So lately I’ve been watching some films, and it made me think about stories, and plots and plot structure and what makes a story good.
Admittedly, some useless peons working for Big Discourse is going to say that what makes stories and plots good is “subjective” and “personal preference” and other weak notions like that. But fear not, they’re wrong.
Subjectivity is a safety blanket for people who want to have opinions without investigating the subject matter. Generally speaking, all questions have answers that are clearer than others. If I ask you what time it is, and you respond with “Cystic fibrosis”, then chances are you’re not being subjective, you’re just being an idiot.
And I know that’s not a very popular opinion these days, but if we look at election results throughout the western world for the last 10 years, then I’m guessing that’s because the world is currently being ruled by idiots. So obviously idiots would be declared a protected class. Between Joe Biden, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Anthony Albanese and Boris Johnson, the 20s is a good decade to be a moron.
So with that out of the way, let’s discuss plots. It’s an easy enough article to structure since plots literally have a beginning, which is why I’m going to start at the end.
Because a good plot is all about subverting assumptions, and the end is usually in my opinion a tricky thing since it’s the bedrock of the story. Once you’ve put the end down, then you’re done. They’re so final and abrupt and in many ways boring.
That’s what makes an ending so challenging. I think a good ending is not about resolving the plot conflict, but rather about reconciling it. To create a sense of ambivalence that leaves the audience unsettled, crestfallen and ultimately more accustomed to the bittersweet nature of human mortality.
A big problem in films is that they tend to offer messages of hope, and optimism and a faith in things to come. But that ignores why people watch films to begin with, which is usually because the film is capable of showing something that is ideally less boring and more engaging than the ordinary lives of the audience.
Films are in many ways an industrial effort to mock commoners by highlighting just how vacuous and monotone their existence is, and how bleak and meaningless their purpose and habits become under a system that keeps ordinary people placated by spoonfeeding them illusions.
What I want is more sincere films that highlight this inner conflict between the audience and the medium, as to prompt them to examine themselves and their surroundings and the contradictions which drive them to escapism in the first place. A good plot should therefore be a motivator towards inner realisation of the burning turmoil that hides within the broken and downtrodden huddled masses.
I think the ideal film would just be two hours of a hedonistic aristocrat laughing loudly into the camera between spoonfulls of Beluga caviar. But the problem there is that pretentious people will call it “experimental” and “avant garde” and then co opt its very simple and straightforward message into something banal about the inner meaning of cinematographic subtext as high brow film critics will crawl up inside themselves using what may only be politely described as the human service entrance.
And now that we’re at the middle of the article, let’s talk about the beginning.
The beginning of a story is probably the second most critical part. It create the premise and meaning of what happens next. It permits one to define the world, the characters and the conflict. Good beginnings manage to do this very quickly, communicating things as effectively as possible through environmental and idiosyncratic cues. Bad beginning generally contain exposition.
One problem with beginnings is that they often tend to overexplain themselves as to cater to people who complain too much and ask too many questions. “Who is that?”, “What does that mean?”, “Who is doing that?”
On behalf of every person in reality who understands time: Shut up and watch, the film is trying to explain it to you.
Call me a social Darwinist but I think we should leave these fragile audience members behind. Each theatre should have a referee. If you ask one stupid question you get a yellow card, and if you ask two, then you’re out. I believe this system would accelerate humanity into a new renaissance.
I will however offer a compromise and say that these questions are okay once the film is over. But if you feel like interrupting something with questions whilst said something is trying to answer said questions, then frankly, the police should issue you a fine.
Although thankfully there is a technology that has resolved these problems, namely, piracy. I’m a big fan of piracy, always have been. The way I see it, it’s morally wrong to give money to Hollywood. Any time you pay for a film, you’re just giving Harvey Weinstein more money for tinted windows and defense attorneys.
And of course a lot of subjugated minds will point out that it helps to pay wages for the production crew and the actors, but those people clearly haven’t paid attention to how pretty much every major film involves some kind of labour dispute over unpaid salaries and low wages. Most of the money goes to Harvey Weinstein and Woody Allen and similar people who, as motivational speakers so euphemistically put it, “have what it takes to become successful in business.”
Truth of the matter is that films are a bit like painkillers for a suffering we don’t recognise. It’s a way to sit still and do nothing and somehow think that’s a good idea. For the most part, it’s probably not that healthy. Ideally we should be able to exist on our own and find meaning and purpose in doing so.
I’m sure there is some kind of way in which to enjoy theatrical performances, film or otherwise, in a well adjusted and civilised way. But while media is a highly monopolistic tool of mass manipulation that’s controlled by perverts, it’s probably best to stay away from it, and maybe do something more optimistic, like stockpiling weapons and canned goods.