Animation Scriptwriting
Stories - Part Six: Problems and Power
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Problem Priorities

Every problem has a time scale. Here are some examples:

  • It has to be fixed immediately. Your roof is leaking. You have cut your finger. The dinner is burning.
  • It has to be done very soon. Car needs more petrol. Running out of cat food. Go to the doctors about foot pain.
  • It has to be done in the near future. Get piano tuned. Get boiler serviced. Clear out cupboards.
  • Can be done when time is available. Sort out music tapes. Paint the outside of the house. Take junk down to Boot sale.

List three problems for each of the above types.


If your house is on fire then it needs to be fixed very quickly. If your roof leaks you have a bit longer to deal with it. If your phone bill is overdue then the problem might be put off if you can negotiate well. Some problems can be put off for quite a while, like digging the garden, and if put off long enough, might never have to be done.

Cinderella has the problem of being a servant against her will. She is not actively trying to solve it by refusing to work, arguing, negotiating, or running away, but has learning to live with the problem. It is only when the opportunity arises for her to solve it that she takes action, and only then with the help of the Fairy Godmother. That is, if the opportunity to solve it had not come about, there would be no story of Cinderella.

James Bond's problems all require immediate attention. It is this urgency that give pace to the stories. Sherlock Holmes stories rarely require immediate attention. He can take his time and work out each move as it suits him.

Robin Hood's problems gain urgency as the story developes. The more he attacks the King the more the King retaliates, and does so with more resources.

Humpty Dumpty's problem of falling off the wall and coming apart had to be dealt with immediately. It could not be solved, so we assume that is the end of him.

Red Riding Hood's problem of about to be eaten by the wolf, is as urgent as problems get. It is the 'Life and Death' situation that create the most tension.

High drama stories have immediate problems for solving, and will also complicate them, so that the drama is heightened with the lessening time to solve it. Finding the hidden bomb, helping the crippled plane, tracking the mad terrorist are typical of such stories based on themes.

The problems can be extended. Imagine you are in a room that is on fire. The problem is getting out in time.

Now imagine the room is ten stories high. The problem is how to get down even if you do get out.

Now imagine the room is locked. The problem is getting out of the room, and then how to get down, and then how to get out.

Now imagine you have a young child in the room with you.

Drama and adventure stories pile problem upon problem to heighten the tension.


Write out five examples of problems that have to be solved immediately.


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