Help my story is horrible!

CalebKCalebK Website User Posts: 435
Me and a friend came up with a really cool premise for a short film.... Unfortunately we wrote it and it's horrible!
The conversation is Un natural, with long monologs explaining things
The charecters are allways happy
And it just altogether is pretty bad
I know this is what you call a "rough draft" but neither of us can come up with good ideas for it.... It would be a shame that such a good plot was put to waste.


  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,267 Ambassador
    edited June 2014
    A plot is an event. A story is how the characters are involved in and react to an event. Without knowing your premise or characters, I can't give detailed advice, but:
    It's a rough draft. Most Hollywood movies go through 5-10 drafts if not 20-30. Patience. First drafts always suck.
    The key is your characters. Figure out who they are outside the events of the plot. When you know who they are, the reactions and dialog will to work. You don't need a full biography, but you need to understand the basic behavior and thoughts.
    Seriously Caleb, a full discussion of "how to fix a story" is thousands of pages, but I will argue character first.
    I'll post more later. :-)
  • rgbiirgbii Website User Posts: 965 Just Starting Out
    Many writing books and classes teach the concept of the "sh!##y first draft".  The idea is to get the basic idea on paper without worrying about making it perfect - that's what rewrites are for.    So it sounds like you've done a great job so far  :)
    In the classes I've taken, the next step would be to get some 'what ifs' from fellow writers by letting them read the script or better yet, a table read.   I personally only let writers that understand the concept of a sh!##y first draft read mine, since those that don't might think it's just sh!##y and not a sh!##y first draft.
    'what ifs' are a nice way to phrase suggestions. 'what if you did this or that' rather than 'this sucks, you should change it'.
    I suggest having a few people read it that will offer some 'what ifs', preferably people that also write.  I'd be more than happy to take a look.

    Based on the brief description in your OP, the only suggestions that came to mind is to add a character (or change an existing one), to be a bit rude and have a bad habit of interrupting people.
    This will break up the long monologues and make them less happy, which also means part of the 'explanations' can now be argued with this character, creating more tension or drama. 
    A variation of that is rather than a character, there are a series of events that they have to deal with during the discussion that keeps interrupting them, causing tension or adventure.
    Good luck with your story and have fun with it :)
  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,267 Ambassador
    Richard raises good points.
    Anyway--back to Plot vs. Story.
    So a plot is a series of events--Using Star Wars IV as a classic example, it's PLOT it simple. Save the Princess and blow up the Death Star. So many variations of "Save person and eliminate enemy superweapon," movies exist that a full list would be impossible, but here's one you didn't think of. "Saving Private Ryan." On the surface, "Saving Private Ryan" would be a totally different film than "Star Wars: A New Hope," yet, when you break it down, both movies are "Go here and save this person, and, along the way, stop the bad guys from doing something." They really are the same basic plot.
    STORY is about character--While Star Wars and Private Ryan are both set during wars, the different characters make the films different. One film has a squad of US military, the other has a farm boy, smuggler, old dude, Wookie and a couple of droids. The details of what happens in the films from moment to moment is different. The way the characters talk is different. The details of setting are different. The STORY is different.
    Plot's are basically the same. Now I am stretching a little bit for comparision, but I'm pretty valid here.
    So--I don't know your premise and plot. Let's talk character, which seems to be where your complaints are.
    To separate your characters you have to know what makes them different. Age, education, where they grew up, religion, gender, general personality, and more--all this things add up to make a character's personality. Now, this doesn't mean you have to write the entire life story of a character to understand him or her, but you do need to think.
    Let's assume you're doing an action short, and you have two main characters--both grunt soldiers on a front line. These characters have their military position and mission in common, but what are the differences. If one character was a farm boy in the middle of nowhere before joining the army he's going to react differently than his buddy who grew up in a major city. If the farm boy has parents at home worrying and the city boy's parents are both dead, they're going to react differently. If one is devout in some Faith and the other is an atheist, then, again, these are ways they're going to look at the world differently. If one of the guys is a smartass, but everyone in school thought he was funny, and the other guy is also a smartass, but everyone in school thought he was annoying, THAT will make them different.
    So--the stuff I am posting below comes from my Role-Playing Game rules (because I always felt that the whole Good/Evil, Lawful/Neutral "Alignment" system was flawed) for character generation. I DO make all my players define these pairs because they are a good start to building a personality--this isn't an ending point, but I think this will be a good starting point to help you think about character--because, as I said above, personality and background change how people speak.
    (Note, the section below is copyright 2010, Michael M. Miller and is loosely excerpted from the "Pangaea: After Atlantis" RPG--permission is granted for all readers here to use and adapt these concepts as aids to character building, but don't go publishing any RPG's based off this stuff. ;-) )
    Hopefully this will be useful for you. Otherwaise, ****, this is a hell of a long post. ;-)
    Personality Paradigms:
    Rather than attempt to break up the wide range of personality types and ethical views into a Simple Law/Chaos, Good/Evil matrix, the following pairs of personality facets are used. They are intended to be somewhat vague and overlapping. There is no “good vs. bad” in these pairings, but they do evoke guidelines for how a character should behave. There is room for flexibility, and a character who has been given one paradigm may still behave as if he had its opposite. A “Selfish” character is not incapable of going outside himself and putting others ahead of himself, and an “Altruistic” character is still capable of putting himself first.  A  Character may choose to be “VERY” in one paradigm (i.e. “Very Selfish).
    1) Selfish/Altruistic:
        *Selfish characters are mostly concerned with either self or immediate surroundings. They may be Short-sighted or unconcerned with external factors.
        *Altruistic: Looks outside immediate environs, may be more likely to plan in the long-term, look at a “big picture” or sacrifice own comfort for others.
    2) Passive/Aggressive:
        *Passive characters are more likely to be pensive, introverted or to consider all factors before acting. More likely to have confidence issues or be a follower.
        *Aggressive: More likely to be outspoken, extroverted or action oriented. Possibly more confident or “leader oriented.”
    3) Honorable/Dishonorable:
        *Honorable characters are more likely to keep his promises and to live up to the standards he sets for himself and others. Does not mean character is “good.” But the character will live up to some kind of code of ethics.
        *Dishonorablecharacters are more likely to break his word (or look for loopholes), violate common morality or the precepts by which he claims to live.  Does not mean the character is “evil,” but character is certainly likely to put his own interests above all.
    4) Ordered/Disordered:
        *Ordered characters are more likely to be organized, lawful, or rigid in behavior and beliefs.
        *Disordered characters are more likely to be slovenly, chaotic, or flexible in action and beliefs
    5) Believer/Skeptic
        *Believers are more likely to hold strong faith in his opinions and beliefs, possibly more rigid in action, and probably less likely to change his mind once arriving at a conclusion.
        *Skeptics are more likely to question the actions of himself or others, less likely to hold fast to a single form of belief or to lock into strong, unshakable opinions.
    6) Fervent/Restrained:
        *Fervent characters are more passionate, expressive or emotional. Less likely to “hold himself back,” or to take the opinions of others into account.
        *Restrained: More controlled, intellectual or logical, less likely to “cut loose” or to impress himself upon others.
    7) Apathetic/Inquisitive
        *Apathetic characters are more likely to be complacent, to accept the status quo, or to be “going through the motions.” May be hidebound, more accepting of tradition, or less questioning.
        *Inquisitive characters are more likely to accept or seek new knowledge or situations. May be curious or dissatisfied with his surrounding, or may be a wanderer or dreamer.
    Example Character Creation: (Note: This character was created in the context of a Fantasy Role-Playing Game, but, again, a lot of the thought processes that go into making an RPG character works for writing a script or story. In the below example, you'll see references to in-game mechanics that aren't reproduced here, but I leave that in to make a point: Note how the character "Attributes"--you know the stuff that gets numbers for stats--effect how I created this guy's background and his personality. More importantly, note how the basic concept of the character effects where I placed his Attributes.
    Also note that I gave a quick description below of a Motivation (Why he does what he does), an Important Person (Someone who he has emotional attachment to--also someone who could be broguht into the story), a Friend, an Enemy and a Secret for Jeremyah. Everyone has these, and even just figuring these out for a major character can help.
    One more word of explaination: This particular rules-set is geared more towards "storytelling" games than "roll lots of dice and kill everything" games. Below, after all Jeremyah's "Superior/Side Talents" and his "Flaw" are parenthetical statements. These, in the game rules are "Tells," which means that those phrases are written on the character sheet. The "Tell" is a storytelling tool. Rather than tell the other players, Jeremyah is a "Master of Languages," I just note that he "often swears in foreign tounges." In other words, I looked for something about his skill with languages and turned it into part of his personality. Other players should be able to figure out that, if Jeremyah can CURSE in Komatii, he can probably TALK TO a Komatii.)

    "Jeremyah the Storyteller"
    Informed Bard-type character. Jeremyah is a musician and informant attached to the court of a local Baron. Besides entertaining, he also is a collector of town gossip, and is a spy for his Lord. Occasionally he is sent by his Lord out with visitors who have business in his territory; ostensibly as a guide, but really to gain information. His greatest strength should be his mind or his personality. His player decides that his Primary Focus is Spiritual.
    Rolling 2d10 gives a 13. Looking on the Aptitudes table, this yields Gifts in two Spiritual Aptitudes, two other Gifted Aptitudes and one Diminished Aptitude. Figuring that this Bard-type character relies on his personality to hold an audience, he takes a Gift of Charisma. Deciding that he wants this character to weave Magick with his music, he takes a Gift of Aura. He needs fleet fingers to play his instruments (and deal with the occasional brawl), so a Gift of Coordination is taken. Someone who entertains for a living is also someone is an observer of men, and one who might do a side trade in rumor and information. He takes Perception as his final Superior Aptitude. It seems likely that this guy will rely more on his mind and evasion to get out of scrapes and that, as a “courtly-oriented” character that he has spent most of his life in the cities; that he hasn’t really had to live or die by the power of his brawn, so he takes Diminished Strength.
    He marks a plus (+) on the character sheet in the Coordination, Charisma, Perception and Aura boxes and a minus (-) in the Strength box to indicate Gifted and Diminished Aptitudes. The rest are left blank.
    Jeremyah’s Gifts in Coordination, Intelligence, Aura and Charisma give him bonuses on his Wound Chart and Defense Bonus, as well as on additional Side Talents. He will roll 2d10+1 for his initial Magick Points.
    Superior Talent:
    “Courtly Bard.”  Jeremyah is a skilled musician with pipes, voice and gitar, can perform tricks of sleight-of-hand, as well as a keen observer of language and body language. He has knowledge of local courtly customs, and understands the minds of the common people. As with all artists he is a skilled emotional manipulator. He is also literate. (Often tries out new tunes on pipes or gitar)
    Side Talents:  (Jeremyah gains a third Side Talent for his Gifted Charisma.)
    “Master of Languages:” In his capacity as guide and informant, Jeremyah has learned the native languages of his province and those surrounding. He can read and write in the languages that he speaks that use the same or similar alphabet. (Swears in a foreign dialect)
    “Plant Lore:” Jeremyah is from a guild that requires its members to make their own instruments, so Jeremyah knows which trees and plants yield that best wood for certain building purposes, as well as basic identification of edible plants and useful herbs of his province. (At times he will point out “the good trees.”)
    “Dagger and Knife Mastery:” The juggling tricks he does are flashy, but he can toss a knife into a man’s neck as easily as from hand to hand. (Juggles knives.)
    “Egotistical:” Jeremyah has an inflated opinion of his own reputation. He believes that everyone knows and likes him and that his word is held in the utmost respect. Jeremyah will take a Penalty Die when attempting to manipulate or charm those who are already hostile towards him. (He gives unasked for advice.)
    Social Standing:
    Jeremyah is a known member of the local Baronial court and, although not an aristocrat, is a trusted servitor who enjoys the protection of his Lord. Jeremyah has a Social Standing of four.
    Financial Standing:
    While Jeremyah has the protection of his Lord, who provides food and shelter, Jeremyah does not have much accumulated wealth, other than the tools of his trade. Jeremyah has a Financial Standing of two.
    Personality Paradigms:
    “Selfish/Altruistic:” Jeremyah’s Flaw of Egotistical indicates that he is Selfish.
    “Aggressive/Passive:” Despite his Ego, Jeremyah is still more of a follower than a leader. Jeremyah is Passive.
    “Dishonorable/Honorable:” Jeremyah has a code of conduct and is basically loyal to his people. Jeremyah is Honorable.
    “Disordered/Ordered:” Jeremyah has an “artistic temperament” and is Disordered.
    “Believer/Skeptic:” Jeremyah believes in himself to a fault and has an underlying faith in the comfort of his life and Lord. He is a Believer.
    “Fervent/Restrained:” Jeremyah is a public performer. Anyone who juggles and sings for a living is certainly Fervent.
    “Apathetic/Inquisitive:” As someone who trades in information, as well as being one who writes songs about notable deeds, Jeremyah is Inquisitive.
    Character Background
    Land of Origin: Jeremyah is from Pannotia.
    Languages: Jeremyah’s Mastery of Languages means that he is fluent with all the dialects of the Pannotian tongue as well as the common (city/trader) dialects of Komatii, Cimmerian and Laurasia and Low Atlantian. He has a smattering of language from Ur, Rodina, Baltica and Lemuria. He is also literate in Pannotian, Low Atlantian, and Cimmerian dialects, and can puzzle through words in Baltican and Lemurian.
    Motivation: Jeremyah seeks knowledge, but also fame. His songs will, one day, be sung all throughout the land.
    Important Person: As a child, Jeremyah first heard a travelling Bard in his village. He was transported by the music, and begged the Bard to teach him. After his first lesson, this Bard told Jeremyah that his songs “could change the world.” He decided then and there that music was his destiny.
    Friend: Jeremyah’s player wishes to take his Baron Lord as a Friend. The Arbiter decides that the Baron is more a Patron than a Friend. Instead, Jeremyah take’s his Lord’s Chamberlain as a Friend. The Chamberlain is the man who first brought Jeremyah into court.
    Enemy: Jeremyah’s father, who has never forgiven him for running out on the family business to pursue the “useless” trade of entertainment.
    Secret: Jeremyah’s real name is Batistus—the identity he left behind when he abandoned his family. There is a reward for knowledge of his location under his real identity.
    Attitudes towards Magick
    “The Magick is in the Story, the Truth is in the Telling.” Jeremyah uses music to shape and enhance his Magickal Talents. The tales he tells reach back into the past to “twist” reality to match his sung versions of events.
    Equipment and Possessions
    Notable possessions include Jeremyah’s handmade instruments, and balanced (and sharp) juggling knives. He has his travel-stained old clothes and a set of finery for official court appearances.
  • ivanhurbaivanhurba Website User Posts: 27
    Me and a friend came up with a really cool premise for a short film.... Unfortunately we wrote it and it's horrible!
    The conversation is Un natural, with long monologs explaining things
    The charecters are allways happy
    And it just altogether is pretty bad
    I know this is what you call a "rough draft" but neither of us can come up with good ideas for it.... It would be a shame that such a good plot was put to waste.

    I studied scriptwriting. The problem with ideas is that once written you have to fill the rest. Characters? We need to feel empathy to even care about what happens; drama? it's not about crying but about putting the characters in a hard situation where they'll learn something, etc,...
    One rule, if one scene finishes happy, the next one has to be a turnaround or the opposite. Do you have acts? A crisis moment? Where did you drop that crisis. Do they complete a journey at the end? You can't imagine what you can do even in 45 seconds.
    It's true, the first draft is always a piece of crap but to sculpt something you start with a blob of clay or a simple rock; the revisions exist to take those extra pieces away until you get just the essential. Ask Michelangelo
    Anybody who wants to learn about scriptwriting should read just a bunch of books:
    Syd Field: Screenplay.
    Christopher Vogler: The writer's journey (which is an expansion of the original Hero's journey by Joseph Campbell, must read too)
    Blake Snyder: Save the cat. Beat sheets, genres. He's was and will be a god of scriptwriting.
    Robert Mckee: Story. Characters, structure. A must read too.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,267 Ambassador
    And J. Michael Straczynski's Complete Guide to Scriptwriting.
  • ivanhurbaivanhurba Website User Posts: 27
    ****! JMS has a scriptwriting guide? I was unaware of it! I'll check it out. Thanks Triem23. 
  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,267 Ambassador
    Mine's signed! :-D
    One Appendix is the shooting script for "The Coming of Shadows."
  • StormyKnightStormyKnight Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 2,726 Ambassador
    edited June 2014
    I have a copy of JMS's book! Not signed though. :(
    Caleb- A lot of stories these days have characters that are at odds with each other but have a common goal. Conflict, whether person to person or even within a group scenario can be very entertaining; like soldiers in the military. They don't agree with each other on everything but when the final test comes, they know for certain that they have each others backs.
    Conflict can help drive the story to points where the character might do something uncharacteristic thus creating a surprise moment for the viewer and sometimes a significant twist in the plot.
    Good luck!
  • ivanhurbaivanhurba Website User Posts: 27
    Mine's signed! :-D
    One Appendix is the shooting script for "The Coming of Shadows."

    I envy you now! Lots of people despise WWZ but I think JMS took a very sensible decision centering the film on Brad's character. It would have been impossible to adapt the book exactly. He's a great creator! 

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,267 Ambassador
    edited June 2014
    Can't blame JMS for WWZ. He did a couple of script drafts, but, note he doesn't have a screenplay credit and he's got second screen-story credit. JMS did two drafts, then got replaced. In total, the final screenplay for WWZ had FIVE screenwriters (one uncredited), and had a 60-page rewrite/reshoot of most of the movie's third act AFTER principal photography was completed. That's where Lindolf comes in.
    (Although, JMS may have been responsible for giving the book structure around  Pitt's character, as JMS described a challenge of writing WWZ as "creating a main character out of a book that reads as a UN Report on the zombie wars."
    I like to think JMS's script was better than what ended up on-screen. ;-) Actually, JMS's draft used the linking device of the Pitt character interviewing survivors after the end of the war, not following Pitt's character through it from day one. I can understand why a studio would want more action in the film, but I'm willing to bet JMS's take was a bit more cerebral...
    EDIT: Look what I found!
  • CalebKCalebK Website User Posts: 435
    Thanks for all these tips!
  • ivanhurbaivanhurba Website User Posts: 27
    Triem23 Awesome find! I'm reading it right now and it's chilling!
    Caleb, Check the script; look the first three pages as they set up the story. The dialog presents the action, you don't feel the urgency (everything is under control) until it reaches the opposite as a counterpart; the way the army shoots expecting the best and how it's presented with the opposite (get the hell out! before we even see the result).
    The character is defined in one line! 'Remember when you were doing that report for the UN on Afghanistan (protector, risk taker, controlled fear). 
    Triem23 yes, Pitt's character as the glue is what JMS brought to the script and it reminds me of the original War of the Worlds Clayton Forrester as he touches all the areas (the look for a cure, the military attacks, losing of cities, political decisions,...) he's everywhere and we get to know what happens at all the strata of society. That's why I consider WWZ a good adaptation but lost in all the pointless action. The plane crash took me out of the experience, it was too much (i guess that's what Lindolf brought). 
  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,267 Ambassador
    edited June 2014
    I do want to point back up and my insanely long post above (sorry about that.). Again, while a lot of that is taken from an RPG, that little checklist of eight personality trait-pairings has been very useful to me since I came up with it. Those seven pairs were kind of based of those "16 personality type" tests, but expanded. It's actually a very very good (and different) starting point for putting together a character's personality.
    The list again (in short):
    Just deciding which of these pairings a character is (and why) really gives a good starting point. Identifying which of these can change over your story is helpful for plotting as well.
    Let me do a quick breakdown of two famous characters: Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, as presented in Star Wars: A New Hope.
    Luke is:
    “Selfish/Altruistic:” Altruistic (Luke's first instinct upon seeing hologram Leia is "We have to help.")
    “Aggressive/Passive:” Passive (While Luke wants to leave Tattooine, and gets angry at Owen, if other events hadn't happened, Luke would have stayed on the farm. he's a dreamer, but Luke isn't yet ready to take control of his life. By the end of RotJ, Luke will have become aggressive. This doesn't mean Luke is starting fights, it means Luke has attained the confidence in himself to make his own plans and follow them.)
    “Dishonorable/Honorable:” Honorable (Luke keeps his word and fullfills his obligations. Luke keeps this trait through all three movies.)
    “Disordered/Ordered:” Disordered (Luke lacks discipline. Also, Luke is still more of a dreamer than a doer. He isn't proceeding from a plan. By the end of RotJ, Luke is Ordered--because of the discipline his Jedi training give him)
    “Believer/Skeptic:” Believer (Luke is willing to accept things said to him at face value and explore them. Luke remains a believer--for example, in RotJ, Luke is the only one who believes in the goodness hiding in Vader.)
    “Fervent/Restrained:” Fervent (Luke isn't cagey or restrained, he wears his heart on his sleeve. By the end of RotJ, Luke is STILL fervent. Yes, he has attained discipline and control, but Luke pretty muh still is open and demonstrative about his emotions and beliefs.)
    “Apathetic/Inquisitive:” Inquisitive (Luke is curious. He's also a dreamer--he's looking outside his life for adventure and knowledge. Luke retains this trait throughout all three movies.)
    Han Solo is:
    “Selfish/Altruistic:” Selfish (At this point, Han is motivated by self interest and money. While he returns for the Battle of Yavin, his overall purpose is to take care of Han. By the end of RotJ, Han has become Altruistic. He has found a higher purpose.)
    “Aggressive/Passive:” Aggressive (Han is brash, confident, thinks he's right.... This will never change.)
    “Dishonorable/Honorable:” Honorable (Han may be a smuggler--a criminal--, but he still lives by a code of conduct, and Han keeps his word.)
    “Disordered/Ordered:” Disordered (The Falcon is a mess. Han doesn't plan his actions, so much as react to whatever is happening.)
    “Believer/Skeptic:” Skeptic (Han questions everything. Plus, Han puts his faith in what he can see and touch, and not in some mystic Force. Even in RotJ, Han keeps this attitude. "Luke is a Jedi?")
    “Fervent/Restrained:” Restrained (Han plays his cards close to the vest. even in ESB, when Leia confesses her love, his response is "I know.")
    “Apathetic/Inquisitive:” Apathetic (Han isn't really curious about things outside his immediate concern. This is a constant)
    Note that, over the course of the three movies, both Luke and Han change at least one of these trait pairings. That's what we call "character growth."
    I keep harping on character because, again, without knowing your plot premise, i can't give notes on that. :-)
  • SimonKJonesSimonKJones Moderator Website User, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 4,450 Enthusiast
    Wow, some epic posts in this topic. :)
    I've currently being doing a fun writing course via and one interesting observation that came up was this:
    if you have good characters, plot will inevitably and naturally self-generate. The characters' actions will very easily define the plot.
    Whereas, if you have a good plot, it's much harder to then create characters to fit into it. Characters do NOT naturally emerge from a plot.
    Therefore, whenever possible, start with characters and go from there.
    This observation essentially explains why blockbuster movies are so often terrible - at the pitch stage they ALWAYS start with plot.
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