DEVELOPING A STORY KNOWING FORM OPENS THE DOOR TO CREATIVITY
DEFINITION OF STORY • STORY IS ABOUT PRINCIPLES; NOT RULES • STORY IS ABOUT ETERNAL, UNIVERSAL FORMS; NOT FORMULA • STORY IS ABOUT ARCHETYPES; NOT STEREOTYPES • STORY IS ABOUT THOROUGHNESS; NOT SHORT-CUTS • STORY IS ABOUT MASTERING THE ART; NOT SECOND-GUESSING THE MARKET • STORY IS ABOUT RESPECT; NOT DISDAIN FOR THE AUDIENCE • STORY IS ABOUT ORIGINALITY; NOT DUPLICATION
REVIEW OF CONCEPT & THEME • A CONCEPT (LOGLINE) TELLS IN ONE OR TWO SENTENCES WHO THE HERO IS, WHO HE’S UP AGAINST AND WHAT’S A STAKE. EX. A teenager is mistakenly sent into the past, where he must make sure his mother and father meet and fall in love or else he won’t exist in the future. (BACK TO THE FUTURE) • THE THEME IS THE UNIVERSAL LESSON OR MORAL THAT THE STORY TELLS. EX. Standing up for yourself; self-knowledge by looking back at the past; self-determination, “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”
A Good Title, Understanding Genre • A GOOD TITLE – START WITH A WORKING TITLE THAT INSPIRES YOU BUT WORK TOWARDS SOMETHING SHORT AND THAT GRABS PEOPLE’S ATTENTION. • EX. Jaws, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Arc, Scream • GENRE (FRENCH FOR “KIND”) – THERE ARE DIFFERENT EXPECTATIONS OF DIFFERENT GENRES. • EX. Comedies = laughs, thrillers = tense twists and surprises • GENRES ALSO CAN BE CATEGORIZED BY EMOTIONAL EXPECTATIONS. • EX. Courage (action, adventure, epic and heroic sci-fi), fear & loathing (horror, dark sci-fi), the need to know (detective, thriller), laughter (comedy, romantic comedy, farce) and love & longing (romance, melodrama, platonic love) • RESEARCH – VIEW 5-10 FILMS IN YOUR GENRE – GOOD AND BAD – TO STUDY FILMMAKER APPROACH.
Snyder’s 15-point Beat Sheet • No. 1 Opening image (Page 1) – First impression of what the movie is – its tone, mood, scope. It’s starting point of hero. Before snapshot of hero. • Ex. Miss Congeniality – Sandra Bullock’s character in flashback as tomboy surrounded by boys; cut to Sandra as FBI agent surrounded by boys.
Snyder’s 15-point Beat Sheet • No. 2 Theme Stated (Page 5) – A question is usually not posed by the MC, but posed to MC in a conversational, off-hand manner. • Ex. MC – Sandra declares she doesn’t have to worry about being “feminine” because she’s an agent.
Snyder’s 15-point Beat Sheet • No. 3 Set-up (Page 1-10) – Sets up the hero, the stakes and the goal of the story; introduces every character from the A-story, sets up character flaws, calm before the storm. • Ex. MC – By page 10, love interest Benjamin Brattis introduced and her boss Ernie Hudson and the boy’s club world of the FBI.
Snyder’s 15-point Beat Sheet • No. 4 The Catalyst (Page 12) – The life-changing event disguised as bad news but leads the hero to happiness. • Ex. MC – Sandra is picked to go undercover to stop a murder threat at the American Miss Pageant.
Snyder’s 15-point Beat Sheet • No. 5 The Debate (Page 12-25) – Last chance for hero to back out, must ask a question of some kind. • Ex. MC – Can Sandra pull it off? Reveals several funny moments with her mentor (Michael Caine).
Snyder’s 15-point Beat Sheet • No. 6 Break Into Two (Page 25) – Moment where hero leaves the old world and steps (makes a decision) to enter the antithesis of the old world. • Ex. MC – Sandra steps out in her new made-over self in a mini skirt and stumbles.
Snyder’s 15-point Beat Sheet • No. 7 B-Story (Page 30) –The “love story” begins here and it carries the theme of the movie. Offers a little breather from the A-story. New world characters are introduced that are usually the antithesis of A-story characters. • Ex. MC – Sandra and the girl contestants is the love story. Why? The theme is about femininity. Her interaction with the contestants of the Girl World carries the message and the heart of the film.
Snyder’s 15-point Beat Sheet • No. 8 Fun and Games (Pages 30-55) – Offers the promise of the premise, heart of the movie; plot does not have to move forward, we’re getting to know the new world. Trailer and movie poster ideas come from this part of film. • Ex. MC –Fish out of water moments, including Sandra’s water-glass talent show demonstration ends as she leaps off the stage to nail a suspect.
Snyder’s 15-point Beat Sheet • No. 9 Midpoint (Page 55) – Point where hero is either “up” (a false peak) or “down” where the world collapses all around the hero (false collapse). Stakes are raised. Fun and games over, plot moves forward. Opposite of No. 13 All is Lost. • Ex. MC – New threat announced and Sandra goes into action to protect her newfound friends.
Snyder’s 15-point Beat Sheet • No. 10 Bad Guys Close In (Pages 55-75) – Bad guys regroup and send in big guns. Doubt, jealousy, internal dissent disintegrates the hero’s team. Evil is not giving up and the hero must endure on his own. • Ex. MC –Sandra doubts her femininity, clashes with her mentor. Actual bad guys get closer unseen in shadows of pageant. List of suspects.
Snyder’s 15-point Beat Sheet • No. 11 All Is Lost (Page 75) – Opposite of Mid-Point up or down; false defeat; all aspects of hero’s life are in shambles. No hope. Can add a whiff of death, metaphorically or literally; it’s where mentors die, or there’s a risk of death; Christ on the cross moment. • Ex. MC – Sandra goes against her bosses to stand down or be fired. She stays on at the pageant on the trail of a suspect. Whiff of death is death of her own identity as an FBI agent. Mentor is there to help.
Snyder’s 15-point Beat Sheet • No. 12 Dark Night of the Soul (Pages 75-85) – Darkness before the dawn; “Oh Lord why have thou forsaken me” moment; hero admits his humility and our humanity, yields events over to Fate; Hero is beaten and knows it. • Ex. MC – Sandra arrives at the pageant finale in a total mess. She’s neither FBI agent nor full-fledged woman.
Snyder’s 15-point Beat Sheet • No. 13 Break into Three (Page 85) – Answer is found thanks to the B-story (the love story) and all prior conversations, actions that captured the theme. Hero digs deep and through combining A-story and B-story, he or she comes up with a solution that combines old world and new world. • Ex. MC – Girl World helps Sandra prep for pageant finale. Sandra is revived by friendship and new knowledge of this world.
Snyder’s 15-point Beat Sheet • No. 14 Finale (Pages 85-110) – Hero changes the world into a new world. Lessons learned are applied; hero’s flaws are mastered; all bad guys go down in order of importance (save boss for last). • Ex. MC - Pageant held. Sandra uses her FBI skills on stage with Benjamin during Talent; synthesis of two worlds and answering of thematic question about can you be tough and sexy. Yes! Candice Bergman and her son are arrested for sabotaging the pageant.
Snyder’s 15-point Beat Sheet • No. 15 Final Image (Page 110) – Opposite of Opening Image; proof that life has changed • Ex. MC – Sandra is surrounded by women; awarded Miss Congeniality award by fellow pageant women.
Snyder’s 15-point Beat Sheet – Group work Take 15-20 minutes and try to plot out your own story idea. • Project Title: ______________________________ Genre: ______________________ Date ________________ • 1. Opening Image – • 2. Theme stated – • 3. Set-up – • 4. Catalyst – • 5. Debate – • 6. Break into Two – • 7. B-story – • 8. Fun and Games – • 9. Midpoint – • 10. Bad guys Close In – • 11. All is Lost – • 12. Dark Night of the Soul – • 13. Break Into Three – • 14. Finale – • 15. Final Image -
Resources • “Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder • “The Screenwriting Bible” by David Trottier • “Writing for Emotional Impact” by Karl Iglesias • “Story” by Robert McKee