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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 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

20130220:15 Let’s write a story, part 1 of 10

Writer’s Blog, blank screen date: 130220:15

Of TEN, how’s that for commitment? Really, the segments I’ve studied break down to 8 parts, but I need this entry to explain my dilemmas and a thing at the end for the inevitable things I’d forget and or updates with situations therein.

I have read about and studied screenwriting and play writing. I have taken courses in college and have more film books than I can read. Honestly, history gets a little dry, which makes no sense. By definition history should be interesting if not exciting.

Currently I’m reading about just that, making every sentence exciting, losing those participals I keep dangling and extraneous prepositions.

Most films and plays follow a 3 act structure, but that’s odd to me. It’s too brief, too simple, but every act has a ton of elements in them. Tv is structured like that, half hour and hour shows, but none of them are formatted that way. They’re formatted to commercial breaks.

A half hour show has a lead in, opening credits, 3 commercials and closing credits. That’s at least 4-5 segments of story, each of which has to have a “teaser” to keep you from changing the channel while those annoying commercials come on. It’s similar for hour-long shows, they theoretically have more time to concentrate on a “b” story and even a C, if they have a lot of characters and they each have things to do.

Scrubs is kinda genius with this, since they developed by the 3rd season to mastering the 3 simultaneous story theme going on. Coincidentally, they’re made to parallel each other which is smart, coincidental or even dumb depending on how all 3 stories are executed.

I have also read short story writing books and read short stories. I like short stories because you quickly cover all the senses and all the w’s, all the character development, even mystery to your story. It’s why a lot of writers like me are super fans of things like Twilight Zone. There are horribly outdated things in those shows (small towns, imagine leaving your front door and car unlocked). But the concepts and feelings of a characters eventual desperation or situation develops.

Twilight zone is a forerunner to Star Trek on it’s best episodes. Those are the episodes that look at humanity from the outside as alien research. There’s things trying to be science fiction right now that are ridiculous, characters shouldn’t be invented based on their costumes or weapons to sell action figures. Sci fi lost its way with the whole dark, grim obsession. They want to be noir without the tragic ending.

So, I’m starting this for a few reasons: 1) to take you in and eventually by the end you should see the problems I’m having and hopefully have recommendations; 2) I want to write this to unlearn what I’m learning, even though that term is getting blurred with it’s over use; 3) if I can teach what I know, I’ll have to remind myself of the back corners of details that may spark something I have been overlooking. 4) If you’ve never taken a writing course, you’re about to save thousands of hours and dollars and commute to USC.

Weather I/ we write a story via blog entry, vlog, telling one at a bar, you tube video, short story in an anthology or film and tv, it can be broken down to the items to the following 8 stages. It’s true there are exceptions, but to those like me trying to “make it,” this format has to remain true. Those that get to break the pattern have made millions and can finance it themselves. We can’t.

If you think this is familiar, it’s a mishmash from a bunch of different screenwriters whose names reappear if you have studied writing format:

1. There’s a status quo, a place where the story starts off at.
2. There are characters, and their needs or wants will be presented.
3. There’s a “call to action,” the characters will be faced with having to deal with a threat and they will have to decide to do something about it. They will have to leave their comfort zone to do something about it.
4. They will have to adapt and “face trials” on learning how to combat the threat. Trial and error. Research, learning from others. Making more allies and enemies.
5. They will get the thing they want, but of course there are annoying strings attached that will screw other things up.
6. The characters, good and or bad will have to make sacrifices and take some big losses once the “thing” is obtained or achieved.
7. The characters will have to return to status quo land and they will have to decide to do this.
8. They will be back to another day similar to the beginning, but they will have knowledge and experience to deal with a threat that will be reoccurring or developing somewhere else.

 

2013/02/20 Posted by | Writing course in 10 sessions | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment