An overlooked piece of information for developing the right character for your plot

Image by hansiline from Pixabay

Years ago, my screenwriting group and I wrote a comedy show for Turkish TV. It had a rich premise with amazing potential. We felt confident that it was going to be a big success.

We were interviewing one of the most talented comedians in the country. Or rather, he was interviewing us. He would be cast as the brother of the main character. We thought we would have to persuade him that his character was just as important as the main guy.

He asked us one question: “What is my flaw?”

We had already given him a detailed chart, pages…


Learn how to write them well

Photo by Hasib Khorami from Pexels

I have a writer-director friend who has been making an independent documentary film for over ten years. He has shot hundreds of hours of footage, but he is having difficulties editing and finishing his movie. He also had various troubles with producers, funding, etc.

The last time I asked him, he said he was very close to finishing it, but his producer wanted him to write a three-page treatment. He wasn’t excited to do it, but it wasn’t optional. I naively offered to help because, guess what, I love writing treatments! A treatment is a complete summary of a film’s…


Your story doesn’t finish until you say it is finished

My screenwriting group had a new project. We submitted the 120-page screenplay and crossed our fingers. The next day our new producer called and said: “We’ll need three more rewrites.” I almost got a heart attack!

I thought she meant we were going to write the whole thing three more times. But she was only guessing that there would be three more drafts — which was extremely optimistic. We ended up with twenty or more drafts but didn’t “rewrite” it. As we worked with the producers, directors, actors, we adjusted, trimmed, changed it in little ways at each stage. …


STORY BONES

A storyteller has to tell their story no matter what

Rocky (1976) — Image source: United Artists

When I watched Rocky for the first time, I was a nerdy teenage girl with no interest in sports. I also didn’t like Sylvester Stallone or the concept of “big guy with muscles.” I didn’t think I was the target audience; I don’t even know why I watched the movie. But I know that I secretly cried at the end.

Rocky Balboa is a lower-class boxer who fights in small gyms for peanuts. He also collects debt for a low-level loan shark. He is lonely and bullied by his social circle, except for Adrian, a shy girl who works at…


STORY BONES

How to use fantasy as a metaphor for life

Groundhog Day (1993) — Columbia Pictures

Is it romance or comedy? A fantasy or a philosophical drama? Groundhog Day started as one thing and ended up an entirely different film, breaking some lifelong friendships along the way.

In the end, Groundhog Day is all of it, beautifully knit together. It makes us think about concepts of time, memory, the meaning of life and allows us to ride a rollercoaster of emotions. As a bonus, it is hilarious.

Conceived by one, co-written by two

Danny Rubin first came up with an idea of a man living the same day repeatedly in the 1980s. Then years later, he had another idea of a man-child…


STORY BONES

Strength is weakness; weakness is strength

Image source: Disney

I have a theory about the origin of The Incredibles (2004). I believe it is a loose adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserables. The title openly suggests it. Brad Bird uses French references a lot (In this film, he has “Bomb Voyage.” Ratatouille is entirely about French culture). Also, when you study the plot and the characters of The Incredibles, you realize the central situation is almost identical:

Jean Valjean is an ex-convict who has to keep his identity secret. Inspector Javert is obsessed with finding him at a personal level. The inspector witnesses Valjean save someone’s life by…


The “good old days” is an illusion

Photo by Tim Samuel from Pexels

“You are the only person I know who thinks this way,” my friend said. Really? I didn’t know what I had just told her was controversial: I’d said the world was becoming a better place every day.

Our conversation started with a few words about injustice. She is from New Zealand and I am from Turkey. We casually talked about how simply being born in Turkey or India leaves you behind. Then I said that with the new technologies, things will change. People in Turkey or India have more opportunities each day thanks to the internet now. We can write…


Not to create nonsense

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

When my friends and I started our own screenwriting group, I thought I had full freedom to write anything that amused me.

I had years of experience as an advertising copywriter. In advertising, you tell stories based on creative briefs. A creative brief tells you what to say and how to say it; it gives you about thirty seconds and expects you to be creative. It works wonders for the job. But you often feel restricted, unable to express your true creativity. You begin to fantasize about the masterpieces you would create if only you had more space.

Writing TV…


STORY BONES

Jaws is not just about overcoming fears, there is more

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat” Jaws (1975) Source: Universal Pictures

Jaws was released on 20 June 1975; 46 years ago today. It was the highest-grossing movie until Star Wars (1977). It made Steven Spielberg who he was. It changed how the film industry operated — and it is possibly responsible for the near-extinction of sharks today.

In Turkey, the movie was released in 1981. As a kid, I wasn’t allowed to watch the film, but just knowing about the existence of Jaws was enough to terrify me for years. In my teen years, I lived by the Black Sea coast where shark attacks are non-existent. Yet, every time I swam…


STORY BONES

The power of re-writing — Maybe your story is entirely about something else

Monsters Inc. (2001) Source: Disney

It all started at one legendary lunch. In 1994, Pixar was about to finish Toy Story, the first computer-generated animation ever (released in 1995). Pixar creatives John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, and Joe Ranft went to lunch to talk about what to do next. They came up with four ideas, each of them turned into wildly successful movies later on: A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, WALL-E. These four movies grossed $1 billion at the box office. Wouldn’t you like to be a cockroach on the wall that day?

Monsters, Inc. was Pete Docter’s baby.

“When we were…

Nihan Kucukural

I wrote a dozen TV shows in Turkey. Now in New Zealand, I write about storytelling, parenting and whatever touches me. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1761037/

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