From classic novels to blockbuster movies, the key to a compelling narrative lies in a well-crafted plot. But what makes a great plot?
Whether it's a gripping thriller, a heartwarming romance, or a pulse-pounding action flick, a well-constructed plot can keep viewers glued to their seats, and invested in the story's outcome. But what makes a plot truly unforgettable? I was rewatching Tarantino's appearance on Charlie Rose this week and came across a quote that I'm not sure we've talked about on this site. So I wanted to go a little bit in-depth on it. It's about how a plot unfolds.
In this article, we'll explore the art of a plot unfolding and what it takes to create a story that keeps audiences engaged and invested from beginning to end.
You can watch the whole hour on YouTube, and I'll include the pertinent quote below.
According to Tarantino, 'A Great Plot Unfolds...'
A good plot should be like a journey that unfolds gradually, taking the audience on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and revelations.
"Most movies that you see now – I mean, that used to be a thing about America was the fact that Hollywood, forget America – Hollywood. Hollywood used to – that's what we did better than anybody else in the world. We told a really good story. You know, Europe was where you had character-based films or mood-based films, but in America, we told a story. We're the worst at it now as far as I'm concerned. We don't tell a story. We tell a situation. Most of the movies that you see nowadays – and I'm not a Hollywood basher because enough good movies come out of the Hollywood system every year to justify its existence, you know, but- without any apologies. However, a good majority of the movies that come out, all right, you pretty much know everything you're going to see in the movie by the first 10 or 20 minutes. Now, that's not a story. A story is something that constantly unfolds. And I'm not talking about like this quick left turn or a quick right turn or a big surprise. I'm talking about it unfolding, all right."
When we talk about a plot unfolding, we are referring to the gradual development of the story over the course of a movie. A well-crafted plot should feel like a journey, with each event and revelation leading the audience closer to the story's ultimate resolution.
Tarantino on set of 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing
For Tarantino, a good plot is one that unfolds in a way that keeps the audience engaged and on the edge of their seats. This often involves non-linear storytelling techniques, where events are not presented in chronological order. Instead, the story is revealed piece by piece, often jumping back and forth in time, so that the audience must piece together the various elements to understand the full picture.
At the same time, a great plot is also character-driven. The choices and actions of the characters should be the driving force behind the story, rather than simply being a series of random events. This creates a sense of investment in the characters and their journeys, making the audience more emotionally invested in the outcome of the story.
In addition to being character-driven and non-linear, a good plot should also be unpredictable. The audience should not always know what is going to happen next, which creates a sense of tension and excitement. This often involves unexpected twists and turns in the story, which keep the audience guessing and make the eventual resolution all the more satisfying.
'Jackie Brown'Credit: Miramax Films
How Does the Plot Unfold in Pulp Fiction?
One of Quentin Tarantino's most famous films, Pulp Fiction, is a prime example of a plot that unfolds in a unique and captivating way. The movie's non-linear storytelling techniques and unexpected plot twists have made it a classic of modern cinema.
The film's story follows a series of interconnected characters in Los Angeles, each with their own unique storyline. These stories are not presented in chronological order, but rather jump back and forth in time, slowly revealing the connections between the characters and their various predicaments.
As the film progresses, the audience learns more about each character's motivations and how their lives intersect with each other. From the hitmen Vincent (John Travolta)and Jules (Samuel L. Jackson), to the boxer Butch (Bruce Willis) and his girlfriend Fabienne (Maria de Medeiros), each character's story is woven together in a complex and satisfying way.
Throughout the film, Tarantino masterfully builds tension and suspense, keeping the audience engaged and guessing as to what will happen next. Unexpected plot twists and shocking revelations keep the story fresh and exciting, culminating in a thrilling finale that ties everything together.
'Pulp Fiction'Credit: Miramax Films
Summing Up The Unfolding Plot
The art of a plot unfolding is a delicate balance of character development, unexpected twists and turns, and the gradual reveal of key information. A great plot should be character-driven, emotionally engaging, and unpredictable, taking audiences on a journey they won't soon forget. By mastering the art of a plot unfolding, writers and filmmakers can create stories that captivate and inspire audiences for years to come.
Let me know what you think in the comments.