Sunday, September 22, 2013

Scripts and Novels are fraternal twins.

I just finished reading Peter Dunne's "Emotional Structure: Creating the Story beneath the Plot: a Guide for Screenwriters." Long title. Fabulous book.

Using a film I love--Witness--he posits that "the emotional through line, that is to say the Emotional Structure, is the first story to be developed deeply. Only then can the plot be developed to serve it."

"The plot is what happens in the film (or story). The story is what it does to the who it happens to.  The who is far more important than the what. The what would be worthless without the who. But to be fair, the who wouldn't be much without the what, either.

"We can also look at this this way: The plot provides the action: the film's motion. And the story provides the reaction: the film's emotion."

"The story is the journey for truth. The plot is the road it takes to get there."

"No plot, no matter how clever, is worth anything if it doesn't ultimately connect your truth to mine."

"The plot should be thought of as the motion picture. The story should be thought of as the emotion picture."

"The most important thing you must know about your protagonist is what his journey means to you, because s/he is the personification of your film's theme."

I have known for a while that I needed to deepen the emotional story arcs in both my WIP's. This book showed how to do that.  I am excited!


  1. I venture to disagree and say that there is a world of difference between film scripts and novels. Script writers rely on the actors to provide the real emotion - or any other reactions. Reading Aaron Sorkin's scripts for 'The West Wing' made me realise how much the actors brought his words to life. In novels, it is the author who has to bring the words and characters to life and, in my opinion, has to 'become' (and not just act) the character in order to provide the emotions. We're back to deep POV here!

  2. One of my fellow chapter mates does a great program on using the movie "Pretty Woman" to show story and character arcs.

    She doesn't necessarily go into the screen writing process, but uses the different plot points to demonstrate character growth.

    It's an excellent program.

    And I'd say fraternal twins are closely related, but not exactly alike, so I can see the connection since screen writing and novels aren't 'identical', but similar.

  3. Sorry I'm late. I don't think the two are as similar as you do, Ana, but I do agree that you can learn a lot about writing a novel from movies. I think movies provide some great visuals for what we're trying to get across in our writing. I think they're great at action scenes. I think they're wonderful and invoking emotion. However, they don't provide enough character development, there's little transition from one scene to another and they involve a different type of writing style.