SCREENPLAY STORY DEVELOPMENT: Interesting Facebook Discussion


Post for the day- After you’ve come up with a story that works, and you have some really cool scenes and characters already in your head, how do you go about filling in the rest of the story with great scene after scene?
    • Great question, Marty! I first just right the screenplay the way I visualize it then I go back to see what worled and what didn’t. Look at the holes in the character arcs and make sure they not only make sense but are believable, convincing. Fill in the blanks, move things around, punch up traits and how they bounce off the traits of other characters, delete exess wording, look at unusual visual settings, etc. I guess that’s the norm…

    • I do a mind map with all the important turning points, catalyst, high peak, low peak, and so on. Then I work with the characters Then I do index cards for each scene. THEN I start writing. I never, ever write without a plan. It doesn’t work for me.

    • I do a 9 block story map that has the key beats and plot points and them start fleshing it out from there.

    • Character Profiles until all are alive demanding to be shown then the “What if” logic of the Plot Paradigm. Before investing my soul in the writing I make damn sure I feel a PASSION for the point the story will make. At that time I know what I have to research for authenticity. When those ducks are lined up, I start the actual writing and tell the world to go away.

    • Howard Casner I tend to sort of wing it. When I have it generally mapped out, then I start writing and things come to me. I take a walk and suddenly I’ll have an idea as to how to do this or that or make the scene stronger. I’ll have a problem and think about it until I have a solution. I’m a instinct writer, I write more based on taking it as it comes along rather than heavily planning things out (if I planned things out in any serious or deep detail, I’m one of those people who would never start writing). That’s what works best for me. However, it’s not until I finish it and have people read it and get feedback and reread it that I really start fixing the issues and finding out what scenes, characters, et. need work.

    • I’m more like Howard as far as letting the story unfold as I go. It’s exciting and you discover things that you might have missed if you stuck to a cookie cutter plan. A basic idea for the general story flow should be there, but after that, I like to let a little magic happen.

    • Howard Casner Thanks. I sometimes think of it like a creating a crossword puzzle. You set up the outline of it (which squares are dark, which aren’t; how many squares there are); you then fill in the major blocks that can’t be changed (the ones that contain the theme of the puzzle); and then you start filling in the other words–these can be changed and fiddled with, but in the end, have to fit together to make the puzzle work.

    • Are the seven major turning points in the three act structure clear? Does the contact point (opening) involve the characters as well as the Reader? Do I know what the protagonists original goal is? What is the protagonist’s new goal after the first 7 to 10 pages? What and who are blocking the protagonist from reaching that new goal? What about the three minor turning poiints near the end of Act II or into Act III? Are they clear and how do the characters get there? What are the changes outwardly and inwardly that the characters go through–especially the protagonist? What are the 3 subplots and how do they answer all the questions posed so far? What are my rhyming scenes and my connectives?

      This is not to say that everything is set. It shouldn’t be. You need to–as others have suggested–discover new plot lines, character traits and development, and unexpected reversals along the way. In other words, you need to let lagniappe happen. But you also need enough structure so you have a pretty good map, and in case you get a little lost–which is okay–you can always get back to the map to know where you wanted to go or maybe take the detour that’s necessary to find your way there.

    • I’m not sure if I’ve found my way yet as I seem to do it different each time and dabble in a lot of different things. I did one totally free hand. It was a mess. I did one with a beat sheet, into an outline, into index cards, and it came out sterile. Lately, I’ve tried doing beat sheets but I get hung up on one of the points later in the story and then get frustrated. So instead of writing it, it gets shelved. Now…I get the basic beats in my head and then write it out. If something isn’t working, I go back to a physical beat sheet and map it out again. See where it is falling apart. That seems to be the most comfortable method to me at this time. 🙂

    • If it works, stick with it. Each has their own way of getting there. Mine is posted. It’s not for everyone, but it sure has helped alot of my students.

    • Camp Casner/Blair. I take their “wing-it” correspondence course.

    • Save The Cat, 15 beats + 5-Point Finale, then expand those 20 beats into 40 ‘scene cards’

    • outline, outline, outline. I can’t start without it. I’ll even bullet point each scene and sketch some dialogue or ideas:

      Ray and Sydney in car.
      “You like her”. Ray denies. He drops her off at her apartment.

      I also use the document as a scratch pad where I just copy/paste any research notes I find from the internet, I’ll also write in my own ideas etc. The document is a mess of words, and notes and outlines. Ugly.

    • I won a copy of MovieOutline in a screenwriting contest and I find it very useful to do all the planning and keep my notes in one place. I also used it to write the script but then I found that it only converts to Final Draft 8 and not 7, which was a pain.

    • let’s not forget the “Fling It And See What Sticks” Masters…

    • As much as I like some of the stuff in “Cat,” I have no idea what 40 beats and 5 point finale means. If a written, author’s scene is between 3.5 and 7 pages–which I believe and see in most every movie that it is–with a beginning, middle, climax, and end, then there really can’t be more than about 22 to 25 scenes or scene cards.

      I can usually pinpoint when a scene begins and ends–even with some of the transition shots that tie scenes together–but pinpointing beats sounds like the definition of shots, which means there are many, many more in a screenplay than forty.

      But I would be happy to do a back and forth on this. Maybe I can learn some new things, which is always helpful.

    • I would love to be able to outline. I just have no patience for it. I’m also one of those people who just starts writing and whatever I feel at the time that makes sense, I put in. Then I go back, of course, and read it through and try to decipher what works and will stay in or do the “What the hell was I thinking?” bit and rewrite what is needed.

    • R, I’m no guru, I’m probably the last guy-who-calls-himself-a-screenwriter who should be involved in a back-and-forth as a teacher or guide or guru regarding any screenwriting-related topic, but, since you ask, in my humble amatuerish opinion, the STC method (15 beats + 5 Point Finale into 40 ‘scene cards’) is basically Blake Snyder’s take on the sequence method…

      you state the obvious mathematical and logical bit which dictates 22-25 scenes or cards (at 3-7 pages/minutes per card) = 75-120 page/minute screenplay/movie, and you’re not wrong. STC doesn’t go into too much detail regarding what goes into those magical mysterious ‘extra’ 15-20 beats/cards, so, what inevitably happens is those cards play out a sequence that could, techincally, be considered ‘one scene/sequence/card’…

      the 15 STC Beats (or 20, if you count the 5-Point Finale) ARE those same 22-25 scenes/sequences…

      it’s just that, rather than using one card to say:

      CARD # 4: ’20 minutes of set-piece action and mayhem occurs… no really, it’s going to be awesome! for realz!! believe me! whatever the production people can come up with to fill this section of my sci-fi action-adventure horror epic saga, it will be awesome and it occurs here in the story for the next 20 minutes…’

      you might take 4 or 5 cards in the Fun & Games ‘beat’ of the STC outline, to detail the Foot Race to the Car Chase to the Gunfight to the Bank Robbery to the Getaway Car Chase… or whatever…

      it’s still ‘one beat’ out of 15 STC beats, called the Fun&Games beat which takes up the first half of Act II, but it takes up 3, 4, 5 cards to outline the beat in however many sequences you choose, or according to whatever other set of rules or paradigm you wish to mix into the STC method…

      that’s what I get out of the STC method. As I say, I’m no master, nor master debater. Mileage may vary…

      write on!

    • If I started writing based on an idea, I’d spend hours and hours staring at the screen wondering what to write next.

      I like to do a “STC” outline first so that I have a general idea of what is going to take place in the story, then I beat it out. I used to use a big cork board and index cards, but now I use the “STC” software. Like it or not, structure is very important, and can mean the difference of you getting rewritten out of your own script by another writer or not.

      Once I have all my index cards filled in I can look at the story and see where it’s weak and strong and do my improvements there. By the time I’m finished with my beat board, I know the story so well that I barely have to look at it, and when I sit down to write, I can find my character’s voice and spend hours and hours doing a lot of really productive writing. It’s so productive that I really don’t have to rewrite it- just give it a polish or two. And, it only takes me a couple of weeks to finish a script.

      The problem? Coming up with stories that I deem worthy of taking the time to write, then fleshing out a whole story. The jury is still out on a lot of stories, so yeah, sometimes I don’t get to writing as quickly as I’d like, but I’m always writing, whether I’m going for a walk, reading a book, or day dreaming- I’m always conjuring up something.

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