Story Tip Tuesday

In last week’s blog, I wrote that we, as an audience sign up for a heightened version of reality, not reality itself. We watch a film or episode, or buy a book, because we want to be taken on the emotional roller-coaster ride of your story. This is our job as writers and in order to succeed, we must learn to craft our stories in a heightened and exaggerated way.

But there is a flip side and a line that a successful writer knows she cannot cross, and that is the line of believability.

As a writer, you spend months and often years developing your stories. You create worlds, give birth to your characters and also put into place a clear logic, genre and style. These important decisions you make are the very things that bring your unique concept or story to life. But if you do this properly, what you also find is that you have drawn a clear line between what can happen and what cannot. Where your story can go and where it cannot. What your characters can do (and even say) and what they cannot...

I’m probably stating the obvious, but rarely do we buy a book or watch a film, or spend all weekend binge-watching our favourite television drama, in order to experience a slice of ‘real life’. Of course the incidents and relationships are based on things that we humans can understand and relate to, but the experience we are signing up for is a heightened version of reality, not reality itself. Even a classic film such as My Dinner with Andre is heightened as two old friends sit at a restaurant and enter into a feature-length philosophical discussion about life.

We, as an audience, want to be taken on an emotional journey. We want to laugh our heads off at a good comedy or feel our breath shorten with the tension of an exciting thriller. We have bought a front-row seat on the roller-coaster ride, and a successful writer knows that their task is to deliver this experience to the audience. In order to achieve this, it’s important to learn to craft your story in a heightened and dramatic w...

Plot points are the building blocks of a story and the vehicle that carries us on the emotional journey from beginning to end. Like stepping stones, each new plot point provides the next important thing that happens and brings us farther down the path as you lead us from one important moment to the next, and the next and then the next.

Learning to craft your story through action in this way is a critical skill in becoming a successful screenwriter and learning to ‘break’ a story with plot points is the key.

If your plot points are weak, your story will be weak. If they are unclear or confusing, your audience will be confused. If they are too subtle or repetitive, or even too predictable or intense, we become bored and disconnected. But if your journey is crafted well, your audience or reader will be emotionally involved and thoroughly hooked – and that’s what we all want, right?

I probably spend twice as much time as most writers breaking a story with index cards and never (ever!) turn m...

One thing most working writers know is that the success of your story depends on having a great hero. Whether it’s a child who escapes from an abusive orphanage, a teacher who suddenly gets laid off after thirty years without explanation, or a young lion cub who tragically loses his father, these heroes are the ones who take us on the emotional journey of your story.

So can any character be a hero? Well, in theory yes, but if your goal as a writer is to be a successful one, then the answer is no. And this is why – not everyone deserves to be a hero. As in real life, this respected and honoured title can’t simply be handed to someone on a silver platter. Instead it must be earned!

We, as an audience, connect with heroes that we can identify with and can believe in. Their struggles become our struggles. Their journey becomes our journey. And if we see them climb their way up the mountaintop, face their fears, learn their lessons, fight the dragon and (in some way) win, then we believe they...

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27: Use your memories

June 12, 2018

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