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The following is a discussion of the components that make up a story, and the function of storytelling as seen in titles set in the film-as-text series.
When a story 'works', it affects people--physically, emotionally, psychologically, socially, spiritually. Stories engage audience members and allow them to experience life outside their everyday lives, and outside their familiar worldview. Storytellers achieve this through the story elements of frame, characters, plot, structure and conflict.
THE FRAME--THE BOUNDARIES OF THE UNIVERSE
The term 'frame' is used here to refer to the laws that define and govern the universe of the story. It tells us what is possible in this world and what is not; what is 'normal' and what is not. A frame is fundamental to any story because it enables an audience to understand and interpret the story's action and to respond to it appropriately. For example, a poke in the eye amuses the audience in the cartoon-like universe of The Three Stooges, but in Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982) that action will horrify, because the characters are understood to feel pain and are capable of dying or being killed. When an audience knows how they are supposed to respond to the action in a story, they can make an emotional commitment to it and potentially have a deeper experience. The process of acquiring the frame is often sub-conscious, and is part of what is referred to as 'screen literacy'. Frame is distinguished from the term genre, in that a frame is specific to any given story, whereas a genre is a tool for the classification of stories. However a genre, insomuch as it helps define the universe of the story, would contribute towards the frame of that story.
It can be helpful if the storyteller lets the audience know as clearly and as early as possible what the laws of the story universe are. Then the audience, having worked out what kind of world they are in, can start engaging in the story. In film, for example, a director will usually clue the audience in to the frame of the story as early as possible, through the juxtaposition of music, images, costume, action, camera choreography and the myriad of other tools at the film-maker's disposal. Compare the first few minutes of Elizabeth (Shekhar Kapur, 1998) with Strictly Ballroom (Baz Luhrmann, 1992), for example. Elizabeth shows a world where brutality co-exists with pomp and ceremony. The period is established, with its living conditions, intrigue, wealth and squalor, its rules for social and political interaction, the potential for suffering and the limits of endurance. We know that the story will be dramatic and on a grand scale by the dark, orchestral music juxtaposed with sweeping costumes and …