Thursday, December 08, 2011

The In and Out of storytelling.

When we think about a story we think that our plot will move our character forward and sometimes we get tricked into believing that, no matter what happens, the more things we add the better the story will get.

Truth be told, for storytelling, simple is best. Adding details must be done carefully. The details that don't help your story move forward will hold it back. If they don't support your character, they'll make him/her trip and fall.

If details kill your stories you must kill the details. So it is very important for details to be useful, it is very important to use them to help propel the story forward instead of dragging it down.

That's why it is very important to remember that a story is all about: a dude with a dilemma and how he deals with it. 

But is your dude going to have a dilemma if he is statically accepting what is around him? The dilemma should always arise because the dream and the conflict are clashing.

That's why our D+D+D formula needs an extra smaller D in it: D+d+D+D.
The smaller "d" is the dream and, if you think about it, it is not so small after all. You have to provide your characters with needs and want. Particularly one need and want that will be in contrast with what they have. That dream and want will be the fuel to the engine called: achieving a goal.

If we stop for a second to analyze the stuff dreams are made of we realize that there are basically two types of dreams and wants. I usually play a little game with my students and tell them: Disney movies use a smart move, they don't have enough time to show you the DREAM so their characters will sing it to you. Let's make a list of what disney characters say in songs.
1) Oh, I just can't wait to be king;
2) Just around the river bend;
3) I want adventures in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell;
4) If only they'd look closer, would they see a poor boy, no sire, they'd find out there's so much more to me;
5) A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view;
6) I can go the distance;
7) When will my reflection show who I am inside;
8) Out of the sea, wish I could be, part of that World;

Oh, I could go on for ever. I was trained in those standards, I know them by heart.

But let's color code and separate them for a second. When you go and look at them closely you'll see that mainly there are some 3 common themes: I want to be someone else, I want to be somewhere else, I want to be me.

The first two look outside and the third one looks inside the character. 

So when creating a type of dream for your character you need to figure out what kind of person he/she is: is he/she an IN kind of guy/gal or an OUT kind of guy/gal?

Is he/she looking at escapism or is he/she looking for acceptance and understanding?

It is very important to establish this because it will help you establish the nature of the conflict as well.

Out kinds of characters will start a journey of discovery that might lead them to realize two things: they can achieve their goal because of who/what they are (the chose ones) OR they come to realize that what they thought they wanted is not how they thought it would be, they might realize that what they had was not so bad after all. So it's either make it or break it.
In kinds of character will start a journey of discovery that might lead others to realize two things: they had misjudged the hero and his/her abilities OR they always believed in the hero but the hero did not believe in himself/herself. Usually is a make it or make it kind of story.

In any case you can have a proactive or a reluctant hero. The Proactive OUT hero dives into adventure to prove something to himself, the Proactive IN hero dive into adventure to prove something to others.
The reluctant hero does not want to go into adventure, whether he is IN or OUT, he believes he has nothing to prove and others are right about him even when they are wrong. Usually this is a hero who has nothing to prove but learns the most.

 In the next post we'll see the nature of the conflict and how it reacts to the dream.

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