08 June 2010

Robert McKee and Hellboy

Today, I'm going to use terms from Robert McKee's book on Screewriting. In Story, McKee claims a fulfilling story should end in an absolute, irreversible change in the world of the story, whether that be a world-changing event or a permanent transformation of character.

He also writes at great length about "the Gap" between a character;s expectations and what happens. The guy or gal does something which promotes a different or stronger reaction than he or she expected.

These principles apply pretty good to the Mike Mignola short story here.

Seriously, this thing is two pages long. Count them if you don't believe me. Translated to cinematic time this story would run as long as a TV ad.

The saga begins when Hellboy learns it's time for breakfast and he wants noodles, I guess this is what them writer types call an "inciting incident". General Ricker has a differing agenda and insists on Pancakes. Which is an issue they argue over. Hey! Conflict! Writing teachers love talking about Conflict. Conflict that progresses! Look how both General Ricker and Hellboy change their tactics to get what they want!

Enter "The Gap" Hellboy likes pancakes! Hellboy took an action, eating pancakes, expecting to hate them, and thus cast them aside to get his initial objective: noodles. But that he likes pancakes takes the story in a different direction.

And we have our "permanent change" or "indelible reversal" or whatever way you want to say "story's done, no take-backs" Hellboy goes from hating to loving pancakes and will eat them whenever General Ricker serves them, irrevocable change on a interpersonal level. The demons of Hell lament that the beast of the apocalypse is lost to the world of men: change on an environmental level. It's implied that General Ricker has forever bought the kid's loyalty to humanity. This is the point where Hellboy's deepest convictions cement for the majority of his life: change on an internal level.

There's other cool writer-ly stuff going on here like the comedic dramatic irony the reader is treated to at the revelation or reveal of the city of Pandemonium which also states the high stakes at risk over whether or not this kid eats his pancakes.

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