I love the cool fall weather, how about you?
- Identify the levels in Act 1 for your own story. For example, in the film, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s Inner Level of Conflict is her powerlessness over her own life, The External Level of Conflict is when Miss Gulch takes Toto, intending to put him to sleep. When Toto escapes, the Societal Level of Conflict becomes whether or not Dorothy should run away to save him.
- Next, ignore Act 2 completely and jump to Act 3. Identify how the Three Levels of Conflict you’ve identified are now going to be resolved. Again, using our film example, Dorothy resolves her Inner Conflict by accepting and using the Ruby Slippers, the external level by getting herself back to Kansas, and the Societal Level of Conflict by allowing Auntie Em to call the experience “ a dream.”
- By working this way, you can create a traditional ending, and also a “soft target,” ending possibility, one that allows room for an even better ending than the one you’ve thought of so far. Remember that all endings are either happy, sad, or different. By leaving the possibility open, you’ll be amazed at how the events of the story will become more interesting and surprising.
- Now, we look back to Act 2, Part l, which is the inverse of Act l, decide if it’s the dream or the nightmare, and refine the events accordingly.
- That decision brings us up to Act 2, Part 2 which is the part of the story where the main character must go through an experience that transforms him or her into the hero or heroine who can solve the problems set up in Act 1. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy must go to the castle and bring the Witch’s broomstick to the Wizard. In other words, she must face her worst fear.
During our class, we identified each character’s worst fear. For example, one student’s main character has to refuse to take her mother’s help, another has to wrest the business away from a corrupt relative and another must face his guilt over a family tragedy.
Once we identified the specific fear, it was relatively straightforward to create a series of events that answered the 3rd Magic Question: “Who or what would my main character ‘die’ for.” Follow these steps, and you’ll find story development becoming less of a chore! Again, using our example of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy must go to the Witch’s castle and get the broom. Find that main event for your main character, and the hardest part of structuring your screenplay is done!
Good luck with this technique. I suggest that watching this section of several existing movies will help you have a visceral experience of this technique in action. I also suggest that you read the equivalent section in the script if you can get it. The combination of watching and reading will inspire your creativity as well as being educational.
On another topic, I’m so excited to share that my partner and I have begun to create short animations that I hope you’ll all enjoy. Look for our new animated website soon.
Click here to download and view the clip below.
Professor Marilyn Horowitz