Screenwriting Secrets by John Scott Lewinski

Screenwriting Secrets » StoryBuilder

StoryBuilder returns to the tried and true idea that all stories rely on sound dramatic structure principles.

So, this product's develop urge writers to "build on a solid foundation!" It's no great secret that the creation of stories that entertain and sell in Hollywood is built on established dramatic principles. There are scores of established, popular screenwriting books that go out of their way to make this point. Plus, the combined works of Joseph Campbell brought these traditional and historical story structures to the attention of pop culture.

Also Using a Windows-based interface relying on the mouse for simple navigation, this simple development utility promises to allow a writer to plot his or her way to a successful script.

By painstakingly leading a writer through a series of menus and questions, StoryBuilder helps a screenwriter to create well-rounded characters, settings, conflicts and plot resolutions. Once these crucial elements are in place, the writer can hopefully focus on subtleties of storytelling while polishing the story elements.

One of the program's most useful elements is its confrontation of common screenwriting and storytelling pitfalls. The Problems section of the program helps a screenwriter to defend his or her story problems, clearly recognizing the difference between external problems in story elements and internal problems weakening characters.

By navigating through a tab menu, the writer can maneuver through the development of his or her protagonist, antagonist, conflict and resolution.

In the character section, the program offers close examinations of how to make truly vibrant characters (focusing on their appearance, their role within the story, their psychology, their interaction with other characters, their careers, their habits and quirks, and finally their back-stories and inner attributes.

Later in the program, a user can use a special tool in the program, the Characterizations Aids. These series of questions can help a screenwriter examine relationships, character virtues and vices and, finally, skills and abilities. The software sticks to the theory that every possible detail and development it can encourage a writer to pursue can only make a script better.

The Settings area of the program helps the screenwriter to develop vibrant and richly detailed story venues. The Plotting section defines plot in general terms before leading a writer through a general overview of his or her plot. Also, StoryBuilder can take specific looks at individual scenes to see if they work properly in the plots overall structure. Such plot examinations also cover Key, Obligatory and Stock Scenes while examining the tricky challenges of plotting through character.

Perhaps most importantly, StoryBuilder allows a writer to answer Key Questions at several points during development. For example, during the Character section of the program, if a screenwriter using StoryBuilder clicks on the Key Questions tab, he or she might have to answer such questions as:

"Is your antagonist a worthy opponent? Does he or she believe in his own goal? Is he forced to behave as he does? Does he have sufficient will and drive? Are the protagonist and the antagonist evenly matched?"

The developers of StoryBuilder believe a writer must answer all of these key questions throughout the program to make sure a script works on all levels. I cannot disagree. By using Key Questions, a screenwriter and refine and test all story elements. The writer can then record answers, notes or questions that require more work into a Story Folder (a simple word processing document that collects ideas for additional development).

While the program is not specifically designed for screenwriters, the key elements of good storytelling never really change between novels, short stories and scripts. StoryBuilder is fully customizable and easy to use with on-screen help and a comprehensive manual. As a writer works through their story elements, thousands of suggestions appear to guide a scriptwriter beyond any semblance of writer's block or over-simplification.

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