How to Train Your Dragon: Problem, Symptom; Solution, Reaction

This morning I finished a four-day EFL winter camp at a local junior high school. Each day of the camp, we watched part of How to Train Your Dragon, a movie I love. The first three days, I played a few minutes, asked the class to summarize the action, played a few more minutes, asked for a summary, and so on. It wasn't a hit. Today I played the last two thirds of the movie non-stop after warning the class that I expected them to tell me the whole story once the movie ended. To help the kids focus, I drew out their ideas on characters and setting, then sketched the beginning and end of the plot.

To sketch the plot, I used initial and final states. I say states, because I knew from reading Dramatica that a plot contains the real Problem and a distracting Symptom, and that the Main Character/Protagonist (in this case Archetypal, so joined) starts out with a Reaction to the Symptom and only gradually arrives at a Solution to the Problem.

  Main Character Throughline Overall Story Throughline
Initial State Hiccup: loser (misfit, nuisance). Vikings/dragons: enemies.
Final State Hiccup: winner (hero, saviour). Vikings/dragons: friends.

In his personal story, Hiccup starts as a loser and ends as a winner. When the curtain rises, he's a nuisance and a misfit. When the curtain falls, he's a hero, the saviour of both Vikings and dragons. In the Overall Story, the Vikings and dragons start out as enemies and end as friends.

Now watch how it happens.

  Main Character Throughline Objective Story Throughline
Initial State Hiccup is a loser (misfit, nuisance) The Vikings and dragons are enemies.
       shoots down a dragon  
       lets the dragon go  
       befriends the dragon  
       understands dragons  
       finds the dragons' nest  
       teaches the other kids to befriend dragons  
       kills the Giant Dragon  
Final State Hiccup is a winner (hero, saviour) The vikings and dragons are friends.

Hiccup's Reaction (shoot down a dragon) to the Symptom (Hiccup is a loser) of the Problem (Vikings and dragons are enemies) leads surpsisingly and inevitably to the Problem's Solution (Vikings and dragons are friends).

It's gratifying to see that there are nine points in all:

Hook Hiccup is a loser (misfit, nuisance). The Vikings and dragons are enemies.
Inciting Incident Hiccup shoots down a dragon.  
Plot Turn 1 Hiccup lets the dragon go.  
Pinch Point 1 Hiccup befriends the dragon.  
Midpoint Hiccup understands dragons.  
Pinch Point 2 Hiccup finds the dragons' nest.  
Plot Turn 2 Hiccup teaches the other kids.  
Deciding Incident Hiccup kills the Giant Dragon.  
Conclusion Hiccup is a winner (hero, saviour). The vikings and dragons are friends.

It's even more gratifying to see that this story point analysis compares pretty well with a timed milestone analyis. Each story point is either spot on, well within range, or very close to the maximum low range for a milestone. I asume the wobble is due to the juggling of throughlines (Objective, Main, Obstacle, and Subjective), a topic I'm not quite ready to tackle.

Minute Calc Min:Sec Milestones Quote Range MaL Range MiL Range MiH Range MaH
End minute 0:3 Hook The vikings and dragons are enemies. Hiccup is a misfit nuisance.     3:16 6:01
88.84 11:33 Inciting Incident (6:25) Hiccup shoots down a Night Fury. (11:33) Hiccup tries to find the Night Fury he shot down. (14:25) Hiccup frees the Night Fury. (14:48) The Night Fury leaves Hiccup alive. 6:01 8:47 14:18 17:04
First minute 22:351 Plot Turn 1 (21:25) Hiccup realizes that the Night Fury can't fly away because its tail is damaged. (22:35) The trainees complain about having to read the Dragon Manual. (24:22) Hiccup discovers that the Manual has no information about Night Furies. 17:04 19:49 25:21 28:06
0.5 33:38 Pinch 1 (30:15) The Night Fury smiles at Hiccup. (33:00) The Night Fury allows Hiccup to touch its snout. (33:38) Snotlout vows to avenge Gobber's hand and foot. (33:52) Gobber tells the trainees that a downed dragon is a dead dragon. (35:20 Toothless expresses dislike of smoked eel. (38:46) Hiccup uses the smoked eel to drive a dragon back into its cell. 28:06 30:52 36:23 39:09
Preminutes 44:4 Midpoint Hiccup and Toothless climb to the clouds. 39:09 41:55 47:26 50:11
0.5 55:43 Pinch 2 (55:43) Hiccup, Toothless and Astrid fly over Berk. (56:15) Toothless hears other dragons passing on their way to the nest. 50:11 52:57 58:28 61:14
Minute total 66:45 Plot Turn 2 (66:45) Stoick sets sail for the nest. (69:15) Hiccup tells Astrid he's going to do something crazy to save Toothless and Stoick. (71:45) Hiccup begins training his friends to ride dragons. 61:14 63:6 69:31 72:17
88.34 77:48 Resolution The trainees and their dragons fight the Giant Dragon. 72:17 75:02 80:33 83:19
  88:5 Conclusion The vikings and dragons are friends. Hiccup is the saviour of Vikings and dragons. 83:19 86:05    
Av Distance              
11.0425              
Min Range              
2.76              
Max Range               
5.52              

 

 

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