Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Same Story, Told a Million Times in a Million Different Ways

I'm taking another writing class--this time on plotting a story, and I thought I'd share something with you:

Did you know that almost all Hollywood movies follow this plot:

1. Opportunity knocks. (Lead character answers.)
2. But quickly, there's a change of plans. (Progress is made anyway.)
3. The lead character does something--such as crosses a bridge and then burns it--that means there is no going back. (The character, obviously, goes forward, with added complications and higher stakes.)
4. A setback occurs. (The character fights this and everything else to reach the...)
5. Climax,
6. Which is resolved, hopefully happily.

Try your favorite movie and see if it fits. If it doesn't, try your second favorite movie and so on until you can honestly say, "Eureka! My (third, fourth, 17th) favorite movie does follow that pattern."

Let's take the movie "Little Miss Sunshine."

1. Young Olive gets invited to participate in a pageant. (The whole family, who is not a very sunny group, go along.)
2. The grandpa dies en route. (The family takes him out of the hospital and continues their journey.)
3. Running late, the father jumps curbs, etc. to get his daughter there on time. (She goes to get ready.)
4. As soon as they get to the pageant, the family realizes that Olive is out of her element. (They let her participate anyway.)
5. This leads to Olive's hilariously inappropriate routine, which her late grandfather choreographed.
6. The police let them go home as long as they promise never to participate in another beauty pageant in the state of California, which they happily agree to because everyone has learned that even though life is a beauty pageant, you do not have to be a contestant.

I also learned that there are basically two stories told over and over: 1. A person goes on a journey and 2. A stranger comes to town. And that in fact they are the same story told from different points of view.

I just thought I'd share that with you because it always helps, me at least, to look at life as a story--or a series of stories, actually. If you're in a really mucky, confusing, sad or scary part--you're somewhere in the middle of your story. If, on the other hand, everything is coming together--not as planned (never as planned)--but happily anyway, then you are at the end. Don't worry, the next story is forthcoming.

Remember: the only difference between a comedy and a tragedy is where you place two little words: The end. Also, comedies are funny and tragedies feature main characters with serious psychiatric problems. But also where you put "the end."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting! I'll have to think about that! Thanks!

8:34 PM  

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