Have you ever watched a movie and felt like it had no
spine. Did the story kind of meander all over the place
with no direction only to create a complication at the
end of the second act? Then it quickly spiraled into a
convenient resolution. This is the sign of a story with
no spine. It had no direction. The spine of
a story is the part that holds the story together. It
should provide the frame work. Think about your
spine and all the bones that connect to it. These
are the subplots and nuances that make a story
interesting. Each disk builds on top of the next
disk creating a strong foundation and core for your
The key to giving your story a spine is to use the plot and then creating subplots that support the core of the story. You have the B story or the romance with the love interest. I always try to have more than just one subplot. The subplot could be what ever complication is going on at work. The love interest and the work issues should help move the plot forward.These are just two examples of what you can use for a subplot to give your story's core some substance.
The other important aspect is to be sure they relate to each other in some way. For example the responsibilities at work could be getting in the way of the relationship with the romantic interest. The complication could be how to jugle both work and private life. These struggles should relate to your protagonists over all dramatic need. What is the quest of the story? What does your main character want to achieve. Ideally he doesn't realize this until the story unwinds and at the midpoint of the movie there is a realization that more change is needed.
Keep in mind these are general examples but the concept is universal. Let's use an example from the movie The Kings Speech. This movie won many awards at the 2011 Oscars. The story was about a royal prince who had a speech impediment. This is the plot of the movie, his quest to be able to talk in public. The subplot was his struggle to over come his feeling of failure which manifested itself in his relationship with the speech teacher. This feeling of failure was also evident with his relationship with his father. The stages where raised when his brother decided to be with his mistress who was not only a divorcee but also not royalty. So his older brother could not be kind. This created another subplot. How he struggled with supporting his brother and not looking like he was undermining the legitimacy of the thrown. The other subplot was his relationship with his wife and children and how he was a good father despite all the responsibilities of being royalty. This was a story with numerous subplots that built on each other. Each subplot augmented the over all plot and moved the story forward. As you can see this story has layers that blend together to create a richly painted tale.
When you think about the spine of your story be sure to remember that if needs to enlighten the audience and entertain at the same time movie the story forward. In order to achieve this support for the plot the subplots and bones of the story need to fit together like joints.
There are more articles on How To Write A Movie Script on Scott Youngs blog.
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