Story Crafting is about bringing together FORM & CONTENT; easy as that may sound, in practice it is far from simple.
Uniting FORM & CONTENT, as in a marriage, means they get totally BLENDED; the 2 opposites become ONE!
A story may exist in written form, or it may exist only as a narration; both the written and the oral version are already heavily influenced by the-way-it-is-written, or the-way-it-is-told. In this regard, there NEVER exists a STORY in the abstract, a STORY unaffected by FORM. There is ALWAYS A FORM, even when it's a very basic, rudimentary form.
This reality could be compared to a painting or a drawing; a picture can only be communicated through the expression of lines or brush-strokes, either black-on-white, or in colour. The form is an integral part of the image and how it communicates. The ART-FORM becomes active when the same image is communicated through different expressive choices.
In STORY-TELLING (as well as in other art-forms) what usually has the most effect on the audience, is not so much the story itself (if it could be separated from form), but THE WAY IT IS TOLD.
Great artists have developed a personal and outstanding WAY of telling their story (doing their painting/ writing their music or novel or poetry/ making their film/playing their instrument/ etc.).
There is no short cut to arriving at that MASTER PIECE of a powerful and unforgettable 'TELLING', be it a novel, a painting, a film, or (even) a story amazingly well told, literally.
The 'teller' (the artist) is someone who has generated a lot of experience for themselves, and 'discovered', over the years, what their particular strength, style, vision, technique, sound, unique quality actually is.
The occasional GENIUS is able to work at this high level from early on; there are only a handful of artists in this 'group' (Mozart for instance). Mozart simply wrote his music; he launched his amazing style from when he was very young. He wrote music, like he took dictation; no corrections needed.
Most artists, even the great ones, spent half their life-time getting to that particular level.
An artist learns to know (to understand) their particular and personal ARTISTIC PROCESS and knows how to stay true to this process. It's the process that helps/ ensures that they arrive at the right results.
Right at the beginning of taking notice of a subject matter, a certain story, the artist may already have a certain SENSE, an INTUITION, a CURIOSITY about the STORY. The WAY in which they will eventually 'tell' this story, is linked with the WAY they initially receive/ perceive the story (the subject matter) right at the start.
So, for good story telling to occur, the first question is always: what strikes you about this story as unique, as important, interesting, outstanding, odd, funny, inspirational, shocking (etc.)? Important to remember (keep a note) how this story first 'landed' in the way it was communicated. These 'first impressions' will provide important guidelines later on in the process.
Then comes the task of analyzing the story. To establish the protagonist, the antagonist, the other characters in between these two, the conflict, the 'inciting incident' (to get the drama rolling), the chapters (acts), the choices to be made, obstacles to overcome, lessons to be learned, and -in the end- how the protagonist rises to the challenge and comes out the story enriched (even through they've payed a price).
All (or most of) these elements are present in any story, be it a short story, be it a long story, good for a lengthy novel.
With all these elements, every item in the right place, a STRUCTURE will emerge that can be seen as the CONTAINER to the story; like an architect putting all his/ her plans & designs into one overall drawing of the building that going to be built.
In film making, which is a form of story telling, there are all kinds of choices to be made regarding the TIME-LINE of the story, which isn't necessarily LINEAR. It could include GOING BACK (in time) for a sequence or an act, or it involves brief and sudden FLASH-BACKS, FLASH-FORWARDS, and DREAMS.
While the story may seem to be jumping back & forth, the DRAMA just KEEPS BUILDING. This is all about the THEME (the conflict); how it is gradually developed, and how the main character(s) gets stronger (or weaker) in regards to handling this conflict.
If the story is well told, the audience will get fully involved, and will identify with the protagonist. The conflict will arise close to the start of the film, the struggle will grow over (screen) time; there may be set-backs and complications. Other characters may get involved on both sides of the conflict etc.; the drama just keeps on building.
STORY finds VESSEL/ VESSEL finds STORY.
If a story is a given, the right vessel for it may not be an obvious choice. It may take some experimenting to figure the right FORMAT (vessel) for this particular story.
Equally, when it is understood from the start that a FEATURE FILM is going to be produced (for which a story is to be found), not just any story will be right. A suitable story for a feature film will need a certain level of complexity and maturity in order for it (this story) to provide the right amount of (story-) information and action.
If the aim is to film a short story (5 to 10 minutes) the story for this film must be a very simple, uncomplicated story.
To some readers all of the above (of point 6) may seem obvious; be assured, more often then not, there is no proper balance between STORY & FORM, in which case the drama becomes either totally RUSHED or TOO SLOW (or the movie/ the story goes on far too long). There is a case for putting a certain story in TWO feature films (not just one), so that both films bring quality drama in the right pace.
In the INDUSTRY the work is done the other way around. When a producer (a production company) initiates a project, they usually already know what they are planning for: a feature film, a TV series, a franchise etc. They have a certain style in mind, and a certain audience. They know their budget, and they have a good idea of how this film is going to earn it's money back (for starters).
From here they will employ various professionals to write a script for a film (scripts for a series); this script will be developed in such a way that it fits the FORM (feature film) exactly. In this case, the story is shaped to make it fit the form. The story in these kind of commercial films is often not the strongest part of the movie. While you're watching the film, you wonder what the story will do; afterwards you realize that the story didn't do much at all. In certain genres the story is merely the vehicle to keep the action going. In other genres the story is much more important.
All Art Forms have different genres. Certain stories lend themselves well for certain genres, and vice versa. Even so, it can be refreshing to come across a story that is done in a genre that is not obvious.
(This article is not finished; I will get back to it, when I can. B.A.)