Posts Tagged: writing

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I’ve got two posts left in this topic, and they’re kind of interchangeable, because the more you do of both, potentially the tighter you can get the script.  Today, I’m going to expand on yesterday’s topic and talk about rewrites.

So with the rough stuff on the page, and the structure coming together, it’s time to start tightening, expanding, contracting, shifting and omitting bits that need attention.  How many drafts you intend to do, and how much changing of the script you to do consider a full pass of the script is your call, unless you have external influences, like producers who want a draft (in which case, do all of your draft passes, but call it whatever draft they are expecting).

From Wikimedia Commons

Just knocking out another draft before the races, darling!

My personal preference is to set yourself targets and make the passes specific.  Without trying to explain away my entire process (hey, it took me time to work this out, and my process won’t necessarily work for you anyway), main passes that are worth doing include keeping your characters consistent, making sure the plot logic works, and making it fun!.  Also, one for spelling, grammar and readability is worth it too, as they can sink your script if you don’t pay them proper attention.

If you have been using a structural pass of the script to fill in all of those blanks (where did the zombie elephant first come from? Where does it end up?), then you’ve probably created a load of scenes to fill out that whole subplot.  But have you made sure it works?  That bit where the zombie gets in and bites the elephant, how did he open that door?  Could he really catch the elephant like that?  This pass is not necessarily a fun one, and potentially involves you getting incredibly anal about your work, but trust me, if you can find big glaring questions that you don’t yet have answers to, you can guarantee your audience will find them!

From Wikimedia Commons

They’re here somewhere. I will find them!

From there, it is very much up to you.  You will reach a stage where you have done all of these important passes and need to just keep rewriting bits that don’t feel natural, or that don’t get the greatest response (see tomorrow’s post on readers!), so the passes will become more on the whole thing.  The further down the line you get as a writer, the more abstract those later passes will come (only speaking with some experience here, but I’ve at least noticed the more I direct, the more the edit comes down to clarity and pace, and less about not having the basic coverage to even cover the shot, so I’m extrapolating with the writing – I imagine that the better you get at writing, the less it becomes about simply putting scenes or characters on paper, and becomes more about the clarity of your writing and the ability to tell a visual story on paper/screen).

To add to our running example, maybe this is where we find that Jed’s introduction feels very late and he needs to be move forward a couple of scenes.  Then a following draft you realise his presence isn’t being felt because he’s not interacting with Bob enough, so you give him some more scenes with Bob.  But then you realise you’re overwriting Jed because he’s more fun to write, and potentially taking over, so you try to scale him back a little.  It’s the balance thing, and it’ll come over time.

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Hmm, getting a bit difficult to crowbar the admittedly dreadful pun into the title.

Today’s post is kind of a split between yesterday’s one and tomorrow, but I feel it’s important enough to talk about in its own right.  I’m going to talk about the structural framework of the script.

This one comes down very much to personal preference.  There is no right way or wrong way to write a script.  There are a lot of theories out there, and while there might be a number of established methods that work, it’s not an exact science.  You can write a script based on every formula and rule that you’ve ever read about screenwriting, or you can ignore them entirely.  You can ignore the basics (characters, dialogue, action) because that’s how scripts are written, but themes, structure and their ilk are personal preference.

That being said, good luck to you if you try and write one without things like that, because there are very important reasons why they’re established methods of screenwriting – they work.  A theme will bring unity to your film, and will help to leave an impact in an audience’s mind, which is very important if you want your film to have lasting appeal, and potentially, replay value.

From wikimedia commons

"Look, Ferrell, your Christmas shenanigans are entertaining, but why am I not being forced to think hard about the human condition?"

I guess to a point this includes things like the three-act structure or the hero’s journey interpretations of narrative, but the important thing to remember with those is that they derived from analysing stories after they were created, and have become popular because a lot of stories (if not all of them) can be broken down in these ways.  What this means, unlike the theme and structure stuff, is that these can also be incredibly harmful to your story if you adhere to these methods slavishly, particularly the hero’s journey stuff.  Everyone will talk about three-act structures in film, but don’t freak out if you don’t feel your story matches that – there’s got to be peaks and troughs, and escalation and the like, but don’t let these methods destroy your story because you think you have to stick to them.

The importance of structure comes down mainly to how well the final film will work.  The more effort you put into making the plot work, and have plot points set up and paid off, and deliver information at the right stages in the right amount, the stronger your narrative will be.  How you do this is another matter, it’s all about learning that through trial and error, but a good structure will really support your story.

From Wikimedia Commons

Make your own judgement-based joke, I’ve punned enough for this entry.

The structure pass of a script is all about making sure this works, particularly with the balance of your scenes and subplots.  As I said the other day, your main plot is your core, which you weave everything else around, and it’s the exact placing that becomes important.  There’s a lot of different factors, like the imparting of information on plot or character development, or finding the right scenes to play together, for tone or pacing reasons, or to juxtapose together to help push your theme forward.

There’s not a great deal to add to our example from this, other than knowing, as this is the stage where you have to pitch the balance of scenes, and also ensure the subplots run through all of their logical steps, things at this stage will include making sure there are enough scenes of Alice to show the Bob-Alice relationship so that the audience will actually invest in it, but not too many as to strain the reality, as Alice does not go on the journey with Jed (unless we change Alice’s journey through the film).

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Now that there is proper development on your idea, it’s time for the big rewrite.  Converting from the freehand draft – technically your first draft, but sometimes it’s too loose to even refer to as that – so this is the first proper commitment of the story to paper (well, pixels).

Part of the point of the freehand draft, as well as helping you work out the direction and the facets of your story, is also to do a chunk of the grunt work.  You may feel differently, but, as I’ve said before, I find going from no pages to 90 pages is one of the most difficult aspects of the process.  It’s not (wait until you are tweaking a script you think works but isn’t getting the response you want from readers), but it is the stage that looks the most like standing at the bottom of the mountain looking up, so getting 90 pages, even if it is 90 pages of unconnected, unfocused rubbish, puts you in a better place – at least, that’s my opinion.

From Wikimedia Commons

Rewriting is shaping your raw materials, but you have to actually have those to do it.

The point of the big rewrite is to go through and obliterate the stuff that really didn’t work from the freehand draft, and highlight the stuff that really did.  With the development work of the last stage, you should now have a sense of where the script is going, and how it’s going to get there, which means that you have targets to hit, as well as a foundation to work from.  This should give you enough of a platform to rewrite from.

The freehand draft is likely to have a huge number of unnecessary scenes, and also an unnecessary number of huge scenes, both of which are things you have to deal with before the script is readable.  The big rewrite is a good place to tackle these, as, if the freehand draft is just a torrent of ideas onto the screen, the big rewrite is when you turn your work into an actual script.  Something a reader can actually follow, something with a beginning, middle and end, and all of the parts you’d recognise.

From Wikimedia Commons

But I asked you to make a wolf …

It isn’t a case of turning out a final draft, but a final first draft (or second draft, if that’s how you’re referring to it).  Once this draft exists, all of your passes that follow this will be tune-ups.  You may still do some large changes, like dropping subplots, merging characters, or reordering plot points, but this is where you lock in the main part of your scaffolding.

To continue with the example, in this draft, there will be an opening where Bob is on his farm, and maybe he discovers that his crops are dying.  We meet Jed, and Alice, and his horse, Caracticus, and he goes on his journey.  We have all of our scenes and plot points, Caracticus has a fall and Bob is forced to put him down, Jed finds him in the desert to tell him of Alice’s condition, and Bob has to push onwards.  Eventually he finds a new place for his farm, but is forced to see off the bandits that wish to rob him.  He begins to build his new farm, and Alice recovers and goes to live with him.  A complete story, but not necessarily a good one, not yet. 

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The next stage on my list is full development, which basically involves taking all of the plot points, characters and settings discovered during that first draft can be knocked together into something useful.

By this stage, you should know pretty much what your genre is, who your protagonist is, their goal, supporting characters, a direction for the whole thing to go into, etc.  Again, it will depend very much on what you discovered during that first draft, things you decided really worked, and things that really didn’t, and whether you are still in line with the original direction you wanted the story to go in, or whether it has morphed into something else entirely.

From Wikimedia Commons

All of the metamorphosis photos I could find were horrifying, so here’s a lovely butterfly instead.

To go back to the important aspects of a script that I talked about before, this stage of development is when you really start looking at those elements together.  It’s this stage where you’ll start looking at creating character biographies, working out stacks of cause-effect style scenes and plot threads (like I spoke about yesterday with the zombie elephant – that’ll need a set up scene and an aftermath scene, which will in turn have their own), and how you weave these in together.

It’s also at the stage you’ll work out both what your main storyline is, and what your script is about.  The main storyline, which is most likely the main journey of the character that has become the most interesting, will be the core of the narrative, which all of the obstacles, subplots and supporting characters will be offshoots of.  This will need to be strong to support all of these other things, but in comparison, it will be the one thing that is unlikely to be chucked (if only because scrapping it will probably mean starting again from scratch).  The other factors will still be variables to be condensed, expanded, shifted or gutted entirely.

The theme issue I have talked about a lot on this blog, and I do realise it is not everyone’s thing, but I really think it is important to unify the entire thing.  If you think of the main storyline as the backbone of the story, this is the nervous system that wires everything else into it.  Having everyone be involved or reject the main theme will help strengthen the core of the story, although if you have characters or scenes that care completely unconnected, you can run into problems of losing that clarity.  I’m still very much an advocate of theme, but you might not be, so go with your gut.

From Wikimedia Commons

It’s telling me … I need a … chase scene!

So, to use our example, Bob in the western is going to trek north to find a new site for his farm, but this is going to be a story about, for example, sacrifice.  Bob is going to learn on his journey about sacrifice, and the other characters are going to be various levels along this pathway.  Jed will be averse to sacrifice, whereas in one scene, we might see them literally be captured and almost sacrificed (probably a bit on the nose, but hopefully you get my point).  It also allows me to find what is most likely the core relationship to explore in the film, which is Bob and Jed’s one, and pitching them on either side of the theme breeds conflict.  Add in a backstory about them never seeing eye to eye and there’s material to work with.

Obviously, when I talk about full development, I mean a lot more than the above paragraph, but that is an example for now to show how my example script is going.

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So, after putting together some sort of development, it’s time to do a freehand draft.  What direction and options are available to you will be partly down to how much you developed, and how much you can pull out of the air during this draft.

The reason I adopted this system is partly as a development tool in itself.  Building organic characters and a plotline that works naturally takes a lot of time and planning and rewriting, and doesn’t just appear straight out of your fingertips.  So, writing a freehand draft with just a few pieces of information helps me start to work out some of those things.  It can help mine the concept, and allow you to throw a lot of half-formed ideas at the concept to see what works and what doesn’t.

From Wikimedia Commons

Drill those ideas out of there!  That’s a seam of pure inspiration, right there.

To use the example of the Western, and our character Bob, you can start throwing in different characters for him to interact with. A wayward brother, Jed. A love interest, Alice. A boss, Al.  Write a couple of scenes with one or more of these characters and you can start seeing what Bob’s relationship with his brother is, what sort of worker he is, whether love is an important aspect of his story.  You might chuck these characters, you might merge them (maybe not his brother and love interest, but hey, it’s your script!), you might build on them, but you will start shaping Bob’s personality and his narrative on how he is affected by other characters in his life.

Another option is with scenes.  Say you have a great idea for a scene but no concept, then you can put it on paper and write it down, and use that as a basis.  Once you’ve written your scene, you can see what will come next – your survivors taking down a zombie elephant will bring them together, or push them apart, or teach them skills (you call it!), and you can then have them react to that.  You can also now have a goal to write up to – what were they doing before the zombie elephant arrived?  Were they prepared?  If so, how did they know about it?  If not, what were they doing that distracted them?  You can then do this several times over to start weaving a narrative together.

So, for our Western, Bob has had a disagreement with Jed over money, that has led to Bob throwing Jed out of his house.  What does Jed do next?  Well, he goes to Alice’s house to see if he can come between her and Bob, to pay Bob back.  What was Bob doing when Jed turned up?  Bob was putting down his favourite horse, Caracticus, who broke his leg on a pothole.  And so on.

From Wikimedia Commons

Sorry buddy.  This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you. Well, except the “shooting you” bit.

The other point at this stage is to give the characters some form of drive or a goal.  Giving them some motivation is a good way of setting up a pathway that can be expanded into the journey that your narrative will take.  If you consider the character’s current position, A, and achieving the goal as the end position, B, you’ve basically got an A to B journey for the character to follow.  From that point, you can start lining up obstacles.  If your robot protagonist wants to find a new hard drive, you can make him malfunction, make all of his surrounding computing shops have sold out, find he needs an upgrade to fit a new one, etc.  The important thing to remember with this is that the more manufactured those objects seen, the more work you will have to do to justify them in later drafts, but let’s worry about that more then.

So, Bob, I’ve decided, wants to trek north to see if he can find a new site for his farm, as his current one has stopped turning up decent crops.  Along the way, he’ll run into bandits attempting to rob him, needing to find a new horse (having shot his last one), hearing from his brother Jed that Alice has a fever and might not make it, and other crazy obstacles that will stop him.

And that should hopefully allow me to write a chunk of pages and find out where the story is.  I usually have a tendency to go into this stage with a few more things I want to write or a direction I want to take it, but that’s just me.

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And so, I’m back to the blog.  Apologies for today’s one being late, I’ve been sorting out some other stuff, and let time run away from me.  While I realise that there are some outstanding issues that I’ve got to tidy up on this blog, I’m not actually going to address them this week, they’ll be in the horizon.

This week, I’m going to go back to talking about writing.  I’ve been doing a lot of it (or trying to) over the past couple of weeks, and, if I’m to hit my targets over the next few months, then it is something I really need to get a decent handle on.  I know I can do it; it’s just a case of marshalling myself.

From Wikimedia Commons

Start by building your world.  Doesn’t have to be this one, but you have to start somewhere.

I thought it was a good opportunity to discuss some of the parts of my process as I work on a couple of things, partly to see if there are any parts of my system that I can refine in order to make myself more efficient, but also just to see if I fully understand what I’m telling myself works and whether I agree, or need to start again from scratch.

I’ve talked about the concept of developing an idea before scripting it, and it is really up to you how much or how little you do before sitting down to write, but I can’t write a hundred pages completely freehand.  No discernable characters, plot, setting or concept, and I don’t have a starting point.  So, that’s usually the first hurdle to overcome – actually coming up with something to write about.

I’m going to try an illustrate my process this week with a particular, and most likely absurd, example, but then hopefully it will properly demonstrate how I’ve been going about this.  So, with absolutely nothing currently on the table, need a concept.  You can start with a character, or a particular idea, but if one doesn’t worm its way into your brain from other sources, then you need to find that first idea.  I’m going to start with a genre – I’m going with “western”.

So we now have our world – it’s filled with cacti, and deserts, and varmints, and shanty towns – and we have a load of genre tropes and a back catalogue of existing Westerns to know what sort of things have been tackled in the genre, what works, what doesn’t, etc.  Of course, you can’t just crack out a Western without characters or a plot – true, you might be able to freeform them now, but you need to pick something specific to work from.

From Wikimedia Commons

Ok, Wikimedia just won blogging with this picture. Look at this dude!

This is what I like to think of as personalising the concept – characters are now required to populate your concept and have something for your audience to connect to, so you have to create a character.  I’m going to invent one right here – we have Bob.  I can be as vague or specific with Bob as I like, but Bob is now a character, who we can drop into our world and we’re starting to get something come together.

From this point, it does become more freeform.  Everything Bob experiences in our Western will help us define what he’s like as a character.  Throw in another character, and we give Bob the capacity to interact, and from the interaction, we can start working out who he is.  Give Bob a job and suddenly he’s got a goal. Motivation.  Something to actually write.

And this is where you can either go straight into the next stage, or you can do some more development.  I personally like to do some more work than just this, it’s still a little too freeform for my liking.  But how much I develop at this stage differs from project to project. 

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So we’re now coming to the end of the week, and the end of this topic.  Today, I’m going to talk about style, but I need to clarify what I mean.  I’ve talked about the main ingredients of a script that I’ve picked up from research, both the tangible (characters, plot) and the intangible ones (tone, theme), but style is something I feel needs mentioning that is often brushed aside.

What I mean by style is what sets your writing apart from that of others writers.  I could have used voice here, but I’m using style to be an umbrella term, and including things like use of editing techniques, inclusion of music cues and particular filmmaking gimmicks that are often down to the director to choose when adapting the script into the finished film. There are different views on how much a writer should reference camera movements or music cues, and it’s partly personal preference.  My own view is that you should try and keep it to a minimum, unless it is specifically important to the telling of the story – neither directors nor actors like being told how to stage the script, and once it’s in their hands, you have to learn that the responsibility to tell the story is no longer yours.  You’ve raised your child up to go out in the world, its up to someone else to keep it away from crack dens.

This changes when you are writing to direct yourself.  Suddenly, all of those visual ideas become directorial reminders to yourself as to how you will tackle different scenes.  If you are directing yourself, you won’t necessarily have the same level of external scrutiny and can potentially make the film however you see fit (it starts getting less clear cut when people are financing the project, as the people contributing to the budget have to be on board with what they are investing in, and that means you need to keep them on side.  This is important for writer-directors to remember – people still have to read and follow your script, even if you aren’t actually trying to secure someone else to believe in the project.

Addressing the idea of style as your voice, this is one that takes practice.  You can’t really choose your voice, you have to develop it, and you’ll find that happening the more you write, and the more you make decisions in your scripts.  I’d say direct or at least film (or have someone else do it) and see how these things translate onto screen, as that will help you work out which of your ideas are actually working for you and which aren’t – there’s a temptation for writers to write completely separately from the reality of filmmaking (and I certainly agree that a writer should write to service the story, not necessarily the budget, BUT you should be aware of how the budget will potentially limit your five car crash scenes).

Your style, and therefore your voice, will develop as you go.  You’ll find ways to create characters, and generate plot points, and system to expand your ideas, and how to thread your theme in subtly.  And that’s where I will draw the line this week.  I’ve talked about seven different aspects of scripting, which should give you enough talking points, or at least, enough reasons to yell how wrong I am at your computer screen, if that’s what suits.  New topic tomorrow!

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Like yesterday, I’m going to talk more about one of the unifying factors of a script, tone.  By tone, I will be referring to the way in which you handle the material – with a light touch or a heavy one, with a sense of irony or sincerity.

Tone is an interesting element, as it really has to be consistent in order to make your script work, but it has to vary in order to not bore your audience.  Anything experienced consistently starts to lose its impact, and our brains have the capacity to screen out repetition.  It’s the same with not varying your pacing or not hitting a variety of emotional beats.  Even in a film with a light touch, if you treat your more dramatic moments flippantly, you’ll lose the effect that the drama will bring.  You don’t have to drop all of the jokes or the whimsy when one of your supporting characters die, but if you don’t at least temper the tone, you will undermine the plot point.

But it is, obviously, a balancing act.  The danger of varying the tone too much is that it can cause a noticeable inconsistency that will throw the audience out of the narrative.  Swinging wildly back and forth between styles is akin to daring your audience to hold on, as going irreverent one minute and melodramatic the next doesn’t mesh – it’s one single piece of work, and flipping the tone seemingly randomly will break any unity and feel like randomly hammered together scenes – this can work if that’s what you’re going for, but not many people are, and it will still have this affect on the audience.

If you can play this balancing act well, you can really use it to accentuate beats of the script.  Juxtaposition is a very powerful tool when used properly, and good horror comedies are a great example – balancing the security-induced feeling that comes of connecting with someone through laughter, with the fear that comes from watching that same character get brutally murdered, first connects you to the character, and then provides an even stronger reaction when your sense of security is broken.

I’m going to stop there, as I feel this is the main point to talk about with tone – it is integral in keeping consistency and unity to your script, but is something that you can play around with to your benefit.  How far you go and how you play with it are your decision, just remember that it is a balancing act.

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Starting to get quite abstract now.  Having covered the tangible sections earlier in the week, and finishing up with structure yesterday, today is going to be all about theme.  In my opinion, theme is the anchor for your script.  Like structure, but from a narrative point of view, the theme can provide unity for your script.

Audience members don’t go into a film looking for the theme.  Marketing rarely (I would say never, but it’s a little too sweeping to get away with) centres on the theme of a film, especially as it’s often too abstract a concept to be the main draw – they’re usually attributed to conversations between stoned students or four-in-the-morning philosophical debates.  Once again, I believe theme is another subconscious draw that you have to make conscious choices about.

From Wikimedia Commons

"Today’s lesson is on which was the greater warrior? Optimus Prime or the T-Rex from Jurassic Park."

Stories are, as with any art, an indication of the social and cultural issues and theories that exist in a certain time.  We adapt them and mould them to suit our changing landscape – if there’s actually a good word to be said about the endless reboots of aging films, it is that the scriptwriters will be applying their experiences of the current cinematic styles, and applying them to their scripts (although I realise that most of them certainly do not demonstrate this as a conscious choice, or that it helps in any way to improve the films themselves).  The thematic work that is applied to films in this environment will be products of current understanding and general opinion on various subjects, and the films created now will be a remaining indicator of these factors.

The important distinction I want to make here is the difference between a theme and a message, at least, when I am talking about them, this is the way I will separate the two terms.  For me, a message is a moral that you are trying to get your audience to take away.  You are actively trying to impart your point of view on an issue and have the audience agree with you.  In my opinion, this is telling the audience what to think.  A theme is having a subject – it can still be a moral – and providing a platform to talk about it.  Even if you have an opinion, even if you are making your hero come down on one side of it, you distinguish your theme from a message by showing different options.  No character gets rewarded or punished for picking the “wrong” choice – they can still get rewarded or punished for other choices they make, but you don’t penalise them for disagreeing with your own view.

From Wikimedia Commons

"No! Greed is GOOD! Let me hear you say it!"

Theme is, if anything, a stealth factor of your script.  Keeping everything unified thematically is appealing in a similar way to keeping the structure tight as it provides consistency as the characters make choices and experience the plot, which helps keeps your audience immersed in the narrative.  It makes it easier for you, the storyteller, to draw together potentially disparate ideas and mismatched characters (in a good way; not a lazy, crowbarring way) in a satisfying way.  Theme can also help you with how to explore certain scenes and characters, as it gives you a common goal to shape these factors, and that is nothing to be turned aside, in my view.

Ultimately, it is your decision.  I’m not trying to push theme as the only way to write a script, but, in my experience, thematic unity makes it easier to write, and easier to write a cohesive script.  It also helps you explore that theme, and understand it from different points of view.  Similar topic tomorrow, but from a slightly different angle of the narrative.

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So, now that you have your characters defined, they can talk to each other, and your plot is prepared, what next?  Well, I’ve identified some other important factors, but the order from this point is relatively fluid.  The topic I’m going to talk about today is structure.

I can’t talk about structure without referencing the many writers that have talked about structure and formula, like Campbell’s Hero With A Thousand Faces, but I actually owe a lot to Community’s Dan Harmon and his musings on Channel 101 (I know I reference Community a lot, but, trust me, Harmon’s work demonstrates someone who cares about structure and story and character in a way that appeals to the narrative geek inside me, and I don’t feel right covering subjects he has done so closely and not reference how influential his writing is on my way of thinking).  Harmon talks about how we as human beings crave story structure subconsciously.  We as human beings look for patterns in the wild, structure to the chaos we perceive around us.

From Wikimedia Commons

All I see is rectangle, rectangle, triangle, trapezoid, squiggle.

However, before I could finish this post, I started reading some of Film Crit Hulk’s writing at http://filmcrithulk.wordpress.com/.  And he writes some very interesting things about how the three act structure and the Hero’s Journey have become like a crutch for scriptwriting.  I’m still making my way through a lot of his stuff, but I can say at this stage, I think there is some stuff worth remembering.  There’s so much writing out there about structure, and formula, and how to’s for scripting that it is often easy to forget that scriptwriting doesn’t have a right or wrong answer. These works are guides, useful to help put you in the right frame of mind, or to help identify the important elements of scripting.  But, just like this blog, these are opinions only.

But Hulk makes a valuable point about how the Hero’s Journey is a pattern recognised over many, many stories for the thematic changes in the characters, and that is the important thing for me about structure.  Slavishly following a three-act structure or the Hero’s Journey just because it is the done thing, is the wrong reason to tell a story.  You should tell a story in the way that suits it best – don’t crowbar in a mentor or a love interest or resurrection because it’s what everyone else is doing.

My advice is that you need some sort of structure – you can’t freewheel the entire narrative and declare it a masterpiece (though this will work for an exceptional story, it’s going to be rare examples that can do it).  Being a narrative geek, one of the most appealing things for me about film and TV is about how it channels reality through narrative filters, providing arcs and resolution for characters, which analogise the growth people make through their lives over many, many years.  Stories help us to understand one another and structuring them makes it easier for us to break them down.

From Wikimedia Commons

"Excuse me, do you know the way to the bank?" "What?" "(sigh) Once upon a time, there was three brothers …"

Structure is also an important point for helping to write scripts.  Without a map to follow, your plot can essentially meander and disappear off in directions you don’t intend.  Building a scaffolding to support your narrative will allow you to push every scene, every character, every choice to its full extension.  A good example is the planting/pay-off example.  In a film’s climactic scene, when your hero looks beaten and the evil scientist/wizard/tax collector is monologuing, if the hero pulls out a hidden bazooka and blows the villain up, it looks like a deus ex machina – essentially, a cheat to get you out of a narrative hole.  If the hero uses his trusty bazooka that he explained to his sidekick was a family heirloom in their early character scene, it sets the reveal up, and gives it justification.  If you can expand the plant/pay-off system to bigger things, like character moments and narrative direction, you can reinforce the whole narrative.

What I’m learning from reading other writers’ work on the subject is that there are a lot of guidelines to take into consideration for what makes a good script, and that structure is incredibly important, but don’t let that force you into shaping your narrative to conform to patterns that might not actually be of benefit to your story.  I’ll probably come back to this after I’ve scoured more of Hulk’s writing.