AnimSchool instructor Scott Guppy discusses the most common forms of storytelling structure, and how you can use it in your animation to convey a complete story. 

By distilling your narrative to its basic structure, you unlock a compelling journey that resonates with your audience. Keep it concise, and focus on key elements. In simplicity lies the magic that makes your tale unforgettable.

Stories typically follow a three-act structure: Setup, Conflict, and Resolution. As with animation, these rules can be broken; however, we must first understand the rules

Act 1: Setup

  • Establishes a scenario that the audience can identify quickly. Ensuring that the audience can identify the situation quickly is essential for animators.
    • These are typically stereotypical settings (i.e. a western is set in a desert with older, rundown buildings)
  • The setup helps to relate important information about the story to the audience.

Act 2: Conflict

  • This part contains the story; the obstacle that the character overcomes in an escalating fashion.
  • It needs to be interesting and intriguing; otherwise, you will lose the audience’s attention – the ending won’t matter if the audience does not stick around to see it.

Act 3: Resolution

  • Contains the “gag” – the whole point of the story
  • Does the character win? Do they solve the problem and fail dramatically?

Story Tips

Archetypes and stereotypes are important in storytelling – while they may not be entirely accurate or correct, they contain generalizations that are helpful in conveying information quickly to the audience so they know what to expect from the story. Utilizing these generalizations can help keep your story simple and easy for the audience to follow. If you are not purposefully trying to confuse your audience, ensure that your animation is readable and clear!

Who is your main character?
Dive into the mind of your character: gender, age, race, intelligence, emotional state, goals, dreams, etc. Visualizing your character can give you inspiration for what you want to convey with your story. 

Juxtaposition: two things being seen or placed together with contrasting effect
Juxtapositions are useful in creating a joke with the incongruity of two ideas. They can also be used in establishing an idea with a predictable outcome, then deliberately misdirecting the audience to an unexpected outcome.

Watch the full excerpt from a live AnimSchool lecture below:

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