Cubby Wrap-Up

CUBBY WRAP UP!

Let’s take a look at what we’ve covered:

SEED:

It’s the beginning of your story. A “what if” fantasy that will be explored through four distinct phases:

  • Neutral (you’re just establishing that “what if” fantasy)
  • Positive
  • Negative
  • Resolution

These four phases will directly coincide with the four acts of your story.

  • Act 1 = neutral, established, fantasy.
  • Act 2 = positive aspects of your fantasy.
  • Act 3 = negative aspects of your fantasy.
  • Act 4 = resolve the fantasy.

CHARACTER:

Your main character, and your major supporting characters, should all have a collection of traits:

  • Individual flaw – a weakness that affects just the character.
  • Moral flaw – a weakness that affects other characters.
  • Arc – the character changes over time, from one thing to another.
  • Ghost – something from the character’s past that still haunts them.
  • Passion – something the character really cares about.
  • Identity – how the world sees the character.
  • Essence – who the character really is, under the surface.
  • Emphasized cubby – a part of the story that is being exemplified by the character(s).
  • Character web – all the characters will share a common trait, connecting them in a web.

WORLD:

The world of your story has four concerns:

  • Location (with a metaphor)
  • Reality
  • Time Period
  • Duration

Where’s it take place?
What’s the reality of this place like?
What’re the limitations the time period puts on it?
How long does the story span?

MORAL:

When making a moral argument you have three different methods:

  • Pro/Con
  • Inverse
  • Four Point Alternation

Pro/Con – you argue the positive, and the negative, of one particular idea.

The death penalty’s bad.
The death penalty’s good.

Inverse – you argue one statement and its opposite.

Guns should be universally banned.
vs.
No they shouldn’t.

Four Point Alternation – you basically argue one idea vs another.

You do this by focusing on a particular statement for idea 1, as well as its opposite. And a particular statement for idea 2, and its opposite.

Marriage is the natural state for humans.
No it isn’t.

vs.

Bachelorhood is the natural state for humans.
No it isn’t.

DESIRE:

One main primal desire, that is then broken up into sub-desires.

One sub-desire for each act of your story. These sub-desires act as stepping stones on the path to the main desire.

CONFLICT:

There are four different categories of conflict:

  • Man vs. Man
  • Man vs. Self
  • Man vs. Nature
  • Man vs. Society

You should have one main overall conflict:

Say: “Man vs. Man.”

Then sub-conflicts that incorporate the other three categories. One sub-conflict per act.

Main conflict: Man vs. Man

  • Act 1 = Man vs. Self emphasized.
  • Act 2 = Man vs. Nature emphasized.
  • Act 3 = Man vs. Society emphasized.
  • Act 4 = Man vs. Man emphasized.

REVELATION:

There are three different methods of revelation:

“Question and Answer” Method:

A specific question is raised, with a limited number a possible answers, and then that question is answered.

Will he take the job?

Possible answers:

  • yes
  • no

Eventually a decision is made.

“Mystery and Reveal” Method:

A mystery is established, with unlimited possible answers, and then that mystery is solved when the answer is revealed.

Who is the killer?

Possible answers:

  • Sue
  • Michael
  • Billy Bob
  • Joanna
  • Cyrus
  • Etc, etc, etc.

Eventually the killer is revealed.

“Unknown Surprise” Method:

Shocking information is revealed, without any previous indication.

“I’m moving to France!”

Then there are many different types of revelation:

  • Character revelation: a revelation is presented to a character.
  • Audience revelation: a revelation is presented to just the audience.
  • Self revelation: a character has a revelation about themselves, as part of their arc.
  • Story twist revelation: a revelation that is so massive, it changes your entire perception of the story up until that point.

You should have one major revelation near the end of each act, ideally at the turning points.

Your main character’s “self revelation,” should be in act four to coincide with the end of your character’s arc.

“Story twist” revelations are usually saved for act four, but they can be moved if need be.

GENRE:

There are eight different genre tones:

  • Comedy = happy
  • Tragedy = sad
  • Drama = serious
  • Farce = silly
  • Action = exciting
  • Horror = scary
  • Romance = idealistic
  • Erotica = sexy

EMOTION:

An emotional theme that is primal, yet complex.

You want to explore both the positive and negative sides of this emotional theme with sub-expressions. Smaller emotional ideas that are related to the overall theme.

One sub-expression for each act, while the main theme runs through the entire story.

INTELLECT:

An intellectual theme based in a stimulating and thought-provoking idea.

You then want to explore this theme through sub-expressions, one per act.

NARRATIVE:

Most stories have an “A” plot with a smaller “B” plot. But you could also have a “C” or “D” plot.

What are the specifics of your narrative’s traits?

  • Perspective?
  • Scope?
  • Stakes?
  • Timeline:
    • linear or non-linear?
    • If non-linear, then are you using any of the following:
      • Flashbacks?
      • Flashforwards?
      • Montages?
      • Co-Current Timelines?
        • If so, then you want to use an anchor.
  • Storytellers:
    • If so, is it a narrator or an internal monologue?
      • If a narrator, then is it in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person
      • Is the narrator inside or outside of the story?
      • Is it justified or unjustified?
      • Is it speaking in the past tense or present tense?
      • Is it verbal or text?

STYLE:

The particular way in which you execute the other cubbies of your story.

It gives your story its unique identity. A useful short hand is the “fill in the blank” method:

Your story is a:_____________.

PLOT:

25 steps total.

ACT 1:

  • Set up
  • Inciting Incident
  • Raise the Dramatic Question
  • Debate and Decision
  • Turning Point 1

ACT 2:

  • B Plot Introduction
  • Plan
  • Shenanigans
  • Commitment Confirmed
  • Turning Point 2

ACT 3:

  • B Plot Convergence
  • New Plan
  • Destruction
  • Point of Desperation
  • Turning Point 3

ACT 4:

SYMBOL:

Symbols are when you use one thing to represent something else, or a constellation of other ideas.

There are three different types of symbols:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Action

Visual symbols = something you see.
Ex: mailboxes representing home.

Auditory symbols = something your hear.
Ex: rushing water means impending danger.

Action symbols = something that happens.
Ex: the act of playing catch means two people are connected like family.

MOMENT:

Moments create a sense of reality. Making your story feel real, instead of manufactured.

Two main ways of creating moments:

  • Intentional Flaws
  • Extraneous Beats

Intentional flaws = any imperfection on the part of a character that makes them seem more human.
Ex: bumping into a door or misspeaking.

Extraneous beats = a beat added to your story that isn’t absolutely necessary to the plot, but makes your characters feel more real.
Ex: having a character check to see if their gun is loaded three times, just to make sure.

You want to have one major moment that defines the soul of your story. It’s the moment in your story that captures the essence of what this entire tale has all been about.
Ex: father and son fishing on the lake at sunset.

That’s it Animals! All of the cubbies in one go!



Plot: Act 4 (part 2)

ACT 4 (part 2):

The last 5 steps of your plot:

  • Self Reflection
  • Race to Climax
  • Showdown
  • Climax
  • New Equilibrium

Self Reflection:

Your main character reflects on his or herself.

Their choices. Their life.

They take a moment to consider everything they’ve been through up until this point. This consideration brings them to some kind of conclusion, or moment of inspiration, and they then get moving again.

Race to Climax:

Your main character races full steam ahead to a climax.

Maybe they’re racing through the city streets in a car, or running as fast as they can to the airport. Whatever their mode of transportation, they’re hauling ass to take one last shot at achieving their goal.

Showdown:

Your main character goes head to head with the source of conflict.

They’ve taken shots at each other during the course of the story, but this is the final battle. They face each other one last time to really have it out.

Climax:

The dramatic crescendo that resolves the dramatic question we raised back in act 1.

Does the main character get what they’ve been after this whole time? Do they succeed? This is the moment when it happens (or not) and the story is just about over.

New Equilibrium:

The wrap up of your story.

You show the audience the aftermath of the events of the story. It could be long and involved ala the end of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King or it could be very short and succinct ala From Dusk Till Dawn.

Let’s take these steps and apply them to our bank robbing example:

ACT 4 (second half):

  • Self Reflection
  • Race to Climax
  • Showdown
  • Climax
  • New Equilibrium

When we last left our story – Recruiter-Guy sacrificed himself to give our main character time enough to get away. He did. He’s fled, successfully, to their planned rendezvous point. He steals a car, packs what’s left of the money from the robbery, and looking to get out of town fast — when the phone rings. It’s the commissioner. He’s sitting outside our main character’s ex-wife’s house. He wants Recruiter-Guy’s cut of the take.

Self Reflection:
Our main character takes a good hard look at himself. He’s got a choice to make.
If he gives the commish half the money to protect his ex-wife, he won’t have enough left over for his surgery. He’ll die. Another option, is to keep the money and let his ex-wife die. But then the commissioner is still out there, still hunting him. A third option – he could face and kill the commissioner. It’s dangerous. But the only person dying in this scenario is the kidnapping, corrupt, commissioner.

He decides on option three. He’s going to kill the commissioner.

This takes our main character to the end of his character arc. He’s gone from peaceful pacifist — to criminal killer. Ya know, if that’s the arc you designed for him.

Race to Climax:
Our main character races to confront the commissioner with a shotgun, locked and loaded.

Showdown:
Our main character steps into a warehouse. His ex-wife is tied up, he squares off with the commissioner.

Climax:
They fight, and our main character kills the commissioner. He saves his ex-wife and sets out to leave town with his money.

OR, if ya wanna go a different way…

Our main character kills the commissioner, frees his ex-wife, steps out of the warehouse and is gunned down by the police who’ve finally tracked him down. He’s dead.

New Equilibrium:
In choice A — the commissioner is dead, his ex-wife is free, and he has all the money he needs for his surgery. He gets out of town, gets the medical help he needed, and he’s recovering on a beach somewhere. Peaceful.

In choice B — our main character’s body lies bleeding out on the concrete. It’s quickly zipped up in a bag and taken to the morgue. He’s dead. He lost.

That’s a bit more depressing, but like all the steps in your plot, it depends on what kind of story you’re going for.

That’s it Animals! That’s your plot, in 25 steps.



Revelation: The Intrigue of Your Story

The intrigue of your story.

It’s what keeps your audience interested and keeps them guessing. It’s that progressive mystery. That rolling out of information that hooks ’em and simultaneously keeps ’em curious.

“Revelation” is all about surprising your audience, while moving the story forward.

There are three main methods for executing revelations in your story:

  • The Question and Answer Method
  • The Mystery and Reveal Method
  • The Unknown Surprise Method

Question and Answer Method

What’s that look like?

You raise a question, then you answer it.

The level of suspense is determined by how much ambiguity and time you put between the initial raising of the question, and the eventual answer.

Example: Will he take the job offer?

The question raised, is obvious. There’s a job on the table – will he take it or not? That’s the mystery. When he makes that decision, that’s when we have our answer.

Question. Answer.

But the general level of mystery here is limited. He’ll either accept the job offer or not. We know that much. There are really only two choices.

Sure, there’s maybe a convoluted third choice – where he bargains for a different job at the same company, etc. But by and large the question raised is clear, and the answer can really only be one of two choices. Because of that, the audience already has a 50/50 shot of guessing correctly what the answer is going to be. This makes the method simple, but still very useful.

Mystery and Reveal Method

What’s that look like?

Here you establish a mystery, then reveal the answer.

Example: Who is the killer?

Now this mystery is established here in the form of a question – just like the question and answer method, but notice the answer is not a simple binary choice.

“Who is the killer?” actually has a near-unlimited number of possible answers. The killer could be anyone. This is what causes the mystery reveal method to feel more complex than the question and answer method.

You establish a mystery with an abundance of possible answers. The audience is left guessing as to who in the world the killer could be. They sit in that uncertainty looking for clues. Primed and ready to accept red herrings along the way. Then, when you’re ready, you reveal the true answer.

Establish a mystery, and eventually reveal the answer.

Unknown Surprise Method

Revealing the answer to a question that was never actually asked.

Example: A character busting into a room and announcing:

“I’m Moving to France!”

Boom. It’s like a slap in the face. It comes out of nowhere. It’s a complete surprise, but a revelation none the less.

This is the simplest form of a revelation because you weren’t building toward it in any obvious way. You just revealed information, with no set-up. And because there was no set up, the unknown surprise method tends to feel a bit false unless done just right. Be careful.

Each method can be used to different effect, go ahead and utilize what’s best for your story.

The different types of revelations:

Character Revelation

This is the most common type of revelation. This is when the revelation is specifically experienced from a character’s perspective. The character learns something new and so does the audience, at the same time.

Examples!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – Harry is told by Hagrid that he is a wizard.
Batman Begins – Bruce Wayne learns the true identity of Henri Ducard.

Audience Revelation

The audience learns something that a character does not.

Examples!

The Lion King – the audience sees Scar intentionally kill Mufasa while young Simba is oblivious to this fact.
Iron Man – the audience learns that Tony’s friend Obadiah Stane is betraying him long before he does.

Character’s Self Revelation

Which, as we’ve seen with the character cubby, is an intimate part of a character’s arc. The character learns something about themselves and grows.

This type of revelation is more of a concern for your character cubby and plot cubby. But it’s still a revelation, so we’re bringing it up now.

Example!

The Matrix – Neo has the self-revelation that he is in fact “The One.” He never believed it before and the audience was kept in a limbo state of uncertainty, but now, as he rises from the dead, both he and the audience learn the truth.

Story Twist Revelation

This is where the revelation is so massive that it changes your entire perception of the story up until this point.

In fact this type of revelation is so massive and story-altering that we could just say the story’s title and you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about:

Fight Club or The Sixth Sense.

Audiences love a good mystery, it gets their mind racing, trying to solve the riddle that’s been laid out before them. It’s fun and mentally stimulating.

The interesting thing about a revelation line is that it can only truly be experienced the first time. Once you know the answer, the riddle is never the same.

The structure for your revelations looks a lot like your desire line and conflict line.

Have a major revelation for each act.

Set it up at the beginning of your act, spend the act building towards the reveal, then end the act with that reveal.

Notice that this set-up gives you the opportunity to try a few different types and methods of revelations throughout your story. Mix it up. Try not to use the same type of revelation each time.

Keep them guessing.

If your revelations are predictable, then they have failed on a fundamental level because they did not build intrigue. A failed revelation can seriously backfire – instead of sitting on the edge of their seats, your audience’ll be rolling their eyes.