10 Feb HOW TO STORY LINE FOR SERIES TELEVISION – workshoptastic!
The London tube strike and the resulting crush and cram across our dear capital, could not diminish my hard-boiled enthusiasm for the day ahead and the workshop I was about to run for the Indie Training Fund in Hoxton Square.
Delivering a packed five hour workshop to a room of focussed, eager to learn writers is to me, a great big lovely thing and I always get a real buzz from doing my Script Advice workshops.
This is one of my favourites.
Story lining is a skill all writers should have in their bag of tricks, but it is often over-looked, or ignored completely. Often it seems, creatives prefer the noise and fluster more frequently made about letting the muse hit and seeing where it takes you.
I am not of that branch of thought. Mine is the old school. The ethos that says there is a happy balance to be created between creation of a rough idea, and the execution of that idea into a fully fledged, coherent, structured story line across an episode of drama.
And this workshop is based purely on that ethic.
I created and wrote an extended treatment of a series idea called Harkness Hall which I use as a blue print for the workshop. Using this document, delegates create their story lines and come fully prepped on the day.
I ape a true Story Conference at the workshop; so each writer is expected to create, pitch and discuss their story lines and those of the other writers around the table. It is a collaborative, inclusive experience and always involves a lot of mental leg work.
I aim to initiate this creative process, then, using the raw material delegates bring on the day, I plot across a variant series length, the story lines we have to work with.
At first, a white board, divided into episode blocks, with the characters running vertically down the side, is empty and can be a daunting sight. A desert of story. Only blocks to fill.
But I tell my writers to have faith. Everyone is always surprised as to how quickly this board fills up with story.
An idea is never wasted in an environment like this. Not all story lines are accepted; mostly I find writers come up with short run ideas, that will only cover one or two episodes. But these embryonic ideas often form the foundation of a much bigger story and one that can strap across three or more episodes.
The skill is recognising what story line constitutes a single and what could run for much longer.
This takes practise. The answer lies in creating stories that not only have a built-in impact, but also ones that affect and influence other stories in the series.
How characters aid and abet each other via their individual story lines, is the measure of a truly engaging, exciting drama.
Issues; political, social, religious, are an important back drop to relevant, vital story lining. But I push home the fact that without the human dynamic, without the character-driven motivation behind these story ideas, the impact may be powerful, but the message lost.
The best stories marry human condition with the social condition of the time.
So it was, that at the end of a very productive, tiring, creatively fuelled day, we had a 6 episode series, featuring a varied cast of 12, which discussed and explored: Nazi art theft, geriatric manslaughter, sex, drugs and naked dog walks…just another day at the story creation coal face.
Thank you writers. Let’s keep learning. Keep creating. Keep on story lining.
If you need help with controlling your creative muse, I am here www.scriptadvice.co.uk.