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Lessons Corner: Phase 1 of 4: Story Development

KestrelStudiosOct 2, 2018, 10:06:38 PM

Yesterday marks the very first day I've ventured beyond the screenwriting process and into pre-production. In total, it's been a bit over two years learning how to write stories. That does not mean I'm now a master, but according to feedback from people reading my work I average about 7.5 out of 10 stars on my work. Maybe I'll break the 8.0 ceiling one day, but there are plenty of successful films out there that don't even break 7.0.

For today's Lessons Corner I want to share with you my Phase 1 (out of 4) approach to developing story. I've mentioned my process more than once. And the fact it's something I continually revise toward improvement. The goal of this approach the first draft to a quality story within the first month.

Month One: Story Selection

This month concerns finding a story to transform into a film over the current year. I give a month to this stage to reduce the pressure on me to make something. Furthermore, I like having the opportunity to consider many ideas before committing to one. Ideas can come up from something new, something I considered during the year, or I can just work on an existing outline I didn't get to complete the previous year.

How does one find a story to work on?

Stories are basically about a person who undergoes some kind of journey. The characters in really good stories tend to have a flaw or wound that requires a personal journey to overcome. And that personal journey is sometimes required to overcome the main journey. This is the basic traits I look for on a daily basis. If I find something that contains these basic elements then I put it in the idea bin.

Another important part of finding a story is to ignore your inhibitions. Don't feel ashamed if you like Disney Princess movies or Michael Bay films. Nobody will see the products of this stage unless you share them; nor should they. You are throwing out the stops to find something worthwhile enough to commit the next year to.

By the end of this month a Working Outline should be completed. You will likely write many for more than one story. As you get better you may have a hard time choosing between them.

Lastly, the Working Outline doesn't need to be perfect. Instead, it should contain the rough ideas of what you want; those things that attracted you to it. That's all it really needs to move to the next step.

Month Two: Story Development

This entire month is committed to turning the selected story into a Final Outline. Along with the Final Outline, it is a good idea to also create Character Arcs for each character that will undergo their own internal journey.

When working on the outline, I like to start out with a basic act structure, aiming for between 40 and 60 scenes. This is only a starter structure that helps me fill in the outline. But never does it end up like that at the end.

You can look at my other Lessons Corner blogs to learn more about these structures and I put them together. After perusing them I realize I did a pretty decent job describing them.

Month Three: Story Writing

I break this month into weeks since it doesn't take very long to write after you know what you want to write about.

Week 1 concerns putting together a scene-by-scene analysis I know call the Chapter Analysis. It takes each scene in your outline and breaks them down into their basic beats, as well as describe what happens, who it involves, the nature of the conflict, values that change, and so on. Pretty much anything the scene needs to consider before writing.

Even though it only takes a week to do, I find it's the most tedious part of the writing process. Some people may forego this part, but I find doing an analysis of the scenes has helped me overcome numerous problems my previous screenplays had. It is possible I will become experienced enough in the future where I no longer need this.

However, this Chapter Analysis is important since you can reuse parts of it during the Pre-Production process.

Weeks 2 and 3 concerns the actual writing of scene-drafts, one by one. I used to print out each individual scene afterward to put in a binder to write on by hand. However, I've gotten to a stage the scenes are good enough that I can consolidate them at the end. However, I still write them individually since it reminds me not to go over three pages per scene unless I really have to. It also gives me a window on how long the script may turn out.

What is nice about doing it scene by scene is you can divide the two week between the number of total scenes. This way you can set a goal for each day and determine if you're ahead of behind your daily quota. I tend to write ahead of the quota in case there is a hiccup in my schedule for any reason.

Week 4, the last week, concerns consolidating the scene drafts into a Rough Draft. This is the draft that you can edit and go over again and again. Once you are satisfied with the Rough Draft you can save a copy as the First Draft. This First Draft is the version you submit to others for feedback.

In Closing

I hope my current approach to writing is helpful for you. Though it's simple and direct, it took a few years to hone into something that works for me. It also encourages creativity during the points creativity is needed, while encouraging focus and discipline at the end when you must get the bloody thing accomplished.

I am now getting into Pre-Production. This is alien territory for me and it feels weird. But I don't plan to take two years to figure this part out like I did with writing. Keep tabs because we're going to see this film to the end!

- Easton

#minds #lessons #filmmaking #storytelling #screenwriting #process