Reacting to the Dramatic Question

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  • Reacting to the Dramatic Question

    I posed this question to Jon August once, but didn't get a response. A character's arc is often slowly revealed as he/she reacts to the central question(s) of the story. An overwhelmingly vast majority of stories end with this character finally realizing the truth. They see the light. What are your thoughts are stories that oppose that notion? That is, the main character holds the truth all along, and little by little, s/he unravels, until s/he finally believes the lie as a truth of (his/her) existence.

    A good example of this is Woman in the Dunes.

    I do feel, to some extent, that this form of character arc is more of an intellectual stimulant than it is an emotional one. And the satisfaction of an emotional arc often outweighs the prospect of intellectual engagement.

  • #2
    Re: Reacting to the Dramatic Question

    There is a line in between these two, in my opinion. And that's leaving the ending/answers to the central dramatic question(s) open ended. So a conclusion that leaves more questions than offers answers.

    Firmly believes a lie as the truth ------------- Open Ended Conclusion ----------- Firmly believes a universal truth

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    • #3
      Re: Reacting to the Dramatic Question

      An interesting question. I wasn't familiar with the movie you cited so I googled and read its wiki page. It seems the protag may have chosen to remain imprisoned for a number of potential reasons.

      This type of theme is intriguing but I can see how it wouldn't be considered commercial enough. Film viewers seem to prefer catharsis -- the good guy wins, truth triumphs, all is well with the world, etc.
      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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      • #4
        Re: Reacting to the Dramatic Question

        Personally... I dig it. Seeing, as in life, nothing ever is as clean as movies. Which is why NO COUNTRY is one of my favorite endings ever, SOPRANOS too. Perfect endings for me. But, note that those endings pissed a lot of people off.

        Once I realized my cable didn't go out on the SOPRANOS ending I was like "Holy SH!T that was intentional??? Dude... what a fukkin rad way to end it! PERFECT!" Other's were livid, they wanted closure. NOT ME, bruh!

        It's a WAY harder sell. But, I'm one of the few who's down with it. I say GO FOR IT!
        Bruh, fukkin *smooches*! Feel me? Ha!

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        • #5
          Re: Reacting to the Dramatic Question

          Originally posted by Vango View Post
          I posed this question to Jon August once, but didn't get a response. A character's arc is often slowly revealed as he/she reacts to the central question(s) of the story. An overwhelmingly vast majority of stories end with this character finally realizing the truth. They see the light. What are your thoughts are stories that oppose that notion? That is, the main character holds the truth all along, and little by little, s/he unravels, until s/he finally believes the lie as a truth of (his/her) existence.

          A good example of this is Woman in the Dunes.

          I do feel, to some extent, that this form of character arc is more of an intellectual stimulant than it is an emotional one. And the satisfaction of an emotional arc often outweighs the prospect of intellectual engagement.
          His name is John so maybe he got annoyed at Jon. Ha.

          Plenty of films have done what you're saying, more indie than mainstream of course. Do what is best for your story. But know the traditional arc is the more sellable idea.

          Ferris Bueller doesn't change at the end. But his best friend Cameron does and his sister does. But he remains Ferris.

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          • #6
            Re: Reacting to the Dramatic Question

            Bono the question was "what are your thoughts on opposing that notion?"

            Gucci, No Country is easily in my top 10 movies. My writing is influenced by McCarthy.

            Sc-- it is left open ended in Woman in the Dunes. It's a weird interesting movie. Not very entertaining, but engaging. You have this guy who's searching for spiders/fossils/something like that, can't remember, and all the time he's in this sandpit with this woman, he's forced to shovel the sand out. The ppl who live in that desert make him do it to keep the woman company. The whole time he says "people will find me," "i left a note," "no one will stop looking for me."

            But the desert starts to change him and he starts to become one with the sand. And by the end, he truly believes that it is in his best interest to stay in that sandpit with that woman for the rest of his days.

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            • #7
              Re: Reacting to the Dramatic Question

              I honestly have zero thoughts on it. I don't think like this. I never have. I write write and watch stories I like and I tend to go mainstream way. But in real life, we don't change that much. Not like in movies. We live our boring lives until we die and in between we waste time doing things like this post.

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              • #8
                Re: Reacting to the Dramatic Question

                Originally posted by Vango View Post
                I posed this question to Jon August once, but didn't get a response. A character's arc is often slowly revealed as he/she reacts to the central question(s) of the story. An overwhelmingly vast majority of stories end with this character finally realizing the truth. They see the light. What are your thoughts are stories that oppose that notion? That is, the main character holds the truth all along, and little by little, s/he unravels, until s/he finally believes the lie as a truth of (his/her) existence.

                A good example of this is Woman in the Dunes.

                I do feel, to some extent, that this form of character arc is more of an intellectual stimulant than it is an emotional one. And the satisfaction of an emotional arc often outweighs the prospect of intellectual engagement.

                I think it's the same thing, execution-wise.
                Story Structure 1
                Story Structure 2
                Story Structure 3

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                • #9
                  Re: Reacting to the Dramatic Question

                  I examine and delight in Shaun of the Dead precisly because of this very topic. Shaun is Shaun at the beginning. He is Shaun at the end. Hits the couch, watches TV, and is not super motivated to be out there, at either end of the movie.

                  That's not to say there's no beginning, middle, and end, because all of his relationships do get resolved: Shaun's roomate (his conscience about being an underachiever) is killed by Shaun after becoming a zombie. Shaun calls out dead-beat Ed (who he's spent his life defending) for dragging him down. He has a heart to heart with his father in law, with whom he'd never gotten along. And his value is proven to his "ex" girlfriend (heart, determination, loyalty, and grit) as events unfold.

                  The apolcalyptic events of Shaun of the Dead do not change him, in my view, but make these (necessary) confrontations unavoidable. At the end, he returns to the couch, and plays video games with his friend.

                  My two cents, yours, free.
                  Last edited by InDeep; 11-05-2019, 01:06 PM. Reason: cuz
                  Many men, perhaps even most, are unhappy in their souls. We burn so hard but shed so little light it makes us crazy and sad. - CLIVE BARKER

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                  • #10
                    Re: Reacting to the Dramatic Question

                    Lots of horror movies/psychological thrillers/Twilight Zone episodes follow this model. The Woman in the Dunes is essentially a light, bloodless, intellectual horror film.

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