Thursday, February 24, 2011

“Building Better Plots”, part 6

Chapter 2 of Robert Kernen’s book opens with a discussion of the story arc. What’s the main story arc for my WIP? Questions to help me find out:

What is your protagonist’s goal?

This is the central question and deserves the most time. I’ll focus on Neal. His goal is to get out of the gang, stay alive, and make a life for himself.

That question Art Edwards put to me comes back, cattle-prodding me: What does your character want? I realize now it’s not enough to say that Neal wants out of the gang and to live his own life. Doing what? If he’s thought about getting out, he must have thought about what to do with himself.

He knows he doesn’t have much schooling. Even friends who completed school don’t have especially good jobs, and they still live in the barrio. His friend Chuy got out of another gang and runs a grocery store with his brothers. It won’t make any of them rich, but it’s steady work. Would Neal settle for that? I figure he must have made some halfway realistic plans to support himself in case he ever did get out.

Then, when Neal finds himself in totally different circumstances than he ever expected, it’s understandable when people ask him “What do you want to do for a living?” and he says he doesn’t know.

If he slips out of rehab with his old pal Dario, maybe there’s another grocery store near Dario’s place. Neal might be reminded of his earlier plan to work with Chuy, and maybe now he plans to get a job at the new store. Maybe, though, it’s an Anglo supermarket, not a small Latino place, and they aren’t interested in hiring him. Stuck without a backup plan, he has to reconsider rehab.

That might work. He finishes rehab and then Sandy suggests that he learn to roadie, which is a skill he could use with any band. That gives Neal something to look forward to.

In my next post, I’ll wrestle with the remaining four questions.

P.S.: My crit buddy on Critique Circle gave me a better idea for what job Neal might hope for if he gets out of the gang. Never underestimate the value of a crit buddy!

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