Monday, June 03, 2013

How To Structure a Story Around a Large Problem: 14 Steps x 56 Movies = 784 Examples

Hello Pinterest readers!  This page has gotten many Pinterest hits over the years, but it begins in mid-conversation, so I thought I would go back now and interject a hello! The chart you’ve come here to see is part of my series How to Structure a Story Around a Large Problem. I later combined that series with others about every aspect of fiction writing to create The Ultimate Story Checklist, which takes your story though each of these steps and many more. Now back to your original post...

This rather massive chart  (broken up into two halves for easy reading) examines 56 movies and shows how each does or doesn’t take each of the fourteen steps in the story structure I’m proposing.  If it helps you to review all the data at once, go ahead, but otherwise, you don’t have to dive in, because for the rest of this series we’ll go through the steps one by one.

(And for what it’s worth, I’m in no way implying that these are the 56 best movies out there–in fact, there are some on the list that I’m not that crazy for.  I was just looking for a representative sample of movies that were about the solving a large problem, and were, for the most part, well-liked, well-written, and financially successful.)

The Steps:

Step 1: The Longstanding Personal Problem
Step 2: The Public Humiliation
Step 3: The Intimidating Opportunity
Step 4: Hesitation
Step 5: The Hero Commits
Step 6: Committing Creates Unexpected Conflict
Step 7: The Hero Tries to Solve the Problem the Easy Way
Step 8: The Promise of the Premise is Fulfilled
Step 9: The Midpoint Disaster
Step 10: The Hero Tries the Hard Way
Step 11: The Spiritual Crisis
Step 12: Proactive Pursuit of The True Goal
Step 13: The Timeline is Unexpectedly Moved Up
Step 14: Climax and Epilogue

And Here Are the Charts:  

Tomorrow: Step 1!


Paul Clarke said...

Could just be me, but I feel Step 9: The Midpoint Disaster - is just such an overused term in screenwriting circles. It means different things to different people. Rather than such a generic term maybe there could be something that relates back to the problem?

True nature/depth of problem revealed? Something like that.

From my observations the midpoint is usually where the hero is confronted with their flaw. But as this is a problem based structure I guess that doesn't really fit.

Matt Bird said...

Agreed, it doesn't quite fit my "human nature" approach as well as the others (and I should probably re-phrase it simply because it's not my terminology). Maybe I should simply change it to "Disaster and Loss of Safe Space"

Unknown said...

I like this! Pretty helpful for structuring a story. I struggle with structure myself, so I'm glad to see a post I ca bookmark and come back to. :)

-Amanda @ Writing Cozy Mysteries

Anonymous said...

Damn...this blog is fan-diddly-tastic. What a rich resource. Thank you for sharing!