As I’ve written before, I’ve been ‘under the weather’ for the last six weeks but now as my recovery is behind me it is time to get back to work on the screenwriting. The November article for the Screenwriting Workshop is going to up late in the month as I have to get back to my research and writing. The topic will be rewriting your screenwriting. I did have to cancel my Workshop the third week of October. I was so disappointed to do that, however, plans are coming together for a longer and better Workshop for the new year. Keep your eyes on this site for details.
Today I was thinking of how I come up with ideas. I have a number of different screenplay ideas but how do I develop them from an idea to an idea that can be written? What steps need to completed to turn a simple thought to a screenplay? Of course you can go through the first four chapters of the Workshop, but instead let’s discuss some thoughts here.
It’s 3am and you wake up from a dream that was interesting and you think to yourself, “Hey, that would make an interesting idea for a screenplay.” That’s exactly what happened to me while I laid in the hospital. I had a dream that gave me the idea we’re going to use to develop the screenplay.
I had a dream where there was a very elderly man in England had been holding on to his house for years while developers have been offering the man hundreds of thousands of pounds to buy the land. The elderly man wants to pass the house to his family, however, he had never married. His eldest brother and his wife had a large family but had moved to Canada in 1925 when the elderly man was just a baby. The elderly man hires a private investigator to find the eldest male direct descendant. This turns out to be a newly married 30 year old great-grandson. The great-grandson and his wife travel to England to accept the house.
Where do we start? Do we want to put names to the different characters? Should be boil the idea down to its core. What is the story about? What about the Log Line? I envision this story to be about family and supporting your family whether you agree with them or not. Family first. We can show this theme between the great-grandson and his wife as well as the elderly man and the great-grandson. Let’s put some names to the characters for simple fact that it’s hard to keep typing these long character descriptions.
Elderly man who owns the house - Simon Hastings (Mentor) The Great-Grandson - Derek Hastings (Hero) The Great-Grandson's Wife - Cynthia Hastings (Friend) The Developer - Ronald Wainwright (Villain)
In brackets I have already assigned the characters roles the different will be filling. Although the story focuses on Simon’s fight to keep his house he is not the Hero. The Hero makes decisions and always pushes the story forward. Simon may start the story moving by looking for his long lost family, it is actually Derek who will be push story forward. The villain is a real estate company but a story needs a single individual who represents the corporation. This will be Ronald Wainwright, the president and CEO of the company. The attempts to buy the house has been going on so long that the CEO himself is now completely involved.
We’re going to need a working title as well as a Log Line. Working titles should be short and easy to say when telling others your story. What would make a good working title? I want the theme to appear in the title so I need to figure out something with the word FAMILY in it. After some thought I think simple works best.
THE FAMILY HOUSE
I like that. It’s short, clean, simple and describes what the story is about. So next would be the log line. I’ve written a lot about Log Lines in the past, so for this article I’m going to skip the details for the time being. Here’s the Log Line I was able to come up with.
A newly married man living in Canada is brought to England to claim ownership of his families ancestral house before it falls into the hands of a condo developer.
What you will see in the November Workshop article, the first step of rewriting your screenwriting is to review and rewrite your Log Line if needed so at the moment this one will work well enough. Right now we move on to the developing the characters. While Derek is the Hero of our story it is Simon we need to understand the most before we move to developing the story. Why is Simon so determined to pass the house to a man he’s never met as long as he’s family. What is the history of the house? How long has the Hastings family lived in his house? What if Simon’s great-grandfather built the home in Winchmore Hill in the mid 1800s and it’s been passed down to the eldest male offspring ever since except when Derek’s great-grandfather moved to Canada, the house was passed to Simon, the youngest child. Now with him in his 90’s, Simon wants to pass the house back to his brother’s family where it belongs.
This leads us back to the Hero, Derek. Who is Derek Hastings? We need to give the hero his flaw. Money needs to be an issue so that with Ronald offers Derek cash for house, Derek has to be tempted. Let’s say Derek recently lost his job with a major banking company. His wife, Cynthia is a grade school teacher. They live in a small apartment and she his having trouble carrying the apartment while Derek is not working. With summer holidays only weeks away, Cynthia is going to move to unemployment and things are going to get even tougher. We need to make sure the Hero accepts the change in his life when it’s presented to him. His wife will offer some form of opposition at first.
Can you see how when building characters, you start building the story as well. We have story of an unemployed man whose life is suddenly turned upside down when he is told his great-grand uncle wishes to pass the family house down to him. What sort of problems can happen to Derek while in England? Of course, like many stories, the Mentor character will die. His death before the home is transferred to Derek is going to make things more difficult. Ronald is going to try to claim the home but Derek will stand strong. Before Simon’s death, there could be a scene where Ronald meets with Derek and tempts the Canadian with a deal. This is where you need to get your cue cards out and start writing down different problems that Derek is going to have to deal with.
After we have our list of ideas lets build the 9 Story Pillars. We need to start with the end. Just like going on vacation, you always need to know where your going before you start the journey. I see this story ending with the little guy defeating the big corporation with the public surrounding him and cheering him on. So that’s my ending.
The End : With thousands of supporters surrounding the house, Derek plays his final card and Ronald is arrested for home fraud.
The Beginning : Derek and his wife are having an argument about money while the news on the TV shows a story about Simon fighting to keep his 200-year old home in the family.
Inciting Incident : The Private Investigator arrives and tells Derek and his wife that they are the sole heirs of the 200-year old Hastings house in England.
Plot Point I : After serious and often loud discussion, Derek and Cynthia arrive in England to meet with Simon
First Obstacle : English immigration authorities review Derek and Cynthia’s claim and they need to decide if he is able to remain in the country and take ownership of the house.
Midpoint : After a wonderful dinner with Simon talking about the family’s history, Derek meets Ronald when the developer arrives at the door to make Derek and Simon an offer.
Second Obstacle : Simon suddenly dies of a heart attack while doing a TV interview with Derek.
Plot Point II : Ronald takes Simon’s will to court in an attempt to throw it out so he could claim the land based on some information Ronald discovered while doing research on the history of the property.
Climax : Derek loses the court case and Ronald and the development company is awarded the house and property.
This story will require a great deal of research. I would need to determine the laws of England that surround home ownership and transfer of home ownership as well immigration and visitation laws. I would then need to determine how Ronald could generate paperwork claiming his ownership claim was more valid than Simon’s wishes. That’s the joy of story development – Researching the topic. Start on internet, keeping to reputable sites. I will start with various websites in England such as legal and ownership.
So that is how we develop a simple idea into the beginning of a story. There is still a lot of work involved before I would start working on the screenplay itself, as well as the building of the other story cards. But we have a great start on what could be a funny and emotional story about family and family history.
Thanks for following along