The playwright and film-maker, David Mamet, once remarked that,
“Stories happen because somebody wants something and has trouble getting it.”
- The “Somebody”… gives us a character. Not just a name, but a person in a specific place, at a specific time, living a specific life.
- The “Wants Something”… gives us a goal, the ‘story question’ that will be what this story is ‘about’.
Sometimes this is an opportunity to do something that the character wants: to travel, to climb a mountain, to woo the person of their dreams, and so on.
And sometimes it’s a dilemma forced onto the character: to flee the alien invasion, escape the stalker or survive a Tsunami.
And it might be largely internal, for example in a story built around a character battling grief or injustice.
- And “Has Trouble Getting It”… gives us the conflict. It provides obstacles that the character must overcome to achieve their goal. These obstacles will ask difficult questions, and the response will come to change and define the character.
These three elements together are the makings of a basic storyline. But there’s no stopping there. Now you have to build it up from the ground, work out what makes this story great and ask yourself:
What’s interesting, exciting, unusual, compelling, inspiring, different about it?
Easy, eh? Now the basics are not quite so basic, are they?
It’s time to add the ‘great’ and write that story!