John Truby is regarded as the serious writer’s story coach and has taught his 22-Step Great Screenwriting and Genre courses to sold-out audiences. Truby continues to serve as a story consultant to the major studios, including Sony Pictures, HBO, and Disney Studios. Truby‘s best-selling book The Anatomy of Story newly out in paperback, has received glowing reviews and is used as a textbook at film schools across the country.
Today John Truby reviews the summer blockbuster Inception in four parts (links to the other parts are at the bottom). Inception stars Leonardo DiCaprio and was directed and co-written by Christopher Nolan.
On to part 2…
Using the caper gives Nolan one other big advantage. The caper is one of the most plot-heavy of all genres, right up there with detective stories and thrillers, and is designed to fool not only the opponent in the story but also the audience. The prime technique of the caper writer is trickery. Like a magician, you point the audience’s attention in one direction while the real action is happening somewhere else.
The rich plot provided by the caper is magnified many times when the mission takes us into the dream world where the rules of logic change. This is where the power of science fiction kicks in. Science fiction is the most creative genre, because you can take nothing for granted. The writer must literally create everything, including the space-time rules by which human life itself operates.
To get maximum plot and puzzle, Nolan smartly creates three levels of the dream world, using the technique of “revelation plot.” Plot in this kind of story comes from digging deeper and deeper into the same world, with each new level providing a whole new batch of reveals, and thus plot, for the audience.
In combining the caper story structure with a three-level dream world, Nolan takes the audience on a high-speed but mind-bending journey down three levels and back out. In yet another level, the hero’s guilt-filled sub-conscious acts as the story frame and provides even more reveals. Like I say, this guy is a master of plot.
Creating a multiple-level plot is a real blast, especially when it’s connected to such dazzling visual elements as the attacking freight train, the fold-up city and the ghost-town like land of limbo. But there’s a catch. All this plot can kill character and emotion if you are not extremely careful with the story set-up.
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