A true story can be a massive elephant trap. I know, I’ve fallen in more than once. Like pebbles straight out of the sea, true stories seem so gleaming and fresh and full of potential – until a few weeks or months of writing dulls the sheen.

And then you realise the first tip: Being true is never enough.

A true story still needs to have a strong spine to it. It’s all too easy to be seduced by all those exciting incidents into thinking there’s actually a movie or TV drama there, when all there is turns out to be a series of dramatic scenes with no link.

So, true story tip number two is:

Find the through line

The through line is anything that hangs the whole project together from beginning to end. That may well be a strong action line, or goal, though true stories tend to be less easily organised than that.

So you may have to find a strong theme to link  it all together. Such a theme might be the Goodfellas line “I always wanted to be a gangster.” In this very episodic story, that sentence, spoken right at the start, underlies everything that happens, although there is no single action line as you’d find it in a more conventional film.

There are other possible through lines. You could centre the whole story on a relationship line, or a character line, on a time (September 11, say), even on a location (Lawrence of Arabia) or prop (such as Enigma).

Until you’ve found that single unifying link, your True Story will be nothing more than a series of nice scenes in search of a script.