Monday, June 27, 2011

Plot: Transformation

We continue our exploration of plots with transformation. This is a character driven plot. What does that mean? It means that as the writer you need to understand your character. His weaknesses, his strengths, his fears, and his desires. It means that you must be able to effectively let the reader see this character and experience those character traits and it means that you need to know what will happen to the character to change him.

Transformation is related to metamorphosis. If you missed the discussion on metamorphosis you can go here to read it. Metamorphosis is how the character changes literally to become something else. Think in terms of a human becoming some type of other creature from vampire to werewolf and more. Or maybe the character is an animal to begin with that becomes human.

Transformation is about the human character and what happens that causes a person to grow. Examples of catalysis that you might use are:

A comfortable childhood and how the lessons of adulthood change this person.
War…need I say more?

The search for identity. I remember as a teenager asking many questions along this line of thought, trying to discover who I really was and what I should do with my life. This underlying reason may take your character into the dark places of his mind.

The character that is forced to deal with the dramatic moments in life; divorce, death, job loss to name a few.

These are all intense moments in a characters life. But, you need not have such a dramatic crisis; you may choose a simpler event. Your character may have low self esteem and the event that changes them may be the attention of another character, real or imagined.

The list of examples is long:
The Last Picture Show, by Larry McMurtry
The Paper Chase, by John Jay Osborn
Indian Camp, by Ernest Hemingway
The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Kramer vs. Kramer, by Avery Corman
Pygmalion better known as, My Fair Lady, by George Bernard Shaw (The play didn't have a happy ending).

Act 1:
The incident that begins the change in the protagonist life. Remember, we need to know who your character is emotionally.

Act 2:
We see the full effects of the inciting incident of the first act. How does this event change the character? How do they feel? What do they think about it? What is the internal process the character is going through?

Act 3:
You're not done. There is yet another incident that defines the result of the character's transformation. Now we see the lessons that your character has learned, has experienced and how this has changed him. This process allows your character growth.

Oh yes, this can be a sub-plot just like all plots can be.

There you have it. Do you have a character in your WIP that is undergoing transformation? If not, do you have a favorite transformation based book? What is it?

Based on information found in: 20 Master Plots and how to build them, by Ronald B. Tobias. You can find this book in most book stores or on Amazon. I highly recommend it.

Next Monday is July 4, a rather big deal in the USA. I will not be blogging that day. I'll be back on Wednesday, July 6 next week too. This week I will have a post on Wednesday and Friday.


mooderino said...

I don't think I have a favourite transformation book, most of the ones I liek seem to involve learning something but no real great change in the character. I think it's a lot more defined in movies where there is often a real no, I can't, no, I can't... oh, wait, yes I can type of structure.

Enjoying these posts!

Moody Writing

Nas Dean said...

Thanks for a great post, as you most probably guessed by now I read these craft posts very thoroughly while trying to incorporate what I read in my writing, which by the way gets R very fast!

Joanne said...

I prefer character driven plots, and really enjoy getting inside the heads of the characters. My manuscripts do involve transformation, and I'd say that process is what drives the story.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think you finally hit the basis for my stories!

N. R. Williams said...

I see your point Mood.

I'm glad you are finding these post useful, Nas.

Yes, me too Joanne.

Character driven for you Alex.

Thank you all for stopping by and reading my post.

The Golden Eagle said...

One story that immediately comes to mind is Beauty and the Beast, although it's not one of my all-time favorites.

I do have an MC that goes through a transformation, as part of his growth as a character.

N. R. Williams said...

That's a good example although since the beast is an animal it is closer to metamorphosis. Thanks for leaving a comment Golden.

M Pax said...

Most of my stories are about transformation.

N. R. Williams said...

Indeed, M., thanks for coming by.

Meagan Spooner said...

Great breakdown! I think I'd argue that most decent books are, in some way, transformation driven. I know that I tend not to like books unless they have strong characters with well-developed arcs across which they change and grow and develop. That's a big part of the fun for me!

N. R. Williams said...

I agree totally Meagan.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi Nancy...

My latest novel totally deals with transformation. What my MC deals with in his life changes him from a kid to am man.

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Michael. There's a lot of tension to be had during our maturing. I bet your ms. is great.