Linear. . .
My first issue was very linear. However, I believe that is quite alright; just for the first issue of course. I believe a linear approach used primarily to introduce main characters can be beneficial. It really just depends on how long your story is and the format in which it is presented. The longer the story, the more depth and drama you need to add. First of all, I need to explain myself. What do I mean by linear? If you could, for a moment, think of any story that follows the main character of that story all of the way through to the end. It has been done and most certainly will continue to be done. It is not that you shouldn’t do this, but for me it makes it harder to broaden the world that my story takes place in. You get to see and know your protagonist really well, but what about things and people outside of his grasp? How about those secondary characters? Obviously it will depend on what you are writing and the point of view you are writing from. My story is a script which is written to be viewed in some sort of visual medium. If a script tends to follow one perspective, when other characters are introduced you have no clue about what to think or feel about them. The actions and reactions toward these characters just become like part of a job for the protagonist to get through during his journey, which is basically what plot is, stripped down to the basics. But we don’t want basics though do we? NO! Well. . . what do we want? We desire controversy and drama. The more you have, the more exciting your story becomes, and how do we mix that up? How do we go from a linear story that follows one man or woman to creating a whole universe of characters and environments that we will incorporate into the storyline of our heroes to help develop them as well as keep your readers interest? I will cover only the two methods that I have recently used but there are plenty of ways to make your linear story, unconventional.
A story within a story along with it’s companion, “The Frame” can really make things exciting while throwing you for a loop. What exactly is a story within a story though? Well, take Joey and Megan here on the Left (If you read on PC). They look so happy but outside this moment, caught in time, anything could be happening.
For this instance, let us imagine that the photo represents a memory or an event that has happened and has been told from the heroes perspective. The story of Joey and Megan could be about their failing relationship but when Joey sits next to his bedside table, he sees this photo that jogs his memory back to that specific point in time. At that point in the recollection you see an entirely different Joey and Megan. A Joey and Megan whose love seems brass-bound. New love. To see this side provokes the readers thought and introduces a plot that doth thicken. It brings about question. How could such a bond be shattered when it seemed so stubborn? You cannot disagree that this supports the current issues and also develops the characters and the universe surrounding them.
Now lets change it up a bit. What if Joey and Megan have been out of the picture for quite sometime (no pun intended)? What if the picture is found in an attic by a main character who has no relationship at all with the lovers in the frame? The character doesn’t even know who the people in the photo are, but the revealing of this photo spawns another story that doesn’t follow the perspective of protagonist. It jumps into an alternate sub-story that may help bring the main story in perspective later. This is called a Frame. This is where the story can become really complex but more interesting. It also brings about questions within the readers mind; such as Where is this going? Unlike the story within a story scenario, you must bring closure to these questions in the frame. A story within a story answers the question about where the story is going because of the perspective associated with it. But a frame has to tie up the loose ends in a clever way by bringing perspective and experience to the main story.
Obviously when you first develop your story there is already going to be obstacles, or weight, incorporated into the story to create struggle that the protagonist will have to overcome to arrive at the result of his/her story. This is a basic necessity when incorporating the inciting incident. But inciting incident obstacles are already expected in most scenarios. To bring depth to our story we MUST introduce unpredictable opposition to the protagonist that he has to overcome in order to get back to the other, more predictable obstacles.
If you will, please, imagine a simple bridge or bench like the one presented. I am going to use basic physics to explain this concept. The bridge or surface is supported by two pylons. If you are to add weight to the surface you add compression which is basically the application of the force pushing downward on the surface. The more weight is added the more the surface will push downward and underneath we will start to see the stretching or tension increase. This happens because of gravity. Gravity is a constant in reality but in fiction Gravity can be altered. The volume or meaning of the situation (it’s gravity) applied to the weight of the scenario can vary depending on a multitude of things. It could depend on your heroes mental, physical, spiritual, or social limitations.
Now, knowing what we have learned in the previous paragraphs, we can already expect a certain amount of weight to be supported on our bridge. What we have to do now is add the unexpected weight while our character is crossing. An example of this could be to throw the character off by introducing a false lead in a case that ends with the character retreating to the old “drawing board”. Depending on whether your story is a comedy or a tragedy will determine how many pylons or support structures are already put in place to handle the weight and gravity. If it is a tragedy we know that you have to eliminate excess support so the surface will undoubtedly give way. In other words, don’t put your hero in a situation where there is any perceivable way out. In the event of a comedy it will be the opposite. You will integrate more support, be it from other supporting characters helping to advantages discovered by the hero based on discrepancies in the antagonist’s plans.
As I mentioned before, these are just two methods to make your linear story unconventional. You can use these methods to your advantage in every story that you may develop.
What methods do you incorporate into your story to keep it interesting? Feel free to use the comment section below to provoke more discussion on this matter!
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