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67. The Reason For Storytelling Structure

67. The Reason For Storytelling Structure

Amateurs never learn the rules and break them all the time.
Competent artists learn the rules and never break them.
Geniuses learn the rules and rise beyond them, breaking them when necessary.

I’m paraphrasing someone clever and if you can remember who it is, I’d love for you to leave it in the comments. The point is this, we all want to be mavericks. We all want to make our mark on the world and try something new, different, original. What we sometimes forget, however, is that it’s really difficult to do something “entirely new” if you haven’t mastered the rules of the old thing.

We’ve gone over why it’s a great idea to keep your stories clear, simple and consistent but in the back of your mind I can tell you are chomping at the bit to break all of the rules and do something clever. That’s great, I completely understand that but before you run off to make your mark on the world, why not learn a little bit about all of the other attempts that have been made.

Just as you should try to draw on the perspective of other people, you should draw on their experiences as well. Figure out why things have worked, what the rules are, and how much wiggle room you have to work within them. Once you truly understand that, you’ll be a lot more free to start tweaking those rules to create your masterpiece.

Kim Peres of Screenwrightist says it well when she talks about storytelling structure,

Many writers just write whatever comes in their head and when it feels ‘finished’ they bring it to friends and then share it with the world. They do not believe in any kind of act structure and feel constrained by the idea of craft. These writers yearn to be able to do whatever they want and do not feel the need to impinge their creative juices. Though story structure is a set of restrictions it is not much different than many other restrictions that we take for granted.

In the clip above Steven Zaillian (Gangs of New York, Hannibal, Schindler’s List) explains his take on the importance of storytelling structure in film.

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