Saturday, March 15, 2008

The First Draft

The first draft is actually a series of resumes for a group of individuals applying for a job. The job is a position in a story or series of stories; it may even turn out to be a novel. In these resumes, individuals with attitudes are applying for positions of protagonists and antagonists. The protagonists are individuals who want something tangible and are willing to exchange certain labors and focus to secure those tangibles. Antagonists are individuals who think it is unreasonable or impractical for the protagonists to achieve their stated goals and are accordingly willing to do things to gum up the works, as it were. The reader may actually like the antagonists more than the protagonists, even to the point of rooting for the and against the protagonists. (When this happens, the result is called a moral quandary, which readers favor because it allows them to worry that the wrong set of characters might win. (News for you, the wrong set of characters often appears to be on the cusp or winning. This state of affairs is called suspense.)

Even though unemployment figures are not encouraging. out-of-work characters are banking on their past experiences, goals, reliability, and simple willingness to work their way up the dramatic ladder. Interestingly enough, some applicants, if they sense that they are being allowed short shrift in an interview, will become inventive, claiming experiences they in fact do not have, claiming abilities they don't have.

These applicants are not ordinary individuals; if they seem ordinary, they need to be encouraged to show some flaws or weaknesses they readily admit, hopeful of using the opportunity afforded them in your story to overcome aforementioned flaws and weaknesses.

In the world of reality, applicants for jobs are measured by entirely different sets of standards than those applied to applicants who wish to serve as characters. This might also obtain for the world of politicians. The facts remain that the best candidates for jobs in stories are those men and women who have known weaknesses they may be attempting to overcome or, on another level, they may have no intention of overcoming.

Individuals who place a high priority on their achievement goals are splendid candidates for positions within stories, as are men and women who set great store by their morality and/or reliability. A reliable character in real life has a nice career path; a reliable character in a story broadcasts the potential of being seduced, suborned, manipulated.

As subsequent details of the lives of the protagonists and antagonists emerge in successive drafts, the richness of the human condition begins to assert itself, with the ascendancy of mischief fluttering in the dramatic breeze. Life without mischief is boring routine and often successful business; life with mischief is--well, it's story.


x said...

The first draft as character auditions, only their lines haven't been written yet and they have to improvise. I love the distinction between those auditioning for protagonist versus antagonist. I'm going to go write a first draft write...I mean right now.

Anonymous said...

Moral quandaries become very interesting when the protagonist is an "anti-hero." I love the distinctions, and Lee's response over at her blog.