3rd Edition

Developing Story Ideas The Power and Purpose of Storytelling

By Michael Rabiger Copyright 2017
    230 Pages
    by Routledge

    230 Pages
    by Routledge

    The vast majority of screenplay and writing books that focus on story development have little to say about the initial concept that inspired the piece. Developing Story Ideas: The Power and Purpose of Storytelling, Third Edition provides writers with ideational tools and resources to generate a wide variety of stories in a broad range of forms. Celebrated filmmaker and author Michael Rabiger demonstrates how to observe situations and themes in the writer’s own life experience, and use these as the basis for original storytelling. 

    This new edition has been updated with chapters on adaptation, improvisation, and cast collaboration’s roles in story construction, as well as a companion website featuring further projects, class assignments, instructor resources, and more.


    • Gain the practical tools and resources  you need to spark your creativity and generate a wide variety of stories in a broad range of forms, including screenplays, documentaries, novels, short stories, and plays
    • Through hands-on, step-by-step exercises and group and individual assignments, learn to use situations and themes from your own life experience, dreams, myth, and the news as the basis for character-driven storytelling; harness methods of screenplay format, dialogue, plot structure, and character development that will allow your stories to reach their fullest potential

    Part I


    Chapter 1: This Book, Its Goals, and Getting Started

    You and Your Resources

    Why We Work in Outline Form

    Ideation and Originality

    Identifying with the Main Character

    Jump-Starting the Imagination

    The Assignments

    Concerning the Writing Samples

    Having Fun

    This Book’s Layout and Goals

    Getting Started

    The game called CLOSAT

    Chapter 2: You and the Creative Process

    The Journey of the Self

    Wanting to Tell Stories

    Self-Exposure and Giving Support

    What is Therapy and What Is Art?

    What Stories Mean

    Theme and Variation

    Just Do It

    Outline and Expansion


    Part II



    Chapter 3: Artistic Identity


    Assignment 3-1: Survey of Yourself and Your Authorial Goals

    Assignment 3-2: Presenting Yourself and Your Storytelling Goals

    Assignment 3-3 Listening and Reacting

    Going Farther

    Chapter 4: Introductions and Playing "CLOSAT"


    Maintaining Focus


    If You are Working Alone

    Assignment 4-1: Five-Minute Self-Introduction.

    Assignment 4-2: Play the CLOSAT game.

    Assignment 4-3: Develop your Own Pitching Guidelines.

    General discussion

    Chapter 5: Autobiography and Influences

    Assignment 5-1: Autobiographical Survey

    Assignment 5-2: Presenting your influences.

    Chapter 6: Observing from Life

    Assignment 6-1: CLOSAT preparatory work and the writer’s journal

    Assignment 6-2: CLOSAT with 2 characters, 1 location and 1 Object

    Assignment 6-3: CLOSAT with 3 Characters, 2 objects, an act and a theme

    Going Farther

    Assignment 6-4: CLOSAT Variations for a Group/Class

    The Power of Imagery.

    Going Farther


    Part III


    Chapter 7: Developing Your Characters and the Dramatist’s Toolkit

    Checklist for Developing Your Characters

    The Tools of the Dramatist

    Tools #1–4, Four Hats

    Tool #5, the Questionnaire

    Tool #6, the Diving Mask

    Tool #7, the Key (the Dramatic Premise)

    Tool #8, the Pressure Meter (Detects and Measures Conflict)

    Tool #9, the Stopwatch (Represents Time Progressing)

    Tool #10, the Cake Slice (Separates Drama into its Components)

    Tool #11, the Set of Boxes (Representing the Three-Act Structure.)

    Tool #12, the Telescope (Finding Point of View)

    Chapter 8: Analyzing a Scene

    Using tool #5, the Questionnaire

    Using tool #6, the Diving Mask.

    Using tool #7, the Key (finding a dramatic premise)

    Using tool #8, the Pressure Meter (Detects and Measures Conflict)

    Using tool #9, the Stopwatch (Represents Time Progressing)

    An Analogy for Drama

    Using tool # 10, the Cake-Slice (Separating Drama into its Components)

    Assignment 8-1: Character and Destiny

    Assignment 8-2: Volition and Point of View

    Assignment 8-3: Acting on volition.

    Assignment 8-4: Scene Divisions for "The Fisherman’s Wife."

    The Fisherman’s Wife

    Chapter 9: Assessing a Complete Work

    Using tool #11, the Set of Boxes

    The Three-Act Structure.

    Character Driven versus Plot Driven Drama

    Using tool #8, the Pressure Meter Again (Sources of Pressure, Identifying Genre)

    Drawing a Dramatic Arc for a Whole Work

    Drama and Point of View

    Assignment 9-1: Dividing "Little Red Riding Hood" into Scenes and Acts.

    Assignment 9-2 Character Types and Story Meanings.

    Going Farther

    Chapter 10: Testing a Story Idea and Deciding Point of View

    Exploring a Story’s Effectiveness

    Story Effectiveness Questionnaire

    Exploring a Story’s Meaning and Purpose

    Story Editing Tools in Summary

    Assignment 10-1: Impressions and Feedback.

    Assignment 10-2: Critical Communication.


    Part IV:


    Chapter 11: A Tale from Childhood

    On Discussion

    Assignment 11-1: An Event from Childhood

    Assignment 11-1: An Event from Childhood

    Assignment 11-3 Developing a childhood film or photo scene.

    Example 1 (Vilka Tzouras)

    Example 2 (Alex Meillier)

    Example 3 (Chris Darner)

    Example 4 (Amanda McCormick)


    On memory

    Going Farther

    Chapter 12: Family Story

    Assignment 12-1: A Story Told in Your Family

    Assignment 12-2 Family Story as Comic Strip

    Assignment 12-3 The Untold Story


    Example 1 (Margaret Harris)

    Example 2 (Amanda McCormick)

    Example 3 (Peter Riley)

    Going Farther

    Chapter 13: A Myth, Legend, or Folktale Retold

    Interpreting Oral Tales

    Adaptation Problems

    Assignment 13-1 Free Choice of Tale.

    Assignment 13-2 Myth

    Assignment 13-3 Legend

    Assignment 13-4 Folktale


    Example #1: The Legend of Pretty Boy Floyd Retold (Michael Hanttula)

    Example #2 (Tatsuya Guillermo Ohno)

    Example #3: Sisyphus Cries Dixie: A Modern Story (Michelle Arnove)


    Going Farther

    Chapter 14: Dream Story

    Assignment 14-1: Writing up a Dream

    Assignment 14-2: Surreal Narrative

    Assignment 14-3: Linking Dreams into One Narrative

    Assignment 14-4 Dream and Myth


    Dream Sequence #1 (Chris Darner)

    Dream Sequence #2 (Michael Hanttula)

    Dream Sequence #3 (Cynthia Merwarth)

    Going Farther

    Chapter 15: Adapting a Short Story 

    Evaluating a Story for Adaptation to the Screen

    Assignment 15-1: Short Story Analysis

    Assignment 15-2: Adaptation Issues

    Assignment 15-3: Dramatic Breakdown


    Example 1: "An Encounter," from Dubliners, by James Joyce (Peter Riley)

    Example 2, "Le Diner de Cons," by Francis Veber (Louis Leterrier)


    Going Farther

    Chapter 16: Ten-Minute, News Inspired Story

    Making a Working Hypothesis

    Assignment 16-1: A picture and its consequences.

    Assignment 16-2: Reality TV show.

    Assignment 16-3: Docudrama.

    Assignment 16-4: Based on a Real Story...

    Assignment 16-5: Behind the Façade

    Assignment 16-6: This Far, and No Farther

    Assignment 16-7: Analyze Four News Items.

    Assignment 16-8: Develop Interpersonal Difference


    Going Farther

    Chapter 17: A Documentary Subject

    Assignment 17-1: A Documentary Subject

    Assignment 17-2: Simple Voice-Over Personal Film

    Assignment 17-3: Simple Voice-Over Historical Film

    Documentary Subject (Angela Galyean)

    Going Farther

    Chapter 18: Thirty-Minute Original Fiction

    Assignment 18-1: Treatment for an Original Thirty-Minute Fiction Piece.

    Assignment 18-2: An Original 30-minute Fiction Piece Inspired by an Image.

    Assignment 18-3: An Original 30-minute Fiction Piece Inspired by CLOSAT Cards.

    Assignment 18-3: An Original 30-minute Fiction Piece Inspired by CLOSAT Cards.

    Example #1: Thirty-Minute Original Fiction Idea (Michael Hanttula)

    Example #2: "Eggs Benedict" (Michelle Arnove)

    On Comedy

    Going Farther

    Chapter 19: Feature Film

    Assignment 19-1: Idea for a Feature Film (Featuring Two Points of View)

    Example: Feature Film Idea (Paul Flanagan)

    On The Writing Process and Receiving Criticism

    Going Farther

    Part V


    Chapter 20: Wholly Improvised (Scenes and story construction in the vein of Cassavetes, Fassbinder, Linklater)

    Chapter 21: Screenplay generated from Improvisation (Screenplay generated from a core of ideas, cast collaboration and improvisations, then best material transcribed and shaped into a screenplay, in the vein of Bergman, Leigh)

    Part V


    Chapter 22: Revisiting Your Artistic Identity

    Your Creative Direction

    Assignment 20-1: Revisiting your Artistic Identity.

    Assignment 20-2: Say Where You’d Like to Go.

    Assignment 20-3: Ideas and Ambitions.

    Assignment 20-4 Setting a Personal Agenda.

    Discussion and Retrospective

    Part VI:


    Chapter 23: Story-Editing Your Outline

    Structural Options


    Stream of Consciousness


    Yielding to the Dramatic Conventions

    Chapter 24: Expanding Your Outline

    Writing for the Screen

    Standard Screenplay Format

    Camera and Editing Directions

    Sound and Music Directions

    Documentary Film Proposal


    Standard Playwriting Format

    Novel or Short Story Format


    Michael Rabiger began in the cutting rooms of England’s Pinewood and Shepperton Studios, became an editor and BBC director of documentaries, and then specialized for many years in the US as a production and aesthetics educator. At Columbia College Chicago he was co-founder, then chair of the Film/Video Department, and established the Michael Rabiger Center for Documentary. He has directed or edited more than 35 films, given workshops in many countries, and led a multinational European workshop for CILECT. Additionally, he won the International Documentary Association's Scholarship and Preservation Award, served as a Fulbright Specialist in South Africa, and is an honorary professor at the University of Buenos Aires. He is the author of Directing the Documentary, and the co-author of Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics, both published by Focal Press and available in multiple languages.

    "Whenever a book’s lifespan makes it through several editions, you know that it must be doing something right...Now in it’s third edition, Michael Rabiger’s Developing Story Ideas serves an area of creative development which is normally not addressed in most storytelling/screenwriting manuals; how to come up with an idea for a story in the first place."

    --Jonny Elwyn, freelance film editor and creator of jonnyelwyn.co.uk