In the ever-changing world of screenwriting, there are so many ways for screenwriters to execute their plots. Here are some of them:
1) ADDING & ENHANCING CHARACTER TRAITS
Many years ago when non-linear storytelling was in its infancy, I was working on an interactive war game. I proposed adding more of “alpha” traits to a character, such as aggression and anger or “beta” traits such as calmness and reason. It was a hell of a lot of writing because I have to include a continuum of behaviors.
2) BREAKING THE FOURTH FALL
No this isn’t an anger management class gone horribly wrong. It simply refers to a character talking directly into the camera to the audience. Woody Allen and Mel Brooks have used this technique many times.
3) DREAM SEQUENCES
These can include daydreams, such as the ripple dissolves in “The Simpsons”, flashbacks, flashforwards, such as the premonitions as in “Medium” or fantasy sequences. These are visually entertaining devices to break the monotony of linear screenplays.
4) MAKING OF
These can include reality TV, projects such as “Paranormal Activity” or “behind the scenes” shows when the characters are aware that they are being filmed. The can also include documentary formats such as Michael Jackson’s “This Is It”. They add a sense of immediacy and intimacy as the audience feels it’s directly experiencing the events in the story in real time. Up close and personal.
These are sequences of images used to speed up the storytelling process. A music montage can also be used, for instance, to depict an era or the trajectory of a band’s career.
These are obvious nods to distinct directorial visual styles. Michel Gondry, Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch certainly fall into this category.
These can include ghosts to represent a character’s conscience or guardian angels. “Lovely Bones” is a modern example of a girl observing her family after she’s been killed.
8) NARRATION/ VOICEOVER
This can be done via text boards, voiceover or graphic narration. They can be used to express internalized thoughts when the character can’t speak. Use these sparingly because they are often misused to patch up plot holes.
9) PARALLEL STORY LINES
Consider “The Hangover”, a basic bachelor party comedy with concurrent storylines, as the characters try to piece together what happened last night to find the groom. Split screen is also a good example of this.
10) FRACTURED STORYLINES
These come under the realm of non-linear storytelling. They can be as loose as “Reservoir Dogs” where dead characters reappear later in the film, or more stylized, such as “Memento” which was meticulously told in reverse snippets.
11) NEWS FLASH
These can include newspaper headlines, live news reports, photographs, headlines, letters or leif motifs to rapidly move the story forward.
A delightful technique often used in procedural TV as detectives piece together how a crime may have happened. It is basically the same scene executed from another character’s point of view. A good example is Tom Tykwer’s “Run Lola Run”.
14) RUNNING GAG
Something that pops up from time to time throughout a story.
15) IDENTITY CHANGE
This could be as simple as falling into someone else’s body such as “Freaky Friday”, reading minds such as “What Women Want”, gender swaps, going to another part of a character’s life such as childhood or old age, or you could even pull a “David Lynch” when one character simply transforms into another character to add to the confusion. Hey, if David Lynch made sense, he wouldn’t have such a dedicated fan base.
16) TIME TRAVEL
This is self- explanatory. “Back To The Future” is a prime example. Characters are transported to a distant time and place. Plot execution can get real funky, real fast when characters jackknife between multiple time zones. Hello, “Dr. Who.”
I’m sure I’ve missed out a few, but you get the idea. Audiences will always be hungry for stories and they will always be delighted by innovative ways of telling them.
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