Japanese 4 act structure for horror stories?

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Japanese 4 act structure for horror stories?

Postby crit33884 » Thu Oct 12, 2017 7:17 pm

I've been thinking about improving the scene structure in my horror novel. Up until now, my scenes have tended to take the following structure:

1.Goal. 2. Conflict. 3. Disaster
4. Reaction (emotion followed by logical thought). 5. Dilemma (How do we move forward after disaster?). 6. Decision.

This has worked great for my adventure short stories, but I'm starting to lean more towards the japanese "kishôtenketsu" 4 part structure, when it comes to horror in particular. Here is the basic structure:

1. Introduce normal situation
2. Develop normal situation
3. Twist, that changes your perception of what was actually going on up until now
4. Reconcile first two parts with the third part.

So why do I think this is useful for horror? Western fiction tends to be very goal-conflict based, whereas the structure I layed out tends to be more cause-effect or action-reaction based. The motivations and goals of the protagonist at the start of the scene do not have to be directly connected to the twist. In horror, I personally like to create a feeling of a situation being absurd and not of this world. By having a disconnect between the initial motivations and the surprise event, I think it's possible to create a feeling that the "ghost world" or "monster world" is invading out of nowhere without us being prepared.

I would love to hear some opinions on this. Below I will give an example of a scene I summary, that I wrote in my novel using this method.

1. Wife and husband are driving to their new home, just after getting married.
2. They come upon a tunnel.
3. Tunnel becomes pitch black. Wife feel as if the darkness is wrapping around her. She can not hear her husband.
4. Light slowly returns, but she is no longer in the tunnel. The feeling of darkness wrapping around her was a straight jacket. A man in a white robe says: "She still talks about him in her dreams. That car ride must have really messed this one up."

That was just an example, and the structure can apply both to individual scenes, or the story as a whole.
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Re: Japanese 4 act structure for horror stories?

Postby crit19292 » Fri Oct 13, 2017 10:54 am

The problem with Japanese horror is that the people are mindless and powerless. You are basically watching a stupid person get overwhelmed. With Western thought comes the concept of we can understand this and overcome. Sometimes they lose. Sometimes they end up saving themselves but not eradicating the source of the horror. Still, they are not stupid and I get interested and involved in their struggle.

To me it is like the statement, 'to a less developed people, science is considered magic.' That is only true if there is no science, but the people only know magic. To a modern person, they know about illusions, tricks, and other gimmicks. If something amazing happens, they will think they were fooled in some manner, so look for the person behind the curtain, the levers revealing secret passages, and the wires enabling gadgets to operate. Japanese horror has me thinking of them as still being undeveloped in mentally, if not actually.

That is what I liked about X-Files. It had the attitude that everything could be explained and dealt with if only the facts were available. That was shown at times to not be true, and of course very few of the facts ever became available, but the agents were not stupid and I got involved and interested watching their reasonable attempts to deal with the situations.

You are not the first to consider Japanese horror. There are many westerners who watch oriental shows. I do, which is why I feel I can respond. Still, our attitude to it is completely different than the Japanese, and I believe it is the attitude of western editors and audiences that will work against you.
I will not deny myself having my opinions.
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Re: Japanese 4 act structure for horror stories?

Postby crit33888 » Sun Oct 15, 2017 5:31 pm

I'd never seen this kind of method for scene structure. Just my two cents, but my only rules for scene structure are to enter the scene as late as possible and exit it as soon as possible. Sometimes a scene starts with a dilemma or a decision, etc. The Japanese system works a little more with what I've learned about structure. Namely a scene or story starting with an inciting incident born of some conflict that sets the world out of order in some way that needs to be remedied. This has the same feel as your normal situation "twisting" to change perception, if you get my drift.
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