If you’ve just arrived here via Copyblogger, welcome! We’re all about going deep into the infrastructure and principles of effective storytelling, and we’d love to have you join us.
Just saw Shutter Island, the Martin Scorsese film starring Leonardo DiCaprio based on the Dennis Lehane novel. And I’m here to tell you, if you’re a writer of novels and/or screenplays who hopes to better wrap your head around the inherent power of narrative structure and character arc — in other words, story architecture — you should see it, too.
Not as a ticket-paying, popcorn-chewing audience peer, but as a note-taking, inquisitive budding author going to school on the best in the business.
Why? Because I continue to believe that the most empowering skill-building thing we can do as writers is to critically analyze and deconstruct stories other than our own. We can read the “how-to” until our eyes bleed, but when we see the principles in action we become believers.
Shutter Island is a clinic in delivering a clearly-delinated four part contextual structure, with each quartile separated and empowered by expositional milestones (two plot-points and a mid-point) that define the very essense of their mission.
It is those four very different contexts that make the story work. That make any story work.
Of course, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, then the deconsruction process won’t deliver a fraction of the benefit as compared to an informed process. So I invite you to bone up on four part structure using the archived posts here on Storyfix, or my ebook on the topic.
In a few weeks I’ll post a deconstruction of BOTH the novel and the movie.
For now, see if you can spot the game-changing first plot point, the mid-point context shift and the fuse-igniting second plot point. If you’re feeling ambitious, try to spot the two pinch points in the middle of Parts 2 and 3.
At a very minimum, try to sense the different narrtive contexts between each of the four parts — set-up/orhpan… response/wanderer… attack/warrior… hero/martyr.
Fair warning, though. Shutter Island is dark and frightening, and it isn’t remotely what you think it is, based either on the movie preview or the first half. And that, in itself, is an opportunity to sit at the feet of perhaps the best literary thriller authors we have in their respective mediums, Dennis Lehane and Martin Scorsese.
If even a fraction of their genius rubs off, we’ll all be orders of magnitude better for it.
Image credit: Wolf Gang
Quick note: my publisher has completely revised the website for my new novel, Whisper of the Seventh Thunder (www.whisperofthesevenththunder.com), with a cool new look and new content. Please check it out.