Dramatic structure most often asks the question, "How will they solve this problem?" Character asks, "How will they adapt to this problem?" And it's watching them attempt B while having to do A that evokes the flash of empathy in the audience -- that in fact makes "A" worthwhile. Because, after all, a mere court case or a murder is not enough -- we want to know how Sherlock Holmes will deal with this. We want the specifics, the style of this particular dance, the scent of the rose and not merely the dried petals. We want a little bit of mess in the perfection of structure, and the hint that we have here a life that will go on after we close the book or turn off the television.For a different perspective on storytelling, you could try Temple of the Seven Golden Camels. That's the blog of storyboarder Mark Kennedy. His insights on character introduction are well worth a look, for example. Here's a small extract from the relevant post:
The classic one is the introduction of Cruella from "101 Dalmatians". First of all, it's a classic approach to have other characters talk about someone before they appear. Then you get what they're about before you even see them and it builds up anticipation about them. You can get information about what they're about or how others view them if that can save time so you don't have to do it after they're introduced.Another blog about storytelling is Uninflected Images Juxtaposed by Canadian writer, producer and director Will Dixon. Loads of good insights, commentary and opinion to be had here. In this extract he talks about a time when he was living in LA but directing a show in Toronto. Dixon met with a fellow director and they got to talking:
But the best part about Cruella is how visually smart her introduction is. The first time you see her you see her silhouette through the glass of Roger and Anita's front door. And the image looks just like a spider in a web - a pretty clear visual symbol for someone who's creepy, manipulative and mistrustful. And yet it's not heavy-handed. Most people don't really notice it for what it is, even though Roger sings about her as being a spider. But it really gives you a creepy feeling about her before she appears which helps heighten the emotion of the story very effectively.
Turns out we’d been following each other’s career with one eye. He knew I was in LA and some of the stuff I’d done recently. I knew he was directing episodic….all the time. First he tells me that he now owns condos in Calgary, Vancouver, and Los Angeles. Then he relates all the shows he was heading off to work on in the new year. And me, knowing I had nothing lined up, started to feel some gig envy creep over me. I must have expressed something to that effect, gushing to him about how nice it must be to have all this work and the three homes and boy o boy he sure was doing well. Anyway, at some point I look up and BED (Busy Episodic Director) is just staring at me with a pair of tired, empty eyes.Sometimes, we're so busy chasing the dream, running after work, that it's easy to forget and appreciate what we already have...
HIM: “What are you talking about, Dixon? I’d take your situation anytime.”
ME: (surprised) “Really, why?”
HIM: (struggles for words) ”I mean yeah, I keep working, but that’s really all I got. You, on the other hand, have a life. You have four kids. A family. One home. Me, I just got a bunch of TV credits.”