Thursday, February 5, 2009

More Story Consulting

It's been an interesting month. Without revealing anything, I was asked twice to fly to Utah and hide out in a private snow lodge with actor/producer Will Smith to breakdown stories with the screenwriters, and other consultants. Long 14-hour days, good food, and the wonder of seeing a major motion picture take shape before your eyes on 4x6 index cards. Aside from working with very creative people, it's great to meet others, like those pictured here: Left to right: screenwriters Marianne and Cormac Wibberley (NATIONAL TREASURE), me, and Drew Yanno (also WGA), author of THE 3RD ACT, and film professor at Boston College. On an earlier trip I finally got to know Chris Vogler ("The Writer's Journey") who wrote the foreword to The Moral Premise.


Akemi said...


I'd like to thank you for writing this book. I bought it awhile ago on amazon, along with only two other books I could fine for figuring out theme and emotions.

I felt that i can write a story (plot wise) but I don't quite have the hang of getting people to care.

Since the books about this subject matter were so sparse, I did and still do a lot of analyzation of theme on my own. This analysis is mostly directed towards Japanese anime and manga.

Underneath all the flash and bright colours most anime and manga have themes and stories that hit me on a gut level. I laugh and cry from one moment to the next. 99% of the movies I try and watch in the theatres don't compell me to have this gut level emotion.

I wrote a piece on chracter themes on my blog if you are interested in looking at it.

That's actually an interesting question i want to ask you. How do Character themes and Story themes correlate? The anime Naruto I was doesn't have a story theme. Just individual characater themes that focus of acknowlegement of the individual by the society.

Stan Williams said...

Akemi. Thank you for your interesting post. I admit I am not familiar with anime and manga story structure. But I suggest that stories of any culture that connect emotionally with their audience must have at their core one or more true moral premises, upon which the various stories and sub-stories (plots) reside.

I have read some of your character analysis. Let me make some cursory observations, and you can tell me if they make sense.

A. The character traits you are finding in the manga characters are the elements of a moral premises. E.g. of Naruto you quote this line:

Ch 98 11 – I may appear strong to you but that’s because I act though because I’m so frustrated of always failing. – Naruto to Hinata

While I am not familiar with the story, could it be that the moral premise of this episode or series is: "Frustration and inaction leads to weakness and failure; but decisiveness and action leads to strength and success." (?)

The other characters seem to be based in moral premises (although different) as well.

B. In longer form works, like a major novel, you'll find several themes or moral premises at work, upon which various storylines are based. As several readers of my book have pointed out in other places on this blog, some genre's of films have more than one moral premise, but each premise reinforces the others. So, with multiple episodes of a manga series you may well have multiple moral premises that help audiences connect emotionally with character and their stories.

C. Moral Premises, when they are true, are critical to connecting characters and audiences emotionally. A good moral premise will be about something primal (so says my friend Blake Snyder in his book SAVE THE CAT). If the primal concern (death, survival, sex, God ... good Woody Allen themes) in the story is structured around a true worldview, the audience understands and empathizes with the characters.

Akemi, may I suggest, if you want to continue this discussion (and I can learn from you and the manga and anime genres) that I begin a new post, where I can place your question and my response, and continue in that post for a while? If so, can you send me links to manga/anime character images you like that I can use to give the post some visuals? Also, are you in school? What level and what is your major?