Writers Write is a comprehensive writing resource. In this post, we discuss why the locked room test is a great way to interrogate your plot.
A trapped character comes alive on the page or screen because he has to fight his way out a corner. The character has to push back against the predicament placed there by the plot—giving us conflict, intensity, and barriers we can define. The locked room is a way to interrogate your plot.
The Locked Room – A Simple Way To Test Your Plot
The character can be someone accused of murder who is trapped in a witness box by a dogged prosecutor. It can be a woman trapped in a loveless marriage and career, with no window or door to help her escape. It can be someone stuck in a deep depression or illness—the locked room is an inner demon or addiction.
It doesn’t matter. The idea is to put your character in a room. Lock the door, bar the windows, take away food and comfort— and see what happens. As a writer, you have to get him out the locked room.
5 Questions To Ask About The Locked Room
- Who locked him in the room?
- Why did they lock him in the room?
- Why does he need to get out the room? What will happen if he doesn’t get out the room?
- Is there anyone else or anything else in the room with him?
- How is he going to get out of the locked room? With force? Words?
This is what the locked room could look like on the page:
A naïve young heiress is persuaded into an engagement with a wealthier older man. This is the 1920s—so the locked room is the morals, pressures and expectations of the period. She needs to get out of the relationship because she fears she will end up a miserable uptight snob like her mother. The only person who can understand, and help her, is a free-spirited and rebellious female journalist—who encourages her to break from her rich family and find her own identity.