On a recent family movie night, we watched the Tale of Desperaux, a children’s movie that had surprisingly complex characters – a rat that at goes from good to bad to good again, cycling through remorse, jealousy, bitterness, and forgiveness.
Afterwards, my daughter said – “That movie had lots of problems.”
Lots of problems! Leave it to children to simply observe a key element of plot !
The image below is Freytag’s Pyramid, which easily illustrates the rising action & climax that is part of most three act structures. Looking at it, it seems it’s so easy to just plot out a story. I also found a template for this here:Template - Freytag Pyramid
But when I sit down to write, it doesn’t go so easily. My characters take on a life of their own; instead of chasing the bad guy, falling for the girl, they do weird things, like go over and talk to their neighbor about gun violence. Sometimes, this is party of the bigger picture unraveling, like the characters transformation from being opposed to violence, until something tragic happens, and then he finds himself crossing the state border to buy a black market Glock. Other times, its just the character doing what humans do --- boring things that don't mean much---> he was just chitchatting with Doug and had already talked to him about the weather the last four times they talked.
Only after I complete the script, and look back, can I tell what belongs in, what helps propel the story forward, and what needs to be taken out --- in movie terms --- a lot is left on the cutting room floor.
I recently completed a 50,000 novel. I’d say at least another 20,000 words didn’t make the cut.
Using Scrivener, I have lots of scenes which may seem interesting, but are not party of the story. This piece of writing software, which I am always raving about to other writers, makes it so easy to move scenes around. I really have no excuse to write a story that is not tight, which takes the reader, page by page, forward in the narrative.
I’m thinking now of Life of Pi, a philosophy book really. But what keeps it going, especially in the movie version, is the protagonists need to survive against the odds of being trapped in a lifeboat with a tiger.
Simple as that.