Now that you have typed THE END on the final page of your script, what's next? How do you ensure that your screenplay is an interesting and intriguing story, rather than a cliche? Give these steps, or filters, a try. They will help you discover depths to your script that you may have overlooked.
Reinvent Your Characters
When you find yourself stuck in your script or when you have finished but your story lacks that special something, it is time to look at it through different lenses. Chances are you have created a story that is well thought out and constructed (if you have done your homework) and what it needs now is some flavor. In Turbo Writing I discuss how you can reinvent yourself into a successful person-so who's to say you can't reinvent your character? Even though you have written an extensive backstory for your characters, it does not mean that any of it is written in stone. Only use what serves you and serves the story. Everything else is scrap.
This technique is one that should be applied to every story during the revision stages, if it has not happened already. It is a great technique for giving a story depth where before it was perhaps flat and predictable. Re-imagine your characters. Run through the following checklist and apply all the scenarios to your characters. You can mix and match the scenarios, or just keep them on their own. Any way you approach it, the changes will have profound effects on your story. Take one character at a time and ponder the possibilities. Feel free to add as many new scenarios to the list as you want-my examples are just to get you started. You may also find that all that is needed is one tweak to one character to completely refresh your story-and give you a new burst of creativity.
Change the character's:
· Physical appearance
· Place of origin (does he/she have an accent?)
· Sexual orientation
· Speech pattern (or impediments)
As you can see, this list can go on and on. It also is a list that covers most hot-button topics of the day, as well. Recall the character in the film Traffic who was the lethal assassin that Benicio Del Torro's character was hunting. It could have been written as a typical showdown between the two characters, with a lot of chest-slapping machismo. Instead, the assassin was written as a homosexual who Benicio captured by wooing him in a gay bar. What a more interesting story that is! One trait in one character changed several scenes.
Run your characters through this screen regardless, but especially if you are stuck. You will be amazed at the new possibilities that will come from the seemingly slightest of changes.
A Change of Scenery
Just as with the re-imagining a character, you can also pass your setting through a similar screen. Unless you are writing a biography or something else that is strongly based in fact, there is no reason you cannot change anything about your story. Imagine how different your typical New York City mob story would play if it were set in Finland. Why are there mobsters in Finland? I have no idea, but I would love to know! Or what if your hard-luck Chicago boxer was instead a hard-luck Croatian boxer?
Here are some suggestions for re-imagining your setting:
o Rural vs. Urban
o Dwelling (mansion vs. shack)
o Political landscape
o Current technology
o Health and wealth of citizens
· Time of day (within a scene)
· Time frame of story
Most of these screens change things dramatically and will greatly influence everything else in your story. You might have to pick these with more caution and perhaps do a little more research than with a character, but for the sake of shaking things up, go through them all. Allow yourself some time to ponder all the possibilities of these changes. You may decide that the setting of your story is perfect the way it is, but chances are you will have now considered some things that you had not before. You will have explored new places to go with your story, and this alone will open up your mind to other possibilities.
Matt Greene is a screenwriter and author of Turbo Writing: How to Create Better Scripts Faster (and enjoy life more!) http://www.scriptinsiders.com
Professionally, Matt spent 6 years as a Blue Man in the popular Blue Man Group, performing over 1,000 shows and playing in front of millions. He has helped the company create new works and implement new techniques that have gone on to be smash hits. He has either written, acted in or directed more than 60 pieces of theatre and film, and enjoys the freedom to move from one discipline to the next.
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