88. Structure Is Pleasure

(I was about to name this post “Lucky Numbers” because it’d be awesome numeric and thematically; but on the other hand, it’s 12.01A.M., I’ve been awake for the past 18 hours, and I’m just in the right frame of mind to talk about mathematics right now)

(maybe tomorrow)

After completing Screenwriting Tips, You Hack by the distinguished Mr. Bennett, I have started on a new book on the craft of screenwriting, titled Write What You Don’t Know, by Julian Hoxter – or Professor Hoxter to his student.

It’s a significantly different feeling from reading Mr. Bennett’s book – because first of all, there are a lot more words. I’m not kidding: there are a LOT of words in this little book, and most of them spaced in such a way that they appear as intimidating blocks of text that goes on for pages on end sometimes.

Definitely not for the faint of heart.

Nonetheless, it is an very useful and informative book, dwelling deeper into the “hacks” that Mr. Bennett puts forth in his book, and explaining more in detail about how they work and what their functions are. It’s far from an in-depth analysis on why stories affect us in the way they do, mind – but it does give a lot of information on how the different elements of storytelling come together to create a holistic experience.

One of the best things I’ve learned so far (I say so far because I’ve skipped the first 100 pages or so, and have not read the last 100 pages or so) is about structure – the use of acts and beats to see how the story is doing.

The Flowering Tree (which you all MUST come and watch at the Petaling Jaya Live Arts Center from November 9 to 11) proved to be one of the tougher things I’ve had to write in a while; and for a long time, I was stuck on the transitions between scenes and on how to make the story work while still being faithful to the heart of the original (gruesome) legend.

It was desperation that let me to Mr. Hoxter’s book, and I couldn’t be more thankful for it.

One of the things that Mr. Hoxter believes is that Structure Is Pleasure. By “structure”, we’re not talking about formulaic, cookie-cutter molds to churn out stories – we’re talking about the arrangement of thoughts in a sequence that brings out the best in the story. And if there was anything that my adaptation of The Flowering Tree needed, it was proper structure.

I’ve always done well with dialogue and single scenes. Most of the stuff I have written for theater are short-form pieces basically revolving around some people talking to each other in a room – and I make it work by making them talk (argue) about interesting things. I’ve also had some success with description, pacing, and story, but structure has always been that one thing I couldn’t grasp intuitively.

So that’s where Mr. Hoxter’s book came in – and if you’re an aspiring screenwriter like me who is in need of plenty of good advice, I’ll have the pleasure of directing you to Mr. Hoxter’s book. Get a copy for me too, or I’ll just have to steal my current copy by refusing to return it to my university library.

One day we’ll also talk about structure – but not today. One day, I’ll show how these little demons work. One day.

(but seriously, come and watch The Flowering Tree)


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