How to build a complex plot based on a simple message (Part 6) 3 comments


Part 6: Choose your conflict. Again. (Turning Point Two)

After Turning Point One passes, you arrive at the middle of your story where you can do a little more work on developing your characters and their relationships with each other. This is where Confused Robin Hood will struggle to maintain the façade that he’s accepted, the façade of a hero.

Much of the Middle of the Story (also called the Second Act in the Three Act Structure) can be created after you have finished plotting the overall story. But in the beginning stages of your planning process, the middle shouldn’t take up much room, except for you to lay out the basics that occur.

The part to focus on right now is Turning Point Two, which marks the end of Act Two.

Turning Point Two has to be bigger and more captivating than Turning Point One. You have to up the ante even more. Your stakes have to jump from just a personal level (the relationship between Confused Robin Hood and Unlikely Maid Marian) to a public level. The conflicts that begin on a smaller scale have to jump up to a larger scale, making it even more necessary that the whole problem be brought to a resolution . . . hopefully, a happy ending.

So where do we go from here? Let’s refresh where here is:

Message: Stealing is wrong.
Direction: External.
Genre: Steampunk.
Character: Confused Robin Hood.
Conflict – Turning Point One: Confused Robin Hood chooses to accept the accolades of his people even though he neither wants nor deserves them in order to preserve his relationship with his Beloved Uncle and Unlikely Maid Marian.

How do we punch up the possible problems in this plot? (yay for alliteration!)

At this point, I like to start incorporating details about the setting. The history of the world. The people in the world. The cultures of the world. Remember, this is a Steampunk book, so you can have all sorts of fun rearranging history to suit your needs.

However, you don’t always have to make up something new about your world. Look back over the resources you’ve already created to see if there’s some aspect of your story you can reuse and deepen.

For example, let’s talk about what Confused Robin Hood stole. What did he steal from Unlikely Maid Marian’s house?

A blanket? A toy? A can of preserved beets? Anything will work. But can you make it something that will advance your story and deepen your plot? Absolutely.

What if Unlikely Maid Marian is a nanny for an eccentric gentleman who invents things? What if the object that Confused Robin Hood stole was an invention that has the ability to change the world? What if this invention has the potential to bestow ultimate power on whoever unlocks it? Whoever figures out this invention could rule the world.

Let’s say that Confused Robin Hood stole this invention—we’ll call it the Golden Arrow—from the eccentric Professor Nottingham. Confused Robin Hood didn’t care what it was and brought it back because that is what he does. Of course, he got caught returning it and is now regarded as a hero. Both his Beloved Uncle and Unlikely Maid Marian think he’s wonderful.

So what would happen if someone else knew about the Golden Arrow? What about someone who already suspected what Confused Robin Hood was up to? If we create another Supporting Character, one who already suspected Confused Robin Hood was up to no good, one who already understood the power the Golden Arrow could bestow, and one who wanted it for himself so that he could rule the world, what would that character look like? What would that character do to replace Confused Robin Hood as the hero? What lengths would that character travel to come out on top?

That character would be a villain.

Even if your protagonist is something of an antihero, you still need a villain to balance out the story. You still need an antagonist to push the plot forward. Your villain is just as important as your hero. He needs the same amount of back story. He needs the same (if not more) amount of development. And he can’t just be evil. He has to have a motivation behind all of his choices. The really awesome bad guys aren’t evil. They’re just regular folks who had to make a choice.

So, just for continuity’s sake, I’m going to name our villain Sheriff.

And just to keep things moving in the romantic sense, I’m going to say that Confused Robin Hood, Unlikely Maid Marian, and the Sheriff all grew up together as good friends. And I’m going to say that Sheriff was always a just little kid who didn’t believe in mercy but because of the culture he was okay with stealing . . . just not when someone stole from him.

And let’s say he grew up to be a fairly influential business person in their area and is pursuing Unlikely Maid Marian, one, because she’s hot; and two, because he wants to make an inroad with Professor Nottingham. Why? Because Professor Nottingham knows the secret to the Golden Arrow and with it he can rule the world and keep law and order everywhere.

Let’s say that, as a lawman, Sheriff already suspected Confused Robin Hood of stealing and returning things. He just couldn’t ever pin it on him. Until the Golden Arrow incident. But let’s say that the Sheriff now believes that Confused Robin Hood holds the power to controlling the entire world because he thinks he unlocked the secret of the Golden Arrow.

So what would he do?

Well, one, he’s going to want to get the Golden Arrow.

Two, he’s going to want to get the secret from Confused Robin Hood.

Three, he’s going to want to use them both to obtain his goal.

He’ll make a plan, and he’ll start implementing it. But unless you’ve chosen to write your story from an Omniscient Third Person Point of View (we’ll talk about that later in the section on points of view), your reader isn’t going to know that. All your reader is going to know is that Sheriff starts appearing and things start going wrong.

So you’ll need to know how your main character is going to react to the unseen plans that the antagonist is implementing.

In our case, let’s say that Sheriff sneaks into Professor Nottingham’s house and kills him to obtain the Golden Arrow. As the hero of the area, Confused Robin Hood is asked to weigh in on the subject, and he tries to sound like he knows what he’s talking about for Unlikely Maid Marian’s sake.

In the mean time, some people can start becoming suspicious because this is the second time someone broke into the Professor’s house. And their first person of suspicion will be Confused Robin Hood because fame is fickle.

So as Confused Robin Hood and Sheriff try to catch the person who killed the Professor, more and more evidence starts pointing to Confused Robin Hood – because Sheriff keeps planting it. And Confused Robin Hood gets more and more nervous because he can’t defend himself because he did break into the Professor’s house.

After however many pieces of evidence point to Confused Robin Hood, the whole city is in such an uproar that he has to be put in jail to protect him. Meanwhile, Unlikely Maid Marian never doubts him, and he feels more and more like a heel. A judge gives him a lie detector test, and when they ask him if he broke into the Professor’s house to steal the Golden Arrow – he must answer yes.

That is Turning Point Two. Where the whole world gangs up against your main character. And his choice will either take him closer to his goal or cause him to fall farther away from it.

Part 7 will deal with the dreaded, overwhelming doom of the Point of No Return!


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