Sisler IDM

Story Development for Games, Animation & Film w/ Brendan Cwik

Story Development

Why do you want to write this story?
The World of the Story
The world creates the mood that defines the protagonist, the stakes, and the antagonist (which could be the world itself).
Every writer has their own style.
This style can help determine what genre best suits you.
You should write in a style that feels natural to you, and your style should feel consistent with the kind of film, animation, or game you are trying to write.

Genre “refers to the categorization of narrative films, be the stories they tell and the ways they tell them.”
“Boring is the cardinal sin in all of storytelling.”
– Robin Russin
Genres tend to spring up organically – inspired by
shifts in history, politics, or society.
Genres are often brought about inadvertently – not through any conscious plan, but rather because of a cultural need to explore and express issues and ideas through image and stories.


  • Action
  • Comedy
  • Gangster
  • Horror
  • Film Noir
  • Science Fiction
  • Musical
  • Western
  • Comic Book Movie

A Through Line is “the central plot point that propels the hero from beginning to end, from one scene to the next, from one act to the next…What he wants is denied him,either by his choice or by the force of outside circumstances. The breakdown exposes a deeper motivation that propels the character forward, a motivation he was originally unaware of.”
Nancy Lamb

Social Network is not about the development of Facebook. It is about how single minded ambition destroys friendship and loyalty and leads to jealousy and guilt.
When the world reflects the story, it assists by providing important ambiance, perspective, tone and context.
Characters grow out of a
specific environment,
which they understand
and which defines and
reveals their personality.

The Conversation
directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Protagonist – central character. Drives the action. The audience must be able to relate, identify and/or empathize with the protagonist.
Antagonist – the person/place/thing standing in opposition to the protagonist
Make sure your character doesn’t just “exist” they need to take “action.”
a character without a function does not belong in your story – each character should serve a unique purpose to the story
Character Motivation
gives the character a purpose
the character exists within the screen
character motivation drives the story
What is missing for the character?
What steps or action will the character take to achieve their goal?
Types of Story Conflict
There are two categories of conflict: external and internal. External conflict is antagonist or situation driven, while internal conflict deals with the protagonist’s own character flaws.
External Conflicts
Character vs Character
Character vs Society
Character vs Nature
Character vs Fate
Character vs Self
Three Act Structure
opening balance
the end of the beginning
the situation
the complications
Conflict, crises, obstacles and complications
Rising Action
The Dark Moment
the conclusion
Five Part Dramatic Structure
everything preceding and including the inciting moment – the event or situation that sets the rest of the narrative in motion
the development of the action of the narrative toward a climax
the narratives turning point
the events that follow the climax and bring the narrative from climax to conclusion
the resolution or conclusion of the narrative
“in a game there are three voices: the creator, the game, and the player… we’re invited by the artist to inject our own morality, our own world view, our own experiences into the game as we play it, and what comes out is wholly different for everybody that experiences it.”
Chris Melissinos – The Art of the Video Game
for a video game a decision tree is a map – a branching diagram – of possible antagonists, pathways and levels that player encounters.
the more invisible to the player the decision tree construction is, the better the illusion that the player has actual freedom of choice within the game.
a player increasingly needs the puzzle, traps and challenges to be varied and interesting, and to increase in spectacle and complexity as they move toward the final confrontation. This provides an opportunity for writers to integrate more compelling story elements into a game’s sequence of goals and obstacles.
“What story does in a video game is it provides significance: you have to save your brother; you’ve only got ten minutes; here’s the problem you have to solve to save your brother. GO!”
Warren Spector, game designer
Trumbo (2015) directed by Jay Roach
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) directed by Stanley Cubrick
It Happened One Night (1934) directed by Frank Capra
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) dir. Robert Weine
Little Caesar (1931) dir. Mervyn LeRoy
The Searchers (1956) dir. John Ford
La La Land (2016) dir. Damien Chazelle
The Social Network (2010) dir. David Fincher
The Dark Knight (2008) dir. Christopher Nolan
Chungking Express (1994) dir. Wong Kar-Wei
The Philadelphia Story (1940) dir. George Cukor
Casablanca (1942) dir. Michael Curtiz
It Happened One Night (1934) dir. Frank Capra
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