When you write, you unconsciously repeat and recreate patterns from your social understanding.
Morals and Power
A grounding in moral and ethical behavior is necessary for meaningful plot construction. A study of power dynamics, and the pursuit of control between living bodies is similarly important.
Let’s talk for a minute about Richard the Third, the old hunchback who, bored and without a sexual partner, goes about to undermine his brothers, murder most of his relatives, and take the crown for himself.
The play is not, as most people think, about an evil man. It’s about a man who is sexually rejected, and who is without a home. He starts out going after the throne merely because everyone around him is having sex, and he is too ugly and uncomfortable to have a partner.
Literally, that’s what he explains to us in the opening, and if Shakespeare writes a character’s thoughts in iambic pentameter, that’s as good as an omniscient narrative voice. Richard is bored, and has no girlfriend.
He Says Dogs Hate Him, Too
Ironically, right after he decides to go after power, he gets all the intimacy he wants, but it’s too late for him then, as he’s already succumbed to the first idea. There’s no good woman around to wake him up and bring him back from murder and disloyalty, and so he eventually turns evil and has to be exterminated like a cockroach from hell.
But the play isn’t actually about an evil man. If you want to read a play about evil, go and look at either Claudius, from Hamlet, or Macbeth, from the play of that name.
Bad Writing (No Social Grounding)
Damien had a hard time making friends, because his hair was too long. He wasn’t a hippy, but his father thought he looked like one. Francine was a hippy, though.
The coffee shop on the corner was a good place to hang out, for local poets.
Greenland was having internal strife over some environmental workers disrupting the local economy. Everyone was very upset.
Good Writing (Social Framework)
Damien, who came from Greenland, had promised his mother on her deathbed that he would not cut his hair for five years. He thought he looked ridiculous, and always wore some manner of hat when he left his apartment.
He was a freelance illustrator, and did most of his work in a coffee shop just around the corner from his apartment. Francine, the lead barista, loved Damien’s long hair, though she didn’t care much for his drawings. She was a poet, in her spare time, and often left pamphlets lingering meaningfully about on his regular table. She hoped he would get the idea that she was inviting him to a late-night beat session, after the coffee shop was taken over by the local poets’ society.
Damien found the constant waste of paper shocking, and often collected as many pamphlets as were lying about. He carried them down the street to the nearest recycling bin, and placed them inside with all the care of a man burying a dead sparrow.
Power, control, and a social grasp of morality are all essential elements for meaningful plot construction. Character action only begins to have impact when it is contextually framed in a social setting relevant to the reader.
You’re reading Victor Poole, and I’m tinkering at the seduction scene between Crikey’s geneticist and the hunter, who is getting out dark, nasty secrets from her. Bwa ha, etc.