Language of Film

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Date Submitted: 09/14/2011 10:15 AM

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What is Narrative Structure?

Narrative structure is about two things: the content of a story and the form used to tell the story. Two common ways to describe these two parts of narrative structure are story and plot. Story refers to the raw materials of dramatic action as they might be described in chronological order. Plot refers to how the story is told — the form of storytelling, or the structure, that the story follows. If we want to analyze narrative structure, we can use “who,” “what,” and “where” questions to look at the story or content of a movie. “How” and “when” questions are used to examine plot structure. Conventionally, both story and plot are described in terms of how a character’s life is disrupted by an event or change in his/her situation; this causes a series of conicts that the character(s) must face, including the major conict that is eventually resolved at the end of the lm. “Conict” in this model can take many forms, be it emotional, interpersonal, or even between the character and his/her physical environment. To describe story in a lm, we would need to answer the following questions:

• • • • • • • Where is the story set? What event starts the story? Who are the main characters? What conict(s) do they face? What is at stake? What happens to the characters as they face this conict? What is the outcome of this conict? What is the ultimate impact on the characters?

To describe the plot structure of the movie, we would need to answer these questions:

• • • • • How How How How How and when is the major conict in the story set up? and when are the main characters introduced? is the story moved along so that the characters must face the central conict? and when is the major concit set up to propel the lm to its conclusion? and when does the lm resolve most of the major conicts set up at the outset?

In each case, story and...