Monday, January 04, 2010

The Emotional Plot as The Engine of The Story

Long time, no post! Have been working on my Character Workout mini-ebook for subscribers to my creative writing site (as well as trying to meet the deadline on my current screenplay). Of all the aspects of the manuscripts and film scripts I get to assess, Character is always something that the writer would benefit from learning more about. But any guidance on Character has to include flagging up the need to approach the work with all the elements in mind because everything in a story has to be completely interrelated.

That's why so many How To Books can mislead. Focusing on the elements of writing as if each is a separate entity not only fatally dooms the success of the work, it almost always smothers the creative source of your unique vision.

And that's why I don't like the word 'Plot'. I use the term 'Emotional Plot', because this phrase implies simultaneous human feeling-and-action. The origin of the word 'drama' applies as much to novels as plays and screenplays. It comes from the Greek word meaning 'something done', and the ancient Greek playwrights thought of their stories as 'people doing things'.

The emotional plot is what drives the story - it makes characters 'do things'. So, focusing on the outward action or plot isn't going to get a writer very far in creating a compelling work unless the focus is at the same time, on the emotional needs of the character. Instead of making the first question: What is my story about? A better question is Who is my story about? Then: What are my character's emotional needs? This question alone should be enough to start to generate the story. Creating character will lead automatically to dialogue, setting, structure, pace - every element of story-telling.

This emphasis on approaching a novel or script through thinking about the emotional situation of the character is what I'm trying to get across in all my teaching and consultancy work. That's why I decided to write the free ebook on Character for subscribers on my new site.

There are so many ways to fire up the imagination when creating characters, and a good many of them are not the usual ones you find in the writing guides.

1 comment:

Yokel (TKS) said...

Eric, well said.

I also struggle to wrap my mind around "plot" and find that when my clients struggle with it, it's because they're only thinking at the surface level and externally, not from the emotional interior of the pov character or via mtaphor and theme.

It's important to remember that story comes from both without and within.