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2 minutes
March 21, 2016

The Moment That Means The Most

Understanding *why* a story works the way it does makes it easier to write one that does.

In a podcast over on Film Trooper, screenwriter Rob Edwards (Treasure Planet and The Princess and the Frog) relates a conversation he had with Pixar co-founder John Lasseter over the one moment in the story that means the most:

[It] usually happens in the 3rd Act …In order for that ONE MOMENT to pay off in the 3rd Act, the writer must build in all clues throughout the story. For instance, in order for the audience to buy into Luke Skywalker turning off his visual scanner and letting go to use the FORCE in order to destroy the Death Star…Rob explains that at the mid point in the story, we have to be shown that Luke had let go and used the force before. This is the famous scene with Luke wearing the blast shield helmet and the floating ball that fires laser beams at him. Then you’re supposed to backtrack to the 1st Act and show Luke unaware of the FORCE and refusing to take action until he has no other choice.

This sounds like a description of the Main Character Throughline, and specifically the Main Character Problem and its presence in each of the Signposts.

Luke “unaware of the FORCE” is simply a Main Character blinded to their own justifications. They don’t see their actual Problem because they’re too focused on the Symptoms of their Problem. The entire point of narrative is to pull those blinders away so that the Main Character can finally recognize what is driving them to do the things they do. This is why the scene of Luke turning off the computer is the one moment in the story that means the most. For once, Luke can see things for what they truly are and decide for himself to either continue doing things the way he always has, or change and adopt a new way of solving problems.

Knowing the reasons why there are moments in a story that mean the most is one of the greatest benefits one gains from an understanding of the Dramatica theory of story. Conversations like this one with screenwriter Edwards and studio head Lasster would be productive and far more effective if they spoke the same language.

Concepts covered: Main Character Throughline & Main Character Problem.

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