Deep Story thought of the day. Every story has a focus. No matter how short or how long. I think of a story focus kind of like a story’s flavor. And I describe stories as though I were describing wines. This wine is heavily tannic. This one is fruit-forward.
Stories can be plot-forward, theme-forward, character-forward, or even spectacle-forward. All are valid, and no matter which your story is, it will incorporate a lot of the other “flavors.” But for my money? Character-forward stories are the most impactful.
How can you tell which focus is primary in your story? The answer: look for which element exhibits the biggest CHANGE.
Murder mysteries? The biggest change is almost always plot. The film Crash is a wonderful example of a theme-forward story, where your relationship to the story is the prime thing that changes over time, a hallmark of a theme focus. Movies like King Kong and Avatar? Spectacle-forward.
But character change, that’s often the magic sauce. The harder the change, the more character-forward the story is. And please note: that a character unable to change despite great pressure to is an example of a character-forward tragedy. Scarface is a character-forward tragedy. Jerry Maguire is a character forward drama.
That Mean Joe Green Coke commercial still resonates with me, because at its heart it is a 30 second story about a brave boy, an intimidating obstacle, and a change of character (or of character perception).