“My Life Would Make a Great Sitcom/Movie/Novel!”
I constantly get people saying to me, “My life would make a great sitcom/movie/novel!” My instant thought is, “No! No it wouldn’t! Just stop right there!” Let me first say that there are very few people in this world that have such amazing lives that a book, movie, or television show could be made from their adventures. VERY. FEW. What you may have are several anecdotes that may or may not have interesting, funny, or otherwise some sort of entertainment value. Most of what I hear has none of that.
Let’s first review the things you need to make a compelling story, one that draws people in and leaves them wanting to hear more. First you need a flawed protagonist. In fact, you’ll need a full cast of compelling characters! This should be the easy part. Everyone has issues. But not everyone is aware of their own. If this is about your life, what is your flaw that keeps you from attaining your goal?
That’s the next thing! What’s your protagonist’s goal? If you want to have a compelling story, your hero (in this case YOU) needs to have a goal, something they are striving for but can’t seem to reach because their flaw keeps slowing them down. Oh, you hadn’t thought of that? Although people have short attention spans, unless you’re creating a webseries chronicling entertaining incidents, you’ll need a bit more substance to your stories.
Then you’ll need to fill in some obstacles. What kinds of things are standing in the way of you obtaining your goal (other than your flaw). You should have at least 3 hurdles that increase in difficulty. This is the Hollywood part. Often times movies “based on actual events” have been embellished. Why? Because the truth just wasn’t entertaining enough so the writers needed to add some things to spice up the story and make it more interesting.
And of course every good story needs a great villain! Most people don’t have someone or something in their lives that constantly antagonize them, at lease not one that hinders them for obtaining a specific goal. If you do have someone following you around making your life miserable… I think it might be time to file for a restraining order. Of course a debilitating disease could very well be a good antagonist providing that it has slowed you down in your attempts of reaching your goal, but has not kept you from it, providing you’re not writing a tragedy.
So to recap, unless you your life has at least these four things (or at a minimum you can aggrandize some of them), then your life is not fantastic enough to turn into a movie of the week. Yes, almost every story is based somewhat on characters the writer has known, but those stories have been greatly altered in order to make them palatable to the general public. So the next time you think your life might make a great story, think about what is needed to create a great story. Chances are you’ll realize your life story would not be all that entertaining to the general public. Until next week, happy writing.