Survived the last episode eh? Darn. Shaking
you off is proving to be harder than I thought. Let’s continue Good Writing Bad Writing
with The Shepherd. Here is the place to watch it. It’s just so fricking good! The end hits
you with the big reveal that it’s not just the shepherd with all the sheep, it’s the
lady with all the cats, the guy who feeds flocks of pigeons – these people are protecting
the earth from monsters. Way to paint your small story into the bigger picture of the
world. If I could stop vibrating with excitement
that’d be good. The Shepherd is the complete opposite of Tiger,
which we saw last episode. Which makes it interesting that the creator of Tiger is part
of the team that made The Shepherd because Tiger is a mess. It tried to gradually build
up a world of mysterious things happening, but in the end all it did was leave us confused
– or arguing about what it means. Tiger is better suited as an attempt at surrealism
than anything else. The Shepherd also tries to gradually build
up a world. And holy fright, it succeeds. Because, unlike Tiger, The Shepherd is clear.
It gives us a mystery and clues and then answers them. Tiger didn’t give us any clues, it
was just like pbtbhtbth this happened. Then this happened. Here’s a strange event, and
uh… no hints about what it means. Yes, it’s cool to leave some elements of
your story open for imagination, but if you don’t resolve anything it gets very frustrating
for viewers very quickly. Lobbing unanswered questions at us is lame. Honestly, if you
build a good story, fans will make up their own questions and answer them, like figuring
out characters’ pasts and relationships and futures and other parts of the world that
might exist. Fanfiction. Fan art. So that’s the comparison between Tiger and
The Shepherd, but it’s hard to see what builds any good story without taking the wall
apart and looking at the individual bricks. Here are the building blocks of a story that
you probably learned in school. Characters, Setting, Plot, Conflict, Resolution. And here’s my short list. Characters
World These other things are conventional storytelling
methods. You can tell stories in unconventional ways. You don’t need resolution. Drop your
readers off a cliff if you want. Slice of life stories usually don’t have a central
conflict that affects every episode. Heck, individual episodes may not even have a conflict.
They could just be a fun vacation day at the beach. The short list is Characters and World because
you can tell a character driven story or you can tell a world driven story. Anything else
is totally dependent on these two elements. You don’t have a plot, conflict, or resolution
without a world or characters. And you will find that a good story has either an interesting
world or relatable, flawed characters – if not both – and that information about the
world and characters tends to be gradually revealed instead of dumped on us all at once. As far as animations go, most are character
driven. As you watch these animations you get to know what the characters are like,
and you’ll become able to anticipate how they will react to a situation. Your interest
is mainly in the characters and how they’re doing. The Shepherd is more a world driven story.
We have characters, yes, but the point of the animation is to reveal this secret space
alien side of the world. This is one of the reasons there is no dialogue in the animation.
If the characters talked, it would, well, give them more character, and that would make
them distracting. Keep the characters simple so the focus stays on the events that are
happening. The Shepherd is all about the gradual reveal.
Let’s take a stroll through the story to see how it smoothly moves us from small village
life to secret sci fi space hero. Starting off with a bang. I immediately forgot
this happened because the next scene is an action chase scene, but I remembered the comet
later when some hints kicked me in the short term memory. First hint is how the villagers react to the
shepherd. They’re scared of him. We don’t know why right now, but it’s enough to tell
us something is up here. Why would a guy with a meat cleaver back down from an old man?
Knife beats stick. Yet the butcher is scared of the shepherd. A sheep eats a bird. I loved this shot. I
laughed. It’s so out of place. I thought the animators were just being funny but no,
this is also a clue that this world is weird. It’s great because you should know the sheep
are monsters just for this, but everything else is so normal that it seems impossible.
So you write the carnivorous sheep off as a joke. As a result, it isn’t until the three minute
mark that we realize this is more than a simple boy, sheep, and shepherd story. A strange
beeper goes off and the camera pans up to remind you about the mountain at the very
beginning of the film. Plus, creepy nightmare. Sheep eyes are creepy. At this point the audience knows something
is wrong. Now the writers are free to start revealing the big guns. We go into the sci
fi part of the cartoon. Strange doors, suits with multiple arms, schematics for a shepherd’s
crook, fancy maps and weird languages. From here, the story could have gone to default
save the world mode, no more growth. But the momentum keeps building. We find out the shepherd is the one with multiple
arms. So he doesn’t have a weird space alien collection, he is a weird space alien. Big battle, and oh my gosh what horrible thing
is going to happen to the alien, oh. Oh my gosh all the sheep are aliens. That’s why
they eat birds! The writing guides you to be able to understand
the world. To make sense of what didn’t before. You went from being an average person
to a person who is in on this big secret. Just like the kid protagonist here. Story over, good story, NO, this event isn’t
exclusive to one small village. There are more fighters out there! More monsters! Protect
the planet! Heroic overture yay! A very satisfying ending, but still with lots
of room for more stories. That’s a good ending. Of course the interesting thing is that if
there were to be more stories, there would need to be character development. The cartoon
would move from being world driven to being character driven because we’d be hard pressed
to watch a thirty minute episode without any dialogue, and without any more information
about the characters’ feelings, motives, and histories. We get a sense of personalities
from The Shepherd, but in this short time we don’t really know the characters. And
right now, we don’t need to. It’s a good story about secret heroes in a normal world.