I know it hasn’t been a full week since my last post, but I’ve actually started to do stuff this week! I did some work in the garden with my Dad (no, I’m not going to call him HG), had some more unexpected hours at smiths, and played some football with my friends. Each of which managed to make me draw blood at some point!
I also saw Stranger Than Fiction for the first time, which I have to say is a really good film. Not only is it a good story with good actors and all that gubbins, but it also helps to show how stories are constructed. When he starts to hear a narrating voice in his head, the main character Harold (Will Ferrel) visits a literature professor (Dustin Hoffman) who explains to him the structures of a story, plots, the difference between comedy and tragedy etc.
When looking at any story it is easy to just see them as a series of events where things happen which causes something else to happen, when in reality its much more complex and structured. It was only in my second year of uni when I discovered this in a writing module, and now I cannot help but watch films without analysing the different elements that make up the narrative. There is not one rigid structure that every story follows, as there is a vast array of ways in which stories develop, but the majority will nearly always follow the same basic pattern. One of the first things we learnt in this module is that all stories are essentially made from the same basic ideas, but each story will use them in different ways. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre for example, in which a group of teenagers go camping in the woods to discover a house owned by cannibals, is Hansel and Gretel. It is the fact that stories use this same basic structure but are able to adapt it for such a wide variety at the same time, is why I am considering returning to UWA as they have an excellent Masters course on screenwriting. That, and it will give me more time to decide what I eventually want to do.
First of all, rather obviously, something has to happen. If Harold didn’t start hearing the narrators voice in his head, he would have carried on with his boring routine, and it would have been a boring film. Likewise if Bilbo Baggins never gave his ring to Frodo, he would have just stayed in the Shire. Basically, if nothing happens the main character would just sit at home all day and do nothing (sounds rather familiar actually. . .) and would make for a boring story.
And it can’t just be anything happening either. It has to be something that gives the character a goal of some kind. If Bilbo gave Frodo an ordinary ring, he would have just said ‘Thanks uncle, that’s a nice ring’ and still carried on living in the shire. The fact that the ring needs to be destroyed necessitates that several characters all go on the quest to achieve this goal, whilst also giving the audience the sense of ‘will they/won’t they, agggh, whats going to happen now??’, at which point they went and bought the book before the next film came out.
Like I said each story is different, and this only covers the beginnings of the stories, but I think you get the idea. Basically nearly every story, book, film, TV etc will go along similar lines of:
Something happens, something has to be fixed, things will generally get worse before they get better.
PS: Yes, knowing this can spoil the fun of just watching a film, but I refuse to be held responsible if anyone hits you for constantly saying ‘Oh, now I get it’ every time you see a film from now on.