On Stories: Story construction II: Intent/objective, obstacles and resolution.

The story begins when the trigger is pulled.  I am not going to repeat my last post, but I want to underline this because this is the opening part of any story which might best be called part 1.  Part 2 is the meat of the story, and that begins when the main character (s) intentions/objectives are clarified, something that should be done ASAP.

Think of a good meal at an expensive restaurant.  Part 1, the trigger is the appetizer.  It gets the juices flowing in anticipation of what is to come.  Part 2, the meat, is like the main course and it may be gourmet sparse or American obese, but it should taste good to the end,

Once Again:  The primary purpose in telling a story is to get the audience to pay attention (the reader to keep reading) right to the very end.

With that in mind, it is important to point out a couple of things. 

First, with the conflict/dilemma/situation established in the trigger, now the main character must do something.  They may have to decide something, want or desire something, or they may be forced or feel forced into something or have to make a choice.  All potentially true descriptions of the options, but at some point, the main character has to do something—they have to act on their intention in order to achieve their objective

Second, every action, event and situation in the story after the trigger must relate to the main character (s) intention/objective (goal), either to help or hinder.  Anything extraneous must go. 

Consider Cinderella:  Once her father dies and she finds herself in servitude, all she can do is dream of a chance to be free—to be happy.  The situation is unfair.  She wants a better life than the one fate has dealt her (as maybe we all do—another way of drawing a person into empathy with a story).   So she waits, looking for her chance, and it comes in the form of an open invitation to the ball.

All through the meat of the story, everything Cinderella does relates to her escaping her situation, even if only for a little while as she supposes the ball to be.  Everything that everyone else does either helps her or hinders her—either moves her closer to her goal or stands as a obstacle that somehow must be overcome.  Her mother’s old dress is shredded in some versions.  Her workload is tripled in others.  Everything appears impossible short of divine intervention; and that is what she gets in the form of a fairy godmother. 

Note:  Cinderella’s divine intervention consists of giving her a chance, nothing more.  It solves no problems.  It is still up to Cinderella to go to the ball and do well or poorly on her own.  Some stories that allow for this kind of divine intervention go too far…but that may be another post.

Part 2, the meat of the story is where all of the action takes place.  And it ends, as I see it, with the climax: success or failure.  Just when everything once again looks impossible, Cinderella has the other shoe.

Part 3, then, is coffee and dessert.  The evil stepmother is defeated, the wicked stepsisters are left in their jealousy and rage.  Cinderella will marry the Prince and effectively leap-frog over their heads.  She will one day be their Queen. 

These three parts are essential to any story.  1.  There must be a trigger.  2.  The main character (s) must act and overcome obstacles to attain their goal.  3.  In the end, they must succeed or fail.  Three parts, and in my next post I want to talk a bit about the magic of three…

2 thoughts on “On Stories: Story construction II: Intent/objective, obstacles and resolution.

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