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A thread on storytelling...


#21

Watching Dunkirk made me realize that not really you ought to have three dimensional characters who could evolve through the story, which is some of the criticism I read about the movie, in order to make the story successful. Even more, I argued with few who said that the movie is empty (even calling them fools). All you need to do is set up the premise, aka, throw a hook and if audience doesn’t feel cheated (sometimes it’d be benefiting, like Murder of Roger Ackroyd), it’s good.
Stanley Kubrick went even further, saying something like, “create an interesting premise, then at the middle, create even more interesting point and the ending has to fittingly conclude it all”.

Btw, at a time, I used to think that in order to enrichen the story, you should cram into many narrative devices as possible (red herring, cliffhanger, deus ex machina…). I was naive.


#22

Dear milstar, dear alx,
dear friends,

it is more a matter of taste than of story-telling if someone likes a movie.

I cannot recognize a good movie when it hits me in the face. I am a victim of my expectations.

In Atonement with Keira Knightley the incidents at Dunkirk were portrayed in a surrealistic way, I completely forgot the story. In Their Finest with Bill Nighy a little pathos and heroism was added to the Dunkirk mix, I rather liked the spectacular setting.

Watching Dunkirk by C. Nolan it took me the better part of the movie to actually realize there was a shifting perspective and in the end I did not get the point. Such a waste on me. What was it all about?

Most films I tend to forget within days or weeks.

I know comic books, though. I remember artists and writers employing story-telling devices for years. There are many.

But even more than that I like printed artwork on paper, the smell of the fresh printing, the smell of old paper, the colourful panels. I can go back to my childhood if I wish rereading Curt Swan’s Superman.

I even think I can relate actual events in my life to specific comic book styles and fashion. There are good comics and bad, but also I have not been nice all of the time.

Everybody can tell a story…

Regards


#23

True.

However, there is a difference between telling a story and telling a story people will sit still for.

And there is a vast gulf between telling a story people will sit still for and telling a story that people will PAY for.

Many of the forms of storytelling - down to the format for the choice of two words to the cut between two shots - have been derived from the needs of people to make a living doing it for a lot of people who will pay for it.

I think that makes a big difference in today’s markets. A lot of material we take for entertainment is only paid for in the time we spend on it. Youtube videos, free music, for example - or paid as part of a subscription to many different options - Netflix, Amazon Prime Channels, Etc. Network television has always been pretty much free and paid for by advertising, but that did mean that the material provided had to keep you willingly watching.

However, the forms of storytelling that we see have been generated out of the desire to make a living doing it for enough people to make it profitable. Your individual tastes may drive you to what you like, but if it was simply a matter of individual tastes, then there would be no entertainment industry. A lot of people like the same stories, and that is not a coincidence.

For me, what is interesting is how populated the “intellectual property” of our imaginations is with “intellectual properties.”

We still have Greek myths and Fairy tales, but even there, if your version of Snow White deviates too closely to Disney’s version, then they could and probably would sue you for infringement upon their intellectual property.

Even then, we really ask for it. We want the Star Wars toys to play with as kids (or as adults, just as likely). We want the books and comics and videogames. We want to populate our imaginations with characters and worlds that are entirely owned by corporate entities. It’s akin to asking McDonalds and Taco Bell to install a vending machine in your house and that’s where you get most of your food.

For an interesting look at the art of storytelling, I’ve been reading this by Jeff Vandermeer:


#24

I think even after the second season or so, nobody who mattered was even fooled by that anymore? It didn’t really matter to the show anymore.

The general point is well taken, though. How I Met Your Mother even made fun on their show being based on such a limited concept, in their trailer for their last season:


#25

There was a great bit in the final episode where Ted tries to say he kept the story concise and to the point. Also, I don’t think your clip is from the actual show.


#26

No, like I said, it was a trailer they made especially to advertise the final season. The scene isn’t actually in any of the episodes of that season.


#27

I think they probably could have squeezed another season out of Banshee.

The third season ended on that big cliffhanger with Job getting taken away by the military, and then the fourth and final season did the big time jump, and covered the Satanic cult storyline with flashbacks to Job’s story. I think they could have easily done an eight episode season covering Job’s rescue and then ended it with that shock murder, and then an eight episode fifth and final season covering the cult. As it was, the final season felt sort of compressed and scattershot.


#28

Yeah, I didn’t feel that it was Banshee’s time, either; I’d happily have been game for another season.


#29

I know. But it feels like a spoof more than something the actual creators came up with.


#30

Personally I am not a big fan of those whodoneit stories where someone is a murderer and you have to guess.
Neither am I for those whoisthetraitor stories like the Ultimates traitor storyline.

I guess if done well the suspense and intrigue will build a following like the old Dallas show on “Who Shot JR?”

To each their own.

Deus ex machina or where the writer introduces “something” or “someone” late in the story to resolve the plot… Or you introduce a line or a scene early in the story and it plays a pivotal part in the conclusion like that bullet in T2… I know in GoT they had this horn in a few episodes and in another episode one of the characters said if you kill the Night King the zombies will all die. I figure those might play a part later on. So long as the conclusion or plot resolution is not given away so easily.

Sorry about the rambling.


#31

Interesting point in that regard. The internet has completely blown those sorts of story lines all to hell. With the combined computing power of millions of fans all talking to each other (equivalent to the Commodore 64, I believe) the ability of storytellers to present a proper mystery has been essentially nullified. It is simply too easy for someone to figure out the solution from the clues provided and then to have it propagated like syphilis well before the actual reveal.


#32

This is one of the things I loved about The Last Jedi. It took all the mysteries that people were wondering about (Who are Rey’s parents?, Who is Snoke?) and just tossed them out like Luke chucking a lightsaber over his shoulder. :wink:


#33

I still place value in the mysteries, not so much in whether I can guess, but whether the characters are still engaging with the mystery engagingly outside what an outsider observer knows/predicts.


#34

That’s a big part of JJ Abrams’ (albeit stupid) mystery box approach to movies. Basically, present a mystery that has no solution, but tease one as long as possible. Then, end with no real answer to any of the mysteries, and run away with the money.


#35

I never said anything about not wanting an answer, just meant that I don’t mind if it’s an obvious mystery.


#36

Only for long-running serialised stories. There’s nothing to stop you doing a decent self-contained whodunit that’s contained within a single episode.

(Unless you go online while the show is being broadcast and talk about it in realtime, I guess.)

Also, I don’t think good stories are necessarily ruined even if someone does guess the ending. A whodunit can still be entertaining even if you correctly guess whodidit.


#37

I rate Columbo as the best “mystery” series on TV, and yet the audience guessing game is completely nullified from the start because you witness the murder and know the motive. The enjoyment comes in watching Columbo and the suspect matching wits. As long as that’s done well, the guessing game isn’t necessary.

My father thought Roger Acroyd was the worst Agatha Christie book, because (in his words) “she cheated”. He read them for the challenge of solving the crime, and he (probably rightly) said it is impossible to solve that one because the narrator is the murderer, and therefore blatantly lies about what the reader would normally accept as narrative facts. Conversely, I thought it was one of her cleverest books, for exactly the same reason. It doesn’t bother me that I can’t guess it (because I’m crap at solving mysteries anyway :smiley: )

We were (re-)watching Westworld on DVD last night, and of course I now know exactly where it’s going. And it doesn’t matter at all, because the journey is more important than the “surprise” destination. It didn’t actually need a surprise, or even a destination at all. To me, the concepts being explored were more important than the plot. (Uh-oh… Westworld as literary fiction? :confused: )

To summarise, I don’t think you need to surprise your reader with an ending, even if there is a mystery being solved. If you make the journey to the last page entertaining, the content of last page can be fairly irrelevant.


#38

And more recently, Luther has used a similar model.


#39

I also mentioned characters like a group of heroes whether it is the Xmen or even the Star Wars cast have different characters to identify with: the leader, the woman of the group, the antihero, the young immature character coming of age, etc.

I always wondered why the antihero is a favorite like Batman, Wolverine, and even Han Solo to an extent. Partly because the antihero is one of the good guys but also doesn’t play fair.

You also have the older mentor like Obi Wan and Morpheus, the “chosen one” of some prophecy like “Luke” and Neo. … I could go on but that’s it for now. :smile:


#40

I’d never thought about it but that must have a lot to do with its rewatchability (for me at least).