One of the things I love, love, love to do is watch movies and deconstruct them. (If you’re not familiar with that term, it just means breaking down the story and figuring out the structure and character arc, etc.)
I do this pretty much every night of my life. There may be a few days here and there where I don’t watch a movie, but it’s rare. Because I love watching movies and I love deconstructing them. It’s become a fun hobby of mine.
And it’s also an amazing learning tool that has super-charged my knowledge of story structure and craft.
Which is why I always recommend that you watch and deconstruct movies. Yes, you can also do this with novels, and you should. But I find that movies are easier because you can watch and rewatch them faster, you can rewind or fast-forward to look for plot points, and you can visually see it all playing out on the screen.
Novel deconstructions take me around 10-15 hours to complete. Whereas a movie deconstruction can be done in a couple hours. Some nights I watch 2-3 movies and deconstruct them.
I honestly can’t watch a movie the “normal” way anymore, as a viewer. I try. I really do. But it never works because my mind is always asking questions… what’s the First Plot Point? And what’s the Protagonist’s inner demon? How did she overcome it? etc.
I do this so much I’ve now got my husband doing it–and he doesn’t even write novels (he’s a songwriter).
I can’t recommend deconstructing movies enough. It has been one of the key ways I have learned and mastered story structure.
So here are some tips to help you start deconstructing movies with more ease:
1. The first time you watch a movie, watch it all the way through.
Don’t try to deconstruct it (even though your mind may go there anyhow–mine does–but don’t write anything down yet; make a mental note). Just watch the movie and enjoy.
2. Watch the movie again, this time actively looking for the plot points.
I like to do this without looking at the timing at first, so I can see if I can find the plot points on my own. Write down what you think are all of the plot point scenes (there will be 6 of them; sometimes one of the scenes will be a scene-montage but it still counts as one plot point).
3. Check out the timing.
Sometimes I find the plot points right away (now that I have done dozens of deconstructions on my own, the plot points kinda just jump off the screen at me). If I’m having trouble or if I’m not totally sure, I will then look at the timing of the movie.
So, for example, if the movie is 90 minutes long, the First Plot Point should be somewhere between 20-25% into the movie (around 18-22.5 minutes) and the Midpoint somewhere around the 50% mark (around 45 minutes) and the Second Plot Point somewhere around 75-80% (1 hour 7 minutes to 1 hour 12 minutes).
This timing will give you a guideline to help you find the plot points.
4. The other thing to look for are the specific scenes that involve the core story and/or the Antagonist.
Those are likely the plot point scenes, because the plot points always relate to the core story and the Antagonist in some way. So looking for those scenes specifically can help you find the plot points.
Another option is to look at the timing, then look for the scenes realted to the core story and/or Antagonist and then see if any of those scenes match up with the timing for each plot point.
Doing this will make it easier for you to deconstruct a movie and figure out the story structure.
5. Check out the character arc.
Once I’ve figured out the story structure, I will usually also look at the character arc, to see how the Protagonist started the story and where he/she ended up at the end. How did he change as a person? How did she step up to become the hero?
Those are key things to look for because it will give you a better understanding of how inner demons work and how the four contexts of character play out across an entire story.
Like I said, I LOVE deconstructing movies. I do this for fun on my own time and I also love doing it with other people. Which is why this month we’re watching and deconstructing 3 movies in the Bestselling Author Mastermind (Safe Haven, The Bucket List and Matchstick Men).
First we’re watching the movie on our own and trying to figure out the plot points, and then we’re coming together for a livestream right inside our private Facebook group where we will discuss each movie and talk about the structure, exposition and character arc.
So much fun!!
And it’s so much fun, in fact, that I wanted to invite you to join us!! We’re doing the Safe Haven discussion this afternoon (it will be recorded if you can’t be there live) and will be watching The Bucket List this week so we can talk about it next Monday.
All you have to do is sign up for the Bestselling Author Mastermind and you’ll get instant access to the private Facebook group where the Safe Haven deconstruction discussion is taking place.
You also get instant access to the BAM member’s site which is FULL of insanely awesome trainings and resources that will not only help you master structure and the other pieces of craft, but will also help you write your first draft, revise it, publish it and then sell it. (You can see a full list of what’s included in the member’s site here: www.jenniferblanchard.net/landing/mastermind).
BAM is by far the best place online to step into the identity of the writer and author you want to be. I’m always so impressed by the members and all that they accomplish each week and month. (You’ll be hearing from a couple of them throughout this week, so stay tuned!)
>> Join the BAM group here: www.jenniferblanchard.net/landing/mastermind
Dream life or bust,