Storytelling at Ringling
To build a story
- a theme or concept
- a character(s)
- a location
- a situation
- a rising conflict
- an ending
You should begin with a basic premise, one or two sentences describing your character, situation and conflict. It is the basic setup for what happens in the story.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Who is your character?
What is your character's goal?
What is your inciting moment?
Does your conflict rise?
What is your character's reaction (not action) to the conflict?
What does your character need to learn?
Does your ending relate to your beginning?
Is your audience entertained?
How do you develop a premise into a story?
When working on a short, you have ONE idea to communicate.
A good short idea has one or two characters, limited locations, and ONE conflict that becomes worse.
If you have multiple characters, multiple locations, or multiple conflicts, simplify, clarify and revise.
Animators: Read Ideas for the Animated Short pages 130-140 for detailed discussion of how to develop a premise that works with animation.
When building conflict it is helpful to think about the way the conflict unfolds, the types of intensity building, the character in the conflict, and the location of your audience in your story.
Progression of Conflict
Often when beginning storytellers think of conflict, they default to the catastrophic. They think about big problems. Problems don't have to be big to cause conflict. An itch, a headache, or a stubbed toe can all have great affect for story. But if you scratch an itch, take medicine, or put ice of your toe, the story is over. There are single events that cause a problem and can be easily resolved. To build story conflict, the conflict has to get worse. Scratching an itch leads to itching all over that leads to a spreading rash that lands you in the hospital where you meet a pretty nurse that catches your rash.
Conflict Occurs in Patterns
1. Compounded Conflicts: A single problem builds in layers upon itself through similar or related events. Compounded problems follow two patterns:
-Domino Effect. A chain reaction where one problem will cause a similar problem to occur on a linear sequence.
-Cascade Effect #1. One problem will cause a similar problem to occur in a branding structure. A large snowball is rolling down a hill toward a ski lodge. The snowball hits a tree and breaks into two large snowballs rolling down . . . breaks in to four, and so on, until an avalanche of snowballs threatens the lodge.
2. Accumulated Conflicts. Multiple problems build in number or complexity through different or unrelated events. These follow three patterns:
Cascade Effect #2. A change in one event will lead to a change in multiple subsequent events. This is often used with concepts of time and time lines. If we change events in the past, we can affect the multiple events of the future in unpredictable ways.
-Ripple Effect. One event leads to other unrelated events that spread out, escalating in all directions.
-The Butterfly Effect. This is the age-old theory that if a butterfly flaps its wings in Australia it will create tiny changes in the atmosphere that have nonlinear and catastrophic effects elsewhere in the world.
→Murder Club Scenes
Someone is going to be murdered. You are to determine who the killer and who the victim is, what the reason for the attack will be, and how and where it will take place.
Then you and your partner are to create/write 2 ½ scenes during class, imitating the style of “Don’t Blink” by James Patterson.
In the first scene, create an interesting setting where the deed will occur. Make it a public place of some kind that you will be able to describe what’s going on as the killer approaches the victim, using the killer as the POV, and introducing the killer.
In the second scene, have the killer and the victim meet and converse before the main event. In this scene you will want to introduce the victim and his or her circumstances.
In the 3rd half scene, tell enough to describe the murder, in slow motion.