Storytelling Working Method. Part 2. Brainstorm and research

Storytelling - Working Method

PDF, 42 pages


Part 2. Brainstorm and research

From documentation to synopsis

In the setup step, we gathered much material and our project has been roughly described. It’s time to explore, refine and deepen it.

During this step, we search for information that we process and transform to match our project. We take this information from:

  • Books
  • Articles
  • Dictionaries and encyclopedias
  • Documentaries
  • TV and radio programs
  • Websites
  • Maps
  • Interviews
  • Discussions
  • Personal experiences
  • Forums
  • Pictures

We adapt the documentation to the type of project:

  • A movie about autism? Spend a week in an institute.
  • A cartoon about homosexuality? Let’s interview some gays and lesbians, read books and magazines by and about the topic.
  • A film about tennis? Play it, read magazines, biographies, training manuals!
  • A novel about war? Read some strategy, soldier’s testimonies, and so on.

Each time we think an element is interesting, we search about it and feed our Board journal with plots, characters, properties.

We gather anecdotes, true stories, collections of strong words, symbols, moments, impressions, ideas, theories, and organize them – in lists, in diagrams… We collect data and process it until they match our constraints.

What we are searching for, is quality elements, strong ideas.

Spending time searching, not to take the first idea that comes in mind but take time to think twice, we make it more sure to have quality in the final script.

The documentation files of a project should take at least as much room as the project itself, and the more the better! 1000 pages of note for a project of 100 pages looks like a good ratio. The audience will thank us, in the end, for having given to them such a powerful, intense artwork! the critic will praise this work, the producer and the distributor will finance it. They will all give us the awards in fame and money that will allow us to make better works. In the end, we will die, like everybody else, but us, we will die happy artists leaving a work behind.

4 fictitious examples of story development in novel, music, comics, web

Project 1 – Heroic fantasy novel

We gather knowledge to find inspiration.

History books lead us to take medieval Europe, Ming China and Mali Empire as models for our past societies.

Anthropology books give us many names, titles, social structures, archetypes, typical characters and stories, customs, religions, products, artists, thinkers, roles…We discover the concept of trickster and decide to have one among our main characters.

We process those data to make fiction worlds from it. We design authorities and hierarchies of power and influence in those worlds. We shape each of them with a background and its own style.

Project 2 – Electroclash album

We study the current condition of girls like us: the debate about genders, feminism, equality of rights, including economical rights, the general context of the crisis, culture around us. So we read books and articles, watch TV programs and web documentaries, to get anecdotes, true stories, tendencies, attitudes and ideas to encourage and condemn, etc.

In parallel, we scan the most we can from the electro/techno cultures, in quest for great songs and great concept-albums to take inspiration from.

Project 3 – Hip-hop photonovel

We read biographies, rap magazines and albums.

We put some elements in common to give the Hero a rather standard lifeline: broken home, early experience of violence, drug-dealing from the age of 13, murder at 18, jail during 8 years (he loses his eyes in a fight), and then the beginning of a career in rap.

We also read much about what it is to be blind: biographies of blind people, psychology books… and we can also experiment it ourselves: try to live blind for one hour, one day, one week, try to feel it from the inside.

Our documentation gives us elements to design characters and plots in which the central character will be involved, sometimes as a simple witness.

Project 4 – The Squatt

We scan soap-operas and TV series, especially those based on a group or a community of central characters.

We quickly start to design a gallery of individual characters, the ones who live in the community, around 20 people, all very different. Those 20 profiles have to be based on reality, so we take time to link them to some themes and topics: one is a lesbian, one is a dealer, one is a successful artist, one is a political activist… Idea after idea, we fill our Board journal with interesting data.

When we are done with a first sketch of the characters, we also have to study and give details about the city, the locations where the plots will take place, the kind of problems the characters will meet, etc.

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