Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Lajos Egri, author of The Art of Dramatic Writing, tells us “A novel, play, or any type of writing,  really is a crisis from beginning to end growing to its necessary conclusion.”  So the problems are piling up for the hero or protagonist.  How do they pile up and where are they coming from? That’s up to you, the writer. 

The Vedas explain our problems fall into three categories:  adhiatmik, adhidaivik, and adhibautik. The first are problems which stem from the body or the mind – stories that deal with physical handicaps or emotional or mental difficulties. The second are problems from natural occurrences – hurricanes, tsunamis,  tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes (the 90’s especially offered up a slew of such films). The last category are problems caused by other living beings, most likely, but not limited to, human beings. You need to have a clear understanding of what type of problems threaten the protagonist.

Earlier I mentioned that the writer needs to clearly know what the protagonist wants. And the things standing in  the way of what he /she wants helps build the tension or drama. But identifying the problem first comes at the story from another angle. Maybe your character doesn’t  want anything. Maybe they don’t have a problem. Maybe he/she is just enjoying the day. Maybe he’s a retired cop who just wants to be left alone. Maybe he/she is on a cruise ship enjoying a well earned vacation. Then disaster strikes. Have an idea what problems the protagonist is going to come up against. Maybe you’ll even find more once you delve into the writing of your story.

Usually the problems of the protagonist should get more difficult  and mount up as the story goes on. Have fun. This is a chance for the writer to indulge in sadistic tendencies. Bring on the problems! Have your character crawl in the dirt. The writer can be merciful or unrelenting. Of course, when a writer gets really sadistic, that’s called a horror story.    

I like Egri’s words  “. . . growing to its necessary conclusion.” That means the ending can’t erratically emerge out of nowhere. The writer is bound by the story he/she is telling and the ending is formed in the context of that story.

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