Does the "Hero's Journey" Writing Approach Apply to Military Techno-Thriller / Historical Novels?

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pigfender
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Thu Nov 19, 2020 7:14 pm Post

Whilst I’ve no objection to Save the Cat which is a well written explanation of the method Blake Snyder used to write his movies, it’s important for anyone reading it to remember that Snyder’s biggest film success was Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot! and to be frank, his advice on plotting is generic enough that you can even apply it to a tv theme song and claim it follows his structure!
See: http://www.pigfender.com/index.php/2015 ... /#more-922

Where STC *is* helpful is in giving a vocabulary to certain plot elements, and to set an expectation that structure is something you need to think about and refine rather than just wing it.

As for the Hero’s Journey — that’s a very specific construction for telling a certain type story (essentially the “epic quest”). If you’re not writing that kind of story (and it sounds like you definitely aren’t) then it’ll probably take you in the wrong direction. That said, it’s not a bad thing to remember that everyone is the protagonist in their own movie and that’s true enough of movie characters too. Even the most 2D pantomime villain should be able to state what his objectives and motives are! A simplified version of the structure to help clarify the motives and frustrations of each of the main characters may help you if you’re in the brainstorming / plot forming part of the process.
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sidderke
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Thu Nov 19, 2020 7:54 pm Post

All these structures pretty much amount to the same mechanics, see my attachment in this post, where they compare Syd Field (screenplay structure), Save the Cat (Blake Snyder's method of the same thing), the Sequence approach, the Hero's journey, and Aristotle's Poetics. It's all the same thing. And I don't mean that in a bad way, there is very high value in how to package these concepts in seductive and clear ways that help people finding structure in their story.
The source of that image, is this post:
http://thebitterscriptreader.blogspot.c ... stroy.html


For people also interested in structure, I highly recommend the link below as well, and I think they talk about mechanics that work equally well in a movie, a book, etc. ... These are mechanics that don't tell you what to do, they tell you what has proven to work. It still takes all your creativity to do it well.
The link is from the screenwriter of Toy Story 3 or 4 (I don't remember) and Little Miss Sunshine. He makes a beautiful 90 minute essay about how to make an 'insanely great ending', but it talks a lot about theme and structure and the underpinnings of how to get to that point:
http://www.pandemoniuminc.com/endings-video

Enjoy, for the ones that are interested in structure.
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Twolane
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Thu Nov 26, 2020 1:02 pm Post

I think the thing that some of us miss, notwithstanding the constant references to Blake Snyder's scriptwriting failures in an effort to discredit him, is that structure is a road map. Haul out the map. Plot a course from A to B. Yawn. Boring road trip. Sally forth.

Flat tire. Spare with no air. Low fuel. Check engine light. Road closed. Detour. Speeding ticket. Road rage. Hit an animal. Fast food. Car sick. Walk the dog/dog runs off. Nagging wife/child/dog. Oh look, a hitch-hiker, daddy can we pick her up (remember The Hitch-Hiker and Detour? Probably not, unless you're a film noir fan). Held at gunpoint while pumping fuel and on and on.

And we haven't even gone on any sight-seeing detours. All we did was drive from A to B.

Take all the plot points you think you must meet, throw them in a hat, and there you go. Or not.

I think the idea with all the books telling us what we must do, is that we take what we need, and throw out the rest, until we need them.

There are those of us who can sit down and start writing towards THE END. There are those who need a map, with all the mishaps and detours mapped and written out. Some need an ending to write towards. It doesn't make the method any less relevant.

Take what you think you need. Make your own "plan" or "map" or novel "structure" for your particular story from Snyder or Brody or anyone else. Mix and match. Or not. Only you, the writer, knows the story and where you want it go go.

Structured or not, you may find that you're writing outside the bounds of your "structure map" too. What's wrong with that? Nothing. Go with _your_ flow.

And I haven't even mentioned "cycling".

Write on, brothers and sisters.

As regards a PM I received, I'm in the middle of editing a 100,000-word tome. Thankfully, I color-coded the various stories/characters as they twist and turn. I can pull them out, edit them separately for flow and other needs, and put them back in the proper sequence. That alone is one reason I have to number my chapters in order to get them back in the right sequence (referencing an earlier post of mine in another thread).

Now some will say, you don't have to do that. You can use Scrivener's Add to collection in the binder. Of course I can. And I have. But in some cases, that's not practical. I need a very condensed version of the binder, and I get that when I drag out the folders and put them into a temporary and separate Scrivener.

That's my Scrivener "road map". There's one way to do it. There's another I prefer, from time to time. No biggie. That's how I work with the software.

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devinganger
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Thu Nov 26, 2020 1:53 pm Post

Twolane wrote:I think the thing that some of us miss, notwithstanding the constant references to Blake Snyder's scriptwriting failures in an effort to discredit him, is that structure is a road map. Haul out the map. Plot a course from A to B. Yawn. Boring road trip. Sally forth.


I think this right here is one of the key factors to the battle between pantsers and plotters -- what do we mean by "structure" when talking about storytelling? Is it a descriptive concept, or a prescriptive concept? That is, when we talk about a story's structure, are we describing a property that the story has, or an ideal we think the story should adhere to?

I personally think it's both and neither -- that structure is simply a compact between the author and the reader about what to expect from the story. And like a contract, the more clear it is, the better for both parties.

Like most of these kinds of flamewars, taking a purely binary approach misses reality by not going granular enough. After all, you can do some amazing pictures with just black and white if your dots are small enough...

The best stories have a clear structure in the descriptive sense *whether or not that structure is commonly used or totally unique* -- and it helps gives cues, in the prescriptive sense, to the reader/listener to help prepare them to be fully immersed in the story. Where exactly you set that slider between the two extremes depends on a lot of factors -- the story you *think* you're telling when you first start writing, the story as it evolves, your own experience and comfort level as a writer, and more. Some authors use roughly the same structure for their entire career and yet manage to write interesting, engaging stories -- because they know the pros and cons of the structure they are using and make sure the stories they are telling fit well into those constraints. Picking up one of these books feels warm and comfortable -- you know what you're getting into.

Other authors never use the same structure twice. Their stories are constantly changing and evolving and as a result they need to do some work to uncover the new structure -- sometimes in the beginning while planning, sometimes through the archeological process of writing drafts and discovering more organically what changes need to be made.

At any rate, it all comes back to, "what story do you want to tell?" If your structure gets in the way of telling that story, gets in the way of the reader enjoying that story, then either you have used the wrong structure, or you are telling the wrong story. *Whether or not you plan the structure up front or unearth it through the process of writing*, every story has a structure, and it needs to be in harmony with the story for you to get the best effect out of your story. Structural rewrites can be a critical and healthy part of the revision process!
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kewms
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Thu Nov 26, 2020 5:14 pm Post

And of course the structure that is (or isn't) visible in the end result doesn't necessarily say anything about the planning tools used by the author.

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devinganger
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Fri Nov 27, 2020 1:13 am Post

kewms wrote:And of course the structure that is (or isn't) visible in the end result doesn't necessarily say anything about the planning tools used by the author.


Absolutely.

Ask any three general contractors what their preferred tools are for framing a house (or any other sort of construction task) and you're going to get five different opinions. You'll see some common opinions, but the (forex) hammer that one person likes another person won't, because it doesn't fit their hand/style the way it does the first.

Building a house is a great metaphor for the relationship between structure and story, I think.
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landyvlad
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Thu Dec 17, 2020 4:53 am Post

Rob -

Red Storm Rising is certainly my favourite Clancy book. Difficult to emulate that sort of structure especially in real world history ,

But if you manage it - put me down for a signed copy :)


Rob5755 wrote:I already have two motion pictures to my credit, one already on Netflix and the other in production with LionsGate;


Do tell !
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