Thursday, January 21, 2010

BOOK CLUB: Necessary vs. Probable (Ch. 15)

[Today we're reading Ch. 15 If You’re Happy & You Know It…Time for a Reversal of Fortune & Discovery, from Aristotle's Poetics for Screenwriters, by Michael Tierno (2002).]

Today’s chapter tells us that the main action must CAUSE the reversal of fortune/discovery in a way that is necessary or probable.

Well, no duh.

Except that yesterday I saw a script that kept circumventing the rule by leaning more on “necessary” than “probable.”

The story: A man with superhuman something is chased by the bad guys. (He doesn’t even really know what the superhuman something is.)

He is trapped in a hospital. He ducks & dodges into empty rooms to figure how to escape. (So far so good. The main character is causing the reversal.)

In a series of waaaay too convenient coincidences, the man just “happens” to see an employee swipe card lying in the open. He doesn’t know he needs it, but takes it anyway. Later, it gets him out. (Seriously, if you were panicked and saw a swipe card, would you grab it? Necessary: 1. Probable: 0)

He “happens” to know where all the hallway light switches are. He turns them off to fool the baddies. (Ooooh, bad. I slap my forehead. Necessary: 2, Probable: 0.)

The script never let up & soon it was Necessary: 20, Probable: 0.

I can see the audience rolling it’s eyes. Lame.

Why? Movies are notorious for improbable coincidences. Sure, taxis pull every time you need one. Sure, women are always in full makeup with perfect hair when they wake up.

But when necessary continuously trumps probable, you’re pulled out of possible to impossible.

WHAT I’VE LEARNED: Sometimes an open parking spot does magically appear.

However, if too many spots open, you soon realize you’re not in a bustling shopping center – you’re in an empty lot.

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

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