Friday, September 9, 2016

Relationships versus the Ensemble in stories

Relationship stories...
...are set in prime motivation stories where the page turners are between two or three beings (buddy cops, romance, kid/horse/parent, forced road trip 'pals', three rebels fighting the Empire, etc.)

PRIMARY MOTIVE: to observe how the relationship develops.
Theme: how why two/three beings fit together:

The formula / pattern:
  • Denial in the potential of a relationship.
  • Show how the thorns poke each other (dislikes)
  • Reluctance to build a connection, but they have to!
  • Begin the 'weave' or 'braid the roses' as the pair / trio are forced to work together.
  • Exploration of the relationship.
  • The (end of) Act II disaster: where things break apart (reader will say "Oh NO!"
  • Acceptance of the relationship (The End).
        WARNING: Watch out for the 'Idiot Plot' (common to RomComs) where all the problems would be solved is the two main characters would simply talk to each other. This kind of issue to incredibly cliché and considered a non-issue by many readers. EARN the bumpiness. Have the ENTIRE book build to the disaster (such as the film While You Were Sleeping). Create 'of course they will do this' (such as Han Solo leaving the rebels at the end of Star Wars); Lea is devastated as she realizes the 'friendship' was only business; THEN embrace the 'whoo hoo!' moment is when Han has a change of heart and comes blazing back.

Page turners are built around the crisis moments that occur during the relationships. Fulfilling on the promises require tone, progress, and creating the RIGHT crisis for the moments of the relationships. Do the crisis's reinforce the story? Does support between the characters exist? How did the writer indicate that two characters belong together?
1. Do the characters complete each other?
2. Have gaps / holes been defined for the relationships to fill?
3. Love stories make the reader fall in love, friendship stories make the reader part of the buddy group (such as the first Lethal Weapon, ).
4. The reader wants the main characters to MAKE A BETTER CHOICE even though the character is going to make a less than perfect decision during a crisis moment.

Ensemble stories...
...are the group of folks working in the same direction on a problem.

PRIMARY MOTIVE: Get the 'band' together to stop the problem!

Even though it is a group, there is still a primary arc of one or two characters combating the heart of the problem. This will bookend the beginning / end of the story to give a sense of completion. Examples from film:
  • 2 sisters torn from each other reunite in the end (Frozen)
  • Tony Stark verses his narcissistic ethics of 'stepping on the wire' (Avengers)
  • 2 brothers save the orphanage (Blues Brothers)
  • A baker's life implodes and leaves her with nothing; she finds the strength though her friends to move ahead in life (Bridesmaids)
The ensemble is handled through dialogue. NO WORDS ARE WASTED.
A preface may be needed to set up the 'big bad' of the story, then Chapter 1 should focus on the main character at the heart of the problem (even if the main character does not realize it yet). Film example: Trinity verses the Agents (preface), Next scene: Neo waking up (Chapter 1). (The Matrix)
Bring each member in while defining who / what they are through individual scenes with the main character core of the 'gang'.
Have background dialogue bring feeling in for other main characters and seed feelings / reactions.
Character voices are important and each should be unique!
Don't marginalize characters; have each bring SOMETHING more than a 'one note'; keep everyone respectable! Have each character in the group be there for 'something'. Have secondary characters be 'fans' of specific main characters / ideals.

Multiply each scene's / prop's use throughout the group. In other words, each scene should link in multiple ways to 2+ scenes coming up (whenever possible).
Characters will engage on two levels: professional and personal.

Dialogue might be a caricature of REAL dialogue (the Avengers Movie, Oscar Wilde books, etc).

Characterization of an ensemble cast:
  • Large cast, but each with a little time 'up front'.
  • Every scene must serve multiple 'shows of character': The mindset, skill(s), and attachment to the problem.
  • Each character must have an arc to promote GROWTH or CHANGE. Create momentum for each character.
  • Who is the primary Protagonist in the group? What / who is the Antagonist against the group (either from the outside or from within)? Now show us why as the story progresses.
  • Think about the group tying up the Act III catharsis. How does each character arc lead to the group tie up during the catharsis? Let everyone turn to their specific strengths and support each other to do this in Act III.
  • Give the characters a sense of liberation from whatever was repressing them.
  • Give action moments of WHOAH! to break the fatigue to the non-stop action of the Act III catharsis point.
  • Pacing is important: Once you set the pace within your first couple of chapters, you must remain true to that pace though the book (or steadily / gently quicken it as the chapters progress).

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