Tuesday, April 27, 2010
It's Greek To Me!
So I thought we would take a brief break in our Structure blogs and back up for just a moment.
I've been getting a lot of feedback about well, confusing a lot of people.
The terminology I use is a tad... archetypal... #ok #fine #old
I like it though because it distilled down the elements of every great story so that we can move them around the storyboard like chess pieces.
The Opportunity cuts across all forms of literary fiction to the basest of shock horror. It doesn't matter the genre or the tone or the style of writing. These basic story 'pillars' of story structure must be built to last or your story will start to fall apart about the middle of Act 2.
But again, I am getting ahead of myself (I just get so excited talking story, I can't help myself #manytimesqualitiesinsomeonewhoneedsprofessionalhelp #ohwellIwillriskit)
Let's start at the beginning and get some terminology down:
The Opportunity is the job, the girl, the motorcycle, the little blue or red pill the Hero is offered. It will take him away from his old life and introduce him to his new life.
It is either everything he has hoped and dreamed of (which will turn out NOT to be true, well, at least at first) or his worst nightmare.
By the 1st 10% of the book or script this chance for the Hero to change his life MUST be introduced. Equally promptly our Hero says no thank you.
He can't bring himself to make the change. Because even though the Opportunity may look like the best thing that's ever happened to him, our Hero resists change... at all costs.
I'm also getting asked a lot about who in the heck this Magician is and whether or not I am talking about only fantasy.
Quite the opposite. I am talking about every story written. SOMEONE must have more knowledge than the Hero. Right? Otherwise where is the intrigue? The revelation in the end?
Sometimes this Magician is God and is found through prayer and meditation, no matter, your Hero is getting trained or mentored by somebody!
Now sometimes there isn't one, single person that fulfills this role. Normally if you can't find an obvious Magician to the story, the love interest or villain will fulfill this role. Why does this matter so greatly?
Because we have to know when to WITHDRAW the Magician from the story. We must know when to cut the umbilical cord and force our Hero to go it alone.
Alright, for this blog I am going to refer to Star Wars and The Matrix... a lot. Not only because they are some of my favorites for structure, but also because just about everyone has either seen them or knows them fairly well.
I could go on and on about Catcher in the Rye (or a thousand other books both classic or current), but I doubt most people would nod their heads, going 'oh I totally remember that!' as they do the little red or blue pill offered to Neo.
Let's do Star Wars first:
Luke dreams of leaving farming behind.
Adventure stumbles into his life in the form of the droids He is intrigued and drawn to the Magician, Obi Wan. He is offered what he has always wanted: a free ride off this rock.
Hence, the Opportunity. Notice how early the Opportunity is introduced. Right off the bat. We don't know what exactly the droids mean, but clearly they mess with Luke's life the moment they come on scene.
But once Luke is offered everything he swears he wants, what does he do? Does he jump at the chance? Does he rush home to pack his bags?
No. He is too scared. Too intimidated by this 'opportunity' that he refuses. His aunt and uncle need him. HE needs his old life. He is tethered to it.
So what does the universe do? Oopss... kills off his Aunt and Uncle. Now his is FORCED to take the opportunity.
Neo has a very similar arc. He is dissatisfied with his life and is offered a way out by Trinity, but he refuses. It isn't until his life is shattered by the Agents and he is FORCED to go to Morpheus (the Magician).
I could repeat this story over and over and over again. Each with its own twist and turns. Unique in form, but the same in structure.
Now the questions becomes: What is your Hero's Opportunity?
Can you state it in a single sentence? If you can't, you probably need to dig deeper. The clearer the Opportunity, the clearer his resistance to it and the more poignant his ultimate capitulation to it will be.
i.e. the better you can sell it :-)
Alright, I think I covered all the questions that have headed my way about the Opportunity, but feel free to leave more in the comments below.
Next blog will be more about the Magician so we have a clearer understanding of him for next week's 3 part series on Act 2 and its fundamental structure :-)
Now go apply this and write your 2 pages per day!!!!!!!!!!