4:Go Rock Collecting Now that your hero is up a tree, it’s time to throw rocks at him (or her). This is also the fun part—for you and for your audience. This is where, during the crafting stage, you come up with a list of everything that did—or could—go wrong to make life even worse for your hero. Jeanne Robertson, CSP, CPAE, of course, does this beautifully. And here’s a tip: Try to make the rocks increase in intensity as the story moves forward. I call this “escalating the conflict.” What’s even more fun is if you can make one rock be the consequence of a previous rock that the audience may have forgotten about: “And this is when Frank, who was still hiding in the closet ... started to cough.” So, how many rocks should you throw? It depends. Here are some of the factors: How long is your story? Is it a two-minute “quickie” or a 12-minute signature piece? What’s the nature of the story? Serious? Humorous? Farcical? In general, the more humorous or farcical, the more rocks you can throw. Are you moving the story forward, or just treading water? Throwing rocks is fun, but you don’t want to get to the point where your audience is thinking, “Is this going anywhere?” A story has to have momentum. The “rock collecting” part of your story (which is the middle of your story) should comprise roughly 55 to 70 percent of your time. 5: UPS It What do you do when you take a package to UPS to ship? You wrap it up and tie it together, right? Well, that’s what the ending of your story should do. Look, I’ll be the first to admit that endings are hard. That’s because reality doesn’t generally provide a great ending; we have to help it along. So how do you find your ending? You look at
not Superman.) What is he/she trying to accomplish? Are there other characters your audience will need to know about? Who are they? What is their relationship to you and each other? Is the weather important? Time of year? If it is, put it in. If it’s not, leave it out. You get the idea. Don’t clutter it with things the audience doesn’t need to know. Just the facts, ma’am. So pick an item from Step 1 and then make a list of all the things your audience needs to know in order to “get” the rest of the story. Introducing these facts (in an interesting way, of course) is what the beginning of your story is all about.
There’s a crucial moment in your story
that I call the “Oh crap!” moment,
because this is the moment when your
audience should suddenly think, “Oh
crap!” It’s the moment—usually bad,
but not always—when everything
changes, and there’s no turning back.
“I rush out of the store with barely
enough time to still make it to the
wedding, I look around, and it hits me.
My car has been stolen.”
This is the incident that propels the
rest of the story forward. And, ideally,
this will happen about 25 percent of the
way through your story. Don’t believe
me? Next time you go to a two-hour
movie, watch for the pivotal scene at the
30-minute mark. It’ll be there.
So find the “Oh crap!” moment in
your story—the moment when everything changes—and craft it so that it
appears one quarter of the way through
Incidentally, when you get to the
“Oh crap!” moment, your hero is officially up a tree. This moment marks
the transition from the beginning to the
middle of your story (which also means
that the beginning should be about 25
percent of your story).
Bill Stainton is a 29-time Emmy Award winner for comedy works with organiza- tions that want their people to play a bigger game and
produce unreasonable results. Visit www.