Let’s say you have a storyline, but don’t know how to develop it into a full length book, or comic, or screenplay. If so, don’t worry. After five steps, you’ll have a well-developed story in hands. So, stay with me.
STEP 1: Choose the type
Before starting writing/drawing/filming, it’s really important that you define what type of story you are about to tell. Here are some examples:
- Abusive relationship leading to tragedy (Wuthering Heights, Sakura Gari)
- Revenge for a greater good (V for Vendetta, The Crow)
- Family in times of war (The House of the Spirits, Star Wars)
- Becoming famous (Burlesque, Skip Beat)
- Forgiveness (Prayers for Bobby, The Princess’ Man)
- Good person turning bad (Black Swan, Tokyo Ghouls)
Define your story with the least amount of words possible. Make it general.
STEP 2: Tie the ends
After defining a type, it’s time to connect beginning to ending. If they are connected, the story becomes a circle. This circle is what you are aiming for and here is why: storytelling is a form of teaching. And teaching
must make sense. For example, the Hunger Games teaches us that the weak
can overpower the strong (because the main characters take down the oppressive government). Battle Royale teaches us that the weak will
never overcome the strong
(because the main characters don’t get even close to taking down the oppressive government). So, why do we see more artistic value in
Battle Royale than we see in Hunger Games? Because the teaching of
Battle Royale is realistic. It’s what we see everyday in the news and
history books. It’s about having no control over your own government. It’s about having no real importance in an election. Battle Royale speaks closer to home.
This circle is what makes an average story brilliant.
Based on your type of story, what do you wanna teach? What is the truest thing you can teach?
As a person that never had a great relationship, If I were to write a starcrossed lovers type of story, maybe I would teach people that love scars you for life. That is the truest thing for me right now. This phrase “love scars you for life” already hints me how to end my story. Instead of killing my starcrossed lovers, maybe I could force them to live apart, forever wondering what if (Roman Holiday, Casablanca, Blue is the Warmest Color).
What do you wanna teach? Make it as personal as possible and prove your own point. Define the ending.
STEP 3: Create basic scenes
You already have a type of story and it’s ending. Now, create scenes that are essential for the narrative to go from point A (beginning) to point B (ending). Without these scenes, you wouldn’t have a story to tell. For example, The Crow. The Crow is the story or Eric Draven, a rockstar, that is killed with his girlfriend by a group of gangsters. He comes back to avenge their death. Eric kills the gang members and returns to his girlfriend’s side in the afterlife.
Which scenes are essential for The Crow to happen?
- Eric and his girlfriend (Shelly Webster) die in tragic ways.
- Eric returns from death
- Eric prepares himself for revenge
- Eric encounters the gangsters and kills them one by one
- Eric kills the leader of the gang
- Shelly guides Eric back to death
If you take away any of these scenes, the story will look strange or incomplete. Take away the tragic death, and the revenge makes no sense. Take away the preparation time, and the story will look rushed. Take away Shelly guiding him back to death, and the journey will look like it was all for nothing.
Write down five to eight scenes that MUST happen.
STEP 4: Fill the gaps
Each basic scene will leave you with blank spaces to complete. For example, Eric and Shelly die in tragic ways, but how were they before death? How was life before that? Did they live together? Or shared great memories? Did they indeed loved each other?
Were they happy?
And how their deaths will change the world? How friends will react? What will happen to their house and belongings after they are gone?
You see, each basic scene requires other less essential scenes, but not less important. Filling these gaps is what make a plot consistent.
In The Crow, all questions I mentioned are answered. Eric and Shelly were about to get married, they lived in a rooftop apartment with a cat. They had a local kid as friend (this kid is left devastated). Most of their things had been sold, including Shelly’s engagement ring (that Eric retrieves amid killing gangsters).
Make as many questions for each basic scene as possible, and answer them all. Secondary scenes will be shown to you like magic. They will make total
sense, not just random plots
thrown there to make the narrative exciting, but important information about the journey.
Choose your favorite secondary scenes and place them among basic ones.
STEP 5: Details and symbolism
Once you’ve finished choosing the scenes, it’s time to add color and shading to your project. And by that I mean details and symbolism. Think of locations, clothing, way of speaking, culture, background… the whole aesthetic. Detail is what makes a story immersive.
There are many “aesthetic packs” you can choose from, for example, steampunk, cyberpunk, neo-noir, urban, wuxia, retro, victorian, dieselpunk, biopunk, utopic, eroded, bohemian, mystical, gothic, but you can create your own atmosphere as well.
Not at all necessary, but a great complement for most stories. In Naruto realm, Naruto and his friend/rival Sasuke represents yin-yang. Naruto is the sun. Sasuke is the moon. When there are too far apart, the world around them goes into chaos. When they are close, there’s peace.
Being sun and moon, they also represent the light and the darkness, with Naruto promoting peace, and Sasuke promoting chaos.
Another highly symbolic story is Life is Strange, in which Chloe represents a butterfly and Max represents a doe. These animals appear every time something important is about to happen.
Tokyo Ghouls is also full of symbolism, associating characters with tarot cards (like Juuzou representing the Death card), and important scenes with flowers (like red spider lily representing Kaneki’s torture and birth as a ghoul).
If it fits the context, associate your characters and/or scenes to nature, ideas or cultural aspects.
So, putting it simple, we have:
Step 1: Choose a type of story
Step 2: Define the ending based on your point of view
Step 3: List basic scenes that can’t be eliminated
Step 4: Create secondary scenes related to the basic ones
Step 5: Add an aesthetic to your world and apply symbolism if needed.
I really hope it will help you somehow. Any questions, just message me. :D