6 must be my lucky number lately.
I propose a toast to another great 6-pack, this one from Blake Snyder’s screenwriting bible, Save the Cat. The number 6 is arbitrary– make it 5, 9, or heck, 87 if you’re feelin’ ornery– but the idea is this:
In the setup to your story, introduce 6 problems that need to be solved by the finale. The conflicts can be internal or external, and involve your main character. Other characters have their issues, too, which will overlap and interfere with your hero’s goals.
The dilemmas can be physical, metaphysical, philosophical, intellectual, serious, comical. Mild disagreements or all out war.
1. Tics. The story opens on a family arguing about what to do with their backyard. John wants to build a greenhouse. Jane’s thinking a fire pit. Jen and Jan are begging for a trampoline.
2. Tricks. The conflict develops or escalates throughout the story. John is a loner and doesn’t want Jane entertaining a bunch of tipsy women in his garden. Jane doesn’t appreciate John’s green thumb and insists he doesn’t need another mancave when he’s already got the basement. The kids are constantly jumping on the furniture in the living room, annoying the hell out of everyone.
3. Bricks. Add five more conflicts. I’m thinking one of each— wreak the whole spectrum of havoc on our hero. It’ll make him seem well-rounded.
Maybe John is your main character. He suspects his boss of shady dealings. He’s got a crush on one of Jane’s friends. He’s in a neck brace from when Jan and Jen jumped on his back. His orchids have aphids.
4. Fix. In the end it must be resolved. Maybe a meteor lands in their yard and leaves a crater and everyone agrees a swimming pool would be best. Whatever.
Consider the classic struggles in storytelling.
Here are 6 (six again!):
- man v. man
- man v. self
- man v. nature
- man v. society
- man v. God
- good v. evil
Now grab a martini shaker, your six problems and some fancy glasses.
Depending on your genre and tone, the conflict cocktail you concoct can be anything from a harrowing tale of “from bad to worse” to a running gag that (hopefully) gets funnier the further you go along. Make John’s life a waking nightmare or a series of comic mishaps. I recommend 50% alcohol and not too sweet, but hey, you’re the story Mixologist here.
Drop that meteor on his prize orchid.
Then shake, not stir, your ingredients together and serve with salty snacks that keep readers glued to their barstools and drinking in your brilliance until last call.