Creating Story Events

by Naomi

Question: One of the questions I find most important is creating events. I can imagine an event but when I look at it I don't find it connected to the plot or at least making the character emotional at all. Can you please give me some tips.


Answer: When creating events, you must remember than a story event is not just something that happens. Above all, an event is a change. If everything is the same after the event, then it's not a good event for story purposes.

For an event to change things, it must be significant. It must affect a character in a way that gives him or her a new purpose or sends him in a new direction. It must make something else happen.

Events can be external -- a change in a character's circumstances or relationships. Or events can be internal, as in a new realization or a decision. In either case, the event must change things moving forward.

As Aristotle pointed out, a story is a series of events linked by cause and effect.

For instance, imagine your character wins a lottery. A sudden arrival of wealth will change his life profoundly, and not just in material ways. All his relationships will be affected. People will treat him differently, and he will have to make many decisions from how to handle his wealth to how to handle his relationships. New opportunities may arise as a result, as well as pitfalls. Maybe he's happy at first, but then he may worry about how to handle his wealth. He may become fearful of losing it or having it stolen. An entire plot could be developed from this one event.

Or let's imagine an event in which a character gives into a temptation. Perhaps they steal something or sleep with their best friend's spouse. That event will trigger a chain of other events. Perhaps they have to go to great lengths now to cover up their transgression. Perhaps they are caught and have to suffer consequences. Perhaps the consequences lead the character to wisdom and changes their influence on someone else.

Here's another example. Imagine if someone's father dies. Suddenly, the person may be forced to confront feelings he's had about his father but suppressed for many years. He may face an inner struggle to come to terms with this event and his past. Information that the father kept hidden may be revealed and that may cause the family members to react emotionally and
to take actions. Again, an event like this can cause an entire chain of related events to unfold.

Every good plot begins with one significant event that disrupts the status quo of someone's life and forces them to go in a new direction. That first event (which dramatica calls the "initial driver) sets off a chain of events that will make up the plot. The initial driver will cause someone or some people to respond or to go in a new direction. That, in turn, will lead to the next event, which may lead to the next decision, etc. And this chain of events will make up the plot. And the plot will not end until there is one final event that resolves things and creates a new status quo.

Similarly, each event in the plot will change things going forward. Every event will affect what happens next. If an event doesn't send one or more characters in a new direction, then it's not a good event for story purposes.

So if you have an event in mind, ask yourself how it will affect the characters, and especially your main character. What will change as a result of this event? If the answer is, "nothing," then find a different event. If you have an event that works, you can ask yourself what caused the event, or what resulted from it, and built your plot that way.

For instance, let's say the event is that a package arrives at a woman's home one day by mistake and she discovers it contains a thumb drive with incriminating evidence about a local mobster. That could be the initial driver of a story about how she has to decide what to do with information, while being pursued by the mobsters allies and enemies who have various agendas. You could build your plot by asking yourself how the woman will react to this event. What will she do? What will the mobster do? What will the mobster's enemies or the police do?

Or, you could ask yourself about the events that happened prior to the package's arrival. Who sent it to this woman, and why? What forced them to make the decision to send it? Who collected the evidence? What was their motivation? What happened to them?

You could create an entirely different story in which the arrival of the package was the end rather than the start.

Hope that helps.

P.S. I shortened your question a bit, I hope you don't mind.

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