Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Active, Reactive & Reflective

In my continuing proselytising of all things structural, I come to this.

A hero (I use the term in the gender neutral sense) must always be in one (or more) of the following states:


Grab yourself a cuppa and I'll explain.

As the story begins, it's highly likely that they are simply 'reactive', in that the story begins, we see a little of the 'normal world' they are in and not much is happening. They don't have to do much either, just show the reader around their home/work/play areas.

Do not make them reflective this early on. Reflect is where you look back. Your story hasn't even started to move forward yet, don't drag it backwards!

Then there is a 'disturbance' in the normal world and it's time to move forward through the 'Plot Catalyst' (without which, there will be no story). At this point the hero can be reactive or active. Either is fine, as long as they move forward.

The Plot Catalyst, and the 'accepting of the challenge' actively propels them into ACT 2.

There is no time for being reflective here either, as they start building allies and earning enemies. This is a very active time, and the hero must be active during this time, actively pushing the story forward rather than merely reacting to their world and being carried along.

Whaddya know? There's no time for reflection here either!

Did you realise we're half way into act two and there hasn't been any reflection?


The hero then has a big challenge, and it all falls to bits. This is what many call The Midpoint. The Midpoint comes in the middle of the story, and it's usually where everything blows up in the hero's face, it all seems too hard and they think  they're going to fail and fail badly.

NOW you're allowed to be reflective. O'kay? Yeah, you go be your reflective bad self, little hero, you've earned it. It's the middle of the book and you're looking death (physical, spiritual, metaphorical etc) in the face. Here is where you say, 'OK, I have to keep going, and it might kill me, but I can't go back'. The Midpoint is where your hero is past the point of no return, so he/she has to go forward. They might 'die' (actually or figuratively) and they're OK with that.

Your hero pushes on.

The 'bad guys close in' (Thank you Blake Snyder) and things go from bad to worse. The hero becomes more desperate. (Think about how desperate Scarlett O'Hara became when she was trying to get the $300 to pay the taxes on Tara).

THE CLOCK IS TICKING - (Hurry, there's no time!)
This tightens up the section from the Midpoint to the next big structural turning point, which is The Black Moment. It's all action all the way. The ticking clock is a handy device giving your hero a deadline in which they must achieve success. (Again, Scarlett needed $300 right now to pay the taxes on Tara. She couldn't wait for Rhett to remember her in his will.)

The Black Moment:
You thought the Midpoint was bad? This is as black as black can be. All is lost and love is not enough.
You're allowed to have some reflection here as well, because it's all you have. No action or reaction will save you, you've done it all, tried it all and you're as miserable as a snake with a sore tummy.

Well suck it up, because we're on our way out of Act Two with . .


Time to push on into Act 3, where it will all lead to one last big showdown as we 'Storm the Castle'.
There will be a win, followed swiftly by a BIG SCARY FRIGHT THAT MAKES YOUR HERO THINK (for just a second of reflection) THEY WON'T WIN then they will reach deep inside themselves and win the day. Because they're the hero.

There is a big party.

The hero is allowed to have a little rest and reflection, and perhaps have a think about the future . . .

In a nutshell, make your hero as active as possible, for as much of the story as possible.


Heather said...

Active is where its at, for sure! An inactive hero is one that I quickly stop reading about. And sadly, it happens. By the way, how did I not know that The Winter of Magic was out?!

Ebony McKenna. said...

Ooops Heather, that is very remiss of me in the promotions department.


Right, that sorted, back to the inactive hero. Yeah, they worry too much, don't they? They can be reluctant to begin with, but once they 'accept the challenge' so to speak, they need to step up. Even if their confidence is all an act (and they fear people will expose their act).