What are your preferred methods for structure? (ie Sequencing, Snyder Beat Sheet etc)

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  • #16
    What are Your Preferred Methods for Structure? (ie Sequencing, Snyder Beat Sheet etc)

    I use something very close to what Ducky posted above. However, I also find it interesting that, in the past, here in this forum, when discussing structure of iconic films, posters couldn't agree on what scene was the catalyst, midpoint, etc.

    Which is a good thing. Because these beats shouldn't be so obvious that you may as well have a little pop-up icon in the film saying, "End of Act One."

    A good script, a good film, is seamless.

    IMO, the writer knows these beats because she/he created the world. But it shouldn't be obvious to the reader or audience. When you use what I consider STC's ham-fisted beat sheet you feel so compelled to hit beat X on page Y it not only limits you it makes you go for the obvious. And while I'm on the STC beat sheet, what the heck is Fun and Games?.
    Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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    • #17
      Re: What are Your Preferred Methods for Structure?

      Originally posted by sc111 View Post
      And while I'm on the STC beat sheet, what the heck is Fun and Games?.
      If I remember correctly - it's been a few years since I've read the book - he also calls that part the "promise of the premise."
      A few set pieces and trailer moments which illustrate the concept of the movie.
      The part where Tom Hanks, now having become Big, has some fun as an adult before eventually realizing that being big isn't just fun and games.

      Something along those lines.

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      • #18
        Re: What are Your Preferred Methods for Structure?

        Originally posted by sc111 View Post
        ... However, I also find it interesting that, in the past, here in this forum, when discussing structure of iconic films, posters couldn't agree on what scene was the catalyst, midpoint, etc. ...
        Exactly! How can you expect any template to work if people can't agree on what the parts mean?

        It's like bakers expecting to bake the perfect cake when they can't agree on how many times it's necessary to sift the flour.

        Show me a horrible movie/screenplay that perfectly fits one template or another, then I would be concerned.
        "I am the story itself; its source, its voice, its music."
        - Clive Barker, Galilee

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        • #19
          Re: What are Your Preferred Methods for Structure?

          I avoid a lot of these structural things; I tend to do full-story outlines (more like treatments, really) to get the story out there, but I don't pin down specific moments. It takes me too far from the story, and for me, that's the biggest thing: story. If the story is good and compelling, it has things like inciting action and turning points and all that. It tells a story that people want to follow. That's what it comes down to at the end of the day. Well, and good writing, but story is a huge part of it, and I just don't have the energy to deal with formulas and charts and whatnot.

          I am, however, good at breaking down scripts. I just hate mapping out plot points, because I get too caught up in the "correct" structure and lose focus on the story.

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          • #20
            What are Your Preferred Methods for Structure?

            Originally posted by Flubugg View Post
            If I remember correctly - it's been a few years since I've read the book - he also calls that part the "promise of the premise."
            A few set pieces and trailer moments which illustrate the concept of the movie.
            The part where Tom Hanks, now having become Big, has some fun as an adult before eventually realizing that being big isn't just fun and games.

            Something along those lines.
            Thanks. I was being a bit facetious, btw. One issue I have with the STC "must have these exact story beats" formula is that Snyder cherry-picked examples of films that follow his list and ignored those that did not.

            This can give a writer the idea every one of those beats must always be included and creates a tendency for writers to imitate how the beats were executed in the cherry-picked examples. Worse, he leads you to think beats must be in the exact same order he prescribes, complete with page numbers. And totally underplays how much character drives plot.

            Like, the "Debate" beat for example (STC pages 12-25) which he explains as a moment when the protag reflects on choices, has self doubt, may be forced to act if he/she is reticent. You're led to believe this beat has to be an expository dialogue exchange between two characters because he only uses examples where they are.

            Meanwhile, you can use any number of ways to illustrate the protag pondering choices or doubt or reticence -- but only if that's the nature of your character. What if your character is, let's say, like Dirty Harry or Rambo, for example. Does it make sense for him to debate with another character whether or not he should go after the bad guys?

            Or, the "Theme Stated" which is supposed to be on - what? - page 5? Spoken to or with the protag, or in his/her presence, according to STC. Yet there are many films where theme is introduced without pounding this beat in with a dialogue sledgehammer. It can and has been executed in far more subtle ways, including using visuals alone.

            Midpoints - ah, midpoints - I found this by Snyder:

            In both my Save the Cat! books and also the Save the Cat! Story Structure software, I have stressed the vital importance of figuring out what the midpoint of a screenplay is. I like to say that if you can crack the midpoint, you can crack the story. And it may not be until you do that you truly know what your story is really about!

            To me, the day I discovered there is a secret to what happens at the midpoint in EVERY story, I was rocketed into a whole new dimension in my abilities as a writer.

            There are two things that have to happen at the midpoint, both vital to making your story work:

            * "the stakes are raised,- and
            * a "time clock- appears

            http://www.blakesnyder.com/2012/03/0...-the-midpoint/
            Notice how he capped the word: EVERY. I didn't. Now, how's that for an absolute statement? Claiming at every midpoint, in every film, a time clock appears? Such a claim is clearly advocating a formula. But the problem with absolute statements of any kind is that they're never absolutely true.
            Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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            • #21
              Re: What are Your Preferred Methods for Structure?

              Ah, facetious. Yeah, I didn't get that. I'm in Europe, we don't do facetious here.

              I don't disagree with your points, by the way.
              I liked the book a lot when I first read it, some years ago, but I wasn't a follower for very long. Once you try to apply it to your works in progress, it quickly becomes clear that it's a bit silly to try and follow a formula so strictly.
              There are some useful things in the book, and its enthusiasm and apparent insightfulness are very alluring, until you start analazing the details of it. But the paint-by-numbers aspect of it never really jived with me. And indeed, not everything in there is applicable to every type of movie - the time clock thing is a great example of that.

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              • #22
                Re: What are your preferred methods for structure?

                Writers are unique beings and as such there are a variety of methods that will work for one writer and not another. Now there are great writer resources on line, that are free, that didn't exist five-ten years ago. Google and YouTube are our friends.

                I probably use the STC beat sheet the most often, but I've added my own spin to it to suit my style/needs. The idea behind these tutorial books is not mandate a certain approach; it's simply created to save you time.

                And that's not a bad thing.

                The reason they apply their technique to movies that have already been made is to demonstrate how to use their guide as a tool. I don't think any of the books I've ever read claim that the actual writer 'used' their model-- that's not the point.

                And, let's be clear, they do want to make money-- some more than others.

                Structure and pacing were the aspects of screenwriting that came easiest to me. I was writing the Hero's Journey's beats before I ever picked up Vogler or Campbell. And when I did read them, I enjoyed them very much, because they are so similar to my own structure sensibilities. As a new writer at the time, they validated that I was doing something right. I also learned something valuable from every book.

                I believe that we humans have an innate ability for storytelling. That there is a natural structure that flows from a good story, one that even the youngest child can replicate without a single adult teaching them a thing.

                I used to take a notebook, a stopwatch and my DVD remote and would write out every scene of a movie and write the minutes next to the events. I soon discovered that there was something happening every 10 min, and in action adventures, sometimes in every 5 minutes.

                To me, that's the best way to learn.

                That's not to say that I didn't learn anything from reading the books. I did. And lots. I love the books (as opposed to kindle or ipad) because I learn fastest visually. I highlight the pages and passages that mean something to me, and I flag the pages with little neon stickies.

                Hauge/Vogler/STC/McKee/Truby/Trottier/Soth are all basically saying the same thing in a different way, and sometimes their take allows a writer to learn or use their technique better.

                I don't agree with every point they present. Vogler and Hauge are the first to tell you to take only what works for you. It's not dogma. It's not a mandate. It's a model. A paradigm. A tool. Nothing more.

                And I'll never understand how a writer can so easily dismiss another's writer's book without acknowledging the huge undertaking it is to write a book, get it published and have it become a best seller. Especially, when they haven't even read the book. To dismiss their skills simply because they don't have a produced credit is insane to me-- I mean, the majority of us don't. That doesn't mean we aren't good at helping each other with notes, right?

                They write these books as a way to save the writer time. It isn't going to be the same experience for everyone. It will work for some and not others.

                I have this chart I bought a few years ago for 10 dollars. "TheHollywood's Script Formula Chart." It's an amazing thing as it has all the major structures all graphed out on one page.

                When I misplaced it I went on line to find another copy. I actually think it's saved somewhere on my computer. Anyway I came across this web series of 12 short videos that is probably the most useful story structure/plotting guide I've come across. The first 3 or 4 are okay, but it's when the writer actually creates his novel's story right before your eyes that you realize the beauty of it.

                He covers everything; goals, weaknesses, fears, theme, desire, foreshadowing, worldbuilding, back story, opportunity, monkey wrench, no turning back, all seems lost... you get the idea. He's a very bright young artist. He writes and illustrates. Anyway, for me, I was quite impressed.

                If you're the type of writer that likes this kind of visual guide, he has a download version of the guide, but I listened to his videos on the way to and from work. They can be found here if you're interested, you can find them here... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54l83...B3E146AB7D132F He creates a story from scratch, then he uses the guide to show you how to develop a very detailed outline (all the beats) for his fantasy novel. He's amazing.

                I said all that to say this, I use a beat sheet when I'm breaking a story. I use it to 'fill in the blanks' of my major turning points. I do carefully consider my opening image and my ending image. I know how the story begins and how it ends-- the rest is creating the most impactful journey to get from here to there.

                It certainly doesn't make you less of a writer if you use a template and the same is true if you don't. The point is to write your story in whatever method works for you.

                There are no absolutes.

                George Lucas studied Campbell-- if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me.

                Sorry that dragged on--
                Best,
                FA4
                "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

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                • #23
                  What are your preferred methods for structure? (ie Sequencing, Snyder Beat Sheet etc)

                  Years ago, a friend who loved to play tennis kept bugging me to read a book called Inner Tennis. Now, I had once taken a beginner tennis course in college and failed miserably never to try again. To shut my friend up, I read the book. Not the entire book but enough to have an ah-ha moment.

                  The writer described watching young kids warming up before their very first tennis lesson. They were hitting the ball, got a few volleys going, and their form was decent for kids who had never taken a class.

                  Then the instructor arrived and started telling them the proper way to hold the racket. The proper stance. The proper swing. And suddenly these kids were tripping over themselves and couldn't hit the ball to save their lives.

                  The writer realized that trying to mind all the expert rules now stuck in their heads they couldn't get out of their own way. But what about their beginner's luck just moments earlier? His theory was that in watching others play tennis -- or conduct any act of skill -- we begin to internalize the methods unconsciously. But once we are conscious of rules and methods, we lose that intuitive inner "knowing."

                  Fast forward to when I wrote my first practice screenplay based on my unfinished novel. At that point I had read all of one pro script prior, no books, no articles. Just jumped in. I ended up with a 90-page edgy, indy-fare rom-com which I finished in about three weeks. Only then did I start poking around the net finding things about 3-act structure, midpoint, etc., finding this website.

                  I read one article about the first act ending around page 20-25. I checked my script -- first act ends on page 20, on the money. I read another article about the sequence method and compared it to my script -- wow. Somehow, without prior knowledge, I pulled that off, too. Ditto on the midpoint. Right on the recommended page number. How did I do that?

                  I then recalled the book, Inner Tennis, and figured, after having watched movies for decades, I must have internalized structure to the point where I intuitively knew what to do.

                  But then, in total disregard of what I had learned from the tennis book, I go out and start buying the How To screenwriting books. One had all this "industry" terminology I "must" learn but the other used different industry terminology I "must" know. Another had charts and diagrams with arrows swinging around -- it looked like a football play sheet. Another so obtuse I had to reread sections three, four times and still remained unsure of what the hell the author was talking about. And though I eventually said to myself, "Screw it," and tossed the books aside, the damage was done. I was just like those kids after their first expert tennis lesson tripping over myself.

                  I started my next script and found I was constantly second guessing everything. Mental images of those charts haunted me. I had anxiety attacks, "Am I doing this right?" And though it took me years scraping my way back to that state of inner screenwriting, like I said in an earlier post, these guru commandments still rise up and b1tch-slap me every so often.

                  For me, those books didn't help me "save time" learning about structure. They wasted my time by making me self-conscoius of every word I typed. They muddied my mental waters with sludge contaminating what I'd already internalized from watching movies written by people who had never read those books. Personally, I feel they slowed me down and I have to wonder where I might be if I'd never read them.

                  And on the topic of saving time -- there are no shortcuts when developing a skill. None. And anyone who tells you they have a shortcut is pulling your leg.
                  Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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                  • #24
                    What are your preferred methods for structure?

                    In the past on this forum some pros concluded that "there are no rules" when it comes to formatting or writing action description. That hit home, for me.

                    I suspect "there are no rules" applies to structure as well.

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                    • #25
                      Re: What are your preferred methods for structure?

                      I think the books can be a good insight. The problem comes when you treat what you read as gospel into good storytelling and start thinking things, "My story must have this," or "This must happen by page x." In the end, you have to treat it for what it is: somebody else's analysis on what works in movies.

                      I personally think the talents of being a storyteller is also being a story analyst. It's being able to dissect movies and scripts and figure out what you liked and didn't like about them -- why you think something works -- and develop your own framework and ideologies that you can implement in your own work.

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