27 July 2010


When the Dramatic Action changes the Character Emotional Development at depth over time, a story becomes Thematically Significant. These three threads: Dramatic Action, Character Emotional Development and Thematic Significance, hold the core dynamic of plot.

But if one broadens the definition of plot to include it as a verb -- what a writer does in deliberately arranging scenes by cause and effect, then there are a multitude of story elements a writer is able to plot. An excellent source to plot out in your stories is the vast array of antagonists* (see below for a list of the Six Standard Antagonists).

Antagonists work well because Dramatic Action caused by an antagonist always creates conflict, tension, suspense and/or curiosity, thus placing those scenes above the line of your Plot Planner. (For more information on the development of a Plot Planner for your individual project, watch one of the Plot DVDs or read the second part of Blockbuster Plots Pure and Simple.)

Think of a story as the shifting of power back and forth between the protagonist and the antagonist. Or, in other words, the protagonist pushes toward something, while forces internal and external (the antagonists) attempt to thwart her progress. A story is the struggle between a protagonist who wants something enough to take action against all the antagonists or forces within and without who work against her. The Plot Planner is merely a line that separates the scenes into those where the energy or power is with the antagonist(s) (above the Plot Planner line) and those where the protagonist is in control or holds the power over the antagonist (below the Plot Planner line).

Scenes with conflict, tension, suspense and/or curiosity test the protagonist and show the reader or moviegoer what the character is made of. Since most people read and go to the movies 70% for the Character Emotional Development, it makes sense to employ as many antagonists as you need to in order to create heightened conflict, tension, suspense and curiosity.

Remember, not all antagonists are people.

A prime example is when the protagonist goes up against nature. Nature as an antagonist can be as monumental as a flood, a hurricane, or an earthquake. Nature can also work on a more subtle level by helping to create mood and add depth to the conflict, tension and suspense. Plot out these nature elements and you will be better able to control the effect intended in each and every scene, and in the overall story itself.

Nature unfolds according to the four seasons. The first of the 7 Essential Elements of Scene is to establish (explicit or implied) right up front in each scene the date and setting. This includes the time of the year, the day of the week, and the time of day. Each of these time factors of nature has the potential to create mood and/or conflict, tension and suspense.

For instance, dawn and dusk are often considered the "between times" when there is a thinning of the veils between the physical and the spiritual, the past and the future. These times often create a sense of poignancy, melancholy, or imbalance in people. Throw in the haunting cry of a mourning dove and the feeling intensifies.

The antagonist of nature often collides with the antagonist of society. For instance, if a character is facing the holidays at the end of the year alone, that scene has the potential to evoke loneliness in the reader or moviegoer in a way no other time of the year is able to without having to say or show anything more. This bleak feeling intensifies if the weather that year is exceptionally violent with torrential winds blowing and rain or snow falling, covering the land in ice.

Date night is customarily considered as Saturday night. What is worse for a character who is alone than to be thrust out on a Saturday night in a lonely city watching couples walk hand-in-hand?

By plotting out nature elements such as the time of the year, the weather, and/or seasons, a writer is better able to create more depth than if these elements play out as random occurrences. If you have not already done so, indicate on your Plot Planner scene-by-scene the time of the year or days of the week, and see what you find hidden there.

*The Six Standard Antagonists:
1) Protagonist against another person
2) Protagonist against nature
3) Protagonist against society
4) Protagonist against machine
5) Protagonist against God
6) Protagonist against him or herself