I read a lot about craft. Books, blogs, articles, websites. I’m always looking to improve my craft. I know you are too, or you wouldn’t be reading this.
One of my weaknesses is Plotting. I know these amazing characters – like Athena, they are born, fully formed. I’m just not so sure what they’re there to do.
Take your character’s biggest fear, and throw them into a situation where they have to face it.
One of these days, I’m going to remember this before I start writing a book; wow, what a powerful plot that would be! (Hey, there’s a reason it took me 13 years to sell, okay?)
To see how very powerful this is, I started thinking about great stories (either books or movies) to see how often this technique was used. The more I thought, the more I found.
Gone with the Wind – Scarlett is a spoiled, rich, entitled daughter of a landowner. What’s the worst that could happen? To lose her land, her money, her status, her culture. Yep. It happened.
The Hunger Games – Katniss is her Sister’s protector. To her, it would be worse if her Sister was sent to the games than Katniss. So, of course she volunteers.
The Wizard of Oz – OMG, Baum, the masochist, does this to almost every character!
- Straw Man? Fire – can you say, torch?
- Tin Man – water. Several times. Thank God for oil cans.
- Lion? No courage. Poor thing was terrified the whole movie!
Jaws – Sheriff of a beach town is afraid of the water. Big fish wants to eat him. Why the heck did he take a job at the beach, anyway?
The King’s Speech – What kind of Karma makes a man with a huge speech impediment King, during a critical time for the Nation? And this wasn’t fiction! Yikes.
Finding Nemo – The father ‘lost’ is spouse due to a predator’s attack. Now he’s overprotective of his young son. What happens? You can tell from the title.
Lion King – A young lion watches his father die, and thinks it’s his fault. Major Self-esteem issues. What would be hardest for him? To have the responsibility of the entire pride on his shoulders. You guessed it! It happens.
Does every book or movie have to throw the protagonist into their worst nightmare to be successful?
Absolutely not. But with examples like the above, you might want to look at the possibility of trying it!
So throw them out there – I came up with the above in 15 minutes. What plots can you name?