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screenplay Lets make a story, what do you do to make a story?

1. protagonist
2. goal
3. stakes
4. obstacles
5. false defeat
6. protagonist wins
I have a template, well I am creating a template which is the same I use for writing short stories. I select keywords and elaborate under those key words..basically key ingredients if you will and expand upon them to enrich a story. Do you do the same in your writing process?

Do you write with the reverse checkmark format in mind for story structure?
 
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I have a template, well I am creating a template which is the same I use for writing short stories. I select keywords and elaborate under those key words..basically key ingredients if you will and expand upon them to enrich a story. Do you do the same in your writing process?

Do you write with the reverse checkmark format in mind for story structure?
It varies by the goals for a particular composition. The current project is a branching narrative, so I use some standard techniques, but everything has to flow back into the main plot.

I mostly learned by watching thousands of tv episodes, making case studies out of how a particular challenge was handled by an existing show or author, and riffing on that template. Plenty of mine canaries out there in fiction writing.

To better answer, I use the standard format for most stuff, but I'm always looking for opportunities to cleverly subvert some expectation. I think that you can't do that all the time though, since at that point subversion becomes the expectation, and you kind of back yourself into a corner. I think the default "reverse checkmark" formula is probably the most effective for film formats. Sometimes you have to think outside the story and imagine the real life reality. I can surprise an audience by killing off all their favorite characters at the end of the plot, and that's an interesting subversion, but simultaneously, what you don't want is for a group of exited people to pay to see a movie and then ending up sitting together in grim silence afterwards. It doesn't have to be a fairy tale ending every time, but you need some type of satisfying climax to a film.

There's more than one way to leave people with a favorable impression of your story though, and many examples are available.

The Usual Suspects - The criminal gets away with the crime, but with a reveal so clever that the audience is cheering for the bad guy.

The Matrix - The world is enslaved by machines, but at the end of the first movie a speech and some rev up music is played that left audiences excited about the next film, a cliffhanger with wide open possibilities

Fight Club - a disastrous conclusion from a film that broke all the rules, this film imploded in a way that sealed and delivered the undiluted philosophy of its anti materialistic message in a way felt like a strong finish in line with it's nihilistic motif. You can't just tack the ending of a Huey Lewis song onto everything.

The Shawshank Redemption - It's a mixed bag, where basically everyone's life was ruined by the time the film was over, but the filmmakers sold us on the concept that character could be it's own reward, and while objectively depressing, the film leaves audiences feeling like they saw something great happen. This one is hybrid, Andy gets out at the end, so it's a conventional resolution, but not one without it's own unique nuances.

The other answer is that I try to make skills habits, and improve them over time without putting much pressure on any one individual step. I think you learn the most about any complex skill via regular experience.
 
It varies by the goals for a particular composition. The current project is a branching narrative, so I use some standard techniques, but everything has to flow back into the main plot.

I mostly learned by watching thousands of tv episodes, making case studies out of how a particular challenge was handled by an existing show or author, and riffing on that template. Plenty of mine canaries out there in fiction writing.

To better answer, I use the standard format for most stuff, but I'm always looking for opportunities to cleverly subvert some expectation. I think that you can't do that all the time though, since at that point subversion becomes the expectation, and you kind of back yourself into a corner. I think the default "reverse checkmark" formula is probably the most effective for film formats. Sometimes you have to think outside the story and imagine the real life reality. I can surprise an audience by killing off all their favorite characters at the end of the plot, and that's an interesting subversion, but simultaneously, what you don't want is for a group of exited people to pay to see a movie and then ending up sitting together in grim silence afterwards. It doesn't have to be a fairy tale ending every time, but you need some type of satisfying climax to a film.

There's more than one way to leave people with a favorable impression of your story though, and many examples are available.

The Usual Suspects - The criminal gets away with the crime, but with a reveal so clever that the audience is cheering for the bad guy.

The Matrix - The world is enslaved by machines, but at the end of the first movie a speech and some rev up music is played that left audiences excited about the next film, a cliffhanger with wide open possibilities

Fight Club - a disastrous conclusion from a film that broke all the rules, this film imploded in a way that sealed and delivered the undiluted philosophy of its anti materialistic message in a way felt like a strong finish in line with it's nihilistic motif. You can't just tack the ending of a Huey Lewis song onto everything.

The Shawshank Redemption - It's a mixed bag, where basically everyone's life was ruined by the time the film was over, but the filmmakers sold us on the concept that character could be it's own reward, and while objectively depressing, the film leaves audiences feeling like they saw something great happen. This one is hybrid, Andy gets out at the end, so it's a conventional resolution, but not one without it's own unique nuances.

The other answer is that I try to make skills habits, and improve them over time without putting much pressure on any one individual step. I think you learn the most about any complex skill via regular experience.
Amazing reply Nate! Thank you

I have another question, its been on my mind for some time. I try to think of almost every movie I have ever seen, and there is almost always at least one form of violence in the films....I am not bothered by violence in films, as it is just movie making, but I also feel like relying on violence is a cheap way to create a story. Perhaps I am just thinking too deep about it all, but do you feel that movies require some violence or "pain" in order to create a conflict? I totally agree that psychological pain is needed to cause a conflict, otherwise...would it really be a conflict? And a movie without a conflict is boring as can be...

I am not exactly sure what I am asking, but do you feel it is more clever to create a movie with zero violence or do you feel some is needed to have an audience enjoy a film?

Thanks, its a question I just cant stop wondering about in script writing!

Here is an example, I play poker, and I feel there is a whole storyworld in poker that would have zero violence, but here is a poker movie, with outrageous violence lol why??

 
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Amazing reply Nate! Thank you

I have another question, its been on my mind for some time. I try to think of almost every movie I have ever seen, and there is almost always at least one form of violence in the films....I am not bothered by violence in films, as it is just movie making, but I also feel like relying on violence is a cheap way to create a story. Perhaps I am just thinking too deep about it all, but do you feel that movies require some violence or "pain" in order to create a conflict? I totally agree that psychological pain is needed to cause a conflict, otherwise...would it really be a conflict? And a movie without a conflict is boring as can be...

I am not exactly sure what I am asking, but do you feel it is more clever to create a movie with zero violence or do you feel some is needed to have an audience enjoy a film?

Thanks, its a question I just cant stop wondering about in script writing!

Here is an example, I play poker, and I feel there is a whole storyworld in poker that would have zero violence, but here is a poker movie, with outrageous violence lol why??

This is definitely an interesting question, and one I've thought about. I'm having issues with it now, due to considerations with YouTube's evolving standards of decency, which have robotic and draconian consequences. Two guys fight with spears and if one of them impales the other one, the channel gets demonetized. Guns are becoming a touchy subject with YouTube. So now I have to wonder if a gunfight could be enough cause to crash the entire company.

Here's the problem, and the answer to your question. Violence is the apex of conflict, conflict is the essence of drama, and creating stakes is how you infuse a situation with drama. I once heard a great writer joke "I've never heard of someone complaining that the stakes were too high in a movie"

Comedy and realistic drama are the areas where you can get by without it, but the asterisk is that in a sense both of these formats often reference violence by proxy, e.g. a courtroom drama where the death penalty or life in a violent prison is on the table. When Clarke finally arrives at Wally World and finds it closed, he buys a fake gun and threatens to kill a security guard if the guard doesn't let his family into the theme park. The LAPD shows up, and again life or death stakes appear to be in play. So that's 2 life and death situations with guns that happened in National Lampoon's Vacation. Often in television shows, emotional violence is used as a substitution for actual violence, as seen in Dickens novel "Great Expectations".

Final answer, I think conflict, adversity, stakes, are foundational blocks of drama, and it's much harder to entertain without them than with. One of the few exceptions I've seen that actually worked were character studies of interesting people. I'd reference the recent band bio pictures Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody. In the King's Speech, the proxy was that the nations loss of confidence in their leadership would cause widespread damage if the leader embarrassed himself publicly by stuttering. So the possibility of being embarrassed was the main stake established, but they were clearly linked to much greater problems, including the possibility of war.
 
This is definitely an interesting question, and one I've thought about. I'm having issues with it now, due to considerations with YouTube's evolving standards of decency, which have robotic and draconian consequences. Two guys fight with spears and if one of them impales the other one, the channel gets demonetized. Guns are becoming a touchy subject with YouTube. So now I have to wonder if a gunfight could be enough cause to crash the entire company.

Here's the problem, and the answer to your question. Violence is the apex of conflict, conflict is the essence of drama, and creating stakes is how you infuse a situation with drama. I once heard a great writer joke "I've never heard of someone complaining that the stakes were too high in a movie"

Comedy and realistic drama are the areas where you can get by without it, but the asterisk is that in a sense both of these formats often reference violence by proxy, e.g. a courtroom drama where the death penalty or life in a violent prison is on the table. When Clarke finally arrives at Wally World and finds it closed, he buys a fake gun and threatens to kill a security guard if the guard doesn't let his family into the theme park. The LAPD shows up, and again life or death stakes appear to be in play. So that's 2 life and death situations with guns that happened in National Lampoon's Vacation. Often in television shows, emotional violence is used as a substitution for actual violence, as seen in Dickens novel "Great Expectations".

Final answer, I think conflict, adversity, stakes, are foundational blocks of drama, and it's much harder to entertain without them than with. One of the few exceptions I've seen that actually worked were character studies of interesting people. I'd reference the recent band bio pictures Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody. In the King's Speech, the proxy was that the nations loss of confidence in their leadership would cause widespread damage if the leader embarrassed himself publicly by stuttering. So the possibility of being embarrassed was the main stake established, but they were clearly linked to much greater problems, including the possibility of war.
Amazing reply Nate, going to think a lot about it. Thanks man

Not to fast reply on the idea, it is a lot to think about...

but, Another thought that came to mind is the office space printer scene lol, Amazing comedy, but instead of violence on another, it was on a printer. But it is still there lol
 
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I have my own story template I've been working on and evolving for at least 20 years now... Give or take. It's based on The Hero's Journey. Since I never outline, I like having what needs to happen next, right in front of me to keep the flow going. I really don't even need it anymore since it's pretty much embedded in my brain but I still make sure it's right in front of me when I write. Why? Because I feel like when I read what has to happen next, my subconscious is always working on it while I write what happens just before. It's my own system that works for me.

Happy to share it... Just send me a message and I'll get it to you.

I recently took that same story template and and expanded it for books... I did this after several months of research -- reading only bestsellers in my genre. It's actually way more complicated than that but it breaks down a story for a book by chapter and I'm using it now and liking it very much.

I was never happy with what is thrown around as 3 ACT STRUCTURE. I mean, it's fine but as a template? It leaves out a hell of a lot in my humble opinion.

If I were to give out advice? I'd tell you to learn as much about story structure as possible... Read up on all the different structures and piece together your very own version that you feel good about... Then? As you watch movies, when something HITS you upside the head... Something that you feel is structural and could be in any story? See if you can work it into your own story structure template.
 
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I have my own story template I've been working on and evolving for at least 20 years now... Give or take. It's based on The Hero's Journey. Since I never outline, I like having what needs to happen next, right in front of me to keep the flow going. I really don't even need it anymore since it's pretty much embedded in my brain but I still make sure it's right in front of me when I write. Why? Because I feel like when I read what has to happen next, my subconscious is always working on it while I write what happens just before. It's my own system that works for me.

Happy to share it... Just send me a message and I'll get it to you.

I recently took that same story template and and expanded it for books... I did this after several months of research -- reading only bestsellers in my genre. It's actually way more complicated than that but it breaks down a story for a book by chapter and I'm using it now and liking it very much.

I was never happy with what is thrown around as 3 ACT STRUCTURE. I mean, it's fine but as a template? It leaves out a hell of a lot in my humble opinion.

If I were to give out advice? I'd tell you to learn as much about story structure as possible... Read up on all the different structures and piece together your very own version that you feel good about... Then? As you watch movies, when something HITS you upside the head... Something that you feel is structural and could be in any story? See if you can work it into your own story structure template.
I would absolutely love to see it!! I will DM you to obtain a copy! I will send you my template once I edit it some more, but I have a feeling it is all things you have seen before!
 
I start with an image that sticks in my mind. The image may or may not be animated but it leaves me with a feeling that the story will have. My job is to translate the feeling into a story. The image that is the inspiration for the story always provides some amount of guidance for me to tell me what the story might be about. You see, for me, I am watching the story develop as I write it. I don't usually know what will happen next until I do write it. I learned the hard way that this only works for me if I first figure out the ending, otherwise I end up writing myself into a corner. Stephen Kings writes this way. He gets an idea and then just starts writing. I love his work and I've read most of his books but I can see how he "writes himself into a corner". He does have a reputation for bad endings.. Enough about Stephen King.

I think the mechanics of writing are very important. Before I learned about story structure I just wrote stories the way I thought would be the most compelling. Looking back, those early attempts were so out of focus that I'd say the stories became pointless. Now I gravitate toward the 3 act story structure. For me, it makes sense and feels natural. Every great book or movie I've ever read or seen follows the 3 act structure. So, the thing is this; once you understand the mechanics of writing a story, you can stop thinking about it so much and just write. I don't stay conscious of the goal to move my protagonist from a state of balance to the first turning point of the story. I just let it happen. I try not to edit myself when writing the first draft. I just write. I can always fix it in the 2nd draft. I write science fiction on the surface, but beneath that, I like to comment on the human condition. The things that make us human. I write mostly for my own amusement.
 
The author Dean Koontz seems to use some sort of a template. I truly enjoy his books. There is always a sense of anticipation and tension from page to page. You could say his books are real page turners. Funny thing is that after reading 3 or 4 of his books, I could sense that he was using a template. I choose to call it a formula. By the 10th book, I could predict what was going to happen and when. So, as much as I love Dean Koontz books, they have lost some of their oomph.
 
I feel bad for Dean Koontz, he never really got as much credit as he deserved. It was pulp horror, but it was a good template, and he was creative with it. Classic stuff like Midnight, Watchers, Hideaway, etc, was just as good as King's writing, but never sold in the same numbers.
 
I agree!! I have always considered his work to be every bit as good as Kings. His endings are better than King's!
I have to tell you, my favorite Koontz novel is The Fun House, which is weird because he wrote it after the movie Fun House was produced. The the way I heard it, he was commissioned to write the novelization of the movie, but because the movie story was so skeletal, he pretty much wrote a novel that barely resembles the movie. It is such a fun book! If you like carnivals and the idea of a plausible monster lurking around in the shadows of the rides, give this book a read.

One other thing about Koontz; his novel Demon Seed. He wrote this beautiful novel in 1973 and it was apparently way ahead of it's time. I think his publisher went to great lengths to get if off the shelves as quick as possible due to some sort of embarrassment over having published it in the first place.(that's just my assumption). A movie based on the book was produced but I don't know much about it.. Now, fast forward to 1997. Dean Koontz re-writes Demon Seed and it is published. I never heard of an author re-writing a book, as though taking a second stab at getting it right . King had the Stand re-released with the hundreds of pages edited out of the original publication restored but that's not the same as re-writing your own already published novel.. The re-write of Demon Sead is not one of Koontz's best books. You can buy hard cover copies of the re-write cheap but the original is not easy to find. The only copy I was able to get my hands on is a very well read paperback (I usually only buy hardcover but I had no choice). It is such a good book! I think it was a little too, oh, I don't know, pornographic for it's time but I loved it.
 
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Around 2001, I remember listening to an interview with Art Bell and Dean Koontz on Coast to Coast AM while on the road...I can't find the exact clip yet of the interview, but I remember it being on YT. I have read a few of his books, I really enjoyed Lightning (it was short but great), and From the corner of his eye is crazy AF, the main talk of the radio show on coast to coast was talking about parallel realities. It is a great interview for sure, long time ago.

I remember a lot of things, I have a mild case of Hyperthymesia so, yeah, that explains that lol
 
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There is a saying in the film industry that there are no new stories, just retelling of old ones. I'm not convinced that's true, because it's not a falsifiable proposition. This is not relevant to the topic, but I just wanted to throw it in there.
 
I've seen lists of the 4 basic types of story, or the 5 basic types, or the 7 basic types.. The funny thing is that there isn't a consensus as to what those types are. Each list has it's own variation. Ha!
So, are there only so many types of stories? If you think so, what would your list look like?
 
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