When you have a great idea for a screenplay it’s very tempting to rush to the computer and start writing. However, taking some time to think about a number of different ways you could tell the story may lead to a truly outstanding script rather than just a good one.
In a Fast Company series of successful authors’ tips on writing better stories, Terence Winter (creator, writer, and executive producer of the series, Boardwalk Empire) makes a great point about choosing the most interesting part of a story to tell:
“Every movie you’ve ever seen about Al Capone shows him at the height of his power, and sort of like Al Capone’s Greatest Hits. If you can only spend two hours with Al Capone, you want it to be when he’s at the top of his game.
On Boardwalk Empire, we meet Al Capone when he’s a kid driving a truck. That Al Capone is so much more interesting to me because we get to see him become the guy we know, and we had hours and hours to do it, and really see what formed him and what made this guy tick and that’s so much more a luxury as a storyteller and more satisfying for the audience.”
The series Gotham does something similar by looking at the formative years of the man who became Batman, and also by focusing on a character (Inspector Gordon) who has a supporting role in the later story.
Even for a screenplay there’s value in taking the time to brainstorm a number of ways of approaching the story before committing to one. For instance, a kidnapping story could be told with any of these as the viewpoint character:
* the victim
* the loved ones of the victim
* the detective investigating the case
* the kidnapper
* someone who is wrongly accused of the kidnapping
* someone who inadvertently or unwillingly gets involved in the crime
* a psychic (fake or genuine–if there is such a thing–who is asked to help locate the victim
* a previous victim of the kidnapper who realises she knows something that could help but is reluctant to relive the experience