Practical Writing / Story Telling 02byThe Avenger©
A Dramatic, Classical Story
To reiterate, I defined a story as an artificial construction intended to give the illusion of reality. (What? What?)
A dramatic, classic, which is the type I am interested in expounding on, is defined as:
"The story of a protagonist who tries to get something which he/she desperately needs that is very difficult to get and succeeds/ fails."
To put it in other words, you as an Author have to establish,
THE WHO (the protagonist),
THE WHAT (the something that he/she tries to get),
THE WHY (why does he/she need it desperately and why is it difficult to get),
THE HOW (how he tries to get it),
and THE RESULT/RESOLUTION (does he/she fail/succeed and how does this affect him/her)
Note: It is essential to be DISCIPLINED. This means that every word that you write has to be of relevance to the story. Anything that is not of relevance is simply distracting and time consuming.
The Three Acts and their purposes
A dramatic, classical story has three parts, a beginning, a middle and an ending.
The BEGINNING (Act 1) :
(roughly the first quarter of your story in length, however, the shorter the better)
To set up your story and establish THE WHO, THE WHAT, THE WHY and the setting of your story, as in the physical and social environments in which your story plays.
Introducing The Protagonist:
The reader must get to know your protagonist. Who and what is he/she?
You do not need to write a complete Bio of someone. You restrict yourself to the basics, like name, age, then only the relevant information on his/her character flaws and strengths that will play a role in the story. For example, if your protagonist grew up in a catholic foster home in Wisconsin and hates gay people, but it plays absolutely no role in the story, then just spare the reader all that junk. However, if he/she has to confront homosexuality in your story, then that information would be interesting and essential for your readers.
The Physical Setting:
What type of Physical Environment does your story take place in? Is it a small town in the Mid West, a fictitious Alien Planet in some distant Galaxy, a College, a Ghetto, a Law Firm, a Desert, a Jungle?
Note: Limit your description only to relevant details. Obviously, if your story is set in some fictitious environment that your readers are not familiar with, you need to give many more details than if your story is set in, say an ordinary town or city that they know. And you should limit yourself to relevant details. For example if your story plays in a skyscraper, you do not need to spend five whole pages describing how the elevators function when they play absolutely no role in your story.
The Social Setting:
What are the socially accepted or shunned types of behavior in the society where your story plays? Obviously, if your story plays in a social environment that is exotic, futuristic, medieval and so forth, where people do not behave "normally", then you need to "explain" it to your reader.
For example, if your story plays in a place and time where people monogamy is out and open sexual promiscuity is common place, then the reader would be curious to know how that functions, they know its not normal. However, if your story is set in the ordinary environment, do not waste time telling the reader something he knows already.
What is it that the Protagonist needs desperately? Your protagonist does not necessarily have to want IT at the start of the story. IT (the need/want) can develop during your story, but the reader should know this by the end of Act 1.
For instance, you could start off with a person who is lonely and in need of a lover to share their life with. Or someone who is broke and suddenly has to pay a lot of money for something or get into serious trouble, thus he suddenly has a "need" to get money quickly. Or you could start off with someone who is married and thinks they are happy, then they suddenly meet someone and develop feelings for them, thus developing a "need" to get out of their marriage and woo the new person. Or, you could have a person who is in a monogamous relationship, then they suddenly discover the world of swinging, (through a TV program, a magazine, conversation or an experience) and decide that they would like to try out that "new" type of life with their partner. Therefore, they now have a "need" to convince their partner to try out that lifestyle.
Note: Every person wants a thousand different things, but when you write, it is important that your protagonist have one goal/aim/want/need. If he/she wants a dozen things that are very different from one another, this is distracting. Choose one and stick to it. Remember, this is a "Story" not Real Life.
Once you have established your protagonist's want/need, then you must show why it is so difficult to get? Remember, if something is easy to get, there is little tension and suspense. However, the greater the difficulty, the more insurmountable the obstacles seem, the higher the tension and the suspense. (You know this from Hollywood Movies, right?) I always make a list of possible difficulties for my protagonists.
Using the above examples,
a) a person who is lonely and in "need" to find a lover to share their life with: The difficulties could be that he is shy, or unattractive, cant approach potential partners, has no time or opportunity to meet someone new, lives in a small town and has a bad reputation so none of the potential partners will even talk to him/her, or is in love with someone who is not reciprocative of their affection, or someone way above him/her in their social status, or someone much older or younger, or someone of the same sex who has problems with homosexuality, or a close blood relation and so forth.
b) a married person who suddenly develops a "need" to get out of their marriage and woo the new person: The difficulties could be that their spouse does not want a divorce, or the new person is best friends with the spouse, or they work for the dad of their spouse, who will fire them if they get divorced, or they live in a religious society where it is not in to get divorced and so forth.
c) A person who suddenly discovers the world of swinging and group sex and decides to try out that lifestyle with their partner: The difficulties could be that their partner is religious and prissy, and thinks swingers are decadent perverts, or there are no potential partners in the vicinity, or they live in a society where swingers are shunned and ostracised.
d) A person who is broke and suddenly has to come up with some money quickly: The difficulty could be that he has no job, or bad credit, or nobody he can borrow the money from and so forth.
NOTE: If your readers sympathize with your protagonist and their goal, the readers will wish him/her success, if not, they will wish him/her failure. Either way, you will have their emotional involvement.
However, if they are not emotionally involved, or if they do not understand who and what the hell your story is about, or think that the whole thing is just infantile trash, the majority (of your target readers) might lose interest.
The Middle (Act 2):
(roughly two quarters of your story in length)
To show the protagonist's struggle towards achieving his/her goal.
This is where you handle THE HOW. How does your protagonist try to achieve their aim? What action do they take to get that which is difficult to get? How do they fight and surmount the obstacles and opposition?
Your main character must make an effort to get what he needs. He must fight the forces that are against him. Obviously, you need forces that are against him, or he will simply get what he desires with no effort, and there will be no tension and no suspense. This is the reason why stories where all a man has to do is show a woman his big cock and she simply falls to her knees and starts blowing him and shouting, "fuck me with your huge cock!" are so boring and trite.
In real life, we often get things we don't deserve or do not even work for. However, in a story, this is boring and unmotivated. People generally have no problem receiving something for nothing, but they get jealous if that happens to someone else.
I mean, in my younger days, I had several "incidents" where "pussy simply fell on my lap" so to speak. When I recounted the adventures to my friends, most thought I was lying or they made stupid comments. However, when I was actively involved in persuing a woman, my friends' reactions were far more pleasing. They would get involved in my "hunt" so to speak. They would give tips, advice and their analysis of the situation.
I guess we all originated from "hunters and gatherers" therefore the public generally has much more sympathy with someone who is actively involved in a hunt, as opposed to someone who just gets his/her meat for free, undeservedly, so to speak.
The forces that your protagonist faces can take several forms, mainly external and internal forces.
Antagonists: A person or persons who try to hinder the protagonist from achieving his goal. For example, lets say your protagonist is trying to win the heart of a girl, and another guy is also trying to get her, or she has a boyfriend or husband, who is cock blocking and breaking the protagonist's plans like dishes, or she has a dad who does not want him around his daughter, or the girl thinks he is a jerk and tries to avoid him...
A hostile physical environment: This could take the form of a storm, hurricane, a hot desert, or any forces of nature that could make it difficult for your protagonist to reach his goal.
A hostile social environment: This could be social attitudes that work against your protagonist like racism, homophobia, sexism.
Other external forces could take the form of a car that wont start when the protagonist needs to get somewhere fast, an ATM that wont work, a gun that wont fire, an elevator that jams.
Internal forces: These lead to an internal conflict that discourages the protagonist from trying to achieve his aim, like fear, an inferiority complex, shyness, moral values that make him/her think that what he wants is wrong and so forth.
Depending on the length of your story, you could divide the opposition into several sequences, so that your protagonist conquers them one after the other.
In each consecutive sequence, the tension and the suspense must be raised. Your protagonist might start off sort of half heartedly seeking something. But as the story progresses, his efforts must become more determined and clearer. Simultaneously, the opposition must increase.
At the end of the Middle, your hero has fought a good fight, and he is now close to achieving his goal or failing. The Middle ends at a point of high suspense, something like seconds before the last, final and deciding round of a grueling boxing match.
Your protagonist might have taken a battering and has nothing left but a tiny glimmer of hope, you know, he/she is standing before an abyss, looking defeat in the eye. But he/she has something which makes them say, "No, I wont throw in the towel, I will fight to the last breath."
(about a quarter of the story in length)
Your protagonist gives it all he/she has got and the last part of our sentence is answered, "Does he/she succeed or fail?"
Your protagonist either fails, or succeeds. Going back to our examples...
a) a person who is lonely and in "need" of a lover to share their life with: The girl either says, "Yes, I want to be your girl," or she says "I like you, but not in that way."
b) a married person suddenly develops a "need" to get out of their marriage and woo a new person: He/she either leaves their spouse and starts off with the new person, or decides to stay in with their spouse. If you are into polygamy, maybe both partners agree to share his/her love.
c) A person discovers the world of swinging and group sex and decides to try out that lifestyle with their partner: The spouse either embraces the "new" lifestyle, or he/she rejects it, and says, "if you cant live without it, find yourself someone else."
d) A person who is broke and suddenly has to pay for something or get into a lot of trouble: The protagonist either gets the money and pays or fails and gets into the big trouble.
The Kiss off:
The kiss off is an optional part to a story. Personally, I prefer stories which give me an indication of how the protagonist and other characters are rewarded or punished. Some people prefer an open end where they fill in the details for themselves.
If you decide to include a kiss off, then you tell the readers how the protagonist deals with the consequences of his/her success or failure.
A happy ending:
In a happy ending, the protagonist is successful and lives happily ever after, or they fail, but learn something valuable for life which makes them a better, happier person.
A tragic ending:
The protagonist fails, loses everything (or something very valuable) and is a broken person. Or, they fight hard to get something and they now realize that it was not worth the effort at all. Therefore, they are left bitter and maybe dejected.
The message or moral of your story:
The way you end a story determines your "message." For example, if you write one of those typical cheating wife stories which ends with the wife having sex with another man, whilst her small dick husband accepts the role of wimp and cuckold, then you are saying a man with a small penis is a failure and does not deserve a wife.
If someone strives to pursue a relationship that general moral values consider to be a despicable taboo and finds joy and happiness, then you are saying, "go after what your heart desires and find true joy." If they end up losing everything, you are saying, "don't think for yourself and feel, be like a cow and stay in the herd."
And so on and so forth.
Therefore, always look at your story as a whole, and ask yourself, "What am I really saying here?" It is obvious that many Authors on Lit do not do this, and are therefore surprised by the reactions of the readers.
DISCIPLINE AND RELEVANCE:
This is something that can never be stressed enough. You must look at everything you include in your story, in this way, whatever aids or hinders the protagonist in his aim should be included, whatever doesn't, should be thrown out, whether you think it is cool or not.
If you realize that the things that are very important for you do not actually play a role in your story, then you are telling the wrong story. Change your story. Find the right story.
In the next part will get into the actual writing.