Building a story

     Hello out there, I realize that there are those out there who are aspiring writers, filmmakers, and other creative types. I by no means am an expert, but I have studied under some great teachers and I’ve been trying to apply and grow with each step of the way. I will try to gear more to the creating of film, but writers can learn from anything. I mean we all think in pictures don’t we.
     These two mediums (while writing is incorporated in film, film is not as often incorporated into writing) have the same basic starting point. The question. According to one of my former professors, Jeffrey Morris: all great stories start with a what if question. This will usually provide a large portion of the plot setting and underlying theme. In my writing endeavours and film outings, I have found this to be very true. A simple what if has translated into much longer subject matters. What if there was a love story set during a well known disaster? (Titanic) What if a slave could rise up and free a country? (Gladiator) What if one man saw what a difference he made? (It’s a Wonderful Life) These are very simple questions but they get us rolling toward a greater purpose and story. Because if you have too complex of a question, you’ll get bogged down before you ever get started. After you’ve asked your question, it’s time to answer it.
     For me, answering the question generally involves me playing out a scenario in my mind. Some people think of a archtype to put within this context to have them answer the question. Let’s take It’s A Wonderful Life for example, one man is going to discover just what a difference he’s made. How? Well there are a couple of ways you can pull this off, but what Frank Capra did is let us (as well as Clarence) see the highlights of George’s life. We see the highs and lows. We see these things ripple outward into other lives. Then we see George at the end of his rope, it seems as if everything is falling apart and his life is nothing like what he had hoped. George is going to jump into the icy river and end it all. Wishing he’d never been born. Clarence grants George’s wish. George then gets to go see the seedy, cesspool that Bedford Falls becomes. He was never there to save his little brother, who grew up to become a war hero. Because George wasn’t there Harry never saved those soldiers and Mr. Potter took over Bedford Falls letting his greed corrupt the town. All because George wasn’t there.
     The important thing to do with your development of an idea is to make sure you have a beginning, middle and end. With It’s a Wonderful Life, it begins by watching George’s life, the middle is when George tries to commit suicide, and it ends with George realizing that he is the richest man in Bedford Falls not because he has any wealth but because he has more friends than anyone else. This is our traditional 3-act set up. A beginning which introduces us to the setting and major players and foreshadows the problem. The second act which introduces the problem and the characters attempts at dealing with the problem. And finally our third and final act which shows the resolution of the problem, generally by the characters being spurred into some form of action at the end of the second act. One noticeable exception to the introduction of major players in our first act is Whoopie Goldberg’s character in Ghost. She isn’t introduced until the second act, but the need for her is introduced to us in the first.
     Don’t just go I have my idea and start pounding out a script, first step is a treatment. This is essentially an outline of the action or the action in story format it’s helpful to organize your thoughts and plan your steps. Once you’ve completed the treatment you should try to recognize where your three acts end. After you’ve done this you should take the first act and expand on it. Then follow that with the second and finally the third. Then you are ready to edit it. Once you’ve edited it, you’re ready for your first full draft.
     Recommended reading: These are books I’ve read with regard to screenwriting and storytelling and they all have some similar themes and some different techniques: Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting by Robert Mckee, The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, by Christopher Vogler (my personal favorite), How Not to Write a Screenplay: 101 Common Mistakes Most Screenwriters Make by Denny Martin Flinn, and Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field.  All of these books can be found on

About lagomorphflix

Hey everybody, I'm a writer/ amateur filmmaker. I'm looking to go professional and always looking for ways to reach new audiences. So please feel free, take a read and let me know what you think.
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