Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Whose Structure?

Last night, Onyx was hanging out at our (Captain Undead and my) place, chatting and killing some pixilated terrorists with us. We stumbled upon an interesting discussion, which really got me thinking.

As I mentioned in the pervious post, the Writing Week part 3, I started having some doubts as to where exactly my first act was ending, and whether or not it was becoming too long. Captain Undead interjected that he, too, was having some thoughts about the project he’s working on, since it won’t adhere to traditional act structure, per se (I don’t really want to speak for him, so if he wants, he can elaborate later).

But, that got us thinking; do we really need to feel compelled to follow act structure as it’s been taught us? There I was, sitting, talking with other Leaguers, worrying about whether I was going horribly off track because page thirty had hit and act one was still, possibly, not over. (Mind you, that’s a bit of an exaggeration…but not much.) I have an idea, which I think could be really sound once I get it written, an idea which we’re all excited about, and somehow, when Act Structure comes into view, the idea has to become putty and work around that.

I know that we are not forbidden to color outside the lines, so to speak. Plenty of writers and filmmakers have strayed beyond the three act structure and have made wonderful films. However, as a young writer, Act Structure is still quite a helpful, guiding force for me. I think it is for older, well established writers, as well. And there’s a reason for that: usually, it works. It took me quite a long time to figure that fact out for myself, but once I did, my screenwriting progressed tremendously.

But now, I find myself wondering if, perhaps, I’ve let the idea of Act Structure become too overbearing. Maybe I’m not letting myself work freely enough of it to really accomplish what I’m trying to do in my scripts. At the end of the day, I do revert, rather instinctively now, I might add, to the three act format. I suppose there’s really no solid conclusion I’m going to draw here, other than that I have a vague inkling that, as helpful as three act structure is, it’s taken a bit too literally as the way of the trade, that someday, I’ll be able to work outside it and progressive instructors will help students see teir way beyond it, when such a time is necessary.

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