When it comes to fixing broken scripts, your story’s “spine” is key. Avoiding story “scoliosis” — a crooked tale of missteps and detours — is the name of the game.
The spine of your story is defined as what happens to your hero as we chart his transformation from the start of your tale to its finish. The demarcations of growth that hero goes through IS the story. And tracking how he changes is your main job.
A quick 5-question checklist to make sure your story spine is straight includes:
1. Who’s your hero? Not always easy to answer — especially if you’re penning a “buddy movie” or an ensemble piece, but until you know, how will you be able to “follow the bouncing ball” that is the point of the tale?
2. How does this story begin and how does it end? To show growth you must “snip the ends” properly to show an Opening Image and a Final Image that are opposites. But is this the biggest change it can be?
3. What’s the problem? Not only does your hero have to have a whole bunch of personal “things that need fixing” but so does the world he lives in. And how will those problems eventually get fixed?
4. What is the tangible goal and what is the spiritual goal of your story? This is the A Story and the B Story, better known as the “wants” and “needs” of your hero, and finally…
5. What’s it about? This is the theme… and without knowing what that is, you will get lost along the way.
These five simple questions aren’t always easy to answer, but all address the key question: What’s your story spine? If you have answers, you are more likely to tell a better story — and not stray into the weeds.