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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Structure part 1


Let's dip back into the Scriptwriters Life diagram again today.

Within What is your story? and placed at the top is Storytelling Skills.

This would be your traditional script skills. The sort of thing that occurs in most script courses and the sort of thing that is mentioned in most books. As I write this I worry that it seems as if I am dismissing the importance. I am not. Knowing your craft, knowing your skills, being good at your job (basically) is fundamental and its no coincidence that this part is top left - where most people start reading. The reason its called Storytelling Skills rather than script skills is to make it clear that in this slice we are dealing with the artistic craft of good story and not things like layout, courier font, putting copyright on the front page and all that other stuff that gets in the way for new writers especially.

Within it is structure.

In my mind (and others do disagree I know) structure is key. Get your structure right, and have at your fingertips a range of structure ideas and methods, and writing becomes easier. Easier not easy! Structure is the architects plans. You can have nice fancy tiles to put on the outside later. But get the structure of the building right first. Continuing the analogy a bit further - many writers dislike structure talk as they see it as dull. But this is because they see only one kind of building that can be built. But good architects can design a small semi, a palace, or an office block. We must be the same and revel in the excitement of new structure 'design'.

One method is the use of cards that people are probably sick of seeing me write about so I won't go through that again now. Just to add that their power comes from the ability to move them about and try things out - so do it.

Another method is to get in tune with different structures. Here's a short summary of the 3 act structure and also a page of some reasons against using it. Then there is the nine act. There's also a seven step version of the hero's journey.

They can't all be right. Or rather they are all right - for the right film. Keep an open mind. Or maybe you need to invent your own structure if that's what it takes.

2 comments:

Sal said...

I liked this set of diagrams when you gave me a copy in Edinburgh, and I agree with your cards thing - its the moving around aspect of doing cards that I like. And I stack them when I write, so I can only see one card at a time, and thus focus only on that scene. Works for me.

Tim Clague said...

Not heard of that 'stacking' idea before. That's interesting. And a powerful method. You really have to have faith in your chosen card order for that one. Which is a good thing. It forces you to be sure. No time for scene order fiddling now. That has to have been done already.