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Ravenlocks 03-28-2010 11:11 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by asjah8 (Post 631604)
i never thought about it that way; good point raven. i tend to think of an arc as more internal and character-altering. frodo isn't really conflicted about what he has to do, although he's afraid; and he recognizes evil for what it is. all through the story he tells others the darkness is his cross to bear. the only point i really hesitated, was golum. frodo didn't recognize golum's deeper evil because sympathy blinded him.

well, this blows my fabulous theory all to hell. in a good way though, so i appreciate the insight. :)

:)

Your analysis of the dramatic throughline stands. We've got all those POV, but the main story is always Frodo getting the ring to the mountain.

Re: Gollum, he was what Frodo could have become. I can't remember whether Frodo explicitly recognized that, but it could definitely account for the sympathy there.

Steven Jenkins 03-29-2010 07:15 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jonpiper (Post 631584)
Steven, study this article concerning when the main character is not the protagonist, http://storyfanatic.com/articles/sto...e-protagonist/

It may help you continue to discuss this issue. :)

Thanks Jon :)
I've gone back to all the books and to Dramatica's manual and seen I've got it all completely wrong.

I still have a few problems with Star Wars though, even if I agree Luke is the Protagonist, MC and Hero.

Leia is the one tasked with delivering the plans to the rebellion.
Obi wan gets the call to adventure when she passes the baton to him via R2D2 when she gets caught.
Luke is merely tasked with helping Obi Wan deliver the plans, and also help Leia - so he's just kind of Obi's helper and jedi apprentice.
Luke then becomes Leia's rescuer, and helper to get the plans away from Darth and to the rebellion. Even the plan to rescue Leia quickly becomes Han's plan, assisted by Luke.

So although Luke mostly plays secondary dramatic functions he's still the protag, as without him all would be lost after Obi gets killed by Darth. And of course, he's the one who actually destroys the Death Star and transforms because of it.

Assuming the above is a fair analyssis, now I need to apply Dramatica to Thelma & Louise, as this is the kind of story my own idea most closely resembles - at least in the method of assigning role functions.

TwoBrad Bradley 03-29-2010 02:01 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by TwoBrad Bradley (Post 631559)
Which is the reporter, Thompson, in Citizen Kane? He seems to be the character with the goal while the story is more about someone else.

And what about Pirates of the Caribbean? Elizabeth is the protagonist while the story is Mainly focused on a different Character.

reddery 03-29-2010 09:21 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jonpiper (Post 631584)
Steven, study this article concerning when the main character is not the protagonist, http://storyfanatic.com/articles/sto...e-protagonist/

It may help you continue to discuss this issue.

Quote:

A Main Character is the player through whom the audience experiences the story first hand. A Protagonist is the prime mover of the plot. A Hero is a combination of both Main Character and Protagonist. In other words, a hero is a blended character who does two jobs: move the plot forward and serve as a surrogate for the audience. When we consider all the characters other than a Protagonist who might serve as the audience’s position in a story, suddenly the concept of a hero becomes severely limited. It is not wrong, just limited.
Do we need more movies like Last Action Hero?

reddery 03-29-2010 09:29 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
all it's saying is that the MC is the character that tells the story and the Protagonist is the empathetic character that the audience roots for and/or opposes the Antagonist.

in the same terminology the 'Hero' the combination of the MC and ProTag

asjah8 03-29-2010 11:25 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ravenlocks (Post 631624)
:)
Re: Gollum, he was what Frodo could have become. I can't remember whether Frodo explicitly recognized that, but it could definitely account for the sympathy there.

yes, i see what you mean. that does fall in place with golum. actually, just thinking about it, i wonder if frodo's character arc is almost on the level of a story arc?

it makes sense. the antithesis of getting to the mountain, is going home (full circle). and if that is drawn as the character's need, then it's a simple and opposing goal that is strong enough to carry a 3-film spine. but, in order for the writers to pull it off, they'd need two things: they'd still need to show the protag's conflict at the singular film level. that's a huge problem with all those other story threads going on; easy to get lost in all the noise. too strong and the threads lose focus; too weak and the story loses momentum. golum, as a conflicted symbol of degradation solves everything neatly.

the second thing the writer's would have needed was a solid sale of all three films, before they ever started writing the first one. can't write a 3-film spine with only one film in the bag.

i mean, we all know tlotr is a literary series so two and three could reasonably be expected; but, many films have also been part of a series and they were drafted to potentially stand alone if necessary. i think star wars is a great example. tlotr though, none of the films can stand alone. it's like total commitment in the writing from 1 to 3.

does any of my sleepy writing make sense, or am i off-track looking at it from this perspective? appreciate thoughts. :)

JimHull 03-30-2010 12:16 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Just to clear up any "horrifically bad information" I may be passing on...

The idea that the Protagonist and the Main Character have to be the same person is an outdated concept that stifles writers and obfuscates true meaning in narrative fiction.

As Steven points out, you can combine the two to get the classic "Hero" character that most writers are comfortable with. However, if you want to write something different, something unique and closer to real life, then yes you can split them apart as in the aforementioned "Mockingbird." "Shawshank Redemption" is another great example of a story where the two are split.

Why would you want to differentiate between the two? Because the thematic issues that affect everyone in the story are not the same as those that affect the Main Character personally. In point of fact, it is the differential between these two that actually provides the meaning audiences are looking for. In real life we cannot live both within ourselves and also look outside at ourselves objectively - it is a physical impossibility.

This is why stories exist - to provide us with both perspectives and therefore give us the meaning we so often crave, yet can't find in real life.

The Main Character provides the inner viewpoint, the Protagonist (prime mover of the plot), Antagonist, and so on provide that external 3rd person view.

The problem you are having with "Star Wars" is that you haven't identified the true goal of the story. Before determining the Protagonist/Antagonist, it helps to figure out what the goal is first.

Everyone thinks the goal of "Star Wars" is to blow up the death star, but this really doesn't come into play until the latter half of the film. The real goal, what everyone is most concerned with or interested in is rebelling against tyranny and oppression. Note that this is not the common kind of goal that most people are comfortable with and I'm sure everyone will jump on me, but when you really think of the concerns and issues present throughout the entire story, this goal of rebelling against tyranny is more accurate than simply "blowing up the Death Star".

With that goal in mind, it becomes clear that Luke is the Protagonist (he wants to fight the empire) whereas the Empire is the Antagonist (they want to prevent him and his buddies).

I have written two articles that explain this is more detail. Both contain slides that I use in my presentations given while teaching Story Development at the California Institute of the Arts:

Archetypes That Make Sense
Character Motivation Defined

The latter also has a 10-minute video explaining in great detail the character archetypes present in "Star Wars".

It has been awhile since I've seen "Thelma and Louise", but if I remember correctly, Thelma (Geena Davis) is the Protagonist while Louise (Susan Sarandon) is the Main Character. I'm not sure if this is the same kind of dynamic you have in your own story, but it certainly sounds like it.

I hope this helps. If you have any questions about anything feel free to write to me at http://storyfanatic.com/contact and I'll try to help you out as best I can.

The important thing to remember is to write first and only refer to this stuff when you are stuck or if you feel like what you have in mind isn't what everyone else is telling you. Your intuition should always rule.

Ravenlocks 03-30-2010 12:35 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by asjah8 (Post 631821)
golum, as a conflicted symbol of degradation solves everything neatly.

It also makes Gollum one of the most memorable characters, IMO.

Quote:

Originally Posted by asjah8 (Post 631821)
tlotr though, none of the films can stand alone. it's like total commitment in the writing from 1 to 3.

does any of my sleepy writing make sense, or am i off-track looking at it from this perspective? appreciate thoughts. :)

Makes sense to me. I'm not as qualified to talk about the films, though, since I only saw them once, and I saw the non-extended versions. For me they simply couldn't measure up to the books. I probably should watch them again and see how the narrative builds through the three films.

JeffLowell 03-30-2010 12:55 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
To give the full quote, Jim:

Quote:

I'm not sure who's teaching you the theory that makes Sauron the protagonist of LOTR, or the Emperor the protagonist of Star Wars, but you should never talk to that person again, because they are giving you horrifically bad information.
I'm going to go ahead and stand by that, especially since it sounds like you agree. ;)

Mac H. 03-30-2010 01:10 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
I'm trying to write something at the moment where I've deliberately chosen to make the 'main character' not the protagonist.

It's a lot harder than you think - it almost seems like a play where all the interesting events are happening off screen. (Although in this case it is the emotional moments that are happening off-hero)

It almost feels like it's a TV spinoff series where I'm trying to keep the viewer's attention and emotion on someone who clearly isn't the main character.

I'm not sure it's successful (or, to be less polite, I'm sure at this stage it isn't !) but it certainly is an interesting writing exercise.

It's becoming a bit like 'You, Me & Dupree' would have been if Dupree hadn't changed at all. The 'Dupree' character is causing all the strife to everyone and is clearly the most interesting person but I'm trying to focus the viewer's attention onto those who are learning to change because of the 'Force of Nature' character.

However the thing I'm really struggling with is that the viewer in me keeps wanting to shout 'Why are you forcing me to watch 'Sidekick' for so long when 'Hero' is doing the much more interesting stuff?'

====

Despite my (not successful) experiment, I really can't see how on earth we could count 'Shawshank Redemption' as an example where the Protagonist and the Main Character is split.

The person the audience follows from the beginning is Andy.
The person who initiates all the changes in the story is Andy.
The person who the audience would sympathize with is Andy.

The fact that he meets someone else who is quite interesting and has a bit of a story of his own doesn't change the fact that Andy is the main character.

Under what argument could you say that Red is the Protagonist? He isn't an agent for change.

Under what argument could you say that Red is the main character? Just because he's the narrator?

Most of Red's narration is about ANDY - because ANDY is the main character. If the narrator was an omniscient point of view, would that make the omniscient point of view the main character? (Now that I think of it, in a way Red's narration is almost omniscient POV - he knows the history of everyone up until the end.)

Plenty of films are narrated by someone who isn't the main character.

'The Castle' is a film about a battle to save a family's home. The main character is the father of the family - the David in the David & Goliath battle. The narrator is a young kid who, quite literally, does nothing throughout the entire film except dig a hole. And the hole isn't even relevant to the plot !

You can't tell me that the kid who dug a hole is the main character. It's just the POV to show us who the main character really is.

Mac

reddery 03-30-2010 02:06 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Mac,

not that I agree with any of this stuff, as I am trying to figure how he mixes Plot and Theme in his theory, here's Shawshank


Antagonist: Corrupt system of government/courts
Protagonist: Red
MC: Andy

Now the story is always told from Red's POV; that is why at the end you don't really know what happend to Andy when he escapes - it's jsut the next day and he's gone.

The beginning is - what they would call in the literary world - a prelude.

Red's up for parole - he's the one fighting the system - at the end he's the one that beats the system.

Steven Jenkins 03-30-2010 06:58 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JimHull (Post 631846)
Just to clear up any "horrifically bad information" I may be passing on...

That was my fault, misunderstanding the theory.

I got confused by the term "prime mover of the story". I now think I've got that bit right: It's the prime mover of the particular story I'm telling, not the prime mover of the overall battle, unless I decide to tell the general's story. Then if I decide to tell the general's stroy, but use somebody else's POV to expeience the effects of it then I have a split Protag/MC. Pls correct me if I'm still wrong here :)

Quote:

Originally Posted by JimHull (Post 631846)
It has been awhile since I've seen "Thelma and Louise", but if I remember correctly, Thelma (Geena Davis) is the Protagonist while Louise (Susan Sarandon) is the Main Character. I'm not sure if this is the same kind of dynamic you have in your own story, but it certainly sounds like it.

Thanks Jim :)
I'm looking to T&L for help as my story is mostly a road movie, and I have very few main or secondary characters. Actually there's only about 5 what you'd call Dramatic role function characters, none of whom have pure traits. (Protagonist has: 'persue', 'conscience', 'uncontrolled', 'feeling' traits for example). T&L characters seemed to have similar mixed traits, with nearly all the 16 Dramatica function traits being shared out between the two girls.

But my main problem is the antagonist.

I started with just one story - getting info on a flash drive to a person/destination. Then I started looking for twists and subplots, which landed me with at least two.

main plot - delivering the info - easy antagonist here.
subplot1 - the authorities who use the hero as bait so they can capture the antagonist.
subplot2 - the guardian who gives the hero the task to deliver the info is actually using him as a red-herring/decoy, while he arranges to sell a copy to the chinese.

So in the last few minutes the guardian becomes the antagonist who has to be stopped, (this is where I think I may be making my greenhorn fatal-flaw - eg: old & worn twists, predictable swapping of antagonists, and probably other things too.)

I'm trying to explore the theme of mixed loyalties, and these (maybe old) subplots and twists seemed to fit quite nicely.

hope I'm still OT here...? :)

JeffLowell 03-30-2010 08:56 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
I will never understand people's propensity for being offended by taking quotes out of context, but judging by the new article on Jim's site, it's widespread.

I know that by engaging at all, I'm just clinging to outdated concepts and stifling writers, but...

Shawshank? Mac H. has it completely right that the protagonist and main character are Andy, but I disagree and think it's pretty clear that the warden is the antagonist. (reddery, are you talking about the short story maybe? I haven't read it, but the movie doesn't end with Andy disappearing and not knowing where he's gone.) And on Star Wars, I disagree with Jim (heresy, I know) and think that the antagonist is Darth Vader.

In most movies, the antagonist isn't a group or a concept. It's a person. It makes it easier to cast someone in the role, and sell action figures.

For the whole main character/narrator kerfluffle... In a good movie, lots of characters besides the protagonist can have big stories, changes, themes, whatever. And if a piece of story software (Dramatica) wants to change the terminology up... okay. No one on earth is going to know what you're talking about when you go into a meeting and have to talk about your story, but feel free to call your narrator the main character, even though they're not. Call the antagonist the waffle iron. Go nuts!

And Steven, this is just one person's advice, but this theory has you twisted in knots. I've been working as a writer for fifteen years, I've spent literally tens of thousands of hours talking to hundreds of professionals about story and characters, and I honestly have no idea what you're talking about.

That is gobbledegook, and by trying to fit your story into Dramatic role function characters and pure traits and Guardians and Dramatica function traits, you have no idea what actual story you're telling or what your characters are. You need to able to simplify your story so it's comprehensible. A movie is about a protagonist who is trying to accomplish a goal, even though the antagonist is trying to stop him. Once you have that, you can build it up with theme and secondary characters and plot twists and reversals and whatever, but you need to start there.

Again, one person's opinion, but your story right now has a flawed core, and no amount of Dramatica terms will make it interesting. Your story, as I understand it, is "a man has to carry a flash drive across the country while other people try to stop him." Does that sound like a movie you'd see? Is there anything about that concept that seems like a hook that would draw people in?

I don't think any one book has the answer, but I would buy Save The Cat if I were you. And absorb it. It's a really good basic guide, and avoids confusing people with neo-Jungian mumbo jumbo.

Steven Jenkins 03-30-2010 09:41 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
I understand what you're saying :)

But i don't think it's rubbish. I think it just describes what most writers do by instinct, and with a lot of hard work getting characters to work together, with each other and the story itself. It's a deff' the movies the theroists use as examples never heard of the theory, but traits are still there and used as described by the theory.

Like I say, I'm just a novice and still trying to get a feel for good stroytelling. I'm ruling nothing out as yet. :)

JeffLowell 03-30-2010 10:03 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Yes, but - and I say this with all kindness and no snark at all - using this theory, two days ago you thought that the Emperor and Sauron were the protagonists of their respective movies. It turns out you were misunderstanding... but honestly, the theory is so complicated that I know why.

And you're right - all of those movies referenced weren't written using the method. And, all of those same movies can also be broken down and shown to fit the hero's journey, and the Dramatica method, and the Save The Cat, and the Sequencing Method, and the Billy Bob's ScriptSecret theory and and and...

(Just like one country used to look at a group of stars and see a turtle, another country would see a lion, and another one would see a sandwich. They were all certain they were right, but none of them were any closer to understanding what stars were.)

Which is why I think, at the end of the day, you need to put highly specific structural theories aside and write your movie. Movies have three acts. A beginning, a middle and an end. They have to have a compelling concept at their core. They have to hold your interest all the way through. You have to have a character you're rooting for the whole time. You have to make it seem impossible for that character to succeed. You have to cleverly have them win.

Worrying about combing the Trickster with the Antipodal Shapeshifter with the Thematic Crunch and making sure they all beat the Clock of Reveal is going to take you way off track, IMO.

NikeeGoddess 03-30-2010 10:07 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Steven Jenkins (Post 631900)

Like I say, I'm just a novice and still trying to get a feel for good stroytelling. I'm ruling nothing out as yet. :)

i'm not going through pages of posts on this subject. but suggestion: invest in Robert McKee's book Story.

JeffLowell 03-30-2010 10:25 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
I take it all back about Dramatica. I found a really easy to use chart that made it all make sense.

http://storymind.com/free-downloads/ddomain.pdf

NikeeGoddess 03-30-2010 10:48 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JeffLowell (Post 631910)
I take it all back about Dramatica. I found a really easy to use chart that made it all make sense.

http://storymind.com/free-downloads/ddomain.pdf

i don't know what you said before but when i see stuff like this it makes my eyes glaze over. and i was a psychology major.

instant_karma 03-30-2010 11:20 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JeffLowell (Post 631893)
I

Quote:

Originally Posted by JeffLowell (Post 631893)
understand

Quote:

Originally Posted by JeffLowell (Post 631893)
people's propensity for

Quote:

Originally Posted by JeffLowell (Post 631893)
taking quotes out of context

It's good to see you have finally accepted this.

And what's your problem with Dramatica? I thought every screenwriter, be they pro or aspiring, had a deep and abiding love for really boring and complicated graphs and charts.

I dream of a day when can write our scripts as a series of pie charts and the occasional PowerPoint presentation.

instant_karma 03-30-2010 11:31 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JeffLowell (Post 631910)
I take it all back about Dramatica. I found a really easy to use chart that made it all make sense.

http://storymind.com/free-downloads/ddomain.pdf

My browser (Opera. Yeah, I know. Bite me Firefox users) crashes every time I open this link.

I think it may actually be so complicated that even my computer can't handle it.

JimHull 03-30-2010 11:32 AM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Jeff -

My apologies for taking your quote out of context -- that's what I get for posting right before I go to sleep. For some reason I connected that "bad info" line with the concept of splitting the Main Character and Protagonist, my mistake and I'll correct it on my site. I also apologize ahead of time for the super long post, more replies came in as I was responding...

As far as "Shawshank" goes, here is my argument for why Red is the Main Character and Andy is the Protagonist: problems in the story exist because an innocent man has been unjustly incarcerated. Take away the fact that Andy is not guilty and there is no story. This problem affects everyone. Once Andy is freed the problems in the story will be resolved. This is the Goal of the story - getting Andy out of jail.

The person pursuing this Goal is Andy himself. Though we don't know it until much later, he spends a lot of time digging a giant hole and planning his escape. I totally agree that the Warden is the Antagonist - he's the one preventing Andy from escaping and gives him plenty of opportunities to rethink things over (throwing him in the hole, etc.).

Red represents our eyes into the story. I agree too that the concept of Narrator is a storytelling device and that there are many stories where the Narrator is not the Main Character. However, in the case of "Shawshank" we are privy to so much more than Red's simple retelling of the story. Through his eyes we get to feel what it is like to be someone who has become "institutionalized." Red has given up all hope and proceeds to each parole hearing with his tail tucked between his legs, saying whatever it is he thinks they want to hear.

This is his personal problem - the fact that he so easily rationalizes away all the evil and injustice that occurs in Shawshank because he has lost all hope. We are emotionally invested in his journey and Darabont even sets up the shots so that we are literally him - P.O.V. shots of the jail doors opening and walking into the hearings. When you have shots like that, it's usually a good indicator that the filmmakers consider this person the Main Character as well.

Conversely, we don't get to experience what it is like at all spending that month in the hole as Andy. We see him go in. And we see him come out.

In addition, the story doesn't end when Andy is freed. The major story problem has been resolved, but there is still this lingering question surrounding Red. Will he end up like Brooks or will he finally muster up the kind of hope that Andy taught him during their years together? "Get busy living or get busy dying." The emotional meaning of the story is tied up in Red's decision on that.

-----------

Re: Steven's question about his problem with the Main Character/non-Protagonist feeling like a 3rd wheel or just a sidekick, I can completely relate. I often write stories where the Main Character isn't the Protagonist because I've seen so many powerful films that use this technique. From my own experience, I know that studio development execs aren't comfortable with these kinds of stories because the Main Character isn't "taking action." They've all been told MCs are Protagonists and therefore have to be the ones that "drive the story."

The key is to give those Main Characters elements or characteristics that are more actively tied to the larger story goal.

In "Shawshank", Red plays more of the Guardian role. He helps Andy in his efforts to escape, even mentioning that if you need something, he's the kind of guy who can get it for you. By crafting his character like this, he feels less like someone who is just sitting on the sidelines.

The same thing happens in "The Live of Others" which, if you haven't seen, you need to -- truly one of the greatest films of all time. In that film "Lazlo" is the Protagonist and Minister Hempf is the Antagonist. "Lazlo" is always pursuing a course of action where his blacklisted friends can make their art while Hempf is doing everything in his power to prevent him.

But it is through HGW's eyes that we witness the entire story. We are emotionally invested in him because again, we are privy to private things about him that many others in the story don't know (his pathetic and secluded homelife, etc.). The emotional meaning of the story is wrapped around whether or not people like him (Stasi) can change.

But like Red, HGW fulfills the Guardian role to "Lazlo". Behind the scenes he helps and aids him - what specifically he does I'll leave open because I don't want to ruin the film for anyone. Safe to say he is an integral part of the plot, yet he doesn't drive it.

-----

In regards to Save the Cat! I also agree. The book (books) are wonderful, the best part being that Blake was such a great inspiring writer that you can't help but start writing after reading only a couple of pages.

The only problem with it is that it can lend itself to what people refer to as "stock" stories. "How to Train Your Dragon", which just came out, is based in large part on the Save the Cat! beats. One of the directors was a member of Blake's NY writer's group and it shows. You can literally pick out the Fun and Games moment, the All is Lost moment and so on.

Personally, I don't feel the story is stock -- I think it makes these moments feel fun and fresh, but of the few people who have complained about the story in this film, that is the term they use. The problem with Save the Cat! and McKee's story explanations is that they are so simple and so reductive that they can lead to familiar sequencing of events and character development. You'll note too that often these paradigms need to be bent or twisted in order to account for movies like "The Lives of Others" or "Up in the Air."

-----

The reason the Dramatica theory of story is so complicated is because it attempts to define what is happening in stories as accurately as it possibly can. Once you truly understand what it is trying to explain, you'll see that it doesn't need exceptions -- it's completely comprehensive.

Writing great stories is a major pain in the ass and probably one of the most difficult things a human being can ever try to do. It isn't and shouldn't be something that can be broken down into 15 beats or six sequences. The entirety of human experience is as complicated (if not more) than the chart that was previously posted. Stories deserve as much attention

I will, however, agree that one can get lost in the understanding. If the end result you're after is knowledge and comprehension of the mechanics behind great storytelling then by all means learn as much as you can, maybe even start a website where you write hundreds of articles about it (referring to me of course! :))

If instead you want to be known as a great author then Jeff is 100% correct, just write. I think it's great that you thought the Emperor was the Protagonist but that you're willing to admit that you might have had it wrong. There's nothing wrong with learning and I'm willing to bet that your writing will improve because of it.

I would also agree with Jeff about your movie's concept of carrying a flash drive across the country. As opposed my above arguments which are based in rational thought, my emotional subjective opinion about your story is that the hook doesn't seem strong enough. Perhaps that could only be one part or one step of the greater problem?

This to me is the hardest part of writing and something that yes, any theory or paradigm can't help you with.

JeffLowell 03-30-2010 12:11 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Thanks for correcting that, Jim.

I guess the bone I pick with Dramatica (and yes, I bought the software and tried it way back when it came on floppy disks) is its comprehensive nature. I think it wants to be able to analyze every story that can be thrown at it by having a million different options... but when you're trying to use it to write a story, the number of choices becomes counterproductive.

As for Shawshank - Red is certainly a main character in the script. As is the warden. But to call him the main character just seems ultimately confusing to me. No one but devout Dramatica users will know what you're talking about, and it's a collaborative industry where commonality of terms is helpful.

Yes, we empathize with Red. But we also empathize with Andy - I would argue much more so. Andy is a man unjustly convicted of a crime who refuses to give up. When Andy's attacked and raped, we're frightened. When the new con who can prove that Andy didn't do it is killed... it's a pretty powerful moment, because we feel for Andy. When Andy plays that music even though he'll be beaten... same. When Andy finally escapes, it's triumphant.

Red has a story. Red has an arc. But it seems, to me, to be so clearly secondary to what Andy's going through that to call him the "main character" seems like theory dictating reality, not the other way around.

Ronaldinho 03-30-2010 12:32 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JeffLowell (Post 631943)
Red has a story. Red has an arc. But it seems, to me, to be so clearly secondary to what Andy's going through that to call him the "main character" seems like theory dictating reality, not the other way around.

I think there's certainly value in having a term to describe Red's role as an access character, a point-of-view character. Because of his role as a storyteller/POV/narrator-guy, he's certainly more important than any other character who has a similarly-sized arc in the story ...

... but calling him THE main character is just confusing.

Lots of academic fields use jargon, but it's worth pointing out that they usually create new jargon rather than repurpose commonly-understood phrases.

Looking at that dramatica PDF, I can't help but think about the difference between classification and understanding. Maybe it's a left-brain/right-brain sort of thing. Dramatica seems very left-briained - "oh, let me label and describe all these parts" but most creativity strikes me as very right-brained.

Of course, computers don't work in that right-brain kind of way. If you can't label it, put it in a box, assigned it binary values, well, then, a computer doesn't know what to do with it. So maybe if you're designing a computer to look at stories you HAVE to do that sort of thing.

But that's not how humans think. We're more holistic. I read all this stuff and I think, wow, that's needlessly complex.

I was a big fan of McKee's "Story" UNTIL I had my big breakthrough on understanding story. I still think there's a lot of value in that book, but lots of it now comes across as needlessly complex and didactic.

JimHull 03-30-2010 12:54 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
OK, my whole goal in life now is to convince you that Red is the Main Character! :)

First off though, I totally agree about the commonality of terms. That is why I never ever use Dramatica terms in meetings. I know it instantly turns everyone off. Instead, I talk around concepts by using terms familiar to everyone.

For example the idea of "stakes" as in "what is at stake for the Main Character?" For the longest time I couldn't figure out what they were referring to until it hit me that what they were really looking for was what Dramatica calls "Consequences." To me, the term "consequences" is infinitely more helpful when compared to "stakes" when it comes to writing a story. The consequences are what happens when the Protagonist fails to accomplish their goal - the consequences of failing. In "The Devil Wears Prada" the goal is for Andy (Anne Hathaway) is be Miranda's perfect assistant. The consequence of failing that goal is that she'll have to write for a less prestigious paper/magazine. She fails and endures the consequences.

"Stakes" really doesn't mean anything which is why discussions concerning them often lead to endless circular arguments in story meetings. But when they ask, "What are the stakes?", now I just talk about the Story Consequences...I just don't use that term.

OK, so back to Red...what about this angle...

What personal problems or issues are we privy too that no one else is? Issues he would take with him into another story. The judge calls him a cold and remorseless man, but do we get to experience what it is like to have that kind of attitude through Andy? I don't really know who Andy is. Red, on the other hand, I feel like I am Red.

And what about the idea that he disappears for much of the end of the film. If he was the Main Character yet we weren't exploring the story through him, we would feel detached and unaffected by the moments that play out on the screen. Doesn't Red fulfill that role better? Aren't we experiencing what it is like to go from a place of despair to a place of hope?

Steven Jenkins 03-30-2010 01:33 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JeffLowell (Post 631893)
Your story, as I understand it, is "a man has to carry a flash drive across the country while other people try to stop him." Does that sound like a movie you'd see? Is there anything about that concept that seems like a hook that would draw people in?

I wasn't exactly trying to make a pitch, just show my concern that I thought the subplots and twists may not be as strong or original as I'd like. But I understand there's bigger fish sizzling right now, and I'm enrapt.
:)

McKee was like a trusted friend to me a few years ago, since then I've read a few others, inclucing Save-the Cat and the 135-story-structure. They all work up to a point. I'm not looking for the perfect theory to write by, just get the feeling. Hopefully that magic synapse will pfizzzt over one of these days... :D

JeffLowell 03-30-2010 01:57 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Maybe I've been lucky, but I've never been in a meeting where everyone there didn't know that "raise the stakes" means "increase what's at risk," but if it helps writers think of that as consequences, score one for Dramatica.

Quote:

What personal problems or issues are we privy too that no one else is? Issues he would take with him into another story. The judge calls him a cold and remorseless man, but do we get to experience what it is like to have that kind of attitude through Andy? I don't really know who Andy is. Red, on the other hand, I feel like I am Red.
I think you feel like you're inside Red's head because we hear his thoughts constantly. He's the narrator. It's no more complicated than that.

Again, I know exactly who Andy is. He's a guy who won't give up hope when all others have. The record scene I mentioned is the prime example of that - he told the guys the time he spent in solitary for it went by like nothing, because he could hear that music in his heart. He remembered there was beauty outside the walls.

And that's not the only example of getting inside Andy's head. Remember, near the end, in the last conversation Red and Andy have in prison? Andy admits that he is guilty of his wife's murder in a way - he was a bad husband and drove his wife away. That led to the chain of events that eventually got her killed.

Quote:

And what about the idea that he disappears for much of the end of the film. If he was the Main Character yet we weren't exploring the story through him, we would feel detached and unaffected by the moments that play out on the screen. Doesn't Red fulfill that role better? Aren't we experiencing what it is like to go from a place of despair to a place of hope?
Last point first - Andy makes a journey from despair to hope. Remember when the movie opens, he's drunk and has a gun in his hand? Compare that to where he ends.

Yes, we have some scenes with Red at the end of the movie. But even then, he's making a journey because of Andy - he saved Andy in prison, and Andy is saving him back on the outside. I'd say it's all more of a coda, and it's building up to the last scene, which shows where Andy ended up.

And even in that Red heavy ending... there's a lot more Andy than people remember.

I may forget a scene or two, but here's the climax and end of the movie:

Andy in the warden's office, setting up the scam.

Andy polishes shoes, gets rope. Red is worried that his friend is killing himself.

Next morning - Andy is gone.

Norton finds wrong shoes. Grills Red, who knows nothing. Discovers hole.

Huge Andy scene as we see how he actually put the plan in motion for a long time.

Andy the night of the escape.

Andy at the bank, taking the money and mailing the evidence.

Warden in office discovers he's been outed. Opens safe and finds message from Andy. Kills himself because Andy's outsmarted him.

Red and friends receive postcard from Andy. Realizes he made it.

Red finally paroled.

Red doesn't fit in in outside world. Thinks about going back to prison. Remembers what Andy told him.

Red finds money and clue from Andy.

Red travels down, remembering Andy's words.

Red and Andy reunite.

***

Now, there's a good five or ten minute chunk where we don't see Andy, but Andy's still driving the action. Red's worrying about Andy or missing Andy or remembering Andy's advice or digging up Andy's clues or traveling to see him.

It's certainly an interesting narrative device, but I don't see how that makes Red the main character. Unless you ignore the other 90% of the movie, where Andy is clearly the main character. This Andy not on screen = Red main character theory ignores all the time that Red is not on screen and Andy is.

I can point to entire sequences in movies where the main character/protagonist isn't on screen and yet the audience is riveted - because we can care about multiple characters. Look at The Empire Strikes Back - do we lose interest when Luke's being trained by Yoda? Does the fact that we don't mean that Han Solo is really the main character? Or LOTR - the protagonist and main character is Frodo (I think we agree on this). In the last two movies, he's split off from everyone but Sam. Does that mean the 75% of the time that he's not on screen, the audience is detached and unaffected?

joe9alt 03-30-2010 02:12 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
I know I will regret this but what the **** is Dramatica? :confused:

JeffLowell 03-30-2010 02:16 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
A piece of software that helps you write a script by guiding you through it using it's own unique theory of story. Just like the Save The Cat software. Plug in answers; get outline.

On this page you can find the 400 page book that explains the theory.

instant_karma 03-30-2010 02:16 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
The two main examples that seem to be repeatedly cited as an example of this Main Character not being the Protagonist theory are Red in Shawshank and Boo in Mockingbird.

Since both these movies are adapted from prose fiction (short story and novel), might these characters functioning as narrators in the movie not just be a consequence of the screenwriter trying to remain faithful to the source material?

Some examples from original screenplays might better serve in illustrating the theory.

joe9alt 03-30-2010 02:24 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JeffLowell (Post 631978)
A piece of software that helps you write a script by guiding you through it using it's own unique theory of story. Just like the Save The Cat software. Plug in answers; get outline.

On this page you can find the 400 page book that explains the theory.

I'll pass.

I actually like doing that stuff for myself.

And I thought Save the Cat was just a crappy book by a high end screenwriting consultant??? There's software, too? Are we writers or typists now?

NikeeGoddess 03-30-2010 02:38 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

The two main examples that seem to be repeatedly cited as an example of this Main Character not being the Protagonist theory are Red in Shawshank and Boo in Mockingbird
i don't know where you're getting this but i think it's the wrong analogy. should be scout in mockingbird telling her story about atticus. just like red tells his story about andy. both done in voice over.

instant_karma 03-30-2010 02:42 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by NikeeGoddess (Post 631985)
i don't know where you're getting this but i think it's the wrong analogy. should be scout in mockingbird telling her story about atticus. just like red tells his story about andy. both done in voice over.

My bad. I did indeed mean Scout.

JimHull 03-30-2010 02:45 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Hey instant,

Sure I can give you some more examples that aren't adaptations:

As mentioned above, "The Lives of Others" (Das Leben der Anderen) which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 2006 has a split Main Character and Protagonist. "The Counterfeiters" (Die Falscher) which won the Oscar for the following year also has a split between the two (notice the pattern?). Both excellent films.

Back home, and more recent, you would have "Zombieland." The girls are the Protagonists trying to reach the safety of the West Coast, Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is the Main Character - he's the one we empathize with the most and experience the story through. The original "Terminator" also has the roles filled by two different characters. Reese (Michael Biehn) is the Protagonist trying to protect Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) who is the Main Character in the story. Again, we see the film through her eyes, but it is Reese who drives the efforts towards the story goal.

And, of course, there's always "Casablanca." Viktor Lazlo is the Protagonist pursuing those papers and a means to escape. Rick is the Main Character through which we witness the story ("Of all the gin joints...why did she have to walk into mine?")

JeffLowell 03-30-2010 03:04 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JimHull (Post 631988)
Viktor Lazlo is the Protagonist pursuing those papers and a means to escape. Rick is the Main Character through which we witness the story ("Of all the gin joints...why did she have to walk into mine?")

Ack.

Casablanca is not the story of Viktor Lazlo trying to get some papers.

NikeeGoddess 03-30-2010 03:06 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
million dollar baby
main character - the boxer and the coach (swank and eastwood)
but the story is told through the protagonist - once again, morgan freeman

the cooler
main character - the cooler (william macy)
protagonist - the casino owner (ron livingston)

dmizzo 03-30-2010 03:08 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JimHull (Post 631988)
And, of course, there's always "Casablanca." Viktor Lazlo is the Protagonist pursuing those papers and a means to escape. Rick is the Main Character through which we witness the story ("Of all the gin joints...why did she have to walk into mine?")

Victor Laszlo is the protagonist? Those are some serious semantic gymnastics you're attempting, Jim. Try not to pull something.

NikeeGoddess 03-30-2010 03:15 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
road to perdition
main character - tom hanks
protagonist - the kid

JimHull 03-30-2010 03:23 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
LOL, nice one dmizzo - The problems in "Casablanca" exist because there are two letters of transit that have gone missing. Letters of transit that Lazlo was going to use to get to America. Everyone wants those letters, but it is Lazlo who is driving the pursuit towards them (both because he is in Casablanca and because he wants them for his own self-interest). Strasser is actively trying to prevent that from happening (Antagonist). Once Lazlo gets those letters, the problems in the story are resolved and the film is over.

The Main Character - the one we experience the story through is Rick. Through him we get to feel what it is like to be someone who goes from an attitude of not sticking their neck out for anyone, to someone willing to take action for the benefit of others.

JeffLowell 03-30-2010 03:37 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Jim, considering you teach this, I'm probably not going to convince you of anything, but I'll give it a shot.

Rick is the active character making choices. He begins the movie denying he loves Ilsa, and denying he cares about which side wins the war. His actions during the movie show that both of those statements are untrue.

He's the one at the end with the impossible choice: does he get on the plane with Ilsa, and let a leader of the resistance get captured? Does he send Laszlo away and stay with Ilsa, even though that wouldn't be safe for her? Does he protect the two things he loves - Ilsa and the resistance - by sending them both away, even though he's sacrificing his own happiness?

If you're correct and the protagonist of the movie is Laszlo, then he's pretty much the least compelling protagonist in the history of cinema. If your protagonist spends the end of the movie standing there with his dick in his hand while someone else decides his fate and does everything for him... you've got a problem.



And on top of all of that, it was an adaptation (of a play).

dmizzo 03-30-2010 03:47 PM

Re: Fatal Flaw?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JeffLowell (Post 632000)
If your protagonist spends the end of the movie standing there with his dick in his hand while someone else decides his fate and does everything for him... you've got a problem.

Stuck the landing.


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