This visual jamboree CAN improve your stories –via UNK
Pop over to The Unknown Screenwriter for an impassioned plea to screenwriters to dig deep down and unearth their emotional cahones. UNK is p.o.’d at the state of filmmaking today and I say, “here, here!”
What are you afraid of? Maybe YOU don’t know how to feel. That would certainly explain why YOU don’t make me feel… Anything. You’re so caught up in creating some GAG that you forgot to make me feel anything about your story… Your characters. Your screenplay. [...] Did you FORGET? Did you get so caught up in creating some kind of WHAMMO every ten pages that you forgot to elicit some kind of emotion from me?
What is it about scary stories? We, collectively, just can’t get enough. Whether creepy wet girl-child, voraciously sexy vampire, gangrenous undead, or senselessly psychotic scythe-wielder waiting to kill, we keep coming back for more. Horror consistently tops the bestselling and box office lists, whether presented as out-and-out gore or more seductively as true crime or psychological thrillers. Just what is the secret to keeping an audience on the edge of their seats when they know the bloodbath is coming?
Lance Weiler, an American filmmaker, writer, and director, tells Ireland’s ScreenDaily.com about the ways story forms are adapting as audiences change. We don’t often cover “new media” here on THE STORY SPOT but, as always, old is new again…
The tools I use are no longer simply cameras ― they are mobile and feature real-time web apps. Storylines, characters or scenes now exist beyond one screen or format. My stories spill out into the real world and guide audiences from one experience to another.
While the human need to share experiences in an engaging way endures, the ways we do so continue to evolve with society. Reality television, alternate reality gaming, Twitter fiction and other new forms may all feel vastly different from telling tales around a campfire but remember that the heart of each form remains people sharing what it is to be human. The ways we do that well will never change.
Loglines are hard. It’s true. Creating those snappy compressed bites of your story can feel more draining than writing the entire story itself. No one said they were easy but they are essential. Here are a few tips on how to create a great logline for your story.
Start with one page. Get out a blank sheet and challenge yourself to say all you can about your story on that single page. If it’s your first try, this will seem impossible but be assured it is not. Try to ignore that naysaying voice on your shoulder and just write. Start with the opening. Jump to the ending. Then insert the middle as best as you can. Write as if you are speaking to a friend you’ve met unexpectedly on the sidewalk. In fact, talking it out often helps. You’ll fill that page in no time. Once you’ve reached the end of paper/screen, stop. Resist the urge to continue writing. Now is the time to find out what can be sacrificed in order to get all of what you want to say to fit on that single sheet of paper.
Once you have your page, notice what you had to leave out in order to make the story seem complete within your constraints. You probably lost entire subplots and characters that, while are important to the whole work, didn’t enhance the shortened version. Being able to identify these aspects is a good skill to develop. A very, very good skill.
Read through your single page to find even more opportunities to trim. The goal now is to cut what you’ve written by half. By now, you’ve eliminated characters and sequences of events. Now is the time to go for verbiage. For example, you might want to shorten, “In the sleepy little farm town known as Marcus, Iowa” to simply, “In Marcus, Iowa,” or “In Iowa.” Be ruthless with your red lines; do what you must but KEEP THE FLAVOUR in your effort to employ fewer words. Remember: a lifeless, generic summary is NOT the goal. Keep what makes your story yours. (At this point, you’re probably retching from performing the unholy opposite of creative expression but remember that this is only a tool to get your real story into readers’ hands. To that end, the more concisely you can render the whole, the better.)
Getting shorter still. Put your red-lined page aside and start fresh with a new sheet. Rewrite your edited synopsis and marvel at how you’ve managed to tell your story in a way that retains its meaning and still makes sense in 500 words or so.
Repeat steps 2 through 4 until you have a single paragraph of approximately 100 words that introduces your main character, the setting of your story, the main conflict your character faces and also conveys the beginning, middle, and end of your piece. If you need a refresher, read “The Logline: Your New Best Friend” for more details on your endgame.
Finished? Good work. Now go make yourself a cocktail to celebrate the blood, sweat, and tears shed in condensing your much-loved and hard-wrought tale into a reduction of its glorious self because now you are able to tell anyone about your story, have them understand the broad strokes without their eyes glazing over, then bask as they beg mercilessly to read the entire thing. Congratulations.
It has occurred to me that with all this talk about story that it might be useful to clarify the differences between STORY and PLOT. After all, we casually use the terms interchangeably but they are indeed very different and that difference is everything.
It’s probably easiest to begin with plot. After all, when we talk about writing, we’re often focused on that thing that might happen next. That’s plot. It’s the what happens. A UPS driver is attacked by deranged alien globs of goo seeking to absorb human life in order to save their own species. The events of the attack make up the plot: aliens come to Earth; aliens eat hero’s best friend while they nibble donuts; hero retaliates and saves the planet. Events. Actions. They are the physical happenings that get us from one end of the book or film to the other. They can be as small as a quiet break-up or as overblown as our alien friends here.