Keep Calm And Write On
What's up lockstars? Bored yet?
I know I am. I watched the entire season of Umbrella Academy in one sitting. It wasn't even that good, but here we are.
So from what I'm seeing via the medium of hashtags, a lot of people are planning on using this time to 'work on their novels/screenplays/rondels/other obscure forms of poetry'. (I'm pretty sure only six people in the world know what a rondel is)
How are you doing? Good? Great!
But for those of you who aren't so great, I might be of some assistance.
You're sitting there looking at a blank page. You're looking at the cursor blinking on the screen. Is it winking at you? Is it...mocking you? Is that what you're doing cursor! You think I can't write a script? I've written plenty of scripts. I've got scripts up to...some metaphor. I can write!
But seriously, if you don't know where to start, let punchup.com.au give you a nudge in the right direction.
We're humans. We love structure. Even when we're dilettante fuckhats who think they're being 'fresh', like Rian Johnson, we all have to follow a structure. And that's what we're going to give you - the structure. The rebar. The framework. Fill that out and the story will follow.
Ready? Here we go: (a lot of this is going to look familiar if you've read Uncle Joe Campbell, but the dude really nailed it)
Status Quo Your protagonist is stuck in the status quo, their ordinary life. Have some montage of everything being boring, like the highlight of a teenager's life being a trip to the Toshe Station to pick up some power converters. Then shit goes down. Something goes wrong. We call this an 'inciting incident'. Campbell calls this the 'call to adventure'. Thomas Anderson gets a phone couriered to him. Andy Sachs gets a job offer from fashionista Miranda Priestly. Roger Murtaugh is partnered with Martin Riggs.
Refusing The Call Your protagonist nopes out. Don't want none of that noise. They're happy in the status quo. But that isn't an interesting story. Losers who say 'no' don't get epics written about them. So something has to happen to push them over the edge and into the adventure. Something happens where the protag can't turn back. Peter Quill gets arrested with Gamora, Rocket and Groot. Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru get a wicked tan. Henry Jones Jr finds out that Henry Jones Sr has been kidnapped by Nazis.
Appeal To Outside Authority Your protagonist tries to solve the problem through some mundane, boring method - like calling the police. This is what normal people would do. Normal people aren't heroes. This isn't a good story, so they need to be punished for that. They need all their other avenues taken away from them. High flying lawyer Fletcher Reede tries to get his son to undo the wish that prevents him from lying. Buzz Lightyear finds a whole ailse of other Buzz Lightyears. Frodo tries to give the ring to Gandalf/Tom Bombadil/Galadriel/Anyone who isn't Frodo.
Failure The protag tries a new, grandiose plan. This fails, of course, because they lack crucial information about the antagonistic forces, which result in the plan falling apart. The crucial thing here is that the protagonist hasn't changed. They're still the same person they always were, which means they haven't learnt anything, they haven't grown, they haven't gone on a character arc. So they need to be punished. Neo fails his first jump. Woodward and Bernstein try traditional journalistic methods. Maximus fights like a soldier, instead of winning the crowd.
Metamorphosis The hero realises they can't continue to be the person they always were. They need to change, to become something better, something more than they always were. They see their shortcomings and they work them out of their system. Simba meets Rafiki and communes with Mufasa. Rocky agrees to train with Mighty Mick. Ricky Bobby realises that his father was full of shit the whole time.
Revelation The protagonist puts this plan into action...and is nearly destroyed by it. However, this leads to a revelation - some missing piece of insight that solves the whole puzzle. Dom reveals that he incepted Mal, leading to her death. Phil Connors shouldn't be a dickhead. It's the cup of a carpenter!
Triumph The hero puts this new revelation into practice with great results. Tony Stark makes the hero play. The Ghostbusters cross the streams. Harry Potter...does something. I don't know, I've never read or seen it but it's cookie-cutter Hero's Journey so just assume this lesson applies.
Happily Ever After Or not, if you're going for tragedy. But we probably don't need tragedy right now. The hero has taken on board all of the lessons they've learned over the course of the story and is now comfortable in the new world they've forged. Aragorn is crowned King Elassar. Dr Grant figures out how to use a seatbelt. Matthew McConaghey and Kate Hudson get together in whatever film they're trying to fuck in this time. Detective Mills is reunited with his wife's head. The wookiee doesn't get a medal, unless you're watching that JJ Abrams shitfest, in which your dreams have already been pissed on and you don't care any more. The Narrator and Marla enjoy a moment as the buildings come down. Dr Strangelove gets out of his wheelchair. See, everything is resolved.
And that's basically it. I hope I've adequately demonstrated that virtually every story is the same, the joy is in how you tell it. We humans are creatures of comfort, we like it when we get what we want, and you'll notice that the books and movies that cop the most flak are the ones that think themselves above the structure.
Use this lockdown to your advantage, write that book. Yeah, everything sucks right now. But art is pathos, if we can make it through this we're all going to have some absolutely killer material at the end of it, and the golden age will truly begin.
1.5 meters away from you at all times,
Written to: Driving With The Top Down - Ramin Djawadi