Tuesday, March 06, 2012

3 act structure

I was reading this very interesting book yesterday and I stumbled upon this list about the Characteristics of a good story:

·  A single theme, clearly defined
·  A well developed plot
·  Style: vivid word pictures, pleasing sounds and rhythm
·  Characterization
·  Faithful to source
·  Dramatic appeal
·  Appropriateness to listeners
Baker and Greene, Storytelling: Art and Technique, pp. 28

Interestingly enough this list refers to oral storytelling, the kind you do in book-stores to children, for example.
Seems like certain things are universals - I would say key - to a good storytelling, whether you do it in words, talking to people or using images.

My teacher used to say: it's not what you say, it's how you say it that makes a difference.

I honestly don't know if he was quoting somebody or not, but I always loved this sentence.

Now you've come up with a story, you've come up with a set of characters, you have theme, a thesis, a dream and a conflict and you have researched your topic through and through... what should you do next?

You have to put all you have on a structure.
Traditionally, Western storytelling, follows a 3 act structure. (the second act, at times, gets split in halves... but that's your personal choice).

In  Act I you establish a lot of things and create what's usually called Setup.
In Act II you develop things  and it's usually called Confrontation.
In Act III you resolve things and it's usually called Resolution.

Most people seem to underestimate the importance of act II. Actually some things can slow down for a little bit but then you have to pick up again and reach a certain climax.

Sir Thomas Beecham (google him) used to say:  "There are only two things requisite so far as the public is concerned for a good performance: that is for the orchestra to begin together and end together; in between it doesn't matter much".

Well in storytelling, actually, if you fail the stuff in the middle - the second act - it does not really matter how good the beginning and ending are.  People will leave!

The point is most stories do fail the second act because they don't realize is about character development.

Nowadays, though, most people seem to forget how messed up the second act is the moment some kind of twist in the ending makes the movie worth while.

We will talk in details about each individual act next time.

1) Know your story
2) What if...?
3) Theme and thesis
4) The In and Out of storytelling (the dream)
5) Memorable and Meaningful
6) Target
7) A narrative tone
8) A storyteller
9) Why love your sketchbook
10) Call back and reincorporations
11) Dream vs. Conflict

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