Thursday, January 14, 2010

BOOK CLUB: Falling into the Plot Trap (Ch. 8)

[Today we're reading Ch. 8 The Four Species of Plot, from Aristotle's Poetics for Screenwriters, by Michael Tierno (2002).]

According to Aristotle, all stories are one or a combination of the following:

1. Complex - reversal of fortune/discovery

2. Tragedy of suffering

3. Tragedy of character

4. Spectacle

I get impatient with writers who don’t know which category/categories they’re in, or worse, fail to really stick to their chosen plot.

Even earnest writers can fall into this trap.

How? Usually they try to create great window dressing while avoiding the white elephant.

My top 3 ways I know you have no clue your plot is suffering:

#1 Self-indulgent narrative that strays from the plot.

#2 Great banter that leads nowhere (no depth, doesn’t add to emotion, doesn’t push forward into the next scene).

#3 Starting with a character study, then switching on a whim to spectacle/suffering/reversal of fortune.

WHAT I’VE LEARNED: Resist the temptation to believe you’re objective.

I’d stick to the “2 out of 3 people” rule, i.e., if 2 people mention a problem with the same thing, it’s probably confusing.

[DISCLAIMER: I have not been asked, nor paid, to read or comment on this book.]

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