Animation Scriptwriting
Stories - Part Three: Story Themes
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Chaos and disorder

Just as humour is based on chaos and disorder in most cases, so is tragedy. Also, what is chaos for one person may be simply disorder for another. It comes down to how one can look at the situation and define it.

There is a difference between chaos and disorder. Disorder is simply a mess that can be cleared up. Chaos requires thinking about. It is where the answer is not obvious, and may well require outside help. It will often be a dilemma that makes the character rise to the occasion or just break down. Quite often a real person involved in dilemmas will act totally out of character. In extreme cases it is not resolvable at all.

Putting a person into an awkward situation will bring out an aspect of their character. It may not be a true aspect as we may act inconsistently in a situation that we don't know how to handle. Here are some examples. Here are some story lines that require a lot of thought to resolve:

  • A doctor has several patients waiting for a heart transplant, but only one heart available. Who will get it?
  • A lifeboat can only hold thirty people. There are fifty in the water scrambling to get to it. The ships officer in the boat has to reject twenty. Which twenty?
  • An army captain knows that most of his men can get away from a dangerous situation if a few of them stay and hold the position for a while, but those few will certainly be killed. Who does he choose?
  • A woman is in love with a married man. She knows that if he leaves his family they will suffer badly, but if he does not she will be alone for the rest of her life. What choice does she make?
  • A young girl knows that her pet dog has bitten someone and needs to be put down. She has to make the decision. How does she feel?
  • A teacher has caught a student cheating. He knows that the student is desperate rather than a cheat, and that to expose the matter could ruin the student's career. How does he resolve it?
  • A man discovers the past life of his wife has a nasty secret that could lead to a jail sentence. If he stays silent he can carry on leading a normal life, except he will lose respect for her. If he tells her he knows, she would not be able to trust him. It would strain the marriage and break up the family. If he tells the police the wife would be jailed, but he will lose the love of his family. What should he do?

How people resolve such conflicts is what makes the story interesting because if they do it in a way that seems plausible then it gives us some insight on how to deal with out own problems.

On the other hand, not being able to resolve problems also makes a good story. The person who becomes a drunk or drug addict because he cannot cope with life. People who turn to crime, or become emotionally ill due to the inability to cope with life make good main characters in stories. The 'Rise and fall' theme is a common one, and again relates to the characters ability to use their own talents, the support of their friends, and the resources available in crisis situations.


List three situations from a newspaper that require very difficult decisions, such as those above.


Definition: Chaos

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