Here are some things that I have learned from various-sources in terms on how to write a story.
Write The Whole Story In One Sitting
Do not worry about refining anything. Just get the whole story out as rough as possible. Don't worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc. You are going to edit and fine tune many-times throughout the process and it is a LOT easier to do with a complete-story rather than doing it on-the-fly.
Develop The Protagonist
The protagonist usually is the anchor of the story. Someone the reader or viewer can relate to, or see one or several aspects of the character in themselves which helps to create an emotional-connection.
Creating Suspense And Drama
If you have succeeded in creating an interesting and captivating-protagonist, when they encounter suspenseful and dramatic-situations, you as the viewer go right along for the ride with them. Instead of being a spectator of events, you are actually living the events through them and you care about what happens to them.
Show Events, Don’t Just Tell Us About Them
If there is any event that is of any major-consequence to the characters in the story, show the viewer what-happened. It does not necessarily have to happen right when the event is mentioned, but at some-point in the story when it becomes relevant, we should see what-happened.
EXAMPLE: In the 1954 Japanese-film ‘Gojira’ (Godzilla) there is a scene where a doctor named Daisuke Serizawa reveals that he has created a dreadful-weapon called an “Oxygen Destroyer.” He is very-apprehensive of this technology falling into the wrong hands and becoming a weapon of mass-destruction. There is a scene where he shows the destructive-potential of this technology to one of his subordinates. He places the Oxygen Destroyer into a tank full of fish. We do not see what the weapon does, but only the reaction of his subordinate as she shrieks in terror. Later on in the film when it becomes clear that this weapon is the only hope of destroying Godzilla whom had just left Tokyo in ruins, we revisit the scene again but this time we actually see the fish-tank and we see the Oxygen Destroyer turning the fish into skeletons and then disintegrating them totally. Now you see what this weapon can do and despite the possible-danger of it someday becoming a WMD, the use is justifiable considering the terrible-reality of a real-life weapon of mass-destruction, Godzilla. A living, breathing, nuclear-weapon completely indestructible by otherwise conventional-means.
Write Good Dialogue
Great dialogue carries any-story whether it be a good-story or a bad-story. There are lots of movies or TV shows that may not have had the best “story,” but the dialogue in the film was memorable and that kept people coming-back. Make sure each character has a unique-personality. Try to create personalities that play-off of each other. Don’t be afraid to have conflict between characters even if they are pursuing a common-goal. Memorable-banter between characters even from an antagonistic-standpoint can be memorable and keep scenes from becoming dry, predictable, and boring.
Write About Suffering A Loss
Loss is a part of life. We all lose at some point. We all lose things, positions, money, and sometimes people we love. Allow your character to suffer loss. Once again, it helps to attach the viewer to the characters in the story. It doesn’t always have to be the protagonist that suffers loss either. It can be the supporting-characters as well. Don’t be afraid to even have the antagonist (if your story has one) suffer a loss. As I stated before, we ALL suffer loss. How we respond or react to loss is indicative to who we are as people and often antagonists use loss as a catalyst for revenge or giving-up hope of things getting-better which sends them down a darker-path. The most-captivating villains are usually the ones that feel perfectly-justified in what they are doing. Perhaps that attitude is also something that the viewer can relate to an on a subliminal-level. The viewer is hoping for a future-moment of repentance of the antagonist.
Edit, edit again, and then edit some more. It is easy to make mistakes. There are probably some mistakes in this blog! It is easy to miss things. As I stated earlier, it is easier to fine-tune a completed-project than it is to try to do extensive-editing on-the-fly. Not only is that time-consuming, it can create a stressful-situation as you start to feel like you are “falling behind” or that you aren’t accomplishing your goals. Completion is extremely-important for any creative-work. That is why it is good to break down your project into small-chunks. Make things very simple. Make goals that you know that you can get done without much-effort. To end each-session or each-day knowing that you COMPLETED something regardless of how small it may seem is invaluable.
Know The Rules, Then Break The Rules
Take a look at what is successful, then put your own spin on it. There is nothing new under the sun. Everything has been done before somewhere. There are hundreds of restaurants out there. Many serving the exact-same types of food. What keeps any franchise in business is what are they doing to make their food different than the restaurant across the street. The protagonist/antagonist dynamic has worked since the beginning of time. Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. What we have to do as creators is take that frame-work and bend it to fit our vision. Don’t be afraid to go against the “status-quo,” but if you do make sure that you aren’t doing it for the sake of doing it. If you are going against the grain, have a plan to explain why this is a good-thing without disparaging proven-formulas. In other words, show the viewer that this is also cool in addition to the other cool-stuff you are accustomed to.
Defeat Writer’s Block
Write as much as you can. Even if you feel what you are writing makes no sense, just keep on writing. Don’t wait until inspiration hits you and THEN go write something because it may never come. We learn best by doing and it is more likely that inspiration will hit you while you are writing-something. Water that sits still becomes stale and unpalatable. Water that is in constant motion remains fresh and is full of life. I can speak to this as an artist. While I am working on a project I often get inspiration of a new-technique that may not even be applicable to what I am working on at the time, but will be useful in the future.
Share Your Work
Let other people see your work and critique it. Learn to take “constructive” criticism without offense. Now let's be honest with ourselves. This is the "scary" part. This is VERY hard to do. Especially if you are emotionally-attached to your work and have put a lot of yourself into your creation. It is good to get a wide-range of opinions from many different-people of different walks of life. Not everyone will agree with your vision, and not everyone will see it the same-way. It is important to note that quite often (far too-often) you will not get constructive-criticism from the people closet to you. The biggest-support usually comes from strangers and the most-useful criticism comes from them as well. Especially from people that are already-successful in the field that you are aspiring to get into. They actually will start-off by praising what you have done well, then they will slowly work backwards to the areas where you need work and they will give you detailed-information on how to correct those errors. Some will even mention how they have made similar-mistakes if applicable.
A good-example of this was from a video that I watched of famous voice-actor Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson on The Simpsons.) She actually voices numerous-characters on the show and has been in the voice-acting industry for over 40 years. She studied under the tutelage of Daws Butler who was a legendary voice-actor from the 40s-80s. He was pretty-much the voice of Hanna Barbera. Daws Butler was to Hanna Barbera as Mel Blanc was to Warner Bros. So, suffice it to say that Nancy Cartwright knows her stuff.
In this video you saw Nancy watching aspiring voice-actors do their best-versions of impersonating characters from The Simpsons. Now, not to be judgmental or unkind because I certainly do not want to be that, but in my opinion some of these impressions were decent, others were not very-good even though I knew that they were trying their best. I also can understand that there would be a little-bit of apprehension and even “stage-fright” knowing that such a legend in the industry would be critiquing their work. I would be a nervous-wreck myself. The point is however is that with every-single-one of these young-actors the FIRST thing that she did was give them praise. She started out with positivity and encouragement. She made them feel like she was generally-invested in the success of each and every one of them and in my opinion, I believe that she was. When it came time to critique the things that were issues or problems, she did so in a respectful and encouraging-manner. She pinpointed the areas she observed that were troublesome, explained what she felt was happening, and gave step-by-step details on how to make corrections. Again, still while remaining positive and encouraging. You can check out the video here.
Constructive-criticism when done correctly is invaluable. You can use the overall-feedback in a more-broad sense to prune your creative-work and fine-tune it because at the end of the day if the point of this is to make MONEY, then the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few......
....or the one.
We all have stories in our minds and hearts that are near and dear to us, but to others these stories have no value at all. That is why the most-successful works of literature, movies, cartoons, TV shows, video-games, etc. have core-elements that everyone can relate to regardless of who they are or where they come from. Even if a character doesn’t “look like you,” you still can relate to the character because of how they feel and react to certain situations. As children, we have read many books with characters that are talking-animals, trolls, gnomes, fairies, aliens, monsters, robots, giants, dwarfs, and even inanimate-objects, but they were still relatable to us as regular human-beings. It is also a way to show that you aren’t defined by what you look-like, but by who you are. Now these were just helpful-tips in getting your stuff together in writing a story. The actual-process itself and the framework of writing a story is an entirely-different animal that I will discuss at a later-time. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I hope that it will be helpful for someone.