Scenes/Events

by Bryant
(Dayton, Ohio, U.S.)

Every time I read about Scenes/Events I get confused. You talk about building the events with Setup, complication, crisis and resolution. I understand why the events are built this way but what I don't understand is do I use the 4 part structure together at once or spread out through the story. I have searched your site and I was hoping to find an example. Can you please give me a written example? Sometimes I find it easier to understand when I see it being used. This is why I like using Dramatica Pro. Can you give me a brief example of an event using the 4 part structure? Thank you so much for your help, it is much appreciated!!


Answer: The structure is recursive (it repeats at every level). If you take one complete throughline, for example the overall story, you can break it into the four stages (or signposts). Each signpost can be divided into a sequence of 4-6 events (not a hard and fast rule). And a good event or scene will follow the same four-part structure.

In the case of a short story, a signpost might only be one scene/event. You would write the entire event with no interruptions. It's in longer stories that signposts are divided into sequences.

For example, in Star Wars: Episode IV, the four signposts of the overall throughline can be described as...

1. Setup: Getting the stolen plans to Obi wan Kenobi.

2. Complication: Escaping Tattooine/Getting to Aldarran.

3. Build to crisis: Escaping the Death Star/Getting the plans to the rebel base.

4. Resolution: Saving the rebel base/Destroying the Death Star.

If you take the first signpost, you can break it down into four parts:

1. Setup: R2D2 escapes with the Death star plans and a message from the Princess for Obi wan Kenobi.

2. Complication: Before he can reach Obi wan, R2D2 is captured by the Jawas and sold to Owen, who plans to erase his memory.

3. Crisis: R2D2 escapes to find Obi wan, but is recaptured by Luke and C3PO and the three of them are attacked by the Sand people.

4. Resolution: Luke, C3PO, and R2D2 are saved by Obi wan Kenobi and R2D2 is able to deliver the Princess's message.

If you were to take the first event of this sequence and divide it into a smaller sequence, it might look like...

1. Setup: Imperial troops board Senator Leia Organa's ship, believing the stolen Death Star plans are on board.

2. Complication: Leia secretly entrusts the stolen plans to the droid, R2D2.

3. Crisis: The Imperial troops capture Leia, but cannot find the stolen plans.

4. R2D2 successfully escapes to Tatooine with his friend C3PO.

If you just had one throughline, you could tell the whole thing as an uninterrupted series of events. However, when you have other throughlines or subplots, you need to tell them at the same time as you tell the overall story. So you tell a little bit of one, then a bit of another, etc. The guideline is to give the setup of all the throughlines before you move on to the complications. Tell the complications of all the throughlines before moving on to the crises.

This is what creates the four-act structure. Act one presents all the setups (Signpost #1s). Act two presents all the complications (Signpost #2s), etc.

You are free to jump from one throughline to another in any order you like, as long as each throughline is told in its own sequence. Scene breaks are the best time to jump to a different throughline.

For example, in Star Wars, that first overall sequence is interrupted at one point by Luke's confrontation with Owen, an event that shows Luke's frustration with being kept on the farm (Main Character setup). The Impact Character setup begins when Owen expresses his disdain for Obi wan Kenobi and his fear that Luke "has too much of his father in him," and continues with the event in which Obi wan scares off the Sand people with nothing more than his confidence and a little sound effect. The relationship throughline setup occurs when Obi wan Kenobi tells Luke about his father and gives Luke the lightsabre.

Hope that clarifies.

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