Okay! it’s time for the seventh part of our series about K.M. Weiland’s theme template. And I think we have an amazing story in our hands.
Let’s make a quick recap of the things we have so far!
We have a protagonist, who is a selfless and skillful person. A war orphan who becomes a killing machine, a person who has learned to gain new abilities fast to survive. Because of exemplary achievements during the war, he’s awarded higher education and chooses a medical career as he feels guilty for killing so many people. Yet, something strange happens, he gains fame for being “coldhearted” as he approaches cases with a clear mindset, “if a person is beyond saving it’s better not to attempt a procedure“ is his motto, which expresses the lie he believes, that in hope there’s only pain and death.
Our doctor protagonist gets accused of letting a patient die in the operating room. Worst, this patient is actually one of the enemy soldiers that brutally murder his family in the past. Yet, he doesn’t go to a regular prison, he goes into a prison town where he and other prisoners have to participate in a series of almost unsolvable puzzles, in order to earn food for their families. Failing a puzzle means death, but a participant has the opportunity to choose a family member to die for them, this will keep them in the game.
The winner of this prison challenge can opt to become the new warden of the prison town and can even choose to free all of the participants. But, our antagonist, the warden of the town, is a former prisoner and a stone-cold killer who feels the need to punish criminals and who’s comfortable with his power position.
The people in charge of choosing which prisoners go to prison town don’t have the information about our protagonist being a former soldier. They only know that he’s a coldhearted doctor who left a patient to die.
Now, we also stablished the way in which the unsolvable puzzles run.
A network of courses of actions (or ways to achieve a specific result), but they’re placed in a way that’s confusing and dazing and can only be surpassed using high military skills and/or gaining a new ability really fast, while being coldhearted.
And we said that “being coldhearted” means that one has to pass on the initial impulsive feeling of doing something and wait, analyze and reflect, in doing so you find patterns that weren’t initially available.
Okay! So, in our last session, our protagonist proves his worth by analyzing the problem in front of him. A puzzle in which prisoners have to escape a maze using strange collars with decreasing numbers on them. As the familiar waiting on the other side of the maze rants against him, thinking our protagonist has left them to die, he figures out the puzzle and runs towards the exit, saving not only his life and his familiar one, but everyone else still alive inside the maze.
This time, we’ll discover how the antagonistic forces respond to this incredible act of skills and guts, as our protagonist immerses himself fully into our plot.
Now, as we said in our previous session, the antagonist’s objective for this first challenge was to kickstart the reality TV show. For that to happen, they needed a great number of deaths inside the maze. But our protagonist prevented this to happen by solving the riddle inside.
While taking the decision to solve the puzzle and win the first challenge, what our protagonist actually did was to make the decision to go ahead in facing the dilemma presented to him, effectively starting the plot and the series of events which will lead to an inevitable resolution. His first win also represents the end of act one, as our character prepares to immerse himself fully into the conflict.
So, where to go from here?
According to K.M. Weiland’s theme template, we’re now entering the second act of our story. This time, we have to design the next step in our journey; “an aspect of the truth acting as an antidote to the specific lie, a moment of truth“.
As we came into our story, especially thinking about our setting, we have been surrounded by a powerful idea, that having hopes of surviving the prison town’s reality TV show leads prisoners to suffer and die while facing the sadistic challenges presented to them. In a previous session we also included the idea that the warden is completely against letting anyone win, because doing so would mean him loosing the power position he holds.
Let’s explore this idea, let’s say that prisoners, especially senior ones, already know that is impossible to win. Yet, they fail or don’t care to convince new members that is better to just survive, rather than to attempt to win. These senior prisoners have also become extremely efficient at surviving, they don’t care about winning, and they may even use newcomers to gain precious insight as to how to stay alive.
As such, we have two kinds of prisoners:
- Senior prisoners.
Now, our protagonist’s heroic feat has to have shaken more than one of these senior prisoners cages, right? Why is this so important? because one of them can become a powerful ally, a mentor even. Why is this so important? Remember our truth:
- Hope gives people a reason to live.
Our protagonist still doesn’t have any hope for him, but his amazing victory has sent ripples of hope across the prison town. Families have started talking again, conversations now include a key element; there’s a possibility of winning this thing.
And what is that in a nutshell? Hope!
And what about our protagonist, what happened to him after winning?
As our current step indicates, this is the moment in which he makes the decision to fully immerse into the conflict, and as a result, he also fully immerses in his inner conflict between lie and truth:
- Truth; If generally “Hope gives people a reason to live”, then specifically, “Hope can help you survive and be free from injustice”.
- Lie; If generally “Hope makes people suffer and waste their lives”, then specifically, “Hope can make you suffer and get you killed”.
So, let’s say that, after his victory, prison guards take our protagonist backstage. Not for a congratulation party, but to beat him up for ruining the first episode of the TV show. And you know what else, after the beating he gets to meet the prison warden, who’s eager to face the man who made a mockery of his plans. As the two characters meet, a shocking revelation transpires. The warden is no other than the senior military officer that ordered the killing of our protagonist’s family. Let’s make it worst, he was the one who first pulled the trigger. And even worst than that, he enjoyed it.
As the warden interrogates our protagonist, trying to understand how a simple physician was able to decipher and win the first challenge, our protagonist makes the utmost effort to keep his emotions hidden, inside he’s bursting with anger and murderous intent, but outside he remains calm. He doesn’t stop gathering information, doesn’t stop searching, grinding for an opportunity. Because of this, the warden makes his first mistake, he underestimates our protagonist’s capabilities, effectively letting him go after checking that the whole thing was just a stroke of luck.
The guards bring our protagonist, all beaten up, back to his house in prison town for all to see. Prisoners and families, both newcomers and senior ones, have had the day to taste the sweet nectar of hope. But, watching their new hero in this shape, how many of them will be strong enough to keep it?
Guess we’ll have to wait for the next time to know! One thing is certain, our protagonist has not given up, in fact, he now has a powerful reason to face the challenge ahead, the possibility of vengeance.
And with that idea, we end this chapter of our journey through K.M. Weiland’s theme template. Next time, we’ll be facing the first part of the second act, the trials phase, where our protagonist will gain a growing awareness of the truth. Until that time comes, good luck in writing!