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 Story development 3 - Plot

Story and page copyright © 1997, Dorian Scott Cole
Previous copyrights apply

Planning 3 - plot 

What is going to happen in this story? The sequence of action - mystery, suspense, situations and events, turning points, the unfolding drama - are the plot. The plot is the course of dramatic action that arises from the protagonist's efforts to reach his goal. An argument that lasts for ninety minutes of screen time, and that has nothing in it but dialogue, has a plot. A ninety minute action sequence that has no dialogue also has a plot. For a thorough explanation of good plotting, see Five power-points in stories. A good plot tugs at your viewers, pulling them through the story. They want to know what is going to happen. The plot follows the sketch in your concept, and is a direct result of character motivation. No motivation - no plot.

Part 1, The opening: Crisis: The ad and the affair

In Wife For Sale, the first thing that has to develop within the first twenty to thirty minutes is a crisis. On the one hand, Bob has about all he can take of Julie and begins to fantasize about getting rid of her. In jest, he creates an ad, then loses it. Bob's boss is fanning the flames. Fast Freddy visits the TV station where Bob works. He wants to get into the expose business. He is among several people waiting to see Bob, and who see the colorful poster advertising Julie. He thinks he can help this marriage and takes down the number. Paul, an actor there for an interview, also takes down the number, then gives the paper to the a video production clerk. 

Julie, unaware that anything is really wrong, gets an unexpected call that her name is in an ad - for sale. She decides to go on a date for spite. Crisis.

Part 2, the three obstacles

First obstacle: Marriage counseling - failure to communciate. Julie believes that marriage counseling is the answer. She drags a reluctant Bob to counseling. Bob fears the worst - Julie will gain a new tool for controlling him. They try to start communicating better. It fails - Bob becomes even less organized and more messy than he was. Julie concludes Bob doesn't love her.

Second obstacle: The botched sale, The kitten, The weekend getaway. The ad takes on a life of its own. The video production clerk adds the ad to the daily personal ads that display at noon. Who sees it? Their competitor station. As Bob is getting dressed for work, they call, pretending to be an interested party. Bob, having just had another argument with Julie, is sarcastic: "Yeah, sure, she's for sale." He hangs up. That evening, while Julie is out, a man knocks on the door - he is there to buy Julie. Fast Freddie sees the entire thing from the bushes. Bob thinks the man is nuts and pursues the ruse. In moments the police arrive and the other station has an expose on Bob. Julie never sees a thing. A lawyer for Bob's station clears everything up.

Fast Freddie thinks a kitten is need to bring the two love-birds together. He brings one to Julie - no way is she going to let the furrie little creature in her clean house. 

Bob and Julie talk - failing as usual. The kitten appears from nowhere. Julie decides she is too uptight and needs to learn to loosen up. They decide a weekend getaway would bring them together. The weekend is a disaster of over-planning, and failed plans. Bob is convinced that divorce is the only answer. They agree, although neither of them really wants it - pride.

Third obstacle: The dates. Suspicion - Bob hires a detective. Bob decides to take his boss's advice. He goes on a date with one of the station secretaries. 

Julie begins dating a man. Julie gets suspicious of Bob - who has done nothing but enjoy another woman's company for dinner. Julie accuses him. 

Bob thinks Julie is covering something up and gets suspicious of her. He hires a detective - Fast Freddie - to find out. Freddie gets information, but it is wrong, and gives it to Bob. Bob confronts the man and tells him to stay away from his wife - it is Julie's business associate.

Final obstacle: The dinner party, Debra's loss, Steve's divorce, Escape to Australia/insanity. Bob has his boss over for dinner. At the dinner, Julie relates that her friend's husband has walked out on her because she has cancer. She thinks marriages lack committment and they should all try harder. Bob's boss tells him that he is being sued for divorce. Bob thinks that Julie is right, they should try harder. Fast Freddie invites himself to dinner - he has stolen the tape of the competitor's station expose on Bob. Bob is furious. The tape finds its way to the VCR and Julie learns she was up for sale. Bob is at his wits end. He tries to leave the country - but can't.

The split

Climax: Fast Freddy and Lulu intervene

Resolution: The reconciliation

Symbols and Motifs

Symbols deliver very powerful messages with no other action, like dialogue, necessary.  So I will use a symbol that is connected to the motif.  Motifs don't have to be part of the plot - they only set mood - but in this case the motif will be connected.  Vacation Airline tickets will be the symbol of Bob's love for Julie.   His refusal to part with them will symbolize the fact that he still has hope for their marriage and still loves her.  Julie's discovery of them at the end will be conclusive proof to her that Bob never stopped loving her. 

(Note:  Bob is talking to a travel agent about tickets to where he wants to go.  At the end of conversation, the agent asks if he wants to purchase.  Bob says, yes, then adds "to NY."  The tickets appear several times during the play and Bob has opportunities to cash them in.  He refuses.  At the end, Freddy bungles them into the open.)

Other distribution restrictions: None

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