keeping the story straight

Discussion in 'Basics' started by Happy Writer, Apr 11, 2012.

  1. Happy Writer

    Happy Writer Bronze Member

    I didn't see an answer to this one, Peeps. My story keeps changing and I'm still in the organizing of the big picture stage. I've got Phil Gladwin's screenwriting book but for now I need something for the main story, not for a break down of the scenes themselves. What is the best way you've come up with to easily move ideas around or cut them without having to look back at your overall treatment every 5 minutes? Do you put it in excel? I need a much better system. I'll be trying to figure something out and in order to remember a certain fact pertaining to that idea I have to scan down, down, down on the Word page to find it. Annoying.
  2. spinningdoc

    spinningdoc Bronze Member

  3. Jeff Jencks

    Jeff Jencks Bronze Member

    The way I write makes this question moot. I start with a very basic idea for a plot, an idea that I haven't developed at all yet. Then I start creating the characters and really defining them. I don't define all of them but I define any character that has significance to the plot. Then when it comes time to outline and develop the plot, the characters help me so that I don't have to do a lot of "moving ideas around". I can still move ideas around if I have to but I don't have to nearly as much.

    What I recommend is getting a notebook and dedicate a page to each of the signifiant characters. You don't have to fill up the page but write down descriptions of the characters physical stats, personality, history, and any traits important to the story. You can also dedicate pages to certain important scenes or to anything else you think is important but I've found that none of these other pages are as helpful as the pages dedicated to each character.
  4. Ash

    Ash Bronze Member

    Instead of making a new thread, I thought I would jump in here. What do you think Jeff is the best way to come up with these characters and "keeping the story straight" as I have the same question as the OP.
  5. Happy Writer

    Happy Writer Bronze Member

    I can't buy Scrivener right now. Trying to avoid a bunch of index cards but maybe I just need to do it anyway. Takes me back to kindergarten.

    The thing on notebook paper - I don't think that's going to cut it because I already have it on paper.

    Thanks for your time!
  6. Phil

    Phil Administrator Staff Member

    Can you explain why Excel doesn't work for you? It's the best method I've ever found.
  7. Jeff Jencks

    Jeff Jencks Bronze Member

    I tried answering before and my computer crashed.

    To a point, do what works best for you. I can only tell you what I found works best for me.

    In the story I'm working on now, Jack is a shut in who rarely ventures far from home and is too afraid to ask a girl on a date. Rory is a vivacious and independent woman who teaches self defense classes to women and has been known to intimidate men. They meet and fall in love. It's not the main plot of the story but because of who Jack and Rory are, I don't have a lot of flexibility in when I introduce her. Jack has to already be facing his fear and beginning to venture from home before he can meet her but he needs to meet her soon enough in the movie so there is time to fall in love.

    If Jack wasn't a shut in, he could meet Rory earlier in the movie as just a casual acquaintance. If Jack was more romantic, he could meet Rory much later in the movie because it wouldn't take so much time for the two to fall in love.

    My point is not to dictate how to organize a script but to show that characters drive the plot. Well developed characters will dictate for you when certain scenes need to take place because those scenes can only take place at the right time to fit the character.

    Now I do have a little flexibility about where I put the introduction of Rory. I could introduce her before the car chase or after the car chase. But if I introduce her after the car chase, it needs to be immediately after the car chase because any later and there just won't be enough time for love to grow.

    Keep this in mind as you develop your characters. No character is going to make an instant change unless they have a strong reason to do so. Therefore, the pace at which the character changes is going to set the timing of different scenes in the story. In this way, I don't do a lot of rearranging of scenes myself. I let the characters tell me the scene order. To a certain extent, the characters take on a life of their own and write the story for me.
  8. Happy Writer

    Happy Writer Bronze Member

    Re: keeping the story straight
    Can you explain why Excel doesn't work for you? It's the best method I've ever found.

    I think it's because I'm not a complete natural at organization, so although I can do it, it takes extra work. I end up creating a worksheet, thinking I have it organized only to realize it isn't enough, so I then create another sheet and the cycle continues. I must have at least 10 for the first movie I worked on and I just need to figure out a better way to make it work.
  9. spinningdoc

    spinningdoc Bronze Member

    Sounds normal to me. Breaking a story is a lot of hard, forehead bleeding work.

    Really, shuffling index cards sounds like the best (and cheapest) system.

    Phil - re Excel - I find the interface a bit clunky and fiddly to think about when I'm trying to focus on more ethereal story ideas. I prefer to hammer out ideas in a text document, just hitting return between each beat as I don't have to take my hands off the keyboard. I can see how Excele helps organise it afterwards though, and especially keep track of each characters' throughline.

    One of Scrivener's great features is that you can use it as an outliner like this, then add in notes and synopses for each beat, drag and drop them around, and then write each scene attached to individual outline beats so they're easily movable too. And Scrivener doesn't insist that new slug = new scene which clearly it doesn't.
  10. www9370

    www9370 Bronze Member

    to me Celtx allows me to do this with the index card feature, and it works pretty good and it's free to download.

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