Story Tip Tuesday

Over the years, I’ve come to realise something very important and that is the value of words.

Of course, as a writer, words are what I do, but it's taken me twenty years to understand that words are nothing more than a tool and when we use them in this way, this is where the magic happens.

My mother was the most extraordinary painter and she taught me so much. When people asked her how she painted, she often replied that her brush knew where it wanted to go. As a result, the images that poured out onto her canvases were filled with movement, emotion and layers of depth and meaning. She tapped into something real inside herself and in doing so, created an emotional journey for those who saw her paintings.

Words, like a paintbrush, are a powerful tool, but they do not hold any value or importance in themselves. The value comes when a writer uses words to paint the pictures and take their audience on an emotional journey.

Use your words like a paintbrush. Create beauty, ease someone’s...

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...

Three-Act Structure is our best friend! It’s not some made-up Hollywood-style trick, it’s what every successful writer understands. Beginning, middle and end is encoded in our very cells and in the patterns of our lives. The sun rises, it shines and it sets. We’re born, we dance and we die. Every story has a beginning and every story has an end, and the only possible thing that lies between these two has to be the ‘middle’.

Three-Act Structure doesn’t tell us what kind of story to write or how to write it, but it is the thing that takes your audience on a dramatic and emotional journey. If your story structure is weak, your audience is bored and confused. If it is blindly followed without really understanding its underlying purpose, your story feels predictable and contrived. But if applied well, Three-Act Structure is ‘invisible’. All we know is we are totally hooked and completely engaged in your story from beginning to end.

So here’s this week’s story tip. Go online and spend 10 minut...

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June 12, 2018

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