On Structure Part 2
(You can check out part one a few posts down – but I copy here the last part of that post which is the jumping off point for this one):
"What ends a chapter? What ends an act break? How to nail a story that’s either linear, or has multiple story lines, flashbacks, flash forwards, what have you? We have to examine structure a little further. There are two realities in your hero’s world. The “situational” reality and the “emotional” reality and they have to intertwine.
Situational Reality: the physical world, ticking clocks, ticking bombs, car chases, kidnappings, fist fights, heists, trysts, invasions, defense, offense, the attack, the counter attack, the ambush, plotting, hiding, sneaking, losing, wining.
Emotional Reality: the lovers, the haters, the betrayers, the needy, the desperate, the dense, the out of touch, the shut-down, the over-sensitive, the hopeful, the funny, the hurt, the sad, the healing, the dying, the redeemed, the lost, the lonely, the saved.
Each reality has it’s own arc. How do they intertwine?"
The situational reality arc: Is start to finish. Hero usually has a goal, or a goal is thrust open him (her/them/you get it). Then, inevitably, the hero heads towards it, willingly or unwillingly, until they have to face it. And then the conclusion you determine is reached: the hero wins or fails, he lives or dies. It's like a great game of chess.
The emotional reality arc: oddly, can be viewed as finish to start. In the sense that the hero you start with will no longer be there when the movie is over. A new hero will stand in his shoes. You are “starting” with the finished version of this hero, one that your story will hammer down and smash apart in your brutal mill, until he's a broken ham sandwich in a bag, and quits, and then a new hero will have to be born, will have to rise, to survive your story to its conclusion – or, more to the point, to face the conclusion as a new person, at a new energy level so that they have the heart to conclude the movie. And this should be like an emotional rush, the thing that gives you chills, that makes you laugh and cry and leave the theater with an expanded heart and an expanded sense of self.
Now, granted your variations may break this rule, and that’s fine. Rules are made to be broken. Just make sure you know the rules first. You'll find hero stories where the hero refuses to change (Leaving Las Vegas) and dies because of it. And that’s very powerful (because we are supposed to change). There are heroes that don’t change as events change around them on an immense scale (The Pianist) and that’s powerful because they are a “witness” character, and we have a vicarious experience as we watch the journey through their eyes without getting distracted or wrapped up in their own emotional arc. There are heroes that don't change, but change others because of their lighthearted ability to stay above the heaviness dragging everyone else down (standard comic hero, Bill Murray in Ghost Busters, Eddie Murphy in Trading Places).
But what's important for story telling, in general, is that these two realities I've talked about track through time, through four acts of your story:
1) Your hero is alerted to the adventure, refuses it, enters it, gets trashed by it, nearly killed by it, survives and rallies to overcome. Sure other stuff happens, but that's the simple line.
2) Your hero has an emotional issue, the adventure demands he faces it, he denies it, then he tries to face it, the old him fails at it so a new him sparks to life, he tries the new self on, then both the old and the new him fail emotionally and he’s ready to throw in the towel, then an emotional re-birth, he re-enters the journey less for himself and more because it’s the right thing to do, a selfless act, where he’s ready to die for it (physically and emotionally) and that surrender of self is what give him the edge (I like to say “the heart has hope when the mind fails” and that act wins him his desire.
If you track these two realities side by side as you tell your story, you stand a very good chance of telling the best version of your story that you have.