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Episode 31 – What Makes a Great Story? with Marc Madrigal

Marc Madrigal, the host of Story Punch Podcast, joins us this week to talk about what makes a great story

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Show Notes / Links

Special Guest: Marc Madrigal

  • Meet Marc Madrigal
Marc Madrigal, the host of Story Punch Podcast
  • Marc uses his podcast to share his ideas on what makes a good story, not as an expert, but as a storyteller trying to figure it out for himself. Sound familiar?
  • We talk about Marc’s recent foray into writing his own screenplays.
  • Marc gives us his advice on how to become a better Story teller: Ask for feedback!
  • Timothy talks about YouTube feedback on LONE and reads a comment that stood out to him.
  • We talk about receiving feedback and how not to lose your own compass when getting notes from someone else.
  • We talk about a Tweet from Carson Reeves of Script Shadow: “Once a reader has read something and doesn’t like it, it’s almost impossible to change their mind. No matter how many rewrites you do.”

Topic of the Week – What Makes a Great Story?

  • What do we think makes a good story?
  • Why is storytelling important to people?
  • Why is storytelling more important now than ever?
  • What sorts of things are we trying to do as storytellers?

We chose this TED Talk by Andrew Stanton as a jumping off point for our conversation

  • STORY TELLING IS JOKE TELLING – KNOWING YOUR ENDING  – @ 01:18 “Storytelling is joke telling. It’s knowing your punchline, your ending, knowing that everything you’re saying, from the first sentence to the last, is leading to a singular goal and ideally confirming some truth and understanding about who we are as human beings.”

  • STORIES AFFIRM WHO WE ARE  @ 01:40 “…ideally confirming some truth and understanding about who we are as human beings – Stories affirm who we are. We all want affirmations that our lives have meaning. And nothing does a greater affirmation than when we connect through stories.”
  • MAKE ME CARE @ 02:30 – “Probably the most greatest story commandment. Which is: make me care. Please, emotionally, intellectually. Esthetically. We all know what it’s like to not care…”
  • THE AUDIENCE ACTUALLY WANTS TO WORK FOR THEIR MEAL @ 06:34 – “Storytelling without dialogue… it confirmed something I really had a hunch on, that the audience wants to work for their meal, they just don’t want to know that they’re doing that…we’re born problem solvers. We’re compelled to deduce and deduct, because that’s what we do in real life. It’s this well organized absence of information that draws us in… Don’t give [the audience 4, give them 2+2]..Stories are inevitable if they’re good, but they’re not predictable.”
  • PIXAR’S RULES (1993) – The founders of Pixar were going by their gut, and trying to prove you could tell a better story by following these rules
    • No I want moment
    • No Songs
    • No Happy Village
    • No Love Story
    • No Villain
  • WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW @ 18:36: “Use what you know. Draw from it. It doesn’t always mean plot or fact. It means capturing a truth from your experiencing it, expressing values you personally feel deep down in your core.”
  • WHAT ABOUT STRUCTURE?
    • Is it your best friend or your worst enemy?
    • Isn’t structure limiting?
    • Syd Field said “Structure is like gravity. It is the glue that holds the story into place; it is the base, the foundation, the spine, the skeleton of the story. And it is this relationship between the parts and the whole that holds the screenplay together. It’s what makes it what it is. It is the paradigm of dramatic structure. A paradigm is a model, example, or conceptual scheme. The paradigm of a table, for example, is a top with four legs. Within the paradigm, we can have a low table, high table, narrow table, or wide table; we can have a round table, square table, rectangular table, or octagonal table; we can have a glass table, wood table, plastic table, wrought-iron table, or whatever, and the paradigm doesn’t change – it remains what it is, a top with four legs. Just the way a suitcase remains a suitcase; it doesn’t matter how big or small, or what the shape is; it is what it is.”
Story Punch Podcast, available on iTunes

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If you have a question, email us and we’ll answer it on the show. Email us at podcast@makingmoviesishard.com or leave a comment here

Published inFilmmakingScreenwritingStoryStory Structure
  • One of my favorite documents on story is Hulk’s Screenwriting 101. It doesn’t simply give you one way to approach story, it gives you many. It is a really great, comprehensive overview on how screenplays tick: http://www.amazon.com/Screenwriting-101-Film-Crit-Hulk-ebook/dp/B00H0NQE7S

    And for story structure, I really like Dan Harmon series of articles about story. It’s easy to understand and a fresh way to think about classic structure theories. Here’s the link to the first article, there are six altogether. http://channel101.wikia.com/wiki/Story_Structure_101:_Super_Basic_Shit

    • Thanks again for having me on the show!

      Those are two of my favorite resources as well, especially Screenwriting 101 which is more inspirational and thought-provoking than anything. As long as you can get past the all caps and longwinded writing, Film Crit Hulk is the best.

      One more resource I would add is Scott Meyer’s collection of screenwriting Twitter rants: http://gointothestory.blcklst.com/screenwriter-twitter-rants

    • I don’t have any resources to share but I want to hear from the community, what do you think of our discussion on story, is this at all how you all approach writing a story?

  • Hm… this seems like a very subjective topic to me… The way I feel about structure is… it’s important but… I don’t know. I think that knowing the Hero’s journey and Blake Snyder’s beat sheet is a great way to learn how to tell a story that “works.” If you don’t know how to tell an interesting story, you can follow those steps, and it will be interesting. But creativity leads to more interesting ways of telling stories. I’ll use From Dusk Till Dawn as an example… this gets written off as a schlock horror flick (and it is) but it’s very cleverly written in my opinion because the hero you’re rooting for at the end is a murderous bank robber at the beginning and he doesn’t go through a whole lot change in that respect… but looking specifically at the script you could make the argument that it has a 2 act structure with a distinct midpoint… or a 6 act structure with two complete 3 act stories. I love that movie. Anyway… there are formulas for making successful movies. But that doesn’t mean those formulas are the only ways to make a successful film.

    Also, great show again guys.