Sunday, March 6, 2011

"Building Better Plots", part 7

Robert Kernen’s final questions, intended to help define my story arc:
  • What obstacles keep him from his goal? 
  1. attempts by his old gang to kill him;
  2. frequent drug cravings and some relapses, which add self-doubt;  
  3. finding himself living in circumstances he didn’t expect and knows nothing about, causing trouble with being able to fit in;  
  4. a major falling-out with Sandy, leading to personal crises for Neal and Sandy; 
  5. a threat to Neal’s life by his biological father, being caught in street riots, and arrested by the LAPD whom he has a grudge against - these three events combine to bring his personal crises to, well, a climax. 
I’ve hesitated considering that last series of events as the climax because I understand the story arc has a brief time after it to wrap up, and Neal’s story doesn’t wrap up neatly there. But that’s not critical to solve right now.
  • Who is the antagonist?
Coyote, the leader of the gang Neal left; later, Neal’s father; occasionally, also Sandy. I might also add that sometimes, Neal is his own enemy. (How many antagonists can a novel have?)
  • What does the protagonist have at stake? 
His life, sense of self, sense of worth . . . Do I need more?
  • What sacrifices must he make? 
At first, he gives up the only way of life he’s ever known and the friends who’ve gotten him through hell. Later, he gives up the idea of living a private life when he realizes he can make positive differences happen by being a public figure. He really is important, after all.

Kernen goes on to say that if “the answers to these questions are unclear or not compelling, you need to reexamine your story.”

I think I have a good foundation for my story arc, though I know I need to strengthen it. Anybody see anything I might have missed?

Next time: wrapping up the sometimes dreaded story arc, and the three parts of a story.

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