Writing a Story the Babbling Vagabonds Way

Writing a Story

So now we are starting to develop the story for our next family Christmas show, The Dinosaur who came for Christmas. As a company we devise our shows – which means that we don’t start with a script – we begin with an idea, actually, nowadays we begin with a title. So where do we start in writing a story? We have a ‘process’ for creating our work. This has evolved as we have over the past eighteen years and although I don’t think we have ‘rules’ as to how we do it, we have some guidelines.

Firstly – What’s it about?

Well, I find lots of the conversations we have at this stage start with me saying:

“At the moment… it’s about this kid who finds a dinosaur egg!”

There’s not too much in that sentence to commit ourselves to something that we might get rid of at a later stage. Maybe there’s just enough to trigger a sense of excitement and anticipation.

A writers sketchbook
A sketchbook of ideas when writing a story

We’ve learnt a few things along the way particularly about story types. We start to chat about the type of story we think this might be. Is it a quest story? A transformation story? Journey and return? It’s nothing too detailed, we just let ideas play in our heads for a while. Hang about in our imaginations, think through a few ‘what ifs’ and ‘how about’.  I tend to go for long walks on my own, that helps my process. From someone finding a dinosaur egg, and it hatching… well, what could happen? What would be fun to see? What trouble would that bring about? Where is that going to take the characters? ‘what if this happened?’ 

 

Let’s start at the beginning…or at the end…or in the middle!

Sometimes we think about ‘the end’, or a significant moment that might happen ten minutes into the story. It can be really fun to think, how could that happen?

 

We can plot out several storylines, and try those out. What is interesting to us might not be that interesting to a four-year-old, or a seventy-year-old.

We watch films, read books, look at pictures and paintings, listen to music. Adding ingredients to our collective stew. Whether they will end up in the final show, we don’t know yet but they might trigger something somewhere.

Storyboard ideas
writing a story

 

What’s essential!

Eventually, we will arrive at a plot. Nine or ten chapter headings. These are the things that have to happen for the story to work. We call this our ‘Essences’. These are the things that have to happen for the story to progress.

Then we will storyboard ideas. Like a film. Sketch out ideas – how they might look onstage. Sometimes we will bring some actors in to play with rough ideas too. All the time shaping the story, defining characters and events. Adding the ‘groovy bits’. The pieces of the story that adds to the essences, bring the fun, the danger, the excitement.

 

All this will take place over the first few months of the year. We will share our ideas with the producers, they will pitch in ideas. Nobody ‘owns’ the story – we are all onboard adding suggestions to the journey.

It’s really fun. It helps create a very organic show, that grows and twists and turns with the additions brought by the collaborators.

But if you ask me now…

It’s about this Kid, who finds a dinosaur egg.

writing a story

Written by Phil Coggins