Story Planning

My time off between contracts is coming to an end as I start work on a new TV series on Monday. I've enjoyed my time off and have been mostly using this time to plan the novel idea I'm working on... it makes me cringe just saying this! Perhaps I'll refer to it as a story idea, as I think that sounds a bit less heavyweight than novel idea... anyway!

I've been taking part in an online course in Screenwriting, provided by Future Learn and University of East Anglia. This has been really helpful, particularly the parts about planning your screenplay, or in my case, story idea.

This course talks about the 'Five Finger Pitch Approach', which I've found particularly useful. In short, you should be able to pitch your story idea in 5 key points and write these points in your own hand print.

The five points are:

1. Genre
2. The somebody of the story
3. The something that person wants
4. The trouble they have getting it
5. The reason why you want to share this story

Once you have the initial basis for your idea, the next step is to add the other hand and make the following points:

6. Summary of the first part of the story
7. Summary of the story's midpoint
8. Summary of the second part of the story 
9. The character's moment of doubt and change
10. The story's climax

It makes it seem so much simpler and less daunting when you look at it this way!

After writing my 5 and 10 finger pitch, I then made spider diagrams about my characters. All of them; big and small, minor and major, main character and background whichever way you want to look at it. I wrote down ideas for how they look, how they talk, key personality traits, how they act in certain situations, important notes about their past, etc. This gave me a better understanding of my characters and how they will react in the situation / storyline I'm planning.

The third chunk of planning (for me at least) was to write a beat sheet or step outline. Here I wrote down bullet points of every key piece of action that happens. I've been working on this part for about a fortnight and I'm still making changes. Every time I look at it, I think of new ideas and make amendments in order to (hopefully) make the storyline stronger and more exciting. I go back and add small points / hints that will eventually lead to something bigger. I make slight changes to characters or add more background information about them, so when a particular situation arises the way they react makes sense based on what we already know about them. I add more details each time I go through it, so that when I come to the actual writing of the story it will be like ticking boxes of a list and I won't have to stop and think about where the story is going. 

This is probably the most crucial part of the planning process. 

Now that I'm 90% happy with my beat sheet, I guess its time to start writing and that's a scary thought! It's all very well and good planning an idea, but when the time comes to put pen to paper (or rather fingers or keyboard) its quite a daunting prospect. In my research and reading, I keep hearing the same piece of advice; just get on with it. Bash out your first draft and get it done! It will be awful and a million miles from the finished piece, but you have to start somewhere and make it happen. And that's what I'm going to do.

Here's to my rubbish first draft and many more better drafts to come!


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