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The TRON Scale

April 12, 2011

I have devised a new technique for rating my stories’ narrative effect.  I call it the TRON Scale.

My wife recently purchased TRON: Legacy on BluRay and we’ve watched it like six times (our four-year-old daughter loves it).  That movie is so well done.  Foreshadowing for sequels, allusions abound to the first (“That is one big door”), the characters are interesting, and the plot is always clear (if not necessarily transparently driven).  There are little things that irk me, specifically Kevin Flynn’s eighties expressions (“radical man”) sprinkled indelicately throughout, but we’re talking nitpicks in execution; the story is quite solid.  I give it a 9 out of 10 on the yet-unexplained TRON Scale.

Then there was the original TRON film.  We borrowed it from my wife’s coworker and watched it tonight.  This receives a 1 on the TRON Scale.  The original TRON is all concept with minimally executed plot.  It was hard to stay awake through the whole thing.  The stakes were never truly clear.  The characters were literally pushed from one scenario to the next.  Characters’ decision processes were sudden and never explored.  Solutions seemed to present themselves out of nowhere.  Cool visuals (for the eighties), cool concept, cool characters, but not much as a story.  And I about fell asleep because of it.  Cool is great, but plot keeps the reader/viewer involved.

I think my stories fall short on the TRON Scale quite often, particularly when it comes to understanding character’s choices.  They do things that drive the plot because they drive the plot rather than the character’s identity compelling that action.

I intend to use the TRON scale to consider a few of my current stories and decide whether modification is warranted or if those stories should be sent to games (random TRON reference…I should be ashamed).  For the record, TRON’s cool factor increased when tied to a more cohesive plot.  surely that will help some of my cool story ideas, too.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 12, 2011 11:39 pm

    Wow. We literally have opposite tastes. Tron Legacy was style over substance. The original Tron tackled complex themes like Man’s relationship with god. Sure it was a little slow, but Tron 2 slowed down in the exact same place.

    To each his own.

  2. Scott W. Baker permalink*
    April 13, 2011 12:26 am

    Jordan,

    Both films were style over substance.

    I made no claims on theme (though the theme of defining perfection was handled well, if not subtly). I’m looking at the story arc itself. Legacy will never be as iconic as its predecessor. Its strength is in the storytelling. And that Quora is hottt. 🙂

    I will pause to mention that Legacy seemed to borrow a lot of things from other films. There was some blatantly Star Wars camera work (particularly involving hoods) and Zuse smelled an awful lot like the Merovingian from (of all things) the second Matrix film. Originality it lacked. The story was told well.

  3. April 13, 2011 10:15 am

    So… what’s the TRON scale? Will you evaluate everything you create according to whether it resembles TRON (worst) or TRON: Legacy (best)? Is TRON merely a substitute for “like,” or are there specific elements involved in evaluation? Or is it a clever acronym: “Telling the story,” “Reading experience,” “Over the hills and landscapes,” “Names and people?”

    … or… something?

    • Scott W. Baker permalink*
      April 13, 2011 10:36 am

      Ben,
      So far, the TRON scale is not yet quantified, but for storytelling purposes, it’s more of a look at whether the story is more geared toward the “idea” (milieu, conflict, maybe even theme) or toward the “story” (characters, motivations, stakes).

      I guess it’s a form of the MICE quotient (Milieu, Idea, Characters, Events…?…off the top of my head) but simplified into linear terms by pairing M with I and pairing C with E. Maybe that’s more confusing.

      I have no intention of using my TRON Scale to classify my stories as good or bad. However, I find that in my writing, I start stories on the Legacy side of the scale and end them on the TRON side. I tend to prefer the Legacy side so I want to pull my stories that way.

  4. April 14, 2011 12:11 am

    I personally prefer the TROYN scale, my own mashup. If your story is as good as people on electronic motorbikes assaulting an ancient city, you’ve won in my book. Bonus points for sneaking these folks inside in a giant electronic laser horse.

    TROYN.

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