The Story Distilling Process

Story Distiller manages all your data so you don’t have to. Or, you could keep some notes…

Story Distiller is built on the idea that the key to writing is planning and that every scene in your screenplay should turn something. That every action or line of dialogue should move the story forward. That every action should generate a reaction and that every reaction should reveal something previously hidden from view. That the energy of your story should build towards its climax and that the length of each scene should be based on how long it plays in your head, not how many words you write. And, finally, that redrafting a completed screenplay is like modifying a house as soon as it’s built.

Story Distiller is like CAD for screenwriters.

Story Distiller is built upon the principle that your screenplay should be so solidly packed with stuff that moves both the story and your audience that there won’t be room in there for any fluff.

To help you achieve this, we have developed a very specific method. Story Distilling™.

Story Arcs™ are the threads of each plot, subplot, character story (what happens- what they do etc.), character arc (how they are changed by what happens), relationship story and relationship arc in your story. You write them one Story Beat™, or plot point, at a time. And then you write the next one and the next.

By the time you’ve finished writing your story beats, you should find yourself with literally hundreds of story beats, each one representing a scene and each one turning one story or another. No filler, no traffic scenes (you can add those later on in the Scenes page).

And don’t worry about things becoming formulaic. The Arcs and Plots page is just the first step and the tips visible for each story beat are there as a guide, not dictate to you.

The following Timeline page is where you will sort and place all those scene beats where they should be. No more formulae. *Unless that’s what you’re aiming for. No judgement here…

Now, what do you do with hundreds of scenes, when a typical feature film has maybe 30-50? This is where Story Distilling comes in.

In many cases you will find yourself with a number of story beats, from different arcs, that all belong in the one scene. The scene where Ryan first kisses Alex is obviously the same as where Alex finally gets to kiss Ryan and when Tyler sees the two kissing and is heartbroken. Story Distiller makes it easy to manage all these disparate story threads and combine them into densely packed, fat-free scenes.

On the Timeline page, you can Group and Align™ all story beats that will form a common scene, drag the group to when it belongs in the story and Distil them down into a single scene.

Each scene you have created should play out on the page and on the screen, one shot, one action, one line of dialogue at a time. We tame this process through Scene Beats. And, once again, once we’re done, we Distil those down into the individual scenes.

Now you have a list of scenes that consist of a dense collection of story beats, and now all your scenes have every action, reaction, look, reaction and hidden meaning mapped out in scene beats.

Now we time each scene, using the built-in timer. We have each and every shot that comprise the scene, so we play the scene on the screen in our minds, capture the time it took, do it again and average it – or use the last time you arrived at.

Now we know for how long each scene should run and how many pages our script is likely to run for. On the Storyboard page we can put the scenes into the correct order, take scenes out, put scenes in or even go back to our scenes and change the mood or the timing as we write and rewrite the structure before we begin committing to a draft.

Only when we’re totally happy with the structure and pacing of our story do we set it to Story Lockoff™ and proceed to the draft.

When we begin the draft we don’t have to face down that blank page. We have, before you type “Fade In”, each scene set out with a page budget and each scene beat right there on the screen before us.

Now it’s a process of writing. Action and dialogue. And rewriting. Action and dialogue. You have already written and rewritten story structure with a simple mouse move. You have already timed each scene and appraised its energy level and then rewritten any that require it for pacing. You have already honed your characters and their relationships.

No more screenplay CPR, no more rowing the Atlantic. Just the essence of story right there on the page.