1. DaveLu

    DaveLu Member

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    Having trouble with creating act one (creating character goal)

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by DaveLu, Dec 19, 2016.

    The story I'm writing is about families who are descendants of spiritual beings. These spiritual protectors long ago made a pact with human ancestors and are now responsible for protecting their progeny. The spirits surface in times of emotional disturbance. So if someone were to have a near death experience, for example.

    Chris, the MC, is a boy who can sense other spirits. He is not a direct descendant of one of these ancestors who merged with a spirit being. (Some humans are able to perceive through worlds like this.)

    His best friend Jaxon one day discovers he himself has a spirit protector. This spirit protector in particular along with many others, are bitter towards humanity because of something that happened long ago (a moral war humans vs spirits). The spirit protector wants to break his eternal bond with Jaxon and resurrect one of the Ancients -- one of the original spirits who tried to destroy humanity. In order to do this he must separate Jaxon from Chris, his friends, and family emotionally and ultimately kill him. I'm not sure why NOW the protector decides to try and be free but I'll hopefully come up with something...

    Right now I have that Chris' goal is "to save his best friend Jaxon." His flaw is that he is weak, always running away from things. My intention was that this thing happening to Jaxon is something he can't run away from because it's someone who he cares for most in the world, one of the only people who understands him.

    There are some things missing. I can't seem to make it all connect together. That event/motivation that propels Chris into the next act is absent. That moment of no turning back. So I'm trying to figure out the plot points but am struggling.

    -- Jaxon tells Chris he doesn't want to be friends with him anymore. (He's afraid Chris, an ordinary human, will get hurt.)
    -- Jaxon starts hanging out with the Gallos after school. They're a reclusive family, descendants of spiritual beings, who keep to themselves. Chris feels a strange vibe around them.
    -- Chris notices marks and bruises all over Jaxon at school one day.
    -- Chris sees wings sprouting out of one of the Gallo boys' back.
    -- Chris tries to follow Jaxon and the Gallos one day into the forest to see what they are doing. But he can't keep up with them. He runs into a clearing and falls over a steep ledge down to his death when... a spirit protector of his own emerges and saves him.
    --
    --
    -- Chris' spirit protector is not bonded to him like most, but owes his ancestor a favor. They had a friendship, unlike most humans and their spirits.
    -- The Gallos suddenly become interested in Chris, noticing an abnormal human aura around him (and eccentric feats he's been performing.)
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2016
  2. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Hello Dave,

    This right here is what I would make the inciting event. The thing that turns Chris's life upside.

    At that point, you've entered the debate/Refusal to the Call part of the first Act. This is where Chris debate's about what he should do, and how he should go about it.

    The above part is 'The Small trip.' part of the first Act. The small trip is where your MC gains info before he decides to embark on his main journey. In detective stories, this is where the MC goes to the crime scene. For you, it is where your MC finds out what Jaxon is up to.

    In the first Act, there is another story beat that you can use that is called "Wise man." This is where your MC meets someone/thing that will guide them throughout their adventure. This spirit protector seems like a good choice for that role, and this is where you force the MC's hand and make him enter the 2nd act. What you could do is have the Spirit protector explain the stakes (Jaxon's life is in danger?) and explain how only Chris can save him (I'll leave the why up to you). Realizing he is the only one that can do it, he sets out on his adventure to save Jaxon.

    These suggestions are just one of many ways you can accomplish this. It seems like you have all the ideas thought out, you just need to insert them into the right spot.
     
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  3. DaveLu

    DaveLu Member

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    Thanks! This definitely helped reel me back in. I considered making Chris' spirit protector fulfill the mentor role earlier and will probably go with that. I'm going to brainstorm some more about how this all could go down. On a side note, should the forcing of the MC's hand be in one scene/event or could it be over a series of events?
     
  4. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    That depends on how you go about it, but one thing must be for sure: Your hero can't just find himself in his adventure by accident, he has to make a decision that leads him into Act II. Let's use the Wizard of Oz since that is a great example of a series of events that leads Dorthy into Oz (ACT II).

    Dorthy doesn't wind up in Oz by mistake, she decides to rescue her Dog, and run away from home. Because of her poor timing, she finds herself in a Tornado that lands her in Oz, but she still made a choice (rescue Toto and run away from home) that resulted in her being thrown into Oz. The irony of this set-up is that once in Oz, all she wants to do is get home.
     
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  5. DaveLu

    DaveLu Member

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    What if, to use my story again for an example, when Jaxon tells Chris he doesn't want to be friends anymore he also exiles himself somewhere unknown. (Say Jaxon's spirit protector convinces him to do this.) Then Chris makes the decision to go looking for Jaxon.
     
  6. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Aunt? Supporter Contributor

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    This is excellent advice, thanks (it helps me with a problem I'm having).
     
  7. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    That decision is what takes the story from Act I into Act II.
     
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  8. DaveLu

    DaveLu Member

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    Any tips on raising the stakes as well? I seem to be struggling in that area too.
     
  9. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Banned

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    It's hard to know exactly what is missing from your story, without seeing the whole outline, of Act II and Act III as well, to see where the first Act is going to go in the end. Would you be able to post the whole outline, are have you not gotten that far yet? If not, that's cool.
     
  10. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Staff Contributor

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    I don't know what the 'Act' thing even IS ;) - and I see no reason to conform rigorously to a set of specified scenes or themes if my story wants to go in another direction entirely. Please don't enlighten me!

    Okay, that came out pretty snarky but in all seriousness: Rules make me want to run in a different direction (sometimes I actually do that :D ). To answer your question of raising the stakes, it seems to me that you are really asking why NOW. This question sets off the whole chain and needs to get answered, because if you know WHY you know also how it might get resolved.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2016
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  11. DaveLu

    DaveLu Member

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    I don't have the entire outline written out yet. I have an idea of how I want it to end, as well as several events that I want to happen throughout the rest of the story. As I write I usually go back and forth in the outline inserting what could or might happen but usually for me nothing is certain until act one is solid.

    Ok gotcha, I think I've actually been avoiding that question "why now" for some reason. And I see what you mean. I've kind of been using the act structure as a crutch whenever I get unfocused. I see them as general guidelines that help get my story across. If I get stuck I always look back at them and check where I technically should be, though I can see how that would be a hindrance too.
     
  12. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Staff Contributor

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    There is nothing wrong with rules per se - but I think creativity gets hindered by conforming rigorously to a structure. It's good when it starts you thinking where tension should be, but the final story is your responsibility and yours alone. Seeing the ideas in a structure as a help can be a good thing i.e. getting someone to help your MC so that he doesn't fight alone. See it as a prompt which you could use but also discard, or even shuffle out of order ;)
     
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  13. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    I'm not here to argue with Lifeline, but I feel it would be irresponsible not to present the opposite argument with structure. Let's take a look at John Milton's Paradise Lost, by far one of the most creative interruptions of the Fall of Man ever written. Not only is the Story Structure tight, but the whole thing is written in Iambic Pentameter (which intensifies the rigidity of the epic.) In my opinion, what makes Story structure beautiful is not that is it a 'set of rules' that one must abide to faithfully. What makes it beautiful is the amount of imagination that it takes to create something original within a structure and framework. Sure, one can abandon the 3-act story structure, but do you understand story so well that you can manipulate events to achieve the ending you want while moving the audience that reads it? Maybe you can, or maybe you can't.

    Don't ever think of Structure as a crutch, because it is not. It is a framework (like a picture frame) that allows you paint whatever you want into it. I'm in the building trades, which is both a craft and an art. Every Trade has a structure, a framework, we follow in order to ensure success for our projects. Why is it when people get to Story, which also both a craft and an art, we suddenly treat story structure as a 'dirty word?' It's not. It beautiful thing that has helped, and will continue to help, thousands of writers, for centuries to come, to write stories.
     
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  14. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    Don't tell me what to do. I AM CREATIVE.
    Personally I enjoy the structure. Writing is pretty easy if you write, but having a frame allows me to be more creative, I feel. For me, if I don't follow structure of some sort it just gets meandering. On top of that, I love to plan.
     
  15. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Aunt? Supporter Contributor

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    I love works that go outside the established structure, I dream of writing things that break the boundaries, but...

    ...it seems to be mostly dreaming for now, so I think it may be time for me to move into structuring and planning.

    Hell, Hunter S. Thompson not only outlined The Great Gatsby in preparation for writing Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a member here (don't remember who) says that he transcribed it to get a feel for it, and I don't recall anyone accusing the Good Doctor of being "formulaic."

    My utmost admiration still goes out to those who can successfully work outside the framework, I'm just not there yet.
     
  16. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Staff Contributor

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    I am not going to present a scratching post for defenders of story structure :) and yet I can't help but wonder what Van Gogh would say if someone would tell him that for the rest of his life he'd be only allowed to paint Tryptychs. If he'd be an apprentice at the time, he'd possibly follow this rule (not knowing better) - and he'd never paint the 'Starry Night'.

    Yeah, story structure works. But it is equally possible to work outside this framework, and this fact should be anchored firmly in the mind of every apprentice. To stay with the building analogy: It'd be pretty boring to have a whole city of three-story-appartments made up from prefabricated walls. Sure, their outsides would be coloured differently and their inner furniture and the window-hangings would be each family's individual choice, but the 'blocks' of the houses would be the same throughout the town. Ever been to such a district of prefabricated homes? I have and I couldn't imagine living there.

    This apprentice is now *going off to write some more* - without knowing story structure :D.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2016
  17. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'm with Caden on this one - whilst I can see how these structures can help some writers formulate their stories if they want to, I'd say that sticking to them slavishly can be an error.

    As with "create character goal" real people are complex, most people don't have one goal in life, or even one goal for the week /month whatever ahead so in order to be believable rather than one dimensional fictional characters also need multiple goals and then multiple complications in achieving those goals and indeed when those goals conflict.
     
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