Thursday, May 24, 2007

More on McKee: plot is more than a four letter word

Right as I got two comments endorsing this short series, I will continue and hopefully convince you that you should purchase this book if you are at all interested in writing commercial ficition. One very big plus in his book is that as it aimed at screenwriters -- all the examples are films. This means rather than evaluating the book, I am able to see how the vision works out.

After giving you reasons why you should learn about craft, McKee presents the basic forms and he starts with structure. Just as a house needs a framework, so does any film. This is a rather technical part of the book and it is easy to get bogged but it does have some of my favourite bits.

One is the explanation of the types of plots -- archplot, miniplot and antiplot. As I am a commerical writer, my plots fall in the archplot spectrum. This means I have closed endings -- no dangling threads. My protagonist is active and there are external conflicts. McKee defines external conflicts to include social relationships. A miniplot has a pasisve protagonist, open endings and mainly internal to that person conflicts. Antiplots are literary sphere and so I don't needc to go into them. The thing you need to be aware of is that the further you move away from the archplot, the size of potential audience decreases.

The multiplot is half way between the arch plot and the mini plot. It can be best described as multi protagonist. Because you do have multi protagonists, you will of a necessity have less time to spend with each of them.Think The Fugative v Parenthood.

There are certain directors who are happy to make films for smaller audiences. If you are going to do that, you also have to be prepared to come in under budget. In my terms, when you write for a niche market, you must expect a smaller advance as then you will be able to earn out your advance. Publshiers like studios wantto make money on their offerings. It is just some thing to be aware of. I know for example in historical romance Georgian/regency/Victorian occupy a far greater percentaage share of the market, to expect the readers of say Roman to be equal to the number of Regency is unrealistic, and I need to tailor my expectations accordingly. I find this view comforting in the run up to royalities btw.

he also discusses linear v non linear, casuality v coincidence. All terminolgy that a wrtier might run into when thoughts come back from your editor.
He believes that writers should work towards mastering the archplot before attempting the other forms. Much I suppose as Picasso did with art. If you have mastered the classi form, you can understand the why and how of changing it.It no longer feels confining and you begin to see the possibilities.

He ends the chapter with the very importnat point: THE WRITER MUST WRITE WHAT SHE BELIEVES IN. This includes the form, but first you have to figure out WHY you believe in it. Do not break the rules of commericial writing simply because you want to show your independance, but break the rules because there is no other way to tell your story. You have to truly believe in a form to be able to write it.


Unknown said...

I just may have to buy this book. Thanks Michelle !

Trish Wylie said...

"THE WRITER MUST WRITE WHAT SHE BELIEVES IN." and "first you have to figure out WHY you believe in it"

Well those really resonated with me I have to say!!! I'm constantly looking back on the work I have done and asking myself things like 'Do I believe in what these people are feeling' and 'Is it realistic?'

I've got a bit behind this last few days as life got in the way - so am now off to read the rest - this is GREAT MIchelle and already I know this is the kind of book I'd enjoy and take something from...