CP03 | Story Research #2

Further research for my story structure comes from Elliot Grove’s book Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen. In his book he covers a wide variety of topics ranging from budgeting to production, but more appropriate is his section about inspiration, ideas and writing. A main point he brings up is the division of ‘key scenes’; he claims a successful Hollywood  film typically has up to 15 plot points, and each one of these should be broken down into a sentence (2009:p.14). An example he gives his the third key scene in Star Wars (1977); “After being rescued by Luke Skywalker, the two robots convey their mission to the lonely farm boy” (2009:p.14) – this sentence breaks down the entire action of the scene, so for my own story I plan to create a list of the ‘key scenes’ and break them up into sentences (this is done later in my step outline). The ‘key scenes’ in my own story will be much more narrowed down considering it’s a 15 minute story and not a Hollywood blockbuster.

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Another useful point Grove mentions is the incorporation of a character’s outer problem and an inner problem. According to Grove the hero should have both these problems; the outer problem is the goal of the hero which the audience see, and the inner problem is an emotional issue the hero wrestles (2009, p.22). For my own story my hero’s outer problem will be the tensions situation he needs to escape, and the inner problem is his overall fear of conflict. By giving my protagonist an inner problem it makes him seem more human as it implies he is flawed. In addition to this Grove mentions a tool called magnification, which is when a stereotypical character is taken and traits are added to break the mold (2009:p.24). This trick is to avoid stereotypes which make for a much stronger story, therefore my own characters will be stereotypical radio presenters but with a burning desire to end the war.

Lastly Grove provides some useful overall story advice when it comes to writing, these induce; only writing things you see on the screen e.g. Not how a character feels but his expressions, not overwriting the detail of a scene (leave the rest to spectators imaginations), and using character movements to bury details of the scene e.g. Dan moves the books and pens from his desk (2009:pp.24-27). In order to practice these techniques for writing a scene, Grove asks readers to do a writing exercise on describing their room;

“A man is sitting on a chair next to a wooden desk; he leans forward and taps away at the keyboard. The yellow light from his desk lamp lights up his face which casts a shadow onto the wall behind him. He continues to look at the screen while the record player next to him slowly comes to a stop and the needle moves back to the start with a scratching sound.”

This is my practice exercise which already falls into the trap of being overly descriptive. Although Grove’s advice has been extremely helpful, my next step is to read an actual screenplay from a film to get a feel for the writing style and story structure. To get this inspiration I plan on looking at the screenplay for Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Grove, E. 2009. Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen. London: Methuen Drama

Star Wars. 1977. [Film]. George Lucas. dir. USA: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Reservoir Dogs. 1992. [Film]. Quentin Tarantino. dir. USA: Live Entertainment

 

 

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