We interrupt our deconstruction series (“Side Effects”) to present this short case study.
It’s an example of a well-meaning writer with a story idea that he presents as his Dramatic Concept… but leaves some dramatic cards on the table in doing so. This is a very common misstep… over half of the stories I coach have this nasty little issue/problem — potentially a story-killer — in evidence.
Half. That’s scary.
This is the actual Questionnaire/Coaching Document (used with the writer’s permission, name removed; I’ve also shown a placeholder title), which provides context and allows you a sneak peek at what this process looks like. (To be clear, this is “The $35 Kick-Start Concept Analysis“… which is significantly shorter and narrower than the $100 level.) .
You can read it here: The Drug Dealer’s Revenge… and here’s why you should:
It’s only a couple of pages or so. Not a bad investment of time to possibly save your story from the rejection pile.
Notice how the concept itself isn’t half bad, in that it does set a dramatic stage. But that’s the problem… it’s only half good. My response offers examples of how to expand it into a stronger concept, but without crossing the line into the arena of premise, which is another area of story planning focus altogether that’s down the road from Concept.
Then, notice how the DRAMATIC QUESTION provided (a critical element of story) is about something other than the concept. When this happens — and it does… a lot — it puts the story at risk… and when it doesn’t, when an effective dramatic question is in play, it empowers the story. It BECOMES the story. The dramatic question needs to be the off-spring, the inevitability, of the concept, because concept is the introduction of DRAMA, and… well, that’s why. In this case, the DQ response given connects to the overall thematic story landscape, especially the context of Part 1, without nailing something particularly conceptual.
In other words, a different story. And possibly a writer who isn’t clear on the difference between them. One is about a dramatic concept. The other is about “the adventures of” the hero in pursuing a goal that isn’t what the concept promises.
Also, notice how the First Plot Point (the Most Important Moment in a Story) doesn’t really connect to the hero’s story-quest, or the stated concept. At least as it’s written here. What is described is a scene, but one doesn’t touch the criteria for an effective FPP.
There are links in the format that allow the writer to go back in to brush up on the definitions and criteria for Concept and for the First Plot Point.
And finally, notice how this analysis process, including the addition of feedback, shows the writer these soft spots, these nuances and subtleties, which in execution could be fatal, and when fixed, allow the writer to access a deeper level of dramatic tension and resulting thematic resonance.
Think I sound harsh here? Is saving this writer’s story harsh? He didn’t think so. He’s hoping you get something out of this, like he did. For that I thank him and salute his courage.
Click HERE if you’d like your concept evaluated using this same form and process.
Click HERE if you’d like the other major story points in your plan evaluated, in context to the criteria and to each other (including your Concept and FPP).
Next post: the Beat Sheet from “Side Effects.”