Introducing the Story Noun

workshop

Do you remember your grammar school lessons? What is a noun? I was taught that noun is a person, place or thing, which why I call the first step of the development process the Story Noun. We’re your to take our story idea and turn into a full sentence that includes a person, a place and a thing. The person is the HERO of the story. This is the character with whom the story will focus on. The place is the LOCATION where the story happens and finally the thing is the PLOT of the story.

The Story Noun is written in the form of a What if question because throughout the development process you will continue to ask yourself, What if? This is the question which the process will answer. What if a teenager (person) travelled back in time (place) and accidentally prevented his parents meeting (thing)? This question became the first Back to the Future film. So while we discuss the development process follow along and use it to create the Story Noun of your idea.

So who is the hero of your screenplay? Looking at my selected idea the hero would seem to be the superhero character. But are there other options? What would a Superman story be like from Lois Lane’s perspective? By selecting a less obvious hero you can give your story idea an interesting twist. Who is your idea’s obvious hero and is there someone less obvious would would make a more interesting hero? With my Cupid Falls in Love idea the obvious hero of the story would be Cupid himself but I envision a story where the woman who Cupid falls in love plays the hero of the story. The next chapter will discuss the importance of the hero’s role but for now we just need to understand that there is no greater character then the hero.

Assignment 1-3

Who is the hero of your idea? Write down some basic details 
about your choice of hero.

Example 1-3

The Superhero character would be the best choice for hero. 
I haven’t decided what powers, if any, he is going to have.

Now consider your story’s location. The location can completely change the type of story your writing. What if Star Wars was set on Earth instead of a “…galaxy far, far away.”? What if Juno was set in New York rather than Minnesota? What if it was set in Afghanistan? The location of your story must add to the conflict within your story. The location conflict in Juno is based on how the general population see her. If set in New York she would just be a statistic while in Afghanistan should would probably be executed. In a small Minnesota town she is unique but not unheard of. Most of the general population still frown upon pre-marital sex. A great example of this is the scene with the ultrasound technician. Where is your set? Do you mention a location in your idea? Is it the best option? What would change if you changed the location? Most superhero stories are typically set in a big, American city. I prefer to set my story in Toronto, Canada. As a city of 2.6 million there is enough people to showcase various views on a superhero in the city.

Assignment 1-4

Where is your story set? Would changing it change the 
idea at all? Is your choice of setting the best 
possible?

Example 1-4

After some thought I’ve decided that setting in Toronto 
would be a good idea. I know the city well which will 
make future research easier.

Finally we need to define the thing of the Story Noun. This is what happens to our hero during the screenplay. This is the plot of the story. Chapter Four is where we’re going to break out the details, but at this point we need to decide on the basic plot line of our story. Often this is where the villain first his appearance in the development process. To have a story you need a plot and to have a plot you need to have conflict and to have conflict you would need a character who opposes the hero. In my Superhero vs. The City idea, the city can not be the hero. While there is some conflict between the hero and the location it’s not enough to be the villain. We need to pick an individual to play the role of the villain. It needs to be someone who will be more than a match against your hero. I see the powerful and very corrupt mayor of the city as the villain of my idea. The mayor is an excellent choice to represent a city as he is supposed to be the voice of the city. He is a villain who would be difficult to get close to which will add to the conflict of the story. In both the Simpsons’ Movie and Ghostbusters the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) was the opposing force and was represented by a single individual. When creating a villain to represent a group of people that individual should present everything that is wrong with the organization. The mayor will represent a defective, corrupt city government.

While the villain is not the plot, at this early stage of development defeating the villain is the ‘big picture’ plot line for the idea. In the next section we will start developing things a little more detailed and then in Chapter 4, we will start to build the plot.

Assignment 1-5

Once you have determined who your villain, build a Story 
Noun foryour story

Example 1-5

What if a Superhero roaming the dark streets of Toronto 
uncovers a corrupt mayor who will do anything to keep 
himself in office?

It’s not a Log Line (coming soon) but it’s more than an idea. It’s something loosely written that will give our development process something to answer. It’s a foundation? How does the superhero uncover the corruption and how did he track it back to the mayor? Those are just two of the questions we’re going to have to answer and it’s those answers that will become our story.

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