No personal blog crapola.
Just one guy's quest to unlock the mysterious art of storytelling on screen.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Four-Act Theory of Everything




I need a roadmap.  I'm not disciplined enough to stick to a simple, clean through-line when I'm storycrafting.  I need an unflappable navigation system to steer me true north.  So over the years I've refined a master mindmap charting the gotta-haves and put-it-heres.

Storytelling is structure.  Screenwriting is structure.  There's your secret to success.  If you sucked in a breath just now and narrowed your eyes and formed the word "but..." in your mind, you are wrong.  But you can be cured.  Zen with me now: screenwriting is structure.  Take your medicine.  Fight that burning fever driving you to start writing with no outline.  Without even a logline!  Drink deep and drink again and feel the pain and anguish lift and drift away.  You were lost but you are found.  Screenwriting is structure.

Dan Harmon is our gen-X Joseph Campbell.  I mean that in a good way — not that it could be construed in a bad way.  Nobody distills monomyth four-act writing like Dan.  Also, nobody makes John Goodman cool again like Dan.

Only when I stumbled across the School of Dan Harmon* did everything click — really click.  That guy knows.  It's scary at first how totally he gets it.  Thankfully, Dan's wisdom lies scattered throughout the interwebs.  You should go find all those little pockets of storytelling treasure (hint: alongside Dan's name google "channel 101" and "acceptable.tv").  Also read this.

Dan's insight helped me understand and organize my years of story structure notes — an ongoing process, one I expect to end only when I do.

Here's the birdseye of My Precious...




* Not an actual school, but let's lobby for one.

The Harmonious One

This concern with external beauty that you reproach me for is a method for me. When I discover a disagreeable assonance or a repetition in one of my sentences, I can be sure that I'm floundering around in something false. By dint of searching, I find the right expression, which was the only one all along, and at the same time the harmonious one. The word is never lacking when one is in possession of the idea.

--Gustave Flaubert, March 1876

That in response to criticism at taking a whole day to produce a single sentence.

Like he says, the idea's in no hurry.  Dress it up, dress it down, keep going until you find the right look.  When you see it you'll know.  Then shove that sentence out the door and dress the next one.