One way notices often write themselves into a corner is to come up with an interesting story and then run out of ideas about halfway through. If they continue, they wind up writing a weak, thin story that nobody really cares about.
The secret to planning a story is to make the first half initially appear to be one thing and then by the second half, reveal what it’s actually about. This appears to create two separate stories but it’s actually relying on misdirection initially and then the second half finally explains what the first half was really about.
In “Die Hard,” the story initially appears to be about terrorists taking hostages. However, as the story develops, we gradually learn that the real story is that the terrorists are really after corporate bonds and they plan to blow up all the hostages on the roof to make their getaway.
By hiding the true nature of the story, the entire story becomes far more interesting than if the audience knows what’s happening right from the start.
A low-budget Japanese comedy horror movie called “One Cut of the Dead” demonstrates this principle perfectly. Initially, the movie appears to be about a film crew shooting a zombie movie when a real zombie apocalypse breaks out.
Then the movie appears to be about a mad director who throws his helpless actors in front of real zombies to capture authentic footage for his movie.
Then the movie twists a third time to show what’s really happening, which is that the director is trying to film a horror movie that’s being broadcast on live television and he has to make the action look like a zombie movie when the actors start deviating from the script by mistake.
This constant twisting and turning on what the audience thinks the story is about makes the story far more interesting than if we think we know exactly what the story’s about from the beginning.
Sometimes we may think we know what the story is about, but although the action never changes, the real story is hidden behind an emotional story. In “Jurassic Park,” everyone thinks the story is about a bunch of dinosaurs running amok in a theme park.
While this is the physical story from start to finish, the real story is the emotional one where the scientist initially doesn’t like children but then has to protect two children and learns to care and love them.
So when creating a story, try to hide what the real story is initially. Then try to add an emotional story that’s truly what the story is about.
“Die Hard” appears to her a simple action movie, then twists into a unique corporate theft plan. However, the real story is also about the hero trying to get back with his wife.
If you study great movies, you’ll see that they use both elements to make a story more interesting. First, they hide the real story and reveal it later. Second, there’s an emotional story that’s the real story behind all the action.
Hide your real story and create a compelling emotional story and you’ll be following the blueprint of all the great movies ever made.