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Creative Content Success Lies in Storytelling Basics
Creative Content Success Lies in Storytelling Basics Russian short story writer and playwright Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904), who introduced the literary technique called Chekhov's Gun.
Influential Russian short story writer and playwright Anton Pavlovich Chekhov once said "one must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it", introducing a literary technique which is almost as old as storytelling goes. Influential Russian short story writer and playwright Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904) once said "one must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it", introducing a literary technique which is almost as old as storytelling goes. And it's in this literary technique called Chekhov's Gun that James Bond has continued to thrill moviegoers through the decades.

Chekov's Gun involves a fictional element, which can be an object, action, character or place, introduced much earlier in the storyline. The author purposely does this in hopes of the reader paying heed to it. This "investment" must pay off later in the storyline, even if it disappears for a long while right before the end. The rule of thumb is, the information, object or character must have a strong influence or significance to the entire storyline.

In the bulk of the Bond movies, we know that Q, Bond's gadget meister, never fails to present our hero with exotic gadgets prior to a mission. He presents to the audience as well the detail of how the various gadgets are to be possibly used in the field. And as it turns out eventually, Bond will depend on these gadgets to save his skin.

Apparently, moviegoers love this detail. It has become one of the highlights in the Bond franchise even if it seems the least bit illogical or at the time technologically impossible. It simply fires up the imagination.

So, if this age-old literary technique has been used for ages with success, shouldn't aspiring students of the creative content segment employ such a technique as well? Indeed, games, animation series and movies can all incorporate the same style to make the entire production more riveting.

At the last Creativity Art Technology Conference held at Technology Park Malaysia, organised by Transtel Technology (M) Sdn Bhd and MRCB Technologies Sdn Bhd and supported by Multimedia Development Corporation and Finas, local animation pioneer Hassan Muthalib of Filem Negara's Kisah Sang Kancil fame pointed out that local animators should pay more attention to the basic concepts in storytelling.

He cited in Poland, animation students are not formally trained in animation, but their classes include language, theatre and literature. The language of film, for example, diagonally lined characters are evil, how running to the left of the screen means the futility of escape and impending death, or breaking the fourth wall has to be learnt by animators.

The age-old formula of how in a hero's journey that he reaches the lowest ebb and falters, only to find himself again in time to save the day, according to Hassan, still works. "You can even break (such rules), but before the end, you need to come back to them," he said, but lamented that many young animators, unfortunately, were breaking the rules without returning to them, spoiling a potentially good story.

Such storytelling techniques need to be understood to create compelling stories worthy of global consumption. The storyline is, after all, everything and the ability to tell a good story, not the technological capability, and it is what determines the success of our creative content development industry.

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© 2006 The New Straits Times.