Create a Stronger Story by Telling More Than a Story

When most people try writing a screenplay, they focus solely on telling a story and that means focusing on characters and a plot. The problem with this approach is that it tends to create shallow stories that only emphasize physical challenges and obstacles that may look interesting but feel random and arbitrary. Here’s a better approach.

Start by deciding what you want your story to mean. In “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil,” the main story is a horror comedy spoof. In a typical horror movie, the hillbillies are the villains who terrorize a group of young teenagers who wander into their territory.

“Tucker & Dale vs. Evil” reverses this idea by making the hillbillies the heroes while the leader of the young teenagers is the real villain. By simply reversing the idea that the hillbillies are not evil but actually good, “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil” creates a funny premise and story.

However, if that’s all “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil” was all about, it would risk just spoofing typical horror tropes and nothing more. What “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil” is really about is that you can’t judge people by their appearance alone.

Now every obstacle isn’t just about poking fun of horror movie tropes but continuing to emphasize how you cannot judge people by their appearances.

A pretty female teenager gets hurt and the hillbillies rescue her, but the teenagers think the hillbillies have captured her instead. Even the female teenager thinks the hillbillies are going to hurt her but instead, they treat her with kindness, cooking her breakfast and playing games with her to keep her amused.

Every time the hillbillies and the young teenagers interact, there’s always the mistaken impression that the hillbillies are villains, but in reality, the hillbillies are gradually winning over the trust of the female teenager as she sees that one hillbilly in particular is actually very intelligent and caring. That contrasts greatly with the female teenager’s boyfriend, who is actually the villain as the teenage leader.

So the constant theme of “Appearances can be deceiving” underlies every scene. Obstacles don’t exist just to provide action but to keep showing us one more way that appearances can be deceiving.

As the female teenager and hillbilly start to fall in love, we realize how good-hearted the hillbillies really are and how evil the teenage leader really is despite their physical appearances.

So if you just write a story focusing on plot and characters, you’ll risk writing scenes that have no meaning. However, if you define the meaning you want your story to tell, then you can make sure every scene emphasizes a different aspect of that meaning, and that will create a far stronger and more coherent story.

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