Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Plot/structure series--part III

To me, plot is what happens when a bunch of characters are all working to accomplish something, only their desires and actions clash with each other. Only by either fighting through or working out a compromise can the main character win. (I suppose the MC could lose, too, but I don't like to read that kind of book. :)

Therefore (and this is most helpful once you have a draft to work with), you need to check the character arcs/plot lines of all your characters to make sure they are working properly. My checklist for each character includes the following:

1. What does the character want most?
2. What does the character fear most?
3. What is the character willing to sacrifice to get what they want?

It's a good idea if the things the character fears most then actually occur in the story. Those are the obstacles. I'd also hazard a guess that it's most effective when that thing the character fears most occurs at the hands of another character. It ups the tension and also binds the characters together so that your story feels whole and integrated.

With this at the top of the page, I then go through my draft and write a line for each thing that character does in the story, as found in the draft itself, not in the projections of my mind. I find it's very revealing! Characters drop out, motivations change, repetitions show up, and sometimes good things happen, too, like when I can see what really should be going on between two characters. Also, this is a good way to make sure everyone you've written in the story really belongs there. Can you tell the story without that person in it? If you removed that entire character arc, does the story stand alone? Likewise, you may find you're missing a character.

Plot happens because characters create it through their desires and choices.

Assignment: Write a character arc for each character in your draft and analyze how effective they are in the story.

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