Wants. Needs. Character Arc and Backstory. When it comes to developing a strong central character, many do the best they can with these simple-to-grasp, yet disparate concepts of story. Effective character development calls for a system of story points that function as a cohesive whole.
When granted a new understanding of story, writers tend to latch onto one or two key items. They sense the benefit of a new story point for their writing and quickly add it to their tool belt. The problem lies in assuming this new understanding a lone operator.
Format does not determine structure. Whether screenplay, novel, or play, a complete story calls for the same basic ingredients. Television series work the same–they simply take longer to simmer.
Audiences loved Gravity. Critics praised the film. And while the filmmakers’ peers loved Gravity–as evidenced by the 7 Academy Awards it won including Best Director and Best Cinematography–there was one award they kept from it.
Familiarity and ease of use comes with a cost. Making things simpler confuses something that needs a degree of complexity to be understood. Stories exist as analogies to our minds ability to solve problems. While those minds might be simple, the tools to examine them shouldn’t.
Monumental leaps in understanding herald the progress of man. Fire. The wheel. Indoor plumbing. Dramatica. The latest development in our understanding of narrative has the potential to improve things far better than the ability to cook our meat.
In the search for a grand unified theory of narrative, many land short. Whether myopic in their understanding or limited in their perspective, these paradigms of the past left many a writer shaking their head no. If it works it should work, without exception.
Ever wonder why the works of Shakespeare endure hundreds of years later? What of Tolstoy or Shaw? One possible explanation exists, an explanation that has everything to do with the integrity that comes with a solid story structure.
For years, the crafting of a solid story required little more than the ability to guess. Writing. Rewriting. Repeat ad nauseam until the work found its voice. The challenge always seemed to be finding the necessary pieces to tell a complete story.
When it comes to writing a good story, many feel the process to be a mysterious expedition into the unknown. Lacking greater insight into why some stories work better than others, these very same people take the time-tested, yet often failed approach of “We’ll know it when we see it.”
A recent trend reveals filmmakers mourning the demise of story. Everyone, it seems, senses something amiss.
A character at rest tends to stay at rest. Newton’s laws apply to story as well as they do to the physical world. What exactly then motivates a character to get up and start moving?
Treacherous waters await those who set out upon the seas of storytelling. While the tossing and turning of indiscriminate waves threaten stability, it is the the company kept within that calls for caution.
Some characters do things even their own Authors don’t understand. Understanding how the problem-solving technique of a character works within story can help clear things up and hopefully bring those Authors closer to their own work.
Audiences come to story with the hope of experiencing the new. Key to drawing them in and keeping them there lies with the proper application of the Main Character’s perspective. Lose sight of the Main Character and writers risk losing their Audience.
For almost two decades, the artists at Pixar Animation Studios have delighted audiences everywhere with captivating and compelling stories. Creatives everywhere have long respected the studio’s ability to fuse heart and soul into enduring classics of narrative. How is it then that Pixar apparently has no idea how they do what they do?
Main Characters make decisions and they take actions. They engage in deliberation and they get things done. Yet for some reason, Narrative Science seemingly requires both Analysts and Authors to force their Main Characters into choosing one or the other.
Parsing meaning from story requires an eagle-eye for detail and a refusal to participate in generalities. Along with this greater focus on accuracy, however, comes the responsibility of making allowances for deeply held beliefs over how and why a story operates.
Rules tend to offend the sensibilities of creative writers. The intricacies and nuances of crafting living, breathing characters from ink and type require free abandon. They rebel at the very thought that there could somehow be some order to their chosen form of expression.
A question I’m often asked is “How can you possibly take a beautiful creative expression like the art of writing and quantify it into tiny little boxes and mathematical equations?”