A lot of the language of television story development does what it says on the tin; so ‘The Hook ’in a story line will be that moment where an audience is literally hooked into the next stage of the story – it will come at the end of an act and ensure there is a strong ‘coupling’ from one act to the next. All the time, an audience’s attention is required to be focused on the episode in question. And as I mentioned earlier, there is much to distract us in this modern world of too much choice.
The Twist’ happens half way through the 2nd act; this is a plot twist, an unexpected event or reveal; something that gives the story a renewed energy so we now go into act 3. And halfway through that, there is another twist, which jettisons the story into the 4th act – hooking again into the 5th and final act.
And there will be the Cliff Hanger, bringing the story line to an explosive, or visually engaging, or revelatory climax – just for now, because of course, we want the audience to either watch another episode immediately or make ‘an appointment to view’ the next one soon.
HOW WE USE STORY IN OUR DAILY LIVES:
I’ve worked with story and writers for 25 years. Telling a good story is part of what makes me, me. I like to think I can write a good tale as well as put one over verbally.
There’s a knack to telling even an anecdotal story; you’ve probably all been there at some point, there’s a member of your group hell bent on telling a tale they believe is both hilarious and informative but in the telling of it the time ticks by, there’s tumbleweed rolling across a metaphorical acreage of unfunny, boring facts that this poor person is doling out, all the while oblivious to the teeth clenching, toe curling and nail biting going on amongst their captive audience….. this is because more often than not, what is thought to be a story is in fact not – it could be a situation, an event, an isolated moment in time, it can be a fragment of a bigger tale, but not the tale itself.
What constitutes a proper story is any tale with a beginning, a middle and an ending. And most importantly, when all the journeying is done, the story must make us feel, or think differently. It must have a message. And that is where SUBTEXT comes in.
SUBTEXT v TEXT:
If you think now, of any drama you have seen recently, film, tv series, or perhaps it’s a book you’ve just finished reading. Does the story stay with you? And if it does, what does it tell you? How does it make you feel?
The text of a story is another word for PLOT. The plot is what happens – the action we see either in our mind’s eye if we are reading a story or on screen if we are watching it. This plot is essential in order for us to feel we are on a journey – things are happening, the landscape is changing – but plot alone does not make a good story. Plot needs its companion; SUBTEXT.
Subtext is that which a character feels but does not say. Subtext is the driving force behind the plot that we are watching and as we do so, there is a subliminal message going in to our subconscious – ‘this is why she is doing that’ ‘I know how she feels’ ‘I would like to help’ or ‘I don’t want to be anywhere near her/part of this, but I must keep watching’.
Subtext and its working in collaboration with Text, ensures there is a message created and released by the narrative and we therefore are fully engaged and right in that moment too – with the character/s on screen.
All good story telling is an invitation to feel, to question, to align with or against, to basically make a personal choice to empathise and react.
That is why stories from modern times, like Killing Eve, right back to a time before television, when those fires burned and the spoken word was all we had – creates division, discussion and debate. We learn from engaging with others’ stories and in so doing we are changed and progress as a society as a whole.
I believe all of us have our own stories to tell and do it in lots of different ways, in small, daily doses of just being human.
I think true happiness lies at finding yourself at the centre of your own bicycle wheel; with your loved ones sharing that space. The world of work and industry forms loops around you and the bigger picture – the macro view is one you have carved out by living, by experience and by growing.
When my mum died in April 2018, I wanted to write something that could be shared at her funeral – my point of view of her. My micro view. And it was in doing that, that I realised she, all the time that I was living in the world when she was in it, had always been at the centre of my bicycle wheel. From her, all spokes came.
Story structure is never far from life and the living of it, in my view.
Who we are; our inner selves and what we show to the world; our outer selves, are often two very different entities. In my work with writers, I try to bring about an authentic voice – a combination of that which makes the writer write (their subtext) and that which the writer wants us to know (the text or plot).
Finding an authentic voice in life and in writing are one and the same thing to my mind, and it is in the use of our authentic voice that we find true peace of mind and can spread that outwards.