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The Playwrights Forum > The Art & Craft of Writing > Work-in-Progress > I have a protagonist but no plot

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I have a protagonist but no plot  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Tue Dec 9th, 2014 10:47 am
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michaelthompson
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Mana: 
So, I generally find that I can come up with an interesting premise, story, or theme but have a tough time populating them with intriguing characters. However, at the moment, I'm running into quite the opposite problem.

I have what I think is a very interesting character with a lot of depth to explore but very little idea of what story to put him into (I have some clues but not many). Allow me to explain what I know of the character so far:

A young man who aspires to a dark, mysterious image and pursues an heir of distance and apathy. He smokes, dresses in black, and has a very nihilistic outlook on life (saying he doesn't care about anyone else or his future, only wanting instant gratification). Yet, at the same time, he encourages people and has dreams he wishes to fulfill. He can't help but sympathize with other peoples' problems and yearns to get advice from other people. Sometimes he directly contradicts things he has just said in regards to this. He tells himself and others that despite his failings thus far in life he will change and begin succeeding, but is pulled back in by his own laziness. He may or may not be in love with his ex, for whom even he cannot tell if his feelings are genuine or if he just wants to use and manipulate. When asked what he does for a living, he says he is a writer (at some point throughout what ever I end up writing, it will be stated that anyone who claims to be a writer is unemployed; he also makes it a point to mention that violence is what happens when a bad writer works himself into a corner).

While I have no inkling of a real plot, I know basically how I want it to end (or at least a good idea for an ending, providing whatever plot I work out still points to it, I'm far from above changing it). I picture this scene in a bar but I suppose it could take place anywhere. The protagonist is finally forced into a confrontation with another character (more masculine, confident, and openly rude than him) but backs down in a very anticlimactic physical fight. He totally wimps out, then goes over to the bar where a couple of weaker, possibly older, drunk men make fun of him and he takes out his rage by smashing a bottle on one of their heads and beating them to a pulp.

I've had loose plot ideas for other things that I think this character could fit into. A man is at home visiting his family after his father dies. The familial relationships crumble. His girlfriend who has come with him starts to see the negative things about him and that relationship also crumbles. On the day of the funeral, he drunkenly smashes his father's earn and starts a fight with police officers, learning that chasing debaucherous pleasure also crumbles. In the final scene he comes back home, beaten and bloodied, and finds his family moving out and leaving the empty home to him.

I know the original question has kind of been lost in that mess, but any advice or opinions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

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 Posted: Tue Dec 9th, 2014 11:28 am
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Paddy
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Mana: 
As we say - puke it to the page.

Just get writing and the story will tell you where it wants to go.

Maybe start by writing a scene where your character is unable to speak for some reason, but needs to get a message across.

Maybe look at some of your unfinished plot-driven plays, and see if he belongs there.

Mull for a while.

There are some ideas.

Paddy

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 Posted: Mon Dec 15th, 2014 12:55 am
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in media res
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Mana: 
Read 10 good plays for your sheer personal enjoyment.

After that:

Buy two books on playwriting.

Read them. Underline the hell out of them.

Re-read the same ten plays with the knowledge gained from reading the playwriting books.

See how the structure of the 10 plays fit or do not fit what the playwriting books say.

Below is one by Jeffrey Hatcher.

http://www.stageplays.com/products/the_art_and_craft_of_playwriting

Here is another by Jeffrey Sweet.

http://www.amazon.com/Dramatists-Toolkit-Craft-Working-Playwright/dp/0435086294

There are many more others may recommend, as we all have in the past.

Any two will do.

When you are done with that: Begin Writing!

And enjoy/suffer through the wonders/frustrations and sorrows and exuberation of writing a play!

Then, let us know how it goes!


Best,

IMR

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 Posted: Wed Oct 28th, 2015 09:45 pm
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Philis
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Mana: 
You could do the classic and send your protagonist on a journey where she (he) changes.

Check these out:

http://www.kalbashir.com/

http://www.channel101.wikia.com/wiki/Story_Structure_101:_Super_Basic_Shit

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 Posted: Thu Dec 17th, 2015 09:09 pm
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Will Kemp
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Mana: 
Well, you could make a plot about this character having trouble confronting his own rage who runs into other characters in an event which forces him to confront that rage: Is he perhaps a veteran with ptsd? What causes this character to become enraged? It seems to me, his conflict is with his own rage, which is unexpressed violence.
Jonathan Shay writes books about veterans with ptsd, if that's where your character is coming from. War? War at home? Who / what is he at war with?

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