Tell a Great Story By Focusing on the “Real” Story

This is where many writers go wrong. They try to come up with an intricate plot full of unusual situations, characters, and action. As long as this is something we’ve never seen before, it can be mildly amusing but if you want to write a great story, don’t focus on the plot.

Focus on the real story instead.

The real story behind every great movie is always the emotional problem that the hero must overcome. To overcome this emotional problem, the hero must take physical action, which defines the plot.

The plot doesn’t exist to dazzle us with something exciting and different. The plot exists solely to force the hero to resolve their emotional problem.

[SPOILER ALERT for “Short Term 12”]

In “Short Term 12,” the hero works at a facility that holds juveniles in a safe environment until they can move on to a more permanent home. The real story (the emotional problem) is that the hero was raped by her father a long time ago and her testimony sent him to prison. Now he’s getting out of prison.

So the hero must deal with trying to let go of the anger and trauma so she can live a happy life. To force her to deal with this emotional trauma, the hero works in a facility filled with kids who have emotional traumas of their own. By forcing her to see and deal with these kids everyday, the plot forces the hero to see how to provide a loving and safe environment for these kids even if she can’t resolve their emotional pain.

To make matters worse, a new girl arrives at the facility and her father also beats and rapes her. Now the hero has to help a girl who is going through the same trauma that she went through. This forces the hero to realize how can she save this girl when she wasn’t even able to save herself?

To continue making matters worse (which is what all good plots should do), the hero gets pregnant by her boyfriend. Afraid to commit to being a mother and raising a child, the hero wants to get an abortion, which upsets her boyfriend and threatens to break up her only relationship with the one person who cares, understands, and loves her the most.

Can you see how the plot keeps forcing the hero to face her emotional trauma over and over again from different perspectives?

The plot forces the hero to make a do-or-die decision. Will the hero finally resolve the trauma from her past where her father raped her and got her pregnant so she had to get an abortion, or will the hero fail to resolve this trauma and forever limit her life by refusing to experience love?

So when creating your own stories, don’t think solely of the plot. Start with the emotional trauma the hero needs to resolve. Then shape your plot around that trauma. That’s the key to writing a great screenplay, and that’s what far too many writers forget time and time again.

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