Showing posts with label Plot Devices. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Plot Devices. Show all posts

Some Cool Plotting in Allen Steele's V-S Day (2014)
Because Building a Big Bomb Takes Some Storytelling


V-S Day, written by Allen Steele, seems be to a story fans are split on. Critical reviews claim the characters aren't fleshed out enough and the history is wrong. While others extol V-S Day for its fun, campy style that allows for a quick read. Again, on the negative side, one review points out some malapropisms that got under his skin. The book isn't controversial but ambiguous. Being alternate history, it's bound to turn heads the right and wrong way. Aside from the criticism, it's an interesting example of how timeline displacement can be expressed through story structure. We have two scenarios: Something called an "symetrical storyline" or linear chronology where the story is told sequentially, and, second, a non-linear one, or assymetrical, which follows a non-chronological path, more relevant to the character's development than anything else.

How Pamela Ewing Got me Hooked On Stories
Or How I Learned to Hate Season-Long Dream Sequences

The summer of 1986 was plentiful, in its own way, with news that would change the world and events that we would never forget. But I'll always remember the moment, at home in our tiny living room, with the RCA colour TV set tucked away in the corner, away from direct sunlight, so that we could all make out the amazing plethora of images that would sprawl against the smoothly arced television screen. That was a moment when TV history happened - bad TV history. There I was, a young kid, with big brown eyes, lying in his favourite position on the floor, stomach down with elbows to the floor and palms pressed against his cheeks, as Pamela Ewing (Victoria Principal) wakes up from her dream. Shazbat!!! I raised from the floor like an animal ready to take a flight. It was a moment of shock. I mean, Dallas was a cool show.

Sure, J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) was a douchebag like no other, but seriously, the guy knew how to get out of trouble. His brother Bobby (Patrick Duffy), had a heart of gold, but now dead, left Dallas in a kind of screwed up position in prime time TV land. Something had to be done to bring him back. Something harsh. Yes, that's the scene when Pamela wakes up, with shorter hair and dreamy eyes, who nonchalantly walks over to washroom only to find her nude hubby taking a shower like it was Season 7.

The Difference Between Story and Plot
Stories Have a Soul and Plot Delivers It

A lot of things in life have a beginning, middle and end.  But they're not stories! So what gives? It's simple. Stories have more to do with the intangibles of storytelling - its soul - rather than the nuts and bolts that come with plots. That's right. Plot is the body and story is the soul. No wonder there's so much confusion! In his most fascinating book, The Way of the Screenwriter director and teacher Amnon Buchbinder claims that stories are living things. His students often look befuddled at the statement as do most his readers, but Buchbinder is right. Stories take a life of their own and that makes them mysterious and beautiful.

Interstellar as Zen Koan Leading to Love

Zen Buddhism is perhaps one of the oldest religions in the world. Its main purpose is to induce a state of enlightenment through a practice called meditation, an emptying of the mind. Meditation is often used in conjunction with another technique called a koan. A koan is a paradoxical riddle that befuddles the practitioner to the point of frustration and enlightenment. A famous example would be: Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand clapping? Another example: How does a man give himself coordinates for outer space if he needs to go into outer space to get the coordinates? Answer: Interstellar.

(Spoiler Alert - The ending revealed in more ways than one)

The First Scene of Terminator Salvation (2009)

Terminator Salvation is a sci-fi operatic war story that centers around a hero - John Connors - whose destiny is to save humanity from artificially intelligent machines. The story runs like an American militiaman's nightmare where personal freedom is lost at the behest of a terrible New World Order. Fighting Americans, scattered throughout, are glued to their transistor radio with the hopes that Connors will make Resistance dreams come true. Salvation views like a visually panoramic Mad Max film with cheesy Godzilla-like machine monsters that breath fire on its victims. So what's so horrible about the first scene? A plot device gone wrong.

The Tragedy of Quothen Leth - The Zero Theorem (2014)

The Zero Theorem, by Terry Gilliam, is a tragi-comedic tale easily mistaken for another Brazil. The world seems superficial and dangerous. The streets are crowded and filthy. Everyone has gone cosplay crazy with Batman as their new messiah. At the center of it all is one Quothen Leth, an honest man sucked into the black hole of his lonely, shallow environment. But Terry Gilliam has a deeper story to tell, one that cleverly exposes Leth's true predicament. Leth, in many ways, is an anti-hero who shows how dystopia can be self-induced rather than imposed by the state. It's a story about a man who creates his own misery and it is this that makes The Zero Theorem different from Brazil.

How Pacing Worked for Knight's Locke (2014)

What does the film Locke have in common with scientific studies about the passage of time? Pacing. Scientists believe we experience a slower passage of time when we pay more attention to what we're doing. That's why time goes by when we're having fun. We're pleasantly distracted and lose our sense of time. The same works in the movies. Action scenes go by faster because we're not paying attention to details. A slower, dramatic scene is the opposite. The attention to detail makes time feel slower. So, how were these principles used to make Locke more entertaining?