UNPLOTTED STORY - PART 2
Unplotted character Stories are often called MESSAGE STORIES because of their strong underlying theme. Writers, however, classify them as unplotted character stories, and , as such, they must follow a clearly defined FORM to be effective.
For the untrained, identifying an unplotted story can be difficult because the main character may often have a purpose and have to reach a decision. The unplotted story must also contain the basic element of all other types of stories:
Rule 1: Someone to root for
Rule 2: Something of importance, which must depend on the outcome
Rule 3: A definitive beginning, middle and end.
The difference in an unplotted story is: the purpose (goal/decision) of the main character is NOT the focal point of the story, and often, is not present in the beginning of the story. What is important is the REACTION of the main character to the unique situation in which he finds himself, or into which he is pulled, which is used to illustrate some truth-of-life that the author wishes to convey.
Now, there are five main types of unplotted character stories:
1. Character defeated because of circumstances.
The main character is sympathetic and deserves to achieve his goal or happiness, but in the end, he does not, because life-isn't-always-like-that.
Samples of this type:
• THE GRAPES OF WRATH (STEINBECK)
• DEATH OF A SALESMAN (MILLER)
• THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA (HEMINGWAY)
2. Character defeated because of weakness or obsession.
The main character is interesting and likeable but possessed by a negative dominant trait that drives him to destruction.
Samples of this type:
• MADAME BOVARY (FLAUBERT)
• WUTHERING HEIGHTS (BRONTE)
• RACHEL, RACHEL (MARGARET LAWRENCE)
3. Character prevails because of great sacrifice
The main character is interesting and prevails because of persistence, cleverness or sacrifice... his own, or that of a loved one.
• THE AFRICAN QUEEN (C.S. FORRESTER)
• TOM JONES (FIELDING)
• BEAU GESTE (WREN)
4. Character regeneration
The Main character has a negative dominant trait or is controlled by a bad habit, whereby he is driven, led or shocked into benevolence, wisdom or rehabilitation.
• CASABLANCA (BURNETTE & ALISON)
• LOST WEEKEND (C.R. JACKSON)
• CHRISTMAS CAROL (DICKENS)
5. Character degeneration
The main character, though interesting/pathetic, deteriorates morally, spiritually or mentally. Just before the end crisis, there is an upward trend, a flicker of hope that the hero will redeem himself, after which he slides downhill)
• THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY (WILDE)
• DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (STEVENSON)
• NIGHTMARE ALLEY (W.L. GRESHAM)
All unplotted character stories contain strong CHARACTERIZATIONS, an interesting PROBLEM that builds to a CRISIS, where the end consists of one or more of the following:
1. Revelation of the unjust or pathetic cause of the problem
2. Expression of some sage philosophy or reality of life
3. promise of rehabilitation, usefulness or happiness
Here are some themes of unplotted character stories (again, I will use the classic ones for easy recognition)
THE GRAPES OF WRATH
A family's struggle against destitution and death, which strengthens its spirit to fight for what is right.
DEATH OF A SALESMAN
An average man's hopeless sense of failure in American society as he discovers himself aging.
THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA
Man's inevitable defeat in his struggle with existence – in spite of which, man can fight with dignity, courage and stoicism.
Strong brotherly love prevails even after death.
Protective devotion and pride can drive one away from his loved ones.
THE AFRICAN QUEEN
Two opposing personalities find love for one another as they bravely fight for survival.
A woman becomes corrupted as she tries to fulfill childish dreams of romance.
An under priveleged man's overt determination for wealth does not necessarily bring happiness.
A daughter's inability to find happiness while she remains under her mother's domination.
A hardened self-centered man becomes vulnerable to self-sacrifice when moved by affair of the heart.
Remember that the aim of unplotted stories is not necessarily to create strong suspense or highly satisfying endings, but to produce a definite EMOTION toward the main character in order to illustrate the truth (or theme) which the author wishes to convey.
Always remember that in a an unplotted character story, the character's purpose (goal, decision( is not the focal point of the story and is often not present at the beginning of the story. The main thrust of the story is the THEME.
I hope, those who are asking what exactly is an unplotted story is, have benefited from this post. Most probably, many young writers are now truly aware of what a PLOTTED story is, so we will not touch that topic unless someone sends me an email asking for it. In this case, then, we'll discuss MODERN THEMES next time.