Lock up the Plot

I love thinking about writing. Love it. This might be due to how I got into writing. I didn’t necessarily grow up wanting to write stories. I didn’t even see myself as a writer. I grew up wanting to be a lawyer. But let me tell you something: it turns out lawyers write a lot. And lawyers tell stories. And telling stories creatively can help lawyers tell their clients stories in a more compelling manner.

Because I’m a lawyer, I’m also kind of a process buff. I like to think of things in terms of the processes. I think that’s why I love story structure so much.

Take plot, for example. There are tons of books out there saying there are a certain number of plots. Numbers like 7, 10, 20, and 36 have all been thrown out. And this is just a selection of the possibilities.

Then I read James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure. Leave it to a former lawyer to explain a concept in a way a lawyer can understand it. Bell suggests plot boils down to four components:

  • Lead Character
  • Objective
  • Conflict
  • Knock-Out Blow

The story establishes the Lead Character: the protagonist. The protagonist must have some Objective and there must be stakes tied to that objective. There must be Conflict in reaching that objective. And, for a satisfying story, the lead must deliver a Knock-Out Blow at the climax.

Think about how many plot structures are explained by this simple concept. What a great way to LOCK up Plot.

Finding the Keyboard

I finally sat back down at the keyboard last night. I’ve been struggling for a couple weeks.

Often I’m struggling to find time. Working full time, trying to make sure I work out a few times a week, getting enough sleep and down-time, it doesn’t leave much time for creative writing. Add on top of that the fact that I have to write a lot for work, and I’ll get home and the last thing I want to do is write.

This can be a little demoralizing at times. I’m something like three-quarters the way through a book draft, but I struggle to sit down at the computer and just type words. The key points are plotted out in an outline as well, so the work shouldn’t be too hard. I just need to sit down and type and discover the scenes.

But last night it happened. I had the time and energy to sit down and just write. It wasn’t on the book; it was a short story. I’d had an idea nagging at me for a little while and I just needed to sit down and write it. Hopefully I can transition this back into the book.

I’m not too concerned about the form of the writing though. When I’ve gone a while without writing, the most important thing is for me to just sit down and get some words on paper again. And I did!

As You Like It

I had a great time with friends the other day watching a performance of Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

Tons of fun. But not my favorite. Shakespeare introduces the antagonist in Act 1, gives the antagonist two more small scenes (in Acts 2 and 3), and then ignores him. After the beginning of Act 3, we never hear about the antagonist until the end. In the final scene, when everyone is going to get married, we learn the antagonist had a massive change of heart off stage.

As a person who loves the antagonists in stories, this was disappointing.

But there’s a lot to enjoy in As You Like It as well. Four relationships are developed in ludicrous ways. Each pair is married at the end. A couple of the marriages we know are doomed. One was love at first sight just a couple days prior. And one is the result of an awkward Shakespearian reverse catfish. This was the relationship we’re meant to root for. Just felt a little awkward.

If you’ve never seen it but you have Amazon Prime you can watch Kenneth Branagh’s version. He set his in feudal Japan. Not sure it adds anything, but it’s a faithful adaptation.