Car Chase Stories, Part 1

May 4, 2008

A while back I talked about telling the story of a fight and how we’re really bad at it. We don’t really know how to narrate fights without making them into competitive, strategic battles between different players. Movie fights aren’t competitive; instead, the people involved (director, actors, choreographer, cinematographer) are collaborating to tell the story of a fight. I think we should be able to do this too, but I wanted to try it out first on something a bit more simpler than a martial arts fight.

So I just bought some Hot Wheels cars.

Elements of Good Car Chases

1. The cars are perceived to be traveling really fast, but can always accelerate further or slam on the brakes, changing speed significantly.

2. There are constant near fatalities and close calls, but the cars (and their passengers) can get seriously banged up and will still keep going, generally until the cars fall apart or (more commonly) explode.

3. The cars are maneuvering a lot, not just traveling in a straight line. There are obstacles and complications in the route, which are overcome in exciting, unusual, and clever ways.

4. The protagonists’ car will never crash for a lame or predictable reason, such as driving in the oncoming lane (the other cars will swerve around them), but pursuers may be gradually eliminated in this fashion, since a lame death sometimes suits a lame antagonist. Cooler antagonists will have to be eliminated in an appropriately badass fashion.

5. The audience always has a sense of the relative positioning of both a) the cars involved in the chase and b) potential obstacles, including the cars of innocent bystanders. In this way, what happens should make “sense,” though the exact rules of reality and timing are often bent or broken.

6. There is ultimately some form of resolution; generally, the pursuers are left behind, the pursuers can no longer continue pursuit (they’ve crashed bad), or the protagonists have left the vehicle (perhaps after crashing themselves) and the drama continues on foot.

Now to start playing around with my toy cars…

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