Saturday, December 8, 2012
Seeds of Story
A traditional structure for story revolves around a series of events with a main character who faces a problem. Dealing with the problem causes a change in this individual and a conclusion of the action.
Plot equals action.
The main character (protagonist) wants something that brings a type of satisfaction or results in misery. The more the person wants, the more intense the struggle to get it becomes.
Plot unites and controls the series of events. It moves through various scenes and characters in a cause-and-effect pattern. Each event causes another to happen until a resolution results. During the unraveling of the story, the reader learns that the conflict either can or cannot become resolved.
Is this a story?
Nathan arises early for his meeting of the year, drives to work, presents his advertising campaign with a huge success, meets his girl friend for a drink after work, and then goes home to sleep.
The above contains only a sequence of events but no story or plot. No conflict is introduced.
Let's try again.
Today is Nathan's day: the meeting of the year where he will present the advertising campaign he's worked on for six months. The alarm never goes off so Nathan gets up late. His car runs out of gas. He pushes it down one block to a gas station just as a Brink's truck filled with bank robbers turns the corner and hits him broadside. They kidnap him but he eventually escapes and gets to the office late for the meeting. Or?
In order for a resolution to tie up the story, Nathan needs to change. Or, he does not change.
What happens next? Does he walk in after his adventure and win the account? Has all the chaos made him realize that life is a whirl and he needs to slow down? Does he go along with the bank robbers?
Nathan needs a personality to prepare him for his struggle.
Fictional characters constantly make choices and solve problems. Some choices are good; some not so good. Opposite dimensions of a character always tug at him.
Strengths: Traits that give the protagonist the ability to strive: courage, ambition, love.
Fatal flaws: Traits that lead to a breakdown if not checked or resolved: fear, greed, power-hunger.
1. Develop a story idea in five to six sentences. Introduce your character to a problem she must solve. Efforts will worsen the problem yet she is relentless and won't give up.
2. Outline a problem to help your character learn about his fatal flaw. Have him make a final, enormous effort, overcome the fatal flaw but never triumph over the story problem.
3. Create an event that grows from a character's successes in the past or one strength of the character.
The more you practice working with character and action, the easier it becomes.