Thursday, December 18, 2008

Story Analysis 101 Pt. 4 - The Wrap-up

[This is part 4 of an four part essay introducing techniques of story analysis using the episode "Gnothi Seauton" from the TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. If you haven't read the first two parts, you can find part 1 here, part 2 here and part 3 here. This is just a summary of the analytical process.]

Part 1
- We start with the big picture to help us find the details that reinforce it. Since this episode is part of a TV series which is itself part of a larger story universe that includes three theatrical films, we can begin there and lay out the major themes that drive the stories. Even these can be placed into context within the larger world of human storytelling tradition, if desired. So these are our big ideas which will serve to guide us in our analysis of "Gnothi Seauton".

Part 2 - Now that we are armed with the Big Picture, we can start dissecting the episode itself. We examined specific story elements such as character names and used them to help connect this story to the Big Picture. We found elements of Greek mythology, Biblical references and even connections to real-world persons. We pulled out the standard components of the storyteller's toolkit: archetypes, plot, conflict, viewpoint and tried to place them within the context of this particular story. At this point we're ready to dive deeper into the story and pull out specific elements of character, action and dialogue that support the connections we've made so far.

Part 3 - We made our way through the story, recapping it to the extent we had to in order to give context to those elements we chose for analysis. The goal here is to look for consistence in support of the themes and styles we found in our earlier examination. If we don't have that support, we need to re-visit our earlier work and see where we went off the rails. In this case, it looks like we are on track and we successfully connected the small stuff to the big stuff and brought the whole thing to some sort of satisfactory conclusion.

Ultimately a story doesn't come out of nowhere. The author chooses specific words, rhythms, characters and plots to get you to think certain thoughts or feel certain feelings, even if it's only temporary. Humans have been telling each other stories for thousands of years and we've gotten pretty good at it.

To sum up the summary:
  1. Try to figure out what the author is trying to say
  2. See what, if any part of the story supports this theory
  3. Lay out the evidence, using outside references as needed.

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