20 Feb

Plotting with Pain – Who’d be the Most Hurt?

How to Plot using Pain

How to Plot using PainLet’s say you have an idea for a setting, or an event, or a new type of technology, but you can’t transform it into a plot. There’s simply no action there, no conflict. All you’ve got is a “what if…”

How about you take one of those what ifs and ask “who would be the most hurt by this?” I.e.:

“What if all people could suddenly fly? Who would be the most hurt by this?”

Airlines. Airline pilots. Airline maintenance workers. What if it’s a airplane mechanic who really loves his planes, but now they’re all worthless and nobody wants them? “The Airplane Whisperer, coming soon to a theater near you…”

Second point would be to see how badly you can make the person hurt.

What if our airplane mechanic has already lost all of his airplanes. They’ve been cut up to make light-weight thermos mugs for all those long-distance fliers. But there’s one airplane, a really big one, too big for the mechanic to rescue alone. And it’s the plane that he’s the most in love with – maybe it was the first plane he worked on. Or better, it’s a she, and it was the plane where she met her (deceased of course) husband (who was an airline steward). Now she’s going to lose the plane as well.

Then I’d look for a time bomb of some kind, make it immediate.

If it was me, I'd just jump in and start #writing, and see where it would take me. Click To Tweet

So our mechanic is under pressure because the hangar where the plane is (let’s say it’s a classic Boeing 747, but in bad repair) will be bulldozed to build condos. And the company who owns the plane, and had forgotten all about it, just found out they got 200 tons of airplane grade duraluminium just waiting for the smelter, and they’re in financial straits so they really, really need the money for the scrap metal.

If it was me, I’d just jump in and start writing, and see where it would take me (often off course).

Then I’d look for an ending: how will things work out (or not). What emotion will I get at the end? Will a happy mechanic find friends who help her preserve the plane? Put it in the Smithsonian as an exhibit and make her the caretaker? What is the best outcome for her? Or maybe she just needs to get over the whole airplane fixation and go work on a farm? With the end in sight, I can usually whip together something.

But to tell the truth, I often skip this part and just write. Sometimes it works, often it doesn’t, but I’m getting better and pantsing a story is sure to surprise me, which is fun.

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