Tuesday, May 6, 2014

8 Insights taken from Michael Arndt for Setting a Story into Motion

I saw the post on John August's site, Michael Arndt on setting a story in motion, and was inspired by the short video that John shared where Toy Story 3's screenwriter Michael Arndt explores how to get a story started.
In writing your screenplay, or getting your story out, Michael Arndt says to first "set up your hero in their world, and by page 25 give them a goal that brings them into the second act to carry out that goal."
So you got a great idea for a story, how does it get into shape?

Here are the 8 lessons I took away from Michael Arndt's insights for setting a story in motion:
  1. The Challenge of Finding your Story
    Finding your story is like "trying to climb a mountain blind-folded."
    And you know what the "Hardest part about climbing the mountain blind-folded?" It is just the effort to find the mountain at all! That is the challenge: finding the unknown entity that will be your story.
  2. Opening the Story: Revealing their Grand Passion
    To get into the story, you can start by showing "the character and introducing the universe they live in and showing the character doing what they love to do most (defining trait) - their grand passion.
  3. Shaking the Character up: The Flaw
    Your character needs a flaw. "The key is that the flaw needs to come out of the main character's 'grand passion' - becoming a good thing that is taken too far. This is a hidden flaw that comes out of this grand passion."
  4. Stirring it up: Putting Storm Clouds on the Horizon
    To set up the dramatic conflict for the story, we need to "add some "storm clouds" on the horizon that threaten the grand passion." This is a external threat the comes to directly confront the protagonist's internal passion, raising the threat of taking away the grand passion.
  5. Pandemonium: Turn Their Life Upside Down
    Then something comes in and turns your character's life upside down. This event or change "takes away their grand passion, totally changing what the character's future will be."
  6. Even Worse: Life is Unfair
    So not only is the happy life turned on its head for the character but matters get out of control, beyond his control. This "adds insult to injury, adding something that makes the whole world seem unfair."
  7. Decisive Choice: The Fork in Road
    To sum up where we are so far in the story: The character's life has been changed and his grand passion was taken away, while the world has revealed itself to be unfair
    "The character faces a fork in the road and has to make a choice for how to deal with the new reality
    - high road: healthy responsible choice (if character does this, then the story is over)
    - low road: unhealthy irresponsible choice"
  8. Rest of the Story: Getting Back to Step 1
    So by the end of first act's break, the character "starts the journey to get back the grand passion that has been taken away."
Michael Arndt sums up this lesson explaining that "Story comes out of the character's deepest desires, and darkest fears. To make things right, they have to make the journey that is the rest of the story. Then by the end of the journey they get back what they lost but also fix that little flaw they had when they were first introduced."

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