A response to “The Structure Spectrum” from Story by Robert McKee
McKee’s presentation might be a bit didactic, but he really does understand the mechanics of Hollywood screenwriting. I’ve read the book before, but reading this chapter individually highlighted one thing in particular, the notion that Classical structure is how our minds work, how we experience the past and future; minimalism and absurdism are merely reactions to this inherent, invincible point of view.
In a certain sense, I agree. I think our minds have evolved into pattern matching, problem solving machines. Story is really just a way of refactoring our memories and experience into easily solved problems. Or put another way, the vast amount of data that we could possibly store from our past or our imaginings of the future can best be organized and codified through story. If I do x, y will happen, and z will follow suit. The end. I read recently that people with high iq’s actually pay LESS attention to detail of particular items or events; their minds are able to factor out only the most important information. Likewise, the classical story is a means of reduction, by which only the most important events are arranged for maximum impact.
But is this the ONLY way the mind works, sees the world? McKee of course is smart enough not to say this, but qualifies these other types of stories (and the people who enjoy them) as fringe interests. And there we realize that McKee is capitalizing on his audience’s greatest weakness: the writer must earn his living. if you want to eat, you must write classically structured stories. There is a catch-22 here, which is that we reinforce the mass media’s (and it’s audience’s) reliance on these classically structured stories… is there a better way?