Friday, March 6, 2009

Purchase Pyramid

On the Moral Premise site one reviewer asked what the Purchase Pyramid story structure was. Here's my short explanation and a couple of graphics, and below the Five Stages of Grief, a.k.a. The Kübler-Ross Model.

The "Inverse Purchase Pyramid" model of story telling is based on Allison Fisher's Purchase Funnel. It is upon this model that most romantic comedies are based. You can use this instead of the three Act model, but most effective screenplays overlay the pyramid model on top of the 3 Act model. Imagine an upside down pyramid with the widest part at the top. Divide the the pyramid into five sections with four horizontal lines. Label each area with the five stages that follow. The pyramid breaks the story into the following sequence segments: (1) AWARENESS during which the buyer needs definition of what's for sale; (2) FAMILIARITY during which the buyer needs additional information peaking interest; (3) CONSIDERATION during which the buyer narrows the alternatives for purchase; (4) TRIAL during which the buyer tries out the product; (5) PURCHASE during which the buyer commits. Now apply that to both the guy and the gal as they go through those stages of romance and you've got a winning structure. Here's an emotional roller coaster diagram of how the "5 Acts" might play out:

 Five Stages of Grief

Another useful structural tool is the Kübler-Ross Model of how people typically face grief or undesirable events. In my last workshops I have a slide that lists 7 stages, but I'm going to change that back to 5, because 2 of the 7 are unlike the others. So, 5 it is.  Here's a graphic that somewhat demonstrates the story algorithm. I say, "somewhat" because the ups and downs of one story dynamic to the next are never the same.

Where does this apply? Anytime you have a character going through a very difficult life change — death of someone close, divorce, loss of income, professional disappointment -- in short a grieving of any kind.

Technique: I recommend structuring your story into the 3 acts and with the help of the 13-16 turning points and sequences as described in this blog, in The Moral Premise, and in other good story technique books (e.g. Hauge, Snyder). And then, layer on the 4 Steps of Grief, if they apply. This will give you more turning points and twists in your story, hopefully positioned where the story is relatively slow. I have, as of this revised post, updated The Story Diamond Writing Aid, where you'll see the five stages overlapping with everything else. The PDF download is linked below. Click on image.

The Story Diamond Key

Monday, March 2, 2009

Anime and Manga Themes and Premises

Akemi's Post No. 2
(SW's response in Com Box)

Thank you for your response. I'm very excited to have someone who has studied the subject on hand to ask questions of. Please, lets continue this discussion in your blog. I've always felt that I've lacked something in my story telling, and working exactly what it is out on my own has been a pain.

I feel that I found what I’m missing in my studies and your book clarified it. I am quite frustrated studying anime and manga because I’m well aware that there may be a gold mine of books on this subject in Japanese awaiting discovery, just out of my grasp. It's a language i'm determined to master someday, just for the purpose of ransacking the book shelves.

I'm afraid I have no credentials to my name except a certificate in the digital arts. I'm interested in writing and drawing my own stories in comic book form. As there's no university for that, I study on my own.

Here are a few anime and manga that I like. Naruto, Full Metal Alchemist. If you ever decide to watch an anime, these two are your best bet. :)

The first two are what I call larger than life plots dealt with on a level that I can identify with. This is a point that I feel fails miserably in movies today. The “Why do I care?” factor. If I can’t be emotionally moved and identify with the journeys of the characters in their stories I simply don’t care. No matter what grand message the movie is trying to get across. The two examples below of mange that I enjoy have me caring deeply because I can understand the frustrations and desires of the characters on a daily life level.

The plot of Naruto is about a boy who is an outcast from birth because he had a demon that was destroying the village sealed into him. People shun him. Because he is an outcast, he has a turning point in the first book where he has a choice to become destructive to the society or be a contributing part of it. The characters he meets mirror that theme on some level. Those other outcasts who chose to actively to use their demons to be a negative impact on their society, those who chose to let others to use their demons to destroy... *sighs* It's difficult to explain. Nartuo is complicated on so many levels theme wise and I can enjoy the story on many different levels: plot, theme, characters, the setting.

Fullmetal Alchemist starts on mistake. Two boys lose their mother and study the magic of alchemy intending to bring her back to life. The story theme of this story is quite clear, "to gain something of value, one must lose something of value in return." One boy lost his body in the attempt to bring his mother back, the other brother literally looses and arm and a leg. Their story is a journey to find the philosopher’s stone to regain the brother's lost body. It's interesting because the characters they meet along their journey follow that theme exactly...those who are willing to sacrifice what is precious to them for their goals, and the consequences.

Some image links:
Full Metal Alcehmist

Signed: Akemi Art