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RobertoOrtiz
01-12-2005, 04:47 AM
One of the concepts I have heard often is that story structure
is as important as dialogue.

One example of a movie with great story structure (but with god awful dialogue )
is 1997's Titanic.
So tell us how do you do good story structure?
Looking forward to your ideas and comments.

-R

fwtep
01-12-2005, 06:44 AM
One of the concepts I have heard often is that story structure
is as important as dialogue.
Actually, structure is MORE important than dialog. You can have a story without any dialog, but you can't have a story without structure.

Fred

martinweber
01-12-2005, 07:40 AM
Well, I guess one should not forget the basic principles reaching back into ancient greek times (ie. the 3 act stuff). Following those traditional forms should provide a decent guide.

I'm not really into writing so I'm definitely not competent to explain a thing or two here but I recommend reading these two books:


The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler
Story by Robert McKee
These two give you a great start on story structure etc.

scotttygett
01-12-2005, 09:17 AM
Eh, what?

I just went over to the Webster's, and you get -- structuralization, moeity, enneagrams...

I read something like that structure is the left-facing corner of the eight-sided feng shui diagram... ?

Story is what happens, dialogue is what's said, what's structure? Are there other examples of films where it's something identifiable? Is it repetition, integration, a fractal metaphorical anagramization? How much more worthwhile does a system of allusion have to be to be called "structural?"

dobermunk
01-12-2005, 09:42 AM
Scott, I think they're referring to structure as story-line, the tighter the better - call it whatever you want.

martinweber
01-12-2005, 10:32 AM
The structure is not the story-line but rather how you tell the story.

The structure is dictated by the needs of the story. Eg. do you need an introduction so that the audience is within the right context? Who's the audience? These days (post MTV) you get away with much faster cuts than decades before without confusing the audience. Eg. Pulp Fiction has a very unique structure that definitely would not have worked 20 years before.

The same story told in a book, in a film, in a comic, on stage or in a musical will always require a different structure due to the medium and due to the audience.

dobermunk
01-12-2005, 11:43 AM
The structure is not the story-line but rather how you tell the story.

Hmm, I have that down as tone, pace and visual stylistic.
I see structure more as linkage within chain of events - moving forward and backweard in time, flashbacks, etc.
Whatever, they're all important ;)

martinweber
01-12-2005, 12:44 PM
@dobermunk: I actually mean the same - how you sequence the events etc is the structure. With faster cuts you alter the structure as you speed up the sequence of events. Sure, most of the time fast cuts are more style than structure. Though Pulp Fiction is a very good example of unusual structure with it's chronological discontinuity and multiple story-lines/protagonists.

Anyways, I see story-line and structure as different things. The story line is the events as they have happened one after the other. The structure is how you tell about that given events.
That was also what I meant with different structures for different audiences - I doubt flashbacks work really well on stage and I can't remember a book where they were used. In films though they work great - and I've also seen comics make use of them.

RobertoOrtiz
01-12-2005, 08:07 PM
Actually Stephen King is a huge fan of "Flashbacks" in his work.

I recently read a book of his called "The Regulators" that used a lot of flashbacks relevant to the present stage of the story. The way he framed them was in the form of notes in a diary.
-R

lricho
01-12-2005, 10:55 PM
Anyways, I see story-line and structure as different things. The story line is the events as they have happened one after the other. The structure is how you tell about that given events.
I'd have to agree with that too. a good example is Hero (yep, here comes my gripe with that film, cos i didnt contribute to the huge thread in general discussion). It had a really cool story, but the way they told it was one big yawnfest. Storyline and Structure. Both need to be good and work well together for the telling of a fine story.

pooby
01-12-2005, 11:10 PM
When I worked at Aardman animations I once asked Nick Park how he went about writing 'The Wrong Trousers'.

He told me he started by sketching out loads of ideas, visual gags, and 'moments' that he thought would be amusing- like a chase on a toy train-at that point, with no attachment to a plot.
He liked the idea of a load of sheep turning up at Wallace's house. I asked him why and he just said he thought it would look funny to have a load of sheep in Wallace's living room, and that was it!
He had sketchbooks full of ideas before he even knew what the story would be about.

He also told me that actually 'constructing' stories was not his strong point, and he got in Bob Baker, a writer, to take Nick's ideas and help him mould them into a plot. The sheep invading Wallace's house became a penguin (because Nick thought penguins were funny, and it was the most innapropriate thing to turn up out of the blue) (the Sheep idea went into the next film.)
The plot weaved together these 'moments' and grew into what became the final film.. (which Stephen Spielberg described as 'the perfect short film')

I learnt a lot from this.. the best thing about this approach is that if you have a load of strong 'moments' then, you know that the end result, is at worse, going to be entertaining along the way..
I think a problem with a many movies is that the overall structure may work in theory, but without strong entertaining scenes and moments throughout the film, you dont really engage enough to actually pick up on it.
I think a lot of the later 2d Disney features suffered from this.. too much structure (tending also to be a 'safe' rehash of past structural successes) and not enough richness of ideas in the actual film.

jmBoekestein
01-14-2005, 03:09 PM
I learnt a lot from this.. the best thing about this approach is that if you have a load of strong 'moments' then, you know that the end result, is at worse, going to be entertaining along the way..
I think a problem with a many movies is that the overall structure may work in theory, but without strong entertaining scenes and moments throughout the film, you dont really engage enough to actually pick up on it.
I think a lot of the later 2d Disney features suffered from this.. too much structure (tending also to be a 'safe' rehash of past structural successes) and not enough richness of ideas in the actual film.

Allthough true in some points, you cannot consider film as a medium to tell just gags with. That would be insulting to people who tell stories in such a crafty manner that an entirely heavy and serious subject can be treated to an average audience and be so compelling that some will cry. And to arguement on this with solely disnney's is a bad idea. This medium is a fledgeling one. At first you need to try things and see if the audience connects. But now it's time to realise the full potential of what can allreadsy be done with cg.
That is for the director and the producer to realise as well. Nowadays structure can be tailored to tell more with less because of cg's endless possibilities. Think about hte movie What Dreams May Come for instance. Structure would've been completely different without cg there.
If you really have something to say, and you have the talent and insight of a director and you have made films before, you will most certainly appreciate the value of sitting and thinking over the structure of the film. You can put it in simple terms like, what do I need to tell them for the story to progress from here and then so on.
But there's the art of appealing to the audience's humanity. That is the true issue here. While that might seem subjective, humanbeings have a certain way of absorbing information, and manipulating them to follow it all through is what structuring a film is for, along with other things.

If you have a good story there's still alot of room to play with. It doesn't mean that you have to follow it exactly, you can twist and bend it the way you see fit. And well if you can't make it entertaining after that, maybe you should stop making films.

dilipale
01-15-2005, 08:00 PM
A structure is an arrangement of parts, placed together to form a whole. An average building is made up of a foundation, walls, windows, floors, doors and a roof. These parts can be assembled in any number of ways. That is why we have sky scrapers, bungalows, cottages, igloos, and Egyptian pyramids to name just a few.

Story "parts" are; Characters, dilemma, actions, plot, setting, and theme. (there are probably others I have not mentioned) How you chose to structure these parts or elements will effect the way your story looks, feels and works.

Structure binds and forms your story, hopefully in a coherent way. It is important, but not the most important thing. Let me put it another way. You don't want to be conscious of a story's structure as you watch a film (unless of course you do want people be aware the structure).

Chose the structure that is right for the story you want to tell, then build with the right materials.

flawedprefect
01-28-2005, 04:30 AM
Just finished reading a fabulous book on just this topic. It is called "Writing for Animation" (will add link in a future post) It simplifies the structure process, and believe me: there is NO mystery. The basic premise is this:

Step 1: you have a concept.

Step 2: Write in no particular order the things that MUST happen to get your character from A to B; the scenes you would like to see happen, and the facts of the story.

Step 3: Organize the points in the order that best makes sense to you, and fill in an extra point between so that point 1# LOGICALLY leads to point 2# and so on.

This becomes your outline. Once you have an outline, you flesh it out into a SCENE BREAKDOWN - this means each point becomes a scene. Delete obselete points (if you find yourself solving the following point in scene) or add more scenes to make the flow of logic hold up between points.

Finally, you flesh it out as a script, complete with set description, dialogue, etc, etc.

NEVER start ant the beginning hoping you'll get to the end someday. You need to know what happens from the start. This is the best way I have found to construct a script. I went from unfinished work to completed script in about three days using this method. I am now storyboarding.

Hope this helps.

Nucleo
01-31-2005, 12:26 PM
One of the concepts I have heard often is that story structure
is as important as dialogue.

-R

Hello all

Iam not sure exactly what u mean by that.. but here is a thought.

Well in my opinion the structure of the events that occur within a narrative is more important than anything else. 'We can consider a narrative to be a chain of events in cause and effect relationship occuring in time and space (Bordwell, Film Art)'. Pulp Fiction and Memento are the best examples you can look(How the hell these two films make sense!??!). Now your story can always have a linear structure but thats boring in my opinion.

The most difficult part of this will be what is needed by the story in order to be made comprehensible (how does the story makes meaning). E.g. One goes to bed. Turns off the light and sleeps.. Do we the audience need to spend 6-7 hours watching him sleep so we can see him wake up in the morning? Nah.. you cut and show him wake up in the morning. Its like a photograph if u photo an object and cut it in half the one that looks at the photo creates the whole object in his mind not just what he sees. In other words narrative should create a world that although its invisible the audience perceives as it is actually happening or happend. Another example i can give is the beggining of a film. A lot of movies begin with a situation, but what happens before the initial situation we the audience have to construct in our mind each one with its on way. If i remember correctly Alfred Hitchock's Vertigo starts like this we see a man getting out of an elevator dictating something to his secretary as he walk towards the exit, but we assume that he left from his office although we do not see it...

Thats just the basic's. :p . In my opinion there is no universal pattern that underlies stories. There is each one's imagination and each one's boundaries although there are several theories about narrative and story.

JamesMK
01-31-2005, 01:54 PM
If we consider the structure to be the way the elements (events, characters, storyline) of the production are arranged to create the final monolithic lump of stuff referred to as "the Movie", then I'd say there is no such thing as "good story structure"... It all comes down to what kind of story we're dealing with.

Examples...

First consider a standard action movie, formulaic and predictable, yet entertaining at best. Examples would be just about any straight action flick you can think of. We will usually find a linear structure:

1. Opening - action-filled scene introducing the hero, or the bad guy, or both

2. Reveal - explaining a little about the background of the hero, the bad guy and the conflict at hand

3. Chase - this part might very well be the bulk of the movie, and is usually divided into a few sub-structures such as
3.1 Hero has the upper hand
3.2 Bad guy gets the upper hand
3.3 Hero gets the upper hand again

4. Grande Finale - the hero wins over the bad guy

And that's about it for the structural solution. The storyline will vary from movie to movie of course, but the elements usually remain the same, and the fundamental construction of the characters as well. So, that would be Structure A (linear action)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

An entirely different structure is needed if you want to make something that fits into, say, a mystery category. Examples would be "The Others", "The sixth sense" and maybe "The Village"... almost any episode of "The X-files" too. A successful structure for a mystery would be different:

1. Opening presenting the main characters and their environment. Avoid indicating whether they are "good" or "bad" or better yet mislead the audience into thinking the wrong thing by applying standard hints such as found in linear stories.

2. Introduce events and/or seemingly uninteresting happenings that seem odd or awkwardly strange, but do not explain the real nature of them

3. Introduce conflict, preferably a conflict that perpetuates the mislead audience's idea about what's going on

4. Reveal - present, more or less subtly, what's in fact been going on all along.

5. Grande Finale - not usually grand at all in these cases. Usually indicate that whatever was going on in the beginning will keep going on after the ending, but maybe with other people involved, another location and so on...

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

The most important thing (IMHO of course ;) ) is that you could potentially have the same story, the same characters and the same elements, but depending on what structure is used, the movie as such will be perceived very differently. Most notable is the point of reveal in these two examples.

So, to summarise, I'd say that there is no "good" or "bad" structure - it depends on what you want to achieve. In order to come up with a structure to use, I would recommend finding movies or shorts demonstrating the feeling you're after, and then try to analyze, in generic terms, the nature, presence and sequencial order of elements such as character introductions, conflicts, reveals and so on.

From a personal point of view, I've always preferred movies that explain as little as possible.... subtle hints are a lot more interesting in the long run, and sometimes it's actually even better if the entire 'reveal' bit is skipped entirely, and left for the viewer to decide for himself what the whole thing is about. NB: That doesn't free the author from the responsibility to have a clear idea about it himself though!

NeptuneImaging
01-31-2005, 02:55 PM
Well, in my structuring, I write every scene detail on little cue cards...and then take the best parts on the cue cards and put it in the script...

JamesMK
01-31-2005, 02:58 PM
Well, in my structuring, I write every scene detail on little cue cards...and then take the best parts on the cue cards and put it in the script...
That works too :D

NeptuneImaging
01-31-2005, 04:10 PM
I usually do that when I play the scene in my head. Such as how the characters react, where items are and so forth...

Corbae
02-02-2005, 12:13 PM
Just thought I would recomend some good reading that might help solidify and simplify how to tackle structure in writing for performance. Aristotle's Poetics is a great book. I think it's about 90 pages or so and details what Aristotle reasoned were the keyoints to good writing. I read it for a theater class once and was asked to use it to break down stage performances; but the logic is good and should easily synthesize with film and TV. In fact, looking at most sitcoms they seem to follow Aristotle's ideas very closely. On a side note, he seems to be the first person in history to try to analyze the structure of writing for performance.

In his Poetics, Aristotle brings up concepts like the unity of time, place, and action (action being conflict). In regards to conflict he broke things down to:
Man vs. man
Man vs. self
Man vs. nature
Man vs. god
Man vs. society (Not sure about this one).
He also wrote about structural ideas like an exposition (background), exiciting event, climax, and denumaux (resolution). Even though we have far surpassed conventional structures like Aristotle's, most screenplays and scripts are still seen as being variations of his original theme.

Although, things like this may seem dry (and they did when I was introduced to them) they have really helped me when analyzing my own writings. Poetics helped me to build a vocabulary and had some great concepts to start from and modify. The one concept that really stuck was the idea of having conflict in every line and or scene/shot.

Another book to read that may help is The Romantic Manifesto by Ayn Rand. She was strongly influenced by philosophers like Aristotle and Durkheim and wrote both fiction and non-fiction. Although she never really wrote for Film or TV that I know of, her ideas carry over eailsy to both.

I'm not sure if any of this will help; but both of these books really seek to break down writing action into it's base components so that they can be easily played with and re-assembled.

sinbad
02-16-2005, 08:29 PM
I've looked at several books on story structure, and it seems that a classic feature film storyline consists of three acts - exposition, conflict, and resolution. The momentum of the story is normally sparked by a catalytic event, followed by a rising level of tension which peaks in a climactic event. (The resolution is the bit where the ambulances and fire-engines arrive and the hero hugs the girl)
With the short story there is no time for three acts and an extensive cast to introduce and establish. Most often there is only one act, with a catalytical event occurring almost immediately, followed by a small number of conflicts to negotiate. It seems the cast in a short story is most often no more than two to three main characters.

In my view, the main approaches to story telling seems to consist of either the withholding of information from the audience until the twist, or to provide information to the audience which the protagonist is unnaware of, and thus drawing the audience into the story (i.e. we know the spider has crawled into his shoe, but he doesn't)

Anyway there have been some interesting comments so far, and this is clearly a complex but intriguing subject.

KarlSchroeder
02-17-2005, 02:05 PM
With three novels out and two more on the way, I can probably contribute something--although remember that film structure is different than novelistic structure.

So far the forum's provided a really good set of approaches and I wouldn't try to improve on what the others have said. All I'd add is that it's easy to get needlessly mechanical in thinking about structure. Otherwise good approaches such as The Writer's Journey system (based on mythic archetypes and allegedly the template Lucas used to write Star Wars) can easily get you in trouble. Basically theories of structure are like the scaffolding you use to construct a building; you should never mistake them for part of the building itself.

Look at a movie like Memento, in which the plot proceeds chronologically but the scenes are ordered backwards. There's a third thing, the story, which goes from the beginning of the film to the end and is neither the plot nor the structure but is a synthesis of both. If the film makers weren't trying to communicate that third thing, they wouldn't have bothered to reorder the scenes. In this case, the reordered structure allows the audience to participate in the experience of the main character; it's a solution that is unique to this particular story.

What all of this is leading up to is my admission that I use different tools to structure each books. Sometimes I write down a "hero's journey" list of points and slot my events into that; I used a one-page outline for a 120,000 word novel and a thirty-page outline for another, 90,000 word novel.

The ultimate aim is to accumulate a toolkit of techniques you can use to get from the blank page to a complete story. The process of creating the story is one of hammering away and grabbing this or that tool until it comes together. But always the right tool for the job at hand rather than some theoretically best tool.

Hope that makes sense.

Corbae
02-17-2005, 09:55 PM
I've been rereading this forum a lot trying to figure out what I've been missing. All the advice so far has been very strong; but something seemed off. I think it's beacuse we've all been talking about two things and treating them as one. I think we've been talking about structure; but also how to approuch structure when building up a script. Both are important and there's been some good info on both topics. So to try and bring them into more focus I'd like to define, for the purpose of this discussion, structure as the foundational componants and units which can be combined to produce a story. And approuch would be the different ways or methods used to combine, use, and pick out structural units when writing.

I'm not sure if this kind of division is necessary; but it may help us provide more effective advice for eachother as we go.:)

KarlSchroeder
02-18-2005, 03:13 PM
Corbae's approach is a good one. Speculations and essays about story structure go back more than two thousand years; on the other hand in my experience writers tend to hide their methodologies for achieving good structure, pretending that a story "just happened" which is part of the mystique of looking like a genius, when in fact all of us use a whole raft of different approaches.

We're talking about what Cicero called the "dispositio" part of Rhetoric--disposition, the laying out and sequencing of the material. And if you really want to understand this, there's stacks of books on the subject, but be aware that while you read this stuff you'll be studying dramatic theory and not graphic design.

There's no end to learning this stuff; on the other hand, to get people going quickly, I usually use (in the context of novel writing) the concept of "fractal outlining." See what you feel about this:

Any story has a beginning, a middle and an end. (Simple enough, we all know this; the beginning is where you introduce the characters, setting and conflict; the middle is where the characters attempt but fail to resolve the conflict, and the ending is where they attempt and (by first effecting a change in their own character) attempt and succeed.) For prose writing the trick is that each of these parts also has a beginning, middle and end. So the beginning has a beginning, a middle and an end, the middle does etc. You can outline a novel, for instance, by writing down three short sentences, one for each part; then take the first part and write three short sentences for it, corresponding to one or-two chapter arcs; then take each chapter and break it down the same way; then each scene.

Film has a different structure, which I am not an expert on; but the principle is the same.

sinbad
02-22-2005, 09:50 PM
There is a lot of good information here, although I would be careful when attempting to compare the structures which work well for a novel to the structures used for a film. Of course I am no expert on this matter, however It seems to me for example that short stories are much more appropriate for the possible conversion into a feature-film screenplay, such as the Shawshank Redemption/ Green Mile (ok they are both Stephen King shorts but I'm sure there are many others). Anyway I'm sure many novels would make and have made good feature films (LOTR of course a classic example, but they are very long films), however there is so much description in a novel to condense down into visual images. I would be interested to hear what the structure of a short film should be, as most of us will never be involved in a feature. What should the structure of a 5, 10, or 30 minute film be? Could the methodology of a long-form writer such as a novelist offer any insight here?

crisp
02-23-2005, 03:55 AM
Great topic! It's very interesting to hear everyone's comments. I would say that the structure of, screenplays are completely different from books. One of my professors used to remark that good books were the result of good writing, but good screenplays were the result of good structure. There is certainly some cross polination between the two diciplines but those grey areas are topics unto themselves.

Screenplays, by necessity, have to be very careful of the pace in which they release information, so that scenes acheive the right impact upon the viewer. "Structure" can be thought of as the framework that creates that pace.

More specifically, I think of structure as an emotional roadmap for how I want the audience to feel at any given moment in a film. But let me be carefeul here, because even though "structure" may set the pace for how and when a scene unfolds, it doesn't necessarily effect the scene's content. They are two separate concepts here. I think of "Plot" as the specific events of a story, whereas "Structure" is the way in which those events unfold over the course of the script. A "Story" is the culmination of both plot and structure.

Stucture can be used to effect the "feel" of a story, before any visuals are added. It's a subtle yet fundemental tool in the writer's bag of tricks.

KarlSchroeder
02-23-2005, 04:44 PM
Yeah, my experience as a long-form prose writer may be of limited value in discussing specific structures in film, particularly short film. Take anything I say with a grain of salt. However, I do understand how to tell a story, and as Memento shows, story is not something that can be simply dissected into plot, character, or structure. Within my own mind, all these aspects of story are very fluid and interchangeable. For instance, the great literary critic Northrop Frye talks about "dianoia" in Anatomy of Criticism; dianoia is that aspect of a story which is greater than the sum of the parts--the total experience of the story rather than "what it's about." One masters literary art by perceiving the dianoia and letting it dictate plot, structure, etc.

What I'm saying is that "structure" is one of those pseudo-real crutches that will help you if you sortakinda believe in it, but will trip you up if you think it's more important than your instinctive feel for telling a good story. Structure's part of the scaffolding, not part of the building. So, as an example, you may learn more about the best way to tell the story by telling it verbally to somebody over a beer in the pub. "And then there's this, see, the Galactic Emperor, I forgot to tell you about him, he's chasing these dudes, right, and ..."

crisp
02-23-2005, 06:46 PM
oops I mis posted.

kamsvag
02-24-2005, 08:53 PM
One of my greatest cinema experiences must be seeing Memento. That film made me feel as confused as the main character of the film, and isn't that what it's all about, delivering an experience? That film required that odd structure of the timeline.

I'm not 100% sure I follow what it is you mean by structure, except of;



Cuts, timing and kind of transition
Camera angles
Timeline (If it's all cronologic or flashbacks and narrators)
Fill me in, please...

userBrian
03-08-2005, 06:31 AM
To me structure is about how something is built up. You don't just go directly
to the punchline, or ending, but you have to insert additional occurrences that add depth,
confusion and shock. A structural wall, so to speak, that suddenly blocks your path and puts a twist in your journey. The structure may not be that apparent because it is hidden behind the wall. But the structure determins how the house of cards will fall. How the movie will eventually reveal it's masterful strength. A lady who took film at the same college I did told me she was flunking. She showed me her photo storyboard for her next assignment. It was too simple.
Basically it was about her looking at her wallet, counting her money. She decides to rob a liquor store ( the local store volunteers for the photos). She enters, pulls a gun, but the store owner pulls his gun and robs her...she steps out and counts her money, she has less than she started with. Ouch, not much structure there. I draw a quick storyboard where she counts her money,enters the store thru the glass door, and bumps into some guy going out. She goes up to the cash register and reaches into her coat breast pocket for her gun, but she is shocked to see she has no gun! She looks at the door and that man is there, smiling thru the glass tapping at his coat pocket. She goes out. The man demands money for the gun. She gives it to him. Then she returns to rob the store. Which she does. But when she exits and counts her money, she has less than she started. Simple, but the lady came back to me and said they loved her photo storyboard and she got a good grade in film! So basically I'd say I improved the structure of the story. I added a strong "supporting role", excuse the pun.

flawedprefect
03-08-2005, 09:09 PM
To me structure is about how something is built up. You don't just go directly
to the punchline, or ending, but you have to insert additional occurrences that add depth,
confusion and shock. A structural wall, so to speak, that suddenly blocks your path and puts a twist in your journey. The structure may not be that apparent because it is hidden behind the wall. But the structure determins how the house of cards will fall. How the movie will eventually reveal it's masterful strength.

I will agree with you - in part - but consider that as the storyteller, you are like the house builder. You need to know where the walls lie, and so you can construct them in the best order for that purpose. Your audience are like the people you take through the finished product to inspect it. The surprises are for you to know, and them to find out.

How you build story structure depends on what approach you find easiest. Let's continue running with the house analogy: you must put in your load bearing walls and main supports first - these are equivalent to your major plot points, and pivotal characters. Once you have a sound structure, you add in your secondary walls and devide your rooms according to the structure you have put up - these are like your chapters, or scenes - the way you split up the story. Finally, you put in doors, render and paint your walls, and hang pictures - these can be likened to dialogue, character quirks, jokes, costumes, lighting, etc. They will all work, because you have walls to hang them on.

Look up my last post on this thread. I discribe the way I do it.

Off topic: Me, like many of you, enjoy criticizing. I was wondering if there would be any merit in a "Put your money where your mouth is" thread, where we can put up unfinished works, or that nagging scene that's not quite working, and have some critique? I'm a slow writer, but I have something I don't mind getting some critique on - bad, good, or nasty. Anyone else in this position?

pconsidine
09-26-2005, 03:35 PM
I'm not 100% sure I follow what it is you mean by structure, except of;


Cuts, timing and kind of transition
Camera angles
Timeline (If it's all cronologic or flashbacks and narrators)
Fill me in, please...

It seems that there are indeed two different perspectives on structure going on here - the writer's and the director's. From a writer's perspective, structure doesn't really have anything to do with visuals; it has to do with characters. A story's structure defines the events that force the characters to develop, while providing a rough idea of when they should happen in order to benefit the audience the most. It's understood that a story must have a Beginning, a Middle and an End. If you skimp on any stage, the story won't be satisfying (at best) or it won't make any sense at all (at worst). The story structure is what tells the writer what ought to happen and when in order to tell the story that he wants to tell. Change the structure and you change the story.

It's interesting to note that even in non-linear stories (like Pulp Fiction and Memento, the events that represent some stage of character development still occur at around the same time into the film. So maybe non-linear storytelling isn't so very different after all.

ThomasMahler
09-30-2005, 08:31 AM
Hmmm. I never read a book about story structure or something similar, but I'm currently writing a script for a shortfilm that I'll create during the next 3 years.

Basically what I'm doing is that I grab my sketchbook and start at the fundamental things. I think you should start with the idea of what your movie will be all about, what the main character is doing, why he is doing it, what his motivation is and so on. I began with a 2 sentence long "outline", cause I think if you can tell the outline of a story in 2 or 3 short sentences, the movie will be readable and not be too confusing for the audience. That doesn't mean that your movie can't be complex, I think you can even break down the most complex movies into a few short sentences.

So, with this outline in mind, I wrote down all the ideas that I had, all the scenes that were already in my head and then I started to write about the characters motivation - Why are they doing the things I want them to do? How would I feel in those certain moments? What's the best way to tell those things in a straight-forward, readable way, without making the scene feel podgy? I always try to go from a to b, without making a detour over c.

After that, I stopped working on those ideas for a week or so, in this time, I searched for music that would fit the theme, the situation.

Then, with the iPod on my head, I started to "connect the points" - I tried to play the scenes in my head, tried to "work it out" completely in my mind. And that worked surprisingly well. I scrapped a lot of ideas that I thought were great a week before and came up with ideas that were a lot stronger and would tell the story in a better way.

Personally, I think that writing a story is a very organic process. You can't chisel ideas in stone, you'll always push and pull them around, until they all fit together and form a whole. And if this one works out (which most likely won't happen until you invested a lot of time of pushing and pulling your ideas around), you're basically done. With all of this in mind, with all the stuff that you've already written, go ahead and write the final script.

That worked for me and I'm currently really motivated to make something great out of it :)

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