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Story Writing Part 2 of 10: Our Little Village

Writer’s Blog, typedate 120305:09 (uh, movie spoilers?)

The first thing a story needs are characters, a setting and a “beginning.” And that’s in quotes because the beginning of a story can take place in the future and flash back to now, or sometime in the past, a story’s prologue. Good times, huh?

What a beginning of a story is supposed to do is introduce main characters and give you a status quo “land.” You have to identify with someone in a society and see the story thru them. If a movie starts with a traffic jam, you’re going to see your character break from the pack. Your eye is drawn to it and likely that’s the person that’s going to be followed. Or a herd of animals, same thing. Or one of the robots falls off the factory conveyor belt.

There are a lot of great examples of starts, but here are a few terrible ones.

One of the most overused story beginnings is someone waking up and getting out of bed. It’s hack and lazy and you’re better than that. You may have thought of a dozen examples of this. The first thing I thought of is the student who of course wakes up late for school. And what does he do when he brushes his teeth? See, predictability can be terrible for a story.

Most movies have 15 minutes to reel you in, that’s what studios decide what gets filmed. At the same time, that intro has to make the “before” horrible but exciting at the same time. There are going to be changes in the story to amazing people, places and things, but you have to contrast it to the boring day-to-day life can be for “the masses.” your story will stand out from that.

Some movies take the approach that everything does seem great and incredible and everything works, but then there’s problems people don’t address that character(s) will uncover.

Whoville is great, but the Grinch is watching nearby. Everyone is cruising along on the Enterprise and then the ship takes a dump, to no fault of their own. It’s a space anomaly. This Jurassic Park place is a cool idea! Too bad it’s going to be torn all to shit because you messed with nature.

A cool way I like for a story to begin is often done in Star Trek, which I will try not to over refer to. But everything is going along fine and then a character(s) will do something completely bizarre, but people will go on as if everything is okay. Did you see that? What the hell did they say/ do? Am I the only one seeing this horrific thing going on? And you spend the next 40 minutes trying to figure out what the nefarious space thing did to the crew, their memories or location.

They got that from Twilight Zone, which is something everyone needs to see who starts writing. Sometimes an ordinary person gets a supernatural power. Sometimes the enemy is Earth, or humans! You have to start with “normality,” so people can see the contrast in the story’s changes.

Another cool beginning I like is the “failed mission.” A lot of spy stories and cop shows start like this. Someone falls victim to a calamity, and our protagonists will have to find out and/or avenge what happened. A ship is destroyed and then our ship comes merrily along, unaware there’s a space shredder coming up. Someone is lost and they have to be found. Are they even alive? Sometimes, they are not. Someone loses a battle and the threat is in the wind and has to be stopped.

Sometimes this is called a teaser. James bond can be finishing an unrelated mission. Sometimes a person/ crew will get attacked and fail very thoroughly and horribly only to reveal it’s a training mission (they will have to get better at later). It’s also a chance to show your favorite characters get killed in a sequel, but not get killed.

Next time, we develop the needs of your characters, good bad and evil.

 

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2013/03/05 - Posted by | Writing course in 10 sessions | , , , , , , , ,

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