blank void of nothing (like in the Matrix). The more rules you introduce, the more you restrict the paths of your characters.

    Rules are your environment and setting. They are all the ‘whats’, and you can introduce any ‘what’ you damn well like in order to define the rules that you want. But remember, some 'whats' lead to other 'whats', and creating one rule you want may force you to adopt another rule that you don't want. Where are the characters, and in what time period? What technology exists? What limitations are there? What resources are available? What restrictions do they face?

    Think of your rules as a box that the characters cannot ever escape. Rules are absolute concrete.When you define your rules you cannot break them and they must remain consistent. If they are too restrictive, you can change your rules if needed, but you must edit your script to adopt the new rules; the rest of your story must change accordingly.

    WW1 trenches. The German side. Supernatural elements are real. Vampires are real. Day.

    Now I have established a set of rules (these are very basic, you'll need far more.)

    Characters.

    Next are your characters. The ‘who’. Build your characters how you want them, and remember that unlike the restriction of rules, your characters will change.

    What: WW1 trenches. The German side. Supernatural elements are real. Vampires are real. Day.
    Who: British pilot: brash, confident, and witty. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
    German nurse: sexy, smart, cunning, violent, and the head of a vampire cult.

    Goals.

    Lastly are your goals. The ‘why’. These may be influenced heavily by the characters and rules. What do your characters need to achieve within the rules? What drives them? What is at risk? What are the consequences of failure? This goes for the bad guys as well as the good.

    What: WW1 trenches. The German side. Supernatural elements are real. Vampires are real. Day.
    Who: British pilot: brash, confident, and witty. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
    German nurse: sexy, smart, cunning, violent, and the head of a vampire cult.
    Why: British Pilot – Survive or die! Fight to get back to his own men and warn them.
    German nurse – Stop the pilot from telling the British Army that a German vampire army will surface from the bunkers and attack... TONIGHT!

    Once your characters and their motivations are established, throw them into your rules.

    The ‘story’ is how your characters react to, and operate within, the restriction of the rules, in order to achieve their goals.
     
  2. marktx
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    marktx Contributing Member

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    Very nice.

    I would personally add one more layer regarding goals (and--full disclosure--it's not my idea. Robert McKee hits this point repeatedly in all his books on screenwriting).

    Characters may have explicit goals, but they also have underlying needs. And those needs can often be in conflict with their explicit goals. In the course of the story, as they pursue their explicit goals, they come to an awareness of their true underlying needs.

    I don't write screenplays, but the storytelling concepts apply equally as well to novels, in my opinion.
     
  3. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    True. This is only a very basic summary of how these elements work. Also, I find that underlying needs emerge (for me) as I put my characters in the rules to 'see what happens'. Often I find that those underlying needs, while critical for the plot, are not essential when starting. For me they emerge as the story progresses and I learn my characters better, and I learn the story better. The only thing I really lock down at the start are my rules.
     
  4. karenchan
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    karenchan New Member

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    I guess I am a little confused about how to create "rules"? I haven't heard that term used before. What are the "rules" that I am suppose to know about and incorporate my characters into?
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the best-ever guide to developing an idea into a screenplay that i've ever come across in almost 40 years of writing scripts, is still syd field's 'workbook'... it's the 'how-to' i always recommend to aspiring screenwriters i mentor, along with trottier's 'bible' for format/style...
     

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