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Story Development

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Storytelling is one of the oldest and most powerful forms of communication. Whether you’re telling a story to your friends around a campfire or making a movie, the process of developing a story is essential to engage and entertain your audience.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the basics of story development in filmmaking, from idea to treatment. Whether you’re just getting started on your first story or you’re looking for ways to improve your writing process, learning more about story development can help you take your stories to the next level. So fire up your imagination, and let’s get started!

What is Story Development?

Story development is the process of taking an initial concept or idea and fleshing it out and refining it into a full-fledged story. This process often involves brainstorming, creating characters and subplots, and writing outlines.

While there is no one “right” way to develop a story, there are some common steps that many writers find helpful. By taking the time to develop their story before beginning to write a screenplay, writers can create a richer, more well-rounded script that will engage and entertain readers and viewers alike.

Steps of the story development process

This process typically involves three key stages:

  1. Brainstorming and Researching
  2. Plotting and Outlining
  3. Revising and Polishing

Brainstorming and Researching

In the first stage, the writer comes up with a general concept for the story and begins to flesh out the details. This stage often involves a lot of brainstorming and research to develop the story’s world, characters, and events.

Not the Time for Story Structure

It’s tempting to skip or shortchange the brainstorming step by jumping directly into the structural elements of a script: turning points, act breaks, inciting incidents, etc. There are many great books on this subject, such as Save the Cat, and understanding story structure is very important, but now is not the time to get bogged down by these aspects.

Your goal in the brainstorming stage is to allow yourself to be as creative and unencumbered as possible. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to apply structure at a later time.

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Be creative, and don’t overthink it

This part is about daydreaming and following wherever your imagination takes you. David Lynch famously uses transcendental meditation as part of his process to find story ideas. He’s said that he often just gets a tiny fragment of an idea but that, at other times, entire stories pour out in a single mediation session.

The point is to do what feels natural to you. There’s no need to worry about the marketability of a story, the order of events, or story structure at this point. Just trust in yourself and your imagination and let the story come to you.

Plotting and Outlining

Once the writer understands the core of the story well, they will begin to outline the main events of the plot and character arcs. This stage is important for organizing the story and making sure that all the pieces fit together.

The writer will also begin to edit during this stage, cutting anything that doesn’t further the story or add to the characters.

This can be done with pen and paper, with index cards, or even on a computer using specialized software or just a plain word processor. The options are nearly endless. Just do what feels most natural to you.

Revision and polishing

After the outline is complete, the writer will start working on a treatment.

What is a treatment?

A treatment is a detailed overview of the story that allows the writer to flesh out all major scenes and sequences of the film. The treatment should be written in prose and includes character names and descriptions but generally does not include dialogue. Important dialogue could be included in rare cases but generally should be omitted.

How long is a treatment?

Most treatments are generally five to ten pages long. However, in rare cases, they can reach upwards of thirty or forty pages in length.

If you’re writing a treatment for yourself, simply as a way to create an expanded outline in preparation for writing the screenplay, then the page count doesn’t really matter.

However, if this is something you’re going to share with potential investors, studios, collaborators, etc., then you should aim to keep the treatment under ten pages max.

What’s next?

Now that you have a general understanding of the story development process, you’re ready to start brainstorming your own ideas! In the next section, we’ll take a look at some of the best places to find story ideas.

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