Sunday, July 10, 2011

Good Stories Require Aggression

I've been doing a little sailing with the family, trying to get away from the computer, etc. But stories are always close at hand. In our pursuit of "sailing" from Detroit, MI to Lexington, MI we encountered a number of nemeses: sweltering hot weather (>100), big freighters that take up the channel, a midnight encounter with a foreign freighter on the St. Clair River that sent out a rouge wake that put my wife in the hospital for a few hours (they kept asking her: "Madam, are you in a safe environment?"), a late night dock security guard on a Segway, and "no wind"... a terrible thing for a "sail" boat. But we (the protagonists) were aggressive and overcame the obstacles, and achieved our goal: a quiet anchorage in Lexington, MI.

Stories require aggressive, resourceful heroes. No movie goer is interested in a hero who is only passively interested in the goal, or an antagonist who simply behaves contrary. Both characters need to pursue their goal with passion, diligence, and aggression. My workshop now begins with a slide saying you need two key ingredients for a successful story: The WRITER'S PASSION and the PROTAGONIST'S PASSION — both for achieving their goals. The actual slide form the workshop says it this way:

1. A good story originates from a writer's inexplicable INSPIRATION. Nothing can replace it.

2. A good story is about an imperfect hero's unrelenting DESIRE for achieving a goal against insurmountable odds. Nothing can supplant that.

3. For a good story to be well told the writer's INSPIRATION, and the hero's DESIRE must have one thing in common — STRUCTURE. Everything needs it.

Oh, yeah, here's a picture of an obstacle, and the boat getting to the goal:

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