As you may have seen in my Twitter feed, my new web series project doesn't seem to be going down too well. In an effort to generate some extra income, I've decided to make myself available for some freelance work. Other than a few rabid trolls, I've had people send me a few genuinely neat ideas, but with many unanswered questions regarding their stories. Also, if you intend to hire me in whatever capacity, I'd appreciate the inclusion of a concrete monetary offer. Doesn't have to be big, just something for me to consider.
Back to the topic of unanswered questions -- if you intend on hiring me, knowing exactly what you'd like me to do, kindly making me an offer and sending me your story ideas as incentive, consider the following before you do so, and share your answers with me:
- Every story should be about something. At its essence, what statement or question about life do you intend to pose by the final frame? What is it precisely that you want to share with the world through your story? Can you boil it down to a sentence? To a few words? To one? This shit is hard, but the work pays off. Trust me.
- You need a vehicle to pose this statement or question -- a protagonist. Who is he? Who is she? What is it? What do we, the audience, love about the protagonist? Why do we sympathize with him? What is his fatal flaw? Can we relate to it? Is it related to his past? What happened to him that made him the way he is? Or 'her', obviously, but fuck writing 'him or her' in every sentence. How does he relate to the film's central question or statement? Why is he the perfect catalyst in conveying this question or statement? What makes this guy special?
- Who or what is your antagonist? Is it an individual? Is it society? Is it nature? Is it his own mind? Is it a high-ranking lizard militia commander with cool spikes on his armor and one eye missing who happily roasts bus-loads of children alive with a flamethrower and slices grandmothers in half with his chainsaw hand? Is your antagonist not physical, but an ideology adopted by society? The antagonist is also known as the 'impact character'. He's called such because he 'impacts' the protagonist in a way that nobody else could, and pushes him completely over the edge, leading to the protagonist's personal transformation and the drive to overcome evil. Why is the antagonist able to do this? How, exactly? Why is he the perfect impact character for your protagonist and story? How does he relate to the film's central question or statement? Better yet, how does the conflict itself between the protagonist and the antagonist relate to the central theme?
- Where and when? Why is the story's location and time period critical to the central theme? What are they? Is it a period piece? Is it set millions of years in the future? Does it take place in the modern day? Why? Why, why, why. Keep asking that. It'll get you to the heart of your story.
- Act one is your set-up. Don't worry about blowing shit up just yet, except maybe in the inciting incident. That thing the 'big bad' does that sets the story in motion, that turns your protagonist's world upside-down and forces him on his journey. You've gotta set up your protagonist, your antagonist, the supporting characters, and by the end of it your protagonist should be set on a grand quest. What is the quest? What does the protagonist need to achieve? Is he willing to accept this quest? If not, why is he doing it? Does it relate to his inner conflict? What lies at the end of the quest? Is the protagonist after a particular individual? An object? A discovery? Who or what is it?
- Act two is your conflict act. This is where you start blowing shit up and have dinosaurs eating grannies. It should consist of constant moves and counter-moves on the parts of your protagonist and antagonist, or a sub-antagonist, like a henchman or something. What does the protagonist encounter on his quest? What happens? How does it relate to the central theme? Is the protagonist victorious? Does he lose? Why does he need to win or lose? How does this affect him? What does he do in response? How is the antagonist impacted? How does it affect him? What does he do in return? Things should constantly be heating up to a boiling point. Writers lately have been chopping act two into two sub-acts, divided by a mid-point, the middle of the entire story, that throws the protagonist in a new direction. Might want to do that, it can make the writing process potentially easier.
- Act two should end with the 'all is lost' moment. This is the lowest possible point your antagonist could possibly find himself in. This is where he's pushed clear over the edge and breaks down. This is a result of the antagonist exploiting the protagonist's critical weakness, that thing we talked about earlier. All hope is destroyed at this moment, just when the protagonist thought he was going to succeed in his quest. At this moment, he realizes that the only way he's possibly going to overcome the antagonistic force is to mend his fundamental flaw, transform and ascend. Which leads to...
- Your third act. The resolution. This is where your protagonist transforms for the better, figures out what he needs to do to defeat the antagonist, and starts kicking ass. He defeats the antagonist by exploiting a critical weakness. What is it? Hopefully you've set it up very early on, so it doesn't seem contrived. How is that weakness exploited? Within your third act is the climax, which is the 'now or never' moment that results in the vanquishing of the antagonist and transforms the protagonist forevermore -- but at what cost? What has he turned into? Is he better off? Has he changed for the worse?
- Following the climax is the denouement, during which time the action dies down and all the elements that you've introduced in your story are neatly buttoned up. Unless you want to end on a massive cliffhanger or something, but I'd refrain from leaving too many questions unanswered. If you're gonna use a cliffhanger, try and button as much as you can of everything else first. Bring satisfaction to the audience before you go introducing a whole other sinister element that would result in a new story.
- Speaking of your ending, what's your final shot? What's the final image that the audience is left with? Why is it significant? How does it relate to the central theme? Does it sum up that theme and convey it to the audience? Will it satisfy?
Hope that helps. Best of luck to you guys in your writing. Keep at it, and thanks again for all of your support.