What is your story “about”?

This is a piece of a homework I give my writing students. Just thought it up last semester and found it was very helpful. The idea being: just because you’re writing, or have written something — script, novel, short story — doesn’t mean you are actually telling the story you think you are. This is a way to check to make sure.

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1.) Write a prose version of your story. Just tell the story, as you see it. Not the dialogue, just what happens and what the characters are feeling. See if what you think the story is about is actually on the script pages. You may be surprised at what you find. Telling me directly what the story is, will help us both.

2.) Then, write what you are trying to say with the story. Books about writing always pontificate that you’re supposed to sit down the first day and decide “your premise.” And then, that’s what you’re supposedly writing about the whole time. That’s hooey. I think you write and write and write and only slowly figure out what the heck your story is really about as you go along.

Tell me what the story is “about” (on a deeper level for you than just surface action) and what you want to get across about the characters.
Why do you want to tell this story? What is important to you to make sure you say? What do you believe in the core of your being that you want this film to get across to the world?
Whose story is it? Why?
What do you want the main character to feel at the beginning vs. at the end — about the other characters and about themselves?

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Hope that helps. Have someone read your “what is your story about” piece and then read your script (or vice versa) and see if they feel you’re on track or not…

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8 Comments

Filed under Good Writing, Rewriting, Screenwriting, Uncategorized

8 responses to “What is your story “about”?

  1. I’ll give it a try as I’ve been having trouble with me current screenplay about a little league team. Seems everybody has a story and I don’t or rather I have too much/many story (ies).

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      Please let me know if you find it (or don’t) helpful. It should be helpful as you’re, in some ways, divorced from the “writing” process… with little invested in the outcome. Less pressure for it to be “good.” So, just go exploring and discover what you’re really interested in.

  2. writerwithnoname

    This is interesting, because it makes total sense but I do it a different way. I always plan my story down to a pretty detailed level before I write word one. I have a notebook for all the story ideas I have, and I jot down whatever thoughts I have about them whenever. I do not single out a story for development and writing UNTIL I know what it’s *really* about – the core concept, the thought I want the world to see, whose story it is, what part of me leaks out of it, etc. Once I know the core, then I give that story its own notebook and go from there.

  3. ihatetosoundcriticalbut

    I always do step one before writing a screenplay. It’s very helpful in getting to know the characters as well as figuring out what the thing is really about.

    Will try step two when I next get to that stage.

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