What is a story?
A story is not the same thing as a topic.
Topic: I’m doing a story about X.
Story: And what’s interesting about it is Y.
Plot: This happened then this happened … the sequence of events
Theme: Why it all matters. The point. The message.
Story = Topic + Plot + Theme
Jessica Abel’s Story Formula:
This happened ______________, then this ______________, then this ______________, and then you wouldn’t #$%&*! believe it but _____________. And the reason that this is interesting to every single person on the face of the earth is __________________.
Ira Glass on Finding a Story:
- The amount of time to find a story is often longer than producing a story.
- “If you are not failing all the time you are not creating a situation in which you can get super-lucky.”
- To find stories, you have to master the art of noticing …
How to Brainstorm Ideas
- Establish a writing routine … spend time thinking about it.
- Write what you know … 1:35
- Game of opposites … Flip existing ideas 2:00
- Watch other films … and think about how you would do it differently 2:45
- Carry around a magical notebook to remember your great ideas 3:16
- Research 4:04
- List your resources 4:35
- Keep it simple 5:02
- Live a little 5:42
The Restriction method
- Existing Projects
What makes a good story?
- Dramatic Moments
- High stakes.
- A reason to care.
- Sympathetic characters
- Characters are tested, grow and change
- A Theme, Point, or Lesson
Story vs. Plot
Story: What happens and why it matters or means – emotional value
Plot: How it happens – the logic of what happens – cause & effect
Your project needs both + a theme.
What’s a theme?
- Theme: the message, lesson, or point.
- Not just a topic
- How to find it?
- Look at how your character changes and what lessons can be learned
- Examine the core conflict, what happens, and what it might means
- Don’t be vague or cliche’
Next Challenge: A Very Short Story
Your challenge will be to write a single paragraph that establishes your topic, story, plot, and theme. The paragraph should be a short story in and of itself and serve as a setting off point for your journey toward a more complex and complete story later in the course.
On Thursday we will discuss story structure. Until then:
- Brainstorm your final project and lock in on a topic.
- Explore compelling story possibilities within that topic.
- Identify key themes that you might like to explore or express.
And, check out the playlist for this week: