Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Way to Write a Movie

I had a very specific learning obstacle during my high school years; I thought the suggestion of change meant that I was doing it wrong.

Now as I look back on those years, I don't believe I misunderstood my teachers intentions. Though statements such as "learn the rules before you learn to break them" repeated through every English and creative writing class I've been to, though they tried to convince us that they only wanted us to be more open to wider styles, the suggestion of "don't use adverbs" can only be taken one way: You use too many. Don't.

It makes sense I would have an abrasion to someone telling me a) I was wrong, b) I have to do it "this" way, and c) these rules are not true for certain people - just the terrible ones. That being said, I've also find that when I consciously choose to disregard the intention behind "this is the right way," many suggestions open up to usability.

What I have here is not the way to write a movie. This is not the best or an infamous or even a fail-proof way. At certain times, it may cause more problems than it helps. But that doesn't mean it's not a good way, a usable way, or in fact, a way to plan a movie.

The Beginning-

This introduces the five elements of a story: the plot, the characters, the setting, the theme, and the tone, gives the reader something to want, and foreshadow the problem and resolution.

We meet the protagonist and are introduced to 1) his super objective, 2) the flaw that is keeping him from achieving his super objective, and 3) the quality that will lead him to success in the end.

The beginning establishes the rules of the world, especially those that will be important to the succession of events. It also indicates what sort of voice the story will have, if it is going to be dark, humorous, casual, poetic, etc., hinting to the audience what they should expect.

Generally speaking, the beginning is a look into the stable life of the protagonist before his world is shaken by the inciting event. Sometimes, the writer may choose to take a glimpse into the future or the past, or even jump straight to the abnormality. No matter what the events are, they show the important five elements.

This first section should also introduce an objective for the reader to have, promising to maybe deliver by the end of the story. Things like the protagonist falling in love, achieving his dreams, having justice on an antagonist (or just extremely obnoxious character), or even for the reader to find out a secret the movie conceals. The introduction of this reader's goal should be out front. The audience should expect this satisfactory end (but have doubt they may actually get it.)

Lastly, there should be hints how the movie will be resolved this early on, especially those that are affected by the characters' personalities and the setting as I have already said. Though the writer does not always know what the resolution will be when he starts, one of the intentions of the second draft will be to insert foreshadowing that ties the whole movie together.

At the end of the beginning is the inciting event. Most describe this as the moment in which the protagonist is forced (with the highest magnitude possible) into action. Considering, however, how often the character is not aware of the conflict until long after (The Lion King), or the main characters already know of the problem (the play Rabbit Hole), it can often make pinpointing that moment hard. When I say the inciting event, I mean the moment in which the audience is introduced to the main conflict, not the protagonist.

The story is about the solution to the problem. The theme is a vague and large picture issue, the plot is the contextual conflict. For instance, a theme would be, "how academia destroys the moral of artists," the plot is, "a student film-maker has to decide between making the film of his dreams or the film that gets the grade." The combination of the two is the problem of the film, introduced at the inciting event, which the resolution will then answer.

The Middle-

The middle of the story's main point is to prove that the problem is hard to solve.

The scenes should up the stakes and make it more important that the protagonist succeeds - to the audience and to the characters, and sometimes to the world itself. Show what will happen if he fails.

There are usually three disasters, often caused by the protagonist trying to fix the problem. These disasters bring to light the possible repercussions.

Bring promises and doubt of if the reader will get what they want. The more the audience is frustrated by the events, the more the jackass gets his way, the more that the hero is separated from the heroine, the more an artist is criticized, the greater the release when the reader will finally get what they want, especially if they can't be certain they'll get away with it.

Filling conversations with background information and proof of the character's qualities and flaws that add to the story without distracting from the point. The middle is often the best place for giving out the peoples' and the world's history rather than the ending or the beginning for the very simple reason that the ending should be quick paced and filled with action, tying together the rest of story and not adding anything new. As for the beginning, there is a basic rule of thumb - When we don't know the characters, we don't care where their from. When we love them, we want to know everything they've done.

The most creative writing, however, comes from solving problems with the text. A simple problem like, "I don't know why my antagonist is so obsessed with one little boy," can be answered in many scenes. Most of the story is actually solving it's own problems, so the best of reads often come from trying to motivate the characters and solving continuity issues.

The end of the middle happens when the protagonist has a clear head on how to defeat the antagonist and set his plan in motion.

The End-

To prevent Deux Ex Machina, there should be no new information, people, rules, etc. given to the audience that hasn't been foreshadowed. (But it can be new to the characters.)

The ending is relatively quick, but it it should not be easy. The third disaster of the play has led to this climax in which all the elements of the story should tie together.

Once the main character has his goal in sights (whether it be defeating a super villain or over coming stage fright) he has one last surprise conflict before him (he must chase the fleeing man up a tower or sees his judgmental father in the audience.) Finally, the moment before he either succeeds or fails at his goal, there should be a moment in which the audience doubts that he will win. The climax is the moment of victory or loss, most often attributed to something that the main character has either struggled with or took advantage of for the entire film. (Toy Story's Woody is only successful when he gets over his jealousy of Buzz and they work together. Aladdin wins over Jafar by using his intellect.)

Then their is the resolution that introduces the audience to the repercussions of the story, either presenting them to the better life or the tragedy.

An important part of the ending is the theme. The way the climax goes should reflex a point, and not just be that the main character got what he wanted but why and how he got what he wanted. Many endings fall short because they solve the problem in a simple way, not a way that the story has been building on since the beginning.