Here is a comic I did for my graphic novels class. Story is a little unintelligible, since for some reason I thought I could strictly only use 6 panels, but anyways, looks kind of pretty. Here’s page 1.
Ah the middle school English Literature teacher, Mrs. Welsh. Lament her! How she suffers from the bunions on her learn’d feet, sore from standing in flat loafers amidst a rabble of sneering students. Sure, some Dr. Shcolls would do this gentlelady well. If only she could afford them! But her sorry teacher’s pay check barely feeds her seven children and lazy Mr. Welsh. Alas! No, she suffers in silence, too timid to stand up to the school authority. Why, ten-year looms nearly a decade away! Mr. Welsh, well, he’s eternally stubborn – what’s the use of stirring trouble? Today she will ignore those troubles and educate her class on the Three Act Structure. Painful of feet and dry of voice, she speaks and no one cares except for you, her star peer.
A recap on the traditional Three Act Structure, classic for it’s timeless ability to work:
It may seem blasphemous to suggest this tested formula is somehow lacking. I’m not suggesting it is – in fact, my thoughts on it, I think, are implied in the basic act outline. I just think it’s worth discussing because too often writers focus solely on an external problem, disregarding the arc of their protagonist. Here’s just another way to think about the Three Act Structure in a way that it better keeps everything in focus.
In the traditional structure, the two elements are the protagonist and his problem. The story is how the protagonist tries and does or does not solve it. I believe, however, there is not actually one problem, but two. The protagonist’s internal problem, and the external manifestation of it. If art really is an “imitation of life”, then a good writer must form their stories around what they hold to be true about their own reality. I believe the events in our lives are manifestations of our internal state. Based on our words, actions, choices, even the thoughts in our heads, we shape our reality.
In high school I knew a girl who was generally kind. Actually she was a bitch, but she wasn’t a bad person or anything. Well, in Photography, she did cut a hole in one of the changing bags, and if you’ve ever developed your own film you know only an evil human being would commit such a crime. Anyways, the worst thing about her was her negative outlook on life. And my God, did she attract misfortune! From no fault of her own in many cases. I’ve seen this many times. With other people, their misfortunes have a theme. Like they never learn their lesson and so it keeps repeating until they get it. I believe the events in our lives happen for a reason, and that we are meant to learn from them. They’re there to help us overcome our faults. And so, an external problem is only a manifestation of an internal one.
Whether or not you agree with my philosophy is entirely up to you and dependent on your experiences, but this belief does create a great system of justice for a story. Here is my act breakup:
- Intro to Mrs. Welsh and her problem (internal and external)
- Mrs. Welsh tries overcoming her external problem, but there are difficulties.
- The external problem gets worse, making her internal problem worse as well.
- She solves her internal problem.
- She decides to face the external problem.
- By solving her internal problem, her external one is resolved.
Very basic outline. Here it is beefed up to better explain what I mean by an internal and external problem and how the two relate to each other.
- Intro to Mrs. Welsh and her problems. Internal – she is complacent. External – she has a job she hates, more children than she can provide for, and a lazy husband.
- Mrs. Welsh tries overcoming her external problem by secretly signing up her husband for a job. She is too complacent to face him.
- He finds out and beats her then shaves her head in front of her children. (Dark twist. Sorry, can’t help it).
- She solves her internal problem. Pushed to the brink and righteously indignant, she is ready to take matters into her own hands.
- She decides to face the external problem – her husband. She murders him through some amazing plot and gets away with it. Now a single wife the scholarship people feel sorry for her. They give her a huge grant that will support her and her children so she can return to school. She becomes a rocket scientist, flies to the moon, and raises her children there. They take over, create a futuristic Roman Empire, resulting in a golden age for America (or whatever country she hails from).
- By solving her internal problem, her external one is resolved. Whee!
Yeaaah! Oh. And The End.
* Fun fact, when “The” comes before a words starting with a vowel, you pronounce it “thee” (as if I’m going to do that). So, “thee end”.
Jeanette Paige Fairheart hates spiders, so she crushes them with her mind, somehow.
And somehow Archie the Strong Man, thin as a twig, makes a name for himself in the circus lifting enormous weights, horses, and once the town hall!
Neenee, a civil war nurse, somehow heals the useless, torn limbs of soldiers in a matter of days.
Super human characters make for exciting, popular stories, as franchises like The Avengers, Batman, and Spiderman show, but often we writers struggle with a little thing called ‘believability’. The answer to that somehow. But I may have found what we’ve been searching for.
It’s called Quantum Physics, yo!
Quantum physics, notoriously difficult to understand, should be investigated thoroughly before throwing it around a story, but I, with my basic understanding of it, will point you in the right direction.
Why it’s useful: In the world of Quantum Physics, anything is possible as long as we will it to be with our minds. The general theory suggests that the MIND (intention) is capable of controlling energy. Which is handy because everything, even matter, is made of energy.
How it works: Energy comes in units. These units are like both waves and particles. And it is physically impossible to measure both the speed and location of a unit. If you try to measure one, the measurement of the other will be less precise. So what you measure, what your mere intention is, changes a quality of the particle.
Now read about Schrodinger’s cat experiment. He must have hated cats: http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/Schrodingers-cat
Also helps to know what “superposition” is: http://searchcio-midmarket.techtarget.com/definition/superposition
So, every outcome (cat living or dying) is possible. It all happens simultaneously. Which event manifests itself in actuality depends on the observer’s intention. Here’s another website with explanations and more experiments on this. Read about the slit experiment: http://library.thinkquest.org/3487/qp.html
If you still don’t understand, Deepok Chopra’s book, “The Spontaneous Fullfillment of Desire”, actually explains this concept really well. It’s also full of wisdom and lots of nice little mantras. If you’re into the meditation thing. I am.
Let’s take further the idea that intention influences energy in the universe. Energy is everything. Even matter – its not really solid, it’s just the vibrating particles that feel solid to us. Think Matrix – the spoon isn’t there. That’s how Neo was able to move it, in theory.
So now it’s not quite as far fetched if a character can move objects with his mind, have super strength or healing powers. It’s all just energy, after all. Nice, manageable, manipulatable energy. It’s not even solid.
Try a little experiment yourself to see how you can control energy with your mind: http://www.mind-energy.net/archives/41-Feel-energy-between-your-hands.html . Feel the repulsion! It’s crazy!
Maybe I’m plain nuts, in which case please inform me so, so I can go get help. But think of the possibilities Quantum physics has in a story! It’s really weird science, and I am no physicist, but maybe the ideas I presented here can be useful to some of your writing. Let me know what you think.
I don’t know about you guys, but every day I grow more and more sick of Pop Culture. It’s this large “General Audience” crafted so companies have a large base to sell to. A developed taste of the times, so people will keep spilling the contents of their wallets to keep up with “What’s in Style”. Paying magazines to stalk celebrities – a sort of weather check of our culture. And once something strikes a cord with the public, Pop Culture will just keep regurgitating it, hoping for more and more money.
Lady Gaga is just a rerun of Madonna. First Auction Hunters, now Storage Wars, first Pawn Stars, then Hard Core Pawn (I’m sure there’s better examples out there, but I don’t watch much television anymore). Writers, you all know how plot lines become “archetypes” – a dignified way of lacking creativity. Sure some things work, but aren’t artists supposed to CREATE. Meaning, make something new? Sure, it’s said every story has already been done, but I don’t want to believe that. At least I want to make something that is told in an original way.
It’s easy to slip into unoriginality, I realized, though. A writer friend of mine once told me “the first thing you come up with is always cliche”. So keep rewriting. Here’s an interesting link I found, and as I read through it I realized I’ve been making some writing mistakes. Falling into the cliche.
It’s Reddit, of course.