Thursday, January 7, 2010

TODAY'S NUGGET: Slaying Someone Else's Dragons

Today I analyzed a script that ties in well to my previous blog on inciting incidents. (In fact, it's the precursor to a good I.I.)

Here's the basic story:

Helen of Troy spurns Bob, a good guy.
His loose cannon brother, John, is incensed.
Helen flaunts her relationship with the new guy, Leo.
John baits Leo again & again to defend Bob's honor.

I sense you're uneasy 'cause you know I'm going to say something is wrong with this setup.

And you're right. The script felt flabby, but I didn't know why.

So I backtracked one step at a time:

1) What is the inciting incident? John baiting Leo. From the previous blog, we know that something inside John made him bait Leo.

2) What inside John made him do this? To get back at Leo.

3) What was his motive? To get back at Leo for hurting Bob.

4) That's Bob's problem. What's John's problem with Leo? Uh....dunno.

That's exactly why this script does not work: Your protagonist cannot slay his brother's dragons.

Why? John needs an inner conflict of his own to sustain an entire story. He cannot borrow Bob's conflict, nor take on Bob's foes. He has no direct conflict with Leo except through Bob.

(Now, if John loved Helen too, that's different b/c now he has a conflict with Leo directly for taking Helen away.)

WHAT I KNOW: Before crafting an I.I., make sure you have a good character & motive.

I know this sounds simple, but you wouldn't believe how many times writers can't tell me what the motive is.

If you're having trouble, go back to the character's flaw. Flaw will tell you motive.

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