ELEMENTS OF STORYTELLING
In learning to write fiction I have taken every course offered at the prestigious American Film Institute, I have attended seminars and conferences and have read more books than I can count on what makes the story work for readers and audiences. Through this and future posts, I will recommend some of the best books I have read on these subjects and shed light on why things work the way they do.
All story telling needs what is called a 3 act structure. At AFI, in a course titled Screenwriting Rules and Tool¸ John Vorhous described it something like this: In Act I, we chase the hero up a tree. In Act II, we throw at the hero rocks, bullets, fire, obsession, weakness, fear, ignorance and generally everything you can think of to make the hero’s physical or emotional survival doubtful while the hero fights off his enemies and develops a plan. In Act III, the hero makes a choice, conquers his enemies and wins his/her objective. Conflict is always necessary.
Global conflict can be a devastating natural disaster, invasion by some enemy, or just plain bad weather. Personal conflict between characters is usually more difficult and more rewarding. There are, however, writers who insert contrived conflict to drive their characters to action. Creating conflict for the sake of conflict almost never works. I like to allow conflict to grow naturally from character objective and character emotion. Then we have inner conflict, where the character fights within; to go or not to go, to do or not do. This is often used to feed comedy.
Creating Character Emotions by Ann Hood is an excellent resource guide for authors of fiction, whether screenplay, stage play, novel, novella or a short story. Character objective is the driving force of your story: What do they want and how do they intend to get it? I like to build a three act objective for all main characters, whether protagonist, antagonist, sidekick or love interest. These combined characters should suffer or enjoy most or all of the emotions listed here from Ann’s book: Anger, Anxiety, Apathy, Confusion, Contentment, Curiosity, Desire, Despair, Excitement, Fear, Fondness, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Grief, Guilt, Happiness, Hate, Hope, Hostility, Irritation, Jealousy, Loneliness, Longing, Love (parent child), Love (romantic), Passion, Resignation, Restlessness, Revenge, Sadness, Shame, Surprise, Suspicion, Sympathy, Tenderness, and Worry. Any type of story needs emotional conflict in order to work. Yes, even comedy. Any of these emotions can be sources of conflict. Only the author can make that work.
Future posts will discuss other aspects of creative writing and craft.
I appreciate comments from my readers at all times.