I’m a big fan of story deconstructions—where you watch a movie or a read a book and do a break down of all of it, from the structure to the exposition. This is one of the best ways to learn and understand how story works. To see it in action.
And it helps even more to see it in action AND get to see a break down of it.
That’s what helped me to master story structure. It’s what helped me to program myself into the novelist I dreamed of being. (Because the novelist I dream of being is a pro, and to be pro, you gotta know story structure.)
After discovering Larry Brooks’ storytelling principles, I spent 5+ years of my life reading books and watching movies and trying to find the plot points in each one. As the years went along, I got better and better, and I started to see how structure really works.
And what I saw amazed me.
Every story had the same general plot structure—a Hook, a First Plot Point, a Midpoint, a Second Plot Point and at least two Pinch Points. No matter if it was a thriller, a romance, a comedy, a drama or some other genre (only kind I didn’t see as much structure in was Indie, but the best Indie films did have structure).
I came to the conclusion that story structure is like a skeleton—everyone starts out the same—and then you get to choose the skin color, the eye color, the hair color, what clothes the person wears, etc. By using a general framework, you can get super creative with how you actually bring it all to life.
And that’s what being a storyteller is all about: getting creative with the specifics, while adhering to the principles that readers expect.
Something that surprised me while I was doing all this story deconstructing, was how much each Protagonist’s inner demon played against the external Antagonist. The inner demon flared up because of the Antagonist being there.
But that’s just another principle at play, and when done right, works magnificently to deliver a strong vicarious experience for the reader (or viewer). The external Antagonist brings out the inner demon in the Protagonist.
That’s the whole point. Otherwise how can he overcome and defeat the internal struggle? He’d have no reason to, not unless the external struggle was causing the internal one to be more present.
One of my favorite stories is Cruel Intentions (which is a remake of Dangerous Liaisons). The reason I love this story so much is because it’s a really great example of how powerful a story is (and can be) when you combine plot with character arc (as opposed to letting them be separate—some writers actually do that, but it doesn’t work).
Sebastian Valmont is a great character and in Cruel Intentions you can actually watch the four parts of story unfold as you follow the change he makes over the course of 90 minutes or so.
>> Read the Cruel Intentions story deconstruction here
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What did you like best about the plot and character arc in Cruel Intentions?