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5 Nature of Stories in Films & TV Shows

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As a beginner level screenwriter, one of the questions I ask my bosses regularly is about the nature of the film we are working on. What pattern are we looking for? Do we really need to follow this structure? Can we play around with plot twists? Can I bring my inciting incidents in the very first minute of this film?

While reading John Truby’s ‘The Anatomy of Story’ at work, I came across the heading called Story Movements that discusses the different natures of stories I am going to share with you today. What I found was missing in the book were the examples and explanation of each story movement. In this article, I have tried to keep it as simple as possible for you to understand what Truby has taught us with the examples we can relate to easily. So let’s begin:

  1. Linear Story
  2. If you have one protagonist with one objective and clear direction, your story is on linear path. Events will keep happening one after another.

    Often The Hero’s Journey is of linear nature in which your hero’s history, his struggle and the change he comes across after that struggle is shown. For example, Spider-Man, Batman, Singham (why am I even naming this film), etc.

  3. Meandering Story
  4. This is not as straightforward as the linear story. The structure here is windy, twisty, like rivers and snakes with no specific shape. There is a beginning and an end but our hero’s desire is not intense. He meets new people from different levels of society and discovers new realms.

    Movies like Gladiator, Swades, and TV shows like Breaking Bad fall into this category.

  5. Spiral Story
  6. If the word spiral brings a spinning image to your mind, you have reached the right spot. Thrillers that begin with a lot of widespread information going gradually towards the core where the secret lies, belong to this category.

    Films of Hitchcock and Sriram Raghavan are the perfect examples to explain this pattern of storytelling. You keep guessing the end, and often you are proved wrong.

    PS: If you haven’t watched Raghavan’s Andhadhun yet, please do.

  7. Branching Story
  8. It includes any story that maps out the details of society our hero is exploring or just a stage of that society. Just like branches of trees, each branch represents a component the society is comprised of.

    Films majorly based on WWII explain this nature very well. Be it The Pianist or The Schindler’s List, each film has a hero that explores the hidden reality of the society he is living in without putting much effort. The hero meets new people, discover the truth and then change his perception often with the guilt attached. And what I have experienced, branching stories end on a sad note.

  9. Explosive Story
  10. If linear story had a straight path with one hero and one objective, consider this an opposite of it. Any story where multiple characters are busy in doing multiple things at the same time, it’s the explosive story.

    Every Quentin Tarantino film is of this nature. Pulp Fiction is till date the best movie that explains how explosive story works.

    As a writer, it’s your responsibility to identify the nature of your story and then stick to it till the last page to maintain the harmony that you have built.

    Have I missed anything important? Do you have something to say on what you just read above? Comment below and let me know.

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