Either you believe whole heartedly in story structure or rebel against what can sometimes feel like a formula. This week Timothy and Alrik break down some different plot types and discuss their beliefs about what makes a good story.
A listener challenges us to use inclusive language @TheHippoCritics writes: I love your podcast- it is down to earth and so smart. If you could just reduce the use of ‘guys’u use as examples. Things like “bring in a guy who” or “get a new guy” when using hypothetical examples.
Should we stop using male signifiers when talking about directors?
The Daily Struggle
Timothy is shooting Barcelona this week.
Alrik has started a full time job and struggling to find time to write The Alternate, his feature length screenplay.
- Do you believe in structure?
- What makes for a good structure?
- Can all stories be described with a single theory such as “The Hero’s Journey”?
- Writing in Sequences
- McKee’s theory of writing with turns
- The Matt Stone and Trey Parker technique of writing with “but” and “therefore”: See the video here!
- In Johny Truby’s book “22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller” he describes several plot types.
The Journey Plot
A hero goes on a journey where he encounters a number of opponents in succession. Truby says the problem inherent with this plot is that it usually fails to achieve its organic potential because the hero almost never undergoes even slight character changes as he/she defeats her opponents, which can make these stories feel episodic. And because the journey is sprawling and meandering, the storyteller has a hard time bringing back the characters that the hero encountered along the way.
The Three Unities Plot
This came from Greek dramatists – time, place and action are the three elements here. These stories generally take place in 24 hours, in one location, and follow one action and one storyline.
The Reveals Plot
The hero generally stays in one place, though it can be a larger space the Three Unities Plot, like a town or a city and happen over a longer period of time. The key to this plot is that the hero is familiar with his opponents, but a great deal about them is hidden from the hero and audience. This produces a plot that is filed with revelations and surprises for the hero and the audience.
This is a 20th century device in which the storyteller appears to show a disdain for plot. In actuality, there is plot in these stories, but the plots are built around the subtleties of character. For example, Catcher in the Rye can be described simply as “a teenage boy walking around New York City for a couple of days.” This plot is not what makes the story compelling it is the character of Holden Caulfield that is. Plots in this group use various techniques to make the plot organic such as shifting narrators, branching story structures, non-chronological time, with the aim of presenting a more complex view of human character.
These are big plots that usually emphasize revelations so profound they flip the story upside down. Genres are stories with predetermined characters, themes, worlds, symbols and plots. Every genre comes with its own expectations. They are often mechanical in nature with the complexity and timing of a Swiss watch. The plot of these stories is not unique to the main character.
This is the newest plot strategy. Each story, or weekly episode, is comprised of three to five major plot strands. Each strand is driven by a separate character within a single group, usually within an organization. The storyteller crosscuts between these strands to emphasize the group, or mini society, and to show how characters compare to one another.
Timothy urges you to listen to these interview with John Carpenter and Joe Dante on The WTF Podcast with Marc Maron
Alrik recommends this music video
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