[identity profile] stacpolly.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] shelter_diner
Title: Shelter Meta: Shelter as a 7 Point Plot
Author/Artist: StacPolly
Pairing/Characters: Zach/Shaun
Rating/Genre: G
Notes/Warnings: None

First in a couple of meta posts looking at Shelter 2007. Compares Shelter's plot to a classic 7 point plot structure.

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To improve my writing I've been studying 7 point plot structures and using the technique to analyse films, including my favourite, Shelter. I thought the result might be interesting to the keener fans and fanfic writers. A few interesting things came up.

So what is a 7 Point Plot?
People used to write 3 act plays, and still do, especially for theatre, but most stories and films now follow a 7 point plot structure, to avoid what is known as a 'sagging middle' act. It may sound formulaic but there's still a lot of freedom. If you analyse films and novels you will see most either naturally, or by design, conform to this structure, probably because it meets a human psychological need.

This is what a 7 Point Plot looks like:
1. Hook - the things to pull the reader into the story. In the midst of setting, showing the 'normal life' of our protagonist, before everything changes.
2. 25% First Plot Point / usually also the 'inciting incident' - the thing/occurrence that changes everything forever.
3. 37% Pinch Point 1 - apply pressure and show what the protagonist is facing.
4. 50% Midpoint, sometimes known as plot point 2.
5. 62% Pinch Point 2 - apply more pressure, make it look like things might not work out.
6. 75% Third Plot Point (or 2nd, depending on how you're counting)
This is followed by a 'deep dark pit of despair'.
7. Resolution

Shelter has very tight writing and I suspected had strongly stuck to the structure, so I took the film length from the DVD box - 85 minutes - (which was a mistake, as the film was quite a bit longer!), and then watched the film to try to match up the plot points with the 7 point plot structure, and check the timing. So, given the timing issues, do give or take 2-3 minutes, and apologies for the note format. Basically Shelter covers a 7 point structure, although much more closely in the mid-end point of the film than the early stages.

Shelter as a 7 Point Plot

0 minutes, opening credits.
Scene setting - Zach is shown skating, being sporty, being artistic artistic, in a poor neighbourhood.
5 mins
Zach’s family situation - a key aspect - is explained in more detail: Cody can’t be left with his grandfather, Jeanne is not dependable - setting up the conflict. These scene shows Zach as ‘dad’, providing ‘shelter’ to his nephew.
8 to 9 mins
A bit of a hook here - the rich neighbourhood, Gabe, the scholarship, Tori. We start to ask ourselves, what’s going on here? Zach is clearly not just any guy.
Foreshadowing - Gabe ‘you could have this life too’
Hook - drugs scene? at 5 min.
10 mins - We establish that Zach is single, with an on-off girlfriend, Tori, with whom he has broken up again - this forms another hook - why?
12 mins - “You’re my daddy.” Confirms Zach is Cody’s ‘shelter’.
15 mins - In Zach’s phone call with Tori we get foreshadowing as Tori says ‘ I’m losing you’. Zach is physically trapped inside house babysitting while life goes on outside - symbolic. We are introduced to Alan who is going to be instrumental in further trapping Zach..
It’s not clear exactly which of these is the hook - I’d actually say there are a number of hooks - questions we want answered, which draw us further into the story.
16 minutes - Shaun arrives and has his first slightly awkward exchange with Zach. Although the ‘inciting incident’ and ‘25% 1st plot point’ are usually together, it’s not necessary. The inciting incident is defined as the when something turns ‘normal life’ for Zach upside down.
Development with Shaun. Bonding, scenes setting, talking, surfing.
19 minutes - Build up to the first plot point. Zach invites Shaun for a beer, Shaun ‘attracts’ Zach away from Tori. Then there’s the ‘fag’ comment. Zach makes his first choice to change - he says it’s actually over with Tori, letting Billy go after her and then follows Shaun when Shaun walks away, upset about the comment. Then their developing friendship is interrupted, in a case of symbolism and foreshadowing, by Jeanne and Cody.
Zach has already started turning away from Tori, but I love that as Tori tries to kiss him in front of the film, it is a ‘kiss of death’ on their relationship - Tori kisses Zach, whilst the ‘ak ak ak’ ‘Psycho’ killing music plays.
Zach and Shaun spend the next few minutes (of film time) bonding. It is not clear where exactly the first plot point is - it was either ‘early’ when Shaun found Zach fixing his board, when Zach followed Shaun away from the fire, or possibly as late as the key scene where they are walking side by side up the path, discussing Shaun’s book. At 28 minutes  Shaun says “I never knew that you knew about me’, and we also get some indication that he has been interested in Zach for a while.
Pinch point 1 37% 31 minutes in, so right place!
At the end of the bar/cafe scene it cuts away quickly as some guys come in. This was apparently originally a scene where some people came in and made a homophobic comment - classic pinch point adding pressure, showing the stakes. In the end they cut this scene, possibly because it would have upset the gently building romantic tension and connection between Zach and Shaun
32 minutes Zach and Shaun kiss at last. Hmm. It's too late for a first plot point and too early for a mid-point, but it is clearly a key moment. That, and when Zach decides to run from Shaun.
35 minutes - another pinch - Jeanne doesn’t want gay people around her children. This foreshadows her ultimate objections and raises the stakes for Zach.
37 minutes - Shaun tries again.
38 mins Zach and Tori split up. See my follow up Meta to see how Shaun and Cody literally stamp all over Zach’s ‘castles in the air’.
2nd Plot point 50% 42 minutes exactly! - Zach goes to the house - staircase kiss etc.
Pinch point 2 52 minutes, pretty much on track - future discussion in bed, time pressure - Shaun’s need to return to ‘real life’ is added, which also foreshadows the end of their honeymoon period as a few minutes later Gabe crashes in and they have to conceal the relationship.
We then get some stakes raising and foreshadowing of coming trouble in the ’deep dark pit of despair’. They both try to hide their relationship from Gabe initially, but then Zach gets very over sensitive. At 57 minutes Jeanne piles on to raise the stakes with regard to access to Cody.
3rd plot point 75% 62 minutes to the minute! - This is the very tense but constrained break up in the car - a very emotional scene.
And then we descend to the ‘deep dark pit of despair’. Zach has lost Shaun, Jeanne is horrible to him, she’s going to keep Cody away from him. Zach’s been hiding from Gabe but Gabe comes and offers support - but he’s too close to it all as Shaun’s brother. In despair Zach turns to his other best friend, Tori, and knocks on her door looking for shelter. She turns him away (ironically because she has found her own form of ‘shelter’ a new boyfriend).
Zach goes back to old life, but he can’t even get pleasure from surfing any more.
His love art gets painted over. He’s lost everything...
80 minutes - Turning point? Zach gets into art school, thanks partly to Shaun.
Tori comes and offers support and shelter.
Resolution- 86 minutes  to 90 minutes: New Dawn. Zach takes things into his own hands - travels to CalArts, turns up at Shaun’s place and asks for shelter in his arms.
92 minutes Epilogue - Happy ever after. Zach, Cody and Shaun (who fled ‘home’ to seek shelter) all find shelter with each other.
Let me know what you think! Where is the first plot point? What was the hook in your opinion?
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