Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Storytelling Has Ruined My Life

Okay, not really.

But seriously, it's getting on my friends' nerves. Now, when we watch a movie, I whisper into my boyfriend's ear that I know what's going to happen next.

"Watch, he's going to use the pen to open the safe."

"This is the part where he finally goes into the cave."

"I knew that was going to happen."

When I started reading and reading about writing, I began to notice something about movies and television shows: they've become so predictable. It's a great thing for me, since it just reaffirms that I do know about storytelling, I can recognize common writing elements and story forms, and I have that trained storyteller's eye. But then I came to the realization that most of these were in TV and movies.

Oh, by the way, kids' movies are the worst in being predictable. Wreck It Ralph was textbook hero journey, which I guess just speaks to the power of the storytelling forms.

But my biggest question was, do we do the same thing in books? I mean, is it really that easy to predict what happens in novels and short stories? As a teacher and reader of many, many short stories, I see find myself getting caught up in the world of the really great stories and analyzing how boring the characters are in the bad ones.

Back in the day, I used to write screenplays. This eventually became the jump-off point to novels and short stories and I wonder, does anyone else use the screenplay formatting for story structure? Don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad thing. I think books lend themselves to more freedom than screenplays. Screenplays reach a far more significant population than do books (depending on the demographic, I guess), so they have to be in a familiar format. Anything too weird usually gets panned, or ends up as a cult favorite after the DVD release. At the same time, movie ideas have to be better than the average stuff out there.

From what I've studied on my own, I've noticed that most screenplays have the 3 Act Structure down pat: it's a requirement according to some, and a suggestion according to others. The daring directors/screenwriters make the story forms that really inspire me. Ironically, one of my favorite movies, Pulp Fiction, was named after a popular genre. The story form of the movie? The order of events? Quentin says that his inspiration came from novels. If they can use it in books, why not use them in movies? Especially in a time when so many movies are based on novels and short stories the public has never even heard of.

Still, it's intriguing, watching this all go around.

I'll admit, much of my own inspiration and interest in story forms comes from movies. I see the quick-cutting method of telling a story in short bursts and quick turns as kind of exciting and inspiring.
Note to self, write like a movie...or write a series like TV. I'll have to put that on the to do list.

I guess the lesson to learn is movies and novels are not that different from each other. The paper formatting may be different, but really, isn't almost every story some kind of 3 Act play?

I guess it doesn't hurt to look at it that way, seeing as how movies are so popular.