Show Us Something New

No matter what type of story you’re creating, the key is to show us something new. You can be outrageous and show us something fantastic like a science fiction world of the future (“Avatar”), a supernatural twist on our current world (“Twilight”), an exaggerated warped vision of our own world (“The Purge”), or a world of toys (“The Lego Movie” and “Toy Story”). If you’re going to show our current world without any exaggerated action like explosions and gunfire or zombies and vampires, then your ordinary world still needs to take us into a new realm.

In “Gran Torino,” we’re taken into the mind of an old, grumpy man who gradually learns to accept the strange Asian family next door while dealing with street gangs in his neighborhood at the same time. It’s still our world, but something we’re not used to seeing.

In “The 40-Year Old Virgin,” we’re taken into our ordinary world, but given an insight into what working at an electronics retail store might be like while also learning what it’s like for a virgin to get sex in today’s modern world. In “Miss Congeniality,” we’re taken into the world of beauty pageants. In “Thelma and Louise,” we’re taken into a world seen from the eyes of oppressed women.

Your story has to take us into a new world or else there’s nothing of interest. It’s easy to take an audience into a new world with science fiction or action thrillers. Every James Bond film takes place in exotic locations to keep our interest beyond the usual fights and gunfire. If you’re going to show us our ordinary world, take us behind the scene and show us something different whether it’s how Wall Street really works (“The Wolf of Wall Street”), how baseball teams really work (“Moneyball”), or how teenagers live (“Saturday Night Fever” or “Footloose”).

If your story doesn’t show us anything new and out of the ordinary, your story already risks boring us before it even begins. So find what makes your story background unique and make that element shine. So what makes your particular story unique? If you can’t answer that right away, then it’s time to figure that out before you start writing your screenplay.

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