Story is Everything


I know. Seems obvious but it’s so easy to lose sight of. Today, I tweeted three words. No not “Story is Everything.” I tweeted, “Fuck high concept.” This was not a dig at commercialism or a grand rebellion on my part. It was what I was doing at that very moment. I’ve been concentrating on rewriting lately which has caused me to learn a lot about myself and my journey struggling to become a paid screenwriter.

I love thrillers and I’m good at them. The things I can imagine people doing to each other comes in second only to what people actually do to each other. Unfortunately, my thriller screenplays bored those who had blessedly taken the time to read them. In my desperation to sell something I had clung to the words high concept like they were a raffle ticket for a million dollar drawing. I thought having a high concept idea that I was really excited about was all I needed. So I mined that high concept into the ground. Every subtext, situation, and scene had to revolve around this concept. By doing that I got some great moments but I was missing out on a great story.

The same thing happened with my contained thriller. I had two rooms and a hallway to work with and gall darn it these people were going to stay there. When I completed my screenplay with an entire 90 pages in two rooms and a hallway I counted it as a success. They want contained thrillers and I contained the hell out of this thriller. I also contained my ideas, my characters, and my story. When I went back to rewrite after some really harsh reviews I realized that I didn’t put the story first.

In these screenplays, I was asking what is the best way to show off this high concept, or what can I do to keep this contained. Instead, I should have been asking what is the best way to tell this story. What I found out during my rewrite is that when I let everything else go except the story things became much clearer. In the end, 65% of the contained thriller still takes place in two rooms and a hallway but the story became 100% more moving.

Once a date asked me what my favorite thing in life was. Bread was my first thought. Story is my truth.

2 responses »

  1. You may have gone through hell to get there, but you stand as a good example of why it pays to keep going. You just wrote and wrote and wrote. The you re-evaluated, invited others to offer their two cents, and went right back to the drawing board. Think about how many people never even get that far?

    Thanks for sharing! Your experience is very inspiring.

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