THE KEY TO PLOTTING IS CHANGE…
In the course of a page or a scene, characters do things, learn things and have things done to them.
While interesting in themselves, they also:
- Alter ( improve or worsen) the status of a character or the relationship between characters.
- Raise new questions about the possible developments or outcomes and foreshadow coming events.
The stream of action keeps pounding ahead.
Each scene is built around what can be called Story Points and Bold Strokes
Bold Strokes is an event, decision or discovery that changes how things were.
Story Points are smaller actions that lead to the climax. They usually come in the rewriting, not the original plotting.
Keep a strong interpersonal connection between the perpetrator and victim. Tighten the relationships between the main characters. In Gone With the Wind, if Scarlett had married any other man except her sister’s beau, the treachery of her act would have been dulled. If she had helped with the birth of any baby but Melanie’s the tension would have been less, the conflict diluted.
The greatest of all stories are family stories. Even in thrillers, a bond or connection between characters strengthens the plot. In Headhunter, if Kurtz did not turn out to be Leila Kemp’s doctor, he would not be the threat that he is to her. In The Firm, Mitch’s attachment to his wife shows him to be more than cold-blooded and aggressive. Mitch’s attachment to his brother Ray and his refusal to work with the FBI unless they free him, elevate this from a story of a man desperate to save not just himself, but a family group desperately trying to save themselves and each other.
Close doesn’t have to mean family. Dear friends, war buddies, deadly rivals in the past, a mutual interest in another character all work to give depth to the story.
If the antagonist and protagonist are not linked, try connecting them to other minor characters. Spouses, children, parents. What the main characters have at stake then becomes more momentous as it affects the secondary characters who love them.
(This post was originally published on our old web platform.)