Have you ever been so engrossed in a story that you mistake the events and characters for being real; or shed tears for a character who (when it all boils down to it) is merely a figment of someone else’s imagination? Have you thrown a book across the room yelling at the author in multiple languages about how mad you are at him/her for doing bodily, mental, or spiritual harm to a character? If you haven’t, you need to start reading better books!
What is it about a well written book that fuels the fire of the imagination, in turn bringing rise to fierce emotional responses? Curious to find the answer to this *burning* question (yes, the pun is intended), I asked a couple of friends about what they loved most about their favorite book.
Friend 1: “There was action, there was suspense, there was romance, there was murder–and that was all in the first chapter. The plot moved fast and was intricately woven and kept me wanting more when I reached the last page.”
Friend 2: “I felt like I could relate to the experiences of the character. In my imagination, it was no longer the character that was experiencing these things–it was my face and face of friends and people I knew that played out the plot in my mind’s eye”
Friend 3: “I don’t read, but I do watch a lot of television.”
Me: “Shame on you, you educated illiterate!”
Friend 3: “Well, a man’s got to do what a man’s go to do”
Me: “Whatever that means! Okay, think of your favorite movie. What made it your favorite?”
Friend 3: “It wasn’t a chic flick. It wasn’t fluffy like that. There were clever lines, comedy, fast cars, cool weapons, explosions, pretty girls….”
Me: “You are basically describing every action movie ever made! I need specifics man!”
Friend 3: “Hmm….then I’d say that I liked the sense of adventure that I felt when watching the video. While I obviously can’t jump from building to building” (Friend 3 rubs his rather rotund midsection) “I felt like I could and would if I was in shape. I felt the decisions that the hero of the movie made were decisions that I would have made myself in the same situation. When it all boils down to it, I think the reason that I love ____________ is because it allowed me to live vicariously through the film”
Me: ” Ahh….so what I’m hearing from you three is that a good story needs a hero that you can relate with, conflict that needs to be resolved, clever dialog, and a quick plot.”
Friend 2: “Having Hans Zimmer playing in the background doesn’t hurt either…chei! Grooving to action film music. ”
Me: (holding my head and muttering) “You silly girl!”
There you have it folks! The ingredients to a good story.
But what are the ingredients to a good screenplay? You don’t have the same ability to set the environment in explicit detail when writing a screenplay, the narration is often implied and details in the environment can often be overlooked. How do you build a character and a story without giving too much away? Anybody have any ideas?