Sunday, 17 March 2013

Week 20 (Mon 11 Mar - Storytelling)

In today's seminar, we at the ways of structuring a piece of writing, and their core components (not always present, but more often than not when discussing that style in a story). The ones we looked at included:
-Traditional/Three-Act
  • Protagonist/Antagonsit
  • Status Quo/Backstory
  • Inciting incident
  • Act 1 & 2 Turning Points
  • Climax and Denouement (resolution)
-Flashback
1) Detective - The flashbacks form an investigation into what happened, the protagonist being beyond change or dead (like the main character in Wilder's Sunset Boulevard).
2) Thwarted Dream - Protagonist attempts to reclaim a 'thwarted dream' (failed goal or endeavor), the flashbacks usually taking up the first two acts while the third deals with the attempt to reclaim that dream. Notable examples of this include Shine, There's Something About Mary, and a lot of sports films that involve a bitter coach/veteran player who lost a major game, and in older age is either rediscovered or uses his team to achieve it (such as The Natural and Disney's The Rookie).

-Tandem Narratives
2 or more stories that run parallel to one another (what can sometimes be called Multi-strand). Notable examples include Altman's Short Cuts, Magnolia, Crash, which have several stories running throughout the film.

-Sequential Narratives
Similar to Tandem, but the stories usually have some sort of relation to one another, amd all get tied up at the end. Pulp Fiction and the 'dulthood' films by Noel Clarke being a prime example, having a number of stories that end up connecting together and having a knock-on effect on each other.

-Multiple Protagonist Narratives
Again, similar to tandem, but the lead characters of those stories have something in common with each other, like a viewpoint, mindset or ethic, and we see how they react to similar situations in their own ways. This category also subdivides into others, which are self0explanatory, like Reunion Stories (Big Chill, The Cherry Orchard), Mission Stories (The Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai, Saving Private Ryan, Gettysburg) and Siege stories (Tea With Mussolini, American Beauty, Poseidon Adventure (and disaster films in general). These are also known as 'Bottle Episodes' when discussed in television.

Next, we got into groups and undertook our first exercise: After reading Perrault's take on the CInderella story, which differs from the more iconic Disney version in that there are two balls and the sisters end up marrying lords, we broke the story down in terms of the Three-Act structure:
  •  Protagonist: Cinderella
  • Antagonist: Stepmother/Stepsisters
  • Backstory: Father's marriage
  • Inciting Incident: The invitation to the ball
  • Act 1 Turning point: The fairy godmother's arrival and going to the ball
  • Act 2 Turning point: The loss of her slipper
  • Climax: Trying on the slipper
  • Denouement: The marriages
Then, after looking at the brother Grimms' version (which involved the sisters cutting their feet down to fit the slipper and in the end, having their eyes pecked out for their misdeeds), we were then asked to turn the Cinderella story, taking elements from whichever version we wanted, and make it into a Flashback structure: my group decided to tell the story from the now-blinded Stepsisters' point of view, as they await execution. In our version, they make themselves out to be misunderstood, making Cinderella look like a bad, manipulative character and deliberately blackening their names out of jealousy and simple cruelty. While discussing this with the others, we noted the similarities to Wicked, which told the story of Oz from the Wicked Witch's perspective, and how often in stories like this, it's often told from the P.O.V of the villain/morally lacking character.

Our assignment for the week was to go off and come up with 12 ideas for films, to be developed in future lessons. In closing, today's session was really engrossing and detailed, and I was surprised how many components make up these narratives, and how some have similarities but operate on similar principles. Sure, many know some of the basic elements (protagonists, antagonists, climaxes) but there were more details that, on a day to day basis when one reads a book or watches a film, one doesn't really give much thought towards. Also, the group work was a lot of fun, and bouncing around ideas between each other made for some good teamwork and people got to have a say in the decisions of the group without just one person dominating unfairly.

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