Welcome to the book at her show, Special Edition Story Opening’s so glad to have you here.
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And those are fantastic developmental editing tools to use before you even get started. Writing the first word, so these special editions are just going to be me, unfortunately. I know you want to hear from Peter, and we’re working that out to get both of us back together on the air at the same time, but I want to make sure that we’re delivering something to our faithful audience every single week. So in order to do that, I’ve created this idea of the special editions.
And so today I want to talk about a little movie you may or may not have heard of that came out here this summer. And it’s called The Wonder Woman.
Now that one ring any bells. Have you seen that yet? If you haven’t? We’re only going to be covering the first act, but there will be spoilers.
So if you’re really super, you know what? You don’t want to hear it just yet. Go ahead and stop this episode right now and pick it back up as soon as you’ve watched it.
Because what I want to do, I want to be able to show you what is actually working in this opening in this first act with Wonder Woman and why it’s working well and what’s happening in it so that you can apply it to your own story, whether you’re writing scripts or whether you’re writing fiction in the book form or video games, whatever it might be, whatever kind of story creation you’re doing, this kind of opening act will help you engage.
With your audience as the film starts off, we hear a voiceover, Diana. And we’re having this voiceover about what mankind is and what the world is and what’s worth saving it and also establishing that we are in the modern age now.
It’s it’s a little bit vague, the setup, because, again, she doesn’t want to do it by huge spoiler in the first few minutes of the show. But she wants to give kind of a a small reference point to where this all begins now, at the end, we come back to this scene, we come back to where we’re at here.
And this is a normal life type of scene, and she’s receiving a package, OK, and she opens this package up and in it is a relic, I want to call it.
So it’s a piece of film glass that the used with the old types of cameras excuse me, during the World War One era.
And in it is herself with some other people.
Now this I’m going to call it a relic this relic creates. A feeling that she then engages in and starts to remember what it is that’s happening and like I said, at the end of this, we come back to the scene. And what type of story is that, what type of story is it where you begin with somebody, you go into a story, you go through the story and you come back out on the other side where you began?
That’s called a frame story. And it’s a it’s a really good idea, you know, especially if you need to set up.
A world in a way that you’re trying to slowly bring people into it without having to drop a bunch of back story on them. This is a very simple way to do it. Yes, if executed well, it’s it’s very powerful frame stories can be very powerful stories.
Now, there’s a lot of poorly executed framed stories as well, though, you know, the whole idea of just someone oh, remember when we used to do this, you know, like all these friends sitting together and reminiscing about the old days and then it’s woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, you know, and it goes back in time.
And all of a sudden now we’re in that story. That’s not exactly what’s going on here. So what’s good about this is the vague set up of what it is that she’s learned. She asks a question. She states an answer without having the question, without having really the full answer and what’s going on there. So that makes us want to find out what it is about this relic that she’s gotten that makes her think about the past.
And at that moment, after that moment, we go back in time.
And this is another really good way, because remember, our Act One is so important because it gives us the opportunity to establish the character in normal life, normal life for James Bond is what, running around shooting when our shooting is going to say, shooting women, not sleeping with women, shooting people in general, men and women, both.
He’s equal opportunity, but he is a spy. So his normal life is spy work.
Before we get into the story with Diana, because she’s going back to when it is that she’s just a child, is not spy work, it’s not being a warrior. In fact, what it is that she wants most of all is to be that warrior, because where is she?
She’s on this island with all the rest of the Amazon women. And these are some of the baddest chicks in the world, right? I mean, they they know how to fight.
They’re strong, they’re agile. You know, they’re the greatest warriors the world has ever seen.
And Diana wants nothing more than to be one of them.
But her mother is always saying, no, this isn’t what it is, because she’s driving at home into her mind and this direct quote here, fighting does not make a hero. And that’s that’s a powerful message that fighting on its own is not heroic because.
It can cause a bunch of additional. Problems, it’s the control of it, it’s the discipline of it that really makes a hero and what they’re willing to sacrifice, so. In this little first scene where she’s still just a child, we get some good worldbuilding. We see what’s going on here on the island, but we also get some story.
And we get the Greek gods story of how man was created and how. Zus has or how Arie’s has manipulated man, and so Zus has then created the Amazon to go down and help man and try to bring him back.
And of course, it doesn’t necessarily work, but we get this really good idea of what’s going on and what’s really great about this is you have this scene where Diana is a child and her mom’s reading her a book and telling her these things, telling her these stories remember story, the importance of story and how we build our foundation for who we are.
And so she’s telling her this story and what works really well here, because if we had just jumped back to when Diana was an adult, just about ready to leave. It would feel awkward to have her sit down and tell her this story in this way, but. For your own work, one of the things to really remember is master and apprentice, it’s the uninitiated versus the one who knows.
And when we have a conversation that’s taking place between those two types of people, that conversation feels very real and very normal, versus if we had Diana’s mother having this conversation with her general, with her sister, it wouldn’t work because they both know the history.
But this little child doesn’t.
So look for places, you know, when you are when you’re like, you know what? I need to establish a little bit of back story here. I need to establish a little bit about what this world is. Look for places where you can have the uninitiated instructed by the master apprentice, master uninitiated initiated, you know, whatever however you want to look at it, the one who knows telling the one who doesn’t. And it gives an opportunity to explore these types of different areas.
- Before we move forward into her teen life, we also get a couple other little tiny worldbuilding things we set up that there is a God killer weapon. Hey. And in fact, Dana says, hey, can I see it? Mom takes her to this this huge tower vault type deal, you know, where they keep all their very special weapons. Excuse me, I need to take a drink. So like I was just saying, take her to this tower, right, have all these types of special weapons in there.
And Diana asks the question, who is powerful enough to wield this God killer sword?
And her mom says.
Only the fiercest of our warriors could do it, and that ain’t you, kiddo. So she really is trying to damper and and squelch the desire that Diana has to become a warrior because she’s a very protective her mother is very protective of her.
But Diana doesn’t listen. She goes behind her mother’s back and sets up private lessons with her mother, sister, the general, and begins to train. We flash forward now, she’s a teen, she’s still training. And amazingly, her mother has not found out until this point. So. We flash forward there and now all of a sudden, the thing that she desired to be trained is now going to be possibly taken away from her because her mom has found her, discovered her in this in this deception that she has that Diana has done.
And but also at the same time, Diana’s mother feels a great deal of betrayal versus her sister for training her for training Diana, which makes a lot of good sense.
We get the feeling of who these characters are and what their roles are. So they have a conversation after after Diana is taken away.
So remember this type of story, whether you’re doing a book form or on the screen video game, that you’re going to have to be able to step away from the main character. So Diana is ushered off. She’s not on screen anymore.
Now we’re just with two other characters. So this would work well. And what third person, third person worked very well for this first person would not. So we stay and we stay there, pointed out the two women, and we set up the danger of areas and who he is, and we contrast that with her mother’s idea of protection, OK? She wants to keep Diana safe because Aries could be out there and come for her if he can find her.
So we’re also getting some additional questions being asked. Why?
Why is Diana so important? So what makes her different than the rest of the Amazons?
We flash forward again, we come forward to see when she is now a woman and we get to see her abilities. Oh, let me back that up just a moment.
Diane, his mother, agrees with the general that she can continue to train, but not only just to train, to train, to become the fiercest of all of them, you know, that she cannot hold back in this train and she has to never, never give her quarter continually pushing her that so she becomes the finest warrior ever.
And so, again, like I said, flash forward, she’s a woman and we get to see her abilities, how well she’s trained, how well she’s come along during this time and she’s beating everybody.
And she looks for her mother’s approval, and at that moment, the general takes a punch. And Knox is to the Knox, Diana to the ground, and so we know at that moment, you know, that, hey, you let your guard down and she’s trying to teach her a lesson. You know, you don’t ever don’t ever let your guard down. Don’t ever think things are going to be OK because the enemy can be right there ready to pounce again.
And as they’re fighting and and Diana has now become armed, she’s disarmed. We see, you know, that she’s blocking herself, blocking the blows with her, with her, I can’t even think what they’re called, though. There’s an actual name for kind of gauntlets, but not with the hand. Sorry, I’m afraid I cannot come up with that. But anyway, she’s protecting herself with her wrist guards. We’ll just call them that for right at the moment.
And as she does so, she’s blocking these blows. She kind of, you know, powers up in the animal type sense and delivers this blast.
That knocks the general back and actually hurts.
Her mentor, Herts Dianna’s mentor, and when this happens, you know, she she wants to be the best, Diana wants to be the best fighters, but she doesn’t actually want to hurt her friends and the people she cares about.
And so she takes off.
And this is where we have something happen. This is our inciting incident. So she runs to the to the cliff’s edge to look over the sea, perhaps to think about what it is that she’s done and why she’s glancing out there.
Lo and behold, here comes this plane by plane flying just appears in the sky, flies in. And crashes into the water. Now, Diana has no idea what a plane looks like. She has no idea what modern weapons are any of these types think none of the Amazons do.
But it doesn’t stop her from immediately diving in to rescue whoever happens to have crashed into the water there.
Excuse me, so not only does she rescue this person, it’s also a man, a man who in no men are on this island, you know, and so something else is different here.
One of the things that this does is jumping into the water does is it establishes Diana’s deepest character. You know, there are like three types of people, right, in a situation like this, there’s a person who freezes up who just can’t believe what’s happening.
There’s a person who actually goes and runs and hides. Right. You know, they’re going to protect themselves.
And there’s the one that runs into the problem, and that’s who Diana is, she dives off the cliff. She has no idea what a plane is. She has no idea what this might happen, what might happen to her.
But she believes that she needs to help. And that belief carries her forward. OK, so diving in. Then again, we get another again, this works in third person, we go on board the boat with the Germans, so we get to see some of the bad guys and it’s a little strange because they say, where did this fog come from?
But I mean, like, seriously, like, this is the one thing that I kind of have a drawback with with the film is that it doesn’t look like a fog. It looks like Knight looks like day versus night. But when they leave later on, you know, anyone doesn’t really matter.
But you get an additional scene to show the bad guys. And sometimes I think showing the bad guys is cool.
But the only way you can do it well is in third person. So. We have this beach attack here, these Germans come in through the bubble, you know, that’s covering the island, you know, it’s protecting it from people seeing it. And as they come in, they got the guns. They’re coming on shore.
The Amazons are clearly the better warrior.
Hey, they are bar none the best. The blades don’t beat bullets. And so they lose some of their members, which they probably never would have done had it been a sword on sword, you know, they’ve been fighting each other in hand-to-hand combat the entire time. But these bullets add something new, something they were not expecting, something that they didn’t even realize existed.
So we have this we have this attack, and at the end of it, unfortunately, the general dies. Her mentor, Diana’s mentor, has been now slain and they do beat back the the Amazons do beat back the Germans. They kill the ones who are all that are there. The man who has fallen out of the sky also helps Diana, you know, keep her safe. But we go forward, we have a new scene and we’re in interrogation mode now, hey, this is a good time.
Derogations are really great to add. You know, get some additional get some additional information that you might not be able to get otherwise.
So we have this interrogation and not only do we get the interrogation, which he’s going to give us some info. We also get to see some of the cool artifacts that they use here on the island, one of which is the lasso of truth, and while it’s wrapped around him, he is compelled to always tell the truth, even if it hurts, even if he’s trying to stop it. He will tell it. And so because of this, we set up who the villains are, right.
We get to see who the mad scientist doctor is. We get to see who the evil German general is.
And we get a sense of what’s going on. We set up the villains, we also set up the stakes of the world, right, that if this doesn’t work, if he cannot get these plans back, if he can’t get this information back to his people, there is going to be the chance that there will be life long war. And this pops an idea into Diana’s head. You know, the idea of lifelong war means what? And this is World War One.
Lifelong law means what? Oh, it can only mean one thing that Eris is back. The Aries is manipulating, man. And what is our job? Our job is to stop Herries, not this German general or this. Mad scientists to stop Herries. So he’s the big problem, he’s the overarching he’s the emperor, you know, standing behind Darth Vader, and she believes that his her duty, Diana wants to go.
But Mom, she says, no way. You are not going this is not your fight, you’re going to stay here. So we have this great little scene where we get to set up our character’s main motivations and both of them are well aligned, both Diana and our spy are both in line to be protectors.
They’re both protectors in this world.
And that kind of idea of being a protector, being the person who runs into the fight.
They both can respect each other because of that. So Diana is now faced with a choice, a dilemma, a real doozy of a problem that she needs to either obey her mother.
Hey, mother, sisters dead now. Do I do I stay and listen to mom or fulfill her believed duty, her duty to go after areas, to fight areas she doesn’t see herself as wielding, she’s never wielded the God killer sword, but she knows that the reason why Zus created the Amazons was to stop these things from happening.
And she feels that it’s her duty. She has to do it. So she makes a strikes a deal with our spy and they’re going to take off from the island together. He’s going to take her to the war so she can find Eris and she’s going to make sure he gets back.
So they go to leave before they do. She runs over and grabs up a bunch of weaponry from the from the tower, including, you know, she takes the lasso, she takes a shield, she takes the God killer sword that’s in there. And she makes a decision that she’s going to go and do what she believes is right, OK?
She’s going to fulfill her believe duty. And so they take off to go. Now, think about this scene.
Her desire in this scene is to leave the island with the spy to help him out. She’s already overcome the obstacle of obeying her mother. She’s not going to obey or she’s going to go. But we have to have an additional confrontation just before they’re about to leave a bunch, of course, with women on the back right up and Dianna’s. Mother is there. OK, so Diana has this heart and willingness to fight. For those that cannot, which is very cool, but when her mom shows up.
She says. Don’t forget, if you leave, you can’t come back. So this is a one way ticket for Diana, so she’s posed with one final obstacle to leave. Now, this is important what I should say. Why is this important?
OK, this is so important because we need to have our protagonist making the decision to go into the plot, to go into the story, and we have to put realistic or life threatening obstacles in the way that they need to make that decision.
So not only has she disobeyed her mother, she is also choosing to never come back and see her mother again. So her inner desire, that inner desire, the duty to help others to defeat Aries has to be so strong to do these two things.
Has to trump those two things. So think about that when you’re working on characters and you’re having trouble deciding why is it that they why does this feel fake? Why can’t why why are they going to do this? Has to be that it’s so important to them that they’re willing to sacrifice things that may be important to us. As a reader, so right before she goes, her mom says, I love this line, you know, you’re my greatest love.
Always been my greatest love, and today you’re my greatest sorrow. But Diana doesn’t buy into that, she doesn’t buy into guilt, and I don’t think she’s actually mom’s actually guilt tripping her here. But she could, you know, and she could say, oh, I don’t want to disappoint my mom, I’m going to stay. So. She doesn’t, though, and she makes a choice. And she makes a choice to go into the world, to go into this story, so they take off and we get one last, you know, you got to be third person.
We get one last scene with her mom and one of the other soldiers.
And the soldier asks. Should you have told her? And that’s all she says, should you have told her? And the mother responds with the more she knows, the sooner he will find her. So we get this great question mark. What should she have told her?
What what is this secret? What’s the secret that everyone else seems to know? The Diana does not know. And what does that mean for her life? So keeping the mystery there allows us to have even more impact moving from our first deck into our second act.
I hope you enjoyed this. This is this is the first of what I what I know is going to be many of these special editions. I just want to hit the first acts on these first acts sometimes are very difficult to do. And so I want to show you some of them that are working really well.
I’m also going to show you some that don’t work at all and so you can take from it. And I like using in the movies because you could sit down and spend 40 minutes taking a look at this now, 40 minutes.
That’s like novella length if you’re going to be writing a novel length.
This is going to be stretched out more.
We’re going to actually see more of what normal life is like. We’re going to see more of what’s going on in the inciting incident and the time in between all these things before we move in to our second act. All right, and to our listeners, if you like the show, please leave us a review on iTunes. Plus on Google or like on YouTube, if you’re an editor who’d like to be a guest on the show. And also, if you’d like us to edit part of your work, live on air, stop by the book.
Ed, show DOT, drop us an email. I’m Clark Chamberlain, in for my co-host, Peter Turley. Keep writing, keep learning and build a better book.
Thank you for listening and come back next week. For more, please visit the book editor show DOT for show notes, links to guest books and extras, and for information on how to be a guest on the show.