Tuesday, March 10, 2020

They Want to Get to Philadelphia

Getting to Philly

As even the youngest students of literature learn upon picking up their earliest texts -- The Call of Wild, Little Women -- narrative requires conflict.

Whether the main character is in conflict with self, other, society, or some larger - than - life force such as Fate, Nature, God and Death, the struggle is always there, and the reader joins in.

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has often referred to this crucial struggle as "wanting to get to Philadelphia":
"[T]he trick is to follow the rules of classic storytelling. Drama is basically about one thing: Somebody wants something, and something or someone is standing in the way of him getting it. What he wants — the money, the girl, the ticket to Philadelphia — doesn't really matter. But whatever it is, the audience has to want it for him."
Asked recently by David Marchese, Sorkin re-emphasized:
Marchese: "Your characters often struggle to try to understand people and ideas with which they disagree. What have you learned about how best to dramatize that struggle?"

Sorkin: "I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I’ve mastered anything, but there are a couple of things I know now that maybe I didn’t know when I was starting. To begin with, I worship at the altar of intention and obstacle. Somebody wants something, and something is standing in their way of getting it. They want the money; they want the girl; they want to get to Philadelphia. Then the obstacle to that has to be formidable, and the tactics they use to overcome that obstacle are what shows us the character."
A similar sense of conflict is embedded in music as well. The composer presents intention and obstacle; the listener shares in the struggle as the composition itself yearns for resolution.
Listen, for example, to
Flower Duet & Pachelbel's Canon.
You'll see / hear what I mean!

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