How does Michaela Coel tell a story?

These storytelling tips will help you focus on what matters …

I can destroy you was the show that blew everyone away last year. People raved about the fun, emotional, and unexpected twists and turns of Michaela Coel’s work. It was one of those entertainment pieces that was so luscious and intriguing that it’s incredibly difficult to put the effect into words.

This type of writing can and should intimidate the people watching. It shows an intense display of care, craft, and characterization that few shows have ever achieved.

Coel is a talented polymath who has fictionalized her own experience of sexual assault for I can destroy you. Your debut sitcom, Chewing gum, ran from 2015 to 2017 and won a BAFTA for best comedy actress.

Coel recently sat down with Harper’s Bazaar to talk about scriptwriting, storytelling, and how she puts ideas from her mind on the page.

Check out this video from Harper’s Bazaar UK and let’s talk after the jump.

How does Michaela Coel tell a story?

Storytelling is largely a personal art form. You have to find the only way that works for you. Coel admits that while her trip has details to help you, it is not based on rules. It’s based on trying, failing, and moving on.

Above I want to repeat your feeling that a good story communicates something.

Find out what is at the heart of your story or topic. What are your intentions and how can you communicate them to the audience? What should people see in the story? Sure, part of yourself – but what part of you are you sending them to?

Another key point that she fully agrees with is the idea that writing a number of drafts is important. You won’t nail it on the first pass. You have to be disciplined enough to break and break the idea until you think it actually does its job.

It’s okay to take the time to say something but not say anything.

For Coel, she gets her story concepts by looking back through memories. All ideas we create and develop are based on our own prejudices and experiences. Hence, we need to make sure that what we put on the side either shares or challenges these prejudices.

The author is responsible for serving the story. The goals of the story may come as a surprise or take you to a place where you had no idea, but you need to pursue them.

Challenge yourself to write something that will make a difference. Now you can make a difference in a person or in society, but all that matters is that what you communicate affects the person who is watching or reading.

When it comes to character or storyline, Coel plays the middle of the field. For them both develop together. The passion and pressure of storytelling is real and the writer’s block is real, but it never asks where the story is coming from. She either chases a plot and finds characters that fit into that world, or she chases a character she finds interesting and sees the plot that develops around them.

If she gets stuck, she just writes a few and eventually works her way out. She even Googles “How to Write a TV Show,” which means there is a small chance she will read our articles.

In the end, it comes down to getting your ideas down on paper.

So get down to work!

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