the climax complications

by charan
(Hyderabad,India)

Question: I am currently working on a story with two plots. One, a story of a man who turns into a terrorist and the other, a college student with his love life and complications. I planned their meeting in the climax where the student is taken by the terrorist as a hostage. At this point, I cannot find a path forward as it has to be a win win situation for both of them.


Answer: I'm going to assume here that one of these characters is supposed to be the main character and the other one is the impact character.

So the typical pattern of a dramatic arc is that these characters each have a particular approach that is shown early in the story. That approach is then tested. The impact character pressures the main character to change, to adopt the impact character's approach. The main character's personal crisis is the event where he/she decides once and for all whether to change. Finally, the end of the story shows whether that choice was good -- whether the main character is happier or better off.

You also have to know what your story goal is -- what goal involves or affects most of the characters, if not the entire world of the story. For example, in a story about terrorism, the story goal might involve a terrorist plot that will impact the community, if successful. The main character's choice (change or stay steadfast) should determine whether the goal is achieved.

For example, let's say your terrorist is the main character. You would show what his approach is in the beginning. Is he a true believer, ready to do anything for the cause?

His meeting with the student might then show him a different point of view, a different approach to life.

His crisis would be when he decides whether to stay true to his former approach, ideology, etc. or change and adopt the student's approach. This would then determine if the terrorist plot succeeds or fails.

The end of the story would show if the terrorist is happier or better off for having made the choice.

If you were writing from the student's point of view, you would start by showing his approach to life. When he meets the terrorist, he may be tempted to switch and adopt the terrorist's approach (perhaps via Stockholme syndrome). His crisis would be the moment when he chooses whether to stay steadfast or change, which then determines the outcome of the story goal. In the end, you would show if the student is happier for his decision.

Usually, if the main character changes, the impact character remains steadfast. If the main character remains steadfast, the impact character changes.

Of course, if you're writing from both points of view, you must bear in mind that everyone is the main character of his own story. So you have two stories and each of these characters may be the impact character to the other.

A win/win situation in this type of story would probably be...

1) The goal is not achieved (the terrorist plot fails).
2. Both the terrorist and the student are better off in the end because of their choices. I'm guessing this means the terrorist changes and the student remains steadfast (even if he is briefly tempted to switch).

This would be called a tragi-comedy.

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