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Helen Capewell
OCA Learning Log
Student Number: 522802
Degree: Illustration
Current Level: 2

Research 4.3

Story Structures


• Consider this plot structure in your learning log.

• How might it be useful for getting more from your own drawings?

• Can you find a story which already conforms to the structure?


It is true that story needs structure, or at least every story has a structure. By structure, I think one can determine them by seeing patterns in a narrative, which at some point become predictable. An audience is familiar with particular plots, structures. It is easy for engagement, captivating the audience and keeping an audience invested.


The more stories we are exposed too, the more complex a story needs to be for the audience to be engaged. That said, sometimes the predictable becomes a comfort for the audience, and knowing what the outcome will be is enough for an audience to feel satisfied. Hence why returning to old classics is always an enjoyable experience.


When considering what plot structures would work for me and the generating of ideas, I think the simple start middle and end that we had explored previously would be the best for getting a basic understanding of the concept. Introducing other stages later on such as the Eight Point Arc, as the character develops and the idea grows, would be the way I would use my sketchbook.


The structure we are asked to look closer at in this section is the Eight Point Arc by Nigel Watts.


1. Stasis – the ‘normal world’ or everyday scenario : Introduce the “everyday” scenario in

which the story is set / Introduce your character in their unsuspecting situation


2. Trigger - Provide a catalyst to start the story moving away from what is normal and fine

towards a problem (something which is often beyond control )


3. Quest - Your trigger should result in a quest..this image should define the goal of the

story and add some tension


4. A surprise - Introduce turns in the story which show the elements which might get in

the way of the quest and your character’s response. ( These could include pleasant events,

obstacles, complications or trouble for your hero)


5. A critical choice / a reaction - The hero makes a crucial or critical decision about how

they will respond


6. The Climax - This image should be a penultimate cliffhanger before we discover

whether the quest has been a success


7. The Reversal - The goals have changed (the hero has been changed by the experience

and has transformed).


8. The Resolution - A return to a new status quo / everyday scenario.






A film that really sticks out to me as possibly hitting the mark for this structure would be Shrek. A huge childhood favourite of mine, one that I feel I can identify the story within the Eight Point Arc, it's almost the absolute tick box for the order in the story. I do feel there are a few rounds of surprises and choices before arriving to the climax, but here is a look at the story beside the points.


1. Stasis - First we are introduced to Shrek, by means of what is to be a typical day in the life of, this also includes the reality of seeing angry villagers preparing the weaponry to hunt him out.


2. Trigger - Shrek meets an unlikely character who for the first time is not afraid of him. It is the beginning of breaking down Shrek's barrier.


3. Quest - Shrek settles down for the night with donkey staying the night outside. Shrek is disturbed by three little blind mice running havoc on his dinning table. This quickly develops into more commotion happening elsewhere in his home, to an even larger problem in his back yard; fairy tale creatures of all shapes and sizes have taken refuge in his swamp. The first quest is to visit Lord Farquaad, to get the creatures off his land and back to where they belong.


4. A surprise - Shrek faces the guards of Lord Farquaad with Donkey at his side. After winning, Lord Farquaad offers a deal, he will give the deed to his swamp back if he goes on another quest to rescue a princess.


5. A critical choice / a reaction - Shrek accepts the new challenge, this time facing an even bigger risk to his own and Donkey's life by facing a dragon. When they defeat the dragon, or should I say see a love blossoming between dragon and Donkey, Shrek makes another decision. He wants to keep his true identity away from the princess. Of course this didn't last long as she demands he removes the helmet, to then be disappointed at learning it is not the prince she was to marry.


Whilst there are choices to be made, there are also reactions that also develop through out this part of the story. We learn more about Shrek and his desire to keep the world out, his personal struggle with insecurities. He opens up and the princess reacts, perhaps out of guilt. It marks a change in their relation, as they become closer, more understanding, and, in love.


6. Climax - Shrek over hears the princess and donkey talking on the last evening of their journey moments after he had found a flower he wanted to give Fiona. "Who could love a beast so hideous and ugly" He misunderstands what they are talking about and is left hurt, angry and feeling betrayed. Storming off for the night, we learn that Shrek went ahead to end the quest without Donkey and the princess. Next morning, Lord Farquaat and his guards meet them at the place they spent the night, where he collects his soon to be wife, Princess Fiona.


Shrek tells Donkey to leave him alone


All characters go their separate ways and try to return to the life they once had.


7. The Reversal - Donkey refuses to give up on Shrek. He was part of the quest, he helped get the princess and so should get half of the land. Shrek and Donkey push against each other until finally the truth is spilled. It is now that we learn Shrek's true feelings towards Princess Fiona. The wedding is in just a few hours, but the newly changed characters run to stop it anyways.


There is still a struggle for Shrek, and many doubts to face in the form of Lord Farquaad, who insists on making Shrek's insecurities remain a burden to him. Shrek on his knees surrenders and finally allows himself to be free of the inner voices, the hateful discrimination that have kept him a villain throughout his life. He has nothing else to lose at this point and so admits that he is in love with Fiona.


8. The Resolution - Fiona reveals the curse that was put upon her when she was young, transforming into an ogre. When they kiss, a true loves kiss, Fiona is pulled up into the air to take her final form as the curse is lifted. Confused that she is still an ogre, she soon realises it was destiny as both broken characters find love in each other.


What I love about this film is the pure magic in its narrative and character building. The story is an exaggeration of the stereotypical romantic comedies often found in fairytales. It breaks the norm by choosing the characters that on the surface are considered ugly, but naturally as the story develops and more challenges confront the protagonists, they become much loved and relatable characters to so many. The structure keeps the viewer engaged, it helps the viewer to develop emotions towards the characters and in a way reflect on how they might treat others.


Following an in-depth story structure, similar to the Eight Point Arc adds different dynamics to a story. With no specific timeline as to when the events will happen during a story, each story can still have an element of surprise for the viewer. It is this that makes for a great story, despite the formula always being somewhat the same. Predictable, yet surprising.


I still feel that when first thinking or brainstorming ideas for a story, starting with the most basic structure is a less intimidating place to begin. The beginning, middle, and end are the most concrete facts about any story despite the turns it might take in between or themes in which you choose to focus on. Once those points are covered, I think it is at that stage of the process will I then introduce the complexities of the story. The twists that might occur, or a character building backstory that give substance to a story. It is here where brainstorming flourishes and a story is developed. The Eight Point Arc is a very good structure to follow when looking at ways to fill in the blanks. Something I will consider when creating my own stories.


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