Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Twelve Beats of Story With Flaw at the Core

This past weekend, I taught a writing workshop, and we spent a lot of time discussing the main character's flaw.

Flaw is so, so important. As we speak, I am consulting on a screenplay, and I am asking myself, "Okay, what is the main character's flaw?" I am going to advise that the writer spend more time creating a great flaw for her main character.

Flaw is so important because it gives your main character something to conquer during the course of the story. It also helps to create three-dimensional characters as well as to flesh out the obstacles of the journey. A flawed main character is often very talented at creating a lot of his own obstacles. We therefore root for the main character as she progressively improves, especially if we've spent enough time making her likeable. In short, we want this main character to conquer those flaws and prevail!

As I promised my students on this past Sunday, here is a twelve beat journey map as it relates to flaw.

Act 1

1. State what your main character’s flaw is.

2. What is the worst thing that could then happen to that character, considering his flaw? How does your character then try to escape the responsibility of dealing with that inciting event, attempting to avoid doing what he needs to do? And how is he unsuccessful?

Act 2

3. How is your main character now pushed to confront a journey in a new world that will help him get over his flaw?

4. How does your main character's flaw get in the way of his success in this new world? How is he now forced to partner up with the worst imaginable person possible, considering his flaw?

5. How does this new person now push your main character to improve? Show us that improvement!

6. How does a new event now occur that knocks your main character off of his game, leading him to follow yet another new goal?

7. How does your main character continue to improve and thus conquer his flaw little by little? How does he now form a worthy opponent to the growing menace of the antagonist?

8. How does your main character almost get over his flaw and also almost conquer the opponent?

Act 3

9. How does your main character fail so that he now regresses back to his flaw in a worse way than ever?

10. Who breaks your main character out of his funk and pushes him back toward his main goal again?

11. How does your main character rouse the forces in preparation to fight the final battle?

12. How does your main character finally win in the confrontation and/or finally confront what is flawed about himself? And how does this confrontation solve other problems, which were an ultimate manifestation of his flaw?

I will be teaching another workshop soon; so stay tuned!

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