Tips & triks: Manus (Engelsk)

Some people think ideas can only come from divine inspiration, but that is not entirely true. Some ideas do, but others come from hard work. This article has great tips for you, if you do not have the time to wait for divine intervention.

Is your film a Hollywood cliché?
Then don't worry. You're about to make big bucks! No, just kidding. But do not be too concerned if it is. There is a good reason why it's a cliché. It's because it works. Why else would someone use it over and over again?
Many writers are afraid of using classic storytelling elements. They're afraid of the cliché, but the fact is you shouldn't be. Both good and bad Hollywood movies have been using these elements through time. The same is true for European movies, Hong Kong movies, etc. If the movie doesn't turn out to be as good as you had hoped, it's rare to blame the storytelling principles, but rather the writer . The principles are only guidelines (that are proven to work) to make a bad story better or a good story great.

With scriptwriting it is as with anything else. Practice makes perfect! One of film history's greatest, Bunuel, exercised his storytelling all the time. During writing sessions with his scriptwriter, they wrote all day until four o'clock in the afternoon. Then they took a short break. They met again for supper, and while eating , both of them were supposed to tell each other a new story, that they had come up with during the break. In that way they always thought about stories... Even in their spare time.

You might think you don't need anyone to tell you anything about storytelling, because you're making films in your own way. Well , unless you're doing very, very, very avant-garde art films about light and shadow movements on rocks in the Sahara, your film will contain a storyline in one way or another and it will be a good idea for you to know at least the theory behind it. Because only when you know the principles can you start breaking them.

And remember, the principles are not created by some evil person to make every story the same. They are a product of many, many stories told over time. The mechanics that work have stuck and have now become principles of storytelling. Not one person created them, everyone did. That is why they work. They have been thoroughly tested over and over again and they're for you to use at no expense.

How to get ideas
When you get a great idea, it is often because you put something together in your head, new things that normally don't belong together. You probably know the techniques of brainstorming already, but why not let the internet do the hard work? The problem with one's own brain is that it is too constrained to your normal way of thinking. It'll just keep coming up with the same boring ideas over and over again. The internet in itself is a big brain out of control, so that's a perfect tool for you to use.

Find a random noun in the dictionary by selecting one with your eyes closed. Enter the word into Google's image finder. The first couple of pages will very often be pictures of exactly what you typed in Google, but after that weird pictures start to show. For example, what have bananas got to do with speedway? Speedway was what came up on page five during a banana search. It's up to you to make the connection. That will force your brain into unknown territory. It's all about breaking your "normal" patterns of thinking. Google takes care of the brainstorming. It's your task to make the logic.

But the fun is not over yet. You can also use Google for characters. For instance, type in the name Poul. You'll probably get about 40,000 pictures related to the name Poul. Pick one, look at it closely and tell his story. Who is he? What is he wearing? Why is he wearing that? You'll get a lot of details handed to you for free. Behind him there's a poster of a big gun. What's that all about? Maybe Poul is a gun fanatic? He looks a little sad in the picture. Maybe he shot someone or wants to do it? Or maybe someone shot someone he loved? It's up to you to make those choices, when you're presented with them. That's what makes it your story.

There are almost unlimited ways to how Google can help you. You can just simply save the pictures you download, print them out and glue them together in a random collage and write your feelings, thoughts and first impressions next to them. That will give you a moodboard. Maybe you'll get ideas from that. It's a good thing to try and generate stuff from your feelings in that way, because that will make the movie about something that concerns you. Something you feel special about. There's a saying: "The first draft is written with the heart, the second with the mind". That's a good rule of thumb, to avoid those mechanical first drafts.

Is your idea an actual film idea?
If you want your film to grab the audience, there are things it must contain as an absolute minimum. It should have at least one protagonist (main character), and the protagonist should have a goal, something he or she is striving to achieve. There should also be at least one antagonist (opponent) with opposite goals than the protagonist's. In that way conflict and thereby drama will occur. And that's the goal.

In Lord of the Rings, Frodo is the protagonist. His goal is to destroy the ring. Sauron is the antagonist and he wants the ring to himself. That's the opposite goal of Frodo's. That will create conflict and thereby make the audience thrilled to know if Frodo will destroy the ring before Sauron gets hold of it.

To make the conflict even bigger, Tolkien decided to make Frodo a tiny little weak hobbit and Sauron a huge, almost God-like tower that sees and controls everything. That emphasizes the drama, because the audience will think: "How on earth is Frodo gonna make it?" And they're right. He can't. This leads us to a very important thing, if not the most important thing, in storytelling. Frodo has to change to be able to complete the mission. He must develop his skills. This is truly the core of what the audience want to see. Everyone wants to develop himself or herself into a better person, and want to see how to do it. That is what almost every good film is about and either the protagonist succeeds or fails. That makes it either a happy-ending or a tragedy.

Some tips to create a solid protagonist
It has to be important! That's the most important thing. To illustrate, if the protagonist's goal is to get a cup of coffee, this is not important enough, unless he has to steal it from the devil himself or travel around the world to get it, before his wife gets killed by the evil coffee craver.

If Frodo could just throw the ring into any melting pot, it would be way too easy. No, he has to travel all the way to Mount Doom to get rid of the ring, the road there is full of dangers and on top of that he's a tiny hobbit at the bottom of the food chain. All things to make it harder for the protagonist and more exciting to the audience.
It is important to understand, though, that you do not necessarily need a lot of monsters, bombs or super-villains to heighten the motivation of the protagonist. It can be created from simple things if just fully explained. If the person suffers from some kind of phobia, that has kept him from leaving his apartment so far, it would be a big deal to get a cup of coffee from the coffee shop. That means the danger of the mission is set by the rules you create for your character's world.

Motivation is another important factor. Fear of death is a good motivation for the protagonist. He will get killed if he doesn't overcome the obstacles of the story. That'll get most people motivated. The best motivations are in some way connected to either love or death. Those are the two things we're really concerned about.

The motivation needs to be strong, because the obstacles are tough. The protagonist has to develop himself to be able to overcome the obstacles. Frodo has to become tough to get to Mount Doom and he does. Personal development is one of the main reasons why we watch films at all. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the protagonist developing himself or at least trying to. If we look at the core of what the audience is engaged by, this is basically it. It is probably also one of the hardest things to get into your story in a good and functional way.

The protagonist's goal has to bring him in direct conflict with the antagonist. Without this the film is missing conflict and also an audience, as it will quickly lose interest. The antagonist does not have to be an evil super-villain. In most cases it works out just as well or sometimes even better if the antagonist is a good guy, but with interests in conflict with the protagonist's. Remember that the antagonist doesn't have to be a person. It can be an animal, a tornado or a really high tower with a big flaming eye.

There are two things to keep in mind. Throwing the ring into the fires of Mordor is an outer obstacle. There must also be an inner goal , e.g. to grow up and take responsibility or to realize that you're in love and cannot live without that person. The inner goal is all about the protagonist realizing his needs. Not what he thinks he wants but his true need. A person is in love with one girl, but we, the audience, know that it's someone else whom he's really in love with. The film is about him realizing that and when he does, getting her to fall in love with him.
The inner goal is harder to show than the outer goal. Simply beacuse of the well known phrase "Show , don't tell!". But there are ways. You just have to find them and make them interesting. If you have a good inner story, there's a good chance that your overall story will be great.

Your inner goal should be connected with your outer goal. There's a Danish film that provides a good example of this. In the film the protagonist puts his old dad on a motorcycle and drives him around the country to say goodbye. Instead of just having the entire family come over to the hospital, the director/writer takes the goodbye and makes it physical. It shows both the sorrow and the resolution in the final goodbye.

The point of view
This is a very important thing to bear in mind. It's not what you tell, but how you tell it. Suspense and surprise are two important elements here. Suspense is when the audience knows more than the protagonist and the surprise, as the word connotes, surprises the audience together with the protagonist. Suspense and surprise occur through the planning of your scenes. When to tell what and how.
Sometimes telling the story only from the protagonist's point of view and cutting off a lot of information from the audience can work very well in creating excitement and keeping the audience hooked for answers.
Everything in the film is information to the audience. It's all about how you convey it to the audience.

Tighten up your story
It's a good idea to tighten up the script before you begin shooting. It's a waste of time to shoot scenes if they're gonna get cut out, so it's best if the scenes shot are the scenes used. This is a checklist to see if your story is ready to be shot or if it needs further re-writing:

Goal. What is the protagonist's goal? – What is he/she trying to obtain?

Motivation. What happens if he/she does not obtain the goal?

Obstacles. Who or what is creating the obstacles and what are they?

Development. How is the protagonist supposed to develop himself to obtain the goal?

Plan. What is the protagonist's plan to obtain the goal?

Turning points. What are the most important turning points?

The end. Is the ending fulfilling to the audience? Do all questions get answered?

The process of scriptwriting
You can read more thoroughly about some of the different stages by clicking the links below. These are the common used stages from idea to script:

Idea

Synopsis

Treatment

Script

Character
Character is as important as story. You can have a great plot, but without characters that people care about it makes no difference, and also, you can have great characters, but with no great plot it tends to get a little boring .
There are different ways for developing characters. Here are some:

The seven deadly sins
This method is heavily used in many films. The seven deadly sins are a list of the worst sins a person can possess. Even though you want your protagonist to get sympathy from the audience, no one is perfect. People don't want to see flawless characters. They want to see people who make mistakes and become better people in trying to correct them, because that's how life is. Again, no one is perfect.

The seven deadly sins give good inspiration to the flaws of your characters. If your protagonist has a flaw it automatically gives him will, a will to develop and correct it. And that's exactly what people want to see, to find out how they can correct their own flaws and become better people in their own lives.

Deadly sin "Translated" Will Must learn
Pride arrogant, cocky keep up appearances to be humble
Envy envious wants what others have
to be satisfied
Wrath aggressive force power upon people to control oneself
Sloth lazy indolent avoid to work to make an effort
Greed greedy wants more and more to share
Gluttony squandering over- use over-indulge to control oneself
Lust obsessed excessively desire to control oneself


Are your characters alive?
It is important that your characters feel real and alive to the audience. This is important, because they are the cornerstone of your drama. The foundation to build the story upon. You can use the following list to check your character or to get inspired. These are all things you will know about yourself, that also are important to know about your characters.

Gender? – Is it important to the story if the protagonist is a he or a she?

Age? – Is age important to the story? What if the protagonist is a boy instead of a man?

Height and weight?

Hair, eye and skin colour?

Religion?

Nationality?

Looks? – Slim, fit, fat, thin, sober, dirty and so on.

Physical stuff? – Limp, weird looks, birthmark, imperfections, tics and so on.

Calm, paranoid, pessimistic, optimistic, out of control?

Rich or poor?

Leader, geek, popular, outsider?

Doing sports? Reading books? Collecting stamps?

Ambitions and dreams?

Idols?

Loves and hates?

Job? Unemployed? Student? Competent at it?

Talent?

Address? Stays with mom and dad? Own apartment? House?

Parents? Divorced? Rich? Poor?

What happened just before the film started? You can write your most important character's previous history, to get a better idea of who they are. Just remember, your film should telling the most important thing in their life, so if you come up with something more important you should "move" your storyline to that point in your character's life. The previous history is only for you as a writer to know. You can show bits of it to the audience, but not the whole thing. Concentrate on the main story. The previous stories will just help you to make the characters more real and the audience will pick up on this, consciously or unconsciously.

Happy writing!

Written by dvoted