In a recent video, script consultant Jill Chamberlain claims that 99% of screenwriters miss the mark on an essential part of storytelling.
As writers, we all make mistakes together. I’ve found that when I’m struggling with a particular aspect of screenwriting, I know I can count on my friends who have been there before. That’s why this recent interview with Jill Chamberlain and Film Courage caught my attention.
She claims that 99% of screenwriters do a certain thing…and tells us why it’s wrong.
Then we’ll break it down after the jump!
What are 99% of screenwriters doing wrong?
Thus, according to Chamberlain, 99% of screenwriters fail to tell a story; they just present a situation.
Simply put, this means that even though you have scenes with interesting characters and dialogue, they don’t fit together like a story should. The stories should be linked in a chain of “because” reactions. Situations are just a bunch of things happening one after another until an end is reached.
I think that’s a fairly general statement, but one that we should take into account.
Chamberlain calls this the “Nutshell Techniquewhich she describes as “a method by which writers identify eight dynamic and interconnected elements that are necessary to tell a story successfully”.
Instead of putting a number on it, I call it a “because the tree” and I can explain it using the squirrel of the Ice Age movies.
Because the squirrel is hungry, it searches for food… because it searches, it finds a nut… because it finds the nut, it tries to catch it… and so on as his attempt to secure the nut leads him to more and crazier hijinks.
When you get into screenwriting, you may tend to think of funny or cool scenes and present them, without having a dramatic reason for them to fit together.
But every action has a reaction, and these reactions generate conflict and history.
I love a good dating movie as much as the next person, but movies need a driving force behind them to keep the story going. Whereas movies where random things happen, like Forrest Gumpare entertaining and certainly among my all-time favorites, they are usually the exception, not the rule.
When you start writing, try to focus on the WHY behind each scene.
It’s not enough to cause problems for your characters; you must have the reason behind the problem.
Think of the excellent plot of There’s something about Mary.
Every goofy thing happens in this movie because Ted is in love with Mary. And his actions in this movie drive the “because” over and over again. Because of the incident at the ball, he hires a sordid investigator. Because he’s driving to Miami and he’s tired, he picks up a hitchhiker. Because he’s nervous about his date with Mary, he… well, you get the idea.
So when building your story, think about what drives actions and the reason behind each setting or new scenario.
Screenwriting is difficult. But to become a filmmaker, you have to learn screenwriting to master storytelling. We will give you free lessons.
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