A Great Idea Does Not a Story Make

Example of screenplay formatting. Writing is o...
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I’ve been reading a number of film scripts and several short stories lately for clients.  Some good, some better, one great.

They ranged in genre from domestic drama, comedy, angel fantasy, drama, horror, and “as told by a cat.”  None of these fell within my personal viewing/reading preferences of mystery, thriller, action, and sometimes science fiction.  So, the evaluations had nothing to do with genre per se.  It was all about story.

Each of the stories started with an interesting and engaging premise.  The best ones had several qualities in common:  strong narrative voice, tension building conflict, unsuspected surprises, and tremendous adversaries.  The excellent one had a strong protagonist with a well-defined character arc:  as the character learned about himself, we learned about him.

The others…well…there just wasn’t conflict.  Protagonists were “rescued” in some way by someone else or by conincidence.  They did not go through seemingly unconquerable odds to get to a new realization.  No conflict, no tension, no story.

If you are a beginning writer you have to do the homework.  Know more than you will ever use in the story about the main characters.  Make the protagonist pro-active.  She must get herself out of the trouble.  No rescuing of the hero or heroine! Only one coincidence per story.  Make a list of conflicts, then put them in your story in escalating order.  In other words, follow all the basic guidelines you learned in film school, reading, online.

Oh, did I mention—yet, again—you must follow the industry standard formatting for your story?  If it is a script follow the rules.  If it is a manuscript follow basic manuscript guidelines.  Hey, you want to get it sold, right?

2 thoughts on “A Great Idea Does Not a Story Make

  1. Just wanted to say I like your blog and follow you on facebook. I am new to the writing world, well the world of hoping to be published. Writing has always been something I just did for the joy of it. One day I hope that more will find interest in my work. For now though it is simply for the joy of seeing my ideas come alive. Thank you for allowing us all to follow you in someway.

    Truley enjoy the read,
    Eri Nelson

    Like

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