Plot | Character
Ten-to-twenty-minute short stories don't have time
to give character histories, introduce many characters, make elaborate
plot setups, or do much unwinding at the end. They have few characters,
simple and direct plots, and no unwinding.
The synopsis for Prom
a thirty-minute story, is too long for a ten page story. If you
write a similar story, launch right into the problem with Shaun having
Tim ask Laura for a date for Shaun. Tim lies to Laura about Shaun, and
asks for a date himself. He lies to Shaun, saying she already has a date.
Shaun needs to talk to Dave the Geek about a math problem. Dave is also
Laura's tutor and he tells Shaun that Laura actually likes him, but she
is going to the prom with Tim because he asked first. Shaun immediately
wants to fight Tim, but Dave tells him not to act like Tim, but to talk
to Laura like a real person, and just refute the lies. If Laura wants to
go with him, she has reason enough to dump Tim. Shaun realizes Dave is
really a nice guy. He overcomes his shyness and convinces Laura that Tim
told her lies, and gets the prom date.
For short scripts, choose less complicated problems.
Use no more main characters than necessary. Know exactly what the story
is about and don't sidetrack. For example, this short version is about
overcoming shyness and what can happen if shyness prevents you from taking
responsibility for your life. Any subplot should be very integrated with
the main plot so it doesn't take time to develop by itself. The main subplot
is that Shaun's communicating with Dave brought understanding of Dave and
opened up an entire new world of friendship and benefits, The second subplot,
which is undeveloped in the above short synopsis, is Tim's bitter lesson
of losing his best friend because of his selfish actions. The shorter the
story, the fewer the obstacles and complications that should arise.
For Short Scripts
If you meet a man at a bus stop, say hello and part,
you learn very little about him. He could be an ax-murderer or a billionaire,
or both. The same can happen in a short script, so it is essential to turn
up the focus on the characters. There are several ways to do that.
First, make sure the audience feels strongly about
the characters. The good guy should be likable, the bad guy gut wrenching.
For example, the first thing the bad guy might do is get angry and abuse
something. Beyond that, the audience should feel for the situation. They
might pity the good guy in his plight or admire him for facing danger,
or feel outrage at the bad guy.
The character should have one, or at the most two,
strong character traits. He might be very smart, but have no street smarts.
Very perceptive. Very pushy. Very lazy. Very dishonest. Hint:
bring strong traits out in subtle ways. Instead of the smart guy showing
everyone up by answering a difficult question, let him give the answer
Whatever it is the character wants (his motivation)
should be the main thing on his mind, if not the only thing, from page
one to page last. For example, if Julie loses her mother's very expensive
ring and really wants to find it before her parents get home from their
trip, she won't be distracted by requests for dates, visits to her grandparents,
and watching television all day. However, something on equal par, like
the risk of losing a previously scheduled date with her dream-boat of two
years, might be an interesting complication, especially if he becomes the
key to finding the lost ring.
The characters should surround themselves with symbols
of their character. The power executive might dress in a pin stripe suit,
wing-tip shoes, power tie, and carry a thin leather briefcase with a portable
phone inside. He jets to the islands for the weekend, has club memberships,
serves on committees. He drives a BMW with a Fax machine. He has a large
house inside a burb with a privacy wall, an exercise machine in one room,
a dog who bites him, and a kid he calls by the wrong name. Down the street
lives a poor seven-year-old boy in a two-bed apartment, with a dog named
Bones, and Aunt Carey, who would do anything for him. He dresses in distressed
blue jeans, clean pull over shirts and sneakers. In a vacant lot he has
a Head Hunter's club that collects dead animal skulls and doll heads, which
are used primarily to frighten away girls.
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