Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Making Sense of Story Architecture

OK, let's see if I can sum up Larry Brooks' explanation on story architecture in a way that makes sense. The architecture generally follows the heroic journey that was 'discovered' by Joseph Campbell and then reapplied by Christopher Vogler. First, a story has to have a hero and that hero has to need something, go through trials to get it, and go through an internal change that ends up being the design that gets him what he needs. Brooks has the hero going through four phases; orphan, wanderer, warrior, martyr.

As an orphan, the hero is disconnected from everything that's about to happen. Then a pivotal event occurs that launches the direction of the story. After that event, the hero wanders in search of information and has to learn how to get what he wants. Then the hero transforms into a warrior who starts taking steps to get him to his goal. After another pivitol moment, the hero is willing to give up everything necessary and become a martyr. This applies to almost all stories from romances to thrillers.

A very popular form of storytelling is the three act structure. This fits very well with the heroic stages above. Act One is about a quarter of the whole work and it is the setup for what we all need to know in order to enjoy the story. Introduce characters, set a hook (usually with foreshadowing), show the hero's needs and situation, etc. This does not mean no action. This just means that a story is building and the hero is mostly unaware of it. But the structure here is about pacing, whereas Vogler uses the structure for plot. The two are different.

Act One ends with a scene or two that make up Plot Point One. This should be roughly one quarter of the way into the story. It is the first time that the adversary, be it a person, a disease, or a storm, is put front and center so there can be no mistaking that the direction of the story is changing. The hero is usually presented with a choice to make. This is what Vogler describes as entering the Special World. In Star Wars, Plot Point One is the death of Luke's Aunt and Uncle. And I bet it happens at 26 minutes into the movie.

I'm running out of lunch hour. We'll move on to the rest later.

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