Fatal Flaw?

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  • #46
    Re: Fatal Flaw?

    Originally posted by Ravenlocks View Post

    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.
    life happens
    despite a few cracked pots-
    and random sunlight

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    • #47
      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      The idea that the Protagonist and the Main Character have to be the same person is an outdated concept that stifles writers and obfuscates true meaning in narrative fiction.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.
      StoryFanatic - story structure and analysis for screenwriters
      http://storyfanatic.com

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      • #48
        Re: Fatal Flaw?

        Originally posted by asjah8 View Post
        golum, as a conflicted symbol of degradation solves everything neatly.
        It also makes Gollum one of the most memorable characters, IMO.

        Originally posted by asjah8 View Post
        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.
        "Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.-
        ― Ray Bradbury

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        • #49
          Re: Fatal Flaw?

          To give the full quote, Jim:

          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.

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          • #50
            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
            Last edited by Mac H.; 10-27-2010, 08:24 PM.
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            • #51
              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.
              But this wily god never discloses even to the skillful questioner the whole content of his wisdom.

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              • #52
                Re: Fatal Flaw?

                Originally posted by JimHull View Post
                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

                Originally posted by JimHull View Post
                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...?
                Last edited by Steven Jenkins; 03-30-2010, 07:30 AM.
                "Would you take a f**k to save your president?"

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                • #53
                  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.

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                  • #54
                    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.
                    "Would you take a f**k to save your president?"

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                    • #55
                      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.

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                      • #56
                        Re: Fatal Flaw?

                        Originally posted by Steven Jenkins View Post

                        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.

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                        • #57
                          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

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                          • #58
                            Re: Fatal Flaw?

                            Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
                            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.

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                            • #59
                              Re: Fatal Flaw?

                              Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
                              I
                              Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
                              understand
                              Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
                              people's propensity for
                              Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
                              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.
                              "Only nothing is impossible."
                              - Grant Morrison

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                              • #60
                                Re: Fatal Flaw?

                                Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
                                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.
                                "Only nothing is impossible."
                                - Grant Morrison

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