Aristotle’s 5 golden rules for creative screenwriters

If you want to write a script for a blockbuster and need an educational resource, you will probably think of Aristotle and his works. He lived more than 2,000 years ago and spent his days lecturing on ethics and earthworms; Aristotle had never seen a movie in his life. But some of the top playwrights and screenwriters, including Aaron Sorkin and David Mamet, think that this ancient Greek philosopher knew exactly how to write a gripping story for any age. Sorkin says, [My] law book is Aristotle's art of poetry. All the rules are in that book". Aristotle’s 5 golden rules for creative screenwriters

If you want to write a script for a blockbuster and need an educational resource, you will probably think of Aristotle and his works. He lived more than 2,000 years ago and spent his days lecturing on ethics and earthworms; Aristotle had never seen a movie in his life. But some of the top playwrights and screenwriters, including Aaron Sorkin and David Mamet, think that this ancient Greek philosopher knew exactly how to write a gripping story for any age. Sorkin says, [My] law book is Aristotle's art of poetry. All the rules are in that book".

Aristotle seems to be an unexpected guide for storytellers. He was born in the land of Lam Yazra from Macedonia in the north of Greece. where his father, as the court's trusted physician, had access to the interior of the king at that time, the grandfather of Alexander the Great. After his parents died when he was a teenager, Aristotle traveled to Athens to study with Plato, Socrates' student and the most famous philosopher of his time. Plato was an extraordinary theoretician, but he showed less enthusiasm for practical and experimental work, which Aristotle loved. Aristotle’s 5 golden rules for creative screenwriters

Aristotle, who is nicknamed the first teacher, was the teacher of Alexander the Great, the Greek king who opened the world.

Aristotle dissected the shells and laboriously He crossed the middle of the marshes to collect baby frogs, and in fact, with these works, he laid the foundation stone of biological knowledge, while Plato was interested in thinking about the inevitable truth on which the foundation of the universe was built. After Plato's death, Aristotle returned to Macedonia to serve as Alexander's tutor, and after a while, he founded his own school in Athens called the Lokeum and dedicated it to research and teaching.

In the following years Aristotle wrote and taught about everything he could think of, from astronomy to metaphysics to politics to zoology. Unfortunately, none of his completed and neat writings could be saved from the hands of time and historical events, and only his classroom notes remain. But these notes, which were sometimes written incorrectly by scribes, became a reference for teaching about Aristotle and completely changed the world and laid the foundation for almost every science and field that is taught in universities today.

But One of Aristotle's comprehensive works, which ironically managed to survive and has reached us after the passage of centuries, is his book "The Art of Poetry". If we look at it only through the lens of the title, this book is more about poetry and poetry. In ancient Greece, all literary writings were written in the form of poems; From epic stories to tragic dramas and raunchy comedies. Therefore, "Poetry Art" is actually a guide for telling stories of any type and genre. But this work, in comparison with other works of Aristotle, has a book history that is more chaotic and parts of it are lost or its order is messed up, there are gaps in terms of logic between different parts and also the absence of the entire second part of the comedy chapter. Another bitter truth is about this book. The fact that so many people have tried to read and learn this work over the years is a testament to the power of this writing, even in its messy state. Aristotle’s 5 golden rules for creative screenwriters

Aristotle's "Art of Poetry" is among the works of this famous philosopher who managed to remain safe from the events of the times.

I have taught The Art of Poetry to college students many times, and I am amazed at how often they cite this book as a transformative experience for their writing and reading. In short, there is nothing more remarkable than this book to make us think hard about what makes an effective story, whether we are writing our own or trying to imitate Shakespeare or Shawshank Redemption.

But over the years, I am very sorry that those brilliant students abandoned this book just out of desperation, which led me to make a new translation of this ancient Greek text and try to I tried to arrange this book in such a way that it is understandable for a new audience. The result of the work titled "How to narrate the story?" is a new approach to Aristotle's "Fan Poem" which tries to be both a correct and faithful translation and a useful guide book for writers and readers.

Presented as a guidebook for non-specialists, they may scoff, but Aristotle's ideas are so powerful that they beg to be presented to a wider audience. Maybe you don't agree with everything that Aristotle says, but consider his thoughts and for that matter Think if you also agree with the fact that these ideas are still fresh and wonderful, as he proposed them 2000 years ago?

Before Aristotle organized the framework of storytelling rules. It lays out some basic principles and asks what exactly are we doing when we create a form of art, painting or dance? Above all, he says, we should know that everything we create is an imitation of life, but using different types of media, objects or methods, whether it is paint on a canvas or the sound that reverberates in an orchestra hall or the words that It is imprinted on the paper.

Of course, this does not mean that art is only a mirror of the truth, something far away from it. We create images, sounds, or words to achieve a certain goal and tell our unique story, but on the other hand, it also means that if you want the audience to listen to what you have to say, everything you create must be logical. be related to the real world around you and to a certain extent reflect your own life. Aristotle’s 5 golden rules for creative screenwriters

Aristotle has great interest in epic stories such as Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey"

Aristotle's rules are not practical for any kind of storytelling. His main focus in "The Art of Poetry" is on tragedy and drama, just like his popular play "Oedipus Shahriar" by Sophocles, which can be performed in a few hours. He has great respect for the epics whose style and style are similar to "The Lord of the Rings", such as Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey", but stories that take days to tell are not in the center of his attention.

This makes him an obvious choice for writers who are working on a feature film or mini-series that airs all at once, rather than multi-episode series that may run for several years. Of course, you can also apply his rules to longer works, such as the six-season TV series J. J. Abrams' "Lost" (which ran from 2004 to 2010), but only if you break them down into weekly stories. Aristotle focuses on individual tragedies because of the immediate retribution and emotional impact such stories can have on the audience, provided they are well executed. As he explains in one of the most famous sentences of the book "The Art of Poetry", the most you want to achieve as a writer is to evoke a sense of pity and fear in the audience, that sympathetic pity (poor man) that Followed by sudden realization and fear (my god, maybe I was that guy). If you do it right, your audience will leave the stage feeling different than when they entered the theater, having experienced a kind of emotional purification that the Greeks called catharsis. This is the true power of storytelling.

Now what is Aristotle's command for writers to do this in the right way? The first of his key concepts is very simple, but often overlooked in screenplays.

Rule #1: A complete story has a beginning, middle, and end.


"The beginning of the story does not necessarily follow what has already existed, but other events and events naturally follow and occur after it. On the other hand, the end of the story naturally or generally follows what happened before, but there is nothing that happens after that. The middle of the story also occurs after an event and there is a point that occurs after that".

What is often true about Aristotle's laws is that they seem very obvious and perhaps with Think for yourself why there is a fuss about it. But consider the fact that how many movies you've ever seen have lacked a clear and logical opening to properly introduce events and characters. If you intend to show the background of the story with a look at the past, the audience will find a way out, but if you don't follow the basic principles at the beginning of the story, the audience will be confused and bored.

On the other hand, there are many movies that have a strong and powerful beginning, but lose their way in the middle, which is a fundamental mistake according to Aristotle's teachings, but the most common mistake in movies that the Greek philosopher condemns is a weak ending, in which the screenwriters do not know How to bring the story to its destination. As he puts it, the worst stories resort to supernatural aid and end with an untenable twist, when, for example, a slain hero miraculously returns to life or alien invaders are suddenly destroyed. These are the failings of lazy writers who don't bother to plot their story before it begins provide Aristotle says that you shouldn't insult your audience in this way, otherwise you won't be able to win the honor in the next round of the Dionysus festival (meaning the same movie festivals). Aristotle’s 5 golden rules for creative screenwriters

Resurrecting a dead hero is a fatal mistake in the process of creating a cinematic work

Many of us like to believe that help is sent to us from God and that we get inspiration from divine messengers when we write, and it is enough to put our hands to the pen to create a masterpiece. Aristotle says that this is a foolish idea. Writing is hard work, and good writing requires a detailed plan, just like anything that goes well and is done:

"Whether you're drawing inspiration from an old story or creating a new one, a writer must First, it should determine the general structure of the story and then fill in the blanks with different parts and details of the story". h2>

Another lesson that Aristotle teaches us is something that many filmmakers ignore, and that is that the scene has a second priority to the plot. For the ancient Greeks, this rule meant a stage with lots of props, but this is also true for movies. Whether it is the large number of actors in Stanley Kubrick's classic film "Spartacus" from 1960 or the digital graphics equipped with the latest technology in the world, which is displayed on the cinema screen, the magnificent shows that are made with all the details and mastery, as well as the special effects must be be at the service of the story. Aristotle’s 5 golden rules for creative screenwriters

"Avengers: The Last "The Game" is one of the films that, in addition to showing magnificent effects, also has a powerful storyline

The amazing battle sequences and the cars that collide with each other with all the intensity cannot fill the void of a weak plot. And they serve as tiresome distractions when the story suffers. (And yes, you got that right, I'm talking to you, Star Wars prequels). Even the most enthusiastic fans get tired of a movie that is full of lights and explosions and there is no meaning in it and they get bored very quickly. You can have a powerful story line and stunning CGI effects at the same time, like in 2019's Avengers: Endgame, but Marvel's tech guys have enough of Frost to always use dramatic scenes in the service of the story. /p>

Rule No. 3: How long should a work be shown?

But how long should a movie or TV series be? Aristotle has a wonderful analogy to talk about the proper duration of a story. Drawing on his background as a biologist, he says watching a story unfold is like watching an animal. Your audience must be able to clearly see it all together in order to appreciate it. If Pirang is like a giant sea creature that your audience can't place in their mind's eye, they will lose their enthusiasm for it. If it is too small, like a tiny shrimp on the coast of the Aegean Sea, it cannot occupy anyone. Aristotle's preference is that whenever possible, the story should be long:

"A longer story is usually better and more beautiful, and it is presented in such a way that it can still fit in the memory at once. A simple definition of the length of a story is that it is long enough to allow a change from a good ending to a bad ending or vice versa, corresponding to a phenomenon that is likely or necessary.

By making short animations like "Piper", Pixar has demonstrated its ability to make short and impressive films. It has been proven

But there is a reason why we have an Oscar for the short film. Just like Aristotle, who certainly found it worthy of praise, Pixar and other talented studios can create complete and astonishing stories that last no more than 5 minutes. What matters is not how long a film takes, but how the time is used properly. As a writer you have to find that magic length that gives you enough pages to get your story going, but not so long that you bore your audience.

Law No. 4: Like the stage of the play, the character is related to the plot

The most controversial law that Aristotle talks about in "The Art of Poetry" is that the character is also related to the plot. The second degree of priority is:

"Pirang is the first principle and then the spirit of tragedy." The character is placed in the second position. Painting is similar in many ways. If an artist has to randomly cover a surface with the best and most beautiful colors, to The audience derives less pleasure from the simple framework of an object.

Some contemporary critics may say that Aristotle thinks that characters are not important, but this is a misreading of the text. In fact, he believes in deeply rich and fully developed characters in the heart of the story, but these characters should always serve the main line of the story and nothing else. Some of the most talented writers and directors believe that Aristotle was simply wrong about this law and that characterization is everything in the story, but I personally think that Aristotle is right. They love each other

Think for a moment about the best movies you've ever seen; Whether their motivation is the character of the story or the plot. For example, 1995's "Always Obsessed" has some of the most interesting characters I've ever seen in a movie, but they ultimately serve the plot of the movie. This case is also true for "Casablanca" from 1942, "Black Panther" from 2018 or "Thelma and Louise" from 1991. Of course, I admit that the characters are actually more important than the main plot in some famous comedies such as "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" from 1966 and "The Big Lebowski" from 1998, but since the second half of the comedy " The art of poetry is lost, we don't know exactly what Aristotle thought of this idea. Aristotle’s 5 golden rules for creative screenwriters

We want to see characters who, just like us, fall into darkness with just one fatal mistake

Only because Aristotle thinks the first is ultimately more important. It is from the character of the story, it does not necessarily mean that the characters of the story are unimportant. A simple yet complete observation made by Aristotle is that any writer who wants to draw the audience's attention to himself must base the story's center of gravity on the conflict between two characters. Even if your story revolves around saving Earth from Comet Chamushi, the conflict between the characters is what matters the most. Now why fight? You can tell a straightforward story about a princess fighting and defeating an evil supervillain, but that's a story that's appropriate and fun for kids' cartoons. If you want your story to appeal to adults, make the conflict about a relationship that everyone knows is full of drama:

"Pain and unhappiness between those who are closely related is best, what? Brother with brother, son with father, mother with son or son with mother.

Your story doesn't need to be so dark like the Oresteia trilogy written by the ancient Greek playwright Aesocholus, where family members die. They have fallen and kill each other whenever there is an opportunity, but there is nothing more painful and tangible than a fight between those who love each other (we all remember the night of Eid). Parents and children, husbands and wives, best friends and the conflict between them is something that breaks your heart and makes you sit and watch the movie until the end of the story and watch how this sad story ends. /p>

Another key point for Aristotle about tragic characters is how they should collectively proceed in the dramatic arc. He says that it is vital for the character to change from the beginning to the end of the story. If you want to make the most impact on your audience, this should define your purpose as a writer. But there are different changes that are possible depending on the fundamental nature of the character. caption-text">Sometimes in some movies like "The Big Lebowski", the characters surpass the plot

Let's assume that no one in the story is two-dimensional and only good or bad, but the characters should tend to to fall towards one of these two categories. Aristotle, who is the undisputed master of logic, draws some possibilities and possibilities for character change during the story. You can have a bad guy who suffers a bad ending, he says, but that has little appeal to anyone over the age of 5. On the other hand, you can have a completely positive character who is tormented by a terrible ending, but that leaves the audience with a huge pile of shock and disgust, not pity and fear. Similarly, if you have a truly evil character who triumphs in the end, the audience will throw popcorn at the screen and no one will buy you. What remains is the mode of change in character that Aristotle says is the best type:

"We remain and the best type of tragic character. Someone who is something between these two categories, not that evil, not a shining example of chastity. This person does not experience the fall because of a great evil and only falls into this situation because of a mistake or weakness".

In other words, the best The drama is about people who are just like you and me, or at least the way most of us like to see ourselves. A flawed but basically decent person who pays his taxes and helps his friend if needed just like a cat, but this character has a hidden flaw, maybe like most of us, which causes him to fail in life and reach a tragic end. This flaw should not be so devastating as Oedipus's pride that it causes him to unknowingly kill his father and sleep with his own mother, but it should be bad enough to lead the character to make wrong choices, either out of anger or Addiction or love that separated him from him.

Listen and stay out of the story and let the characters in Anan's story take over

Rule number 5: Don't tell stories, show them.

Another simple rule of thumb for creative writing classes that comes straight from Aristotle. In other words, do not use narration until it is necessary. Aristotle's proposed model in this chapter, like most of the other parts of the "art of poetry", is from the first and greatest Greek epic writer:

"Compared to other poets, Homer is worthy of admiration for several reasons. But the most important reason is that he knows when not to use his own voice. The storyteller should act as little as possible as the narrator, since this is not an imitation. Other writers inject their own voice into their stories, sometimes using parody whenever possible. But after speaking in a very brief introduction, Homer steps back and brings forward another attractive man, woman, or character to carry the narrative burden.

Narrative can work well in some of the best movies. , think of the movie "Apocalypse Now" or "Your Mother Too", but getting it right has its own special concern. Unless you listen and stay out of the story and let the characters in Annan's story take over. Aristotle’s 5 golden rules for creative screenwriters

The inappropriate presence of the narrative often hurts the film, and this show is just the characters and attractive scenes that carry the burden of the narrative

Also needless to say Not that as a writer you must fantasize, but Aristotle adds that you should not even bother to pick up pen and paper unless you are able to imagine a story in your imagination and feel it in your soul. What your characters are experiencing:

The writers who are most successful are those who naturally have the ability to identify with their characters and cling to their emotions. The most real anger or sadness is conveyed by writers who have really felt that anger and sadness in their soul. Therefore, the best writers are those who are either very smart or very insane".

And finally, even the writers who are in trouble must stick very tightly to the logic and reason in their writing. Aristotle has little patience with writings that contain illogical elements:

As far as possible, stories should not contain unbelievable parts. The excuse that the story is ruined without incredible elements is silly, since there's no reason to include them in our story in the first place. If a writer includes an irrational element in his story and there is a logical alternative to it, he has committed something that is unforgivable". They did, for example, Daenerys burning down King's Landings in the series "Game of Thrones" or when Bern became the king of Westeros. Perhaps you have a list of your favorites.

There are many more lessons Aristotle could teach today's writers, but when you're working on your own work, you can find these in Aristotle's Fan Poetics. find. Aristotle's laws are timeless for the simple reason that our love for a good story does not change over centuries and ages. It worked for Homer and Sophocles, so it will work for you too.


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