This week we’re back into our story discussions with the theme: Story and Genre Analysis. The main goal of today was to dig deeper into story by picking apart the very structure behind it all; differentiating between plot and story, defining what an act, scene and part is as well as asking ‘what is genre?’. The lesson was jam packed with a lot of important info and was highly engaging. Plus I missed Scotts humour, so yeah.
One thing that was highlighted during our exploration was of Robert McKee’s (renowned thinker in regards to story) point of view that the formation/form trumps that of content. So Scott used this to set up the idea of story as a made object: “designed to serve a particular purpose in the world.”
Another point that was emphasised is that story formation isn’t necessarily about rules, but more principalities. Certain structures work best and are able to be mastered and redeveloped in order to produce a narrative that is compelling – even universally or throughout particular nations. There are certain storylines that just work simply because people have continued to share the same or similar renditions of a particular story structure for centuries. This is where archetypes easily come into light; for example the hero is a common character throughout stories worldwide. As opposed to the stereotype, which is confined to the culturally/societal specific boundaries to which it draws upon. An example of this would be the Ghost Chips ad. This features typical NZ humour and a stereotypical scope upon the socioeconomic and educational, behavioural stereotypes played upon Maori teenagers. This type of story would not carry across to other countries/cultures overseas unless of course they had an understanding of such stereotypes. Archetypical stories travel throughout time and across boarders.
When I got home, I watched this short clip below. I really enjoy watching things like this because what better way to demonstrate the structure of stories other than by watching and analysing them?? This set of Pixar storytelling rules really breaks down each specific part of a film, fleshing out the basic ideas which stem into the more intricate pieces (such as because of this that happens etc).
So, what is the difference between plot and story? I suppose to put it simply, the plot is what information is sequentially provided to the audience, while a story is how the audience fills in the gaps – what sort of understanding they come away with. McKee uses a formula called the ‘central plot’ to explain this.
So in regards to Presto (2008), the inciting incident is depicted through that of the magician. We’re first introduced to the words “Presto”, which zooms out onto a poster containing these words alongside the image of a magician ‘and his hat’. Progressive complications are then established as we move out further to see more of the dressing room and carrot on the right end of a table. A quick right pan shows us a rabbit in a cage reaching out in desperation for that delicious carrot. So far, these pieces of plot information give us a story that of a solo magician, looking rather arrogant in his poster and a neglected rabbit who is hungry for that carrot. We then see the magician enter the room, having just eaten (indicated by wiping his mouth on a serviette)…he doesn’t allow the bunny food, hero/protagonists/conflict/obstructions/antagonists created and so on…I won’t discuss each part of the plot because I could rant on for ages about it!
So what exactly are acts,scenes and parts?
- Scene: What is occurring within a particular setting from its beginning to end, e.g., fight scene.
- Act: A collection of scenes that tie together to make the story flow cohesively.
- Plot: The information delegated in sequential order within a story.
McKee speaks of the ‘three act structure’.
Act One: The Setup/Ordinary World. Inciting Incident. Turning Point/Plot Point/Act Break.
Act Two: Rising tension. Complications and Reversals. The Special World of the Hero’s Journey. Values at stake are illustrated. Character Arc – during the Second Act the protagonist does most of their development.
Act Three: Crisis,character dilemma. Climax, irreversible. Filled with meaning – showdown – appropriate to genre. Resolution.
*This post is becoming rather lengthy, so I will continue the discussion of genre and semantics/syntactics meaning and structures within the ICA for todays class. *