NOW, USE ANY OF THE ABOVE DEVICES, GENERATE THIRTY DIFFERENT IDEAS OR SUBJECTS. THESE MAY BE JUST ONE WORD, BUT LIST THEM. MAKE NO CRITICAL JUDGEMENTS ON THEM AT THIS STAGE-YOU WANT QUANTITY. NOW PUT THE LIST ASIDE AND READ ON…
By now you may have realized that, for a writer, IDEAS for STORIES are everywhere and finding them isn’t the problem, but which STORY you can tell well. How can you do this?
APPLY the following to each of your STORY IDEA:
1. Answer these questions about the IDEA: WHO is it about? /WHAT? /WHEN? /WHY? HOW?
2. Is it GOING SOMEWHERE? Is it DRAMATIC? Can I dramatize it in a series of SCENES with minimum of explanation? Does it have a PLOT?
3. WHAT IS AT STAKE?
4. LOOK for the SURPRISE!
5. DO I CARE about the STORY?
6. Is it too personal a STORY for others to become involved?
7. think of all the OBJECTIVES to that IDEA: weakness, reason why you should not peruse it further etc
NOW RUN YOUR THIRTY IDEAS THROUGH THE QUESTIONS ABOVE AND SELECT THOSE IDEAS WHICH SEEM THE MOST PROMISING. PUT THE OTHERS ASIDE
NEXT: TAKE TWO OR THREE UNRELATED WORDS/IDEAS FROM YOUR CHOSEN LIST AND JUXTAPOSE THEM TOGETHER. NOW FIND OR MAKE LINKS BETWEEN THEM. THEN WRITE ONE SENTENCE FOR EACH GROUP OF LINKED IDEAS
FOR THE IDEAS YOU HAVE SELECTED, DEVELOP A STORY FOR EACH OF THEM, with a beginning, a middle and end (use only one or two sentences for each segment) this may not work for all your IDEAS, so drop those that don’t convince or work for you.
For the ideas that remain expand to fuller outlines, including your major scenes (a couple of sentences for each scene) and breaks for each segment: beginning, middle and an end.
If after all these you still do not feel strongly enough about your IDEA, then perhaps it is strong enough to continue…
NOW EXPRESS YOUR STORY IN THESE TERMS:
It is a STORY about a CHARACTER who WANTS to DO SOMETHING and ends up SUCCEDING/FAILING/CHANGED
This is your STORY concept
Special INFO: HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU’VE GOT A GOOD STORY? NOT UNTIL YOU’VE GOT THE ENDING. Make sure you’ve got your END. A STORY going nowhere is an ABOMINATION!
WHOSE FILM/STORY IS IT?
This is one question NIGERIAN films most times fail to answer. Before you start wandering about what I mean, let me explain
EVERY STORY/FILM must have a PROTAGONIST, this is the ‘GOOD GUY’ and there must also be an ANTAGONIST, the ‘BAD GUY’. It is the CONFLICT between those two CHARACTERS that creates ‘THE DRAMATIC EFFECT’
Nothing moves forward in a story except through conflict- LAW OF CONFLICT
Back to the BIG question! WHOSE STORY IS IT?
If an event happens- e.g. a car crash, bank robbery or the assassination of the President-each one of the eye witnesses and participants will have their own version of that event. Their own Point Of View (P.O.V.) is their STORY. So, decide on who is telling the STORY, WHOSE eye are we seeing these EVENTS through? Which CHARACTER do we HOPE or FEAR for- hope she will get what she WANTS or fear that he will not? This is the person WHOSE STORY we follow through out the film- THE PROTAGONIST
CREATING YOUR CHARACTERS!
Although films take place in the present, Characters are created in the past. CHARACTERIZATION is everything that has gone into making of our character before they stepped into our film: genetic inheritance, family influence, socioeconomic conditions, life experience etc
In summary your CHARACTER must have a life, name, occupation, physical attributes and must be distinct from each other. Getting your CHARACTER is probably the most important part of writing your SCREENPLAY
We learn about A CHARACTER from the decisions they make…
All CHARACTERS have a specific function to fulfill in your SCREENPLAY. Divided into three basic categories
1. MAIN CHARACTER/S: your PROTAGONIST and everyone who advances the STORY in conjunction with them
2. SECONDARY CHARACTERS: those who interact with your protagonist and have a significant effect on your PLOT or main character/s
3. MINOR CHARACTERS: those who add color, atmosphere or comic relief, deliver messages, open doors and generally contribute to the world of the STORY
This is the CHARACTER
1. you want your audience to focus on
2. whose POV they experience the STORY through
3. who will travel the journey in the STORY of your SCREENPLAY
4. with whom the audience will most identify
5. who, by definition, will be on SCREEN most of the time
Often called the ‘hero’ or ‘heroine’; the PROTAGONIST is the one who should
DRIVE the PLOT
CHARACTER BIOGRAPHY-ANALYSIS/CHECK LIST
You should write complete biographies (of between 2 and 10 pages) for each or you principal CHARACTERS, from birth to the point where they enter your SCRIPT. Why? So you know why your CHARACTER does the things they do in your STORY- this is also called ‘CHARACTER BIBLE’ and should also include and not limited to strengths, weaknesses and FLAWS!
Besides a CHARACTER biography; you should also work out their BACK STORY. This can be defined as the STORY of your CHARACTER and relevant events in their lives that happened to them immediately before they entered the SCRIPT
THIS CAN BE WEEKS, HOURS, MONTHS OR YEARS-your STORY will dictate the time frame. The importance of biographies and BACK STORIES is, it can provide important information about your character and events you can use during the telling of your STORY. It also helps you decide exactly where to OPEN YOUR SCRIPT
As a SCREEN WRITER your primary concern is your AUDIENCE. Who is your AUDIENCE? Who am I writing for? Why? Remember how we began this manual; the many different languages and by extension, different cultural leanings?
Now it is generally accepted that the AUDIENCE is smarter than most FILMS, so it becomes a challenge to counter this intelligence with creatively smarter approaches
We have identified who our PROTAGONIST is and who the ANTAGONIST in our STORY is also. I would like to talk about one of the many reasons why movies in NIGERIA fall far below good taste
First, the CHARACTERS are not realistic and its difficult to identify comfortably ‘WHO’S STORY it is’. While we agree that a PROTAGONIST must have a tangible, achievable GOAL which DRIVES the STORY, the ANTAGONIST MUST also have a very logical motive for trying to STOP the protagonist from achieving the said GOAL
E.g. A mother-in law, a.k.a. Patience Uzokwu, can not be mindlessly wicked for any justifiable or sane reason, as to want to wipe out the entire village (with JUJU’) from where her daughter in-law comes from, just because she does not approve of her.
NOW CONSIDER THIS EXAMPLE
A young hard working executive has just 24hrs to come up with cash doctors need to save the life of his only sister, who has just been in a car crash?
The accountant refuses to approve the cash advancement even though it has been given the nod by top management
Our young executive fights to have him change his mind as he seeks other means of raising the cash-time is not on his side…
We learn later that the accountant was passed over during promotion and feels he deserves the position of our young executive
(BUT THIS IS NOT A STRONG ENOUGH REASON)
We then reveal much later that the accountant has an aging mother dieing of cancer and the promotion would have given him the financial strength to help his mother
(NOW, IS THIS BETTER?)
Should the girl die or the woman? WHY? Should they both live? HOW? I leave you to resolve the conflict
While it is important to establish your PROTAGONIST as early as possible in your SCRIPT, it is essential you get the audience on the PROTAGONIST side, to establish subconscious links so that your audience see the world and experience emotions through that CHARACTER’S POV, and you MUST do it quickly. HOW?
1. SYMPATHY is the most often used
2. Put your character in jeopardy. We identify with people we worry about
3. establish likeability of your CHARACTER: nice, highly skilled, makes us laugh, hard working-GOOD GUY
4. admiration, courage etc
In short make the audience fall in love with the PROTAGONIST