A method for using your THEME to find the ANTAGONIST of your story.

Thinking so much about the theme of a story can give you the impression that this mayor element of storytelling can be a catalyst for any other element of a story. And in theory it is kinda like this, but we all know that writing an actual story is more than just thinking about the theme, I mean, most of the time the story gets its initial shape with no clear indication about the actual theme being conveyed.

So, how can we create an antagonist using theme if most of the time it’s so difficult to even acknowledge what the real theme of the story is?

From personal experience, I’ve come to the realization that the thing about theme is that it acts more as an unconscious energy permeating throughout the whole thing, which makes its discovery more like an exercise in honesty, given that what we’re consciously trying to convey might not be the actual reason we’re writing our story.

What am I saying? Well, simply put, I’m saying that we should be honest about what the story we’re developing means to us, in answering this question we’ll undoubtedly have found the theme inherent between all of those words and pages.

So, let’s say we already have our theme, which is for example “the failure to become the master of your own destiny”. Sounds a bit dramatic, uh? Well, this is actually the theme I’m using in the current feature I’m writing.

Okay, so we have our theme, now… how can we build an antagonist using it?

First, lets think about the antagonist as the destiny to our protagonist’s free will.

What do I mean by that?

If the protagonist has a choice to make, specially at the self-revelation, think about the antagonist as the lack of this choice.

In my story, at the end, the protagonist has to choose to either live and endure the pain and consequences of a violent driven life or to symbolically die and be saved by an obscure entity.

What do you think he’ll choose?

The obscure entity, right?

If free will for the character is a choice between facing consequences and escaping consequences, the antagonist should be none of the above, it should actually be a lack of choice in regards of the issue being “the failure to become the master of its own destiny”.

So, the antagonist of my story should be a force opposing the protagonist will to become the master of his own destiny, a force driving him away from this goal. In the story, this force is represented by the obscure force driving the protagonist into using violent means to face his problems, pushing him deeper and deeper into an “out of control” state.

If the protagonist need is to become the master of his own destiny, the antagonist goal is to make the protagonist fail at this. In other words, the antagonist’s goal is what will come to pass if the protagonist can’t exercise his free will and change the course of the story.

Ask yourself…

What’s the protagonist conflict at the beginning of the story?

In my case, the protagonist has the conflict of not being able to do what he wants, due to certain fears he’s been carrying since childhood.

This conflict, being the incapacity for exerting his own desires and following them to completion is then embodied by the dark figure chasing him. Figure that forces him to become more and more savage and primal.

Yet, the antagonist’s goal is actually to make a slave out of the protagonist, first by destroying his life and second by putting him in a situation where the only possible choice is to put his life into this entity’s hands.

As the story progresses, the protagonist struggles time and time again because of his weakness, which is his inability to impose his will, managing to do so only when driven by the entity, forging a symbiotic relationship with it to the point of losing himself completely in it.

Hence, he fails.

So, to sum up all of the previous exploration, the antagonist actually connects the conflict with the theme. Because of its relation with the truth that’s being expressed at the self-revelation, and because of its opposition with the protagonist’s goal and need, the antagonist embodies the side of the theme on its negative aspect and from that position, it becomes a series of obstacles for the protagonist to resolve.

Next time we’ll go further ahead with this antagonist/theme exploration.

How to connect your CHARACTERS with the PLOT in such a way that your THEME is conveyed?

Think of a character as a tension point between a perceived virtue and a latent flaw. Need an example? Sure!

Take for example the virtue of being kind. Now, let’s say that a character is too kind, maybe in all of those selfless acts of virtue they’re really hiding a latent aversion for conflict.

So, for a plot to work with these character traits, we need to construct the plot beats in such a way that each time the character faces an obstacle, the tension between being kind and actually being conflict averse is triggered.

Maybe we place the character in such a situation that their kindness puts them directly in the face of conflict. Take this for example, a kind person who offers himself to help others and in doing so gets sucked into a situation where he has to face a huge conflict he’s trying to avoid.

Voilà! You have a story there!

In a well-constructed story, the plot will always initiate a latent change found in the tension between a virtue and a character’s flaw. You might ask, why does this happen? Well, reality is that people are often moved by their virtues as they see them as the proper way of behaving. And by proper way of behaving, I refer mostly to the best possible ways of achieving their goals and desires.

In a sense, people and characters create their own plotlines and derive personal meaning from them.

Theme = Why

Plot = How                                       Change is produced.

Character = Who

All of the plot beats and their construction has to be a reflection of the theme you’re using, just because the actions triggered and executed in it are about testing the character into approaching the thematic premise, expressed as a truth, right?

Now, ask yourself…

Why must your character endure the plot to learn this particular theme?

Does the plot facilitate the character’s arc that proves the theme?

By those two questions, what we’re really talking is about an external conflict becoming a metaphor for an inner conflict. So, the internal conflict beats (comprising the character’s arc) must somehow provide the protagonist with a changed mindset which will make them choose in a different way every time (evolving). These different ways of choosing will then affect or trigger the next external event (plot).

(Plot)                                                                                                            (Theme)

Obstacle                                           Inner conflict                                  Choice

                                                           (Character)

In the schematic above, we can see how an initial obstacle sends the character into an inner conflict that will reflect in a new choice, that will eventually lead to a new obstacle and so on…

Okay! There’s so much more to talk about in the relations between theme, plot and characters. Next time we’ll dive into the creation and analysis of the antagonist, in relation with the theme and all of the elements we’ve been discussing so far.

Using THEME to build CHARACTERS and how doing it this way can greatly IMPROVE your overall understanding of the CONFLICT.

As we were discussing before, a theme is an argument between two posited ideas, a TRUTH and a LIE. And so, a thematic premise has two opposite sides:

  • A truth that must be discovered.
  • And a lie that is believed.

Discovered and believed by whom you might ask, aren’t you a smart individual, eh? Well, obviously we’re talking about the protagonist of the story, right?

You remember when we talked about needs and wants? Think about it like this:

  • Truth = Need.
  • Lie= Want.

Most of the time, a protagonist enters the plot because they believe some lie that is expressed as a desire or want, they think they need this obviously wrong thing to be happier or to take revenge or whatever egotistic idea you can come up with. Yet in reality, what they really need is to get a sense of a deeper truth they can’t initially see.

This truth has the power to make them change in profound ways.

A character’s conflict with others or with the world of the story is almost inevitably a reflection and/or a projection of inner conflicts. In other words, the plot reflects/projects the character’s inner struggle upon an external world. Also, lies and truths will often translate into literal objects, persons or states within the external plot.

The most obvious translation would be the lie, which inevitably becomes the seed of the antagonist.

But what is this inner struggle of the character through the lens of the theme?

Is actually the tension between the two previously mentioned aspects:

  • The thing the character wants (the lie).
  • The thing the character needs (the truth).

And the clash between these two aspects creates the conflict.

Ultimately, what the character wants is the plot goal (external), and is not necessarily a bad thing all together, more so it represents a negative mindset or motivation regarding a problem or way of living.

This lie the protagonist believes is what prevents them from moving towards health, constantly pushing them back, making them sick.

But what is this lie and why the character even believes it?

This is because at the root of it there’s a ghost from the character’s past. Remember what ghost is? Simply put… TRAUMA!

Ghost —- Lie (believed) —- Desire —- Rising action —- Plot Goal

                   Psych. Flaw      (abstract      (Variations            Need (Truth).

                                              or concrete)  of Theme)

In the schematic above, we can see how the ghost or trauma makes the character believe a lie that throws them into the plot because of their desires, then facing rising action that expresses many variations on the theme being conveyed and ending in the plot goal or objective, where the truth the character needs to grow is expressed.

So, the protagonist’s final choice in the story is between what they want and what they need and it will mostly be externalized in a metaphor that proves a corresponding choice between the lie and the truth.

Isn’t that amazing! Next time we’ll dive deeper into character creation utilizing our chosen theme, until then…

How to recognize/find/build the THEME of your story and why it might be the single most IMPORTANT part of your script.

As an invisible force guiding every movement of creation, Theme might stand as the most important aspect of any artistic creation, at least of the ones that move beyond the initial and mostly blind exploratory impulse of creation and into the realms of metaphoric elaboration.

I’m not even joking here.

Think of theme as the symbolic argument between a posited truth and a lie, two opposing aspects of some idea that will play out in the characters arcs and throughout an external plot, which in turn will force characters growth.

You did it? Then guess what… you’re entering theme’s dominion.

Generally speaking, theme is an uniform idea or subject, explored via recurring patterns and expanded through comparisons and contrast. remember the symbolic argument stuff?

As it stands and in any story, ultimately, plot and characters are a visual representation of an underlying theme, both presenting variations on this subject. In a sense, theme is the story’s essence, boiled down into a single and concise statement.

You can use it as the guiding principle for your entire story.

So, how can you find the theme of a story? even your own, because if you were not thinking about it while writing, chances are a theme is sitting there, between your characters and events, waiting to be discovered by you.

Look for the truth at the heart of any prominent character change within the plot. Then, identify any underlying topics or recurring motifs repeated throughout your plot and characters decisions. But take special notice of the ending of your story, because this is where ultimately the theme is expressed or revealed as a truth discovered or accepted by the protagonist (often called a self-revelation).

This truth is often called the thematic point, once discovered, you can play it back against everything that happened in previously in the plot and characters development, ideally you will see it resonate in every scene, if not you should strive for it to happen.

Think about it this way, a story can be understood as a large scale metaphor about made up people going on made up adventures which create descriptive metaphors for real life.

Now, let’s talk a bit about the differences between using and finding a theme for your story.

If we start a story from a theme, we can actually mold the plot and characters into a visual and external metaphor for an invisible theme. But if we don’t, let’s say we started with character or plot, the idea is not to construct a metaphor, rather discover one inside our story. In this case, we should look within the existing/evolving plot to identify the emerging theme.

Its almost impossible not to find a recurring and inherent theme inside the plot of a story, yet it also emerges from the characters. Think a little about it… what do they have in common? You can look at individual scenes, story events... what patterns are emerging? Can you see an overall shape?

In summary; You can’t have a proper story without people (characters) doing stuff (plot) – which together, inevitably comment upon reality (theme).

Next time we’ll dive deeper into this amazing element of story!

A little talk about WANTS and NEEDS to create characters with stronger MOTIVATION and DESIRE.

We’ve heard this like a thousand times in writing, specially when receiving feedback from others, even more so when those others are Pro type people maybe even inclined to be a bit on the “dick” side of things, right? Okay, maybe they only want to help us, no need to be so defensive.

What does your character want?

Have you ever wondered why is this question so repetitive and so important? I mean, why do we even need to know what a character wants, maybe they don’t want anything, you know… like depressive people and stuff… We’d be wrong btw…

As it turns out, people and characters always want something, whether it’s some basic need like food or shelter and up to the craziest of human endeavors, like saving the universe! So, first I want to share with you a list of possible answers to this very question, kinda like to flip it over from What does your character want? to What can your character want?

From the individual (only for itself) to the community (for everyone), it would be like this:

  • To survive.
  • To take revenge.
  • To win the battle.
  • To achieve something.
  • To explore a world.
  • To catch a criminal.
  • To find the truth.
  • To gain love.
  • To bring justice and/or freedom.
  • To save the republic.
  • To save the world.

Many things a character may want as it seems, can you think of any other?

Thing is, to understand the want of a character is to understand their motivation. What is the driving force making them move?

But, if we have stablished that what a character wants drives his motivation, what is the purpose of thinking in a desire line? Aren’t them the same? Well, why are you asking such complicated questions? Are you a detective or something? Let’s say you’re one, just for the sake of understanding, okay?

So, maybe you want to catch the criminal, right? That’s your want, your motivation for moving your fat ass (filled with donuts and cheap coffee) into action. But maybe, as you go deep into the investigation, you come to realize that the killer is your little baby, turns out it’s a devil’s acolyte, a demon, for the non-initiated.

Okay, so what do we have here?

Conflicting wishes.

The motivation line is to catch the criminal. But the desire line is to protect your family.

Isn’t that wonderful? Now you have a compelling story about a self-righteous detective who wants to uphold the law, yet can’t go against their baby, finding that their true desire is to protect family. What will they do?

I guess it would also depend on another aspect of the character development, their NEED. So, what is this need thing? Well, in simple lame terms it is overcoming a flaw inherent in their personality.

To think about it in a clear way, let’s assume that the detective was self-righteous because of a family environment where no one respected each other. To cope with this, they decide to go the other way, to prove a difference, to separate from the pain that such environment causes.

So, our protagonist follows the law by the book, straying even a bit from it causes immense anguish and anxiety, preventing them to dive into the reality of the world inhabited, cause we all know that the criminal world goes way beyond what the law says, right? Okay, so the idea in here is for us to choose a powerful inciting incident that forces the character out of the law and into the other side, expressed as the fears coming from that past not resolved, the no respect environment, where not only do the character gets no respect (maybe by losing the protection of the batch) but also where they have to be disrespectful themselves to pull through and survive.

Now, why would they NEED to go through such an ordeal? Because it seems that this is the only way to resolve their flaw, by addressing it in an external situation which is comprised by the world of the story and the antagonism.

SO, to end the idea, the character needs to overcome (or succumb if you’re a dick writer) their flaws… and you know what’s the funniest thing? Is the desire to pursuit a goal which prompts the character into a story where they face those flaws in order to complete a quest, and so a story is unfolded.

Isn’t that crazy?

20 steps to help you with EDITING and REVISION to make your story even better!

Dark days are coming…

I’ll admit it, I suck at editing, after writing a full story I usually take a lot of time before going for the second draft. This is because the actual process of writing the full script is often quite exhausting and to relive all over again really sounds like a nightmare just freakin’ ending, you know? But we all know this also, editing and revising your script is probably the most important part of the whole process, is the real carving of the stone, after kinda having an idea about what you were trying to say when finishing that awful first draft, it’s now time to polish those edges, to find the real shine, the true north you were aiming at with such creative endeavour.

So, how do you do it? Is there an optimal way to do so? Everyone has their own ways of doing these kind of stuffs. Either way, whether you’re a “I do it all on my own and don’t take shit from no one” type of person or you’re actually welling to be exposed to some good ideas about this process…

Here there are 20 steps to help you edit and revise your story!

Start with easy fixes.

Don’t concentrate immediately in those super complex things like character arc or some blatant plot holes here and there. Just go about checking the typos you’ve had, maybe cut some of those hateful adverbs, run some spell checks. This will familiarize you with the story, because either way you have to read it again to do these easy fixes.

Omit needless words

Check the words you’re using, is every single one of them really necessary? Maybe some descriptions you were using went way too poetical or something? Nothing wrong with it, just that many people think this is completely unnecessary given the cold heartless nature of movie producers, right?

Cut where you’re doing the reader’s thinking.

You know about this, c’mon! It’s the old show, don’t tell rule all over again. If we’re inside the character’s mind is not good, if we’re describing something we’re not seeing we’re definitely writing way more than we should.

Cut stage directions.

This is something I’ve done from time to time. My feeling is, if you’re completely sure the direction you’re giving is crucial to convey the idea you’re trying to make, then do it. But for the most part, try to omit doing this, give the cinematographer a chance at adding to the story, okay?

Insure consistent character motivation.

Try to stay consistent about the actions your character is doing in any given scene. If he’s doing something out of character it must be because he’s changing or has changed, not because you suddenly forgot what he was supposed to be like.

Ask yourself, has an action happened in the first paragraph?

In other words, be concrete about your action lines. Don’t lose yourself in highly boring yet stylize descriptions about the setting or characters, get to the point and fast, always remember that people get bored super-fast these days.

Ask yourself, is my story coherent?

How to know about this you ask? Don’t worry, just pay attention to the physical and emotional details you’re using in building your world and actions, are they constant throughout the whole script, does any change happen because of the result of actions?

 Are there complete scenes?

This ties into the stuff we were discussing last time, but I know… you didn’t read it. How surprising! Let give a quick summary of the 5 points to a good scene:

  1. An action
  2. Dialogue
  3. Specific intimate details
  4. Inner point of view
  5. Definitive starting point and end point.

Just do a check list on these things, are they there, are they good, is it all clear? Maintain a show, don’t tell attitude throughout the whole process to really cut all the excess here, only the good stuff should remain. Even if you leave telling stuff here, it would be because it’s really worth it.

Ask yourself, do I start each scene with something active?

The first previous rule on the 5 points thing states that the scene must start with an action, right in the stuff, you know. Now, this is not obligatory obviously, many times we start by setting the atmosphere or even the relationship of the characters, but one thing we must never forget is that in any scene the idea is that one character does something because they want something.

Avoid writing in passive voice.

Now, this is a thing most commonly found in novel writing, but it can also help to remember in writing screenplays. Avoid making descriptions starting with “there is…” or “there are”, It kinda pulls the reader away from the original POV, which must be as close as it can from the action.

Is setting working?

This one is important, how does the setting you’ve chosen actually helps to further develop the story you’re portraying. What does it say about the characters, but more importantly, how does it impact the overall conflict you’re setting, it can’t be just the background scenery where stuff happens.

Are my characters acting in a believable way?

Are their flaws believable and compelling enough, are the actions they undertake physically and emotionally understandable. Remember that flawed characters always desire something.

Are the transitions clear?

This is so important to maintain pacing in the script, the way you move from one scene to the next. There’s a technique in storyboard making that can help give a clue at this stage. Is the idea of guiding the eye from one image to the next trying to match the composition of the frames between the cuts. You either guide the eye into the next point of interest via movement or you match the same point in the cut. Same way, when transitioning from one scene to the next you need to remember from where you came and to where you’re going.

Does my story fit together?

This means to ask yourself if all of the scenes you’ve chosen to tell the tale have a cohesive unit going on. Is every scene chosen completely necessary and important in the chain of events? Pay special attention to scenes that deviate from the actual theme and character arc of the story, if a scene is not related to any of these elements you should cut it.

Did I explain the risks for each character?

We all know that a character that takes risks is the one that tells a story, yet we need to be able to understand why the character is taking such risks and what do they tell us about himself.

Did I explain the consequences of these risks?

Having a character taking risks and then facing consequences makes for a character that generates sympathy from the audience, so keep this idea in mind when choosing the actions your character takes, the reasons and the aftermath.

Does every sentence deepen a character or advance the plot?

We’ve said this before, it’s cause is so important… if it doesn’t, then cut it!!

Is the second draft at least 10% shorter than the first?

This is a no brainer, the idea of editing a script is to take out the excess of it, if you end up with a bigger script or the same then something is not working out, right?

Am I ready to discard pages that aren’t working?

This one comes from the previous one, you really need to be willing to take those pages and toss them aside, it’s the only way to make the story better.

Is what you meant in your head clear in the page?

Just ask yourself, was my initial idea, those feelings and gut stuff that sets you up for hours and days of typing words into blank spaces, and the actual writing the same? Even similar enough not to end up understanding you wrote a completely different thing? Nothing wrong with that btw, but the idea is that you check if your mental north and the actual writing are pointing in the same direction.

So, there you have it. 20 steps to really put your script in the next level with some editing and a lot of letting go. Kinda like a working routine for your first draft, which btw, get used to the idea is gonna suck anyways. Just take the pressure off and go at it again, and again and again. That’s the writing gig, as you remember!

5 points to BUILD A SCENE and a brief discussion about SHOW DON’T TELL rule that can up your writing game!

We’ll keep talking about the scene for a bit, mostly cause I feel many times we skip learning this part and only focus on the grand scheme of things, the plot and characters, right? even the theme, that abstract freakin’ unbearable idea always escaping it’s designation… uggh! but if you’re a writer you must know that facing the page, what you’re actually doing is building a sequences of scenes. And these scenes are what people will read in the end, is in these dramatic constructions that characters live, do and learn.

So, what the hell is a scene?

It’s a desire, an obstacle and a resolution between a bunch of characters, following the desire line of only one of them. Imagine you need help from someone else, they don’t know it yet. So you go to them, maybe their room, let’s say you want them to lend you something. You get there, at the doorway they see you.

Antagonist
What do you want?

They say, in your mind you say “well, that’s rude!” but you need something from them, right? so if you say it out loud, I mean “Well, that’s rude!” your chances of getting what you want may diminish.

So you go with a friendly…

Protagonist
Hey, what’s up?

Now, the character you’re facing already knows one or two things about you. So, they already kinda know the tone of your voice, they’re anticipating your desire.

You’re caught trying to lie your way through it, so the only possible way now is to be open about it.

Protagonist
Please lend me the stuff.

Hey! good adding with the please there, made it polite enough so the person actually helps you out and you go about your life with a happy face.

End scene!

Now, we only watched two characters interacting after a desire was exposed, the obstacle here is the relationship between them, right? But, let me comment about something even more interesting than that, it has to do with the “Iceberg Theory“.

In the beginning, the character felt attacked by the “What do you want?” question, remember? What does this say about this character? Are they constantly being questioned by others? are they shy and not wanting to have further interaction?

What does the question says about the character who spoke it? are they mad or is it a standard thing for them to ask in a rude way?

Also, the anticipation of the desire, after the first lie tells us that these characters know each other, it implies some sort of familiarity between them.

My point being, a scene is the place where characters collide and show themselves, is the opportunity to be, to exist, and the better part is that, in a sequence of scenes, a character grows every time they get the chance to do so. Isn’t that amazing!

Okay, so I said I was gonna talk about those 5 points or whatever… they can help you when following the “Show, don’t tell” rule. Let’s review them now:

Add an action; this may sound obvious, but some people just don’t do it! is not enough to have people talking, you know? you need to have them do something. I mean what the hell do they want?? Keep in mind that something needs to happen and must be something concrete!

Dialogue; This is not always needed, let’s be honest here. Understanding that dialogue is the convey of information, please use it to rely information that has something to do with the actual story? please? is it too much to ask? deepen our understanding of the characters or about the plot, use it effectively!!

Specific intimate details; Okay I’ll admit it, this sounds kinda pervert, it just does, okay? the idea being that in a scene, in any place where the characters are, we can always learn more about them. Some think about this in the terms of leads or clues or hints at the plot or characters, get it?

Inner point of view; this one lands more on the novel type of stories, but it can also be used in screenwriting or any other dramatic form. Is the idea of the author, the particular lenses through which we are entering the story.

Okay, that’s it for today. I feel we really went deep this time, don’t you? and about this show don’t tell rule, just don’t be lazy, okay? use the craft to really imagine the stuff that’s going on. I mean, c’mon! just let enough space for the audience to be a part of it and you’ll be fine. As the most important person in my life often says, it’s all about the balance, and you know what? she’s always right about these things, so listen up!

What the heck is a SCENE and how can knowing about it help you write BETTER STORIES?

Admit it, many times when trying to come up with a story idea, you fly into the heavens and above, invoking ancient powers and myth to unleash unparalleled conflict the likes humanity has never seen before, right? We all want to talk about big stuff, usually called a “high concept” that can really call for the reader’s attention and maybe earn us some money in the process, nothing bad with that btw. Yet doing so may stray us from ground level, where all of those epic ideas actually clash and produce drama.

So, how can we transition between all of those fantastic abstract concepts of greatness into the actual actions and story, easily put, through the details used to present an argument, the images and rhetoric that will convince the spectator about the fiction we’re making.

Here’s where we talk about the scene.

Many people have heard the concept made up by Ernest Hemmingway (one crazy individual I may add) about an iceberg theory (which really isn’t that much of a theory, c’mon!). The idea here is that we can only see a tip of what the character is going through, yet the bulk that is moving him is underwater, and is a big bulk or iceberg stuff or whatever.

What’s the point here you might be thinking. Basically, that you, as an author, know much more about what’s going on than what you actually put into action, yet somehow the little and subtle elements that you’re using are evoking the entire depth below.

Now a little quiz. What do you think makes a good scene?

No clue? Let me help a bit, let’s focus on three aspects of it, shall we?

  • Argument, there’s a discussion about something.
  • Seduction, some character is trying to convince other about something.
  • Negotiation, in a middle ground there’s a need to come to terms.

Of course, there are many other options, we’re just thinking about those that can help create drama, okay?

Well, that’s about it for today, next time we’ll talk about an infamous rule in writing, the tireless “show, don’t tell” rule, which many people hate and many more worship, all of them real crazy people. Hasta la proxima!

Here’s a COOL approach to PLOT that can summarize everything we’ve been talking about until now!

Okay, so we’ve been talking about it for a while now, the PLOT thing. And I also want to say that I’ve read a few screenplays this week and most of them have good dialogues, descent or great descriptions and overall entertaining action, but most of them fail at the plot department. Simply put, the answer to “what’s the story about?” and time and time again I’ve been reading confusing answers to this question. There is a general sense of the concadenation between the scenes, that one and the other are linked by some sort of sense, some direction forward, yet most of them set something and finish it without taking the time to explore the subject in hand, while others don’t even start it at all.

This is why it’s so important to have an idea of a plot, in a sense we’re talking about the whole universe of the story moving through the character, shaping him into a new sense of being wether he triumphs or fails.

So! Here’s a cool way to think about plot in a meaningful yet simple way.

  • A story starts with an initial action, usually a highly dramatic one.
  • The background is the context that offers vivid and crucial information to determine our main character’s actions in the story.
  • In the development phase usually the background causes problems  in present time because of the initial action, which brings background to the present via conflict.
  • Also, in the development you outline what your character wants and what’s standing in their way.
  • In the climax there’s a key twist for the story, where all the threads come together.
  • The climax usually ends in a decision to be made.
  • The ending is what happens to your character after the climax.

There you have it! And I also feel that we’re all understanding a key element in plot, the elements combining together, merging into the character’s path. And this is I feel the most important thing to keep in mind about the whole concept of structure, the thread that connects all the elements is the protagonist, the character and their emotional journey into the unknown, into change.

Okay, that’s the last thing we’ll talk about plot for a little while, but we’ll obviously come back to it at a later time because it’s such an important part of  a story. Next time we’ll talk a bit about the minimal dramatic structure, the scene!

What’s the real importance of thinking about a STRUCTURE while writing a STORY?

So, we’ve been talking about this for a while now. But let’s be honest here, many people just grab a piece of paper and start writing about anything, and chances of landing in a good story this way are not that far off. Many professional writers don’t follow a proper structure, or so they say, and accomplish stories anyway. So, is it really that important to think about one before writing a good ol’ tale?

First of all, I think we have to understand something, whether we like it or not, every story follows certain structure, even those we write without thinking in organizing the information will find a way into a stablished form or shape, and there are many shapes to follow!

The one we were discussing before, the one most commonly referred as a plot, in its most basic form, it’s composed of:

  • The inciting incident
  • A character
  • An obstacle (rising action)
  • A quest.

A primitive form of premise to organize all of these elements would be something like this:

When an inciting incident happens to a character; they have to overcome rising action to complete the quest.

But there are other structures that a writer can rely on when devising a new story. And of those other structures, the most basic one, and maybe the one that doesn’t help anyone to write, is the Aristotelian three acts structure.

  • The beginning, set up for characters, their relationship, wants and desires.
  • The middle, rising action until the climax.
  • The end, the plot is resolved.

Now, after Aristotle there were obviously other dudes wanting to impose their structures and wisdom upon mankind, one of these bastards is called Horace. He came up with a five acts structure, not to compete with Aristotle or anything, right?

It’s called the ABDCE structure.

  • A for Action, must be specific and concrete (active). Involves a character doing something.
  • B for Background, or context before the story started, only essential information here.
  • D for Development, basically the character facing the rising action, forcing them to develop succeeding or failing to overcome obstacles.
  • C for Climax, the higher point in the rising action, the key narrative twist that changes your characters in a real and significant way.
  • E for Ending, this is where the change in the characters is shown, the end of their journey.

Now, having into consideration structures and all of this, there’s one thing that really makes a difference when thinking about them. This is the circular feeling that some stories have that connects the beginning and the end, the signal of the hero’s journey.

The circle represents the leaving into the unknown and the return back with the fire, with the knowledge from the journey.

But in the case of another type of story, like the virgin’s promise, the structure can become something along the lines of a spiral. This structure signals the journey into the inner world, deeper and deeper inside oneself in the hopes to find roots, to find the same fire from the journey into the unknown, just not out there but inside.

But these are just some examples of structures a writer can use in their quest into the perilous of developing a new idea.

Okay, so that’s it with structures. Next time we’ll make a quick resume of this whole plot idea before moving into other storytelling related stuff, the idea here is to finish this strong base from which we’ll be able to build amazing and complex stories in no time! Actually, a lot of time and effort… Don’t delude yourselves!