Monday, October 29, 2007

Classical Structure

Here are the notes for Classical Structure for stories by John Truby:

Classical structure deals with story structure that has been widely used throughout the ages. It deals with basic problems and situations that ordinary people deal with everyday. Thus making it universal for all to understand and a building block if one wishes to write well crafted stories. The great stories of our time are written by writers who knew classical structure so well that they could deviate or throw out all the rules altogether. Lastly the classical structure reflects life. It is life. Most everyone on earth can relate to it. Since our entertainment has been dumbed down for the masses it’s especially important to create something meaningful and relevant.

Problem need- At the beginning of the story, the hero is in trouble. He is aware of his problem but he doesn’t know how to fix it. There is something missing within the hero, which he must fulfill. The hero’s need is to overcome that weakness.

Desire- The character creates a goal based on the need.

Ex. A lion is hungry (need). He hunts prey (desire) to fill his hunger (need).

Opponent- Someone wants the same thing as the hero.

Plan-Set of guidelines the hero follows in order to win.

The Battle- The final conflict in which the ultimate test to see whether or not the hero wins. This battle is so brutal that the hero undergoes change which leads to the self revelation.

Self Revelation- The hero learns something fundamental about who he is. He will now learn the proper way to act in this world.

Expanded Classic Structure

Ghost- Is the event from the past still haunting your hero. The ghost is typically part of the need for the hero. It is also the internal opponent for the hero. The ghost is also the great fear of your hero.

Inciting incident- An event that occurs outside (world), that which causes the hero to come up with a goal to take action.

Training- The hero learns what he needs in order to reach his goal.

Towards the middle of the story the hero must become obsessed about reaching their goal. If the hero isn’t obsessed about reaching their goal, then the audience won’t care either.

Apparent Defeat- In the middle of the story the hero comes into conflict with the opponent but he’s losing. The hero begins to believe he’s been beat. The hero is at his lowest point.

Note: Since it is only an apparent defeat, the hero receives some information that leads him back to pursue his goal to which the conflict continues. And as the conflict intensifies between the hero and the opponent, the pressure on the hero intensifies. The hero’s options decrease.

Double Reversal- Not found in many stories only in great stories, will the opponent will have a self revelation. The hero learns something from the opponent and opponent learns something from the hero which is a blend of the writer’s view of a proper way to live in the world.

Cutting the classical structure in half

In simpler stories there are heroes that are enslaved in beginning of the story, then goes through a struggle, because of that struggle and by the end of the story, the hero receives freedom.
Part of that slavery is self imposed. He is enslaved because of his lack of understanding of who he is.

Review- Classical structure is the basis for storytelling and includes:

Problem need-Need of the character.
Desire- The hero’s goal
Opponent- Usually wants the same thing as the hero
Plan- A series of steps the hero has to accomplish to get his goal
Battle- The hero has to fight to receive his goal
Self Revelation- The hero learns something important about himself
New Equilibrium- The hero is at higher state when he accomplishes his goal.

Ghost- Past fears of the hero that continually haunts him
Inciting incident-A major event that sets the hero on his journey
Training- Hero has to prepare himself for battle
Apparent Defeat-hero is defeated in the beginning
Double reversal-The hero and opponent something from one another

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Blocking stage 1

I'll keep working to get the rest, but 5 classes a week is slowing me down!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Bad movie week

Yes it's coming. Its time to grind teeth and shake head nervously at the least awe inspiring movie. This time though we're inviting the entire school to watch with us. We will be providing snacks too. But here's the catch, the movie we will watching will be sorely judged on story principles discussed from the club. That means at the end of the movie we will discuss the what went wrong and what went right. The movie we will be discussing is a good movie to most people but only on appeal of crass: Transformers

It's been a while

This quarter in the club we've been listening to the John Truby's audio series on screenwriting. The first week we delved into how to develop a premise line for your story.

Here is an outline of the handout of what we discussed:

Story Kebab: Creating Premises

From Jon Truby’s screenwriting series

Premise Line- Is a story stated in a single sentence. A Premise Line includes some sense of the inciting incident, characters and sometimes the outcome of story. This idea is derived from the screenwriting industry and is used to summarize the entire plot into an easily pitched single concept. Since most producers don’t like to read scripts, writers have to cleverly craft a single sentence to get anyone to be interested in their work.

Thus the premise line or log line was created.

Coming up with a premise line also helps writers to plan out what they’re going to write and establish a theme before they commit time to actually writing the story. That way the writer never loses sight of the original idea, and has an opportunity to make big changes quickly.

Ways of coming up with premises:

First, try to come up with an idea that may change your life. Explore your thoughts to find out what you really believe in and what you care about. One of the ways to find out what you’re interested in is to simply write a list of things you would like to read or watch on the screen. Don’t worry about fixing mistakes or carefully planning the sentences. This is a brainstorm; ideas don’t need any real structure.

Another idea is to write all of your premise ideas on the same sheet of paper. Look for patterns in this list such as repeated character types, problems or moral arguments.

Next, you should put down all of the characters you can think of on one sheet of paper, and then try to determine who’s your best character amongst these ideas. Not the nicest, but rather the most interesting character. A person you feel compelled to explore or who fascinates you.

Thirdly, you need to get an idea of what the central conflict is going to be. You find the central conflict by asking yourself this question: Who is going to be fighting whom, about what? When you are able to answer that question, you will have the premise line of your story.

After successfully writing a premise, the next task is to come up with the cause and effect line of that premise, to better hone in on what the story is really going to be about.

Bad example: A man falls in love, and fights his brother for control of the winery.

Fixed Example: By falling in love, a man defeats his brother for control of the winery.

Other Examples:


Now it’s because he falls in love that he’s able to fight his brother for the winery.

Other Examples:

The Godfather: The youngest son of a mafia family takes revenge on the men who killed his father and becomes the new godfather.

Casablanca: A tough American expatriate rediscovers an old love only to give her up so she can help her husband fight the Nazis.

Star Wars: A young man uses his skills as a warrior to save a Princess and defeat the evil forces of a galactic empire.

Next, you must figure out the central moral choice for your hero. In most stories the hero will make one major choice towards the end of the story. That choice defines the overall theme of the story.

When you are trying to come up with the central moral choice for your hero, the choice must be between two equally valid decisions. A positive and negative option is not a choice because the hero will go for the positive all the time.

Example: love versus honor.


  • A Premise Line is a single sentence which expresses your story
  • Brainstorm all of your ideas on one sheet of paper
  • Brainstorm all of your characters on one sheet of paper
  • Look through your ideas and pick the most interesting ones to make your story.
  • Decide who is going to be fighting whom, about what.
  • What is the central moral choice of your hero?
  • Revise your premise line carefully until you are satisfied