Thursday, December 4, 2008

An Emergency Situation

Consider this statement – Some of the strongest stories have a main character that the audience cares about and roots for to achieve his or her goal.

Identifying the emergency in your story is one way to measure how well an audience is able to root for the main character. Think about some of your favorite stories. Why do you like them? Why do you want to see them succeed?

Let’s look at Cinderella again as an example. I indicated that the emergency is when something happens to the character that prompts them to go after their goal/want. For Cinderella, the emergency is the arrival of the invitation to the ball. Now, imagine her story without all of the scenes that occur before emergency (when the invitation to the ball arrives). If the audience is introduced to the character of Cinderella right at that moment, what do they know about her? In that scene, she is just someone trying to get to the ball, but why should the audience care whether or not Cinderella gets to go?

The exposition scenes before the invitation arrives are the key to the audience’s investment in Cinderella’s journey. Without the introduction to the evil stepfamily, the scenes of the horrible way that Cinderella is treated, and the display of Cinderella’s personality as she deals with these events, is what can lead an audience to care about the character and really root for her to find something better.

So, take a look at your play. What is the emergency? When does it occur? What happens beforehand? Make sure to give your audience plenty of time to get to know the main character and what everyday life is like for him or her. When the emergency arrives, the audience will want to see your character succeed almost as much as the character does!

Have fun and happy writing!

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