Monday, October 24, 2011

7 Basic Story Building Concepts

[Some of this is review, but pertinent to the concepts expressed in this lesson]

1. A complication is something unpleasant that happens to a protagonist which gives rise to a chief motivating force of the character.
The complication motivates the protagonist to alter the status quo but the chief motivating force should not only drive the protagonist away from the complication but create a tangible objective. Creating this tangible objective we have created the means for sustaining the conflict inherent in the complication, but also a driving force that can be sustained even after the complication has been overcome or relegated to the background. It changes the personality of the protagonist in that he will act differently to situations than he would have if the complication had not occurred.

2. The major complication can be put into a question for the reader. Will the chief motivating force of the protagonist succeed or fail to reach its tangible objective?
This is a necessary storytelling device and drives the reader to to keep reading.

3.Will the chief motivating force succeed or fail to reach its tangible objective?
This is of primary importance for the writer to answer for himself before embarking on the writing phase of storytelling. It shapes the entirety of the story. I know many writers, like myself, loath outlines (I prefer to build a loose framework to allow freedom of movement for my characters). But, writing down the answer to this question help to cement the direction your story will follow in your head and can subconsciously affect your writing to encourage the stated outcome. The answer to this question also drive the writer to reveal something new about the character that may otherwise have been left hidden.

4 Another basic. In stories with plot each event that causes a minor complication must result in conflict for the protagonist by hindering or preventing his chief motivating force from reaching its tangible objective.
Very basic, but for new storytellers, if a minor complication does not result in conflict for the protagonist it is not germane to the story and should be reworked or eliminated. you may be thinking that minor complications to the antagonist may be needed to drive suspense. In a tight story line any complications for the antagonist (providing the antagonist is not the environment) should be the direct or indirect result of the protagonist following his chief motivating force.

5. Stories with story line begin with the cause (character traits) to produce events which result in effects (minor complications).
Here lies the major difference between the two types of stories. Stories with plots begin with events external to the protagonist and create the causal chain that drive the story. A story with story line the character's personality gives rise to the conflict and creates the causal  chain that drives the story.
You may be thinking that there is no reason not to allow both to occur in a single story. I totally agree, but I am describing traditional story telling here. As in painting one should know the rules before breaking them.

6. To make a minor complication more interesting and exciting to the reader the writer must exaggerate it. This is the corollary to statement that you should write about the most important day of your protagonist's life. Writing true to life is not exciting enough to hold a readers interest, after all a reader seeks stories as an escape from the true to life problems.

7. More exaggeration. The protagonist must stand to lose or gain something of value if the complication is solved or unsolved. To make certain something of value is at stake, the author must make the complication deep enough by exaggeration
I'll leave the reasoning for this as an exercise for the class.