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The Story of Story

Symbols of atmosphere react with “adjacent” symbols, but in a non-linear fashion. Linearity can be enforced (for example, by making characters “run a gauntlet”), but this is itself an expression of atmosphere. Non-linearity is good for making statements, but bad for advancing arguments. Is there some other way that symbolism can be introduced such that it can be structured in a linear (and therefore more contributory) fashion?

Narrative

The way that both film and computer games handle this is through narrative. Film is the more structured: The scenes in a screenplay link causally to tell a story (generally in a classic, three-act form). Syd Field's famous analysis[38] of script form puts act I at pages 1–30, act II at pages 30–90, and act III at pages 90–120. Around pages 10–15 will be an inciting incident that knocks the initially stable situation out of balance; around pages 25–27 will be a big event that gives the protagonist a goal; around page 60 will be a pinch point where the protagonist becomes fully committed; around pages 85–90 will be a crisis point where all seems lost; the resulting showdown lasts until about page 115, then the story wraps up with a realization section where the audience can see how events have grown the protagonist as a person. The position of the later events can slip a little, but many professional screenplay readers really will look at pages 25–27 and reject a script if it doesn't have a big event there.

[38] Syd Field, Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting. New York, Dell, 1979.


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