Concept Building

Let’s rewind back to the beginning, not the start of our stories, not the plot, not the structure, not even the format, let’s go right back to what we believe about life. A bit of a heavy start, right? Maybe, but here’s the thing, stories are tales about how life works – they are life affirming. Even if we aren’t aware of it, deep down in our stories there will be a theme that teaches the audience a lesson, perhaps subtly, maybe via the protagonist’s arc or through their actions. Our theme is what we’re really saying to the world with our story, it is our crisp and undiluted voice between the pages. The hard bit can be identifying our theme and building on it in a life affirming way.

Now, considering moral affections is one thing, being able to build on that is another. If only mankind had been expressing easily digestible yet profound statements related to moral affections we could just reference at any time… you know?… Like proverbs?… And if only someone had listed a big ass bunch of moral affections categorised with inspiring proverbs to help writers hammer home their theme all out of the kindness of his little black heart… like I’ve done, right here.

Hit The Flaw

By identifying the message behind the theme, we establish the lesson shown, and thus we can easily pinpoint what our protagonist’s flaw is going to be, it’s going to be the antithesis of our lesson, we learn from their mistakes.

Here’s a list of 147 vices I’ve put together for you, yes you, you little snowflake.

Get Plotting, You Little Devil You

Hopefully, assuming you glanced through that list of moral affections, your imagination is already starting to dream up new ideas, but hold your horses, we need to establish some sort of premise and plot. Again, we don’t have to face a blank canvas here, there are sources out there to help us. For me, the one that works is The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations the full text of which is available here. By using one or more of these situations we can easily piece together the mechanics of anything from a short story to a tv series.

Can I Get a Happy Ending?

Given that it’s our theme that needs to resound from our story, we don’t necessarily need our protagonist to win to get the lesson across. There’s something a little sappy about neatly tied up happy endings, something that strikes us as disingenuous and not life affirming at all. It could be said that winning, well, it’s kinda for losers.

There are four kinds of ending:
Happy – The protagonist wins and their flaw is overcome.
Bittersweet -The protagonist overcomes their flaw but loses.
Cautionary – The protagonist wins but fails to overcome their flaw.
Tragic – The protagonist fails to overcome their flaw and also loses.

Each is just as effective at communicating theme but do so in different ways. The protagonist winning is irrelevant because their actions have proven a lesson we believe to be true. There is no wrong choice but our ending should match our intended tone and have some bearing on the stakes at hand.

Our chosen ending also defines the protagonist’s character-arc, they either go from flawed to enlightened or from flawed to further in the dark.

Lock n’ Load Your Logline

There’s a good chance with just a little research and thinking about the above we’ve got enough to rough out our logline. Generally speaking, it seems the earlier we do this the better. Loglines are the butt fuckery of pure evil to write when we don’t have a grasp of our premise, but they’re a veritable delight when we’ve got our shit in order. By writing one down at this stage we can come back to it now and then to make sure we’re staying on track.

My tip for writing loglines is just open up a blank document and try to summarise the premise in around twenty five words. I like to copy and paste my attempt over and over while making little tweaks. Too much stress is put on the intricacies of wording loglines when what really matters is the concept behind them. It’s also important to remember we don’t need to summarise our entire story with character flaw, theme, and ending into our logline, we only need our premise and sometimes the stakes.

Feel The Love

You’re probably going to want some sort of love story within all this, there’s nothing really more entertaining and goal setting than that. It’s a good idea to think about where you want to go and what sort of love story fits.

Think there’s only one kind. Think again! Here’s 23 love story types I’ve put together like some hormonal teenager.

TURN & BURN CONCEPT WORKSHEET
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WHAT LIFE AFFIRMING LESSON IS BEING TAUGHT?

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WHAT PROVERB SUMS UP THIS LESSON?

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WHAT WILL BE THE PROTAGONIST'S FLAW?

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WHAT DRAMATIC SITUATION WILL THE PROTAGONIST BE IN?

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WHAT ARE THE STAKES?

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WHAT TYPE OF ENDING WILL THERE BE?

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STORY SUMMARY:

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LOGLINE: