Editor Roundtable: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Learn How To Tell A Story That Works

Get my 5-day video course on how to tep better stories with Story Grid.

Enter your email below for a free Story Grid course!

 

The Roundtablers soar this week into Ang Lee’s 2003 “Wung-fu” Action + Society mashup Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the story of a secret young woman warrior and her attempts to be free of all her masters. The screenplay is by Hui Ling Wang, based on the 1935 Chinese Wǔxiá romance by Wáng Dù Lú.

The Story

Here’s a synopsis of the documentary adapted from Wikipedia.

Our story involves five principal characters. There is a mature pair, the master swordsman Mu Bai and a professional woman bodyguard named Shu Lien, who have long been repressing their strong feelings for each other.

There is a pair of young lovers, Jen the daughter of a high ranking official, and Lo, a handsome desert bandit.

Finally, there is Jade Fox, a former pupil of Mu Bai the swordsman. Jade Fox has been posing as Jen’s governess for years.

When a thief steals the famous sword Green Destiny, Mu Bai and Shu Lien trace the theft erroneously to Jade Fox. It’s not until a big showdown between them that a mysterious female warrior appears with the Green Destiny. It’s the Princess Jen! She’s been secretly studying martial arts. She has  surpassed Jade Fox in skill, and she’s the one who has stolen the Green Destiny. She lets Jade Fox escape.

At night, the handsome desert bandit Lo breaks into Jen’s bedroom and asks her to leave with him. In flashback we learn that they have met before, and were passionately in love. Back then, Lo told Jen the legend of a man who made a wish by leaping from a high precipice, and because his heart was pure, he survived.

Lo has now come to Beijing to persuade Jen not to go through with her arranged marriage. At first she refuses, but on her wedding night she runs away from her husband, disguised in male clothing. When she is accosted at an inn by a large group of warriors, the Green Destiny and her own superior combat skills give her the victory.

Jen next confronts Shu Lien, who still hopes to retrieve the Green Destiny and return it to its owner. Shu Lien is the superior fighter, but with the fabled sword Jen is able to destroy each weapon that Shu Lien wields, until Shu Lien finally manages to defeat her with a broken sword.

Mu Bai arrives and pursues Jen into a bamboo forest, where in the culminating scene he confronts her and offers to take her as his student. She agrees, but only if he can take the Green Destiny from her in three moves.

He takes it in one. Jen goes back on her word and flees. Mu Bai throws the sword over a waterfall, and she dives in after it. She is rescued by the envious Jade Fox, who drugs her and puts her in a cavern.

When Mu Bai and Shu Lien discover her, Jade Fox attacks them with poisoned darts. Mu Bai mortally wounds Jade Fox, only to realize that one of the darts has hit him in the neck. Shu Lien can’t save him. With his final breath, Mu Bai confesses his love for her and dies in her arms.

The Green Destiny is returned to its rightful owner in Beijing, and Jen spends one last night with her bandit lover Lo. The next morning, in an echo of the old legend, she asks him to make a wish. He wishes for them to be together again, back in the desert. Jen then jumps off the side of the mountain.

The Editor’s Six Core Questions

Read about the Editor’s Six Core Questions here.

1. What’s the Global Genre? Action, Western, Society, or Something Else?

As you can see, there was some disagreement among the Roundtablers on what the genre is, though we chose the film thinking it is an Action Story. We weren’t able to come to a unified decision on this one, so the Six Core Questions cover a wide range of genres. We’d love to hear your take on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in the comments below.

Kim

External

What a wonderful mash-up we have here, with numerous cross-genre elements: action (life / death stakes), two love stories (tragic as they are), society (dealing with class divide, gender roles), and crime (mystery thief and murderer in hiding who needs to be brought to justice).

I propose the Western for the external genre. As Anne said last season when we looked at True Grit, the Western is a tricky genre, and a combination of Action, Crime, and Society, where the specific setting of a wide open, harsh landscape is one of the key attributes. A frontier—where we get this unique play of the individual versus society. The values at stake then become individual freedom vs subjugation of society. (The full range of value is subjugation perceived as freedom to subjugation to restraint to autonomy.) In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, we see much the same values play out, just in a different setting.

The original novel is considered a Wǔxiá-romance, and the author Wáng Dù Lú is a master of the genre and known for his tragic endings. Wǔxiá literally means “martial heroes.” The heroes in Wǔxiá fiction typically do not serve a lord, wield military power, or belong to the aristocratic class. A code of chivalry usually requires wuxia heroes to right wrongs, remove oppressors, and bring retribution for past misdeeds. One professor of Chinese literature said it was a person’s temperament and need for freedom, and not their social status, that caused them to roam the land and help those in need. A type of western professional, but instead of six shooters, they use swords.

The novel on which this is based was written between 1938 and 1942, when American Westerns were popular, and during a unique time in Chinese history, after the May Fourth Movement of 1919, which was a time of social change and upheaval. The modern Wǔxiá genre rose to prominence in the 20th century because it called for a break from Confucian values—the xia emerged as a symbol of personal freedom, defiance to Confucian tradition, and rejection of the Chinese family system.

In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, there are elements of both the Vengeance and Transition sub-genres: Vengeance with regard to hunting down Jade Fox for her past crimes, and Transition for Jen, who begins in the upper ranks of society as the daughter of a governor and rejects society’s expectations.

Internal

To determine the internal genre, we first identify the protagonist. As Norman Friedman defines it, this is the one who undergoes the most change, is of chief interest, and whom all else in the plot revolves. In this story, this person is Jen.

Next we look at Jen’s character/behavior (morality), attitudes/beliefs (worldview), reputation/well-being (status) at the beginning of the story:

Her character/behavior: Jen is disciplined and determined, has high strength of will. She does keeps secrets, steals the sword, can be very stubborn and disrespectful, but not a killer like Jade Fox. (She doesn’t think of herself as a thief. When she tells Jade Fox she will not leave with her because won’t be a thief, Jade Fox says she already stole the sword, which Jen replies, “That was just a bit of fun.” Then when given the chance to return it, she does.)

Her attitudes/beliefs: Jen is naive about the real world (believing being a Wudang warrior is the perfect life of freedom) and consequences of her actions (not fully appreciating the disrespect is it to steal/wield the Green Destiny sword).

Her reputation/well-being: As the daughter of the governor, she is a high-ranking member of society, provided for, etc. But internally she is suffocating and trapped, longing to to be free to live and love as she chooses.

Then we look at what changed over the course of the story: In seeking her independence and freedom, Jen rejected the path of honor several times. Only when it was too late did she fully come to acknowledge the effect of her choices. This ultimately led to despair.

This gives us a cause and effect statement:

A petulant princess gifted in martial arts seeks her freedom from a life of aristocracy and control. Believing the life of the Wudang warriors to be a life of freedom and autonomy, she steals the sword Green Destiny. When her identity is discovered by the Wudang warrior Mu Bai, the true owner of the sword, he offers to take her as his disciple and teach her all the ways of Wudang. But she rejects him repeatedly–vowing to kneel before no one. Her desire for freedom clouds her view of reality and she refuses to recognize/admit that she needs anyone. She is captured by Jade Fox, who is envious of her abilities and angry that she kept secrets from her. Jade Fox seeks to kill her but Mu Bai intervenes and rescues her but in the final confrontation is hit with a poison dart. Jen tries to secure an antidote, but is too late. Mu Bai dies. Although Jen is now free from anyone’s control, she cannot bear the price she paid and jumps from the bridge in Wudan.

So she gains freedom/independence, but it is a hollow success: the negation of the negation in terms of status. The internal genre is then Status-Tragic. The values at stake are failure / success (failure masked as success (selling out) to failure to compromise to success).

Additional Comments

Valerie: When I’m trying to identify genre, I first determine what the story is about at its core. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is about a woman who is powerless but wants to be able to control her own life. That global value shift (powerless to powerful), combined with Jen’s story, leads me to identify this as a mini-plot Women’s Society film, that ends negatively.

There are definitely elements of action, western, and crime, but the obligatory scenes and conventions of those genres are largely missing (although there is some overlap), and the story turns on a different global value. There are great action scenes and characters die, but that’s not the focus of the story. Even though Jade Fox wants to kill Jen, Jen doesn’t know that (and neither does the audience) until the end. Furthermore, Jade Fox does not spend the film pursuing her.

Green Destiny is stolen, so there is a crime. There’s never any mystery about who the culprit is, however. In fact, Shu Lien even says that she’s known all along who the thief is.

The scenery is spectacular and there is definitely a wide-open landscape, but it’s not harsh or hostile as I’d expect to find in a Western, and in my opinion, the landscape is not a character in the film.

Obligatory Scenes of the Society Story

Inciting threat to reigning power: Jen doesn’t want to marry and steals Green Destiny.

Protagonist denies responsibility to respond: Jen doesn’t want to marry.

Forced to respond, Protagonist lashes out according to her position in the power hierarchy: Jen steals Green Destiny.

Each character learns what Antagonist wants: Near the end of the film Jade Fox confesses that she wants to kill Jen for keeping the Wudan secrets from her.

Protagonist’s initial strategy to outmaneuver Antagonist fails: Jen initially tries talking to Jade Fox, explaining that she hid her true skill to avoid embarrassing her.

Protagonist, realizing she must change her approach, reaches an All Is Lost Moment: Jen steals Green Destiny a second time and runs away.

Revolution Scene (Core event, Protagonist’s gifts are expressed, power changes hands): The core event is the fight scene between Jen and Mu Bai in the bamboo forest. However, since the story ends negatively power doesn’t exchange hands (Jen is defeated) and her gift for martial arts is expressed again.

Protagonist is rewarded at the extra-personal, interpersonal or personal level: Jen isn’t rewarded on any level (due to negative ending). She has failed to achieve the one thing she wanted; power over her destiny.

Conventions of the Society Story

One central char with offshoot characters that embody a multitude of that main character’s personality traits: Jen is the main character. Shu Lien represents Jen’s ideal self. Mu Bai represents her higher/spiritual self. Lo represents her wild side and desire for freedom. And Jade Fox represents her shadow self.

Big canvas – either a wide scope external setting or the internal landscape: The story travels to various places throughout China (Peking, Beijing, Shu Lien’s headquarters, the cavern, etc).

Clear revolutionary Point Of No Return: Jen steals Green Destiny a second time and runs away.

The vanquished is doomed to exile: Once Jen runs away from her marriage, she can’t return; Jade Fox even states outright that her parents will never accept her again.

The power divide between those in power and those disenfranchised is large: In ancient China, Jen is powerless against society’s (and her parents’) expectations of her. She must do as she is told.

Ironic win-but-lose, lose-but-win ending: The only thing Jen can have power over is her death. In life she tried to gain power, but failed. So, to win what she wants (control over her destiny) she must lose her life.

Leslie: I think it can be hard to discern which aspects of the film are influenced by Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Communist mainland China, and which come from Western cultural influences. Some aspects of story are universal, while certain cultural conventions are unique. I think this is a mashup, and I see similarities to the Western genre, but I suspect this is more of an attempt to create something completely new that hasn’t been fully realized. I’ve seen this film described as “Chinese pulp historical action,” and the functional equivalent of western and samurai stories, but distinctly Chinese.

Influences in this film include: (1) Wung Fu, from Hong Kong, which includes the acrobatic martial arts with the use of wires so that live action characters seem to fly and jump over buildings (the style includes magical realism, typically nonstop action over story, so the influence of the other two influences tempers this), (2) classic landscapes and aesthetics, relationships, social order from Communist Mainland China, and (3) modern psychology from Taiwan. I suspect Internal Genre is influenced by culture as well.  

Finally, I see the ending as ambiguous. I think she is making a wish and hoping her heart is pure enough that it will be granted.

Click here to learn more about the External Content Genres.

Click here to learn more about the Internal Content Genres.

2. What are the Obligatory Scenes and Conventions?

Obligatory Scenes for the Action Genre

Anne

An Inciting Attack by the Villain or the environment – We seem to agree that the Inciting Incident of the story is the theft of the Green Destiny from the home of Sir Te under Shu Lien’s watch.

But if this is a Society/Women’s story, it’s possible to see the Global Inciting Incident as when Lo and his bandits raid Jen’s family caravan in the desert—even though we only see this at the Midpoint, in flashback.

Hero sidesteps responsibility to take action – Assuming that the hero is Mu Bai, he sidesteps by telling Shu Lien that he’s given up the sword. He refuses to continue to wield it, and his gift of it to Sir Te puts it within Jen’s grasp. I’m assuming Jen is the protagonist.

Valerie: Jen doesn’t want to get married, even though the match will be good for her father’s career. In ancient China, honouring the arranged marriage is Jen’s responsibility. This is the only thing Jen sidesteps prior to stealing Green Destiny.

Forced to leave ordinary world, Hero lashes outValerie: Jen’s ordinary world is that which she’s known so far – that is, her single/free life. When she’s forced to marry, she lashes out by stealing Green Destiny,

Discovering and understanding the villain’s object of desire (Macguffin) – The Macguffin is clearly the Green Destiny. Li Mu Bai doesn’t want it anymore but it represents everything Jen has been training for in secret. When she steals it, she forces Mu Bai’s and Shu Lien’s hands and they’re honor-bound to go after it.

Jade Fox is the classical villain, a poisoner and murderer full of resentment, but her object of desire is the knowledge that Jen has kept from her because she can’t read. Nobody quite understands this Macguffin till almost the closing scene.

Valerie: Who is the villain? In Jen’s marriage story it’s her parents/society. We learn that her parents want her to marry this particular man because the alliance is good for her father’s career. In her desire to be free, Jade Fox is the force of antagonism.

Hero’s initial strategy to outmaneuver the villain fails – Again we have the question of who’s the hero and who’s the villain, and for this Obligatory Scene I find myself looking to the first big rooftop fight scene, where Shu Lien as the hero tries and fails to outmaneuver the Jen the sword thief and recover the sword.

Valerie: I’m not sure if it’s an attempt to outmaneuver the villain per se, but Jen initially tries to explain to Jade that she hid her true talent so as not to embarrass her Master.

Hero reaches an All Is Lost Moment when they realize that they must change their approach to salvage some form of victory – I have a hard time pinpointing this one, but if Mu Bai is the hero, it feels to me like his biggest loss or sacrifice is when Jen more or less forces him to choose Action/Fighting over Meditation/Enlightenment.

Valerie: Jen steals Green Destiny a second time, and runs away.

The Big Showdown where the Hero and the Villain face off and the Hero’s gift is expressed  – The showdown in the bamboo forest is clearly INTENDED to meet this Obligatory Scene, and Mu Bai expresses his gift of total self-control, but he’s been expressing that gift all along. It’s possible that there’s a kind of enlightenment moment as he’s balancing on the bamboo and Not-Doing, but again, at least to the Western mind, this doesn’t feel like much of a big reveal.  

Valerie: I don’t see this scene. Yes, Jen and Mu Bai fight in the bamboo forest, but he’s a mentor not the villain. When Jen and Jade reunite, there is no fight or showdown. There is a quick, but final showdown between Jade and Mu Bai, but his gifts have been known all along. Nothing new is expressed. Jen knows the antidote to the poison, but isn’t able to make it in time to save Mu Bai’s life, so there is no gift expressed there either. Although, she does finally want to help Mu Bai and Shu Lien, rather than fight them.

Kim: I think the showdown would be between Mu Bai and Jade Fox in the cave when Jen is drugged.

The Hero’s Sacrifice is Rewarded – Aargh! It’s as if Shu Lien gets to be the Hero at this moment, and the reward for all her self-sacrifice is to hear Mu Bai express his undying love with his dying breath.  

Valerie: I don’t see this scene either. Jen sacrifices her life with her family and the comforts of home for the life of a warrior. However, she isn’t rewarded with freedom (the thing she wants). Freedom only comes through death.

Jarie: Mu Bai does sacrifice for Jen by fighting Jade Fox. It’s tragic but Mu Bai does win since he avenges his Master’s death by killing Jade Fox. He can now die with honor and it’s doubly tragic that he confesses his love to Shu Lien.

Additional Comments

Kim: I believe this is a global Status-Tragic story, and these are the obligatory scenes as I see them.

An Inciting opportunity or challenge: Jen meets Shu Lien and learns about the Green Destiny

Protagonist leaves home to seek fortune: Jen steals the Green Destiny

Forced to adapt to a new environment, Protagonist relies on old habits and humiliates himself or herself: She faces off with Shu Lien and Mu Bai, true Wudang warriors…Jen has been learning under Jade Fox who is corrupt and her stubborn bitter hatred has rubbed off her, influencing her to reject Mu Bai’s offer to train her. She refuses to kneel or be subjugated to anyone, even though that is precisely what will get her what she wants.

The Protagonist learns what the Antagonist’s Object of Desire is and sets out to achieve it for him- or herself: Jen makes everyone out to be her antagonist (Shu Lien, Mu Bai, Jade Fox, her parents, etc.)…not exactly sure how this applies, but Jen does take the Green Destiny for herself.

Protagonist’s initial strategy to outmaneuver Antagonist fails: Gets caught with the sword by Shu Lien and Mu Bai, also she tried keeping her skill a secret from Jade Fox for a time but then sees her fight.

During an All Is Lost Moment, Protagonist realizes they must change their definition of success or risk betraying their morality: When she runs away from her wedding night? When Shu Lien tells her she can run from marriage but can’t run from her parents?

The Core Event: Protagonist chooses to do what’s necessary to attain status or reject the world that they strived to join: Jen goes back on her word to Mu Bai, rejects his offer to teach her for the final time, he throws the sword over the waterfall and she dives after it…this leads to her being captured by Jade Fox.

Protagonist saves or loses him/herself based on their action in the Core Event: loses herself due to her choice to trick/reject Mu Bai…this leads to the final event where both her teachers die because of her choices.

Click here to learn more about Obligatory Scenes and Conventions for a Big Idea Nonfiction book.

Conventions for the Action Genre

Leslie

Hero, Victim, Villain: These three roles must be clearly defined throughout the story. – I see the hero’s role as being a collective with Yu Jen, Shu Lien, and Mu Bai taking the role at different times (the hero is someone who makes a sacrifice for someone else). The main villain is Jade Fox. Mu Bai is a victim and is pursued by Jade Fox, but Yu Jen is the one Jade Fox has the real grudge against once Mu Bai’s teacher has died. 

The Hero’s object of desire is to stop the villain and save the victim – Yu Jen, Mu Bai, and Shu Lien all want to stop Jade Fox and save Yu Jen—but they also want to save Yu Jen from herself.

The power divide between the hero and the villain is very large. The villain is far more powerful than the hero: Jade Fox isn’t necessarily physically more powerful than the collective heroes. But the main power divide is that Yu Jen doesn’t realize that her mentor is trying to kill her until the end.  

Speech in Praise of the Villain – Tsai tells us about Jade Fox: “Jade Fox is a master criminal. I hear she infiltrated the Yu’s. She must have come with them when they transferred here.” “My wife was quite a martial arts expert. Jade Fox killed her.”

Sub-Genre specific conventions: Assuming that Ang Lee was setting out to create a new genre-style combination here, I think he would include wung fu (wires and acrobatic martial arts; traditional aesthetics and sense of order, relationship; an internal genre/psychology (not normally present in wung fu), and themes of courage, justice, and loyalty especially to one’s teachers).    

Additional Comments

Jarie: The hero as a collective is a great insight. Just like Guardians of the Galaxy like Leslie mentioned. It’s hard to see this sometimes from a Western story mindset where everything ends happy.

Kim: I think this is a Status-Tragic Story, and these are the Conventions as I see them.

Strong Mentor Figure (e.g., Fagan, Daddy Warbucks): Shu Lien is the strongest example of a mentor for Jen (Jen looks up to her, calls her sister, Shu Lien offers her advice, etc.), Mu Bai attempts to be Jen’s mentor several times but Jen refuses to kneel.

Big Social Problem subtext (Racism, Misogyny, Class): Society gender roles and class divide

Shapeshifters as Hypocrites (secondary characters say one thing and do another): Jade Fox poses as Jen’s governess to the outside world, and also to Jen she makes herself to be an honorable master but Jen finds out that she killed a policeman, etc. Things she didn’t expect her to do. Also Jade Fox turns on Jen and tries to kill her.

The Herald or Threshold Guardian is a fellow striver who sold out: Jade Fox seems like this character as well, she committed murder by poison / stole the Wudang manual, does not follow the code of honor that is part of the Wudang life. She states during her first fight with Mu Bai that she killed his master because he refused to teach her (but he would sleep with her) — she chose the path of dishonor instead of the path of determination.

A clear Point of No Return/Truth Will Out moment, when Protagonist knows they can never go back to the way things used to be: unsure when this is…she leaves her husband, goes out on her own, but it seems like she could still go home again, Mu Bai would still teach her…but it seems like she makes her choice when Shu Lien says you can run from marriage but you can’t run from your parents…this is not what she wants to hear and so instead she chooses to fight Shu Lien. We hope she will give in to Mu Bai but she doesn’t. BUT the real truth will out moment seems to come when Jade Fox tries to kill her and Mu Bai gets hit with the dart–both of her teachers have died because of her.

Win-But-Lose or Lose-But-Win bittersweet ending: Shu Lien lets her go, tells her to always be true to herself. She reunites with Lo, but knowing that this freedom can’t last (or thinking she doesn’t deserve it) she chooses to jump off the bridge…fate unknown.

3. What is the Point of View? What is the Narrative Device?

Kim

Point of View: 3rd Person throughout following multiple characters, with one flashback for Jen that feels more first person

Narrative Device: Elements of mystery with masked thief, Jade Fox in hiding, and Jade Fox’s motives to kill Jen.

Check out these posts to learn more about Point of View and Narrative Devices.

4. What are the Objects of Desire, in other words, wants and needs?

Kim

Wants:  Jen wants to be a Wudang Warrior, believing it to be a life of freedom and autonomy.

Needs:  Jen needs a greater understanding of the world and the consequences of her choices.

Click here to learn more about Objects of Desire.

5. What is the Controlling Idea / Theme?

Kim

I believe this is a cautionary tale with a negative ending, and yet the western portion ends positively. Therefore I believe the internal genre of Status/Tragic is in fact the global. The controlling idea / theme stated as:

Failures masked as hollow success occur when the naive seek independence without regard to honor.

Click here to learn more about Controlling Ideas and Themes.

6. What is the Beginning Hook, Middle Build, and Ending Payoff?

Jarie

BEGINNING HOOK – Freedom Has a Price

  1. Inciting incident: A masked thief sneaks into Sir Te’s estate and steals the Green Destiny.
  2. Progressive Complication/Turning Point: The thief is trained in Wudang.
  3. Crisis Question: Who inside the Governor’s compound stole the Green Destiny?
  4. Climax: Shu Lien shows up at Governor Yu’s compound to visit with Jen since she suspects Jen is the thief.
  5. Resolution: Shu Lien agrees to be like a sister to Jen.

MIDDLE BUILD – Jade Fox Reveals Herself

  1. Inciting incident: Yellow Hill Fight with Jade Fox
  2. Progressive Complication/Turning Point: Jen stole the Green Destiny without asking for Jade Fox’s permission. Jen is better than Jade Fox.
  3. Midpoint Shift: Yu Jen is the thief of Green Destiny and has a gift.
  4. Crisis Question: Can Mu Bai convince Jen to be her master and go back to being a swordsman? Will Jade Fox show up to the wedding?
  5. Climax: Lo shows up to the wedding and asks Jen to be with him. A fight ensues. Jen disappears.
  6. Resolution: Jen goes out on her own as Master Long. Mu Bai and Shu Lien set off to find Jen.

ENDING PAYOFF – A Faithful Heart Makes Wishes Come True

  1. Inciting incident: Jen shows up at Shu Lien’s compound wanting advice. They fight each other.
  2. Progressive Complication/Turning Point: Mu Bai still wants to be Yu Jen’s master. He throws the sword. Jen dives for it, and Jade Fox saves her.
  3. Crisis Question: Can Jen live the life she wants?
  4. Climax: Jen goes to the edge of the cliff to see if she has a faithful heart and asked Lo to make a wish.
  5. Resolution: Jen jumps because she knows that they can never be together.

Additional Comments

Jarie: Shu Lien is not the sort of women that is a role model for other women, yet she is free, and this is what Jen (Governor’s daughter) finds appealing.

The contrast between Shu Lien and Jen are freedom and essentially slavery. The scene at 26:11 is a nice contrast to what society is at the time.

If Wudang does not accept Jen then she will become a “poisoned dragon”, which is the Chinese idiom in which the movie is titled: “behind the rock in the dark probably hides a tiger, and the coiling giant root resembles a crouching dragon.”

Anne: I had a little look around a Mandarin dictionary and it seems that “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” (wò hǔ cáng lóng) refers to concealed talents or talented individuals in hiding—a saying that reminds us never to underestimate anybody. This seems to apply to Jen and Jade Fox equally.

The phrase is also a Cheng Yu, a four-character saying that alludes to a whole story–presumably one that’s well known–a bit like referring to “the tortoise and the hare” and invoking that whole fable and its lesson. I notice that twice when Lo is talking about the pure heart story, he enunciates four distinct words that sound like they’re also a Cheng Yu.

Click here to learn more about the Beginning Hook, Middle Build, and Ending Payoff.

7. Additional Story-Related Observations

Jarie: The action sequences were revolutionary and so innovative. They look like ballet. The great thing about them is that it’s the actual actors. You can see their faces throughout.

Kim: Example of ways to innovate a genre—a western story in China. Firefly is a western in space. What other genres and settings/time periods could you juxtapose to create something fresh?

Your Roundtable Story Grid Editors are Jarie Bolander, Valerie Francis, Anne Hawley, Kim Kessler, and Leslie Watts.

Join us again next time, when we once again embrace the Love Story genre with another of Ang Lee’s great movies, Brokeback Mountain. Why not give it a look during the week, and follow along with us?

About the Author

Leslie Watts is a certified Story Grid editor, writer, and podcaster. She’s been writing for as long as she can remember: from her sixth-grade magazine about cats to writing practice while drafting opinions for an appellate court judge. When the dust settled after her children were born, she launched www.Writership.com to help writers unearth the treasure in their manuscripts. She believes writers become better storytellers through practice, and that editors owe a duty of care to help writers with specific and supportive guidance to meet reader expectations and express their unique gifts in the world.
Comments (2)
Author Leslie Watts

2 Comments

cherriesmajykh says:

I hope you’re going to publish the foolscap at some point. That really helped me last season.

Reply
Leslie Watts says:

I’m so glad this is useful to you! The foolscap for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is tricky because we didn’t agree on the Global Genre. We decided not to do the Google Sheet version for season 2, but you can download a PDF foolscap for the individual episodes (with the exception of this one). Keep in mind that most of the entries in the foolscap come from the Editor’s Six Core Questions we discuss in the episode and show notes.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Story Grid has helped thousands of authors tell better stories.

Now it's Your Turn

I’d like to send you a FREE 5-day video course on how to tell better stories with Story Grid.

The Book

Is this your first crack at writing and finishing your book? Are you lost on how to tackle this project? This is the place to start.

First Time Writer

Is this your first crack at writing and finishing your book? Are you lost on how to tackle this project? This is the place to start.

Resources

Is this your first crack at writing and finishing your book? Are you lost on how to tackle this project? This is the place to start.