How do you make your stories "flow"?

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  • How do you make your stories "flow"?

    I'm writing a script, and have already encountered some problems that I think have to do with my outline

    I'm pretty new here, so bear with me. When outlining, the proccess I went through was taking the ideas I had for my A, B, C, and D storylines, brainstorming about 10 scenes for each in bullet point format (I tried to treat each storyline like an individual script), and then finally taking all of those bullet points and merging them together into a full list outline. I feel as if this has created two problems for me though

    1) even though one storyline is supposed to be dominant, I feel as if it's getting lost in the background of the other ones

    2) It feels like the flow of the story is choppy and awkwardly stitched together

    I don't know what to do. I really believe I have strong scenes and strong individual storylines, yet no flow. It's like a big puzzle where every piece is only slightly misshapen. How would you handle such a problem?

  • #2
    Re: How do you make your stories "flow"?

    Plotting needs to be "cause & effect" Because A happens then B. Because B happens the C.

    And, ideally, the thing driving the cause & effect, making things happen, is the characters and their wants, flaws, obstacles etc.

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    • #3
      Re: How do you make your stories "flow"?

      Matt Stone and Trey Parker (South Park) tell you how in only two minutes:

      http://www.mtvu.com/video/?vid=689002

      Found via Film Crit Hulk a while back.
      "You have idea 1, you're excited. It flops. You have idea 99, you're excited. It flops.
      Only a fool is excited by the 100th idea. Fools keep trying. God rewards fools." --Martin Hellman, paraphrased

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: How do you make your stories "flow"?

        Also, check out episode 60 of Scriptnotes, re: movies vs. "a stack of scenes."

        http://johnaugust.com/2012/the-black...tack-of-scenes

        There's a link at the bottom to the transcript if you'd rather read than listen (that's me a lot of the time unless I'm in the car).
        "You have idea 1, you're excited. It flops. You have idea 99, you're excited. It flops.
        Only a fool is excited by the 100th idea. Fools keep trying. God rewards fools." --Martin Hellman, paraphrased

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: How do you make your stories "flow"?

          Originally posted by Liv96 View Post
          I'm writing a script, and have already encountered some problems that I think have to do with my outline

          (I tried to treat each storyline like an individual script), and then finally taking all of those bullet points and merging them together into a full list outline.
          This I suspect is your problem, because you should be writing one story, not four. By treating them as individual stories you lose the connection of the characters to each other. You end up with four stories and not one, cohesive story.

          Think of it this way, the (how every many you want) subplots are stories within the main outward plot drive-- not separate. They are a part of it that mirrors and contrasts with it.

          Scenes shouldn't serve only one story aspect of your story, but ideally you want a scene to serve more than one function: the main plot drive, reveal character, show change, and/or reveal something new. Each scene has a main purpose, and it can (and should) do more than one thing.

          Your subplots are not equal to you main plot. Your main plot is not dependent upon your subplots-- your subplots are dependent upon your main plot.

          If you have the time. Check out this link. It's produced from a young artist and writer and well worth taking the time to watch, imo. I think the first three to four episodes show how quickly you can outline and create a strong outline/structure on the fly.

          After that, he takes his own novel, a fantasy adventure, and really demonstrates how powerful plotting structure can be. He covers everything, thematic revelation, moral decisions, escalating conflict, creating characters with depth-- everything you want to know and execute in your screenplay. He's really quite impressive. The episodes are about 10 minutes each and there are 12 in total. I think he gets into his own novel around episode 4, maybe 3.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54l83...B3E146AB7D132F

          It might help clear up a few things about how to think about your story as a whole including your other characters. How you can create a single story that has a lot of depth.

          Good luck,
          FA4

          Post Edit: And JoeBanks is absolutely correct-- this happens, so then that happens, so then this happens...
          "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: How do you make your stories "flow"?

            Originally posted by WaitForIt View Post
            Also, check out episode 60 of Scriptnotes, re: movies vs. "a stack of scenes."

            http://johnaugust.com/2012/the-black...tack-of-scenes

            There's a link at the bottom to the transcript if you'd rather read than listen (that's me a lot of the time unless I'm in the car).
            Those are some very helpful resources; thank you!

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: How do you make your stories "flow"?

              Originally posted by finalact4 View Post
              This I suspect is your problem, because you should be writing one story, not four. By treating them as individual stories you lose the connection of the characters to each other. You end up with four stories and not one, cohesive story.

              Your subplots are not equal to you main plot. Your main plot is not dependent upon your subplots-- your subplots are dependent upon your main plot....
              I'll make sure to keep this in mind. Once again, thanks so much. These resources are great

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: How do you make your stories "flow"?

                Originally posted by Liv96 View Post
                I'm writing a script, and have already encountered some problems that I think have to do with my outline

                I'm pretty new here, so bear with me. When outlining, the proccess I went through was taking the ideas I had for my A, B, C, and D storylines, brainstorming about 10 scenes for each in bullet point format (I tried to treat each storyline like an individual script), and then finally taking all of those bullet points and merging them together into a full list outline. I feel as if this has created two problems for me though

                1) even though one storyline is supposed to be dominant, I feel as if it's getting lost in the background of the other ones

                2) It feels like the flow of the story is choppy and awkwardly stitched together
                IIRC, this is your first screenplay. So, you're writing a screenplay with 4 storylines? Are you aiming for something like Crash?

                Let's say I've always wanted to be an architect, and my dream is to create something like the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. I would not try to do that as my first project. But if I did try to do that and it wasn't going well, I don't know that I'd even be able to ask the right questions as to why it was not going well.

                You wrote, "I really believe I have strong scenes and strong individual storylines, yet no flow. It's like a big puzzle where every piece is only slightly misshapen. How would you handle such a problem?" Maybe it's just me, but I don't know what that means.

                Overall, it seems you're shooting for the moon, first time out.

                Putting aside whether it makes sense to try that sort of screenplay at this juncture, was there something in particular that inspired you to outline it that way - 4 independent stories and then shuffle them together like cards? It just seems like an odd way to approach things as a first step. Maybe outline the whole thing, and then break it down and sub-outline, but seems to me it's a better idea to start out with a coherent whole, and then granularize from there.

                Of course, to each his/her own, but for me - I think it's important when starting out to pick a story that one is most likely to be able to execute well. I've got projects, story ideas, that I am drying to write. I've been jotting notes down for them for some years. But, I don't think my skills are yet close enough to the task - though I'm getting there (I think).

                So, pick a story idea with a modest degree of difficulty, with the least number of moving parts. And nail it. Then, step it up a notch, or three.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: How do you make your stories "flow"?

                  What Manchester said.

                  "The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them." - ComicBent.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: How do you make your stories "flow"?

                    I agree with Manchester.

                    But let me also tell you a good way to work on this:

                    Put your outline away. Don't look at it.

                    Tell your story. Either tell it to a friend or write it down.

                    Where are the parts where you struggle?

                    When your story has strong logical connections from scene to scene, it's usually easy to recreate it without an outline. The places where you struggle are the places where the developments in your story are arbitrary or poorly poorly motivated.

                    Figure out WHY scene C follows scene B. Then the flow will happen.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: How do you make your stories "flow"?

                      Originally posted by Ronaldinho View Post
                      I agree with Manchester.

                      But let me also tell you a good way to work on this:

                      Put your outline away. Don't look at it.

                      Tell your story. Either tell it to a friend or write it down.

                      Where are the parts where you struggle?

                      When your story has strong logical connections from scene to scene, it's usually easy to recreate it without an outline. The places where you struggle are the places where the developments in your story are arbitrary or poorly poorly motivated.

                      Figure out WHY scene C follows scene B. Then the flow will happen.
                      Interesting. I'll try this out with my sister (if she can tolerate listening to more of my stories!)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: How do you make your stories "flow"?

                        Telling your story out loud really does help tremendously.

                        When I was younger, I did this with my mom. It became a back and forth thing. Now, I do this with my fiance. If something doesn't flow when you're telling a story out loud, it's not going to flow on the page...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: How do you make your stories "flow"?

                          It's amazing how much you learn about your story by telling it out loud, no matter how much you outline on paper. And I'd much rather write than talk. But you're telling someone the story, and you start going, 'uh, and then, um, crap' and suddenly you realize you've got a huge plot hole you never saw before.
                          Patrick Sweeney

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                          • #14
                            Re: How do you make your stories "flow"?

                            Wow, it didn't even occur to me that you might be writing an ensemble piece-- that's ambitious, so kudos if that's what you're doing.

                            Crash is an excellent example to look at because there are a few things that work to tie the story lines together...

                            1) The characters (and their stories) physically intersect one another. For example when the Bullock character has her locks changed she takes one look at the Locksmith's tatoos and assumes that the locksmith is in a gang and going to rob her. But when he leaves we follow him to his home and immediately have this amazing father daughter scene where we learn that his a decent hardworking man.

                            Then he (the locksmith) goes onto another job to a fix a door that the shop owner (can't remember if he's Indian, Pakastani, or Arab, he's a minority and it's important that he is to the theme) refuses to follow his instructions and the shop owner's store gets vandalized by thieves. The entire film is connected, it's really brilliant-- one of my all time favs.

                            A few other films to watch... Syriana, Traffic, Babel, Vantage Point

                            2) Variations on theme, by having the story lines reflect and contrast different POVs on a selected theme is another way to create connectedness. Crash again does this well... it shows how we all have prejudices even when people are prejudice against us. Or even when we believe that we are not at all prejudice.

                            3) Scene transitions-- this is a technique that can really make a difference in creating a smooth flow and a feeling that the story is constantly moving forward. It's a big subject, but if you go to www.ScriptNotes.com you'll find a podcast where John and Craig discuss scene transition types. Listen to that, it'll be better than me trying to explain it all.

                            so the key is to use these techniques to interconnect your storylines.

                            An ensemble piece is ambitious, but if you're the type of person who doesn't give up, and can handle a few frustrations, it might work well for you-- I don't know. If you're driven to write this story-- you could always register your outline with the WGA and work on it after you've got a little more experience-- no one can really say what's best for you.

                            Wishing you all the best, and know right or wrong, good or bad, stupid or brilliant, we're here to help.

                            Good luck,
                            FA4
                            Last edited by finalact4; 07-13-2013, 07:50 PM. Reason: spelling
                            "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: How do you make your stories "flow"?

                              Without reading the script and experience the problems first hand, or at least knowing more details about it, any advice will be awfully generic. If you'd like someone else to read your screenplay and give you a more specific assessment, PM-me. Maybe others will also offer to read it and give you their opinions.

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