The next three posts exist because of a twitter-chat I was having with @eugene_lambert, (author of the upcoming The Sign of One) and a class I taught on story shape. They pretty much cover my current thinking on narrative structure. I don’t claim to be an expert – I challenge anyone to screw up the middle of a story quite as well as I can – and this stuff isn’t new. Nevertheless, it’s the combination of maybe five or six books on the matter as well as my countless balls-ups and rewrites, and as such, I might a least save you a bit of time.
Oh, and remember – diagrams like this only represent the story as it happens, not necessarily the story as it's told. There’s a difference, and that took me literally years to figure out. I detest myself sometimes…
Anyway. If you want to play along, folks, you’ll need a copy of Sam Raimi’s movie adaptation of Scott B Smith’s A Simple Plan, available at all good retailers and streaming services. It works because of a unity of place, a small cast of characters, and a relatively straightforward plot in which the story as it happens is the story as its told.
Go on, people. Just watch the first 33 minutes then pause; there are spoilers ahead.
Before you watch the rest, speculate as to how act two – with its six degrees of escalation – will work. List all the stuff that’s been left unresolved, all the problems that have been set up to unravel.
Then read the next post.