Thursday, October 18, 2007

Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach

I have read a great many books on writing stories—fiction manuals, screenplay and playwriting books—only a few have been useful to me in learning the rhetoric of fiction. One such book is Screenwriting: A Sequence Approach, by Paul Joseph Guilno.

The book presents four methods of creating anticipation: pointing, dangling cause, dramatic irony, and dramatic tension. Pointing gives an indication of where the story line is going. A dangling cause occurs when a cause is not immediately followed by an effect. Dramatic irony occurs when the reader or viewer knows something that the character does not. Finally, dramatic tension occurs when the character must achieve something but has problems doing so. All these create, if used properly, anticipation and forward momentum of the story. But how does one use these concepts properly? It is impossible to learn to use structural elements such as these without seeing how they work in real stories, so analysis of films is indispensable in learning. Now, the dedicated writer who is serious about his craft will do this analysis on his own, looking for the concepts in the stories and films that he is exposed to. Guilno provides such analyses in his book to help you see how to think using these elements. The movies he analyses include Toy Story, The Graduate, North by Northwest and a few others. The analyses are well worth the price of the book. Guilno is a screenwriting professor and he knows what he’s talking about when he shows in his analyses how these elements work.

Obviously, no book will replace your own effort to understand how stories work, but this one will certainly give you the tools to conduct your own analyses.

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