7 Storytelling Secrets for Filmmakers

Think of how many films you have seen till now? Did you wonder ever, how many have similar storylines? Today Hollywood is obsessed with sequels and remakes. Why? Is there a dearth of stories or there is no effort to create original content.

Sylvester Stallone fights the army alone, or Bruce Willis sabotages the terrorists’ plot or Arnold stands tall against the alien predators, the story is the same. Have the storytellers become lazy or are there so many stories only. We hear theories like – there are just 36 stories or 20 master plots which keep repeating using different themes.

Why are stories important?

The human brain is hardwired for stories. We are fond of stories for years since the beginning of time. Storytelling is the oldest form of communication. That is how we are aware of the history of the world as they are passed on to us as stories.

Human beings cannot resist a good story. There is a reason to it.We want to learn the lessons without actually having to suffer ourselves.We learn them by getting into shoes of the central character and begin to feel and identify with that person’ journey. We allow him to fight our battle and at the end come out victorious. We enrich our wisdom through his wins or failures. It is an entertaining life class. That is why storytelling will never die. It will keep on reinventing itself in forms, styles, and medium.It is a craft as well as an art.

So, how does one tell stories with freshness and new techniques? Here are the best seven storytelling secrets that will help you do that:

1- Repurpose the  Loglines of the classics:

The logline is your film in one sentence. It is the key message of your story, and you shouldn’t mess with it till you print your film. Invest as much time as you can, refining it. But once you finalize it, don’t fiddle with it.

If you struggle to fix your logline, read the ones from the classics you love. If any of the log lines resemble your story, use it as your benchmark. Align your story theme, message, and the setup to it. Check if your story resonates with the audience interests by sharing it with your near ones. If not, refine it further. If you add your theme to a proven script, chances are your story may turn out good as it sits on a sturdy spine.

Adding humor or other entertaining factors are peripheral.What the audience experiences from the story are most important.

2- Add sensory details to the main character:

Films are usually your Hero’s journey. The hero is the central character or your main character, devoid of its sex and being. The next job in hand is to identify that main character who will undergo the journey and in the end, realize the key message of your story.

You have to add the sensory details in character like his inner and outer dialogue, his belief system, his unresolved issues, his preferences and aspirations, his approach to a situation within or beyond his control. These sensory details add flesh and blood and make him a real person. Then the audience identifies and roots for him.

3-Disrupt the pattern:

When you are telling a story, the audience subconsciously tries to prepare his mind for the long haul. You become a great storyteller if you shift their consciousness and unsettle them by jumping right into the story. It is the hook which disrupts or interrupts their current pattern of thought. You need to grab their attention from their cellphones and need their eyeballs glued to your story.

4-  Reinvent the Three Acts:

Stories are about conflicts. Your character wants to get something, but he can’t get it. It makes the story dramatic. If you exaggerate the conflicts, raw emotions start to manifest. It should become a matter of life and death for the character. The more intense it gets, the more magnetic it becomes for the audience.

The mechanics of a story are the list of events in the hero’s journey. You can also call them plots. The three-act structure lays the basic three scenarios as the setup, the confrontation, and the resolution. You can further it to add two or more turning points to it.

You can reinvent the primary structure by turning your story upside down.When the character’s dreamy expectation of attaining its goals, meets with an explosive truth or reality which it never fathomed, What comes out of the character is a new person whose sensory details have altered to adapt to the new reality.

In every plot point, you can throw a new reality to the character and flesh out an evolved hero who will be re-challenged at the next plot you are about to throw. But you have to keep the basic fabric of the logline intact and uncover your plots organically to reach the inevitable end where your key message unravels.

5- Narrate with your craft:

The craft of a filmmaker or the writer is his aesthetics, but it has to have a holistic approach to excite the senses of the audience. Every individual, however, receives a story through his sensory function. Some visualize a story, some feel it, or some listen to it. The craft has to have the interplay of the visual, kinesthetic and auditory sensory language.

Narrate your story with all the three layers poetically interwoven that everyone receives his story in his way. You can introduce various frame narratives to make the story exciting and economize the time in such a way that you say a lot in a given span.

Frame narrative can be linear and nonlinear or cross cut between stories. It should serve as the visual key to the emotional tone of the scenes. Use the tools to visualize the emotions rhythmically.

6 – Delay the End:

You should always delay the inevitable. It holds the audience and tests them to their hilt of emotions. An ecstatic journey can never be forgotten, and if you can give that ride to the audience, they will want to go through it once again.  

Drag the story to delay the end create curiosities and restlessness. The character should be tested hard till the conclusions. Don’t make the story and the ending smooth. The hero has to earn it. If he earns it, the audience earns it, and at the end you earn it. But be wary of the fact that a drag may create drudgery.

7 – Don’t Giveaway the end:

The bottom line is that the ending should only come at the end. The audience has lived your setups, identified with the character, aspired with its goals, confronted the conflicts, rode the path but if you have given away the whole thing to them, they don’t need to sit through the end as they know the ending. Your story should never break the spell. It should not be the way they want it. Carefully craft the story to give the end at the end.



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