Patrick Horton, story coach, goes beyond the three act structure and reduces the desire and need to tell stories to their mystical, transformational building blocks.
Humanity has told stories since the dawn of time to communicate a truth that rings true to us; a truth sometimes on the edge of reality. Although it is vital to understand the structural architecture of screenplays in terms of acts, turning points, mid-points and inciting incidents, we must allow ourselves the freedom to stray outside those imaginary boundaries; to expand our stories rather than to simply be rebellious.
Change happens on the edges of the rigid box, not outside it. Why? Because that is where the boundaries between convention and creativity lie. For some, there is no box. Some say keep one foot in the box and the other outside. Therein lies the difference between analyzing story and truly creating it.
Great writing is ultimately defined by its ability to explore humanity in a way that others don’t, but can still relate to it. Screenwriters also face the task of deciding whether they have an actual story to fill a script, or whether it’s still a visceral concept. Sometimes conventional structures cal help.
Storytelling is judged by its ability to move the writer, first and foremost. If passion is lacking at the creative source, the audience won’t follow. Seminal storytelling has minimal guidance. It’s an exploration of your values and a sensitivity to others. Be egocentric. You can afford to be. You are the center of your universe because you created it. This isn’t a license to be arrogant and disrespectful to your audience. The size of your audience and a film’s budget is inversely proportional to the creative freedom you can enjoy. Again, steer clear of join the dots storytelling, especially at the conceptual stage. You can tighten the story later.
Your story is only fulfilling when it has a sense of meaning, direction, purpose, place and possibility beyond the immediate.
It’s a celebration of your integrity and who you are. Hold off fitting in for as long as possible. The completion of a story heals us from our mythical wounds as we obtain closure and nudge our darlings out of the nest.
Set aside regular time to write. Neurobiologists claim we are at our most creative either late at night or early morning. Our inhibitions are reduced because our biological clock signals dream time.
Get yourself in the writing zone. It’s a magical place where all the creative elements of your script are aligned, time stops, logic ends and all the pieces of your story jigsaw fall into place. It’s a divine out-of-body experience. When you’re in the zone, your story isn’t forced; it unfolds organically and authentically. There is nothing more beautiful than an idea which has found its expression and time. Find your own path in the cosmos. Give yourself permission to fail to truly thrive rather than simply survive
Ask yourself the following questions during story construction:
- What is the story really about? How did it come to you? Which elements stuck and which fell away? Why didn’t the story let you go?
- As you currently understand the story, what really matters to you and your main character? What has shaken their world and how do they react to it?
- What is the transformation that’s possible? Who takes the journey? Is it the right character for the journey?
- Can you go where you need to go? What’s at risk? What do they think matters? What really matters? What’s the matter with matter? What matters matters. What doesn’t doesn’t.
- Can you go where you need to? Do you know where you need to go? How do you know? How do you get there? Respect the pacing of the story. If you need to slow down or stop, do so. Stories, like babies, will arrive in their own time. Inducing them prematurely may damage them.