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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

New (?) scructure seeking a name

I've been working on a new script. As you blog readers will know, I am fascinated by ideas and new techniques.

For this new script I've been playing with a structure that is different for me, a structure a little bit like The Hours directed by my old mate Dalders from a script by David Hare.

My script is a 30min script and as such you can only fit in so many ideas and techniques. But I wondered if you could go further with this idea. The idea is... look at the drama from EVERY angle. Jump around in space and time wherever you need to go, characters may come and go - the only goal is to explore an issue or theme.

I don't know if this structure has a name. I have tried to illustrate it with a series of diagrams below. Starting with the old structure...

The traditional structure. This diagram shows a normal story progression.

An example of the traditional structure. This diagram shows a story being told using that normal, standard structure that we all know. Here I picked an off-the-shelf cop drama. As you can see it's told in a standard linear manner.

An example of the 'new' structure. Now the same plot, the same story told using this multi-faceted approach. We look at the same show down and all the components that led it to happen.

New? Or useless? Or interesting? An example of structure2.0?


Danny Stack said...

It's true you don't see that style very often, Tim, because it's so difficult to achieve but alternative non-linear structure like that does pop up every now and then, like say Memento (which isn't told backwards all the way, there's those black & white segments when he's on the phone) or even the most recent Jekyll on the Beeb. Or something like 21 Grams, which gave you scenes from different places in the story's timeline but presented them as if it was one continuous narrative, until it built to the revelation that what we were seeing was from the past & present. Coincidentally, David Hare & Guillermo Arriaga are big fans of each other, and they call their approach "triangular structure" where you're telling the story from 3 points of view and joining it all together.

deepstructure said...

these two structures aren't even close to telling the same story. in fact one is a story and the other is just a collection of thoughts and vignettes.

so often the "triangle structure" is really just a gimmick used to make an otherwise regular story a little different. but this doesn't even do that. these are all the things writers put in their backstory, but don't include in the script.

my problem with something like this is it invites exactly what you ended up doing - adding in a ton of extraneous "story" stuff that in the end doesn't matter.

i've been cogitating on the standard storytelling structure for a long time now - and the one thing trap that most attempts to change or innovate it seem to fall into is making it something else.

storytelling is linear. it's progressive. it always has been. the cavefolk sitting around the campfire didn't give disjointed clouds of information for their audience to sort through.

so innovation is changing from within that format, not creating something else and calling it that.

if we're talking about telling a story, then i would say useless. but then your question begs the question - exploring an theme isn't necessarily storytelling or entertaining through narrative.

Tim Clague said...

Two answers there from two heavyweights on this topic - so thanks.

This is more than the 'triangle' or non-linear approach. DeepStructure was more on the mark when he said its closer to revealing disjointed backstory. 'Lost' kind of uses some of these techniques.

Perhaps it is.

More (ongoing and developing) thought is that the linear campfire method is being challenged by the rising amount of non-linear activity. Using google is a non-linear action.

So our minds are getting used to working this way. Normal linear may seem boring in 10 years time. Maybe not.

I think DeepS was again near the mark when he said this isn't really even a story structure, but something else - a story cloud maybe.

The idea came when I was reading a comic by Chris Ware. About half way through the story jumped to a chapter or two featuring the heroes grandfather. Not really related to the plot - but dead on for the themes.

Danny Stack said...

A double Stack-Attack! Love it.

Anonymous said...

I had thought it was called 'portmanteau style',
certainly the book was heralded the best use of
portmanteau technique and as the film virtually
mirrored the book with the addition of connecting
portals, I don't see why it should be different.

I have written a TV drama (yet to be snapped up) to this style and Lawless Heart with the fabulous Bill Nighy and Douglas Henshaw (?) was shot using this method. Interestingly it took 12 sponsors to get this made, some things never change!

Rosie Jones