Monday, December 21, 2020

The Murky Middle (Even More Advice)

Aristotle wrote that stories should have a beginning, middle, and end.

Middles can be difficult. You might have a smashing opening to a story or play, but then the energy fizzles. What to put in your middle? When filmwriting, the second reel or act needs to connect the beginning with the ending--as is true of any fiction story or play. Plot-wise, if the beginning includes the exposition, status quo, and inciting incident, the MIDDLE usually includes the rising action to the turning point. The turning point in the fortune(s) of your protagonists/characters usually include either a dark moment or an enlightenment (a character's lowest end, see ACT 3 of Twelfth Night for Malvolio &/or Viola...sort we see Malvolio can fall much further as a result of his pride and arrogance...; or, as an enlightenment, Viola realizes Olivia has fallen in love with her, for example). In a comedy, the dark moment can occur much earlier (even the beginning--see Viola's predicament in Act 1, Scene 2), since we're watching characters OVERCOME a problem or situation. [In a tragedy, we're just reversing this...] The enlightenment for a character (or many characters in a Shakespearean comedy, often occur in the 5th act (the end) as everyone comes together to fix the errors and mistakes of the early complications found in Acts 1-4...) occurs as a result of the beginning and middle of the plot. Still, as we remember to work on rising action leading to a turning point, climax, and falling action (what happens BECAUSE of the climax), our middle should lead to a resolution of some sort in the end of our story. Mind you, this does not mean the resolution solves everyone's problems! So, how do we work through a middle? Here is some advice: 1. Play both ends against the middle. In other words try to get opposing people or groups to fight or disagree in the middle of your play so that you will get a dramatic advantage from the situation. 2. Plot is developed by having something else happen BECAUSE a decision or action complicates the situation characters find themselves in. Consider what result an action or decision has upon the middle. 3. Push through. As frustrating as it might be, the most important tip is to keep going. If you can, LISTEN to your characters...they will guide you with their dialogue if you're "in the zone" and really listening to what they want (their objectives) and what they're willing to do to win their objective. 4. Skip to the end. Yep. You do NOT have to write a story or play in order. If you know how you want your play to end, go there and write that. If you have your beginning, consider how a beginning will connect to the ending you have in mind. Also remember tip #3...let your character's motivations guide you. Listen to them. They know what they want, you need to let them express that on stage. 5. Relax. It's only a play. Remember that plays are meant to be FUN. Yep. FUN. Get into the minds and shoes of your characters and again, follow tip #3. Your characters should talk about stuff that is interesting to THEM. If your characters are willing to talk, let them. Write down what they say. Above all else, remember that you're not done until your characters get what they want (or don't). Play scripts are not done until they've been workshopped by actors and directed by directors. What you're working on is a pretty-involved and cool blueprint. No sweat. If your blueprint has some holes, we'll fill them later--that includes the murky or mushy middle. Extra advice: use the terms This happens...therefore....or This happens...but... [See Matt Stone & Trey Parker's advice about plotting...] See the resources below for more help...
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The Murky Middle (Even More Advice)

Aristotle wrote that stories should have a beginning, middle, and end. Middles can be difficult. You might have a smashing opening to a stor...