Developing Your Idea

What is the story?

Writing is re-writing Paul Abbott

All ideas are only as good as the characters that drive them, and all good ideas need to be dramatic.

Drama literally means 'action' - to act. What is the central dramatic action in your idea?

What is the story? Do you have a compelling enough journey for the character and audience to go on? If it’s a series or serial, do you have enough story to keep it going over a number of episodes or weeks?

Creating a coherent world is crucial. What are the rules of your story universe? What do and don't we need to know and see? Less is often more – the writer needs to know all the rules and background – but the audience only needs enough to stay hooked without being confused.

You can read a couple of great examples of this in the scripts for the first episodes of The Fades and Life on Mars.

What kind of story is it? Are you using a recognisable genre, such as thriller or romantic comedy? If you are inspired or influenced by an archetypal story of old, what is it that's different about your idea? You need to bring a fresh perspective to familiar tales, worlds, subjects and genres.

What the experience feels like for the audience is also crucial. What is the tone and feel of the story? Are they consistent and coherent? There's nothing more frustrating than a slasher movie that suddenly turns into a romcom (or vice versa). But then sometimes clashing genres can work if they’re handled intelligently.

And the emotional response you are trying to aim for is just as important. What physical reaction are you looking for? Something so poignant it makes the audience cry? So funny it make their sides hurt from laughing too much? So terrified it makes the hairs on the nape of their neck stand on end? So thrilling their hearts are in their mouths and they're on the edge of their seat?

You need to know why writing this idea now is important. Is it something that keeps you up at night and has really got under your skin? What’s it about? What’s the theme - what are you trying to explore, what are you hoping to communicate?

Don’t write anything you don’t care about just to be ‘expedient’ – because it will only ever be competent at best. Is it an idea that will strike a real chord with an audience? Who do you think will want to see it? If you have a burning desire to write, then it’s more likely to grab our attention.

Next - Form and Format

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