FINDING YOUR SCRIPT'S STORY ENGINE



I pulled out an old pilot script I was working on a long time ago. I didn’t finish it because I was having a hard time coming up with the story engine. I can spot story engine problems easily in other people’s scripts, but it’s a struggle creating my own.


Someone gave me advice to check out the show Claws because it is similar to my script. So, I planned to check out the pilot episode to get an understanding of the story engine. The pilot hooked me in. The next thing I knew, I binged 6 episodes. The show is hilarious and those people are crazy af! So, I decided to finish the season to track the engine from beginning to end. Here’s what I found:


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***SPOILER ALERT***

If you haven’t seen the show, don’t read any further.


Claws Story Engine



What is Desna’s goal?

Desna’s goal is to buy her own nail salon.


Deeper goal:

She also needs money to buy a nice safe house for her autistic brother, which shows that her true goal is to protect her brother. Money helps her do that.


How is she gonna get it?

By making money from laundering money for Uncle Daddy.


What stops her?

Something tragic always happens that makes her take steps backwards from getting the salon.


What’s the engine?

The audience comes back every week to see if she’s going to get the money for her new salon.



Story engine breakdown:


EPISODE 1


Roller promises to give Desna a $20k bonus. She only gets $3k. She goes to Uncle Daddy for it. He says no, but he’ll give her more when they open more clinics. Now, her salon is on hold. She gives the $3k to the girls at the salon as a bonus.


Roller gets killed by Virginia because he was beating Desna. Now, they have to cover up the murder.



EPISODE 2


The owner of the salon Desna wants hires a secret shopper to visit Desna’s salon to determine if she wants to sell hers to Desna. The secret shopper gets poor service, so the owner refuses to sell the shop to Desna.



EPISODE 3


Desna’s Real Estate agent Mandy drops Desna as a client. Now, she needs to find a new one. Desna goes to see Mandy to change her mind. Mandy’s friends like her nails, so they want Desna to do their nails for wedding. They love her work. That makes Mandy take her back.


Uncle Daddy’s drugs get stolen from the clinic. Desna, Dr. Ken, and Bryce have to work to payback the $88k. Now, it will take longer for Desna to get money for her salon.



EPISODE 4


Desna had some of the money to pay back Uncle Daddy, which would only leave $15k. But, she couldn’t pay him because he was out looking for Roller’s killer. Desna and the girls come up with the additional $15k by blackmailing a rich lady. Desna pays off Uncle Daddy. Now, she can get her shop.



EPISODE 5


Desna goes to see a nail shop that’s for sale.


Desna and Dean’s foster parents who used to beat them move into town. Dean is afraid. He buys a gun to kill them. Desna comes up with a plan to pin Rollers’ murder on them by framing them as drug dealers who robbed him. Uncle Daddy’s police officers pay them a visit, but they don’t arrest them. Bryce kills them for killing his brother Roller. Desna is off the hook now.



EPISODE 6


Desna gets the new shop. She and the girls go to take it over. The Korean owner and her workers are racist toward them. Desna fires the Korean workers and tells them to leave. They put tampons in toilet to cause plumbing problems. There are thousands of dollars in damage. It delays the shop opening.


Now, Desna has to enter a nail competition against the Korean women from the shop to raise money for the shop repairs. She wins the competition, and will be able to fix the plumbing problems, but now her goal of protecting Dean is in danger because he told Jennifer that the Cooms were their foster parents. Will Jennifer tell Uncle Daddy causing him to kill Desna and Dean?



EPISODE 7


Uncle Daddy agrees to let Desna stop washing money so she can run her new salon.


Desna needs Uncle Daddy’s boyfriend Toby to run the old salon so she can move over to the new one. Jennifer quits. She threatens to tell Uncle Daddy that Desna killed Roller and made Bryce kill the Cooms’.


Roller escapes crazy art lady. He sees Victoria and Dean at art show. Victoria calls Desna and tells her she saw Roller. The Russians grab him and take him away because he owes them money. Now, Desna is in danger of Roller coming back to seek revenge.



EPISODE 8


Roller shows up at salon. He doesn’t remember that Desna hit him, and that Victoria shot him. They take him to see Uncle Daddy.


Roller wants to go to Desna’s house so they can make love. The next morning Desna’s new boyfriend Dr. Ruval shows up at house. Roller sees him, acts like nothing is wrong.


At party, Roller remembers what happened to him, but he pins it on the Russian dudes he owes money. Roller takes Desna hostage. She can’t focus on new salon now that Roller has been found to be working for the Russians.



EPISODE 9


Roller drives Desna around to different banks and makes her empty Uncle Daddy’s bank accounts. Then he takes her to an abandoned amusement park to kill her. The Russians show up. The girls show up and rescue Desna.



EPISODE 10


It’s all-out war. Uncle Daddy is at war with the Russians. The Russian leader Riva wants to kill Desna and the whole crew. Desna negotiates 50% of Uncle Daddy’s business with Riva to stay alive and get Jennifer’s kid back.


Riva takes 100% of Uncle Daddy’s business and makes them all work for her.


Desna gives the new shop to Jennifer because she has to go back to the old shop to launder money for Riva. Jennifer declines new shop. All the girls go back with Desna to the old shop because they are a family.


Uncle Daddy goes to a competitor for help against Riva. It’s Dr. Ruval.


Desna is back at ground zero, but Dean and her girls (her family) are safe and together, which means her deeper goal has been achieved.


 

So, there you have it. This process really helped me shape the story engine for my script. I’m excited to start rewriting. By the way, I’m still binging Claws. I’m on season 3, episode 4. This show is so fun! I don’t know why I didn’t watch it when it was on the air.

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