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Story tips

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Story tips

Postby Charles » Sat Nov 27, 2010 10:08 am

Rethinking Your Story for Greatness
by Hal Croasmun

M. Night Shyamalan said that he was stumped on his tenth draft of SIXTH SENSE. He had a good story about a psychologist who helps a kid that sees dead people.

Ten drafts had produced a good story. But Shyamalan wanted a great story. He wanted something that would put him on the Hollywood map and create demand for his work.

So he rethought the story and...

...had the major breakthrough he needed -- the psychologist is one of the dead people and it is the kid who has been helping the psychologist accept his new situation.

There's nothing wrong with rethinking your script. In fact, it is a normal -- and required -- part of the rewrite process.

When Shyamalan made that one change to the end of the movie, he elevated his story to a level of greatness. No amount of wordsmithing could have done that. Before that, he had a good story, but it wouldn't have propelled him into the public stardom and financial success that he received.

So what am I saying?

To be a GREAT writer, you have to be able to RETHINK your story ending.

This isn't an optional skill. It is a necessary one. Even if there is nothing wrong with your story, until it is great, there is value that can come from rethinking it.


Rethinking starts with a decision, then a set of questions, and ends when you have a breakthrough.

FIRST, the decision...

Decide that you want to elevate your STORY, not your words. This is a decision to reconsider your structure, your plot, and maybe even your concept.

See the next steps at

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Re: Story tips

Postby Glen Moyes » Sat Nov 27, 2010 12:01 pm

That's a good article.

This is why we love the outline approach to story writing so much. The biggest problems in your story can still be worked out and discussed in this stage before spending all the time into script writing. Of course things will start to surface while you are writing the script, such as a segment of dialog being particularly difficult to write because a character's motive isn't fleshed out enough, but having an outline saves you from spending too much time writing the script version of the story, which lets you focus on things that really matter in a story.

One thing the article missed is that in addition to interrogating your story you also need to interrogate your characters. Ask yourself why your characters are doing what they are doing. Do their actions make sense? Do their motives make sense? Would someone really want this conflict resolved that badly to put them in this kind of danger? Don't settle for, "Oh, maybe this character is fooling and that's why they did that." Your need to have brilliant characters. Yes, of course characters should make mistakes, but figure out why they are making those mistakes. Their logic makes perfect sense to themselves in their own mind, so much so that you would do the same thing if you were in their position. The best villains are the people who think they are right!
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