Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey has long been my Go To book for plotting and story structure. So I was intrigued when Eric Edson presented “Cracking Screen Story Structure” to the Palm Springs Writers Guild. Edson has developed a new paradigm that builds upon Vogler’s work and takes it in a new direction. He shares all in his book, The Story Solution: 23 Actions All Great Heroes Must Take.
Edson is a screenplay writer for movies and television, and is a Professor of Screenwriting and Directing of the Graduate MFA Program in Screenwriting at California State University, Northridge. He lectures through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and holds a Master of Fine Arts in Playwriting from UCLA. So it is no surprise that he developed his theory of story structure after analyzing numerous successful movies.
Hero Goal Sequences
At the heart of Edson’s approach to story structure are Hero Goal Sequences.
“A Hero Goal Sequence generally consists of 2 to 8 pages of screenplay…in which the hero pursues a single physical, visible, short-term goal as one immediate step in achieving the main overall story objective driving the plot. The Goal Sequence ends when the hero discovers FRESH NEWS, which is some form of new information that effectively ends the necessity to pursue the current goal and creates a new physical, visible, short-term goal – thereby beginning the next Hero Goal Sequence.”
The day after I attended Edson’s presentation, I went to the local Regal Cinema and watched The Grand Budapest Hotel. Then I viewed (for the third time) The Hunger Games. Two very different movies, but the Hero Goal Sequences leapt out at me in both. The next movie you watch, see if you can spot the Hero Goal Sequences.
As with other well-known approaches to screenwriting and story structure, Edson’s paradigm includes rising tension and major hooks at the end of Acts I and II. But his interpretation is a little different and well worth a visit to his website http://www.thestorysolution.com for a free download of his analysis of Back to the Future. Or for a more full explanation and more analysis, consider purchasing The Story Solution: 23 Actions All Great Heroes Must Take.