Monday, February 5, 2018

Boats, Buddhism, and the Three-Act Structure

By Chuck Hustmyre

Back in my journalism days, I once interviewed a Buddhist monk for an article I was writing, and he explained to me that once a Buddhist reaches the spiritual state of Nirvana, he or she no longer needs Buddhism and can discard it.

Surprised at this revelation, I asked the monk why a person who had spent a lifetime, or many lifetimes, following the teachings of Buddhism and through it had reached the ultimate state of enlightenment, he or she would discard the very teachings that led to that state of enlightenment.

The monk answered with an analogy. He said that if a person intended to cross a river by boat, and once he had carried the boat to the near bank and used it to cross the river to the far side, he would not need to continue to carry the boat. Buddhism, according to the monk, is the boat and Nirvana is the far side of the river, and once you reach Nirvana you no longer need the vehicle that transported you there.

In adapting the monk's analogy to screenwriting, the three-act structure is the boat, and the far side of the river is screenwriting enlightenment. Once you are experienced enough in the craft of screenwriting, you can discard, at least from your conscious thought, the three-act structure.

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