Story Development – Hearts Truths

These are some of my thoughts on story and product development in games, films and TV. I am aggregating a list of hearts truths for me. Much of this is taken from experience making films and games, reading books and professors I had in grad school.

Some of these apply to creation of all types of products. I hope to update this every so often.


1. External Goal. What Does Character Want?

2. Internal Goal. What Does Character Need? What is character’s motivation.

3. Conflict. Goal + Conflict Makes Plot. No conflict, your experience is going to feel slow. Simple as that.

4. Antagonist. Light on Conflict? You might not have an antagonist. And, if you do, he/she might be doing the wrong thing. Is the antagonist preventing your character from reaching goal or simply a bad guy. Look at genre’s and then look at antagonists. If you are developing for kids, remember that they are used to scary antagonists (often times, the ant. in kids story is REALLY bad).

5. Relationships + Main Relationship. What is the main relationship? What is the point of it? What are the other relationships?

6. Other Characters exist for a few reasons: 1) Vehicle for Main Characters Expressions 2) Allowing Main Character to Achieve to Goal 3) Preventing Main Characters from Achieving Goals 4) As Facets of Main Characters Personality 5) Advancement of Plot. If a characters is not doing one of these things and is not part of an organization that is necessary to do one of these things, you should consider why you have that character.

7. Genre. What is the genre? How does this genre do and who does it play to? What kind of structures and rules does it have? Are you adhering to those rules? Brilliance that exists within a genre is still brilliance.

8. Audience. Who is going to watch this movie? Story should work for audience. Don’t forget this one. Is it something kids will want to see, but can’t because of rating? Do yourself a favor, find out who likes this kind of product before you start to market.

9. Elevator Pitch. Can this be done? Not always necessary, but usually helpful. Such is the case with most products, do you know what they are immediately? Remember that if you can’t describe the product quickly, neither can your consumer. Theoretically, this will work against viral growth.

10. Theme. What is the big beautiful idea? I have found that normally, this is tied closely to internal goal.

11. Indy or Mass. Is the film/game/product target the indy or mass market? Oten times, if it has an indy theme (usually specific vs. general) might be a tough mass sell.

12. Title. Does it entice? Does it describe the offering? Is it easy to remember?

13. Show Don’t Tell. Is writer showing this or telling it? Is the dialog on the nose?

14. Long scenes. Are there a bunch of scenes of preparation for an action? Deliver the liquor.

15. Backstory. Backstory is important, but usually best when told quickly and is woven into the story.

16. Literary Metonomy? This is my own concept, but i am sure it exists with a real term somewhere. It is derided from Objective Correlative in Shakespeare. Essentially this is an element that when shown represent something larger. Helpful in effecient storytelling.

17. Episodic. Is this just one little story after another with out escalation of conflict or connection?

18. Cliche. Have i seen this before? Is it following all the right beats, but not new.

19. Ups and Downs. Does the story have emotional ups and downs? It should. It works well when things oscillate between bad and good.

20. Too easy. Are you being too easy on your hero? Is he having a good time. Usually, this doesn’t work.

21. Too nice. Are you being too nice to your characters? Beat them up.22. Interesting characters. Will actors want to play the roles? Male and female alike.

22. Emotion outsells technology. Applies to all products I have developed.

23. Nothing wrong with simple things – On a personal note, I am usually more impressed by simple, low-budget products or entertainment that solve needs & problems or deliver a good experience than I am with complex products and entertainemnt that do the same thing.


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