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Old 01-12-2005, 05:47 AM   #1
RobertoOrtiz
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STORY STRUCTURE: How do you do good story structure?

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
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Old 01-12-2005, 07:44 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobertoOrtiz
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
 
Old 01-12-2005, 08:40 AM   #3
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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.
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Old 01-12-2005, 10:17 AM   #4
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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?"
 
Old 01-12-2005, 10:42 AM   #5
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Talking

Scott, I think they're referring to structure as story-line, the tighter the better - call it whatever you want.
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Old 01-12-2005, 11:32 AM   #6
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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.
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Old 01-12-2005, 12:43 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by assoc
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
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Old 01-12-2005, 01:44 PM   #8
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@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.
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Old 01-12-2005, 09:07 PM   #9
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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
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Last edited by RobertoOrtiz : 01-12-2005 at 10:15 PM.
 
Old 01-12-2005, 11:55 PM   #10
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Quote:
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.
 
Old 01-13-2005, 12:10 AM   #11
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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.
 
Old 01-14-2005, 04:09 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pooby
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.
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Old 01-15-2005, 09:00 PM   #13
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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.
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Old 01-28-2005, 05:30 AM   #14
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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.
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Old 01-31-2005, 01:26 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobertoOrtiz
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. . 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.
 
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