subplots, motivation, theme, beats and backstory….As a writer,
you’ve no doubt heard these terms flung around as essentials
of every story. But if asked to give a solid, descriptive,
user-friendly definition to a writing colleague (and toss in an
example from a movie for illustration purposes, just for the fun
of it), could you?
Yeah. Me either. Lucky for us, Linda Seger
can—and does—magnificently in her Making a Good Script Great.
Now, don’t balk because it sounds like a script writer’s book
(it is) and because it probably focuses on structure (it does).
With an abundance of usable, pertinent and insightful
information, Seger’s book is a keeper for your reference shelf.
Broken into four distinctive and
information-packed sections: Story Structure, Idea Development,
Character Development and A Case Study, Seger’s book goes beyond
the typical how-to spiel by drawing on a variety of popular
movies to define each element of structure she introduces.
She begins the book with a broad overview of
the value and necessity of structure in any piece of fiction. If
you’re reading to improve your plot, start here. By the time you
move on to section two, you’ll have a stronger grasp of not only
why your fiction needs structure but how to work it in at any
stage of your manuscript. Especially of note is the information
on how to strengthen your sagging middles. No, not sit ups and
crunches, but that elusive swampland known as Act 2, where good
beginnings sometimes stall and become the unfinished stories
filling our dresser drawers.
Idea Development is relatively brief and
probably the section most applicable to screenwriters looking to
get Hollywood on board with their next big idea, but be sure to
at least skim it. "Making It Commercial" and "Creating the Myth"
will give fiction writers food for thought in developing the
universal theme—the underlying emotion to help your story appeal
to the widest audience possible.
Have trouble creating characters? Be sure to
check out the third section on character development. The very
nature of bringing a story to life via a screenplay relies on
visual and verbal elements, not exposition, to create character.
Translated from scripts to manuscripts, this is simple: show,
don’t tell. I venture to say that even published fiction writers
might learn a trick or two from Seger’s excellent advice and
questions designed to strengthen and deepen character.
If you’ve got plot problems, structure issues
or character concerns, be sure to pick up Linda Seger’s
Making a Good Script Great. You’ll never look at movie
structure the same way again….
About the author:
Beth Morrow has written in just about every
genre but screenwriting. A freelancer who loves writing fiction,
her latest article can be found in the October 2006 Romance
Writers Report on creating dynamic characters through authentic
dialogue. Visit her and her almost-daily writing blog on the web