This is the third part of the “Finding Balance in Storytelling” presentation originally given at Fyrecon 2, June 23rd at Weber State University Davis.
Here are handy links to the other parts –
In the first two parts of this presentation we discussed what makes an audience zone out and a few handy tricks to keep this from happening. In today’s post we will elaborate more on how to balance out action scenes with rest scenes where we learn more about story and characters.
Creating a “B” story *Ragnarok spoilers ahead*
Often people will talk about the story within the story. In Thor: Ragnarok, the main conflict is for Thor to defeat Hela. The “B” story is Thor’s internal struggle with the death of his father, Odin, and his acceptance of the role of king of Asgard. (If that was a spoiler to you, sorry. Tell all your friends how awful I am. I need the publicity. Plus, it’s on Netflix so what’s your excuse?)
The “B” story is developed during the sequels. Again, this is where scene/sequel terminology drives me a bit mad. (If you missed the scene and sequel discussion, jump back to part 2) Sequels in this care are scenes that happen between the exciting bits.
This is when we see the main character’s internal struggle with a problem that once solved will ultimately be what turns the tide in solving the main conflict. For example, Hela couldn’t be defeated until Thor understood what being the God of Thunder meant. He didn’t come to understand his title until he accepted his father’s death and his destiny to rule Asgard. There are a bunch of layers in there, and if you study it closely there’s a thread running through the whole movie of Thor learning about his power and how to be a leader.
For many stories, the “B” story is also where the relationship between the main character and the person they are interested in grows into something else. They gradually fall in love, or they start detesting each other, or they learn a new respect for each other. The development of these relationships tends to happen when the world isn’t actively coming to an end, literally or metaphorically. In Thor, Thor and Loki have a troubled past. Through the course of Ragnarok we see a growing respect between them leading to a healthy sibling relationship.
Hitting a Meaningful Climax
The peak of a great story happens in the climax. If all the elements of the story have been well crafted together then we can engineer what I’d like to call a perfect storm. This happens when all the different elements come together to create something larger than the sum of the parts. In stories, this is a combination of a character with redeeming qualities, a conflict that the audience can relate to, and carefully controlled tension.
There are hundreds of resources on how to make a great character. Here on My Literary Quest there are hoards of posts that cover different aspects character development that you are welcome to check out. Same goes with creating a relatable conflict. In this series of posts we dived in-depth on how to control the tension by varying the emotional intensity, using the scene/sequel mindset, and slowly escalating what’s at stake for the character.
At the climax, the main character solves the big problem, usually in an epic and exciting way that makes sense for the story. In Ragnarok, Thor finally defeats Hela and accepts being the leader to the homeless Asgardians. Is it meaningful? Yes. Without fighting and defeating Hela, Asgard the place and its people would have been destroyed. Thor would not be able to fulfill his glorious destiny or develop respect for Loki. Is it relatable? Thor struggled to be a leader and had to figure out how to handle Hulk and lean on other outside help in order to succeed. Was there dramatic tension? Heck yeah. Odin dies leaving a gaping hole that needs to be filled. Loki was supposed to be dead and he returns. Hela, Thor’s sister, shows up and is far more powerful than he is. She breaks his hammer, stealing away the one thing he believed made him special.
When all of this is resolved, it makes for one exciting ride.
I hope you enjoyed this presentation series. Want to learn more? There are several other presentation notes available! Also be sure to like and subscribe on the social media of your choice so you don’t miss a thing. Head on over to my author page on Facebook or follow on Twitter @JodiLMilner.
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