Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to be part of three Book-to-Screen Pitchfests where authors learn how to pitch their book as an idea for adaptation for film or television and then have the opportunity to pitch to entertainment executives in a speed-dating like setting. They have been great events for the authors and the entertainment executives alike. There have been hundreds of requests for different books. One has been optioned and there are a number of others that are under consideration.
If you break down every great story, it has these elements
What has been most interesting to me is no matter what the genre, there are some common elements to every great story. The books that get noticed have these elements. The books that Hollywood execs often pass on are missing one or more of these. In fact one exec said to me, “If you break down every great story, it has these elements”. So what are they?
- An inciting action. This means open the story with some event that sets the characters and action in motion. Get my attention in the beginning and give me a reason why I am going to care about the people and the story going forward.
- Conflict. There needs to be some challenge to overcome or some quest or mystery. The character or characters need to have some type of struggle.
- Resolution. Make sure the conflict gets resolved by the end of the book and don’t come up with some crazy way to solve the matter. One thing I have noticed about authors’ books that get close to being requested, but often get a pass is the resolution to their story doesn’t make sense. They set up the conflict, make the characters interesting and then resolve it with something that comes out of the blue. In their efforts to be creative, they end up making the ending implausible and that hurts the story.
- Protagonist. Give me a character I want to care about and can understand. Help me understand why they do what they do. Sounds simple, but it is very challenging.
- Antagonist. Life is often about struggle and opposition and so great stories present those challenges as well. Many times it takes the form of a person. As with the protagonist, make the antagonist interesting. Help me understand why he or she presents the opposition.
Now none of these five elements should be surprising, but I have been somewhat surprised at how some books are missing one of these elements, have them underdeveloped or make them implausible. How about your story? It would be could to do a quick review of your manuscript to see if you have these elements included. All good stories do.