Saturday, October 18, 2014


The art of story-showing begins with story-finding. You can only show/tell what you you have found, and it is always most exhilarating when the two occur very close together, when the finding is intimately connected to the telling and a kind of spontaneous improvisation, akin to playing jazz, occurs, only with character actions and dialogue, not notes.

Story-finding is an adventure. It invites the dramatist to engage and work with those subconscious and seemingly irrational drives of the characters, whilst looking past the types of patterned responses that comprise game theory, such as the 'tit-for-tat' pattern,where a perceived injury triggers an equally injurious response. While this sort of action/reaction carries a logic everyone can understand, it may not be the most surprising response or the most successful in provoking the audience's emotional involvement with the characters. So long as we work within the tight, circumscribed and often predictable patterns of game theory we run the constant risk of producing stale, cliched and predictable action and events.

If it's 'magic' you're after, there can be no formulas, no recipes or appropriations of other people's answers. What you have to do is go on the journey - the same emotional journey that those who have the greatest stake in the outcome are on, namely the characters. As your relationship with the characters evolves and strengthens, you begin to understand how their stakes coincide with your own, and that if the characters and you are to succeed in your plans, you are going to have to be very mindful of exactly what they and you want and exactly why they and you want it (empathy), and persistently and consistently choose and implement actions that are aligned to the outcomes they and you desire. This is the essence of 'story-finding', in which the writer enters the drama not through the imposition of formula or a self-imposed need to hit plot targets, but by an on-going series of acts that free the characters to create fresh, surprising and credible variations of the usual patterns of 'call and response'. And you must do this for both protagonist/s and antagonist/s.

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