HERE IS A METHOD TO HELP GET A STORY OUT OF YOUR HEAD AND ONTO THE PAGE

Can everyone write a story? No. Can everyone imagine a story? Yes. We all have a story to tell. We imagine characters & situations pretty easily. The imagination is a beautiful and powerful thing. When we talk about a great story of any medium with someone often times in the excitement of recalling the story, many of us will say… I have an idea for a story! Usually, it is a character & a situation. And that core of an idea is lodged in our minds. As we daydream about our story it seems so powerful & clear even as a basic impression. That idea, that spark is undeniable. But… committing it to the written word is daunting. Even to the practicing writer, that first draft is no easy task. So what can a novice or first-time writer do? Well, you could pitch that idea. But if you’re like me, your next thought is, pitch it to who? Sure I understand the concept but who do I really have access to? And for me, pitching is not being creative. So we must write!

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“Many first-time writers approach storytelling with the misconception that every pen or keystroke will produce a polished, perfectly formed thought. This is not the case”

I am not a scriptwriter or a novelist. I am a storyteller and my mode of expression was originally theatre and is now film. And by a film I mean video and by a video I mean, shorts, online series & low budget features. When I gather people to realize one of my stories I need a script, no way around that. It is the tentpole of the whole process. Therefore as a filmmaker when I have an idea for a story I approach scriptwriting just like any of the other components I need to gather in order to realize my vision. I ask myself, what is the easiest, most efficient way to get this done without compromising quality? Seven times out of ten? Teach yourself how to do it.

Earlier I mentioned, “The imagination is a beautiful & powerful thing.” And, I just quoted myself, apologies. Your brain does two things equally, one side will dream and imagine a story and characters that have somehow found their way inside your mind’s eye. The other side, when pressed to give up these ideas into the written word, will fight you at every step, with self-doubt as a powerful ally. What is one to do? Well, I’ll share with you what I do.

I feel the biggest burden, hurdle, barrier for most would be storytellers who want to put their idea onto the page is that when they finally sit down to write many first-time writers approach storytelling with the misconception that every pen or keystroke will produce a polished, perfectly formed thought. This is not the case, the imagined idea does not want to be words on a page. And 97% of the time when trying to exercise the story out of our mind the side of our brain resisting will shut the whole process down. And forever you will talk about this idea you have, just words in the air.

This is how I work through this. First, I commit to the idea that the first draft of my story will flow unedited from my imagination and most importantly that I will bring the idea to a conclusion.  That is to say, I will not leave my first try unfinished. What I do is I meditate for about a week on my idea, I make sure before I go to bed at night I’m thinking about it. And if the word “meditate” turns you off just think a lot about the idea, a lot. No writing,  just imagining. I see the story in my mind’s eye, I sleep on it. Then I set aside a day to write, about 8 hours. In that eight hours, I am committed to writing to the whole story. Trust me that’s not as ambitious as it sounds but, it is as powerful as it sounds. Here is the key. You are not writing your story from your imagination you are just transferring your imagination to the written word. What do I mean by that?

Do not think about structure, just think about your character or characters, your situation and imagine you are calm and comfortable setting and someone is asking you to describe what is in your mind or to describe what you see when you close your eyes. Then, just start “transcribing” not writing, writing is active transcribing is passive. By simply transcribing, you do not wake up that part of your brain who will shut you down. Just write down on paper what you see in your mind’s eye. Sometimes it helps to kick things off by literally writing what you are thinking and at some point, the imagination will kick in and take over. Think of the literal transcribing of your thoughts that are not the story as the warm-up, the act of doing that will ease you into it. Do not edit yourself just write what you see, what you imagine.

If that idea is new or strange, I’ll give you a brief example here, I’ll do this myself, now, it goes something like this – [Note: This is warts and all, no grammar, spelling or punctuation corrections ]

*START* Ok so now i just told the reader i’d give an example for this which i dunno how would i do that oh well ah i am pausing don’t pause hmmm well basically what i am saying hmmm well i am saying my reason for writing or wanting to share this article is really based on the idea that the biggest mistake and barrier to storytelling by people who are not practicing writers is this idea that the story just flows onto the pages in a final draft its hard work  man so hard  should i just tell them for most of us your first rough will be terrible of course it will but what is more terrible is no draft right hmm what i am saying that really it is just writing writing writing and more writing but as a non practicing writer to realize your story and to get out that first writing that you will write over and over and over you need a pre-first draft one that just gets out of the head onto to the page taking our internal, external *END*

I’m back, that went on a bit but, I wanted to give you the idea and show you I would never ask you to try something I’ve not done myself. For example in that quick passage, the idea that a “terrible draft is better than no draft” or “taking an internal idea and externalizing it”. It would have never occurred to me to write those ideas here for you had I not just moments ago done the writing exercise. And I would like to add that I do in fact often type “hmmm” while doing this exercise. I find it keeps me locked into the task. 

This first draft of your story no matter how rough, jumbled or confusing is now in a document. This is the important part. Whether you use word-processing software or online documents, put that document in a folder and label it your tile or working title subtitle rough draft. For me this is the “for my eyes only” version, no one will ever see or know of the existence of this draft, it’s a secret. Come back the next day or a few days later duplicate that document and label it version one. Read it, rewrite it, add subtract. Keep doing that. The goal of subsequent versions should be to get the idea to a short story form of roughly 5 to 20 pages that makes some sort of sense. Once you have that idea in a short story form you can get started. I will add here if you choose to do this process in handwritten longhand, its the same process, Put version one in a Folder and as you refine it handwrite each new version as a separate document. I myself have on a few occasions handwritten the first rough idea draft into a notebook and then transcribed that scribbling into my computer as my “version one” That way the rough was truly for my eyes only. Also, there is value in transcribing your own handwritten words, there is a degree of separation to that process which allows you a valuable objective view of your idea. 

From that rough short, if you just decide there is just no way you can write this do not worry about that, the important thing is, at least you tried and that means something. I don’t mean that lightly, so many people simply do not try. What you can do now is take that rough short and turn it into a proper treatment document. I won’t go over that, you can just search online about formatting a treatment. The exciting news is you now have enough material in your short to take your story and turn it into a properly formatted treatment. Then you can share your amazing story with people that are potential collaborators who will take on the writing and producing of your original idea. Congratulations are no longer just another person with a great idea. You are now a storyteller. On the other hand, if you are inspired or better yet, driven to write your story and a feature film is what you imagine, expand that short and root out your core ideas that need further exploration. And now if you need help with the script format, your core idea exists and you will be able to find someone with script writing skills willing to show you how to format your story into a screenplay. No one ever wanted to write your idea for you but you’d be surprised how many people are willing to help you refine your idea and show you how to format it into a script. Why? Because they know how hard it is. Congratulations you’re in the club! Maybe you want to create a series, again take that short and start breaking it up into, segments or beats that could be expanded upon. Perhaps a short film is your goal? Well, you’re 75% there, do some rewrites and put your story into a script format. If you don’t know how to do that? Ask for help, research online, stumble through it. You will get better, but not if you never start.  And if after all you just simply wanted to write a short story, congratulations! You’re done, well almost still you will need to write and rewrite.

“The only kind of writing is rewriting.” -Ernest Hemingway

So what is the catch? The catch is it is still a very hard thing to do. I’ll repeat, be prepared to write and rewrite, throw ideas away and bring some back. It’s not easy, but if you are really committed to telling that story of yours this will get you on your way. I should also say you may re-wright 100% of your first rough draft, you may even do a second, first rough draft but once you set things in motion you’de be surprised of the momentum generated by the simple act of doing. Our intention was always to tell a story not to learn to screenwrite or become a novelist. If you were trying to learn to write a screenplay at the same time as you were trying to write your first draft of your idea most likely you would just spin out and abandon the whole process. Certainly 3% of you out there in the world are capable of doing both but for the other 97% of us its just a matter of hard work and finding a method that works. 

In a nutshell, no one is going to do the work for you and if it means that much to you, roll up your sleeves and get in there. If you at least commit yourself to just exercising that idea out of your head and wrestling it onto the page with no regard for spelling, grammar or structure you will have a lump of clay of your very own imagination to mold into something uniquely your own. That’s a pretty amazing lump of clay. In closing I’ll not leave you will a quote or final thought to drive this all home and inspire you. I will share with you a very special letter. I think if this letter from Martha Graham to Agnes De Mille does not convince you to get started, nothing will.

“A Letter to Agnes De Mille”

There is a vitality,
a life force,
a quickening
that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one of you in all time,
this expression is unique.

And If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.
The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine
how good it is
nor how valuable it is
nor how it compares with other expressions.

It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly
to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.
You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate YOU.

Keep the channel open…
No artist is pleased…

There is no satisfaction whatever at anytime
There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction
a blessed unrest that keeps us marching
and makes “us” MORE alive than the others.

Martha Graham
( – a letter to Agnes De Mille-)

 

 

 

 

 

The Storyboard, Basic Storyboard Creation & Script Breakdown: Step 4 How To Make A Sci-Fi Short Film

In this tutorial on Create Sci-Fi, I share my process of creating storyboards with an artist. This is the fourth video of the How to make a Sci-Fi short film series. Make sure to subscribe to follow along.

Be sure to watch my video channel for more Sci-Fi filmmaking giddy-up.

This Plot And Structure Cheat Sheet Will Make You A Better Storyteller & Screenwriter

You can have an amazing idea for a character and have a firm grasp on the world that character lives in, but without plot and structure, you will not have an audience. A few might find it intriguing but the majority will be lost and bored. With a basic framework that focuses your characters and situations, your story will appeal to a much wider audience. This is a cheat sheet based on some solid fundamentals.

Forster

In 1927 English novelist E. M. Forster was invited to give a series of lectures which were later published as “Aspects of the Novel”. He is speaking about writing a novel but the principles of creating plot and structure are universal. The following are a few quotes for our cheat sheet.

Plot: A plot is also a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality according to Forster, “The king died and then the queen died,’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief,’ is a plot. The time sequence is preserved, but the sense of causality overshadows it. Consider the death of the queen. If it is in a story we say ‘and then?’ If it is in a plot we ask ‘why?’”

Structure: Pattern and Rhythm says Forster, “A novel has a pattern when it has a geometric shape, such as the hour-glass shape of one character’s social fall crossing over with another’s social climb, or the circular shape of a character moving from one new acquaintance to the next until they finally return to their starting point. The pattern is an aesthetic aspect of the novel, and though it may be nourished by anything in the novel — any character, scene, word — it draws most of its nourishment from the plot. Whereas the story appeals to our curiosity and the plot to our intelligence, the pattern appeals to our aesthetic sense, it causes us to see the book as a whole.”

Three Act Structure: In visual storytelling, the most useful structure for the plot is the Three Act Structure. This structure is a model used in screenwriting that divides a fictional narrative into three parts (acts), often called the Setup, the Confrontation, and the Resolution. Aristotle said that every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

In 1863, Gustav Freytag, a German writer, advocated a model based on Aristotle’s theory of tragedy. This is now called “Freytag’s pyramid,” which divides a drama into five parts, and provides function to each part. These parts are exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement.  From our frinds at Wikipedia,

Exposition: The first phase in Freytag’s pyramid is the exposition, which introduces the characters, especially the main character, also known as the protagonist. It shows how the characters relate to one another, their goals and motivations, as well as their moral character. During the exposition, the protagonist learns their main goal and what is at stake.

Conflict: Freytag’s definition of conflict refers to the second act in a five-act play, a point of time in which all of the major characters have been introduced, their motives and allegiances have been made clear, and they have begun to struggle against one another.

Rising Action: Rising action is the second phase in Freytag’s five-phase structure. It starts with a conflict, for example, the death of a character. The inciting incident is the point of the plot that begins the conflict. It is the event that catalyzes the protagonist to go into motion and to take action. Rising action involves the buildup of events until the climax.

In this phase, the protagonist understands his or her goal and begins to work toward it. Smaller problems thwart their initial success and their progress is directed primarily against these secondary obstacles. This phase demonstrates how the protagonist overcomes these obstacles.

Climax: The climax is the turning point or highest point of the story. The protagonist makes the single big decision that defines not only the outcome of the story, but also who they are as a person. Freytag defines the climax as the third of the five dramatic phases which occupies the middle of the story.

At the beginning of this phase, the protagonist finally clears away the preliminary barriers and engages with the adversary. Usually, both the protagonist and the antagonist have a plan to win against the other as they enter this phase. For the first time, the audience sees the pair going against one another in direct or nearly direct conflict.

This struggle usually results in neither character completely winning or losing. In most cases, each character’s plan is both partially successful and partially foiled by their adversary. The central struggle between the two characters is unique in that the protagonist makes a decision which shows their moral quality, and ultimately decides their fate. In a tragedy, the protagonist here makes a poor decision or a miscalculation that demonstrates their tragic flaw.

Falling action: According to Freytag, the falling action phase consists of events that lead to the ending. Character’s actions resolve the problem. In the beginning of this phase, the antagonist often has the upper hand. The protagonist has never been further from accomplishing their goal. The outcome depends on which side the protagonist has put themselves on.

Resolution: In this phase the protagonist and antagonist have solved their problems and either the protagonist or antagonist wins the conflict. The conflict officially ends. Some stories show what happens to the characters after the conflict ends and/or they show what happens to the characters in the future.

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Wikipedia contributors. “Plot (narrative).” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 24 Aug. 2017. Web. 26 Sep. 2017

The reason I use these examples as a reference is my tendency early on was to get lost in creating characters and imagining their worlds. The characters and places I created became so real to me that as I filmed my stories they were just a series of scenarios with no framework. In my mind these scenarios were very entertaining and poignant but because an audience did not have the benefit of being in my mind the potential of the stories was lost. Because the audience was lost. Do yourself and your audience a favor and create a basic structure for your story and your audience to follow. Do not lose your audience.

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6 key Ingredients You Can Use To Increase Your Storytelling Creativity In Sci-Fi DIY Filmmaking

If you are a DIY content creator, like me and love sci-fi and fantasy, like me, the most rewarding and daunting part is the world building and creation. Here I will share with you six key components to consider in order to bring your vision to life, and how to approach them. I am always working on a tight budget so these ideas are as thrifty as possible. If you go down the fandom rabbit holes for sci-fi on social media and video sharing sites you will quickly realize there are plenty of people waiting to view any new content. All the more reason to get started on putting your vision out there for them.

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  • Multicultural Cast And A Droid

One of the greatest attributes of the sci-fi story is the multicultural cast. Make sure as many races as possible are represented and mixed. One simple and very effective adjustment that works well is switching up gender cliche. In my series Galactic Galaxy, the swashbuckling rogue character is played by a woman. A female captain or warrior always adds nicely to sci-fi. Also, a droid or alien sidekick always rounds things out well. Depending on budget you can go as simple as a basic brow or ear prosthetic. Even inhuman looking contact lenses can do the trick. If you have the budget a Droid can be as easy as a puppet, a person in a costume or a 3D element added later.

  • Going To Need A Bigger Ship

If your story takes place entirely or partially on a starship you need to think of it as another part of the cast. First, determine the character of the ship, is it old, new, fast, slow, loved or hated? Then you need to name and design her. In Galactic Galaxy, our main ship is “The Granny” and the ID numbers on the exterior are GR4NN3. The ship’s computer voice is characterized as an older nagging mother. The point is to have fun and go deep. For the exterior, you can go as simple as a repurposed space ship toy or model filmed against a black background or green screen. Or some basic motion effects with a 3D ship. You can find free 3D space ships online pretty easily. Whether your ship is built practicality or in the computer I recommend kitbashing. That is the process of taking multiple models and mixing them together to make a new one. This works with actual physical models and toys as well as 3D models

  • On Deck Or In The Cockpit

Once your ship has a personality you are going to have to create the deck, or if it’s a smaller cast perhaps a cock pit. Is it pristine or junk? Maybe you plan to shoot on green screen and add the Deck later. A few words on that. If you shoot on green screen planning to add sets later and are on a tight budget keep in mind it never looks very good. It will undermine your intentions. If your sci-fi is humorous then it could actually work in your favor. Simple screen elements are great and add production value. Green panels that will later be windows to space or computer screens can work nicely. For practical sets basic white or brushed metallic wall panels in an octagon configuration interestingly lit with a few green panels to add elements into later will work nicely. Also, the cluttered set made of old computer parts, holiday lights, hardware store bits and bobs is a tried and true option. Just be sure to have a light touch. Less is more.

  • Communication Devices

The hologram communication never gets old. It is a great visual that’s very straightforward to accomplish and it adds scope. You can talk to other planets, alien races, and exotic locations simply and easily. Including a character on a distant planet is a lot simpler when it’s only a head on a video screen. In addition adding another character to flesh out your world will be very easy to costume and shoot. Just lock of the camera and do as many takes as you need. Much like your ship deck considerations, your video communications can be pristine or interference plagued scan lines. Your hologram can be a thing of beauty or a glitchy scratchy element. Don’t overlook their value in moving the story along in an economic fashion.

  • On The Ground

On a Budget, there are a really only a few options in my mind. My personal favorite is the desert. A forest or rock quarry can work. Basically, you should pick a landscape you can frame as pristine and expansive. Alternatively, there is the post apocalypse approach. If you’re in a city find abandoned sites you can get access to. Dilapidated factories seem to be in abundance these days. Use what is around you.  If you’re out in the country a forest or rock quarry can do the trick. And if you’re by a desert, go desert. Beach could work. Whatever you choose, try and do some wide establishing shots on a tripod. With locked off shots from a tripod, it is much easier to add a second moon or fly some ships by over head. Also, know that if you have a big blue sky in your location it is fairly easy to change the blue to another unearthly color.

  • What Was That?

In some cases, you are going to want a  creature. A gigantic 3D creature is always nice. Similar to the robot, a costume could work or a forced perspective puppet. A shadowy implied creature lurking in the shadows will work best on a budget. After a build up you can finally reveal the creature in a burst with some quick cutting. As with the ship if your show is humorous then you can get away with a lot more. Rubber masks and body paint will be fine. If you are going for realism try and keep to the shadows and build tension with your cuts in post.

These are just a few things to think about to get the creative juices flowing. Creating sci-fi has been the most rewarding creative experience in my whole career. For me, I started out making contemporary dramas. I didn’t imagine I could pull off sci-fi on my restricted budgets. But now I know better. Because I wished I’d started sooner I am very passionate about sharing all I’ve learned with you. Keep in mind it’s all hard to pull off so it might as well be what you really want to do, not what you think is practical. Create your worlds and share them, otherwise, they will be lost forever. That would be a shame.

Be sure to watch my video channel for more Sci Fi filmmaking giddy-up.