Animation Scriptwriting
Stories - Part Five: Relationships and Communication
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Levels of survival

We survive on three levels:


PHYSICALLY. This means staying alive somehow. Robinson Crusoe survived physically when he was able to find food, water, and shelter on the island he was stranded. He was able to just exist.


MATERIALLY. This means having some level of comfort so that life is not a constant fight for survival. For Robinson Crusoe this meant having a shelter, warm clothes, a supply of food and water so that he didn't have to go out all the time and find it.


SPIRITUALLY. This implies having some meaning and purpose in life. For Robinson Crusoe this would have been hope of rescue or devising some means of leaving the island and getting back home to his family.

We all live on these three levels:

  • We have to earn a living just to stay alive. Unlike Robinson Crusoe, we also want to like our job.
  • We try to improve our standard of living so that life gets easier, and offers more choices. Unlike Robinson Crusoe, our standard of living and comforts include involvement with others.
  • We look for meaning and purpose in the sense that we want to be part of society doing something that is recognised as being worthwhile, unlike Robinson Crusoe whose sense of direction is related to being rescued.

The main difference between Robinson Crusoe and the rest of us is 'Money'. But giving money to Robinson Crusoe would not help him as none of his needs could be bought with money on the island.

For Robinson Crusoe, everything he does has a meaning. Collecting food, making a shelter, exploring the island, and building a boat are all obvious things for him to do. But imagine the island was civilised, and he had plenty of money. He would not want for food and shelter, and he could live in luxury, but would his life have meaning and purpose?

Stories abound of rich people who lead dissolute lives because they have no objectives in life. Earning a living gives you a direction. It puts you among other people also doing much the same work with similar objectives to yourself. You can identify with them and share their joys and sorrows, which would be much like your own.

Having to earn a living gives your life a structure, and enables you to assess whether you are better or worse off than before at any time. Not having to earn a living might be very nice, but unless something else replaced the structure, life would soon become boring, which is why many rich people continue working in spite of not needing the money.

We try to find some meaning and purpose in our lives so that what we do makes sense to others and us. Storylines imply the level of the character's survival level. Though it's not always clear. A primitive tribesman might well live on a day-to-day basis yet have much meaning in his life. A wealthy man with all the material comforts may find life meaningless.

Few people are satisfied with their lives, and those that are, may not be the sort of people we would like to be. Cinderella went from just surviving to having love and all the comforts of a princess. We assume she was happier. The ugly sisters were materially well off but lacked meaningful lives. We understand this without being told.

Ultimately, whatever we do is directed towards making ourselves happier. If we say "Mary won a competition" we are really saying "Mary is happier now than she was." If we say Mary is ill we are saying "Mary is less happy now than she was." When we talk about people it is usually to discuss their situation as being better or worse than before.

Dorothy wants to see the Wizard of Oz so she can get home and be happier. Alice wants to get out of wonderland because it makes her unhappy. Robin Hood is unhappy with bad King John. Sherlock Holmes is unhappy with the criminal fraternity of London. The Beast is unhappy with being ugly. Snow White's stepmother is unhappy that Snow White is more beautiful than she is.

Our lives are meaningful when they are happy. This hardly need be said, yet many stories are unclear about the purpose of their characters. A character does not ring true if it does something without much purpose to it. When a person cannot get happiness they may well choose to destroy the thing that causes them unhappiness. A woman who loses her husband to another woman may well want to kill the husband for being unfaithful, but she may well want to kill the other woman for taking her husband away. To do this is not so much to get happiness, but to get satisfaction from destroying those that took her happiness away.


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