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write fiction, write screenplay, write story


Two Short Articles

 Improve Your Story and Characters Now

One Secret Of An Unforgettable Story  

by Nick Smith

Recognize any of these images?

- Boys walking along a railroad track

- A giant gorilla perched on a skyscraper

- A ferocious shark emerging from the sea

- A man and a woman on a fog-strewn airfield, with a plane about to depart

These movie images are so well-known that they've been remembered, imitated and spoofed for decades. But for filmmakers, finding one essential image can make the difference between a plodding, unfocussed film and a piece of iconic cinema.

Artist Saul Bass was commissioned to create posters for some of the world's greatest filmmakers, including Otto Preminger and Alfred Hitchcock.

His work on The Man with the Golden Arm was incorporated into the opening credits, but no matter how complex his designs became, he still liked to concentrate on one core image.

For that movie, it was a crooked, grasping arm.

For Vertigo, he depicted a silhouetted, faceless man caught in a swirling spiral.

Two dancers on a fire escape summed up West Side Story.

Bass was appealing to something primal in his audience. He knew the emotional and psychological effect a straightforward illustration could have, and he also took the disparate elements of a movie, stripped away the inessentials and found a focus.

If your story doesn't have a core image, find one.

Conjure an image in your mind, a glimpse of a scene - two people arguing, a boxing match, a romantic boat ride, anything that sums up your movie in one simple vignette. It could be a goal that your character dreams of, works towards and fights for.

Try to create that image faithfully on the page, and you'll be able to build on it, scene by scene.

By going through Bass' process of simplification and focus, you'll remind yourself of what really drives your script.

What's your image?

If you see a hero, then your screenplay's probably character-driven.

If you see a narrative twist, then maybe it's story-driven.

If you see a place, then maybe the setting has a life of its own, like a character unto itself.

Whatever your image, stick with it, use it and consider its meaning. No matter how innocuous it might seem, it will help to anchor your story, rooting it in a reality that you create.

About the Author

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Character Background - Bringing the past to present   by Debbie Long


Character Background - Bringing the past to present

Once you have your character defined, you have given them the appropriate tags, personalities, and built them a background, how do you reveal the knowledge they posses from the background into the present? How much of the past do you reveal to your readers at one time? No more than is needed to make your reader understand your character's emotional state of mind. If you think back into your own background, you will see that attitude, and behaviours have been set over long-time conditioning. Just as fears have been set from past bad experiences. You need to tie your characters attitude to a key element from their past. You can try bringing that part of the past through a mental picture that flashes into your characters mind.

Example: Your character has an absolute fear of snakes. Perhaps they were bite as a child. One way you can reveal this information is the present is: Cara shone her flashlight into the mouth of the cave. Everything looked ok but she couldn't get rid of that dreadful feeling in the pit of her stomach. Making her way into the cave, she suddenly froze. Snakes! In a flash she was back in the blackness of the dessert so long ago - feeling the sharp sting just above her ankle; the feeling of the dry scaly coil wrapping itself around her leg, slowly moving upwards. Cara's control exploded. Staggering backwards, arms thrashing, she screamed; a raw, incomprehensible, garbled cry. A fragrance of fresh baked apple pie could transform a character from the place they are back to a time spent with their mother or grandmother. The familiar scent of a perfume that has a calming effect on a child.

Abruptly there was a loud crash. My eyes widen with fear. Stretching as far as my seat belt would allow laughter fills me at the sight of the tiny people walking away. A loud roar wipes the laughter away. All the fear hiding inside me is suddenly back as we take off. I grab my mother's hand tightly and squeeze my eyes shut. My small body is pushed into the softness of the blue seat, as we gather speed. Unexpectedly, the pressure is gone. My head spins towards the window as my eyes fly open. Wispy streaks of white fluff fly by as we race through the light blue sky with no feeling of movement. My mother's smile says, everything is fine. I close my eyes filled with a peaceful calm, the fear of the unknown chased away by the comfort of love and the familiar smell of perfume. There is no reason to provide background for every little thing your character does or knows; sometimes it is enough that a character has a fear or a love for something. However if it is an important part of your characters trait you now have one way to express that background in order to handle the problem or situation.


About the Author

Debbie Long is a writer/illustrator and founding member of 'The Muse Program', a literacy program for children. Debbie has spent many years writing curriculum for The Muse Program based on the Board of Educations curriculum units. She has the first two books in the Imagination Series published, 'Short Stories with Imagination' and 'Story Building with Imagination', and a Children's Picture Book, 'I Wish I Were'.

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