I’ve written a screenplay.
I had a movie in my head for a number of years, and I decided to learn the craft of screenwriting and get it on paper. I didn’t just Google “how to write a screenplay” because I knew that would lead me to interesting sites teaching me what to do, but I was sure the writers of a number of the really bad movies I’d seen also looked at those same sites. Instead, I invested in a screenwriting class and got help from a very talented creative director from a major movie studio.
I learned quite a few lessons about how to take the movie in my head and transform it into words for actors and directors to read. One thing that really stuck with me was to keep in mind that a movie is limited in time (about 90 minutes on average) and everything you need to say must be said in that 90 minutes (about 90-120 pages). In order to do this, you have to be very efficient in the way you write – meaning dump a lot of unnecessary dialog and explanations and make sure everything moves the story forward.
As I work with others to create training in the form of eLearning modules, videos, games and others, I see that the techniques needed to tell a story visually for a movie are the same for these media formats. Because training can be a very visual product, you really need to make sure you build scenes properly – and because of the costs in time, resources and cash, you have to build them efficiently.
Here are 5 tips I’d like to offer when designing training storyboards taken from what I’ve learned about writing for film. Think of it like you would a movie:
- Everything you write must move the story forward. Eliminate anything that doesn’t move the story forward.
- Think visually instead of with words. Rely on action to tell the story, not on dialog. Remember that you will have pictures that help to tell the story.
- Give the main character a goal and a timeframe to reach it. Put obstacles in his way so that he can’t easily reach his goal.
- Get in late, get out early. Don’t add in too much introduction and don’t add in too much conclusion. In many stories you want to introduce ‘normal life’ and how that normal life is disrupted. Avoid putting in too much ‘normal life’ before getting to the plot of the story.
- Keep it simple. Adding more and more characters and sub-plots that don’t move the story forward will make a confusing story. Does Billy really need to walk down to the river with 8 friends, all of whom have a speaking parts with different opinions in the story? Or can Billy simply go with his best friend who is his total opposite to the river?
In the tips above, perhaps the “character” is your learner – or maybe it’s a topic or additional information you want to include. “Normal life” could be the learner’s current situation or knowledge about the topic – how can your training disrupt that current situation? Perhaps convoluted sub-plots could just meaningless questions you pose to the learner in knowledge checks or quizzes. Think about how a movie can be an analogy for your training.
There is much to learn about writing interesting training stories. I hope this gives you a little more insight into how complex it can actually be!