And we’re back! and we already have all of the ingredients that we needed for our story to take off, remember?
We had all of these ingredients:
- A prison setting.
- A selfless character inspiring new hope by achieving teamwork amongst criminals.
- An antagonist who considers prisoners as inferiors and pins them against each other to profit.
- A contest/challenge in which prisoners compete with the false hope of achieving freedom.
To add originality, we changed the original idea, keeping the core elements, and the result was something like this:
Our prison setting is in fact some sort of reality show in which participants live in a small town with their families. But they can’t escape from this town under the death penalty.
Our protagonist is a selfless and skillful person who get’s trapped inside this town, where he and other prisoners have to participate in a series of challenges, either to win or to survive, in order to maintain their families, to earn their food. Failing to do so means they must die, but a participant has the opportunity of choosing a family member to die for them, this will keep them in the game.
The one participant who wins all of the challenges can opt to become the new warden of this prison town and can even choose to free all of the participants (who are mostly criminals). But to do so, they all have to face the current warden of the town, a former prisoner who feels the need to punish criminals and who’s comfortable with his power position.
Now, according to K.M. Weiland’s theme template, we should move into the second key element of the first act, the story’s small introductory truth. Because all of the elements we’ve placed before this are part of the specific manifestation of the big lie. All of these previous elements feed a single idea:
- Hope makes people suffer and waste their lives.
In this prison the only hope is to win the challenge, but the current warden will make sure no one wins so he can keep his job. So the hope that the situation arises is a false one, due to the fact that there’s no way the warden is letting anyone win.
So, what is the small introductory truth?
To answer this question, we need to start by stating our big truth and our specific truth, which were:
- If generally “Hope gives people a reason to live”, then specifically, “Hope can help you survive and be free from injustice”.
The objective of the small introductory truth is to slowly open the protagonist’s awareness of the lie. This means that we have to find a way for our protagonist to understand that beyond the false belief that “hope can make you suffer and waste your life”, there’s a small chance of surviving, of being free once again.
If I were to guess, I would say that the protagonist has to accomplish something early on, something that wasn’t expected, maybe even something anyone has ever done before. By doing this, he would prove that the warden’s tight operation is not ready for him, that he can actually go beyond what’s expected, what the antagonistic forces are prepared for.
What can this be?
How about if the first challenge is impossible to beat, prisoners who participate can only hope to survive for a fixed amount of time. Let’s also say that this initial challenge is especially hard as it’s needed to kill many people at first, so the reality show rating quota is secured.
How about if the protagonist not only manages to figure out the challenge, but he’s also able to save as many people as possible. This would give us another important element in the story, all of the participants who listen to him are saved and all of those who don’t, those who fight on their own, are killed. Do you get it? this is the inception of the protagonist’s rise as the leader.
Okay! I think we have our small introductory truth. It’s comprised of the following elements:
- An unsolvable puzzle challenge.
- The almost certain possibility of dying for most of the participants.
- The need for this to happen for the warden’s program to have a great start.
- The protagonist skillfully solving this puzzle and the saving of many.
Now, to properly choose the correct puzzle challenge and especially how our protagonist is going to solve it, we first need to know him better. We need to understand who this person is, we already know that he’s a selfless and skillful person, yet we need to know specifics if we’re going to be able to tailor the challenge to him. And as you correctly guessed, that’s exactly what we’re going to do next time, when we dive deep into the protagonist’s backstory, we’ll create him, we’ll be at his side, we’ll understand why is him the only one able to win this prison town sick challenge.
Until that time comes… Good luck in writing!