Writing Dramatic Plots 101: Dramatic Tension and Grand Structure | Barbara Vance | Skillshare

Writing Dramatic Plots 101: Dramatic Tension and Grand Structure

Barbara Vance, Author, Illustrator

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20 Lessons (1h 57m) View My Notes
    • 1. About the Course

    • 2. Foundations of Plot Building

    • 3. Types of Plots

    • 4. Plot vs Story The Essential Difference

    • 5. Avoiding Useless Action: Keeping Your Story Focused

    • 6. Plot Structure Basics

    • 7. Building Suspense with Tension & Release

    • 8. Crisis and Climax

    • 9. Deviating from Plot Building “Rules”

    • 10. Ensuring Satisfying Endings

    • 11. Meaningful Change in Characters & Situations

    • 12. Smaller Plot Components

    • 13. Acts, Sequences, Scenes, Events, Beats

    • 14. Literary Example Part 1

    • 15. Literary Example, Part 2

    • 16. Strong Beginnings

    • 17. What to Include in Your Story

    • 18. Chapters and How to Use Them

    • 19. Best Practices & Practical Application

    • 20. Final Thoughts and Class Project

16 students are watching this class

About This Class

This is a foundations course that is a broad overview of the many and nuanced ways writers develop plots. It is two hours long, and it really sets the groundwork for how to plot out a dramatic narrative. Topics include (but not limited to):

  1. Understanding the main tenets of plot development
  2. How to deviate from these main tenets
  3. How to craft strong moments of tension and release for suspense
  4. The difference between plot and story
  5. Crafting a great climax
  6. Defining Acts, Sequences, Scenes, Events, and Beats
  7. How to start your plot
  8. How to avoid meaningless events and scenes
  9. The difference between scenes and chapters
  10. How to make your characters go through meaningful change

 We will look at literary case studies, define terms, and get our heads around so many of the storytelling “guidelines” you hear about.

The goal of the class is not to teach you rules!

It is specifically designed to help you assess plots for yourself, seeing how they adhere to guidelines and how they deviate from them. The better you are able to do this, the stronger your own plots will be. I want you to be self-sufficient writers who do not feel chained to guidelines that they do not feel suit the goals of their stories. 

This is a foundations course. I will be making subsequent plot courses that go into further detail; but this is designed specifically to prep you for what is to come!

Recommended Reading/Viewing

  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (novel, 1847)
  • A Little Princess, Francis Hodgson Burnett (novel, 19
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (novel, 19
  • Dial M for Murder (film, 19
  • Hamlet, Shakespeare (play)

Optional Prep Work or Concurrent Classes:

If you have not watched the following two courses; I recommend doing so—you will get even more out of this one:


1. About the Course: Hi everybody, and welcome to this course on developing dramatic plots. This class is all about how to structure your stories. Most of us are already familiar with the idea of an introduction that builds to a climax and then has a quick resolution. That's what we think of when we think of telling a story. That dynamic that we're talking about, that structure is based on literary theory that's been around a very long time. It has its roots back in Aristotle, and it's absolutely worth looking at and examining. But within that, within this idea of this rising action to a climax that comes down to a date and war, that is a large map of a story that actually has all kinds of little pieces in it because there's a very intimidating place between the start of your narrative and the end of your narrative to say, "Well, I know when I want to have happen, but how do I actually make it happen in a compelling way that gets a reader to stick around?" This class is all about examining, yes, the large action of an intro climax date and war and understanding that, but it's also we want to drill down and see all of the small components that are going on when you create a narrative. Every art form has its building blocks and story is no different. So we want to take time to really understand what are the structural elements that you can utilize to great effect when you are crafting your narratives. This course is all about understanding the underlying architecture of a story. Now, I will say, when we look at this, the stories that I would be referencing, and indeed the theory that we will be discussing comes out of a Western literary tradition. Different stories in different places may have different structures. But we're going to look at this foundation. In this course, there's a foundation that is literary theory, but my aim for the course is not to teach you rules that you can then go and use on your own stories. That's a very weak way to become a storyteller. What I want for you, is to come out of this class with a strong understanding about, how do I analyze a story? How do I look at a narrative and assess what's going on in it and determine structurally what's happening? Why is that story is successful? Because the reality is that, all of us have different authors, different narratives that are inspiring to us, writers whose style or structure or plots we love and inspiration for us, for the writing that we're doing. That doesn't mean that we don't want our own style, but it certainly does mean that we are learning from the masters or people we think are masters and we are regrowing out of that tradition that's gone on forever, the 20th century writers grew out of 19th century tradition grew out, on and on, we go back. So you're always growing out of that. But what we don't want is for you to feel married to rules because the problem is there are lot of books, and websites, and writing about the rules for writing. The truth is that the theory is great, it's helpful, it's important to know it, because it is helpful, and it does have tradition and you will probably want to exercise it. But you want to know how to break away from it because so many novels and so many stories do. What I want you to learn is, yes, these are the tenets of storytelling. Now, we'll be able to go and take that, and examine the stories I love, examine the novels I love, the films, the plays, and be able to break this down and see what's going on and assess that for yourself so that you can determine why it's working and why it isn't. This is a very empowering way to become an author, because you are no longer a subject or feeling enclosed in by guidelines and rules. Furthermore, you understand why the theory works, why are people doing this. That's the aim of this class. Within this course, we are going to address many things. This is a huge topic. I am not going to drill down into specific detail on everything because I want this to be a nice overview for you. With those goals in mind, some of the things we will be looking at are the basic theoretical, literary guidelines that really have a root in Aristotle. But we're going to look at what those guidelines are because it is important for you to know them. You can't break with tradition if you don't know what the tradition is. So as writers, we should know that literary tradition, so we will look at that. We will also talk about the different kinds of stories that there are stories that don't necessarily keep with that tradition, stories that might be more forward moving or less forward moving. We want not just look at the hallmark models, we want to look at the deviations as well. We're then going to examine what is story and what is plot because those two things are different. Those terms are often used interchangeably, but we want to examine the differences between story and plot. We're then going to start to drill down into that structure. We will look at the broad structure that I was discussing with this beginning rising action, falling action. But then we're also going to drill down further into that structure. So within that, what is a sequence? What is a scene? Where does it act? What is it beat? What's the relevance of a chapter? How is a chapter different than a scene? What is the role that character plays in developing a plot? Because if you've watched my other videos, you know that I believe character and plot are inextricably linked, so how do we handle that in our stories? We're going to talk about ways that you can ensure that the resolution that you're working toward at the end of your narrative feels satisfying for the reader because you want to make sure you're building a story so that by the time we get to the climax, the reader really cares. How do you do that? We're going to talk about it. We will touch briefly on beginnings, inciting incidences that are going to get your narrative moving. This is not a course that's going to focus on novel and narrative beginnings because that's a course all of its own. But we will address it and talk about how you start to get that propulsion going for your narratives. We will also look at, how do you determine the actual events to include in your story? Because as you well know, and I well know, there might be this many things happening in the story, but for the plotting purposes, you have to pick just the elect events. So, how do you choose the events that are best for your narrative, that are going to make it the most powerful and the most impactful, and how do you avoid putting events and sequences and scenes into your narratives that are actually going to pull energy away from your story and weigh it down? We will talk about chapters and how chapters affect pacing, and then we will also have a section on practical application. This includes ways that you might organize your story, and a lot of little tidbits here and there about how you actually then go take all this plot, and story structure that we're looking at and then boots on the ground, use it. This class also offers several resources to you. This includes, a class outline to follow along and keep all of this in your head because its a lot, I highly recommend that you go ahead and you download that class outline before you start watching this because you will very likely want to make notes on it and it will help you keep everything in your head because there are a lot of terms that we're going to be tossing about today. There's also a class project for you that we will get into as well. I'm excited. I have to say this is a big, big topic, but it's such an important one. I hope this sounds interesting to you. If it does, stick around and let's start talking about how we actually plot out a really great dramatic story. 2. Foundations of Plot Building: We're going to be referencing numerous narratives as we go through this. I have chosen some novels, I've chosen films, I have chosen plays. This course is applicable whether you want to write a novel, a play, a screenplay, a short story. This course will absolutely be beneficial for you. Having said that, I am going to be addressing certain things that are more novel focused, and if you're writing screenplay or you're writing for the stage. Those two art forms are special, they are unique. They are temporarily based in a way that a novel isn't. By that what I mean is, you've got a limited amount of time. I am expecting to sit in my seat and watch through. Though, they have their own unique rules. I'm not getting into those rules here. That being said, all that we're talking about with plot and story structure still really does apply. This course is helpful for you in that way, but we will not be getting into specifics of screenplay in this class. It's very important when you're writing to consider your medium. That's just something to keep in mind. I have a list on the class notes of the recommended readings and viewings. They are things that we're talking about here. They're very strategically selected. I really do recommend taking time to look at them. They are all very strong examples of storytelling in their respective mediums. I highly recommend you looking at them, but you don't have to have watched them or read them to benefit from what we're talking about today. Let's start with theory. Because every time you pick up a book on how to structure your story, that actually has a root in theory. But it's helpful for us to understand what exactly is theory in general and why should we apply it? Because otherwise, it just ends up being these rules that are more or less floating around and we're grabbing it, saying, "I guess that. I guess that. I guess that". I guess this is the way it's done because it's the way that people do it, rather than understanding the history of our medium, and when we understand the history of our medium, we are educated craftsmen and crafts women. Because of that, we are then able to say, "Yes, I understand the general theory. I'm choosing to do this instead." If you don't know theory, you don't know, you're breaking from it. Just as Picasso chose to delve into cubism and chose to be abstract with his art, he very much knew how to draw classically. He knew the classic forms and he deviated from them purposefully. I want to teach you a purposeful deviation. The Western literary tradition that we think about has its roots in Aristotle. Now, I'm not going to get into Aristotle's poetics here. But he is the one who really put down to paper based on Greek tragedy. This idea of an inciting incident that moves to a climax and then as a quick denomour and it's over. That's Aristotle. That's been going on a very long time. But this idea of this theory, the reason that it came about, it wasn't that Aristotle sat down one day and said, "I know how to make a story will have an inciting incident, a climax, and a denomour ". No, people were creating stories. Stories were happening and being made. What Aristotle did was examine these things and observe, that this is what was successful with a story. Theory was discovered through people making narratives. This is exactly the same with music. Music theory that we think of, if you play an instrument and your music teacher says, "Okay, sit down this as a measure, and these are beads, and this is this phrase" and all of that theory wasn't dreamt up. It was developed through Mozart and an artists like him who through their compositions, discovered these things. That's so important to know that these were never random rules. These were things that were developed and were just successful and people recognized what emotion it engendered in its readers, in its listeners. There's very much reason to take it quite seriously. Having said that, the problem with theory can often be that as writers, we read those rules and we say, "But my narrative doesn't quite fit into that". That's not exactly what I visioned. Then we feel like we have to force our character to be a certain way and we have to force our events to be a certain way, and you don't, because most great literature has some theoretical roots. But then it totally deviates from it, maybe here, maybe here, maybe here, you don't know all kinds of different ways. Just keep that in your head and when you're reading and watching stories that you love. What you want to do is learn to read them like a writer or watch them like a writer, which means giving a little bit meta on yourself, and rather than just reading a book and just going, "We are so having a really great time reading this." Do that the first time through, but read it through again and say, "I'm feeling a lot of tension right now. Why am I feeling tension right now?" or "That scene was so emotional for me, it made me cry. Why did that scene make me cry? Why am I so emotional about this?" That's how you learn theory. That's how you learn what works because you observe and you observe what's happening. That's how you will learn the unique things that you love about other people's artistry that you want to appropriate and then develop your own style out of. You've got to observe what you love, rather than just sit there and say, "Rule number 1, rule number 2, number 3." Always keep in mind that everything we're going to be talking about today that's based in theory, these are guidelines, these are not rules, and we all know that you will use some and you'll break some, and that's what makes great literature. In the next video, I want to touch briefly on some of the different kinds of stories that exist just so that we can get a handle on what we're exactly talking about. 3. Types of Plots: There are a lot of different kinds of stories out there most of the time, the writing advice you will read, you will hear is geared to a very Western literary tradition, action-oriented, goal-oriented narrative. That's certainly true for much of what we will be looking at today, but it doesn't mean that all that there is. When we think about that action oriented narrative, we think of something like Lord of the Rings, where we have Frodo who is set on a mission in the beginning to get rid of this ring and then the climax is he is getting rid of the ring and then we have a date and walk or Harry Potter who very early on we know it's a battle against Voldemort and all through those books, all the Harry Potter books were built into the great Voldemort battle, the battle, [inaudible] that's that traditional story but it's by no means every story, some stories are more action-oriented like that, some are more psychological, like a Jane Eyre, which certainly has action elements in it but it's very much less about what's Jane going to do, what's Jane going to do next? It's much more about how does Jane feel, how does Jane feel about that. That a novel, you spend a lot more time up in a character's head, it's really worth thinking about whether your story is going to actually be something more cerebral like a Jane Eyre, as opposed to something more action-oriented like a Harry Potter. When we say something is cerebral or action oriented, that doesn't mean that when we watch a more cerebral story that we're not wondering what the heroine is going to do next, we are, we're wondering what, what's Jane Eyre going to do now? It's just that we're thinking more in terms of her emotions and how she's feeling about things just as with Harry Potter, we absolutely know how he feels about things but the beats and the story and the events are far more action oriented. It's important for you to think about what kind of novel you want to have upfront because that decision is going to affect what actions, what scenes you choose to have, as well as the structure of your story. Are you going to spend more time on exposition? Are you going to spend more time on action? Are you going to have more flashbacks, which would be more likely with something where you're spending more time up in the character's head. These are all of those kinds of structural decisions that you want to think about, so often times people want to just say, well, what's my point of view? It's more than that, you actually want to think about the narrative that you want to have. There are also different kinds of stories in terms of structure. Linear Stories, which is what we'll be focusing on today, are one in which there is an inciting event which insights the next event and the next event and every event, your narrative is totally connected to the one before it and the one after it. It's quite linear in its structure, but this is also not true of all successful stories. There are also meandering, wandering stories that are more episodic in nature, in which you could take event B and switch it with the event F and it's not necessarily going to matter all that much, you might have to tweak a thing here or there, otherwise, it's not going to be a big deal that's not so with linear. With linear, if you change something in event F, guess what? Everything after F has to change and probably things before F have to change. You're going to change everything because it's all connected but the meandering parts, which would be something like [inaudible] the Odyssey or even Alice in Wonderland, great stories so successful episodic don't follow this, totally, don't follow a lot of these rules are different. They follow lots of them, but not all of them. They don't build in the same way. There is no massive climax in the Odyssey and while Alice in Wonderland, there is connectivity there, it's still quite meandering. One way to also tell is my plot, not necessarily episodic, but is my plot or what I'm thinking about trying to write one in which we have this traditional rising action, falling action is how much does my character change? Because Alice doesn't change very much in her story, Odysseus doesn't change very much in his story he's basically the same at the beginning and the end as is Alice. Alice just comes out the other end having had an experience. I love both of those stories so much, and so what you often hear is well, the character has to change, the character doesn't have to change. Most of the time that character will, especially in that traditional linear Western tradition, but he or she doesn't have to. It just means that the focus in the goal of your story is different. I'm not going to get into detail on how to construct all of these deviations but I want you to be aware of them because you need to know how you feel about that and what the general structure and goal of your story is before you start writing maybe you don't want a linear. It's important for you to understand variations and have a sense of what your goals are for the story that you are writing. In the next video, I want to share the story and plot and consider how these two things are actually different. Why it's important for us to understand what those differences are and how we can avoid excessive, useless action in our narratives and keep our focus on solid, strong events throughout her stories. 4. Plot vs Story The Essential Difference: Before we can talk about story and plot, we need to actually define what plot is. Now, I will say, everybody has their own definitions for this. One book will say plot is this and another book might say plot is that. What's important is that you don't get bogged down with the semantics. People are going to have different terminologies for a lot of things we're talking about. It is very likely and possible that if you read a lot, or listened to a lot of people talk about a story, you might very well say to yourself, well, that's not what Barbara said in her class on plotting. Yes, that might very well be true. We all have some different terminologies, but I can tell you that the terms that we'll talk about here are pretty traditional. Just be aware that some people might talk about them differently. But what I want us to discuss, is the difference between plot and the story itself. Plot is the sequence of events as you have designed them for the reader. Plot is going to say, I'm putting these events in a certain order for a purpose. I want an emotional reaction from my reader. I'm designing, I'm structuring this in a certain way. Plot is manipulative. When you're a writer, it sounds terrible, but you're there to manipulate the reader. You want the reader to feel certain things. You are tweaking the story. You're not telling the reader some things that they really want to know, or you're making something in a flashback, or you're revealing something and the reader had no idea because you want those emotions in your reader. You're manipulating the events, that's plot. Story is just the linear events as they happened, with none of the suspenseful moments, or the flashbacks, or all the sorts of narrative tweaks we make to get people to feel certain things. If I just sit there and I say to you, let me tell you about my day. I got up, I got dressed, I brushed my teeth, I went to my car, I drove to work, I got in a fender bender, so then I had to get the information from the individual, and then I got to work and my boss told me that I got a raise, which made my day better. Then I came home, and had some supper, and went to bed. That's a story, but it's not a plot because I didn't build your anticipation. I didn't withhold something back. I just told you a linear thing. I told you a story, but I didn't develop a plot. The reason that this is so important is just that you recognize that as a writer, you are there to manipulate. You want to think about, what's my whole story? What are all the things that happened? But I might not necessarily include all those things. How do I take the story that I have in my head and turn it into a plot? How do I take the sequence of events that I have in my head and make it as suspenseful, as engaging, as emotionally, just gravitational as possible? That's what it means to plot. Keep in mind that what you have in your head might very well be a story, but it's your job to then work it into a plot. 5. Avoiding Useless Action: Keeping Your Story Focused: One important note, because we are going to be talking a lot about events and actions. When it comes to developing that plot, we have to remember that actions are not the same thing as activities. You can word this loads of different ways. We're wording in this way. Actions are not the same thing as activities. An action has a purpose and it has a result. They are dramatic. They cause a reaction. An activity is the equivalent of narrative busy work. It didn't have an impact. It didn't really matter. I don't care if you have a big fight scene and it you think it's filled with action and two people are just duking it out. If that fight scene doesn't have a reaction that's necessary to the story, then it's an activity fight scene, but it's not a dramatic action fight scene, and you want to sponge away all the activity from your narrative and just keep action. As you're going through this and as you learn all of the structural components of your story, and you start to plot your own narrative out or even as you assess other narratives, look to identify, is this a dramatic action or is this just busy work activity? You will find that even successful, very successful narratives, stories you love, they might very well have some activity in them that's not necessarily totally germane to the story. One way that's can be interesting to see what events and actions are the most germane, and this is not totally true across the board by any stretch of the imagination, but it's one way to get a sense of it, is to read a novel and then watch the film. Because most of the time that cannot include everything in the novel in the film, and you will see that where the filmmakers decided to cut. Where they said, that's interesting, but it's really not germane to this focus of the story. That can be an interesting way to sort of learn what is activity? What is action? Having laid all this groundwork, let's in the next video start to actually talk about the structure and the components that make up a great plot. 6. Plot Structure Basics: Structure is all about the ways in which writers arrange their materials. So just like a builder constructs a building that's made of several solid beams and central things, things you don't necessarily even see because they put brick and stone around it. So too a writer has a structure in place around which he built everything. This is true of every art form and you can structure things in numerous ways. A painter might structure is painting based on physical composition, based on color. A sculptor might be looking at some more three-dimensional depth. Musicians certainly are dealing with beats and measures, and phrases, and themes and melodies. So there are a lot of different ways you can think about structuring your stories. Structure is going to include things like placement of events, bands of events, and how much we have from one character or another where we play certain characters, it's going to include themes and motifs, and now you weave those into your story. It will include suspense and how you make that suspense. As likewise, it will include things like you're trying to model your writing off of certain forms like a letter or a memoir or something like that. All of those elements are part of the structure of your story. So when we think about a story structure, we think about what are the changes that are going to be happening in my narrative? Because one of the tenets of storytelling for us is that is all about change. Change is happening all of the time. So when you're thinking about your story, say you have sort of a framework in your head and just say, what's my blueprint? What's my framework for this overarching story, right? Okay, so right now we're talking about really big beginning, climax and not smaller pieces, not scenes. So you're saying to yourself, there are all kinds of ways I can structure this. I might structure it in my head. It's sort of a geographic thing and it's going to store it in a small hamlet, but it's going to end up in a big city. That's part of this structure. It certainly won't be all of it, but it's part of it. Again, as we look at structural, we are examining why an author arranges things in a certain way. Why is he doing that? To what effect? When it comes to looking at structure, we have two options for ourselves and we've sort of touched on them already. We have formal structure, which is going to be based on your literary theory. Then we have the actual structure, which is what we all actually do. So let's look at these. 7. Building Suspense with Tension & Release: Okay, here we go. Formal structure. Let's get into some Aristotle, among other people. What I'm about to say absolutely depends on the narrative itself, but in its broadest sense. A narrative is going to contain exposition, a complication, a crisis, a climax and a resolution. All of these things from the exposition upward or part of one grand ark. That's all about building to attention and then releasing it. Within that, we're going to have lots of little attention and releases. Rather than thinking of stories having one nice little smooth arc line like you often see in storytelling. It's more like just doing this constantly up and down and up and down till you get to a conclusion. You want to always keep in mind when you're writing and you're creating your scenes and your events and your plot. That it's not just a matter of saying then this and this. You are here to manipulate emotion. You do that by thinking in terms of tension and release. By thinking in terms of the emotions you want built, you're not going to have a happy narrative and you just keep ratcheting up the tension for your reader and you don't give them a cookie every now and then and they keep, give me some release, give me some relief from this. You want to think about, okay, my story is and this, and this, and this. But well, how I'm going to do this? How I'm going to create these tension and releases? I have to do that by telling some information but then giving some resolution to that issue, moving onto the bigger issue. This is so important. You've got one big issue. That's the big issue. Frodo's got to get the ring to Mordor, throw it in. That's the big one but there are so many little ones in that, right? Because they have an incident with the night riders and then they have to face the troll, they have to face the ogres. Frodo's dealing with the rings taking over his soul. There are all these tension, release. You're dealing with this author, your story. Don't just think about the events. Think about, well, this is going to happen. What are the changes I'm going to have take place? Then it's so important that you're not just saying to yourself, "What do I want to have happen?" You're asking yourself, "What do I want the reader to feel now about this and what are the changes that are happening every step of the way?" You will go from moments. For example, in "Lord of the Rings" where Frodo is safe to where Frodo's in danger. Where Frodo he feels comforted and happy with his friends, to a Frodo who doesn't want to talk with his friends. To a Frodo who thinks he knows who he is, to a Frodo who is very conflicted about who he is because of the ring and he knows eels will have to sniggle. All tensions out there. It's not a matter of safe versus not safe. Think binary about it, okay? Love, hate, happy, sad and in life is not that simple. But you want to be thinking of all of the veritable horde of emotions that are going through as at any one given time. Your job is to select the most important emotions, the most important events and changes for every action that you want to have happen in your story. That's all part of that grand arc. Now the exposition, the beginning. Let's just pull back here on exposition because people talk about it in two different ways. Often people will say, "Well, anything that's not dialogue is exposition." It's perfectly legitimate, definition of it. Exposition is filling us in. It sets up the story, it lays out the characters. It gives us a backstory. It tells us things that are not going to happen through the action itself. Very often it occurs at the beginning of a story because it sets things up. It sets up this setting, it sets up the characters. It's just giving us the lay of the land before we get into the action. That's more traditional than I would say modern stories that are often just jump in in the middle of the action but traditionally. That's why sometimes in writing books you will see the start of a narrative called exposition. Because this idea of exposition being filling people in often is at the beginning. In truth, exposition can and will occur probably throughout your narrative as you're filling us in on certain things. That's all exposition. But exposition in the sense of this Aristotelian-look at things, is that beginning laying the groundwork for your narrative before the conflicts release, before we show the conflict to people. That's what that is. When the complication comes. That's when your plot really kicks in. Because complication is, that's when you're have your inciting incident that kicks into gear, everything that follows it. You set up your story. You have your lay of the land, but then you have the complication. Once the complication happens, everything that happens after it is because of it. You'll have a series of complications build, build all the way up to a crisis. 8. Crisis and Climax: Then you have your crisis, which is the Greek word to the turning point. The crisis is going to build a crisis now is the moment of greatest attention. It's not the climax. Although people tend to use them interchangeably. The crisis is as moment of intense tension. It's what we've been building toward this whole time. During the crisis, a character will make a decision or take an action that is done to resolve all the conflict we've been building towards. It's therefore the moment of greatest tension and uncertainty for the leader. Because it's the moment, what's he going to do? He's going to take an action. The climax resolves the conflict. It's where the central dramatic question of the story is answered. Will Frodo throw the ring in? Will Jane Eyre marry Mr. Rochester. We answer the dramatic question at the climax. It's the solution to the crisis that just preceded it. One way to recognize where the crisis falls in a narrative is that all of the actions after the crisis are more or less an acceptance of what happened at the point of crisis. For example, the crisis in Shakespeare's Hamlet. It's going to be Hamlet killing Claudius, all the play. He's been trying to figure out how to kill Claudius. At the climax, he does so and it's a quick end after that. Dial M for Murder wishes a fun carbon block filled with so good. It's also a play, but the climax, in that, is when the husband who's been plotting to kill his wife is found out. After that, police come and pick them up and we're done. If you've never seen it, I just ruined the plot for you. But watch it anyway, it's so good. It's not always so obvious. It's more obvious and something like Lord of the Rings, it's more obvious and something like Dial M for Murder. But in the psychological novel, like a Jane Eyre, It can be less obvious because Jane Eyre isn't necessarily, doesn't have that feeling of Jane taking taking action building. The climax in a Jane Eyre is where she's having her second marriage proposal. She's debating whether she's going to accept it. But then she is supernaturally, here's Rochester calling for her and she ends up going to him. That's actually the climax. It's not a moment of high action. But as we talked about, some narratives aren't, some narratives like Jane Eyre are more up in her head. And so don't necessarily think the climax has to be a moment of intense action. It doesn't, it's the moment where all the major thing we've been building toward his met and throughout Jane Eyre. That's about Jane's relationship with Mr. Rochester. That big question of, will these two people actually end up together, or not? When she makes that final decision to go back to him, that's her climax. Everything after that is just her seeing him again, seeing the state that he's in, and then them deciding to be together. One other option is that sometimes you might have a two pronged climax to your narrative. This takes place in To Kill a Mockingbird and you can watch the film or read the book. I recommend both. Both are absolutely beautiful. I recommend both. But throughout that story you have Scout and she's been wondering, who is Boo Radley. That's been a big question throughout the entire story. Is seeing Boo and they've never seen him. But you also have the conflict of Bob Ewell, who has been very antagonistic to Scouts father Atticus because Atticus is defending John Robinson who Bob's daughter accused John Robinson have raping her. Bob has been very antagonistic to Atticus and therefore to Atticus children's Scout and Chen. When you get to the end of a story like To Kill a Mockingbird, the first piece of the climax is going to be where Bob Ewell attacks the kids and Boo Radley kills him. Because we've been building this tension all this time with Bob Ewell. We know he's dangerous. We know he's after them. We know he's threatened those children. We know that Bob Ewell is a bad force in the narrative and we feel very unsettled about him. We can't end that story without knowing what's going to happen with Bob Ewell, we wouldn't feel safe. If we just got to the end and didn't know that. When Boo Radley kills Bob Ewell, we have a peace we know what's happened because of that. But the second part of that climax, we have to resolve the children's narrative of wanting to see Boo Radley. You have that bit later on where Scout sees Boo hiding in the corner of the room and she's finally seen Boo Radley and she finally realized as who Boo is, and It's so different than this harsh character that she'd had imagined all throughout the story. Your narrative actually can have a two pronged climax, depending on the plots and subplots that are going on in your story. It's also important to think about this idea that you can have more than one climax a scene. Again, Storytelling is not so hard wired that you have to have one thing that's called a climax. These terms we use to identify certain moments in a story, in a plot, but that doesn't mean that it has to be the only moment. It's just a way we identify a certain moment. For example, to go back to Jane Eyre and I know if you haven't read it, some of this is lost on you. But the primary climax is toward the end where we hear Rochester just calling her out in the ether as it were. Because most of the narrative, most of the plot through that middle portion has been all about this romance between the two of them. That is the primary climax. But you also have this mini climax when Jane Eyre goes to visit her aunt and her aunt is dying. Because from the very beginning of the story, I mean, the very beginning, Jane has been unforgiving. She has said I will never return to his home. I hate these people. We've seen her throughout the novel be just proud and angry, quite frankly, and unforgiving. In that climactic moment, it has her aunt who refuses to forgive her, even though questionably she doesn't necessarily need forgiving. Jane is the one to ask for forgiveness if she has done offense, as well as to forgive her aunt regardless. That such a tremendous character change that while it's not the climax of the story, it's a climactic moment because so much hinges on it. Then after that moment, you have this what begins to feel like a denim wall, although not quite. But it begins to feel that way because suddenly she has the money in the independence and the forgiving spirit, all of these things that she didn't have at the beginning. We see her have in that moment. In some ways, Jane Eyre even has two climaxes. Might takeaway for you from this, if you've not watched Harry Potter, if you've not read Jane Eyre is, well, read Jane Eyre because it's great. But it's this idea, this don't feel so married to the climax. You can have more than one scene that really starts to bring about your resolutions. After that, you have your resolution, your [inaudible] , that comes very quickly. It's what you type your loose ends. It isn't very long because predominantly in a narrative, once you've had your climax, it's a quick ending. Again, this is not always true. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, in fact has a fairly long demon war because there are a lot of things that happen after Frodo gets rid of that ring, compare it to the rest of the book. It's short, but it is actually lengthier in that story that works for some people. It doesn't work for others. But again, there's no one size fits all. These are all things that you can do with your narratives. Now that we've talked about the general, very broad termed structure story, let's talk briefly about the actual structures your story might have. 9. Deviating from Plot Building “Rules”: As we've mentioned, while these formal structures are time-tested and very sound, in reality, you will deviate from them frequently. That is why it is so important not to just memorize tenants storytelling, but to examine stories. I cannot say that enough if my one goal for you with this class, it is not that you go and plot your own narrative yet, although obviously I want you to do that, it's that you learn to be able to look at a narrative, read a story, watch a film, break it into its component and see how it works. You want to be that person, that thinker who can look at a watch, take it apart, see how it works and put it back together. I want that for you with your stories. That's my aim of this course. To that end, I highly recommend that you go and you look at your plots and you see how they differ. I tried to give you a few examples of that with Jane Eyre and with To Kill a Mockingbird. But you will find in many cases where things just don't happen exactly this way. It doesn't necessarily just build up to an action-oriented climax at all. You might have sections that meander. You might have novels that really have these episodic bits to them that you can pull out and that aren't necessarily there and ask yourself when that happens, what's the effect on the story? Because you might say, that actually is a weak piece of that narrative, that actually slowed that bit down because it was different here, or that felt like it sped things up because it was this way, or that's interesting. The inciting incident happened right away in that book and it had this effect on me and in this book, the inciting incident was six chapters in and it had this effect on me. Just understand that this is the broad framework. Look for these things in the stories that you watch and read, but don't force the stories that you watch and read into this show because they might not fit in. Likewise, with your own stories, understand, this is the grand arc, don't force yourself into it. I say this carefully because I also don't want you to just think, well, I'll just break with all the rules and that doesn't have to be that way. You really want to know why you're breaking with it, because these are time tested. So it's okay to break with it, but just know why. If you've watched my other courses, you know that I absolutely believe that every event, every character trait, every single decision you make about your story, you have to know why you made that decision. So keep that in mind. Keep that at heart. Watch some narratives, read some books. Keeping the structure in your head and then see where they break from it and see where they adhered to it and ask yourself, what is the emotional response engendered in the reader, from structuring a story like this? What you want is a story that has a cohesive, feels amazing, resolved to the reader ending. I caveat even that. Because a lot of stories, especially when you get into modern fiction are very open-ended and they can be magnificent. If you want an open-ended story again, that's fine, but know why you're doing it. Faulkner, great at this, Virginia Woolf also. But most of the time, if you want your readers to feel resolution and peace, you want to come to something that just feels solid and satisfying and makes you feel like you read this great book and wasn't so good. Does nothing more unfortunate for a reader than to put in a bunch of time on a story and get to the end and just feel like, well that's not resolved or that's lame. Really? There are stories like that. One in particular that comes to mind for me, not to be critical or anything like that, but Stephen King's it. I've never read the book because I tried to read the book when I was younger and I got a few pages in and I was terrified. But I did see the film, not the new film, but the film that was done, I think in the '70s. It was frightening and intense and intense, and intense and then you got to the end and the climax and I'm not going to ruin it. I'm just going to say, I got to the climax and I was totally disappointed. You want something satisfying, I'm sorry to be critical of that. If you love that film, great, because everybody likes different things. But we want you to have a good solid ending. So before I get into breaking down this grand arc into even smaller pieces, I want us to take a moment to think about how do we make a satisfying ending? How do we utilize components so that it's satisfying and rewarding to the reader in the end? It is important for us to know this as we look at these building blocks because it totally influences the decisions we make about them. So let's look at that in the next video. 10. Ensuring Satisfying Endings: Two important things to note about creating a plot with great structure to it. You have to know where you're going and character is key. Let's look at both of these. You have to know where you're going. You are going to send yourself down a lot of rabbit holes and set yourself up to have a very meandering plot in an unintentional way, not in the episodic way we were talking about with Alice in Wonderland or The Odyssey, but in a meandering way in which it's a narrative that's trying to be linear, but ends up just doing this, and having a lack of purpose. Because you didn't know where you're going. You want to sit down and think to yourself before you start plotting everything out, what's my point A? What's my point B? How am I going to get there? But you have to at least know where you're going if you have any hope at all of getting there. If you want to go to the store, you have to know the store you're going to. Then you can say, well, I can take this route, I can take that route, I can go that way, I can go that way. But you've got to know where you want to go before you can do that. This doesn't mean that you will make changes. That you won't have a change of heart, but you really do want to know where is your story ending up? I will be addressing this more a little later in this course on practically speaking, how you can go about discovering these things. Suffice to say it is important that you have a sense of where your story is going. Second thing, character. It's essential. I have already said it, character and plot totally inextricably linked. All of the actions that take place in your narrative should be character-driven. Save the exception stories. By enlarge, if you've got a traditional character-based narrative, all of the actions in your story need to be character driven. This is so important, but what this means is that you have got to know who your character is. Because the actions your character takes will come out of who he or she is. You need to know who they are? What they think? Why they would do the things that they would do? You've got to know all of that, because that's what's going to determine your action. If you just say, well, my character is just going to steal from this pizza shop. Well, who is your character? Why is he going to do that? What incited that? What is his background that would make him do it? In what way is he going to do that? That's in keeping with who he is. You have to know who your character is. I have a whole course on this about writing a good character profile. That course is all about designing a character that pushes the narrative plot for it. I'm not going to get into it here, but I highly recommend watching that because it entirely addresses what I'm talking about here. When it comes to character, more often than not, you want a character with agency. You want a character who is making decisions, who is impacting the plot, as opposed to a more passive character in which the plot is just happening to her. Absolutely, if you have hopes of getting published, editors and agents are looking for this. If you want to do something different, that's totally fine. There are great literal examples of it to go back to Alice in Wonderland. Alice doesn't have a tremendous amount of agency. She has some, she does things, but it's more that things are happening to her. I adore Alice in Wonderland, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but she's less active and you feel that in the story. Reading that story is a different experience. Certainly, in the publishing world, it's harder to get something like that published. Most of the time, the characters we're invested in because they're going to take action. We go, what's she going to do? We're wondering that. You want a character that's pushing the narrative forward. You want a character that's making decisions. To that end, I also have another course that's all about conflicting values and emotions. That course is all about character decisions that drive the plot forward. I'd recommend watching that one as well. The character profile course will help you build a character with plot driving characteristics. The course on conflicting emotions and values will help you take that character and then write decisions and actions for them that are plot driving. I recommend both of those. Lastly, story events have meaning because of character. You don't just want a story event, you want an event with meaning. What matters and mean something to me is going to be different than what matters and mean something to you. When you're thinking about your events and the changes that happen, there would be a change. I go from happy to sad, it goes from dark to light. Changes happen, story is about change. Change is movement. When you have these events and these changes in your narrative, you have got to connect them to your character and say what matters to them. The reader has to know why those events are meaningful. For example, it might go from sunny to cloudy outside and I might not care because I'm working in my office building all day. But, that same sunny to cloudy afternoon matters tremendously to the child who was hoping to go outside and play and now that it's getting cloudy outside, it's looking like that event to the park that was going to be the highlight of the day is not going to happen. The first sunny to cloudy didn't matter much, but the second sunny to cloudy had meaning. You want to make sure that the events that you're picking and choosing have meaning for your character. That's what's going to make the reader connect with it. The readers aren't going to connect with the sunny to cloudy day, the reader is not going to connect with missing the bus unless your character cares about missing the bus, unless your character cares about that sunny or cloudy day, so you know your character, know who he or she is, know their traits, how they would react to things, know the tensions and the things that matter to them, and make sure that the events in your story are connected to that. Now that we understand the grand structure of a story on its most simple terms of intro, conflict, climax, and any more. Now that we understand that the actions and the decisions that we make should be character-centric, let's go ahead and drill down to even the smaller components of the stories that we will build. 11. Meaningful Change in Characters & Situations: So one of the big things to keep in your head is this idea of plots and plots are made up of events and events mean meaningful change and change is not meaningful unless it is attached to a character who is invested in those events and whom we are invested in. But I'll say it again, plots are about events and events are meaningful change and change is not meaningful unless it is attached to a character who is invested in those events and whom we are invested in. This is what story and plot is all about. So at this point, what we've done is we've looked at this grand overarching idea of a rising action to a climax to denouement and it's this concept of tension and release. But as we've said, this tension and release is actually comprised of a lot of smaller moments of tension and release and they get smaller and smaller and it's truly quite helpful when you're trying to write your narrative to think of it in these terms. I think it helps break down something that is otherwise can seem so unwieldy, to actually think about taking your chunks and breaking them down into smaller pieces. So that's what we're about to look at, is how you take this one very large tension release and break it into smaller segments of tension and release, which are then comprised of smallest segments of tension and release, et cetera. Why is it so important to do it this way? Because what writers can sometimes want to do is say okay this moment is the climax, I have to make this moment really big, really great and so they put all their energy into trying to write in intense amount of power into this one scene that we call the climax or the crisis. But the truth is that that scene, the power of it, the tension in it, and the release provided by it, all of that intensity that gravitates toward the climactic moment of your novel doesn't come from you writing the intensity necessarily into that moment in particular, although of course you will want to do that in your own way. It comes because you have built up to that tension through the smaller moments of tension and release. Which is why a novel like Jane Eyre can have a climax in which the climactic moment is her hearing Rochester's voice out in the ether. That's not exactly Harry Potter and Voldemort want to want duking it out. That's a quiet climax, but it's a powerful climax because of everything that has built up to it and so all of these smaller moments we're talking about, all of these smaller and smaller segments of tension and release, have to relate to that grander climax. They can't just be any tension and release you feel like. They need to be tension and release that builds to the climactic tension and release and just as we said that stories and plots are made up of events and events are change, your arch, your beginning to climax to denouement finish is all about a change, a very large change or several very large changes. Often a story doesn't have just one large change at the end, it has several really significant changes, be those character changes or changes in the dynamic of the world or what have you, numerous changes. But they're the really big ones that you're looking at when you first design it. Well, just as in all these tension and release moments need to relate to that climactic moment, so too should we see the changes that are occurring throughout your events and throughout your increasingly smaller segments, those changes should build up and relate to the larger changes of your overarching narrative. So all of these things need to tie together. We will be looking at an example of this, so stay tuned for it. But the point again that I want to make is we have this big arch, it's about tension and release, it's about a large change. Now we need to go in and fill all of these other things in so that that climax and those changes are impactful. So let's begin with that. 12. Smaller Plot Components: In this next section, you're going to hear me talk about terms, terms like events and beats and scenes and act. Don't get hung up on the terminology. The terms we're using a fairly standard don't get hung up on the terms. It's the idea of increasingly smaller segments and how do we utilize them. First, let's just store it within the event. As we've said, an event involves a character and it involves meaningful change. This is fairly standard. Think about today, if your spouse to say where to say "How was your day?" You might say something like, I got a raise or I didn't do well at my presentation, or the traffic was bad and I was late. Look at all three of those things. All three of those things, they matter to you. Your financial well-being, being late for work, which could affect your financial well-being or not doing well in your presentation, which could also affect your financial well-being. Among other things, are standing at the company, etc. All three of these things matter to you, for your day, but all three are also a change. You had less money before your raise than you did after you raise. You had hopes for your presentation and they were not so grand after your presentation. You were on time to work until you weren't. All three of these things were changes that happened in your day. So in event it's a natural thing, even when we look at our own lives to think of an event as being something that changes and that change matters to us. To that end, when you are designing your narratives and you're thinking of the events that take place, it's not enough to think to yourself, okay? And then this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened. You have to say, so what? Why does this event matter? Why does it matter to my protagonist or my antagonist or to this character or that character? You have to know why the event matters. It can't just matter to the character. It has to matter to the character in the context of the story. It has to be significant not only for the character, but it has to be significantly relevant to the story itself. When you think about what these changes can be, they can be all kinds of things. They can be going from happy to sad. They can be going from wealthy to poor. They can be something that's more values oriented, like being free versus being enslaved. Or it was standing up for what's right versus being cowardly. But they tend to be something of a binary in its most simplistic form when you think about it. Feel free to think broadly about the changes that might take place. Most scenes and events might have more than one change. It might go from sunny to cloudy in this scene. It might also be that in the scene, Marsha and Sandra go from being best friends to having the worst argument of their lives. Many changes can happen. They can be all sorts of things, but you need to understand and consider what those changes will be. But we have to go further. It's not enough just to have a change. Why does it change matter? A change matters because what it means is that there is something at stake in that event, in that scene. It doesn't match to me that it went from sunny, to cloudy, if nothing is at stake, it is interesting to me when it goes from sunny to cloudy. If, as we mentioned earlier, a little boy was really planning on going to the port, and now it looks like it might not happen. Suddenly, his afternoon is extinct. I care. So it's not enough just to have an event. It has to be an event of the change, not any change a meaningful change in which something is at stake. Is it just his happiness? That's at stake or is it spending time with his father and building up relationship that's at stake. What is at stake? Why does that thing that is at stake? How does that thing relate to your overarching grand narrative? It's got to be a building block that's going to get me, the reader to feel maximum tension at your climatic and crisis scenes if it's helpful. Think about tension and release and your story structure like this, things shouldn't always be going well, but nor should they always be terrible. It's rather like a tennis match in which the ball is bouncing from one side to the other. Sometimes your protagonist has the upper hand and things look like they're going well and then whoops, no, now that looks like it's not going well over here. But then well, this thing's going well over here, so we're feeling better, but no, that's not going so hot over there. This is about the tension and release. Tension and release can be the reader going what's going to happen next. But if everything's going really well, we're not going to go over what's going to happen next. We might go, "Okay, so the floor is going to fall out somewhere here". We're expecting something bad to happen. Because why would we read something in which it's all going stay the same just as something terrible is happening, we expect something to turn his way and go somewhat right. It doesn't mean that necessarily we go from total rainbows and sunshine to dark, blooming terrible. But it just means that there is an upper hand versus a not upper hand. It's like, Well, we got through that, but now we have to deal with this. That is part of the tension and release that we're talking about. 13. Acts, Sequences, Scenes, Events, Beats: In screenplay writing, which are the terms that I want to use right now, although these are also used in drama, and they can totally be used for novels as well. Let's think about these smaller chunks. We've got the big grand narrative, let's think about these chunks in ideas of acts, sequences, scenes, events, beats. Again, don't get hung up on the terminology. What you should observe here is that there's one large narrative and then we have the smaller segment that has its own climax release, that's an act, and then a smaller one, that's a sequence, a smaller one that is scene and that scene is comprised of beats. You can just see how many different layers of climax you have actually going on at one time. An act in this situation would be a series of sequences that builds to its own climax that results in a situational change or a values change, but an act will be one thing comprised of several sequences. A sequence is subsequently comprised of several scenes and beats, of course, make up a scene. Let's look at an example of this that you have an idea. Joe has been working toward landing a big sale that could get him the promotion of a lifetime but his son, whom he is now the sole caretaker for, has called him, sick and wants to be picked up from school. In our imaginary scene, he starts really excited he's about to make this fabulous sales presentation, and he's been working really hard on it, and the financial reward could be phenomenal and he might get a raise and he would be more respected and he could move to that penthouse he wanted or whatever, he's excited. He's talked to his co-workers, they tell him he's got this, you're going to be great, "Go you, " everybody's pumping themselves up. The phone rings, it's the school nurse, "Your son is very ill." "Can it wait?" "Sir, your son it's very sick. He's been asking for you, I think it's serious," now Joe is in his office. He's put the phone down. He's stressed, he's looking at his watch and he's knowing there's no way he can pick up his son and be back in time for the presentation. Let's just look at this scene. This would be a scene. What makes it a scene? Scene is going to be something that really takes place in one geographical area, in a limited amount of time, generally speaking. This is all taking place in Joe's office area. He might be moving around the office a little bit from his coworkers cubicle to wherever, but it's all one scene because we're all in this one time moment in this one location, and that scene starts with the first beat being Joe, just in his office. Everything's going well, he's really good, his coworkers coming in saying, "Hey, we're going to do a really great job." Joe starts the scene upbeat, focused on work, prospect of better income and promising financial future and job future. Has a beat, he talks with his co-worker, this gets an even more pumped up, so he's, he's riding even higher now, then the next beat is going to be that the phone rings and he picks up that phone and he gets bad news. Now the beat has shifted, Joe's mood has shifted to one of concern and this isn't good, and depending on how you write it, is Joe thinking more about his son or his job? Based on what I've said, it's his job, and so now we're seeing his job is in jeopardy and as a reader you're like, "Whoa!" So there's a shift in that beat. Then Joe tries to see if he can't make this work or what not he sees he can't make it work, he puts the phone down. Now he is just standing in his office and he's tremendously stressed. So you can see in this scene, Joe has gone from the happy, positive financial future, etc to looking like there goes my sale, there goes my money, there goes my promotion, and I'm very stressed out and unhappy. All of that happened in that scene. Do you see the changes that made you want to think about what those changes are and these changes are related to Joe as a parent and Joe as a successful business person. Maybe the climax of the story is probably in some way going to ultimately relate to that if we build up enough of this conflict into our narratives. Now, this all gets into conflicting values and emotions of your characters. When we talk about these changes that happen and these tension and releases that happened throughout your story. Again, everything's connected to character. This is all about your characters, values and emotions have done a course on this about conflicting values and emotions. I definitely suggest you watch it because it's going to get into a lot of that. So I'm not going to talk about it at present here. 14. Literary Example Part 1: What I'd like to do now is take a literary example, Jane Eyre, and look at how that story is broken down into smaller components. I am not at this point going to drill down to the level of sequences and scenes. There's so much we could say about sequences and scenes and I want to keep this course a bit broader. What I want you to see in this, is how you can take a novel and identify its smaller units. This is part of the thing that I want you to be able to do, so that you can then go to the stories you like and start to learn to identify, where are these changes taking place? What are the acts? What are the blocks of tension release of change in this story? What you'll do when you do this and you're examining a piece of literature and then when you're even designing your own, which we will get to, is you'll look at the overarching story, you'll say, where's my climax? What is that? You get that much done. But then you want to look at it and say, broadly, what are the broad ways we can separate this story out? This could be geographical, this could be time-based. Well, it's his childhood and then his early years as a young man and then his years as an old man. There all ways and narrative might break itself down. Then from that you would go and break it down further. So let's just look at Jane Eyre. I want to give you a brief summary of it. It is essentially the story of a young girl. She's an orphan. She lives at home with an aunt and cousins. They are terrible to her and they're abusive. It's very bad situation. She's poor, she has nothing. Well, her aunt decides she just can't take Jane anymore, Jane is proud, Jane is hateful, she is angry, she is not exactly your Cinderella character, who's just beaten up on by the stepsisters. She's a bitter little girl, but she's also very imaginative little girl. She really has hopes for something that's better up there. So her aunt decides, we have to get rid of Jane, sends her off to a school called Low-wood and Jane goes to low-wood and finds that live at low-wood, it's not fun either. She spent a lot of her young years at Low-wood and eventually she becomes educated enough to be a teacher at that school. Eventually, she really wants to leave Low-wood, so she obtains for herself a governor's position at a house called Thornfield for the award of a gentleman named Mr. Rochester. Then we proceeded to what is a large segment of the book, which is her time at Thornfield. She enjoys teaching Adele, Mr. Rochester's ward. She has companionship with some of the servants of the house, where she did not have companionship before. She meets Mr. Rochester and falls in love with him. There are scenes where he has beautiful women as guests and that makes her feel plain and small. Ultimately, she discovers that Mr. Rochester loves her as well. They form this attachment now because they both know that they love each other. He eventually says he wants to marry her. Everything just looks like it's going well, but you know, it can't go totally well because there's so much left of the book, you know something's about to happen. I'm totally leaving so much out by the way. It's a long book, but it's discovered that in fact, Rochester is already married. He's basically trying to be a bigamist and so Jane is feeling betrayed and awful and so she leaves for Thornfield. She then has no money, she has nothing. She ends up at the mercies of people in the home called Morre house and this gentleman is a missionary and he has two sisters. Well, it turns out Jane realizes that they're very lovely people and she's actually related to the girls and their cousins. This gentleman, the missionary, proposes to Jane, and she's thinking about accepting until she hears Rochester's voice and goes back to Thornfield. Thornfield has been burned down because Rochester crazy ex-wife, burned it down and died and so he's now blind. By the way, Jane discovered, after leaving Thornfield and going to Morre house, that actually her uncle left her tremendous amount of wealth, so now she is a wealthy woman, independent. She goes back, sees Rochester now she's this financially independent woman who has her love and that's where the story ends. It's a Gothic romance. It's got a lot of dark moments and I've left tremendous amount out, but that's the general summary of the book. What I want to do just briefly, is look at this. For the case of Jane Eyre, what you can see if you look at the novel, is that one of the best ways you could break it down is by location. You could technically say, well, let's break it down into Jane's childhood and adulthood. But that doesn't quite get at it structurally. We have to look at the overarching thing here. The overarching story that we're looking at is that Jane goes from proud, unforgiving, angry alone, poor, not independent, looking for an escape, to ultimately a caring, compassionate, independent, loved, wealthy and wise woman. That's the big change that's happened. Once we have the climactic moments, that's where we end up. That's the overarching narrative. Now, when we break this down and we say, well, how does this break down into smaller structures. What we see is that actually the author has designed this to be broken down by location. We start in her aunt's home of her childhood called Gateshead. We then move to the school Low-wood. We then move to Thornfield, where she's a governess. We then move to Morre house, where she is embraced by the missionary and his sisters and eventually proposed to. Then we move back to where Thornfield was, but is now burnt down and we find Rochester living in this smaller home called Fardim. There's a clear structure here and within each of those, we see changes in Jane. For example, consider now again, the larger change in the narrative we're talking about. Let's drill down and even if you haven't read it, this is okay. Let's just look at the first one. Let's look at Gateshead. Now at Gateshead, Jane is unloved in beginning of just the segment. She's unloved, she's abused, she is not free. She's very sad. But while she's there at Gateshead, that's when her aunt decides we're going to send this girl away, so what happens? Well, in this case, Jane is feeling unloved and at the end, she's still feeling loved. But she goes from feeling completely in bondage and not free to feeling, well, I could get out from under my odd, there's a hopefulness there, no matter what, even though she's met Mr. Brocklehurst, he's not very nice and in which case she's gone from sad to cautiously excited. Then we move, we take all those emotions that she had there and we move over to Thornfield, to the school. Now she was all of those things at the end, what's going on at the start of the Thornfield section? Because you're allowed to add things and take away things. You don't have to just pick your changes at scene 1 and then carry them all the way through to the climax. You don't have to do that. Well, at Thornfield, now she's calm and really like from the beginning, it's not going well. So she enters the Thornfield less educated, she enters a child. She is less socialized because she's been at home with her aunt etc. She is unemployed and she is totally dependent. By the end of that section, she is very much more educated to the point that she can get a governor's position. She's a young woman now. She's far more socialized. She had found a friend in a young girl named Helen who died, which she's also therefore becomes a bit more tender, sensitive, compassionate. She's been shown kindness, so she has found more kindness in herself. She is now employed and she is there for more independent. Look at how just from the more head to form field we're starting to carry through in some of these threads, carry through, we sorted out threads, we sorted out different things that weren't there before, we can add and take away. Moving on now to thorn field. Well, what's happening at Thorn field? She's happy. She's starting a new job. Yeah. We're good. She has a sense of purpose that she didn't have. She's going to take care of this young girl. She feels like she has a new home. She'd never really felt like she had a home, but she actually starts to settle in and feel like this can be her place. She's confident in a way she hasn't been before. She stores having not had companionship. But now let's look at this one because it's not necessarily just an obvious, this to this and this to this, because what happens? Let's go back. She. 15. Literary Example, Part 2: She's very happy at the start of a new job, she's excited but by the end of her time at Thornfield, Rochester has totally lied to her until she's feeling disillusioned, betrayed, sad. So there's a real change of emotion. She started with a sense of purpose," I'm going to take care of this child, " and then she had an increased sense of purpose and being a potential wife to Rochester to then leave and have no idea where she's going. She has no idea where she's going. This is a high-impact moment because so much has built to it. We've read a lot of the book to where she thought she knew what was going to happen and now she doesn't. So she starts that scene feeling like she's got a new home to now being totally without a home and again this really matters because when you think back to Moor House, that was her aunt's home that never felt like home as we think of home. Thornfield never felt like home as we think of home. Lowood never felt like home as we think of home it was this terrible school. Thornfield is the first time she feels like she's kind of settling into what might be a home, but now for the first time she's literally homeless. So you see how these themes of home, and do you see how the changes of emotion and of situations that are happening end up kind of becoming themes in the stories, some of them this idea of home or this idea of place or this idea of independence. These end up becoming your themes. So when you start to look at changes that are happening you just say," How does this relate thematically to the underlying themes in my narrative?" And when you are designing your narrative you need to talk about themes and think about themes and say what do I want my themes to be? and those themes should be worked in to these binaries to these tension releases and these changes and situation that are happening in your story. So going on, let's look at the confidence one. She starts that section much more confident not like I'm so wonderful but more confident perhaps that she's ever been and she's feeling good about that until she falls in love with Rochester because then he asks his beautiful women come in and they are his guests and she thinks that he loves them and it makes her feel plain and unloved. Plus she goes from feeling confident about being a teacher, to being not confident about being an attractive woman, to then he proposes now she's confident about being an attractive woman to then being totally not confident about anything it seems like because, "What did I know, he lied to me, didn't think much of me and now I'm homeless and I have no idea what's going on." So in that case sometimes you might have a scene that really goes one to the other but sometimes just within that section shall go from confident to not confident, all he knew was ways, that's okay, you can let that happen in your act or your scene, it's less likely to happen in a smaller chunk like a scene but it certainly might happen in a sequence or an act or one of these larger chunks. Likewise, the companionship she starts there with no real companionship, she develops companionship with some of the people, she develops companionship with her ward. She develops companionship with Mr. Rochester but then she again ends it with no companionship because she leaves. So there can be these switches. Suffice to say at Moor house more changes happen and then you have your climactic moment then you have your day in them all and in that funding. Funding we really see come to fruition, the larger changes of the story that we are looking at. So what I want you to take away from that is just the idea of the variety of changes that you can have happen and the idea that changes don't necessarily have to be one to the other they can be flexible, that they are connected to your themes, that they are connected to your characters wants and needs. I want to touch just briefly on an example of another way that story might be broken down whereas Jane Eyre was broken down by location as one of its larger entities that can then get smaller. Dial M for Murder example can be broken down differently and you don't have to know the plot to appreciate this. So in dial M for Murder your first section really would be the setup just sort of your introduction, your exposition, getting everything laid out. Then the second section would be where the husband articulates this desire to murder his wife and relates that whole plot and arranges that. Then you can break it down into now that that's been arranged this section is just the murder attempt which would be followed by the wife being accused of actually murdering the murderer. Doesn't this make you want to watch it? and her boss attempt to figure out what actually happened which would be your longest section of the story which would then result in the climax and just be followed by the realization that the husband is guilty and I'm taking him away. So you see how this one is just much more temporal in nature and each of these sections some will be longer than others. The murder section would be much shorter. You could say actually I think you could lump together the plot of the murder with the murder that there's totally an argument to be made there and this can't be a location-based one because it's really all confined to this one apartment or condo etcetera that they live in. But you could say, "I would combine it there." Now I choose not to combine it there because I see significant changes and tension and release that happens in just the scene where he's plotting it, and the scene in which the murder event happens that scene with the murder event has such serious changes from however short it is that segment has such significant changes that I see it as its own entity but you might not, and that's okay. The point is to get in the habit of seeing how things can break down and again this matters because this is what's going to help you plot purposeful events. What can be so intimidating as a writer is to just say,"I have events floating around in my head but I don't know how to order them and I don't know if they matter." This is how you figure that out, you start at the big and you go down. Having looked at all of that, let's just touch briefly on how you set up your plot, how you sort of just get it started. This also is sort of its own beast so I want to keep it broad for this class but we should address it. 16. Strong Beginnings: In play writing, you will have two terms that are often spoken of, which is an inciting incident, and a point of attack. It's really worth us taking those terms and thinking about them. Very often, writers will be familiar with the idea of an inciting incident, but not necessarily of a point of attack and the differences between the two and the functions that they have in your story have significance. The inciting incident is an event that takes place before your story begins, it's the reason that the characters do some of the things that they do. Now, we'll want to know as readers what that inciting incident is, that something you will want to reveal to us. It's often revealed very close to the point of attack. But the incident itself is generally something that's already happened. This is different than the point of attack, which is an event or a series of events that are a response to your inciting incident. Let's look at these now that we have these definitions, the inciting incident, again, is a major event that happens before your story begins. While the point of attack, is an action or a short sequence of actions that's actually a response to the inciting incident. The point of attack is what sets the action for the rest of the story in motion. When it comes to an inciting incident, you want something strong and dramatic. It can help you keep your focus as you're writing, and result in a really dramatic climax. For the case of a play like Hamlet, the inciting incident would be that Hamlet's uncle has murdered his father and married his mother and is now quite frankly out for Hamlet. None of that happens in the play. All of that's happened beforehand. But it's the inciting incident, so what's the point of attack? The point of attack is when the ghost of his father comes and commissions Hamlet, "Go and kill Claudius, " his uncle. That's the point of attack because that is the thing, the action which causes everything else that follows. Hamlet doesn't do anything else he does except for the fact that his father came to him and revealed what the inciting incident was to his son and set it in motion. In this case, in the case of Hamlet, the inciting incident is revealed very close to the point of attack. It's actually nestled right there into the point of attack because his father is the one who tells him, " Hey, look all this stuff happened and that's why I'm dead and that's why you have to do this and that. " So inciting incident, point of attack, commissioned his son, set the plot in motion. Let's look at another example. In Dial M for Murder, the inciting incident is the husband realizing of his wife's infidelity and that she being the wealthy person in the relationship, might actually divorce him and take her money with her and he wants her money and the lifestyle he is accustomed to. That's not the inciting incident. We learn about that again, very close to the point of attack. The point of attack being when he declares his intent to murder his wife to the gentlemen he wants to have execute that plan. He brings that gentleman to his apartment, says "Here's my plan, I want you to do this." That's how we learn that. In the case of Dial M for murder we don't necessarily learn, he doesn't necessarily say, "Well, I'm just really after her money." But we learn bits of that in different ways, but your point of attack, I want you to murder my wife sets the murder motion which sets in motion the idea that the wife is accused of murder and the subsequent attempt to the bow to correct things and on along we go. The point of attack is where that sets everything else in motion. But through the conversation and the revelation of the husband, we learn what the inciting incident was. Let's talk about placement. As I've mentioned very often, the point of attack is quite close to the inciting incident. Your readers want to know what caused the point of attack. Your readers want to know what caused the action that is therefore causing all of the other actions in the story. Most readers won't be content with a narrative in which the husband sits down with someone says, " I want you to kill my wife, " and we set the whole thing in motion, and the whole story we're sitting there going, why? Why did you want to do this? We want to know why. Now, there are reasons to delay that for example, a mystery story. Mysteries very often we are watching something we don't know why, but we expect it will be revealed to us at some point and you do want to be careful about when you do that revealing because you don't want to try the patience of your readers. You want to give them a cookie? If you're not going to reveal the reasons the inciting incident fairly close to the point of attack, you need a reason for that and a plan for when you're going to do it that you think won't irritate your readers. In this next video, I want us to talk briefly about how do we choose the right moments? We've looked now at the grand structure, we've looked at this idea that that grand structure is broken down into increasingly smaller ideas of tension and release, but within that, you still have to choose the moments. Let's look at that next. 17. What to Include in Your Story: Going back to the definitions, we talked about there's story and there is plot, and your story has far more things happening in it than you're ever going to put in your plot, and your story is that chronological listing. Now, when you think about your character and the things that are happening in his life or her life as they relate to this plot, they're going to be more things than you can put in. You have to be very selective about the scenes that you show. Without question, every scene must have its own function, its own purpose. If you can't tell me the significance of that scene, it needs to go, and each scene must be unique. For example, you might have two scenes that buildup a friendship, but I have to learn something different about that friendship in the first scene and the second scene, it can't just be that both scenes tell me, "Yes, Sam and Joe are friends." I have to learn different nuances of those friendships if you're going to get me two scenes that you think that that's the purpose of them. Number 2, every scene must follow and proceed the one before it. This sounds so obvious, but it's critical. You can't just drop a scene in wherever you feel like it. What happened in scene 3 is going to directly influence what happens in scene 4, which is going to influence what happens in scene 5. Scene 5 gets its meaning in part by what happened in scene 4, and obviously in what happens in scenes 3, 2, and 1. But why did you put scene 5 after scene 4? Why didn't you put scene 5 after scene 3? Now, you might say, well, that's just not chronological. That's why I didn't. But it's more than that. It's not just a chronology thing because as we've said, plot isn't necessarily chronological, and a scene could be a flashback, or a scene could be, this is an expository moment. You might be going along chronologically. But in this sequence, there is a scene that's more exposition in which I'm learning something about the history of Sam. Why did you put that there? You could have told me about the history of Sam in several places. You have to say, "Well, this scene of the history of Sam matters because I set us up for it because of this other thing." It's all a little train and all your cars are attached, and if one car goes off the tracks, they all go off the tracks. You have to know why you're putting things in the order that you are, and the reason you will put things in a certain order will be because of that tension release you're trying to build, which means you have to know what tension release that you want, which means you have to know your characters. You will have some scenes that are bigger scenes than other scenes. You will have always that scene, it's that scene. Just the scenes that are, "More impactful." But as we mentioned earlier, those scenes are only impactful because you have made them relevant through the smaller scenes that have come before them. This is true of big moments in our lives. Think about a wedding. A wedding is a really big deal. People spend a lot of money on weddings. They gather their friends together. They put on beautiful clothes. They take lots of pictures. It's a big event, but it only lasts a few hours. What made the wedding big event? Wasn't the wedding, it was all of the love, and all of the commitment, and all of the sacrifice, all of the small moments of love that led up to it. That's what made the wedding important. When you think about your big scenes and pivotal scenes, remember, don't try to cram meaning into that scene. Make that scene meaningful because you build to it through all the smaller moments. That's what makes them impactful. In this next video, I would like us to touch just briefly on chapters and scenes because there are very often a lot of questions about, is a chapter a scene, or is a scene a chapter? How do I break that down? What's the function of chapters in my narrative? 18. Chapters and How to Use Them: Scenes and chapters, they are different, so let's review with a scene, what makes it special? Scenes are more non-negotiable, and by that, what I mean is that they have a distinct change. They are their own structural unit with their own conflict, their own goal, their own beginning, their own end, just as we talked about, and so when you look and you segment a scene, you'll know what it is because you'll see the chain is happening, you'll see it's own little mini arc of climaxed into more. Chapters are more negotiable. You can put something into a chapter for a lot of different reasons, and chapters, like paragraphs or sentences, have a lot to do with the pacing of your novel. They can help advance the plot, they can help keep the reader moving. Readers are far more intimidated when they see very long chapters as opposed to when they see somewhat shorter chapters and they're like I have time for that. That's a manageable amount, I can handle it. That helps advance the plot, just as in the same way when a reader picks up a book and all the paragraphs go on for a paragraph, go on for page, and a half or 2.5 pages as opposed to, "I see the paragraph, I see the paragraph." Those visual segments help keep your reader engaged. People like to know where the finish line for the moment is, and that helps them with that. In terms of pacing, shorter chapters just make the story move more at a clip, longer chapters actually can make the pacing feel a bit slower. Novels themselves have an underlying rhythm to them, and the chapters can really help set that rhythm. But when it comes to dividing those chapters for yourself, you want to think about what are the cues you want to send to the reader. Sometimes a chapter will seem obvious because you'll say, "well, I have this good cliffhanger here, so let's end the chapter." But sometimes you might choose to have three sequences in a chapter, and some chapters, you might just want to have one scene, and when you do that, you're signaling something to the reader. When you give an entire scene to a chapter you're telling the reader, "this is very important, focus on this. Focus. It's important. It's got its own chapter, " and other times when you're combining several things into a chapter, you're not saying it's not important, but you're not drawing the magnifying glass to it in the same way, so it's a structure for yourself. There isn't a hard definition of it the way there might be for a scene. Just keep that in mind as you're going and thinking about it. Think about the pacing, and think about when would you like the reader to take a moment and breathe? Because that's what these visual cues do. When we end a paragraph, when we look at the paragraph. A paragraph, designed to be a thought. It's thought segment, so when we get to the end of a paragraph, it's a moment to breathe. Just like some times in his story in one chapter, you might have a section and then there's just sort of a line break for a little bit, and then it goes again. It's a pause, so where in your story, do you want your readers to pause and reflect? When you know, that readers very often, might read to a chapter and put the book down and comeback. Where do you think are good places for your reader to do that? Where do you get to a point in the chapter? You say, having read all of this, it's so dramatic, why don't you take a breath and process that? I really think about where you'd like those things as a reader, and put your chapters there. In this next video, I want us to look at some practical application. We've talked about a lot of theory, we've talked about a lot of definitions, so in addition to the practical application we've already gone over, I just want to offer a few other pieces of advice on structuring your narrative and how do you navigate your way into a very dramatic, beautiful plot. 19. Best Practices & Practical Application: There are numerous ways that writers find their way to a story. There is no one right way. Everybody has their own methods. What I talk about here are just some suggestions and a lot of observations that I have made over my years working with creative writers. The first thing that I would like to talk about is this idea of plotting your whole novel out beforehand, or discovering your plot and your characters as you go. Some writers love to plot it out. They have every scene on a sim card in an outline somewhere.It's all mapped out and then they sit down to the business of writing your story. This is a tactic used by some very successful authors today, certainly not all of them and it's one way to go about it. On the other side, people who somewhat know what their story is, but you discover things about your character as you're writing. Many writers are going along and they say, "I didn't know that James liked skiing." But it comes out as you're writing. If you're a writer, you probably know that experience of just sitting down and you're doing your writing and you brainstorming. It's an odd blend of you getting down your ideas, but also strangely having your ideas and your characters reveal themselves to you as you do that. It's a very odd magical thing, but it's real. There's this idea that people don't necessarily want to plot the whole thing out because their story comes out of a discovery mode. There are many different ways, but these are two extremes and I want to talk about the each. The benefits of planning it all out is that you have this total cohesion that we've been talking about this entire class. That idea of the large scene broken down into smaller. You plan all of that out, you're talking about something very tight. What it doesn't allow for you is the spontaneity that happens when you write and you let your things to be discovered. If you go the other way, it's going to be incredibly difficult for you to come up with something very tight and cohesive because it's also spontaneous. I encourage people to allow for both. If you're someone who totally likes to plan it all out, go ahead. If you're someone who likes the spontaneous, I do encourage you to do a certain amount of planning while being open and aware that things are going to arise. If you do that, you absolutely have to be willing as character traits or events or things arise, that you're going to then put into your story that you weren't planning on when you major general outline, you need to be willing to then change every single thing that comes after that scene. Because as I've said before in this class and others, if you put a scene in and you think you can drop it in and not change anything after it, that's scene is useless. That scene only matters if everything else after it changes. You want to be open to the spontaneous thing, you've got to be willing to make those changes as you go. In fact, inserting that scene might affect things even that come before it. To that end, what we're talking about here it's important to recognize that while we can talk about specific steps in writing as brainstorming, outlining, writing, rewriting, editing, steps. Most of the time, You're engaged in more than one of those at any given time. Don't feel like you have to finish all of the outlining before you can start the writing, or don't feel like you can't do some rewriting while you're doing some new writing, these steps overlap. That is part of what makes something very organic. Don't feel limited to one step at a time. When it comes to actually outlining this, there are numerous methodologies, I don't want to get in any of them into great detail, but some that I've seen used very often to great success are plot cards, sim cards in which you just take visibly note cards used to make flashcards for your child. You just scenes on them in each scene would have the characters in the scene and the changes that are happening, its own mini tension, release, etc. Then you can lay those out. One of the neat things about having encore is as you can sort of move things around and go. I think that's better over there. Another really great option is scrivener software. There's a wonderful writing software called scrivener, and that actually even has its own little digital note card thing that you can move your note cards around. It's an investment and time to learn, but it's used by a lot of writers and it has a lot of really great export options for your manuscripts and things like that. It's definitely worth looking at. Another option is just an outline. A lot of people really just like that visual outline. The key is to really do take the time to find and invest in the planning method that works for you, the one you'll use. If you are not going to sit down and take the time to learn scrivener, then don't use that one. If you really like writing by hand then the note cards or more pure street. If you like that visual outline that you can then make notes on top of do that. What's important is you do find a method of organization that works for you that is worth doing, and it's worth trying different ones to find out the one that is actually best for you. My final takeaway for you as writers. So much of what I've talked about here is about analyzing narratives. I cannot encourage you enough to take the time to read like a writer, to view like a writer, to start to learn to break these things down. But what this means for your own stories is really do when you're writing, think about big change that you want to happen. Once you've done that, start to think about how do I want to break this down? What might my architecture look like? Brainstorm different ways that, that architecture might look. If you have scenes in your head, that you think that could be an interesting scene because it's very often happens. You have an idea for a story, you won't totally not everything, but you'll have a character you love, or you have some scenes with that character that seem compelling to you. Write those things down, see how they might fit in. If they seem compelling to you, then you need to ask yourself, why is that scene compelling to me? What's happening to that character in this situation. But very often we know generally the plot that's in place. What's helpful to you is to look broadly and say, "Well, I know I'm doing this story about a man who gets stranded on an island and has to survive." Start look broadly and then say, "Well, these are the big changes that I want him to make, how am I going to achieve those big changes? Here are smaller emotional struggles that he's going to go through." Really think in terms of your character, if you will do that. If you'll start broad and slowly break it into smaller components, you'll discover your scenes, your scenes will reveal themselves to you. It's also perfectly fine to just do some writing and see where it goes. If you're feeling stuck, take a moment, break for your outline, go do some writing where it's drawing you. It might reveal some things to you. What will probably happen is then you'll have to throw away everything you wrote,because what you will have obtained from it is the seed, the idea, the revelation of, "Oh, this," that now has to be worked into the structure of the story itself. It's so tempting for writers not taught to give things up. But the truth is that I just think it's very hard to actually be a successful writer if you're not willing to trash a lot of what you've written. Be willing to do that exploratory writing, and then say, okay, this is what I've learned from that. Now how do I work that into my architecture? That's what makes a great story, a great plot, is the willingness to not go with your first right, not go with your first words. Those words, the ones you feel like you're trashing, you're not trashing, they're not garbage. You had to write them to get to where you are, to get to the revelation that was their function. Now work them in, in the right way. Now that we've said all of that, let's take a moment and talk about the class resources for you for this course. 20. Final Thoughts and Class Project: Before I get into my final comments and the class project, I want to thank you so much for watching. If you enjoyed this course, please leave a review. It's so helpful for me and it helps keep me making courses for you. I appreciate your views so much. I appreciate your time. I also encourage you to follow me on my other channels. I have a YouTube channel and also an Instagram, as well as the website, so, I do encourage you to go and look at all of those things if you'd like to keep in touch. Now onto the course project, you have for you some very specific plot analysis questions. These questions can be used for your own writing or to analyze another piece of literature or a film. I however recommend going through this. I recommend choosing a novel you totally, totally love, or a film or whatever, depending on the kind of writing you want to do, and answering these questions about it. I encourage you to go through and try to map out and break down that story into its smallest segments. Break it down into its acts, into its sequences, into its scenes. This is a time consuming thing to do, but you will learn so much doing it. In doing so, what you will also learn, is how the authors and the writers you love do this. Because we all have different writers we love, so, we've got to analyze those works. So do download these questions, do go through it with works of author you love, and then take those questions to your own stories, to your own plots, and see how answering those questions will help you write your story. I thank you so much for watching this. It's such a pleasure to communicate with you and to be here providing these classes. It's such a joy. Thank you so much. I hope you're having a wonderful day and I wish you the very best of luck with your writing. Bye. Remember what we said. You are here to manipulate emotion. Darn it. [inaudible] I think this is a lady bird in my home. That is a lady bird. Poor thing. Glad it's not a fly. Okay. Round 2, lighting is so different. Sorry about that. It's really worth. Are we done? Yes. So it's not enough just to have intense. They are going to mind notes.