DESIRES AND OBSTACLES
As Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.” This is excellent advice, as characters who don’t want anything, who are bored, complacent, or satisfied with their lives, make for dull stories. But what if that thirsty character simply goes over to the sink and fills up a glass? Then the tension is gone, the story is over. So, if you want to create an exciting story, you need to put that thirsty character in the Saharan desert, or trap him in the trunk of a car, or set him on stage in front of his entire middle school. In other words, great stories happen when desires meet obstacles, or conflicts. You can (and should) be able to reduce your story to a single sentence using the following construction: “Protagonist wants _________, but _____________.” Here are some examples we came up with in class: The Three Little Pigs – The pigs want to live but the wolf keeps blowing down their houses. Finding Nemo – Nemo wants to get home to his dad but he’s trapped in a fish tank. The Fault in Our Stars – Hazel wants to live a normal life but she has terminal cancer. So! Your first task is to write your own story’s version of this sentence. What does your protagonist want more than anything, or what is stopping him or her from getting it? Second, write out a short, step-by-step plot outline for your story. What happens first, the second, then third, until finally……? Your wants/but sentence should beat like a drum through every scene in your story, forming the spine of your entire plot. Third, write the next scene of your story. You know where you are going now. Keep going!