A step that way: Audience, Genre, Plot, Theme & Climax

Continuing on from my post on basic screenwriting structure, here’s a list of things I jot down before getting into the meat of the writing.  First up…

AUDIENCE
E.g. Geek young adults, ages 16-25; Girls, ages 12-14; Children, ages 3-8; Couples, ages 40+; Science Fiction nerds, all ages; Horror fans, all ages; Horny boys, ages 14-17. 

Knowing your audience is key.  It helps you define the work, lace it with appropriate content and envision the outcome for the end goal.

GENRE
Action

Biography

Comedy

Coming of Age

Courtroom

Crime

Epic

Erotica

Fantasy

Historical

Horror

Etc.

Know the format, structures, tropes and styles of the genre you’re working in.  Really, just watch and read a shit load of stuff in that genre.

CONFLICT
The major and minor conflicts in your story usually come in these forms:

Human vs. self

Human vs. human

Human vs. nature

Human vs. environment

Human vs. technology (machine)

Human vs. supernatural

Human vs. god

Make sure you have a good understanding of what’s going on in each conflict.  And there should be a lot of conflict!

PLOT TYPE
Overcoming the monster

Rags to Riches

The Quest

Voyage and Return

Comedy

Tragedy

Rebirth

They say there’s seven main plot types, as above, some say otherwise, like there’s more, but I’ve found these seven cover the bases nicely.  So, if you have a pretty cool idea for a plot but are unsure on how to execute it then maybe choosing one of these types will help.

PREMISE
Every good story should have a premise.  You can come up with one by asking…

What would happen if…  

Imagine if…

CONTROLLING IDEA
This is your theme in its entirety.  The notion comes from Robert McKee’s STORY.  He makes a very good argument that there are two parts to a theme.

E.g. Order is restored because evil cannot withstand the power of love.  

See, the first part is Order is restored.  That’s going to happen no matter what, right.  But how?  Because evil cannot withstand the power of love.  The second part here also denotes how the story climaxes in Act 3.  So, this film may have themes of Justice and Love.  Cool, no?  Here’s a list that may help in decision making…

Redemption

Resurrection

Prodigal Son

Transformation

Vengeance

Innocence

Justice

Sacrifice

Jealousy

Friendship

Fate

Love

CHANGES-ARGUMENT
I honestly can’t remember if I came up with this or got it from a book, but you should write down the main change that occurs inside each character.  It helps keep their paths in focus.

E.g. Scrawny weakling becomes Super-powered soldier – Captain America
E.g. Bored writer becomes Adventurous private eye – Bored to Death

STORY CLIMAX
Write down how you want the climax to play out.

E.g. Order is restored… when the hero lays the final blow.

You can see the first part here relates back to the CONTROLLING IDEA.

So, yeah, keep this stuff in mind when writing your story, and you’ll be as awesome as this guy…

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