Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How to tell a Good Story

These rules apply to both fiction writing and news articles.
Rule Number One: find a good story! A "good" story is one that transports the reader into another world, or into another setting at least, making us care about the people in it and educating us without preaching. In fourth grade our English teacher showed us this clip from The Hunchback of Notre Dame: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6226987819861532910&q=Hunchback+of+Notre+Dame&total=888&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=6
The film displays this method of a good story by showing the transition from pre-modern Paris to Paris twenty years ago and from a puppetmaster's booth during daybreak to a dirty hidden dock during nightfall. Occasionally it goes back to Clopin, reminding us that he has not disappeared, but only tells the story. Frollo, our protagonist, kills a gypsy woman without guilt. He only feels guilt when the Archdeacon reminds him that God and the Virgin Mary have seen him commit this heinous crime and will condemn him for it if he kills her child as well. Clopin ends with the big question ("Who is the monster and who is the man?") that leaves his listeners satisfied.
Rule Number Two: Show both sides of a story. Later on in Hunchback, Frollo feels lust for Esmeralda, as shown here: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=9012756407798333875&q=Hunchback+of+Notre+Dame&total=889&start=20&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=1
We understand Frollo's point of view because other people's minds work this way and may even take it were it not for Esmeralda's song, which shows her point of view: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6248269357798932172&q=Hunchback+of+Notre+Dame&total=888&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=0
Keep in mind that this is a Disney movie, so of course we don't like Frollo and we root for Esmeralda. But we understand how Frollo's mind works and why he commits his terrible crimes, just like the one in the beginning of the movie.
Rule Number Three: Wrap it up well. This clip says it all:http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3724892245402393685&q=Hunchback+of+Notre+Dame&total=888&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=4 If you haven't seen the movie, you don't need to. All you need to know is that Quasimodo is determined to protect Esmeralda from Frollo, even as Frollo plans to kill them both. Frollo dies, Quasimodo lives, and it ends happily with the little girl from the beginning embracing the hunchback. Clopin wraps up the story the way he began it.
That's all the basics you need. Now start writing.

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