Structures and Scaffolding

Structures and Scaffolding

Maxfield Parrish, Daybreak 1922

We’re studying structure in everything, and artists like Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966),  have already provided some exquisite keys, here rendered visible and delightfully analyzed by Scott McDaniel. Reverse engineer any working structure you can find – even two dimensional frameworks as with Daybreak – then unwind them along a temporal axis: what do you get?

I know it may seem, for the moment, that I’m writing for a particular (and peculiar) kind of mind, a geek for patterns, palettes, structures, scaffolds, scalability and causation, but really I’m writing for that peculiar engineering geek latent in every writer and conceptualist – screenwriting is engineering, it’s architecture; and all roads lead to Rome.

Teaching yourself to see these formal patterns and the way artists use structure to create a frame for ‘accidents’ to appear casual and organic is every part of this job.

Creating work that’s true to yourself and true to your times, it won’t be enough to know how “Chinatown” or “Diehard” work after the fact, or what the character arcs are in Gladiator (hint: there aren’t any), you must learn to see the patterns that exist all around you from Cathedrals to Character. Then you will find unique subjects for your stories crystallizing everywhere you look.

Scott McDaniel’s terrific art analysis blog is here.


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