Friday, February 04, 2011

Five Act Short Story: Lesson One

In my previous blog, I explained the Five Act formula for structuring plots that William Shakespeare used for every play he ever wrote. Now I'm going to use it to outline a short story that I wrote. Thing is, though, that this short story is a story that I know well, but that I wrote badly. In outlining it, I hope I can improve it. This, being only an outline of the story, will read vaguely. Tell me how it reads to you, and if you like it.

Act I: Introduce Main Plot/Characters/Conflicts

  • Main characters of this story: Trick and Moxy
  • Trick: a good looking and talented boy with an overdeveloped sense of justice
  • Moxy: a good looking and quiet girl who likes to think and be alive and just get along with things
  • Main plot: Trick is introduced as a person who is usually kind and generous, but he has recently been controlling. That seems to Moxy to be out of character.
  • Main Conflict: Trick has decided that it's his mission to rescue a boy named Hugo who gets picked on a lot. Moxy disapproves of this plan.

Act II: Introduce Secondary Plot/Characters/Conflicts

  • Moxy likes trick, and she is suppressing it. She has a boyfriend, and she doesn't want to think of Trick that way, and he's never encouraged her to do so.
  • Trick is comitted to give a speech at a club meeting tomorrow.
  • Moxy's friend, Elizabeth, is introduced: she's abrasive and honest.

Act III: Plots Are Complicated

  • Moxy refuses to talk to Trick about casual things (invitation to a party). Elizabeth calls her out on this and forces Moxy to really consider how she feels about Trick.
  • Trick bails on the speech he'd comitted to give, going further against his character as Moxy understands him.
  • Moxy confronts him, and becomes angry.
  • Trick behaves resolutely chauvinistic.

Act IV: Resolution Suggested, and Described as Both Impossible and Inevitable

  • Elizabeth says Trick needs to be taken down a peg.
  • Seems impossible: Trick is too awesome, in the eyes of our perspective character.
  • It would solve all the problems: A Trick with a lesson in humility would be a Trick restored to equilibrium.
  • Maybe this would help Moxy, too.

Act V: Climax and Conclusion

  • Trick gets into fight with the people who were harassing Hugo.
  • And loses. Moxy genuinely fears for him.
  • He realizes that he doesn't have to control everything.
  • Moxy begins to actually see him for who he is.

Right. There's the story. Outlining it like this has helped me. Does it make any sense?

Next lesson: um...something good. It's a surprise!

1 comment:

Debbie said...

Um, what you list as the Main Plot is a description of Trick.

"Trick becomes other kid's protector" then follow with either a "because of" or an "in order to" statement.

Remember the old "The King dies and then the Queen dies" is not a plot, but "The King dies and then the Queen dies of a broken heart" is.

Are Moxy and Trick connected in any way other than Moxy kind of likes him? Why would her disapproving of his plan cause conflict? Why does she disapprove? Is it dangerous? Uncool? The conflict needs to be for the protagonist. The way it's written it looks like Moxy is the protagonist and Trick is the antagonist.