Here’s an important question for you. When does your story actually begin? Does your story begin on page one of your script with those three little words, “CAMERA OPENS ON”? Is it the beautiful pan of a landscape or the exciting intergalactic space battle of your favourite film’s opening title sequence? Or perhaps it’s the moment where we first meet your hero?
The answer is noooooooo! And here’s why. The first part of a story has a very important purpose and that’s to ‘set us up’. We need to be drawn in. We discover the setting. We are introduced to your hero and meet some of the other important characters. And, we are skilfully given the important backstory we need in order to prepare us for the adventure to come. But although your job as a writer is to hook us in these first few pages, the story itself has still not yet begun. As an audience or a reader, we are taking this initial information in, but we are waiting for something to happen and that ‘something’ is usually not good. This important moment is called the catalyst and this is when your story begins. As your hero’s life is suddenly turned upside down, we as an audience become emotionally hooked and if written well, we are compelled to go on the roller-coaster ride of your story to find out what will happen to your hero. The first step is to learn to identify these moments and I promise you that as you begin to look for the catalyst in the episodes, books and films you love, they will be crystal clear.
So, for this week’s tip, try to identify the catalyst in the episodes and films you watch or in the books you read. See if you can describe these dramatic moments and write them down in a few sentences. This little exercise is the first step to a strong understanding of plot points, the building blocks of a story. Stay tuned!
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