Tag Archives: storytelling

Film Review: Dr. Strangelove

As part of my study of storytelling through film, this weekend I watched Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb.

More than 50 years after it as made, it doesn’t have the shocking impact that it originally had. Irreverent, over the top political satire wasn’t part of the culture then. Today, however, we’ve lived through the era in which people got their news from John Stuart. (They still do, for all I know–I try my best to avoid it.) We just assume that our top political and military brass are from the bottom of the barrel. The film looks normal, maybe even slightly boring, in this regard.

What is totally relevant today is the particular dysfunctionalities of the powerful men it skewers. At least three of the main characters, and we can easily speculate about a fourth if not all, are driven by masculine anxieties and misdirected lust. General Ripper’s paranoia about Soviet plots against his “bodily fluids” and “purity of essence,” which both led him to initiate the strike against the Soviets and revealed to his colleagues that he was certifiably insane, floats in modern variations around the internet today without irony. His delusions that women sense his supposed superiority and “flock around,” trying to parasitize his “essence,” are straight out of the MGTOW meme pool.

Cultural commentary aside, the film is a masterpiece of suspense. We know, because it’s such biting satire, that the Doomsday Machine is going to be triggered–but how? How close will they come to being able to save humanity before they fail? How many holes in their own best laid plans will they be able to exploit? How many ways will their own scheming and arrogance come back to bite them? How far out of touch can they be, at what worst possible moment?

The War Room is a beautiful, iconic set, with its huge, elegant circular table in a lofty, triangular room, and with the big screens overhead. It makes the inept, immature behavior of its occupants seem all the more pathetic by juxtaposition. And it is a joy to see Peter Sellers play three different characters, all distinct, each one beautifully done.

And from now on, whenever I stumble into another annoying MGTOW rant, I’ll be be able to laugh at the looming, grandiose Jack D. Ripper, chomping on his classically phallic cigar and spitting about “fluids.” For that, I will be eternally grateful.

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From a Ramble to a Story

Earlier today, an aspiring speaker asked how to turn a 25 minute ramble, which he had already created, into a 10 minute story. By the way he asked, I could tell he knew it was about much more than shortening it; it was about giving it structure. He had a formless collection of ideas, and he wanted a work of art that could plug into the human mind and evoke change in the listener.

He may not have realized it, but he had actually taken the proper first step to write a story from scratch. Brainstorming is a useful first step in writing, no matter the project. His brainstorming just happened to be in spoken form. His intuition for the craft was excellent; he just needed a little information.

Here’s what I told him:

Decide what you message you want your story to have – what enemy you defeated, what lesson you learned, what change you made, or what have you. Choose the event from your ramble that serves as the hinge point of the conflict, lesson or change; that will be the turning point or climax of your story. Everything else in your story will support it.

Now choose the event in which you first meet the enemy or see the need for change, and put it first. Finally, choose several events between these two to illustrate the rising conflict, and make a mini-story from each one, relating them all to each other as you go along. This will be your basic story structure.

Once that is done, choose some descriptive elements to illustrate what life was like before the story begins and put those in an introduction, and likewise, choose some from after it ends for the wrap-up. This will show how the change has been fought for and achieved.

Now you have a hero’s journey, with stasis at the beginning, initiation into the “other” world with the first conflict, rising action building to a climax, resolution, and a higher level of stasis at the end. To see more, google “hero cycle” or “freytag’s pyramid.” Best of luck.