Writers, at least fiction writers, pretty much live in a world of make-believe. We live in worlds of our own creation and in that living attempt to make those worlds real to everyone else; readers, listeners, watchers.
But it’s not as simple as sitting around spinning tales. Don’t we wish. There’s a whole lot that goes into writing a story and one aspect of that is research. No you can’t skip it.
Getting facts straight brings believability. If your setting is in the 1920’s Chicago you better know what you’re talking about to get the mood set and not flush readers and watchers right out of their ‘suspension of disbelief’ mode. Yes that goes for Sci Fi and Fantasy as well – get some facts in there that will make your ‘way out of our experience’ world more real. If you trim unreality with reality you bring belief and immersion.
And research doesn’t stop with just the story. A good writer knows his or her genre or field. Study it. If you write scripts read a lot of them; some of the classics and lots of the current crop. Study what everyone is doing, find the clichés and then find ways to stand them on their heads. Dig deep, reach for originality, Do something no one else has done.
Yes, it sounds easier than it is, but that’s your goal. Doesn’t matter what genre you work in, scifi/fantasy, drama, romance, adventure, comedy or a new one of your own creation – read a lot, know what’s out there, know the style, then find that opportunity and create something transformational.
And that’s where the magic comes in. Yep, magic is what it’s all about for writers. Play with your story when you’re on that fifth revision and can’t quite figure out why it isn’t all coming together the way you intended. That story that has become like an albatross since it’s inception will suddenly take wing if you find the magic and pull your head out of the rewrite doldrums.
When you’re tired, and tired of the story, wondering why you ever wanted to write it in the first place take that break and let your brain have a play day. Whip out the old ‘what if’ question and throw in some doozies. Look for the magic and you’ll find it.
You’ll also find the conflict. Hey, as writers we’ve long ago learned the lesson. If you have no conflict your story dies. There is, after all no story with no conflict. Play with your characters when you’re looking for that magic. What is it those newly created people in your newly created world want the most? What are their obstacles?
Don’t be nice to your people. Hit them over the head with it and make them squirm. The more the better. The more the people in your novel appear to be on the losing end the better the tension. The more the people in your script seem doomed – right up until the final scene, the more you’ll have an audience on the edge of their seats.
So turn the demons loose. They’ll reveal the art your protagonist must take through your story. They’ll lead the way and you’ll create a great story.
Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about her HERE.