Measuring Your Growth And Understanding As A Writer
Jul 26th, 2017
I updated my official analysis of Moonlight, taking care to explain where my original inaccuracies fell and what specific piece of narrative structure the filmmakers purposefully left out.
While I find the process of correcting my conclusions fascinating, not to mention imperative considering the nature of my work and this site, some find the lack of certainty telling of something else:
ur the master and you're re-assessing moonlight, etc. if last week moonlight was a non successful grand argument and this week it is, that doesn't make me think mastering dramatica will help me get shit done.
Definitely not what I had in mind.
Developing an Understanding
The published corrections on both the Moonlight and Doubt analyses reflect my personal growth in understanding. The Doubt analysis in particular, spans an eight-year period from original to revised.
I find it enthralling to discover something new about a work. Discerning that Doubt captures problems incurred by certainty and works them into a subtle power play between the two principal characters deepens my appreciation for the film. Detecting the missing piece of Moonlight and tying it directly to a specific Signpost within one storyform confirms my writer’s intuition, while simultaneously teaching me how to accomplish the same in my own work.
The best part about the Dramatica theory of story is that it never changes–you do. The theory remains objective and holds that objectivity while you–the Main Character of your life–change your point-of-view around it. Understanding the theory acts as a benchmark for your own personal development as a writer and narrative artist. The deeper your understanding grows, the clearer Dramatica’s concepts of narrative become—making you a more effective and efficient writer.
And that’s how I get shit done.
The Original Analysis
For the sake of posterity, and for anyone interested in comparing my original conclusions with the final analysis, I present my first pass at Moonlight:
Haunting soundtrack. Engaging cinematography. Riveting and honest performances.
But no story.
Sure, Chiron (Alex Hubert, Ashton Sanders, & Trevante Rhodes) grows to accept who he is...but did the film make a convincing argument as to how best to approach that problem?
A Grand Argument Story combines elements of Character, Plot, Theme, and Genre into four distinct Throughlines: The Objective Story Throughline, the Main Character Throughline, the Influence Character Throughline, and the Relationship Story Throughline.
Moonlight is all Main Character Throughline and little to no Objective Story Throughline. The end result is a great subjective experience, or what is commonly referred to as a slice-of-life story. Without the objectivity one receives from the Objective Story Throughline, the story fails to make its case for why things turned out the way they did. In the same way that our lack of objectivity in our own lives fails to grant us meaning, our inability to see what happens outside of Chiron's point-of-view locks us into his perspective.
We feel for him. But we don't learn from him.
Contrast this with The Matrix where you clearly see how a little bit of faith can save the day. Or Whiplash where a little determination can overcome any doubt over how you have yet to prove yourself.
Moonlight is a Tale, not a story. While captivating and engaging, the film failed to make a convincing argument as to whether Chiron's choices were a good thing or a bad thing, and whether or not they led to success or failure. As a consequence, we can only take the events as they are and not see them as part of a greater, more meaningful experience.