Friday, January 12, 2007

Story Versus Character

You can tell I haven't much to do today. I've visited all my favourite porn sites, [other writer's blogs] made a few calls, seriously thought about having a haircut and for a brief second considered outlining a proposed project. I wasn't really in the mood for that but I'm full of writing pep and vinegar so I'll inflict another post on you.

The title of the post is one that I saw on a writer's forum some time ago. There followed pages of argument over which was more important.

I could also say the same for High Concept, Three Act Structure, Use of Flashback, Use of Voice Over, What makes a good logline, and a million and one other aspects of screenwriting.

For the record, for a writer trying to break in, what makes a good log line is the most important advice, in my opinion.

You can have read all the advice under the sun. Know your Aristotle from your McKee inside out. Be able to quote passages from 'The Hero's Journey' but if no one wants to read your script it means spit.

In order for them to read your script, as a new writer you have to 'sell' it to them in a query letter or pitch. Them's the rules. The chances of anyone reading your 4 page missive on a Brother and Sister in 1960's Paris involving a young American in their complicated sexual relationship against a backdrop of the student riots, is slim, unless you reduce it to 'A Brother and Sister in 1960's Paris involve a young American in their complicated sexual relationship against a backdrop of the student riots.

Okay there's a sentence missing from that because I didn't see the ending of Bertolucci's 'The Dreamers' but the female lead had fantastic knockers.

The log line is an invaluable tool to see whether you have something that might interest people. Movie people. The best loglines tell the story and characters, not neccessarily in the fabled 25 words or less, but in as few words as possible.

But perhaps more importantly, the search for your best log line might reveal to you that your story isn't really all that appealing.

And for a writer breaking in that is what it really has to be. Because that promise of a damn good story also promises the potential of damn good characters to tell it. If you can't put that in a couple of sentences, ones that excite someone enough to read your script then all your hours of endevour have gone to waste.

There is no such thing as story versus character. Character is not a sub-set of story. Character and story are inextricably intertwined. So there!


potdoll said...


English Dave said...


Good Dog said...

I don't even remember The Dreamers having a story come to that.

Mmmmm, Eva Green.