If you haven't had a chance to read any of Tim Long's contributions to the NFS site this year, then you're missing out on some excellent advice on how to structurally attack writing a screenplay. The former MFA professor and nationally recognized screenplay consultant has over 25 years of screenwriting experience, during which he's sold, optioned, and pitched film projects at the studio level. He’s also had original screenplays of his own in development with Oscar-winning and nominated producers.

The PARABLE program provides you with a method that fosters your story idea and ensures it remains intact throughout the screenwriting process. Long takes you through eight stages of preparation which he deems are entirely necessary to accomplish before ever putting pen to paper. The lessons come in the form of short, informational videos, case studies, and workbook exercises.

The first three stages deal with honing in on your characters to develop your story. If you have an idea already, then that's fantastic, because this course is really about getting your idea in shape before you start writing. If you don't have one in mind, however, Long begins by providing examples of how to generate the "Initial Stimulus" of an idea. Next, you'll flesh it out by developing a "Character" with desire, drive and distinction that lead to emotional resonance, before finally detailing that character's "Personality" through their outward traits and mannerisms. These steps are all accompanied by simple, handy exercises that strengthen your idea and greatly help in preparing to outline your script. Which happens to be the result of the final four stages.

Roller1PARABLE's ideal story structure

After developing your characters, it's time to develop what Long refers to as the "Heart" of your story. This is done by pin-pointing how it is you want your character to grow throughout the script. It's this emotional "Journey" that makes up the next step of PARABLE, before Long introduces you to what he has determined the perfect "Form" for compiling all of these steps together.

At this point, he really breaks down the basics of scriptwriting to a nitty gritty level, providing you with markers that every script should have and even the amount of pages he believes should be within each act of your screenplay. By the end of the next step, if you've completed all the workbook exercises, you should have enough in place to start on your "Outline." And after that comes the simple part; all you have to do is fill in the blanks and write your screenplay.

It's an interesting technique, one that's really based on a character-first attitude which Long believes is the most essential part in building a story. He's convincing in his efforts, and if you really are craving the basics of screenplay writing this may be a good investment for you at $299. A hefty sum, but one that is still much, much, much, much cheaper than graduate school. Check out PARABLE here.