|In chapter 6 of our textbook, author John Yorke discusses his theory of fractals as they relate to dramatic structure.|
|A fractal is a small, geometric structure that’s repeated multiple times to create a larger formation.|
|Crystals are formed this way, and so, Yorke argues, are stories. In both cases, a great deal of beauty and complexity is possible simply by repeated interlocking units of the same basic shape.|
|For stories this shape is the dramatic arc.
So far we’ve been looking at this dramatic arc as a five-act structure extending over the length of a complete story.
|In Act One, the protagonist is thrust into the story’s events (Luke Skywalker’s aunt and uncle are killed by Imperial stormtroopers, for instance, prompting his decision to leave with Obi Wan to rescue Princess Leia).|
|In Act Two, the protagonist finds themselves in a new environment, becomes more engaged and commits to the journey (Luke travels from his home to outer space, fights with Han Solo against the Imperial fighters and begins studying how to use the Force).|
|In Act Three, yet another world unfolds, a major discovery is made, and the results of that discovery have instant consequences for our hero’s journey (we witness the destructive power of the Death Star and are sucked by in by its tractor beam, only to find the Princess on board, forcing Luke to assume the role of Hero, swinging her safely across the chasm toward their escape).|
|In Act Four, the results of the midpoint discovery create a crisis, usually represented in the form of a loss or death (To ensure their successful escape, Obi Wan Kenobi stays behind for to fight Darth Vader and is ultimately killed).|
|Finally, in Act Five, the protagonist confronts the forces of opposition and some resolution is affected (Luke flies the decisive bombing run against the Death Star and with Han Solo’s help, destroys it).|
|Hopefully by now, this basic set-up is clear.
But, zooming in on it, something interesting happens.
Take a look at just our first act, for instance.
|1. After Princess Leia’s transport vessel is overtaken by the Empire, she sends two droids to the planet, Tatooine, with a secret message for a man named Obi Wan Kenobi.|
|Luke, a farm boy on the planet, purchases the droids from the local traders and, cleaning them that night, discovers the Princess’s message (inciting incident).|
|2. Later that night, R2-D2, the droid carrying the message, runs away into the desert and Luke must pursue him,|
|heading into unfamiliar and hostile where he’s attacked by the Sand People and rescued by an old hermit.|
|3. The hermit then takes Luke to a cave. There he reveals that he is in fact Obi Wan Kenobi and that Luke’s father didn’t die the way he’d been told by his aunt and uncle, but was actually a great Jedi warrior (midpoint).|
|Obi Wan then gives Luke his father’s old light-saber and asks him to fulfill his destiny|
|4. Luke initially rejects Obi Wan’s request, telling him he’s needed back at the farm by his aunt and uncle, only to discover that the Imperial Stormtroopers have followed the sale of the two droids to his uncle’s farm, burned it all and killed the two of them.|
(might reuse luke and burnt relatives shot(s) from shot 5)
|5. Luke now knows that his destiny lies with Obi Wan, and that together they must find a way off the planet and rescue the Princess.|
|This sends them to the Cantina to find a pilot and sets up their escape from Tatooine (climax).|
(might reuse Cantina art from shot 6)
|In other words, just as Yorke predicts, an entire five-act structure is present in the film’s first act.
But that’s not all. Zoom in a little further—say to the moment when Luke first gets his droids—and we find, once again, a familiar pattern.
|1. Luke tells his aunt that his uncle Owen needs new droids for the farm (inciting incident).|
|2. Luke makes a journey to the Jawa sandcrawler and begins haggling with the Jawa traders.|
(might reuse art from shot 12)
|3. Luke chooses the C3PO unit, but not the R2-D2 unit (midpoint).|
|4. R2-D2 sabotages the second droid Luke has chosen and destroys it.|
|5. Luke confronts the Jawa traders he assumes to have tried to cheat him (climax) and settles on the R2-D2 unit to take back to his uncle’s farm (resolution).|
|The moves are obviously smaller, but they’re all still present and accounted for. In fact, we will find the same structure that we expect to see in a completely developed story, repeated in each of its acts, and even the dramatic scenes which compose them.
Not only that, but as stories continue to grow beyond the limits of a single installment, we can expect to see this pattern repeat on the macro level, too.
|zoom out of star wars to show the trilogy?|
|Consider Harry Potter, for example. Seven books and movies make up that franchise’s complete story, placing Harry Potter Four right smack at the center, or the “midpoint” of the series. Do you think it’s any coincidence, then, that Four tells the story in which Voldemort is reborn?|
(I picture the book flying out first. then middle book gets an arrow/highlight. then voldemort baby falls out of book and turns into voldemort)
(i thought the midpoint was about the cave, not the intro of the villain - is this considered "discovery"?)
|Or look at Game of Thrones. For all of its many adventures, conflicts, surprising turns and unexpected developments, we are told from the very first episode of that series what the overarching concern (the series’ largest dramatic arc) will be: Winter is Coming.
67 episodes comprise the full run of the Game of Thrones television series, making episode 34 its exact midpoint.
What happens there?
show text "winter is coming" in the middle?
look for video clip of ice forming for background? (over clip of smoke in black void?)
|The Night King—the face of the ultimate war to come with the Winter—is introduced for the very first time.|
|It’s important to note that these features don’t need to be part of any writer’s conscious design. Neither Yorke or I are suggesting that the creators of these stories counted the number of episodes or on their fingers in order to determine where to place their key discovery.
Rather, the Dramatic Arc of story—where an inciting incident leads to a journey, that journey to a discovery, that discovery to a crisis, and that crisis to some sort of confrontation—is a natural formation which repeats and overlaps in sometimes dazzling combinations.
|reinforce key words (discovery).|
|When a quarterback throws a pass to a receiver downfield, they may not realize it, but some part of them is aiming the ball, not at the receiver, but at the highest point in the trajectory which that pass will have to follow in order to meet the receiver downfield. They’re aiming, in other words—much as a storyteller does— at the trajectory’s midpoint, the moment when rising motion ends and momentum takes over.|
|For that matter, I’m attempting to do much the same with this class. Our midpoint, which is fast approaching, will be the moment when I have given you all the tools you’ll need in order to begin composing the television pilot for a series of your own design.|
|In order to do that we’re going to be looking at something called a “series bible.” This is a document which, among other things, tells everyone from producers to other writers on a show, how that particular show will be using this same pattern we’ve been discussing to compose:|
1. A series-length arc
2. Season-length arcs
3. Single- and multiple- episode arcs within each season
4. As well as “character-arcs”—the transformations in store for each character as they undergo their individual journeys
5. Ultimately, we’ll be seeing how writers manipulate the same, basic structure to build whole worlds of story.
(i picture lines spreading out to nodes when VO describes "tells everyone from producers to ...")
|instead of ending on the book (after looking at that book for some time…), maybe I’ll add some hyperspace effect behind the book, |
as if the bible flew to a solar system where we can see worlds/planets floating around.
I don’t have time to sketch this up right now