In this post, we give you 3 ways to make the most of major life events in a story.
Wedding Bells And Funeral Blues
What is a wedding if not organised drama? All the elaborate dresses, gifts, food and music, not to mention the unseen family politics, just to witness two people swap two words! We do it because it works, it’s a great show. Where else can you get a hundred people to laugh, cry and celebrate in one afternoon?
Organising The Drama
Sometimes as writers we want to bring a lot of characters together on the page for an important event like a wedding or a birthday party, a ball, a fight scene—in fact your story could hinge on these plot high points or set pieces. However, it does take a little planning. Using the example of the wedding, let’s see how it could play out.
3 Ways To Make The Most Of Major Life Events In A Story
- Start off on a high note. Your novel or screenplay could start off with a big moment. The hero is about to marry the girl of his dreams. Everyone is there at the country club on a spring day—from his best man to his drunken first cousin twice removed. As they’re getting dressed, his best man confesses he saw the bride-to-be dancing at a strip club six months earlier. What now? The whole thing falls apart for him and we’ve set up a major point of conflict as a writer. Great.
- Hinging it. You could also use a set piece as a mid-point in your story. The heroine who has secretly been in love with her boss attends his high-society wedding to a gorgeous model. It’s a turning point for her and she’ll have to accept it. Acceptance doesn’t always come gracefully so she gets a little tipsy and a handsome waiter makes sure she gets home in one piece. As a writer, you have an opportunity to explore another relationship for her. You’ve shown a character’s arc.
- The pay off. Most times we save the biggest moments for last, because it’s a great way to tease out anticipation in the story. Say you’re writing an animated film or graphic novel. After struggling with floods, overcoming an army of wildebeest, your magical meerkat is finally marrying his elusive ocelot. Not only are these two finally reunited, but their marriage will unite two fighting animal kingdoms. It’s a chance for you to use the big moment to tie up your biggest point points. It’s a satisfying end.
Of course, you don’t have to plan major events like weddings or funerals. A Sunday night lunch with a dysfunctional family could be just as dramatic, funny or sad. The office Christmas party could be ripe with conflict and drama too.
The idea is to get characters together for a reason or a ritual and build a big plot moment around this event.
Try these five exercises to help:
- List characters you’d invite to the event and give each a secret.
- What would they wear? Something stylish our outlandish?
- Start with the words, ‘Ladies and gentlemen we’re gathered here today to …’ and just keep writing
- Give minor characters a major role – the flower arranger who works for the FBI, the DJ who is an alien from another planet etc.
- Listen to classic wedding songs to inspire you – or music that suits the theme of your big moment