My Down and Dirty - Twelve Step Program to Revision of your work in progress has a lot to do with desire. All stories are driven by desire. In more than 90% of all Hollywood movies and TV shows and most books and plays, this desire is visible and tangible. In other words, the reader or person watching the story unfold on the screen or on stage can envision what the character wants as soon as they hear it.
Almost all Hollywood movies are about heroes pursuing only one of four visible/tangible goals:
To win something : A hero could be in pursuit of love or in some sort of competition
To stop something bad from happening: Think of all the disaster/cop stories
To escape: These not only include prison escape but also stories about escaping abuse or lifestyles
To retrieve: The kidnap stories; The hero who goes in search of gold, jewels, fame or fortune
Now heroes can also desire self worth, acceptance fulfillment, revenge, but when you write your story, these vague desires must be tied to something concrete/tangible that the reader or audience member can see.
For example: If you take the goal of self worth. If your character wants to feel better about her self, a reader needs to see what that would look like--does someone smile more? Tie it something concrete.
A scenario might be: A divorced woman relocates to a new town. She has low self esteem because her husband left her for someone else. She wants to open up a knitting store. That’s something a reader can see and root for. The success of the store is tied to her feelings about herself.
Desire will drive a story forward, but the obstacles that a character faces is what elicits the emotion from the reader. These conflicts can come from nature, other characters or from within the character himself. You want to write a story where the reader thinks there is no way the hero is going to win.
When you move through your revision process, Step #4 of my revision process is to examine your hero’s goal. Is it concrete/tanglble/visible to the reader? If it is, your story has a much greater chance of being successful.
If you haven’t read Deb Dixon’s Goal Motivation and Conflict, she does a wonderful job of examining some popular movies and stories and teasing out the character’s goals and conflicts, which help to bring the concepts to life.
Next month, we examine Step #5: What to do with backstory . . .