Article: The Inherent Nature of Story Structure #motownwriters

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was in a meeting to pitch his screenplay to a movie exec. My friend sold that plot with all the gusto he knew he needed in these rare moments. And he did well. He’d rehearsed that pitch till he could recite it backwards. On a tightrope. While juggling.

The exec was impressed. He picked up the screenplay from his desk and flicked through the pages. He turned to page 10. Not 8, 9, 11 or 12; 10. Then he turned to page 25. Again, not 24 or 26; 25. He put down the screenplay, the disappointment clear on his face.

“I don’t see the inciting incident or the shift to act two.” To this exec, the inciting incident comes 10% of the way into the story, and the main character crosses the threshold into act two at the 25% mark. No earlier, no later.

This is taking story structure to an extremely literal limit. It has to hit those beats, he reasoned, and it has to hit them at these exact times.

I wonder what this exec would have made of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. There, she sees the rabbit in paragraph two, by the fourth para, she’s down the rabbit hole. From inciting incident (seeing the rabbit) to crossing the threshold (going down the rabbit hole) in roughly the same amount of words as it’s taken me to get to this point in the article.

That’s how good a storyteller Lewis Carrol was.

But Carrol was writing at a time before there were whole libraries of books on story structure. The most popular among them being Story by Robert McKee, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, my personal favorite, The Anatomy of Story by John Truby and The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler.

Categories: Article | Leave a comment

Post navigation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.