Story Development and Outlining

protagonist is driven by both external and internal motivation

use—and go beyond—3-Act structure

scene is the essential unit of film storytelling, and how each scene contains its own arc

writer builds not just structure but the texture of story and world

ratchet up tension and re-raise stakes throughout a screenplay

importance of making unexpected moves…to keep the writer surprised and invested as much as the audience

The most intelligent and intriguing premise in the world is only that—just a premise—until it’s been given a shape that draws an audience in and keeps its attention and investment. Until it’s given a protagonist through which the audience understands the premise in concrete terms, and feels the clearly-defined stakes, someone with whom they can identify and for whom they can cheer. In other words, until the premise has become a story. This course will examine plotting a screenplay from premise to story. You’ll learn how to take your screenplay from the early stages of building idea into a full story to structuring the story to keep tension and investment high in the audience to considering how to build not only structure but texture in the world of your film—how to build an experience of the world, what the events and the world of the story mean for characters and audience alike, not just building up point-by-point plot.

In online lectures, supplemental readings, and written assignments and exercises, we’ll consider plot and character arcs and what makes them work; the scene as the essential, powerful unit of story; how a writer might use multiple genres in crafting story, and the degree to which one ought to push back against, rather than merely accepting, genre expectations; the difference between story and discourse and the function of each; best practices in plotting out a story; and more. We’ll also reference—and occasionally take cues from—such seemingly disparate films as Jaws, Silence of the Lambs, 8 ½, Annie Hall, Inglorious Basterds, and Boogie Nights, among others.




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