Wish to follow popular tips from prominent storytellers? Touch on sensuality, evoke fun and wonder, give a peaceful feeling, have a hero, but mix it all with suffering, provoke anger, scare and detest, - does all that create a good story?
Our brains need stimulation. Learning and being entertained are forms of stimulating activities. We like narratives, connected events, and we memorize better when we feel deeper.
Can most human beings be happy and entertained without been conflicted with harsh socio-existential contrasts and been forced through spikes of emotions? Or our psychological core, shaped partially by the need of individual and kin survival, dictates all the same old triggers of vitality?
This what a two thousand years old Indian writing on dramatic theory, Natya Shastra नाट्य शास्त्र, offers to a story teller:
"The rasa theory, in brief, states that for a viewing experience to be complete and satisfying, a play must evoke in the viewer a variety of rasas or flavors or sentiments (from the following 8: erotic, comic, pathetic, furious, heroic, terrifying, odious, marvelous). Of these 8, a play may have one ‘dominant’ sentiment, with several others present in smaller, varying quantities. (The original Natyashastra mentions only eight rasas. The ninth – shanti or peace – was added later, thus leading to the term Navras, meaning ‘nine rasas’. "The viewer should feel strongly one or a few of the following and mildly and for a while the rest:
Screenwriting Formulas: Templates, Structure & The Rasa Approach
vigor, love, amusement, astonishment, peace, sorrow, anger, disgust, terror.
And what is about final satisfaction: would peaceful reflection or an offer to guess the ending be fulfilling, or logical completeness of all lines is preferable?
"The viewer wants to be engaged, entertained, stimulated, enlightened, occasionally challenged and provoked and disturbed, but finally, satisfied. How does one do this? By creating an experience on screen that is, a) interesting, b) convincing, and c) complete." Screenwriting Formulas
Theory of emotions
Robert Plutchik's psychoevolutionary theory of emotion might be useful to understand contrasts in feelings of human animals. There are pairs of polar opposites of complex emotions, which can exist in varying degrees of intensity or levels of arousal:
- optimism ( anticipation + joy )
and disapproval ( surprise + sadness ),
- love ( joy + trust )
and remorse ( sadness + disgust ),
- submission ( trust + fear )
and contempt ( disgust + anger ),
- awe ( fear + surprise )
and aggression ( anger + anticipation ).
This rainbow-flower terminology I find to be overly accommodated to the natural language. But to define the ranges of our feelings precisely, we would require new words and definitions - that would probably be an overkill. The positioning of the both blue leaves seem not quite right to me either. In future, I might try to replace this visualization with a 4-dimensional one, and split it in parts to put onto 2-dimensional surface.
In a functional language Plutchik describes these basic emotions in these terms:
- anticipation - exploration,
- joy - reproduction,
- trust - incorporation,
- fear - protection,
- surprise - orientation,
- sadness - reintergation,
- disgust - rejection,
- anger - destruction.
Internalizing this list made me somewhat sad, and my current worldview changed slightly.
Should the story be uplifting by means of obviously pleasant feelings like joy? On the one hand, there is a reason to make something optimistic and loving - about joy and trust with some surprise, overpowering rage and resulting in anticipation, or maybe to make an interest awaking story showing states of serenity with admiration that should dismiss boredom, or something based on any similar combination, - and it is that the uncomfortable and unproductive emotions might easily dominate our minds due to their initial importance for survival and procreation.
On the other hand, often you need to destruct something for a harmonious outcome, be sad for a while to reflect on the past and plan better, to apprehend things to safely move forward.
The other set of basic emotions I found interesting is from Nico Frijda, Amsterdam, 1988: desire, happiness, interest, surprise, wonder, sorrow. And I still wonder, how to build some other emotions from this set.
One of my favorite classifications of emotions now is that of Clark Elliott, 1998 after Ortony, et al., 1988. I am sorted it out for myself in a vector graphic schema:
Basis event related emotions:
- Satisfaction - Disappointment,
- Joy - Distress,
- Hope - Fear.
Also the opposites of a kind to the previous set, relative to the object:
- Resentment (Jealousy, Envy) - Gloating
Basic act related emotions:
- Pride - Shame (own act),
- Admiration - Reproach (of another).
Related to object:
- Liking - Disliking.
- Love(Admiration +Liking)
- Hate (Reproach + Disliking)
- Gratitude = Admiration + Joy,
- Gratification = Pride + Joy;
- Anger = Reproach
- Remorse = Shame + Distress.
To summarize it briefly, emotions relate to the people who feel themselves, or to others, to their own acts and acts of others, and to events - good or bad, in the past, present or future, - in their lives or lives of others, and these emotions can be positive (pleasure, approval, appeal) or negative (displeasure, disapproval, dislike). Basically, pleasure and attraction and their opposites related to time, environment and society.
Compounds like hopeful reproach, resentful admiration, or fearful reproach or admiration, have no one-word equivalent in the languages I know, but can be very interesting to explore and to apply to everyday situations.
How about a story about a guy in love with intellectual envy, who cannot admit to his jealousy out of pride, and is unable to express this general resentment in hope to change? No, thanks. Lt us move forward.
There are four levels of a screenplay: concept, character, incidents, scene (Ashwini Malik).
In other words, you should have an idea, personalities, events, and environment. And then you can make viewers to co-feel with the characters towards ideals, acts, and circumstances while time is passing by, from one set of emotions to another.
5 Principles of storytelling
Here are the five principles of storytelling, freely summarized from Doug Lipman's six, changed or extended:
- Offer. Propose direction of thought. Develop the story to the viewers own conclusion. Last event in the sequence is their idea. Forcing predetermined objective is morally questionable.
- Integrity. Make sure you tell the same story through all channels of communication - sensory levels.
- Intention. Be clear about who you are and why you tell the story.
- Stimulation. Experience is made by making sense of sensory details. It belongs to the viewer, lives in them, and out of your control.
- Gift. Benefit them, not yourself.
"Essentially, a story expresses how and why life changes." Storytelling That Moves People by Robert McKee and Bronwyn FryerThere is "inciting incident" - an event that throws life out of balance. Efforts to restore balance disrupted uncooperative objective reality. A good story describes what it is like to deal with fundamental conflict between subjective expectation and cruel reality, to work with scarce resources, make decisions, take action despite risks, and discover the truth (McKee, Bronwyn).
"Cognitive psychologists describe how the human mind, in its attempt to understand and remember, assembles the bits and pieces of experience into a story, beginning with a personal desire, a life objective, and then portraying the struggle against the forces that block that desire." McKee, BronwynKate Wright, who worked with great writers, makes accent on ethics:
"...The best stories feature a protagonist who struggles with identifiable human flaws. The moral choice can be very simple or complex, but it must test the inner moral strength of the main character against his human flaws, not just toward achieving his outward goal, but through his internal transformation, which occurs in his conscience and emotional life. As the story progresses, the hero confronts other characters and situations that support, negate, and challenge his ability to overcome the odds and achieve his goal, but what is satisfying to the audience is the internal triumph that occurs throughout the external struggle, such that, at the end of the story, the audience understands in a profound way what the story is about." The Five S's of Screenwriting: Principles Of StorytellingAfter reading recommendations from a Pixar storyboard artist, Emma Coats,
"Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it." Emma Coats's advice #10I was quite surprised that I had not many stories to choose from, and the first that came in mind were from my early childhood, my first books. Then I analysed my favorite films, and it seams like my favorite plots are about persons who started to be or to do what they wanted. Short and minimalist stories are very attractive to me as well, but if I imagine some of them made into film, they look like photography like sequences of scenes with little dialogue and some narration.
Emma also asks:
"Why must you tell THIS story? What's the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That's the heart of it." The 22 rules of storytelling
My desire is to show others the beauty of a specific way of thinking I found in my life. But I am reluctant to use myself or anybody like me as a main character other than for one documentary on a specific topic where nobody can replace me, because I am all over the place, I was too greedy for solitude, and trembled to keep loves I jumped into too quickly, to be a solid representative of an idea, shown linearly in action. My life story is strange and unconvincing, even selected parts of it are. But I do know people who I want on my camera, their personalities will be like flourishing trees, promising sweet fruits of wisdom, caring new seeds that will co-create new species in the minds of the viewers. That's why I am studying documentary film next semester, after field production in the last one.
And the last and my favorite reference for the storytelling of the moment is Calvin and Hobbes by cartoonist Bill Watterson, my friend let me read some of them the other day, and I was enchanted. This level of brilliancy and mastery in presenting life with perfected perspective, composition, facial expressions, words, humor, joy, relationships, fantasy, is like a warm star of the way for me now.
People who have something to say should tell others who they are, why should we trust them, what is their vision, and why it matters.
Stories have been used as an informal learning and value transfer throughout our history, and I want to find my own way to offer a pleasant time with value that worth it to some of the fellow humans. I should be truthful and give my best for my ideas to be accepted to consideration.
Rules of writing
The modified by me for videography Heinlein's rules of writing, 1947:
- You must take video shots.
- You must edit your footage into ready films.
- You must refrain from retaking and reediting, except to editorial order.
- You must put the work on the market.
- You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.
"Good stories happen to those who know how to tell them." Henry JamesLet them happen to us!