Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Beats - Turning Points - Stages - Pinch Points

One of my on-going challenges as a story consultant has been to clarify terminology and minimize the equivocation in terms. (Thus the recent post Protagonist vs. Hero with assistance from Chris Volger). Clarifying terms was a motivation behind writing the The Moral Premise regarding what others were calling various things like "the Controlling Idea," "Theme," "Premise," and so on.

The Story Diamond was not original with me, but I saw the opportunity of layering other story  concepts onto it and thus demonstrating how the wide variety of terms used in our niche industry, are really all about the same thing.

So, this post is another attempt at that...with hopefully some nomenclature consistency. It was prompted by the last several posts by Michael Hauge over at StoryMastery.com. Michael has made the turn from calling every sequence and turning point a "beat" to differentiating between the different kind of beats as "turning points" and story "stages".  This solves an on going problem. I would tell my clients that some beats are "moments" (a single scene) and others are "sequences" (numerous scenes.) Yet the connotation of "beats" still sounds  instantaneous...which is confusing since half of the beats are not moments at all.

So, taking this hint from Michael, I offer up the following and the Story Diamond has been updated to reflect this subtle shift in labeling conventions.

As a further update, the 8 stages can also be called Mini-Movies, which reflects the ideas of Paul Gulino (Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach), and Chris Soth of ScreenwritingU.

Recall that our goal is to create an emotional roller coaster effect for our reader/audience. That end goal demands a regular (up and down) progress of scene sequences and turning points (or beats) or pattern over which we can apply our story elements and plot.

The latest PDF Annotated NOTES document for The Story Diamond is HERE.



Additions and Revisions

1. Around the perimeter (in dark red) I've added a version of the Staging convention that Hauge uses, with the addition of dividing up Stage 3 and 4 into 3A, 3B and 4A, 4B. (I don't like this particularly because it is not cogent with the previous convention of Act 2A (Stage 3) and Act 2B (Stage 4). But if you don't mix systems, you'll be okay.

2. Then it occurred to me that the Inciting Incident and the Final Incident were very much like Pinch Points A and B (which were originally at the mid points of Act 2A and Act 2B. None of these points were "turning points" but rather places where the antagonist (or antagonistic force) raises its head to prod the protagonist (or hero) forward. "Turning Points" were moments where the Protagonist or Hero make decisions that takes the story in a new direction. This interconnectedness between the Protagonist and "new direction" reinforces the story dictum that the Protagonist is in charge of the story, and not the Antagonist. The protagonist changes the antagonist prods. So, I am now labeling the Inciting Incident "Pinch Point A" and the Final Incident "Pinch Point D" which leaves the former Pinch Points A and B to be relabeled C and D.

Symmetry

Then if we refer to the Climax of Act 3 a turning point (which is clearly is in redemptive stories where the protagonist makes his/her biggest change) we then have a wonderfully symmetrical story system.  There are 4 Turning Points, and 4 Pinch Points, and they alternate, helping to create the roller coaster effect we're after.

Plus, the Sages alternate with the Points, for a deeper symmetry and a satisfying roller coaster ride.
  1. (Prologue)
  2. Stage 1
  3. Pinch Point A (Inciting Incident)
  4. Stage 2
  5. Turning Point 1 (Act 1 Climax)
  6. Stage 3A
  7. Pinch Pint B
  8. Stage 3B
  9. Turning Point 2 (MOG)
  10. Stage 4A
  11. Pinch Point C
  12. Stage 4B
  13. Turning Point 3 (Act 2 Climax)
  14. Stage 5
  15. Pinch Point D (Final Incident)
  16. Stage 6
  17. Turning Point 4 (Act 2 Climax)
  18. Denouement
A full explanation of the Story Diamond is presented in my On-Line Storycraft Training series.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Hero vs. Protagonist

Thanks to Christopher Vogler for his contributions to this post.

What's the difference between a hero and protagonist; or for that matter the anti-hero, villain, antagonist, main character or POV character?  Like many concepts it's easy to lapse into equivocation because of the varied way these terms are used.

While I have no serious issue with using "hero" and "protagonist" interchangeably, it can make sense to use them differently. Below are a few suggestions for all these terms.

An underlying assumption (and a big one) is that the audience has a working moral compass and knows what behaviors are to be rooted for or deplored. This may not work in a morally ambiguous universe, but for general audiences that comprise a cross section of society, a movie's popularity will correlate to natural law, which is a fair basis for moral certainty.



MAIN (POV) CHARACTER...

...is the character with the most screen time. This may or may not be the hero, anti-hero, one of two kinds of protagonists, anti-hero, antagonist, or villain. It is almost always the Point of View (POV) character, or the perspective of the storyteller.


HERO... is the character that
  • nearly epitomizes the virtues or strengths of the moral premise, but still 
  • is subtly flawed
  • will change (arc), but subtly and always in the same direction. The hero's values will not change direction or polarity, but at the Moment of Grace will get stronger and deeper. 
  • actively pursues a physical and visible goal that audience can root for.
  • will be a good guy with desirable traits.
Example: Captain Miller in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. See detailed post at link.

ANTI-HERO... is that character that:
  • epitomizes the vices or weaknesses of the moral premise, and thus 
  • is significantly flawed.
  • will change (arc), but subtly and always in the same direction. That is, the anti-hero's values will not change direction or polarity, but at the Moment of Grace will get stronger and deeper. This is the same as the HERO.
  • actively pursues a physical and visible goal that audience can root for, just like the HERO.
  • will be a good guy with undesirable traits
Example: Travis Bickle in TAXI DRIVER


VILLAIN... is that character that:

  • epitomizes the vices or weaknesses of the moral premise, and thus
  • is significantly flawed
  • will change (arc), but subtly and always more dark. 
  • actively attempts to prevent the hero or protagonist from reaching the goal.
  • will always be the bad guy.
Example: Hans Gruber in DIE HARD


PROTAGONIST (Redemptive)... is that character that:

  • at first, embraces vices or weaknesses of the moral premise, and is therefore,
  • clearly flawed, but
  • will change (arc) clearly toward the virtue or strengths of the moral premise.
  • actively pursues a physical and visible goal that audience roots for.
  • is usually a good guy in the end.
Example: Bob Parr in THE INCREDIBLES


PROTAGONIST (Tragic)... is that character that:

  • at first, embraces vices or weaknesses of the moral premise, and is therefore 
  • clearly flawed, but
  • will change (arc) clearly toward darker vices or greater weaknesses of the moral premise.
  • actively pursues a physical and visible goal that audience roots against
  • is usually a bad guy in the end. 
Examples: Charles Foster Kane in CITIZEN KANE, and
Tony Soprano in THE SOPRANOS

Test Question: Do tragic protagonists always sit at table with a wine glass half-full, chin down, eyes up, and glare off screen camera right...."as if the answer to their dilemma were over there" (CV).



ANTAGONIST... is that character that:

  • embraces either vices/weaknesses or (not both) virtues/strengths of the moral premise, and is therefore 
  • clearly flawed, or clearly virtuous,
  • may or may not (arc) clearly toward the opposing value, but if arc occurs will be cogent with the moral premise
  • actively opposes the physical and visible goal of the hero, anti-hero, or protagonist becoming the catalyst for change (arc) in the hero, anti-hero or protagonist.   
  • may be the good guy or the bad guy
Example: The Angels in "Touched By An Angel"