Opposition Within the Arena
Do not build characters to fill the world. You create the world to host your characters. Especially your hero. As we create drama with our characters, we must create the dramatic arena for our characters to fight in. This is called visual opposition. You build this by looking at your opponents and the values they hold. Example: Your hero is all about his home, family, and community while your opponent has a golden toilet. Values.
Go back through your story to the points of conflict. This is where you will find the values each hold. If the bad guy goes to where the hero is, you will find the hero protecting his family, friends, and neighborhood. If the hero goes after the opponent, you will see them protecting whatever is of value to them. Could be a golden toilet but it can also be family, friends, and community. The opponent is a person too and can hold similar values as the hero. What this means is the world and all things in it can be affected by the conflict. Make the world work with the characters.
One of the examples Mr. Truby gave is pretty spot on and one of my favorite movies: It’s a Wonderful Life.
- In the structure of the story two separate versions of the same town had to be created. Each version is a physical manifestations of the values of that town, Pottersville -vs- Bedford Falls. Greed -vs- decency. (More examples were given but you must buy the book to see them.
Detailing the Story World
When describing a world, we typically use three main categories: land, people, and technology.
A fourth element would be time and how your world developed over time.
Natural Settings: Each setting holds a level of importance in a story. Don’t jump to the natural world without thinking it through. There are many variables to consider. You will need to understand the natural condition for whichever setting you choose.
- Ocean: The ocean can be divided into two distinct arenas- the surface and the deep. On the surface, it offers a life and death story in its grandest scale. Where the deep is seen as a watery graveyard. It feels impersonal and willing to grab and pull down any who venture too close. (Moby Dick, Titanic, Finding Nemo, Atlantis, Jaws, The Hunt for Red October)
- Outer Space: The ocean of “out there.” A giant blank slate. Just as impersonal as the ocean and just as dangerous. Your story options fall into a few slots: spaceship, humans in space, robots, aliens, and a collection of the four. Whatever you choose, remember to make your story human relatable. Think of the Disney movie Wall*E. There was a love story tucked in there to connect our feelings, as humans, to an inanimate object. And it’s a cute movie.
- Outer space offers a level of versatility that earth does not. You aren’t limited to the restrictions our planet holds. Run wild with it but make sure we can hold onto something relatable. (Dune, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Star Trek, Blade Runner, Apollo 13)
- Jungle: This setting is visceral. You feel like it is reaching out to grab you and pull you in. This is the power of nature at its wildest. This is also the location many focus their story on the evolution and the theory of change. Science sits well in this setting. Finding new creatures, real or imaginary, could work well here. (Tarzan, King Kong, The Lost World, Apocalypse Now)
- Forest: Nature’s cathedral. Tall trees, the protection of the leaves overhead, wise men telling us the powers of nature, …This is the place people go to “find themselves” or where lovers sneak away to be alone. (Twilight)
- There can also be a natural foreboding. You could get lost or run into an animal you have no defenses against. Are there ghosts, madmen hiding out, a supernatural creature hiding in the branches above? Eeeek!
- The forest tends to be less dramatic than the jungle- just sayin’. (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, A Midsummers Night’s Dream, The Wolf Man, The Blair Witch Project)
- Desert or Ice: This is death. Just death. The brutality of this environment not only kills people but can also kill a story. This is a setting for strong willed characters. They are toughened by the environment and isolation. Survival depends on the community formed within the arena. The village rallies for their survival by protecting each other and their homes. This would be a good way to show two neighbors who never got along having to save one another from an outside opponent. I’d read that. (Fargo, Lawrence of Arabia, Dune, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Once Upon a Time in the West)
- Island: Yes, please. I need one of my own right now…Sorry, back to the book- this is a mini earth. It is a small piece of land surrounded by water. This can be a personal paradise or hell depending on the story. This is where a whole new world order can be created and survived. Utopia -vs- dystopia. (Gulliver’s Travels, King Kong, Treasure Island, Lord of the flies, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Jurassic Park, Cast Away)
- Mountain: This is where some go to prove themselves, like, climbing Mount Everest. It is the highest, therefore the best, and if I climb it, I am the best also. A mountain also means seclusion, a lack of comfort, and surrounded by the wild. A place for meditation, natural philosophers, and great thinkers. The mountain setting makes a one-on-one connection between the character and the elements. Sometimes the mountain must break the character for the character to see its magnificence and power.
**We will pick up with the Plain, River, Weather, and more next time.
Stay tuned and stay caffeinated. **
Polish your sparkle and keep twirling.
Find joy. Be joy. Enjoy.
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