INSIDE STORY: THE POWER OF THE TRANFORMATIONAL ARC: Dara Marks
Review: Ian Spiby, 2 July 2009
(A link to Amazon to the book is below)
A fascinating exploration of the art of writing film scripts.
Dara Marks, who is a professional film-script consultant, has set herself what would seem to be an impossible task: how to write the perfect screenplay. Amazingly, she goes a long way towards bringing it off.
Most books on script writing (and there are many) concentrate on the story and characters: how to structure the plot, create dramatic tension, place the climax in the right place and so on. Similarly they teach how to create characters that are both believable and whom we care about. Dr Marks does this, but it is only part of the process; what she calls the “A” story. The script should also contain a “B” story: a sub-plot which exposes the internal conflict or fatal flaw of (the principal) character. And in addition there is also a “C” story which is the sub-plotline that exposes the relationship issues a protagonist must face in order to achieve the goal of the plot.
Furthermore, all three stories must interlace in such a way that they feed off one another throughout the film, finally coming together at the end. The result of this is a deeper, more satisfying work which operates on a number of interconnected levels rather than simply a plot with well developed characters
If this sounds complex, well it is; but Marks takes us firmly by the hand and guides us through the complexity. She uses literally dozens of films as examples to illustrate her points with three detailed case studies in addition: the films Romancing the Stone, Lethal Weapon and Ordinary People. To further help the reader a diagram is used, which she repeats throughout the book, each time adding further details, so that by the end we have her whole method in one multifarious visual scheme. She also uses her considerable knowledge of the great myths of the world to explain to the reader why it is so important to deepen scripts in this way.
While a beginner in the art of script-writing might find her method daunting, it would greatly assist those who have the basics at their command. It is also fascinating for those who are interested in how films work and wish to gain a greater understanding.