Monday, October 10, 2011

Plot: Wretched Excess

What do you think of when you see this title, Wretched Excess? For me I think of over eating. I have a weight problem and things translate into that for me rapidly. But I don't over eat. I tend to eat the wrong thing. Too many carbohydrates. My body says…ooh, I get to store more food. But I digress. Wretched Excess in the form of a plot is when the normal character is pushed by circumstance to act in a manor that isn't socially acceptable or when the abnormal character does the same thing.

Let's start with the normal. It shouldn't be too much of a stretch in today's economy to imagine the couple who has fallen on hard times. After years in a good job one or both lose their job, then their home and are thrust on the street to stand in line at a homeless shelter or to live in unfavorable conditions. In this dire situation one or both begin to live outside what is acceptable behavior in society.

This has actually happened to me. Though my husband is gainfully employed he makes half his previous income and we have lost our home. As a result, I live in a two bedroom apartment instead of a home paid for by years of mortgage payments. So far, I haven't reached the level of wretched excess, but I can imagine it with depth and detail because of my own experience.

Of course, this may be any number of situations. Our examples for this post is Shakespeare's plays, Othello, King Lear, Hamlet and Macbeth. In each play the protagonist is driven to break the rules of society. It's been years since I read King Lear and Macbeth, but I remember well that both Othello and Hamlet were driven 'mad' by their situations.

On a more modern note, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, 'Dick and Jane Have Fun.' Perhaps I have lost some of you. And maybe I liked it because our home was in jeopardy when I saw it. Here is a movie where the protagonist loses his job because the CEO is a crook and Dick is an unknowing fall guy. To make matters worse, he had encouraged his wife to leave her job. This leads into a job search for Dick that is less then productive and totally embarrassing. Meanwhile Jane is desperate to keep the truth from the neighbors. After many embarrassing moments they start to rob stores and banks' making ridiculous what is a serious offense in society. At one store they force the staff to make them a coffee at gun point. In the end, they save the day for all the ex-employees and to avoid a spoiler in case you haven't seen the movie I will not tell you how.

The point of this little excursion into a modern movie is that you as a writer do not have to cast this plot, Wretched Excess, into tragedy but you can make it a comedy. It is up to you. Just remember, good writing starts with believable characters. Whatever the catalyst for your plot is, it must be believable.

Act 1:
We see our characters in a normal setting. The event strikes a blow that will begin to change who and what they are.

Act 2:
There is a gradual loss of control for your character. The reader witnesses his or her spiral out of control. Don't hide your characters struggles. You want the reader to have sympathy for the character no matter his crimes. The villain however, is another matter. The villain must be bad with no redeeming qualities or at least very few. The villain in the movie, 'Dick and Jane have fun,' is the CEO who is rich and flaunts it while his ex-employees suffer the consequence of his actions.

Act 3:
This begins at the point where the character loses control and spirals downward breaking the rules of society. At the end you almost always have, murder or mayhem, or on a lighter note, the protagonist pulls it together for a spectacular finish that leaves the reader cheering.

Now for the question. In my current whip, the secondary plot is Wretched Excess. Because it is the secondary plot, the protagonist doesn't lose control but must save others as the villain intends to destroy many of them.

Next week the plot will be Ascension & Descension. My spell check doesn't like the spelling of descension, but that is how it is spelled in the book, 20 Master Plots and how to build them, by Ronald B. Tobias. Next week's plot is also the last one.

Do you plan to use, Wretched Excess in any plot form?


Do you need help with your writing? I'm offering affordable classes so come by and let me know what burning questions you have about your writing at The Writing Craft.

(This is post 300).


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Nancy .. I can emphasise and the book looks very interesting for many in challenging situations right now - it's keeping the positive .. that things will get better and they will.

Good luck with all things - and especially your coaching .. Hilary

Francine Howarth: UK said...


Ha ha, where would a novel be that didn't have a character who acts in a manner that is socially unacceptable?!

In The Highwayman's Mistress, my latest novella on kindle, there is element of suspicion that two highwayman exist, but it is never proven whether the second in fact has ever robbed anyone on the highway. But if not, how does he acquire great wealth within a matter of a few months. And why, if not a highwayman does he commit to kidnap of the one he loves?


BTW: check out the Featured Writer post at RFW.

N. R. Williams said...

That is true Hilary.

I so agree Francine. Your story sounds terrific. As a child, one of my favorite poems was The Highwayman.

I'll be by to read the Featured Writer post soon.

Thank you both for stopping by, I appreciate your comments.

Southpaw said...

I think this is one of the more challenging plots to pull off.

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Holly, I agree. Thanks for dropping by.

Mike Ruchhoeft said...

Ahh, another wonderful way to torture characters. I haven't used this but I might somewhere down the road.

Good post

The Golden Eagle said...

I've read stories where things unraveled as the characters got more and more desperate, but never knew there was an actual plot structure based on it. Thanks for the post!

Congratulations on 300 posts! :)

N. R. Williams said...

You're so right Mike.

Hi Golden, thanks.

And thank you both for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Jodi Henry said...

I didn't know there was a plot structure for this, and yes, I do write with it.

Good post,

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've never considered this plotline...

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Jodi, now you have me interested.

Thanks for stopping by Alex.


Julie said...

Just making the Hi-I'm-an-insecure-writer-too-what's-your-name? rounds!! Glad to see you here! Your blog is fantastic. I loved this post (congrats on it being post 300 too, by the way... but wait... IS it congrats? Doesn't that mean we've probably spent WAY too much of our lives social networking! Haha!)

I've often wondered why the whole movie/story arc you've outlined here never gets old. You'd think that because almost ALL movies/stories are based on this format, that we'd kinda get sick of it after a while. But no. We don't.

In fact, if someone strays from the traditional story arc, we usually leave the theatre/close the book feeling a bit butt hurt. At least I do... (What?! No happy ending?! Pshaw!)

Anyway, like I said, great post!

P.s. New stalker alert!

N. R. Williams said...

Nice to meet you Julie. I am thrilled that you enjoyed my post. I'll be by to check out your blog.

Summer Ross said...

Nancy- I have not used this plot idea yet. Not that I have much time for an entire novel right now anyway- I'm still working away one short story at a time :)

Carolyn V said...

That's a very interesting plot line. It's funny how different plot lines can work so well. =)

N. R. Williams said...

I hear you there Summer.

I agree Carolyn.

Thank you both for stopping by and leaving a comment.

S. L. Hennessy said...

Wow, congrats on 300 posts! I'm still in the early stages and am definitely jealous of you more experienced bloggers. But I love checking you guys and getting new ideas. Yay for Alex Cavanaugh's groups turning me on to a bunch of new blogs! Glad I stopped by!


N. R. Williams said...

Thank you S. L., I'll be by tomorrow.

Jules said...

I'm with you. No need to write something when you live it. I have always been a wretched excess. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

N. R. Williams said...

LOL Jules.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Congrats on 300 posts!

This theme is very interesting. I might just have to try Wretched Express for fun sometime. It has some great possibilities.

It would be fun to try this for something comical.

I hope you're enjoying the weekend Nancy.

I hope life is treating you better or will soon. Times are tough for so many. God only knows I have my ups and downs... downs being more frequent, but I still try to keep positive.

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Michael.
I think this would be a fun plot. Thanks for the encouragement.