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Welcome to my blog!

Updated: Apr 12

"Teddy and Terrie" -- Photo Credit: Emily Taylor Hayes

(UPDATED April 2024) Thank you for visiting my passion site dedicated to Story Development for Screenwriting and Television. This site is inspired, equally, by ALL of the masterful and elusive Building Blocks that function almost seamlessly in between the major plot points of every story.

If you're a writer, then you likely understand the often uphill struggle of transitioning from scene to scene--beat to beat--and from draft to draft. You may have even written an entire script, feeling like you were "in the zone" and on track only to sense--along the way or in retrospect--that something was missing and you had no idea where to start looking.

As a long-time student of Filmmaking, Screenwriting, and Television, I've often wondered about the in-betweens. What exactly is the substance and sticky stuff that connects our plot points and keeps our Protagonists moving forward in interesting and exciting ways?

In other do we leapfrog from the start of Act One to the end of Act One? From the end of Act One to the end of Act Two? And WHAT exactly is the function of the Midpoint?

Answers to these questions (and more) were never complete. Early on,

In my earliest college screenwriting classes emphasis was placed on getting pages written and completing first drafts. Whether or not the writing and storytelling were sound, these completed (and polished) drafts were the benchmark for tangible (and gradable) accomplishments and served as "proof" of learning--if not quality, then quantity.

I didn't know enough to ask more explicit questions for filling in the gaps. Years later, in grad school, I asked for thick slices of bread, but only received thin slices and crumbs.

I realized that time is also somewhat limited for the in-depth analysis, absorption, and application of every essential lesson from every great film. Not only is some of this material much like learning a new language, but the Masters also have a unique way of wielding tools-of-the-trade so seamlessly that multiple viewings are required just to overcome the hypnosis of immersion.

And though it can be true that the more you write, the better your writing becomes, it is also true that if you are writing with only foundational tools and habits, your writing may never rise to the level of the Masterful stories you love.

While working in elementary education, I got a firsthand flashback of my earliest days of learning to write stories. I saw that young students--especially those in first through fifth grades--were getting their fundamentals from a standardized curriculum. It was all about writing words, sentences, paragraphs and summaries along with using proper grammar, vocabulary, and comprehension.

When all was said and done, I realized that the reason (advanced writers) struggle is because most of the in-between stuff our stories need is not taught.

The purpose of rudimentary, traditional lessons is to get everyone writing and expressing their thoughts on paper as soon as possible. Reading, writing, and arithmetic were the primary ways to demonstrate "proof" of learning--and, apparently, they still are.

First graders, for example, start out with simple sentences and simple story structure. By middle school, most of these students are thinking in terms of a beginning, middle, and end and are writing more complex essays and stories--despite limited life perspective.

Also in these early days, students first learn about linear planning--via an OUTLINE--to strategically structure and organize their ideas. Honestly, I can't recall any student ever saying, "I love outlining," and the creatives often viewed it as a dreaded task that felt counterintuitive and confining. Hence, the rebellious "pantsers" emerged.

A more engaging and interactive approach to story planning--one that caters more to the Imagination--is called Story Development. Story Development is a detailed process that dives into every aspect of your story, especially into your subconscious motivations for wanting to tell a particular story.

Far more revelatory than any outline, Story Development is a creative, logical, and emotional way to integrate the vast principles of Story Theory, Psychology, and a unique Point-of-View. Because it is so detailed, it feels like a lot of work in the beginning, but, in the end, it's a huge time saver, as it aims to promote focus, emotion, and cohesion of ideas.

I believe one of the biggest reasons so many stories are never finished is because the writer is not in touch with his/her true Emotional Inspiration for the telling the story. This "inspiration" is often hidden beneath layers of useful emotional fodder. The writer doesn't realize this, of course, so the story spins off into all sorts of loosely related directions, each taking on a life of its own and scattering the writer's focus.

Not knowing your deepest Emotional Inspiration means that you also don't know the story's Biggest Problem that needs to be solved. You may be close, but not close enough. And this "minor" blindspot can make a huge difference in the end product--since the deepest Emotional Inspiration is linked directly to the Biggest Problem.

If your Emotional Inspiration is to help your Protagonist to win a race you've never won--such as the Chicago Marathon--then right away, you know that the Biggest Problem is a combination of the external and internal situations that make winning seem impossible for your Protagonist.

Instead of churning out a hundred off-track ideas for complicating the journey, your thoughts will converge to help your Protagonist to be the first to cross the finish line--come hell or high water--if that is what YOU want for his/her ultimate goal.

AND...if all of this aligns with your core message of "perseverance despite all odds" (or whatever you want your audience to learn), then you know what your story is really about, and you're you're armed with the Primary Emotional Fuel that will propel your Protagonist and your story.

Another tremendous advantage of knowing your story's Biggest Problem is the ability to determine the KIND of story you're MOSTLY aiming to write--aka its Genre. If you're writing about a Protagonist that needs to win a big race, then everything that happens--whether it be romance, family drama, injuries, or confronting inner demons--is in support of building a very focused Sports story. You may have relevant family, friendship, and romance woven throughout, but the inspirational Sports story is the A-Story.

Until you have dared to look beneath the surface of your initial story concept--into the layers of your life experiences--everything you are writing is superficial. This does not mean that your ideas lack substance or viability, but, rather, that they are not yet coming from your most authentic, most emotionally honest point-of-view.

J. K. Rowling, for example, wrote a spectacular series about a heart-strong orphan (Harry Potter) who was tasked with saving the magical world from the greatest evil it has ever known, In Harry's world, magic wands, flying cars, trolls, and giant spiders are the norm, but what J. K. Rowling is really focuses on are the themes of making friends, finding family, having a true home, developing extraordinary abilities, and rising above one's fears to protect all that matters.

In a very big way, each of us is a wizard of storytelling. Individually, we have the ability to conjure stories out of nothing, and turn them into something. What they "transfigure" into is a matter of training, focus, and devotion--and maybe a wonderful sense of humor.

That being said, I hope you enjoy this Story Development website and learn some useful techniques for improving and enhancing the way you write stories. Whether you are writing for your own pleasure or for sharing with the rest of the world, my wish is that you are inspired to create blueberry pie slices of what it means to be human.

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