I’ll be tutoring some teen and tween filmmakers this summer. I’ve put together a reading and watch list to give them new ideas, new perspectives, and help show them storytelling depth and structure.
As I reread the books on the list and rewatched the movies, something really caught my attention. At one point in The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers, Matt Bird said something succinct that captures how knowing how to use the parts you don’t usually “see” are vital to making good storytelling great:
“Structure is the ‘Inside Baseball’ of the writing world.”
It’s not just enough to have a good idea. You have to structure it, in story and layout, to make it reach your audience.
Two examples of telling and structuring the story of, say, Ghostbusters (1984), are in the movies Ghostbusters (1984) and Be Kind, Rewind.
The original Ghostbusters does this pretty well (as you’d expect of a major Hollywood movie). The plucky “homebrew” version of Ghostbusters our heroes film for Be Kind, Rewind does the best it can, but it looks just like any kid’s home-filmed version of a movie looks like: bad costumes, worse music, wrenching scene cuts. But the “homebrew” version is more popular than the original because it tells the story better, despite its “homebrew” flaws.
My twist on Brad’s quote above is this: “Infrastructure is the ‘Inside Baseball’ of the writing and project world.” If your story is that great, it doesn’t matter as much if it looks and “reads” like Ghostbusters (1984) or Ghostbusters: Be Kind, Rewind.
But most stories aren’t Ghostbusters great. So how your story, blog post, or novel looks and flows is important, as well.
When you’re in the throes of writing, you write how you know. Learned to type on a manual machine? Two spaces after a period. Five spaces at the start of a paragraph. Hard return (that funny reversed looking P thing) at the end of each line.
“Manual touch type” is fine until you need to change one little thing … and your formatting goes awry. Then it’s time to bring in a formatting expert to give it that “Hollywood style” polish and shine.
If you’ve just completed your magnum opus and formatting issues are driving you crazy, reach out to me for a quote to fix the funkiness …