3 Screenwriting Lessons You Can Learn From “The Wolf Among Us”

Do you remember the last time you disagreed with one particular moral choice on a story? Do you find yourself fantasizing about changing a particular scene or sequence on a screenplay?

If that’s your case, you will enjoy and learn a few things from interactive stories.

See, if you are like me, you like to spend time creating fictional worlds. You enjoy learning your way around by making your own choices and suffering the consequences –Even when they might hurt. This joy might be the reason why you tell stories on a screen or paper.

One of my favorite interactive stories would be The Wolf Among Us.  A dark yet brilliant video game from Telltale game series. Inspired by the original works of Bill Willingham comic book series Fables. A more mature, more human approach to the already known story of the Big Bad Wolf.

Only this time he’s actually reformed, quite handsome, and the Fablestown’s sheriff (because yes, we all have dreams to pursue.)

In this post, I’m going to share with you the insights and lessons I got from playing the game. How it improved my screenwriter abilities –and hopefully yours.


1.  Every story has already been told

The first time I heard this I felt a little discouraged. It was difficult for me to believe that we are just revisiting stories on different and creative ways. Yet, the more I write and read, the more I found this to be true.

The power of fables and myths remains on its potential to touch themes and situations that are universal to our human nature. Myths and fables are deeply rooted in our collective unconscious as archetypes.

This is the first thing you will notice when playing The Wolf Among Us. In the game, you will find a handful of fables like The Belle and the Beast, Snow White, The Crooked Man and of course, The Big Bad Wolf. Still, Bill Willingham manages to show us a side of fables we haven’t seen before.

He’s, in fact, retelling a story in his own way and in his own terms. He’s telling that one story only he can tell.

So, a few things to ask yourself:

  • Does my story grounds itself on other myths or fables?

  • What universal human concept does my story talk about?

  • What images or archetypes are active in my story?

Note: On an upcoming post, I’ll share my personal experience about how I’m using Egyptian mythology and Venezuelan Cosmogonic myths to write my first comic.


2.  Silence is an option

The Wolf Among Us is a game about choices in which whatever you say or do might prompt a message like this:

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Your choices are reflected on other characters. It’s a little reminder that our words hold humongous power –especially when we decide not to say them.

At the very beginning, the game teaches you that silence is an option. So instead of using any of the premade dialogue options, your protagonist will put his best expressionless face to emphasize the tension left in the conversation.

This is a powerful tool used in narratives, movies, and theater. It leaves an empty space and adds tension to both character’s agendas.

Let’s check this example:

INT. CAFETERIA – AFTERNOON

DENISE

You say you wanted to talk. Now, what about?

CARL

Denise, here listen… I can’t stop thinking about you.

DENISE

(sighing)

I won’t go back with you Carl. Things are not the same anymore.

Bzzz. She’s being Too forward.

Now let’s use silence.

INT. CAFETERIA – AFTERNOON

DENISE

You say you wanted to talk. Now, what about?

CARL

Denise, here listen… I can’t stop thinking about you.

DENISE stares at carl with a straight-faced expression. She breaks eye contact. She lowers her head while staring into her cup of coffee. DENISE takes a deep breath and looks outside the window. Then she raises her hand to call the waitress.

WAITRESS

Yes, honey?

DENISE

My coffee has gone cold.

WAITRESS

No problem. I’ll bring you a new one.

DENISE

No. It’s ok. Could you get me the check, please?

WAITRESS
(looking at both)

Is there anything with which I can help you today-?

DENISE

No. We’re both done.

Ok, this might not be the best dialogue I’ve created. But it gets to the point. The scene is resolved without Denise giving an answer to Carl. Yet the final words: “We’re both done” resolve any doubts we may have had about their relationship.


3.  Choices Vs. Consequences

Now back to The Wolf Among Us.

In the beginning, I told you about how the game relies on moral choices and decisions to advance the story. However, some players have argued that regardless of their choices, some outcomes might end up being the exact same. That, in turn, makes players feel deceived and disappointed.

But there’s an explanation behind this:

Moral choices are meant to be important since players (or audiences) are faced with a dilemma that’s bigger than the consequences. Moral choices are more about how you feel by making the decision rather than what the actual outcome might be.

Let me give you an example from the masterpiece The Third Man (screenplay by Orson Welles, Carol Reed, and Graham Greene).

On the last scene, our protagonist is left with a choice: At a funeral, he can decide to either take an important flight or, stay and wait for the girl he loves while losing his flight.

Here’s what happens:

She just walks past him. She doesn’t even look at him. And what does he do? He lights a cigar.

This scene is a perfect example of choices in stories. Regardless of his decision, he doesn’t get the girl.

Quick tip: When writing your screenplay or story. Make sure that the decision feels more important than the outcome. Put us in your protagonist’s shoes and makes us feel the tension that stirs from his actions.


Bottom line 

Let’s do a quick recap:

  1. Make sure your story has roots on other myths, fables, folk tales or even urban legends. Don’t copy, use references and pay homage to the stories you love.

  2. Silence is an option. Use the right words or use none.

  3. Make your character’s decisions feel important. It’s not about finding treasure. It’s about the journey.

On a final note, there are many interactive games in the market that would help you improve your next script or story. If you grow interested in The Wolf Among Us you can find it on every digital store for as low as $24.99.

I hope this post helps you with your story.

And since I’m starting this blog, I’ll appreciate any comments so I can keep improving.

See you on the next post!

Feel free to share or contact me

Enjoy your craft!

Dan

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