Does Your Life Story Have These Elements?
A few weeks ago I posted a blog in an attempt to explain that while most people have incredible events that have happened in their lives; while they’ve experienced and overcome some terrifying feats, their lives just don’t have all the elements needed to create a Hollywood movie. What I succeeded in doing was convincing everyone that they indeed did have a Hollywood worthy life. While I touched on just a few things that are needed for great story, I did not hit on all of those elements. Some how the confusion was that the four (4) things I mentioned was all you needed. Those four things were only the tip of the iceberg.
While I will give more elements that are needed to create a timeless classic that producers will pay to turn into a film and audiences will flock in droves to the theaters to watch, keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. This is only the top things producers will look for in order to decide if they want to read your story. If your life has all of these elements, then you might, and I stress might, have a chance at someone wanting to buy it.
As I mentioned in the previous blog, you must have compelling characters, especially a compelling protagonist. What do I mean by compelling? I mean a three-dimensional character, one with layers. There needs to be more than meets the eye. There needs to be something about this character that we can relate to, or at the very least he needs to be likable. The audience needs a reason to want the hero to succeed. The hero needs to be seeking something, but somewhere along the line realize that what he wants isn’t what he needs. The hero needs to show growth; he needs to change along the way, for better or worse. We need to see his flaws. He needs to realize his flaws are what are causing him not to succeed in reaching what he believes to be his goal. The turning point of the story is when he changes, sheds his flaws, and realizes his true purpose, his need versus his want. This is a multi-dimensional character.
The most important detail to creating a great story is your premise. What is your story about? What is your character’s purpose? What is the main idea of your story? This is the foundation of your story. What message do you want to tell the audience? What lesson do you want them to learn? Just for example: in the “based on actual events” film Catch Me If You Can, the premise of that film is family above all else. DiCaprio’s character Abagnale writes over $4 million in bad checks in an attempt to recoup the money his father lost to the IRS and to get his parents back together. You need a premise to build your story on. Make sure it’s solid.
Another important piece of your story is the “why.” Why are these events happening and why are they happening to these particular characters? This will define the trials that your hero must go through in order to learn and change. This is what creates the hurdles that cause your character to grow. Without the “why” your audience won’t care about what’s happening to your hero.
Now you need a formidable foe. Your hero needs an enemy, but not just any enemy, but a worthy opponent. The audience, although they may know the hero will succeed in the end, there needs to be doubt that the villain (antagonist) might destroy our hero. We have to believe that the bad guy just might triumph. Without that doubt the audience will lose interest.
This leads me to the conflict. Without conflict your story will be boring. It’s your antagonist that should create the most conflict with your hero. There are four basic types of conflict in a story. Remember that your antagonist does not always need to be a person or even an outside entity. Type one: man versus self. Have you ever heard the saying, you’re your own worst enemy? This is when your hero can’t seem to get out of his own way and must conquer his own shortcomings. Type two: man versus man. This is your typical good guy versus bad guy scenario. Type three: man versus nature. This is a “lost in the wilderness, fighting the elements, battling an illness” storyline. Type four: man versus society. This is your typical feel good, overcoming all odds Rudy type of story. Which of these best fits your life?
Lastly, at least for this blog, not for the overall list, your story and your characters need arches. Your hero needs to start in a bad place. He needs to come to a point early in the story where something must change or bad things will happen. Your hero must be forced into a world in which he does not want to go and in which he feels absolutely uncomfortable. In the new world he will learn about himself. He will learn what he needs to change in order to succeed. He will learn that what he has been striving for all his life is not what he needs. He will learn that in order to finally reach that need he will have to change. That is your hero’s arch. Your entire story needs an arch as well. The story will increase in tension until it hits the climax about two-thirds of the way through. The last third will be your resolution.
Now if you feel your story meets all of these elements it doesn’t mean that you have what it takes to write a Hollywood story. You’ve got just enough major elements to catch a producer’s attention… maybe. What you’ll need to do next is create a synopsis outlining all of these elements just in case you can convince said producer that your story is worthy. Best thing to do before you send it off to a producer or an agent is let a consultant look it over. Until next week, happy writing.