When you create a whole new universe, you also need to create some rules,” writes Lisa Klink of “What It’s Like“, her blog about living and working as a screenwriter.
Even when not creating stories involving supernatural powers, imaginary realms, or talking creatures, writers must still be aware of laying the groundwork for a plausible tale.
For instance, if your protagonist is a habitual shoplifter, it helps to dedicate a portion of a scene to letting the audience know how or why this is a matter of course for this particular person. Perhaps it’s about the thrill of the heist–so we see our hero wholly gratified after a lift. Perhaps it’s about necessity–and we see the guilt and survival needs the theft fulfills. Show it first but if you must (as Lisa points out), tell it via a supporting character. However you let your audience in, be brief, be succinct, then get to the action of the story.
Ground rules orient the audience to the world of your story. Once you establish them, they may not vary lest you break the bounds of your vivid dream. They need not be pages and pages of exposition. Decide what you audience needs to know to fully enjoy the journey you’re creating and then go to it.
Photo credit: Sung Jang and Shin Azumi by unknown