In most movies I would be able to tell you the blow by blow of what happens at the end, because of what I've seen at the beginning. But I couldn't have told you exactly how I did that. I just thought it was because I had mad story deconstruction skills. And then I listened to a podcast starring Lou Anders on Writing Excuses featuring The Hollywood Formula and suddenly two things became clear: I am not as awesome as I was thinking that I am, and how they plotted the movie of the Avengers.
This blog will share spoilers for multiple movies. If you don't want to know the spoilers for The Hunger Games, How to Train your Dragon, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, or Marvel's The Avengers. This would be a good place to stop reading, go watch the movies and then come back here and read. If you don't care, then lets break down Lou Ander's version of the formula (Lou Anders credits his mentor Dan Decker for the formula).
The Hollywood Formula starts with three characters: The Protagonist, the Antagonist, and the Dynamic or Relationship Character. (I'm going to use the term Dynamic Character to avoid the implications that the Relationship Character is the one the Protagonist is in a relationship with.)
The Antagonist (Peeta) is a person who puts obstacles in the way of the protagonist. They block the protagonist from what they really want in the story. And your Antagonist must be a character, not a thing or an entity in the concept of the Hollywood Formula. Peeta is an unusual antagonist because he looks like he's on Katniss's side, but throughout the book and the movie it is Peeta who keeps Katniss from her goal of winning the games.
The Dynamic Character (Haymitch) is a person who accompanies the protagonist on their journey. They are someone who has accomplished the journey they believe the protagonist is on before, and are trying to share their wisdom. You can tell who the Dynamic character is because they are the person to whom or from the theme of the movie is articulated. Early in the movie there will be a conversation upon that film's theme which will be revisited at the end of the film where they have a conversation called "the reconciliation of the Protagonist and the Antagonist." Haymith knows that in order to win Katniss needs people to like her, he shares this early in the film. And they build the idea of people liking her for the kind of person she is throughout the games. And in the end it is because the people like her that both her and Peeta are enabled to survive. Which articulates the theme of the importance of being liked.
|Katniss volunteers for Prim. This scene still shocks me.|
This decision happens pretty early in the story. In a screen play of a 120 pages it is estimated to start at around page 11 to 13 (which translates to 11 to 13 minutes into the film). In the Hunger Games it is when Katniss volunteers for Prim to be the pledge for Sector 12.
Act Two is all about the transition from asking questions to resolving questions. The first act and a half is all about asking questions, and halfway during act two you need to start resolving them. I say resolve instead of answer because some questions will be resolved with other questions. (That's a bit of me applying what I see some of my favorite authors do to this formula.) The Hunger Games is about half over when Katniss goes looking for Peeta. Questions are resolved to bring about bigger questions throughout that period.
|Sharing of the nightlock, isn't double suicide romantic?|
So that is the entirety of the formula. A few movies that I've been able to use the formula with are below. Feel fee to debate with me on any of my analyzations I've made. Including the one above. I always appreciate a good discussion.
How to Train your Dragon
|Who wouldn't want a boyfriend who rides dragons?|
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
|The Fall of a Jedi and the Rise of a Sith|
Marvel's The Avengers
|The focus is on Ironman, the protagonist.|
Those are just a few movies that I felt followed this. If you check out the Writing Excuses with Lou Anders and Nathan Russell's blog you can get a few more examples you can agree or disagree with. What is really important is understanding this formula. Nobody says that you have to follow it, but if you understand the principles behind it you can develop stronger stories and make believable character arcs. And that should help you immensely as you write your stories for Camp NaNoWriMo or anything else.
Thanks for reading today. I'll be sharing a Mashup on Wednesday and I can't wait to get to it. I hope that you all have a wonderful week. I'm Jayrod Garrett, the First OG, and I want you to throw your opinions down about the Hollywood Formula and these movies in the comments. It would would make me smile. Peace, people.