April 10, 2012
I said I would choose 3/15 but I’m choosing 4: The Queen of Spades, F-box, Consciousness and Reality Show (they say to write what you know, amirite?). The next move is choosing the ONE, and to do that WE NEED MORE POWER! Or more specifically, we need the elements of story: characters, plot, theme, genre. To get there, we can look at what’s implied by the loglines and ask questions: Who is the story about? What is the main character striving for? How does he strive for it? What stands in his way? What is the tone of the story? What is ironic or surprising about the idea? What kinds of thematic material can be mined from it?
For example, let’s take the idea for F-box: “A brother and sister have lived their entire lives inside F-box, a virtual utopia. But suddenly F-box stops working and the siblings must fend for themselves in a cruel world.”
Character: a brother and sister. Well who is the main character? Why? How old are they, what are they like? What is their relationship like, what are their psychologies? What problems are they dealing with? Parents? Defining memories? What about other characters--allies, enemies? What are their relationships like with each other?
Plot: life in the virtual utopia, F-box stops working, encounter with a cruel world, survival in a cruel world. Lots to dig into: what is this virtual utopia? What does living inside it mean? Is it technology, is it a computer program like The Matrix, is it a physical place? What year does this take place, how many people live inside this thing? What is the “cruel world?” What happens to the characters in it? What do they learn, why do we care?
Theme: certainly elements of the Adam and Eve story here... but what else? What am I trying to say by telling this story? Theme is a point of view on a subject, something like unconditional love leads to happiness or insatiable ambition leads to destruction or gambling above your bankroll leads to crying and too many McDonalds chicken nuggets.
Genre: sci-fi, right? But is it thriller, drama, adventure, romance, comedy?
So we have to ask those kinds of questions--lots and lots of them for each idea--and try to answer them thoughtfully. Stories need great characters we can relate to. Plot is simply what these “real” people do, dramatized to keep the story moving swiftly. Genre gives us some rules to work with, and theme gives us a point of view to join everything together. Amazing characters are the holy grail of storytelling--if you have them, they make everything easier. The story nearly writes itself. So spoiler: I spend an ungodly (godly?) amount of time developing characters (more on that when we get down to the 1 idea we're going with).
Goal: by Monday, develop each idea into rough story sketches, each including a beginning, middle and end. Refine the loglines to deliver irony!, a compelling mental picture, a sense of tone, audience, and to clearly illustrate who the story is about, what he/she strives for, what’s in their way and how they approach the goal. I’ll be using some nifty Dramatica tools to help me do this, and be posting my progress daily.
Feel free to contribute ideas, feedback, criticism, and questions throughout. No question or idea is ever bad (I’m sure I will be posting my fair share of terrible ideas, stupid questions and shitty writing... don’t make me do it alone!)
Also, question I’ve been asking people lately: who are 3 of your favorite movie characters? Why?