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Story Development Handout


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Story Development Handout

  1. 1. Story & Character Development Guide by Norman Ray Fitts Story and Character DevelopmentDefine Development: A process of growth, change, or elaboration.In this presentation we will explore the method I’ve developed to bring a story to life, but first you have tohave some idea of what story you want to tell.Stories can come from real life relating to an event that happened to you, to someone you know or tosomeone you don’t know. They can relate to an historical event or they can come from your imagination.Even fiction can use true events as a backdrop. James Mitchner, an American author, wrote historicalfiction. He took real events and populated them with fictional characters. Developing The IdeaFor the purposes of this lesson I am going to use “The Submarine Effect” a novel that I wrote, andthen turned into a screenplay The idea that started it all“As we know, the world has become a very dangerous place. There are factions, if given the chance,would dictate to the rest of us what to think, what to say, and what to believe in. What if one day, in thenot too distant future, it came to pass?”This is, in no way, an original idea. In fact there are only thirty-six different plots. Everything you write isa version or a combination of those plots. How you tell the story is what makes it unique. I have includedthose plots in the Glossary section of this guide. From Thought to paperMy next thought was how do I tell this story in a unique way and what will be the outcome?Now let’s take a moment and think about this… Development NotesThese were some of the general notes I jotted down to start the creative process.Our world will end, as we know it.How does it end and what do we do about it?What is the one thing that would remain untouched no matter how devastating the attack? Our submarinefleet. 1
  2. 2. Story & Character Development Guide by Norman Ray FittsThe attack on us, and our retaliation, will leave most of humanity dead.How does our way of life survive? The survivors have to be protected. They have to leave the surface.How much time will pass?What will they find when they resurface.Where will we go from there? Now let’s expand it… “Our World ends”Their attack has to be in a form that it would leave the ecosystem intact.It will have to be decisive and quickly take out our entire population all at once. A biological attack.I think I want it to affect only human DNA leaving the animal population alone to somehow later mutateinto something else.There are two submarine broadcast stations that actually exist, one on each coast. Because of somethingwe put in place, they will survive and send a message to our submarine fleet. The message will begin“The Submarine Effect is activated.”This will send our fleet to specific locations where they will launch a retaliatory strike. “A place to escape to”Where will humanity go? How will they get there? What will make it possible?I decided to put it under water. A semi-secure body of water, but deep enough to make it inaccessible. TheGulf of Mexico. The Sigsbee Abyssal Plain, the deepest part of the Gulf, fifteen thousand feet down.A structure large enough to house the crews of the submarines. A structure three thousand feet indiameter and four hundred feet tall. Fabricate it from a new material lighter than aluminum and strongenough to handle the water pressure and capable of withstanding the destructiveness of seawater,Tiridium. Name this place New Atlantis.Power it with a new generation nuclear power plant.Build a sub-story around the construction of New Atlantis and show to what length they will go to concealit.Only a small fleet of specially designed submarine, crewed mostly by women is capable of reaching NewAtlantis to transfer the crews from the other submarines. The new subs will carry perishable goods andthe specialized talents needed to finish adapting New Atlantis. 2
  3. 3. Story & Character Development Guide by Norman Ray Fitts “Hundreds of years later”How will life evolve on the bottom of the Gulf and whatwill bring them back to the surface?About twenty-five hundred crewmembers will have transferred to New Atlantis.You can’t expect all these people to survive for hundreds of years in a tin can. The population growthalone would make that impossible. They will develop a way to manipulate seawater at the molecular leveland create a bubble or blister that will allow them to expand their world.Rename their city to Quanterra. It will grow to a population of several million.The center of the movement to revisit the surface will be a group called “The Dry Earth Society.”The leaders of Quanterra do not want this to happen for fear of losing control.Those leaders will allow the start of an expedition to the surface with a scheme to end it once, and for all.They have to have a way up. One of the ancient submarines has survived the test of time. It is a relicsitting aside, ignored for centuries.The leaders of the expedition discover the plot to destroy the sub once it leaves Quanterra and theyescape by the narrowest of margins.The world they find on the surface is very different from the world depicted in their ancient archives.What has evolved is very lethal.Two groups still survive on the surface in the area where they land. One is from a small group that hadsurvived in an underground site near Houston Texas.The other is a genetically engineered group cloned by the first group using animal and altered humanDNA. This was done to create a species capable of surviving on the still contaminated surface. It wasborn out of a need to know what had survived. This species, simply called Humanoids, will break awayand form their own society.A hundred years later, these two groups will fight a brief war which neither side will win, sign a peacetreaty and will live apart for hundreds of years.The injection of the Quanterrians will bring the three groups together. There will be growing pains.Afterwards they will form a team made up of all three groups to venture forth in search of other survivorsat other sites around the world.The story parameters shown above were the product of several days of thinking and rethinking thestory I wanted to tell. Through the use of the Internet I pulled together the technical information Ineeded to add realism to the story and expand on the notes shown above. 3
  4. 4. Story & Character Development Guide by Norman Ray Fitts CharactersAs important as the story is, it’s the characters that populate the world you create that will give it life. Ifyou truly want to connect with your readers, or your audience, the story has to be delivered throughyour characters. Below are notes I made to start this processIt will be important to develop the characters that will fight to preserve our way of life in the first half ofthis story. I needed to create a bond between those characters and the reader. When we lose thosecharacters the reader needs to feel a since of loss.We will have a completely new set of characters in the second half, but in the back of the reader’s mindthey know these people are descended from those in the first half. In the first half the bad guys werefaceless. In this half the bad guys will have faces.I will use teams of characters. In the first half I need people with the special talents required to createNew Atlantis .I decided on six main characters. Their names are Jake Taylor, Janet Crowley, ChristopherWincrest, Jonathan Chambers, Peter Arnest and Edward Willingham.One will be a leader or facilitator (Jake). Four will be the scientist and engineers needed to design NewAtlantis (Janet, Christopher, Jonathan and Peter) and the last would be the Commander of the SeaBeedetachment that would perform the actual construction (Edward). “SeaBee” stands for Construction Battalion (C.B.). This whole project would be governmentsponsored so it would make sense that they would use the construction arm of their military.In the second half of the story I will build everything around one central character and let him attract theteam to him. His name is Colin Becker and he’s the Curator of “The Hall of the Ancients.” This willallow him access to all of the information his expedition will need once they reach the surface.Colin will need two groups, one to examine and document what they find, and another to create a timeline and an historical record of their journey. Bethany Lender will be the scientist and Aaron Colure willbe the historian. We will also need someone to command the submarine (Zackery Ulysses Kemp). He’sthe only character with three names, don’t ask me why. And last but not least someone to command thesecurity team that will accompany them (Fredrick Hathaway).The final group of characters will populate the world our adventures will discover on the surface. Therewill be two distinct groups on the surface. On the human side I need at least one central character.(Terrance Liberman) and on the Humanoid side I need the leader (Etac), a love interest for one of thehumans (Kera) and a military leader (Jton).These will not be the only characters I will have. There will be others needed to flesh out the story, butthey will come up as I get into telling it. These sidebar characters will not necessarily need histories. Character HistoriesIt is important to give your characters a distinct voice. Obviously I’m not talking about the sound oftheir voice. I’m talking about what they say and how they say it. This stems from their physicalappearance and the historical background you give them. Below are a few examples of what I’mtalking about. 4
  5. 5. Story & Character Development Guide by Norman Ray FittsJanet CrowleyShe’s twenty-eight years old, with a slender build, short-cropped auburn hair, and bright emerald greeneyes. She has a PhD in Psychology. She specializes in the effects of long-term confinement on the humanability to function as a team. She has designed most of the protocols in use by both the Space programand the US Submarine Service. She has authored half a dozen books on the subject.Christopher WincrestHe’s thirty-seven years old. His six-foot tanned physique says beach volleyball when in fact he graduatedin the top two percent of MIT’s school of engineering. For most of his career he has specialized in roboticand containments designed to handle the log-term effects of deep-sea exposure and pressure. His designsare already in wide spread use throughout the oil and gas industry and on occasion have found their wayinto some shadowy U.S. military projects.Colin BeckerHe’s in his mid fifties, with graying hair. At over six feet, he has a solid build. His father was a collegeprofessor and his mother was a librarian. He was raised in the Travarian Sector of Quanterra. Born intothe Public Class, of a three-class system comprised of the Working Class, Public Class and RankingClass, he managed to elevate himself into the Ranking Class with his appointment as Curator of “TheHall of the Ancients.” His life totally revolves around his work and he has never married. Colin uncoversa number of long lost ancient records indicating that there may be human life surviving on the surfaceand uses his influence to convince the Ruling Council to allow him to try and confirm it.Before I detailed Kera I found it necessary to define Humanoid, as it will apply in the story. This madeit unnecessary to repeat the description over and over with each character.HumanoidThey are genetically engineered from altered human and animal DNA; these clones were designed to beable to survive in an eradiated environment. They have the capacity to alter themselves to conform tochanging conditions. They have an outward animal appearance, but possess a very high level ofintelligent. They have a shorten lifespan of about twenty-five years. That is made up for by the fact thatfrom birth it only takes about two human years to grow to maturity. The males are over six feet andheavily muscled. Their hands, feet, shoulders and head are covered with fur like hair. The females havean underlying human female shape, and are less extreme in their appearance, but are no less lethal. Inorder to protect their young the females have razor sharp, extendable claws at the ends of their fingersKeraShe is a Humanoid. She is in her third year of life by human standards. Her father is the leader of theirgoverning body. She works in a medical facility and she will be the love interest for Fredrick Hathaway.You can make these histories as detailed as you feel they need to be. Bear in mind that just because youinclude certain facts and events you may not need to use them all. 5
  6. 6. Story & Character Development Guide by Norman Ray Fitts… And the basis of the “The Submarine Effect” is born.One of the reasons for laying out a detailed character history is to understand who and what yourcharacters are. Knowing them keeps you from placing them into uncharacteristic situations. For thepurpose of your story these are living, breathing people. The Story lineEverything we’ve talked about up to now comes down to the story line. The story line is a one to fivepage detailed telling of the story. This will come from the ideas and notes you’ve made. It willintroduce the main characters and lay out the three acts of the story. Take whatever time it requirescompleting this. It will always keep you headed in the right direction. When, in the process of writingthe manuscript, or screenplay, you decide to alter a portion of the story that will change the ending orchange the story’s direction make sure you take the time to modify the story line to reflect the change.You will never get lost when you always know where you’re headed.Following is the completed Story Line (5 pages) The year is 2073. The world as we know it is about to end. The United States and Canada are theonly bastions of free thought left in the world. An electromagnetic pulse fired from two hundred milesabove the North American continent leaves us deaf and blind to what comes next. A biological missile attack kills ninety-five percent of the population. The architects of ourdestruction are certain they have eliminated the last pocket of resistance to world domination. Like manywho came before them they underestimated our willingness to defend our way of life. Following the attack surviving members of our military buried deep under ground shielded fromthe effects of the pulse, and protected from the virus, turned keys and pushed buttons. This did not launchan immediate retaliation. What it did do was send a flash message to our Submarine Commanders at sea.The message began “The Submarine Effect is activated.” Three days later our submarine fleet launched a nuclear attack that left most of the planet buriedunder the fall-out generated by forty-three hundred warheads. In anticipation of this eventuality, twenty-five years earlier steps were taken to insure the survival of our way of life. It began with the efforts of Jake Taylor, Janet Crowley, Christopher Wincrest, Clinton Potts,Jonathan Chambers and more than two hundred others in the construction of New Atlantis seventeenthousand feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. Jake and his team with the help of a contingency of SeaBees (military construction battalion)occupy a converted oil platform and in the course of three years secretly complete the most difficultconstruction project every conceived on earth. In order to guarantee the secret, after Jake and his team are removed, that night a pair ofmissiles erases all evidence of the platform, everyone on board and hopefully the memory of the existenceof New Atlantis. 6
  7. 7. Story & Character Development Guide by Norman Ray Fitts Over the next twenty-five years the members of Jake’s team worked independent of one anotheras preparations are made for the day when New Atlantis, and a number of underground sites on themainland, will be needed. On that day, after the submarine fleet delivers its payload, our submarine crews occupy NewAtlantis. Five hundred years after the events that destroyed ninety-five percent of human life on the surfacethe city of Quanterra, founded by the original inhabitants of New Atlantis, a city of two million, that resttwo and a half miles below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, has come into being. The members of “TheDry Earth Society” join a member of the Ranking Class in an effort to reclaim their heritage. They havemanaged to convince the Ruling Council, to restore an ancient submarine, the Georgana, and attempt torevisit the surface the birthplace of their ancestors. The Ruling Council agreed to this after being assured by others that the attempt to adjust theimmune systems of the volunteers to survive on the surface would fail thus preventing any future attemptsto leave the city. Having controlled the lives of millions of people for hundreds of years they feared theloss of that power and control. When it became apparent that the mission might actually work theyattempted to prevent the launch. News of that decision arrived in time for the Georgana to launch ahead of the forces sent toprevent it. They leave the safety of Quanterra and the adventure of a lifetime begins. The Texas coast is very different from what it was five hundred years earlier. Two intelligentgroups have survived. One group occupies a city referred to as New Houston. This city sprang from anunderground site located beneath it. This site and several others were constructed at the same time asNew Atlantis in an effort to ensure that at least some would survive. The second group, referred to asHumanoids due to the fact that this second group was created by the first, inhabits an establishedterritory close to the coast. A hundred years after most of the human life was destroyed on the surface the members of theunderground site genetically engineered a life form that could survive in the still contaminated worldabove ground. Unfortunately they created both genders and gave them a high level of human intelligence.This new life form quickly forgot about their creators trapped below ground and formed their ownsociety. To make them useful in a short time they were designed to mature in only two years. As a failsafe,to prevent them from over populating, their life span was limited to about twenty-five years. A hundred years later when those trapped below ground found their way back to the surface theytried to reclaim what they still considered to be their property. The Humanoids at first extended the handof friendship but then defended their right to exist. The two years of conflict that followed came to an endwhen someone remembered what caused the near extinction of humanity in the first place and a truce wassigned, so to speak, and from that point on there was almost no contact between them for close to threehundred years. In that time both societies flourished. With the introduction of the Quanterrians everything changed. At first the Humanoids thoughtthese new arrivals were in fact Sub-Humans, the name given to their creators shorten from SubterraneanHumans. The Quanterrian beach encampment was attacked. The entire landing party would have beenkilled except for the heightened sense of smell of the Humanoids. When they were close enough theynoticed the difference between these humans and their old adversary. 7
  8. 8. Story & Character Development Guide by Norman Ray Fitts A few of the landing party escaped first back into the gulf, and then after having to beach theirdamaged inflatable boat, into the jungle. Among these were Aaron Colure, Betheny Lender, and ColinBecker. The first two were researchers and the last was the Ranking Class member who organized themission. Another key member Fredrick Hathaway the man commanding the security detachment with thelanding party was among those captured on the beach. After the Ruling Humanoids debriefed their captives they notified New Houston that they wereholding living survivors from the past and that there were others that would need their help in the jungle. Terrance Lieberman a distant relative of the son-in-law of one of those who designed and builtNew Atlantis received the word and immediately left to recover the lost members of the landing party. Thecontaminated environment, over the long passage of time, had mutated almost every plant, animal andhuman left on the surface into something a great deal more lethal. Terrance and his party arrived just intime to save most of the remaining landing party from becoming a meal for some of the local wildlife. Aaron, Betheny and Colin were among the survivors. They were returned to New Houston andafter being treated for some local infestations were brought up to speed on the history of New Houston,the underground site it sprang from, and the creation of the Humanoids that had attacked their camp.Betheny and the others filled Terrance’s people in on Quanterra and its beginnings. It was almost immediately recognized by Terrance, and the Humanoid leaders, that this was theevent that could bring both sides back together. Not everybody on both sides saw it that way. In the meantime Fred Hathaway had gotten to know Kera, a female Humanoid assigned to look after him. Thatrelationship turned into something no one could have expected. Fred, Kera, the Humanoid Leader, some of his ministers and the rest of the surviving captives, atthe invitation of Terrance, began the journey to New Houston. Members from both factions wanting todestroy what was beginning to form attacked the procession. The attack would have worked except for theintervention of a fourth group of beings. Fearing an attack by their first group of creations the members of the underground site cloned asecond Humanoid termed a Super Humanoid. They were bigger, stronger and as it turned out smarterthan the first. The one difference was they had no gender. The only way they could reproduce wasthrough cloning. That attack never came and when the conflict began on the surface years later theyrefused to join in. In their words it was illogical. As it turned out they were right. A good part of the security force of New Houston was made up of Super Humanoids. Theyuncovered the plot and stepped in almost arriving too late. Fred was gravely wounded. Having to passthrough a screening process in order to gain access to New Houston it was discovered that Kera wascarrying a child, Fred’s child. Through video records left behind Terrance had learned the location of a command center in theCaribbean. He developed a plan to form a joint crew for the Georgana and seek out the site. It waslearned that the memories of many of the people at that site, when the world ended, had been transferredinto storage. If they could recover those memories and somehow reverse the process back into a clone thehistorical information recovered would be invaluable. Afterward he wanted to travel to other underground sites he believed to still exist. Aaron, Betheny(Beth) and Colin volunteered to be part of it. To show them what they might be up against Terrance puttogether an expedition to the south of the city. Living in what was left of the underground in what used to 8
  9. 9. Story & Character Development Guide by Norman Ray Fittsbe the original site of Houston Texas were the mutated remnants of the human population caught aboveground those many years ago. It was a bad idea and Colin Becker was killed. Aaron has to take his place. This event did notsway them from the attempt to reach the Caribbean site. Because of the child, and the extent of hisinjuries, Fred elects to stay behind and promotes someone else to command the security force made up ofboth humans and Humanoids. The leader of the Humanoids on the mission is named Jton. Before leaving for the Caribbean theGeorgana, with its integrated crew, pays a visit to Quanterra. Because of the possibility of theintroduction of organisms from the surface into the almost sterile environment they are not permitted intothe city. They are told that the plotters to kill the crew of the Georgana had been uncovered and dealtwith. Until now it was thought they had succeeded in destroying the sub. The new leadership inQuanterra is more than anxious to become part of the new world forming above water. On the submarine’s trek to the Caribbean site they decide to send the crew ashore just to get themoff the boat for a while. That was a mistake. Survivors on shore attack the first landing party and thesecond landing party has to try and help them. Most of the first landing party is killed. It is during thisevent that Jton develops a great deal of respect for Beth. She takes control of the second landing craft,and showing no fear for herself, takes it in to rescue survivors being pursued in the water by attackersfrom the beach. It wasn’t the lack of an outward appearance of fear that impressed him. Humanoids area blend of human and animal DNA and like most animals they can sense fear in another animal. He couldsense none of this in Beth. In his eyes she was completely fearless. From this point on he would take everyopportunity to be near her. It was in no way a sexual attraction but one of pure respect. The fact that Fred and Kera had produced a child had proved to be a one in a billion event. Amedical team made up of both species failed at every attempt to reproduce it in a lab. It was concludedthat even Fred and Kera could not do it again making their son truly unique. Their son Robert SataHathaway will have his on destiny to fulfill but not in this story. The Georgana reached the Caribbean site and found it intact. It takes a bit of digging to find theairlock to get inside. Once inside they discover why the site, after such a long time, still works. They meetAlly a maintenance robot that has been caring for the site all these years. They also meet a digitalrecreation of Jake Taylor one of the original team members that put New Atlantis together. Jake informs them that the nuclear power source buried beneath the site is going critical. Aaronand the others are informed that only five of the original fifty people that populated the site can berecovered. Their original DNA was stored and formed the key to release the memory modules withouterasing them. They also learn that in order to resolve the problem of who would be sacrificed in order tosave the others Jake’s wife Ally had her memories, her essence, transferred to the robot along with theprocess to restore those memories to a clone. At this point all Jake wants them to do is take Ally withthem. She absolutely refuses. For five hundred years the only thing that kept her sanity was the thought ofbeing with her husband again one day. With the complex set to explode at any time the landing party wants to vacate the site. Aaroninsists on saving those that are left. Beth and Aaron have been together almost the entire time and hadfallen in love. The ships captain had married them right before reaching the site. Beth argued against it,but lost. Aaron sent her and the others back up and went with Ally to recover the memory modules. Themodules and the required DNA are recovered but Aaron is severely injured in the process. 9
  10. 10. Story & Character Development Guide by Norman Ray Fitts Jton could see how worried Beth was and went back in. He reemerges carrying Aaron with Allybehind him pushing a cart with the modules. Aaron dies in Beth’s arms. Jton finally has to pry her awayfrom his body and takes her back to the sub. The submarine is on its way back when the massive wave caused by the underwater blast at thesite passes overhead. The Georgana returns to New Houston delaying the rest of the mission. Theyneeded time to heal. Aaron is buried next to Colin and both will be remembered through time as the ones mainlyresponsible for the resurrection of mankind. Beth made a promise to Aaron before he died to complete themission. With Jton, and the cloned likeness of Jake Taylor by her side, she does just that. Beth will remain with Jton until the end of his life cycle about fifteen years. Together they willhave many adventures. Legend has it in that time she bore him a daughter. Historians say that wasimpossible, but then again that’s what legends are made of. But that’s another story. In a storyline I’m completing “A Brave New World; the Betheny Colure Chronicles”, thediscovery of her diaries, a thousand years later, will continue this story.This story line did not come together overnight. It is the culmination of a couple of weeks of writingand rewriting, but when it was completed the foundation was laid on which the novel was built Marketing the novelMarketing a novel or a screenplay can be a very frustrating experience. If you can’t take rejection thenwrite for your own pleasure and forget about trying to make a living with it. That being said I’m goingto introduce you to some of the tools you will need. The SynopsisThe synopsis is a very brief telling of the story, limited to one page. You will probably rewrite it severaltimes. It will briefly depict at least the first two acts that make up the story; the beginning, theobstacles(s) to be overcome, but in order to peek someone’s interest it may, or may not, give thecomplete resolution.You will not include the names of the characters but you may use titles (i.e. The Doctor, TheResearcher, The Scientist). The reason for this is, this may be passed around in order to market thestory before the story is completed and in the meantime something may necessitate a name change. Following is the synopsis for “The Submarine Effect”The year is 2073. The world as we know it is about to end. The United States and Canada are the onlybastions of free thought left in the world. An electromagnetic pulse fired from two hundred miles abovethe North American continent leaves us deaf, and blind to what comes next. 10
  11. 11. Story & Character Development Guide by Norman Ray FittsA biological missile attack kills ninety-nine percent of the population. The architects of our destructionare certain they have eliminated the last pocket of resistance to world domination. Like many who camebefore them they underestimated our willingness to defend our way of life.Following the attack surviving members of our military buried deep underground shielded from theeffects of the pulse, and protected from the virus, turned keys and pushed buttons. This did not launch animmediate retaliation. What it did do was send a flash message to our Submarine Commanders at sea.The message began “The Submarine Effect is activated.”Three days later our submarine fleet launched a nuclear attack that left most of the planet buried underthe fall-out generated by forty-three hundred warheads. In anticipation of this eventuality, twenty-fiveyears earlier steps were taken to insure the survival of our way of life.It began with the construction of New Atlantis seventeen thousand feet below the surface of the Gulf ofMexico. It continued with the occupation of New Atlantis by our submarine crews. Itwill culminate hundreds of years later when they resurface to a world unlike anything you can imagine.Join the new crew of the Georgana a submarine that has survived its ancient past. They leave the safetyof Quanterra, a city founded by the original inhabitants of New Atlantis; a city of two million, three and ahalf miles below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.These adventurers will now risk everything in an attempt to reconnect with the surface the birthplace oftheir ancestors; a place that, with the passage of time, has mutated into something very lethal. The LoglineThe logline is a one sentence telling of the story and perhaps the most difficult thing to write. Thefollowing is the logline for “The Submarine Effect.”A highly coordinated attack on the United States, and Canada, has rendered us unable to respond in theconventional way leaving only our submarine fleet to retaliate, and afterwards to guarantee humansurvival.This will become your “Elevator Pitch” to a literary agent or producer. You only have as long as theelevator ride last, so to speak, to get and keep their attention.I have this apocalyptic tale about a highly coordinated attack on the United States, and Canada, thatrenders us unable to respond in the conventional way leaving only our submarine fleet to retaliate, andthen afterwards to guarantee human survival.On the next page is the “Novel/Short Story Structure”. It graphically depicts the layout of the story. 11
  12. 12. Story & Character Development Guide by Norman Ray Fitts Copyright © 2008 All Rights Reserved 12