21 March 2007

Character Development Plot versus Dramatic Action Plot

The writer tells me scene by scene her children's picture book story.

As I create her own individual Plot Planner, it becomes obvious how each scene flows one into the next in flawless cause and effect. The tension rises in each scene greater than the scene before. She reads me a couple of short scenes. Her writing is lyrical and her voice unique. I listen intently, becoming more and more immersed in her story. Convinced of the merit to her story, I wonder aloud about her next step -- has she researched agents? The energy of her story builds to a terrific and fitting Crisis. She leaves us guessing, and then reveals a surprising Climax. Wonderful resolution.

I study the Plot Planner in awe, and then it hits me. She has written a compelling children's story filled with Dramatic Action which is tough to do in so few pages, but the story is almost completely devoid of any character development and thus little or no meaning.

Quickly I scan the PP. There, in the first scene, she effectively "shows" us the protagonist's flaw. And that's it. The Character Development Plot is then dropped entirely. With very little effort, the way to the character's transformation -- the heart of every great story -- becomes clear. Insert a more apt reaction here. A more profound understanding there. Before the writer knows it, both the Character Plot and Thematic Significance weave effortless into the strong and effective Dramatic Action Plot.

Wonderful example of how a story can work effectively on one level only. In this climate of so many stories competing for the marketplace, however, stories must deliver on more than one level at a time.

Soon this writer will have herself a lasting story. First she has to incorporate all three plotlines:

Dramatic Action
Character Development
Thematic Significance

She has done the hard part. The path to completion is right there in front of her. I wish her the best of luck and look forward to reading her story when it's published.