If you’re joining us from Part 1 of this article, welcome! If you’re not, you can explore Part 1 which focusses on screenwriting success right here!
How to start creating a story or a script
It’s helpful to be aware of these five essential elements of great stories, but which one comes first? And, how should you start your writing? If you choose either character or plot as a beginning point, you can avoid frequent issues that occur at various writing stages. Create a protagonist for a particular plot or define your hero in terms of their actions.
Consider starting with character
It makes sense to begin with your audience since they will stick with your hero through thick and thin. Give your main character a problem or flaw, a desire they pursue, and a need they have to discover or learn in order to make them rounded.
Characters that take the initiative to seek their needs or wants make excellent heroes. When introducing opposition, challenges, or opponents, conflict ensues. They will eventually reach the source of their issues and identify their genuine need.
Create a primary character that is destined for significant change, has a particular issue or weakness, is unable to maintain the status quo, is pursuing a specific objective against a powerful opposing force, and comes to a realisation about themselves. Your protagonist’s story will start to take shape as you define them.
Consider starting with plot
The reverse may seem illogical, but Aristotle is the first person to place story above character. According to him, a hero’s deeds determine whether they are happy or miserable. The audience will recognise and evaluate a protagonist based on their actions. Therefore, you can let them speak as much as you like in your novel.
Story beats and a beat sheet are fantastic places to start if you already know the type of story you’re going to create and need to add people to it. You can find the protagonist and other characters in your novel by first charting the changes that will take place. Then, you can play psychologist and imagine the person who will experience them and why.
You could think that prioritising storyline is formulaic, like selecting a pre-made structure. By utilising a pre-existing story template and its framework, writers who reject this method believe they are unable to produce something original.
But as The Bestseller Code: Anatomy of the Blockbuster Novel explains, blockbuster books reach the sweet spot in terms of plot, character, style, and theme. Their appealing pattern of story beats has even been proved by algorithms.
Plot and story motifs are not forced on your writing in a rigorous manner. They are a skill that can facilitate a plot’s easy progression. What makes your story distinctive are the particular people you use and their journey.
Consider the pitfalls of starting elsewhere
Don’t misunderstand us; there are plenty of other ways to start writing a film or novel. Before he started writing The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien invented entire languages.
However, world-building can be time-consuming and pointless if you are unable to develop compelling characters for your fictional universe. Likewise, if you can’t come up with an engaging story that takes place there.
When a story has rounded characters and a well-balanced, symmetrical plot, we consider it to be “strong.” We find stories “weak” when an unusual environment or structure dominates, but the characters and plot line are uninteresting.
Yes, several films like Memento, Forrest Gump, 12 Monkeys, Fight Club, Goodfellas, and Citizen Kane break with the conventions of storytelling. But learn the fundamentals first before you start writing without a protagonist or a structure other than a three-act structure.
Be sure to include these 5 components in your screenplay to achieve screenwriting success
We’ll cover the five essential components of outstanding stories in the following tiny cheat sheet. It can be used to test your novel or screenplay ideas to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything or given small details precedence over important ones.
* Character: Who is your story’s protagonist? Do they have a fault or issue that requires resolution? Can we relate to them, support them, and comprehend their goals? Are they likeable, real, and likely?
* Want and Need: What does the hero believe they are in need of, and does he or she actively seek it out? How does what they require relate to their flaw or issue? How are they destined to alter in the end?
* Plot: Does your story fit any archetypes? Which master plan, if you write in a particular genre, best suits your idea?
* Structure: Can you outline your story’s beats or complete a beat sheet? Is the rise and fall in your three-act structure balanced? Are the incidents connected to form a coherent whole?
* Conflict and Resolution: Who or what is opposing your main character in the conflict? What kind of tension do you engender? Does the hero’s battle come to an end in the climax, and does the outcome involve a character change or transformation?
The Takeaway – Screenwriting Success
We advise you to draught your screenplay using the five aspects of a story we’ve just discussed, or to test your existing screenplay project. Applying character, want and need, plot, structure, as well as conflict and resolution to already published works is also helpful for making the transition from theory to practical application.
Can you spot the patterns in blockbuster films and literary classics, and recognise the five elements in well-known titles?
And remember, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out our very first FILMD Chats podcast episode all about screenwriting with our very own Craig Roberts, available right here! Every little helps in the pursuit of screenwriting success!