A Dreamer Walking

Action, Reaction, and the Secret Ingredient

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on September 3, 2011

There are times where storytelling gets way too complex. Sometimes creating a world, making a compelling plot, and developing characters gets way too overwhelming. I am sure there are times with every writer where they ask themselves, “Why did I ever think I could do this”.  When you are in the process of writing a story and find your head is about to explode because your story is getting too complex, my suggestion is to step back and realize the simplicity of what storytelling is all about. All storytelling is about is action and reaction. Something happens to the protagonist of the story and he is forced to make a decision based that event. After he acts out his decision his world produces a reaction which keeps moving the story along. However, there is one more thing the storyteller should have to make his or her story worth watching. See, life is all about action and reaction yet some lives can be extremely boring with just those two things.

The protagonist of your story drops some coffee on his good shirt, so he gets a new shirt. Your main character is feeling claustrophobic inside a small room, so he goes outside. The protagonist is deeply in love with the girl next door, so he asks her out. All these examples are of action and reaction, yet they would be very boring to watch if left alone. Storytelling should never be boring. Storytellers need to throw in a extra ingredient that makes writing worth all the hardship and struggles. The extra ingredient is Conflict. Conflict is the key ingredient to good storytelling. There should be no easy path to take for your main character. Your main protagonist needs to take a journey before he can learn his lesson. A journey is not a journey without conflict. Without conflict you have no entertainment and you give the audience little reason to stay in their seats.

The protagonist of your story drops some coffee on his last good shirt. He needs to be at his internship in ten minutes and he can’t be late. Your main character is feeling claustrophobic so he goes to open the door to get outside only to find out it’s locked. The protagonist is deeply in love with the girl next door but she is already going out with Billy, the childhood bully. All these are examples of throwing in a little conflict to heighten the entertainment of your story.

In storytelling conflict represents the war that you need to fight to earn your freedom, the strait “A” rich kid you need to rise above to win the girl, and the haunting past you need to overcome in order to accomplish your dreams. Through conflict comes the arc of the character and the arc is the reason the audience stays in their seats. You need to give your story actions that have the potential to produce several reactions. We can’t know exactly what the protagonist will do. In the movie Up the main protagonist Carl is conflicted between staying with his house and going to save his friend Russell. When he finally abandons the house to save Russell the audience is even more connected with Carl because they understand how hard the decision was.

The conflict in your story does not need to be huge. It does not need to involve aliens from another planet trying to destroy the earth. It does not need to be about one man taking on an army. No, the conflict just needs to be genuine and needs to help develop your main character. When having trouble with a story think of an action or reaction that will help strengthen the plot and give the audience a deeper understanding of where your characters are at. Sometimes the answer is to simplify the plot. You might find you have some actions and reactions that are not needed. It is important to always have an idea of the overall arc of your characters so when your are deep into the story you have the ability to step back and know the type of conflict that is needed to create an action and reaction that will drive your characters and story forward.

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