Sunday, August 19, 2007

Beginning Content

The core of any commercially successful story is content--concept, plot, character, theme, style. While there are other factors that dictate success, getting noticed first-hand rests on story.

But what kind of story?

The first level asks why we like to listen to certain stories. We listen to stories because we 1) are entertained, 2) can relate to the story being told, 3) are drawn to the way the story is being told. Whether it be a piece of gossip our friend's been dying to tell us, to that megablockbuster flick in the cinemas, we get attached to a story because of the above three reasons. If one of the three reasons falters, our attention begins to wander.

The tough part is knowing what's entertaining, what can be related to, and how to tell the story. If this had been reduced to a science, then every story out there could potentially be blockbusters.

The second level to consider is "who?" There are stories we purposefully don't share with some of our friends because we know that they'd rather talk about something else. If my friend Jake had a bad break up with Tommy, I wouldn't start telling Jake about a new development involving Tommy's two-timing escapades. If my friend Horace wasn't into comics, I wouldn't blabber away about the state of the industry.

One way to address these two levels is to make an inventory of your conversations with friends. What do you mostly talk about? What topics do you more often cover? What interests do you share? What personal questions do you ask and seek to answer? What concerns provoke emotional highs and lows, and gets everyone passionately involved?

Then, make an inventory of your conversations with yourself. The above questions still apply. What do you mostly think about? What topics do you more often read or research on? What interests you? What personal questions do you ask and seek to answer? What concerns provoke emotional highs and lows, and gets you passionately involved?

From the answers to these questions alone, all based on your personal life, you'd have generated ideas for concepts and plots you can toy with. The answers address the two levels of why and who. You can create a whole bunch of stories which have a strong possibility of piquing the interest of other people who can comprise your market, but at the same time allow you to be personally involved.

Once you've made your inventory and have constructed a few concepts and plots, write them down. They're ripe for pre-development.

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