The best thing I learned in screenwriting was The Rule of 10. Basically, if there is something that needs to happen in your story, come up with a list of 10 reasons why that thing happened. The first one will be cliche. The second one will be, too. The third will be pretty familiar. But by the time you’ve gotten to 10, you’ve come up with a couple of things that are pretty unique.
An example: in The Physicist (working title for the prequel to The Rival), Iago Andronicus’ brother Armando needs to be at the research station with Iago in Hawai’i. I did not use The Rule of 10. So my first thought was Iago and Armando grew up in a rough neighborhood, and Iago was getting Armando away from their abusive father. When I told my sister this on the phone, she was like “Ug! Cliche! Racist! Forget about it.” She was right.
This has been percolating for a couple of months now. The progression has been:
- Bad neighborhood / abusive father
- Orphaned in terrible car accident
- Distant, preoccupied parents usually send Armando to camp anyway
- Summer vacation
- Armando is interested in nature conservation
- There was a house fire, and while Iago was able to pull Armando out of the flames, the trauma has caused Armando to become withdrawn and uncommunicative. Perhaps a new setting will help him to recover.
I still haven’t made it to 10, but I really like #6 because, without giving too much away, there are some ways it ties nicely into not just the rest of the story arc for The Physicist, but The Emissary as well. I’ll still keep playing with this list. You get the idea.
So, how about some surf music?