Listen Up: Here are the Rules

Picture courtesy of terimakasih0            

I finished Fortitude last night. I'd bought it partly as I was meeting the team behind it. I've not used the word creative as in their eyes creativity stretches right across the production team, not just in the writer. It was dramatic, well acted and an interesting mix of whodoneit and horror. But where rules broken. Are there any rules?

There are hundreds of books on how to write, mostly focussed on screenwriting. I'd suggest that screenwriting is less forgiving of rules being broken. But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Famous examples include Indiana Jones not being necessary (but he is active) in Raiders of the Lost Ark or Back to the Future having no inciting incident. In Bodyguard there was quite a furore over the death of the Keeley Hawes character which occurs at roughly the midpoint of the show. But if we look at most of these, we can see some mitigation. 

In Raiders, Harrison Ford's character is active and he does solve the final mystery: the users of the ark need to keep their eyes shut. For Back to the Future, although there is no new external threat to Marty's world, there is a threat of no change. If there's no change, his father will remain unhappy and his mother will die young. So I'd suggest the rules are not broken but have certainly been tweaked. For Bodyguard, the significant death at the 3/4 point has been moved to the halfway point. So it's still there, just shifted 25%. By making it earlier it also provides the lowest point for Budd. 

In Fortitude, there are a few tweaks to pure convention. The detective is not the hero. He's effectively the antagonist. The protagonist is an antihero, the police chief of the town. He's effectively a sheriff in the wild west. His love for a woman leads him to commit a crime that he covers up. From the session with the team, it appears that this was a twist on the original intention that they were a couple. The actor, Richard Dormer, felt that the woman was out of the sheriff's league, so I think they rewrote it to make the relationship unrequited. The question set is whether he's good or bad.