5 classic plots you can use to tell meaningful stories

There are a few types of stories that get retold over and over, always slightly different, but always with the same journey from beginning to end. They are familiar stories, whether it takes place on a space station, in Ancient Rome, or in the present day. If you learn these plots and use them as the backbone for the stories you tell, it can make the process of storytelling much easier. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to tell a story. People before us have done the hard work and laid the foundation for creating meaningful stories – all we have to do is start from there and continue to grow as storytellers.

In this post I will introduce five types of plots and their basic structure. Each of these plots is like a Mad Lib of storytelling – just insert your own setting, characters and ideas to make it your own. These can be used in a story literally or metaphorically, and of course, they can be tweaked and changed and flipped upside down – it’s up to you. It doesn’t have to be a grand and epic story, either. Applying these formulas can make even short, silly videos punch above their weight.

Overcoming the Monster (Terminator, Jaws)
1. This begins with an evil monster threatening the land. The hero sets out to defeat it.
2. The hero prepares for battle while moving closer to the monster.
3. The monster appears and displays his power, causing our hero to feel like he/she has no chance at defeating him.
4. The battle begins with the odds heavily stacked against the hero.
5. In a thrilling climax, the hero defeats the monster and escapes, returning home a changed person.

Rags to Riches/Coming of Age (Cinderella, Aladdin)
1. The story begins with the hero miserable, poor, and alone. There is a call to adventure (e.g., the invitation to the ball in Cinderella).
2. The hero has a small initial success. They are not ready for the big time, but this leaves our hero feeling hopeful.
3. Suddenly everything goes wrong. The hero often loses hope.
4. There is a final ordeal where the hero has to prove his/her strength and worthiness.
5. The hero overcomes the final obstacle and lives happily ever after.

Quest (The Lord of the Rings, Monty Python and the Holy Grail)
1. The hero learns of something he/she wants – an object, an ideal, it can be anything, and sets out to find it.
2. The hero comes across an obstacle, overcomes it, continues on, comes across another obstacle, overcomes it, continues on, etc. In between the obstacles there are periods of rest, where often our hero meets strangers who teach him/her about the journey ahead.
3. The hero can see the finish line and what stands in his/her way, often becoming frustrated.
4. There is a final ordeal before our hero can get what he/she is looking for, often paired with a thrilling escape from death.
5. The hero wins, finds what he/she is looking for, and returns home with the prize.

Voyage and Return (Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz)
This is similar to the Quest, except they aren’t looking for something specific.
1. The hero falls into another world, often because of a blow to the head or a supernatural event.
2. The hero explores the new world, which seems like a wonderful place.
3. The mood darkens and a shadow falls across the land as the hero comes across something unexpected. The journey becomes harder.
4. The shadow takes center stage and the hero seems doomed.
5. There is another thrilling escape and the hero returns home, but often a question remains: did the hero change or was it just a dream?

Rebirth (It’s a Wonderful Life, How the Grinch Stole Christmas)
1. The hero drifts over to the dark side, often because of greed or want of power.
2. There are no immediate negative effects and things are fine for a while.
3. The dark side takes center stage – maybe the hero is asked to do something evil.
4. This continues as the hero goes further into evil, until it seems like he/she cannot be saved.
5. There is a miraculous redemption as the hero realizes his/her mistakes and overcomes the evil.

The basic structure of these plots are very straightforward: it is easy to tell between good and evil, and there is always a happy ending. Of course, life doesn’t always work like that, and these plots can be molded and changed to tell the story you want to tell. You can play with convention and surprise the audience – some of the best stories of our time are twisted, manipulated versions of these plots. But these plots provide a solid foundation so that you can tell the story any way you want without sacrificing the narrative arc that viewers need to stay interested.

3 ways to spark ideas for videos

It’s often hard to know what to film. You really want to make something, but you’re just staring at the record button on your phone and nothing is springing to mind. You’re resisting the urge to film your feet, but it’s becoming more and more tempting.

The great thing about “creating stuff” is that there are no rules – you can do whatever you want, however you want. But sometimes this can be the hardest part. Coming up with an idea out of nowhere can feel impossible. This is a dilemma that every creator faces at one point or another. Every artist, writer, musician, filmmaker, every creative type, struggles with writer’s block.

If you’re so stuck that you can’t just start and hope for the best, try turning to brainstorming. It’s a great way to loosen up your brain enough to get unstuck.

Here are three brainstorming methods to try the next time you find yourself staring at a blank screen:

  1. Create a list, as long as you can, without judging your ideas at all. Write down every idea that comes to mind, no matter how bad, silly, or far-fetched it seems. When you’re done, go through the list and mark all the interesting ideas. Pick the one that intrigues you – or scares you. Maybe you have a general topic you want to explore, but you’re not sure how to go about it. In this case, you can brainstorm interesting ways to explore your idea or topic. Create another list, focusing on methods rather than content. How can you make this idea interesting? How can you make it unique?
  2. Brainstorm on the job. You can always brainstorm while shooting something – just keep asking yourself questions. What if I put the camera over here? What if I used this piece of furniture to frame the shot? What if I got up close to the character? Explore your ideas, even if they seem weird. Sometimes the strangest, most random-seeming ideas end up being the most powerful.
  3. Try giving yourself a constraint to work with. Constraints can be extremely effective in sparking creativity. For example, if you are told to draw something and given a blank piece of paper, it’s often hard to come up with an idea of what to draw. But if you are told to draw something specific, like a hippo, it’s easier to come up with interesting ideas within that framework. So the next time you’re really stuck, assign yourself arbitrary constraints to see if that sparks any ideas.

Good luck! You can always bounce your ideas off of us – we love hearing them. Give us a shout on Twitter at @MixBitApp or email us at hello@mixbit.com. :)

Less work, more play: making it easy to connect with your existing audience

Most people have an established presence on at least one social network, and if you’re a creative type, usually many more. We know you’ve worked hard to create a community, and that building it again on a new network can be time consuming, time that we think you should spend making stuff – or you know, doing whatever makes you happy.

Which is why we’ve taken a new approach with accounts on the MixBit platform. We let you integrate your existing social identity into your MixBit account so you can connect your community with your new video projects.

Your existing followers will be able to easily find other MixBit videos you’ve published, and if someone comes across your videos in the MixBit community, we’ll point them to your preferred network.

Currently, you can connect to your Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or Tumblr profiles. Link them all or just one – it’s up to you. You’ll have full control over the info that’s attached to each video – when you’re publishing a project, just select which profiles you want to show up (don’t worry, you can still publish anonymously if you want).

Here’s what a video will look like when you’ve connected your accounts to it (click the image to see it live!):

Social Identities

You can link your social networks now by heading to mixbit.com and signing in to view your settings. Then simply republish a video, and you’ll see the option to attach your social profiles. You’ll be able to do this on our iOS and Android apps as well – keep an eye out for the updates, coming soon!

Announcing Project Next: A contest for student filmmakers

There’s no denying that the film industry is changing. Distribution is being uprooted, everyone has a video camera in their pocket, and equipment is cheaper and more portable than ever. Filmmaking is being democratized, put into the hands of the people who go out and create stuff.

We say bring it on. As more and more people are given the chance to tell their stories, more brilliant and unusual stories will be uncovered and passed around the world, igniting more and more change. At MixBit, we are helping people tell great stories through video. If you’re a video storyteller, we’ve got your back.

Which is why we are happy to announce Project Next, a contest to find the best student filmmakers in the United States. Create and publish a video using the MixBit app for Android and iPhone between November 1st and 30th, and you will have the chance to win $500 to put towards your next production. The best video will be picked by a selection of MixBit team members, including Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, co-founders of YouTube.

 

We want to see what you’ve got. Be serious, be silly, be weird, film all those things you have creeping around in the back of your mind. As long as you follow our community guidelines, anything goes.

Go to mixbit.com/projectnext to view the rules and download the app here to get started. Good luck!

How to reduce wind noise

Wind noise. The dreaded effect of mobile video. Shooting something at the beach or on the street seems like a great idea. It’s beautiful! It’s interesting! But when you play it back, all you can hear is the loud wind distortions.

But never fear. We’ve found a few things that help, depending on whether you want to be able to hear something else (like someone speaking) or you desire the sweet sound of silence.

  1. If you’re trying to dull the wind noise so you can hear something (or someone) else, try creating a wind screen. Shield the mic on the bottom of your phone with a hat, or by cupping your hand around it.
  2. If you have your headphones with built-in mic for phone calls, plug that in and speak through that microphone. You won’t completely eradicate wind noise, but the voice quality will be much more crisp and clear.
  3. If you don’t need to hear anything, just stick your finger over the phone’s microphone. Or use the mute button in the MixBit app to easily mute individual clips.
  4. You do have another option: move. Assuming you’re not at the beach or somewhere you can’t escape the wind, you can always move to a quieter, more sheltered area. Your video will be much higher quality as a result.

If you don’t want to move or use one of our hacks, you can look into a small external microphone. A lavalier is a clip-on microphone that’ll cost you about $20-30, and is great for reducing background noise and focusing on the sound that really matters.