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Story a meditation

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  • 1. Dominique Gerald M Cimafranca This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Philippines License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ph/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA. | blog: villageidiotsavant.com | email: dominique@cimafranca.com Story: A Meditation
  • 2. What is story?
  • 3. “Story is what happens to someone.”
  • 4. Two essentials of story Character Events
  • 5. Is this a story? Sonny is a tall, handsome, fair-skinned young man, with bright eyes and a quick wit. He is well-liked because he is kind, charming, and generous. However, he parties a bit too much and gambles at cards and dice more often than is good for him.
  • 6. Is this a story? Mera thinks she's a normal teenager but she's actually the daughter of the sea god Maguayan and a mortal maiden. Mera was banished to earth to live life as the child of a fisherman. When she turned sixteen, Mera learned that she could talk to fish.
  • 7. No. So far those are just character concepts. Nothing has happened to them yet.
  • 8. Is this a story? Down to his last P5,000, Sonny decides to act on a horse-racing tip. He puts P4,000 on O Happy Fault, keeping P1,000 in his wallet just in case. O Happy Fault looks like she's about to win but stumbles at the last moment! Sonny is dejected, but thankful he had the foresight to save some money. He feels for his pocket and discovers, to his horror, that his wallet is gone!
  • 9. Is this a story? While gathering seashells at a beach, Mera sees a drowning boy out at sea. She swims to the rescue, but it turns out to be a trap! Three siokoy attack her. She is about to be overwhelmed, but instinctively she calls out to dolphins for help and they save her. The dolphins lead her back to shore. Before departing, they seem to bow and say: "Princess Mera, daughter of Maguayan."
  • 10. Character? Yes. Event? Yes. So? Story?
  • 11. No. Rather, our characters are in a situation. Something has happened, but it is only a single event.
  • 12. In a story, we expect a sequence of interrelated events.
  • 13. “Story is a sequence of events that happens to someone.” Refining our definition further...
  • 14. Is this a story? Down to his last P5,000, Sonny decides to act on a horse-racing tip. He puts P4,000 on O Happy Fault, keeping P1,000 in his wallet just in case. O Happy Fault looks like she's about to win but stumbles at the last moment! Sonny is dejected, but thankful he had the foresight to save some money. He feels for his pocket and discovers, to his horror, that his wallet is gone! He feels a tap on his shoulder. It's an old woman. “Excuse me, is this yours?” She holds up a wallet. It's his. “Oh, thank you!” Sonny exclaims, hugging the woman.
  • 15. Is this a story? While gathering seashells at a beach, Mera sees a drowning boy out at sea. She swims to the rescue, but it turns out to be a trap! Three siokoy attack her. She is about to be overwhelmed, but instinctively she calls out to dolphins for help and they save her. The dolphins lead her back to shore. Before departing, they seem to bow and say: "Princess Mera, daughter of Maguayan." The next day, a sea carriage driven by mermaids lands on the shore of their village. They dress Mera in fine clothes and bring her to their kingdom where she was reunited with her true father.
  • 16. What's wrong here? We already have a sequence of events, right?
  • 17. Our characters have no agency. Things just happen to them.
  • 18. Unfortunately, this is far too common, viz. popular fairy tales. In other words, “Mary Sue.”
  • 19. Refining our definition further... “Story is a sequence of events that happens to someone as a consequence of their actions.”
  • 20. What if we continued our two stories like so...? Fortunately, Sonny still has his cellphone. He dials his Dad and tearfully explains what happened. His Dad sends a limousine to pick him up. * * * Mera relates the strange events to her mother. Her mother reveals her true parentage to Mera. “You were born of Maguayan, but we love you as your true daughter.” They embrace.
  • 21. Aaargh.
  • 22. Character? Check Situation? Check. Action? Check. Consequence? Check. What's wrong?
  • 23. It's too easy for our characters. We go in a line from point A to point B. It's not interesting. It's boring.
  • 24. Story is about the character's struggle to solve a complication.
  • 25. Refining our definition further... Story is about a character's struggle to solve a complication and the sequence of events that happens to them as a consequence of their actions.
  • 26. Whose story complication provides more promise? Sonny's or Mera's? Why? Side question
  • 27. Sonny's complication is external: he needs money. Mera's complication is internal: it goes to the core of her identity.
  • 28. It's a question of what's at stake. What does the character stand to lose or gain from resolving the complication.
  • 29. The higher the stakes, the more interesting the complication.
  • 30. However, don't overdo it.
  • 31. Overused complications ● Death ● Illness ● Parental Separation ● Eros ● Chosen One
  • 32. Overused complications ● Death ● Illness ● Parental Separation ● Eros ● Chosen One Simplistic understanding of dramatic situations as a result of years of pre- conditioning through telenovelas and bad anime.
  • 33. Going from beginning to end: from complication to action to resolution.
  • 34. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___. --Pixar's Rules of Storytelling
  • 35. Story has a beginning, middle, and end.
  • 36. Beginning Middle End→ → Ratio of the three parts
  • 37. A template (character) is a (age, occupation, etc.) he is in trouble because of (problem) he (decision/action in response to problem) and so (consequence of action) However (problem) he (decision/action in response to problem) and so (consequence of action) : Until finally (ultimate action and consequence)
  • 38. Character responses: The Four D's ● Does ● Discovers ● Decides ● Deals with From “Novelist's Boot Camp” by Todd Stone
  • 39. Structure of a story (character) is a (age, occupation, etc.) he is in trouble because of (problem) he (decision/action in response to problem) and so (consequence of action) However (problem) he (decision/action in response to problem) and so (consequence of action) However (problem) he (decision/action in response to problem) and so (consequence of action) However (problem) he (decision/action in response to problem) and so (consequence of action) : Until finally (ultimate action and consequence)
  • 40. Structure of a story (character) is a (age, occupation, etc.) he is in trouble because of (problem) he (decision/action in response to problem) and so (consequence of action) However (problem) he (decision/action in response to problem) and so (consequence of action) However (problem) he (decision/action in response to problem) and so (consequence of action) However (problem) he (decision/action in response to problem) and so (consequence of action) : Until finally (ultimate action and consequence) beginning end movement movement movement middle
  • 41. Structure of a story (character) is a (age, occupation, etc.) he is in trouble because of (problem) he (decision/action in response to problem) and so (consequence of action) However (problem) he (decision/action in response to problem) and so (consequence of action) However (problem) he (decision/action in response to problem) and so (consequence of action) However (problem) he (decision/action in response to problem) and so (consequence of action) : Until finally (ultimate action and consequence) beginning end movement movement movement PLOT
  • 42. By the end of the story, where is the character in relation to the situation?
  • 43. The ending doesn't necessarily resolve the complication for the character. However, it must relate to the complication in an integral way.
  • 44. It must complete the story satisfactorily.
  • 45. Cheat Ending “...it was all a dream...” The whole struggle was meaningless.
  • 46. Other cheat endings Deus Ex Machina – someone arrives at the last moment to solve all the problems “And they all died...” - gratuitous death meant to incite sympathy
  • 47. What would be possibe endings for Sonny's and Mera's stories?
  • 48. Thinking of good endings can be hard.
  • 49. So far... Story is about a character's struggle to solve a complication and the sequence of events that happens to them as a consequence of their actions.
  • 50. “Story is the essential progression of incidents that occur to the hero in pursuit of his one goal.” --David Mamet
  • 51. How did we get to the story-less “stories” that seem so popular today? Question
  • 52. Possibly: influences ● Manga, anime, and series – longer story arcs but young writers emulating might not have the stamina ● Videos – can get away with no story based on characters, unique situations, imagery ● Social media – short but ongoing conversations; translated to story, context removed ● Flash fiction – rising in popularity, but tends to establish situations without proper endings
  • 53. Questions?
  • 54. Acknowledgments Thanks to the fellows of Ateneo de Davao Writers Workshop 2014 for helping refine the presentation with their input and criticism. The font used in this presentation is Traveling Typewriter by Carl Krull (www.carlkrull.dk) Download from http://www.dafont.com/traveling-typewriter.font
  • 55. Dominique Gerald M Cimafranca This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Philippines License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ph/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA. | blog: villageidiotsavant.com | email: dominique@cimafranca.com Story: A Meditation