One of the challenges in writing a good story or article or essay is figuring out and deciding what the most interesting things are, also the most unique, the most important. I first developed an idea for a story as far back as my senior year in high school, centered on students who were going to be graduating soon. It started out as a cartoon series, having made two previous cartoon series myself. This time, I figured, since it was the last semester of my senior year at the time, I would devote my new series to that time and illustrate characters who had different struggles in terms of what would happen or what they were going to do after graduation.
I watched several teen/high school-related movies within the past two years, and have come to the near- conclusion that three of them are the most resourceful for my current story (which I've been shelving and updating on-and-off for the last six years): American Graffiti (1973), Breaking Away (1979), and The Breakfast Club (1985). To me, these are films that contain unique characters, a unique setting, and a specific time duration.
American Graffiti is set during the course of one night before students head off to college. It takes place in and around the town of Modesto, California. Its cast of characters includes between 10 to 15 students entering (while some are fearing or questioning) adulthood, all representing distinct cliques or sorts - jocks, "populars," outsiders, etc. Breaking Away is set in Bloomington, Indiana, during the course of one summer - about a year after a few characters (refered to as "cutters" - that is, a slang for local townfolk) have finished high school and are in no hurry for the next direction in life. Other characters include students at the local university, as well as the parents of one central character. The Breakfast Club occurs during one Saturday detention period at the fictional Shermer High School in Shermer, Illinois. The five main characters represent different cliques - the brain, the princess, the athlete, the criminal, and the basket case. Eventually, they discover that they have more in common than they believe.
Another challenge in writing an original story is avoiding what's been done before (e.g., best moments in high school, graduation celebration, and so forth). The present setting I have for my piece ("Colleagues," as the working title) is the last semester of the senior year in High School. It is also set within the first few years of the new millenium, as to illustrate and present a more up-to-date version of high school life. What I wish to avoid is showing a graduation story and (I'm presently debating) flashbacks from a present time to a past event or situation. One strong choice is to show certain events in pictures or dialogue, as a way to avoid overt sentimentality and such. Don't get me wrong, I believe in the power of emotion in film, but there's a certain line that you can't cross or only cross over so far when it comes to authenticity and believability.
Because it's a coming-of-age story (or, as I prefer, a "transition" piece), it's important to have characters go through real emotions and situations. I said that I started this concept with a series of cartoons (and believed the story could be told through animation, as a form of authenticity), but I'm debating if I should go for a live-action take.
More notes coming soon from yours truly,