The Storyteller Is A Traffic Warden Ordering Chaos
By Daniel Dercksen, writing coach and mentor
The storyteller is not only the puppet master of emotions in storytelling, but also the traffic warden in story, controlling the line of dramatic action, drawing audiences into a deep involvement, keeping their full attention from opening to ending, and rewarding them with a meaningful and memorable experience.
The storyteller has to continuously move the story forward, advance the dramatic line of development, and has to constantly keep on turning the story like a screw, tightening it to achieve maximum dramatic impact and value.
The storyteller does this effectively by implementing turning points, or plot points, to constantly change the story values in scenes, and sequences that will evoke emotion.
There are three turning points a writer can use:
- A Minor Turning Point at the end of each scene.
- A Moderate Turning Point at the end of each sequence.
- A Major Turning Point at the end of each act.
The storyteller has to design a story so that thirty, forty, fifty times over, the story turns in minor, moderate or major ways, each expressing an aspect of the writer’s vision.
This is the storyteller ordering chaos and causality.
You are green lighting the action, making sure that the flow of narrative makes sense and there are no unfortunate obstacles in the way that could cause a major train smash!
What Is The Impact Of Turning Points?
When the gap opens between expectation and result, it jolts the audience with surprise. The audience expects something to happen, then the unexpected occurs. They experience a rush of insight into character and the story. This moment of shock instantly provokes curiosity and takes the audience back through the story.
When the audience experiences a rush of new insight, it adds to curiosity. The audience wants to know what is going to happen next? How will the story turn out? The writer must now satisfy the curiosity and move the story forward in a new direction.
The writer leads the audience to expectation, makes them think they understand, then creates surprise and curiosity. The insights must be shaped into set-ups and payoffs.
With ease and spontaneity the writer takes the story in a new direction; the audience experiences a rush of knowledge. It is their reward for paying attention.
Dynamics of emotion
There are two basic emotions: Pleasure, and pain.
The audience experiences emotion when the story takes them through a transition of values. In order to do this successfully, the audience must empathise with a character.
They must not only know what the character wants, but want the character to have it.
They must also understand the values at stake in the character’s life.
- Feeling is not emotion. It is a long term experience that can last for days, even weeks.
- Emotion is a short-term experience that peaks and burns quickly.
In film, feeling is known as mood. It is created in the film’s text, the quality of light and colour, tempo of action and editing, casting, style of dialogue, production design and musical score.
Mood is a form of foreshadowing, a way for the writer to prepare or shape the audience’s anticipations.
Mood is not a substitute for emotion.
A change in story values moves the audience’s emotions.
Only once a transition of values creates an emotion, then feeling comes into play.