Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Seed Of A Story

I have a writer friend of mine who is shopping his first speculative screenplay, or spec, to some movie studios for the past few months. It took him a couple of years to get it done, being very new at the genre, and he always asking me for tips on the writing process.

I think this process is different for every writer. How I do things may not work for another writer, and their approach may not work for me.

When I approach any writing project, the obvious first choice that I make is what I am going to write about.  This is called a premise. I take that premise and flesh it out in a written form,  I can do that in five words or less.

Yes, I truly mean that. Those five words are known as a title.

Call me fanatical,  but I think a title is just is important as your theme, plot, characters, etc.  I can't even start writing without a good title. A title, for me, is the seed that will spring the story tree.

So now I have a title, which gives the reader an idea what the story is about. What next?

I now go a step further to what is called a logline.  This is a one or two sentence summary of a story. It must have detail of some form of plot, a central situation,  a tone, and have something that emotionally intrigues the reader, called the hook.

Okay, now we have something one can pitch to the powers that be. This is something that you could be paid to elaborate further. If not, you can still continue it on your own.

Either way, the next step in somewhat sideways. It's not something that moves the story in a linear path, but it is something, I feel, one must do before expanding the story.

Every character I have in a story, I will write a biography about him/her. This is a particular step where most of what you write never gets to be in the story because it happens before the time your story begins.  Called backstory,  things created from this will let me know how a character will respond to a giving situation or to another character.  If I get to know a person, even if I created him/her, it makes the process flow a little more smoothly.

Okay, now I take my logline, with my biography, and start writing something called a synopsis. This piece consists of a more detailed explanation of the story.  Its' usually length is between one long paragraph, or several paragraphs, and usually not longer then two pages. It is more focused toward the plot of the story.

There are times where I will a story outline instead of synopsis.  Though they are similar and somewhat interchangeable, a story outline details a bit more about the tone, theme, and the character of a story. Though it has some plot points, it is not solely about the plot.

There are times where I might do both a synopsis and a outline for the same project.

Then there is the treatment.  A treatment is the most difficult one of all to write because it must contain all elements of theme, tone, plot, character, and setting without giving too much detail. There is no discernible number of pages of a treatment, but averages around 10, and I have heard some writers have written 30 -40 page treatments. My feeling is that a treatment with that amount of pages is misspent energy that could of used to write the actual pages of your book or screenplay.

And because it is required, I write them. My approach is to break it up into sections. The first section is your concept, the idea. The second explains your characters and their goals, the third is theme, or the moral of the story. Then the tone and setting.  Meaning is it dark, funny, somber, romantic, etc, and where and when. Then you delve into the story.

Finally, after all this, you can write your novel or script. I find this a little easier, though not easy, to write because I have done most of the legwork early on.

Then after all that hard work of writing that book or film script you dreamed about, you have to rewrite many of the chapters or scenes. Maybe even rewrite the whole entire story.

Isn't writing fun?  Tell me how you approach it.

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