or We’re going to need a bigger boat
My Roomate and I (who at this time desires to remain anonymous, so I will honor that wish) have been really interested in story structure lately. So we wanted to start watching some classic movies that were considered classics and take a look if they followed the “Hollywood Movie Structure”. I think for writers it will be a whole lot more helpful then just straight up critiques.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Run time: 124 minutes
When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it.
“I’ll catch this bird for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad fish” – Quint
[0:03] Hook @ 3% – The Girl gets bit.
The Hook’s Job is to grab the reader and force them to ask questions, provoke interest, and “hook” them to read further.
I think the moment we see the girl getting bit, this goes from a “oh look, drunk teens on a beach” to a “OH MY GOSH WHAT JUST HAPPENED.” Even despite the (two) obvious puns here, I was hooked the moment we see the shark grab unto her.
[Early]Inciting Event – Girl washes up on shore
The Inciting Event is the event that will start the story.
The moment the girl’s remains wash up on shore, Chief Brody, chief of police, will be asked to investigate the death and the story truly starts. An argument can also be made that the inciting event is really when the great white first swims into these waters.
[0:16] Key Event @ 13% – The Boy gets bit.
The Key Event is the event that will force the Main Character to be caught up in the story.
Before the boy get’s bit on the beach (that’s a bad hat, Harry), Chief Brody has avoided taking action, partly because of lack of evidence, mostly because the city council has bullied him not to. But, with the evidence of shark attack undeniable, Brody must now take action.
[0:43] Plot Point 1 @ 36% – Brody cuts open the (wrong) Shark
The First Plot Point is the point of no return for the Main Character, require new circumstances or surroundings.
I was waiting for the first plot point for forever. This is when Brody decides that he is done listening to the city council and instead tells them he must listen to them. Brody says “I am the chief of police now”.
[1:03] Mid Point @ 53% – The Shark Attack on Broad Daylight
The Second Plot Point will mark a turning point for the Main Character, transitioning from Reaction to the Inciting Event, to Action.
Once Brody decides that all these half measures are not going to be enough, especially after his son is almost being victim number three, and will take direct action against the shark by hiring Quint to take him and Hooper out on his boat.
[1:30] Plot Point 3 @ 75% – The end of the First day of Failures
This will set the Main Character(s) irrevocably into the climax
After several try fail cycles, Brody is about to give up and head home, but Quint and Hooper convince him to stay the night and try one more day. dun Dun, dun Dun. dun Dun dun DUN Dun DUN
[1:43] Climax @ 84% – The Final Showdown!
The Critical moment that fulfills the dramatic promise of the show
So far we have only seen the Shark almost attack the boat, but never attach the characters directly. On the climax, we will see the shark in it’s full “jawed” glory. Also, notice that the main character get’s stripped of his companions, and will have to fight the antagonist one on one, and uses a well placed “Chekov’s gun” (and no, not his M1, but the compressed air canister). And then the classic lines
Conclusion – The Story Structure
“Martin hates boats. Martin hates water. Martin… Martin sits in his car when we go on the ferry to the mainland. I guess it’s a childhood thing. It’s a… there’s a clinical name for it isn’t there?” – Ellen
“Drowning” – Brody
Jaws is often cited for having a classic structure, and the percentages do seem to point to a rather reliable structure. Hook happens in the first 10%, midpoint at 53%, plot point 3 right at 75%, climax in the last 15%. The only point of contention here being plot point 1, which comes in at 36%, a little late, but there are so many other pinch points and suspense built up, that I don’t believe it’s too much of an issue. This was actually the first time I watched Jaws, and it was a great ride.