From idea to story & the journey in between

By CHAITRA SHETTY | 23 December, 2009 - 17:08

Desire is what they want to do, the ultimate goal of the character in the story. Like in Billy Elliot, Billy wants t'The Basics of Storytelling for TV & Movies' session by veteran producer and writer David Abramowitz took the audience through entire process of taking an idea in mind, developing it and putting it down on paper in the form of a script. David says there are three main components which should be considered while writing a story - Character, Desire and Conflict and you have to know these even before you start writing.

Talking about characters he said, the questions like who are the players? What are their personalities? What has formed them? Why are they whoever they are?, should be answered before hand. He added that all the stories come from characters and it is the characters that make them interesting. "You have to understand and portray how they grow in the story. Like a character might start out as a Villain, but turn into a Hero as he goes along, or the character might start out happy end up being sad. These gradual transitions are very key in the flow of the story."

Desire is what they want to do, the ultimate goal of the character in the story. Like in Billy Elliot, Billy wants to be a ballet dancer, in Kung Fu Panda, Po wants to do Kung Fu and become a Dragon Warrior and in Silence of Lambs, Clarice wants to capture the serial killer and prove herself. These are the motives that drive the characters, and every key character in the story should have that. Then comes Conflict, which is the obstacle that keeps each of the characters from their goal and without the conflict there isn't any story.

David explained the classical three act structure that every story should have. The story structure of video games, sitcoms, movies etc are all made up of it. It is widely used because it works and the only geniuses can disregard it. Simply put in Act One - The boy meets the girl, in Act Two - The boy loses the girl and in Act Three - The boy gets the girl back.

Act One consists of the set up which introduces the world and the characters of the story, who are they, where are they, what do they do for living, who are heroes and who are the villains. This is the part where you introduce the story, the plot, set the mission and introduce the problem as well. David says it helps to create an exciting moment early. "You have to make your script to be a selling document, whoever reads it should keep questioning himself as to what will happen next, if that doesn't happen then there isn't any story.

Act One also introduces the supporting characters and each one of them should have their own stories, its not necessary for their stories to be a part of the script but it helps in writing, when they speak in the story its not you as a writer speaking but the characters speaking. Also in Act One you have to meet the bad guy, because where would the Batman be without a Joker. The lead character is measured on the basis of his adversary."

He says that Act Two is the most critical and challenging part. "This is the place where all good ideas go to die. Most of the writers when starting their story, have a good and capturing beginning and have a fair idea about the ending as well but what they don't know is what happens in between. It is the most difficult part to write and comprises of 60% of the script."

Act Two has the hero committing to the plan for achieving his goal. One should introduce the complications earlier on and play them throughout the act. It looks like the hero may get what he wants then it all falls apart and the hero is at his lowest ebb.

And in the final act that is the Act Three, there is lot of running for the fences. The protagonist rises from the ashes and recommits to his quest overcoming whatever personal baggage that may have gotten his way. Charges into the emotional and physical battle against the villain and against his internal fears and is victorious or dies gloriously. David added, "It's like the Hero is afraid of heights but for his final conquest with the villain he has to climb this huge building from outside and reach its top. So he has to fight with his fear before his fights the Villain."

In the end if you want you can always add a twist which leaves an open ending.

All the information conveyed in the story should be in the disguises of Passion, Tension, Humor and Action (PTHA). David says, "Everything you write has its own internal rules and you have to stick to your own internal rules, everything has to have an internal logic. Writer writes and that's the only way to get better. It doesn't have to be brilliant. The maneuver you write today is the fertilizer of the genius tomorrow. Keep rewriting, hardest part of writing is staying there and trying to make it better. You have to be flexible, story is a living thing, let it evolve even if it's taking you in a direction that you didn't originally intend."

"Your ability to take notes, criticism and feedback will help you in the industry. Your job is to translate and understand what your producers are trying to say and fix it, sometimes even they won't know what is it that is not working for them but you have to figure out. It is a craft as well as an art. The more you write, the more you get better. You have to believe in the project and portray it in the best possible way. Your also a salesman along with being a writer. It takes three to five years to become a good writer and all you need to do is write."