To really hammer home the importance of the change that occurs throughout a story we will look at the Emotional structure concept of Peter Dunne.
Emotional Journey Over Plot
Touching on characters, which would be a guide in and of itself, Peter Dunne keeps our 3 act structure. Beginning, middle and end. Beginning (Life as it was), Middle (Life torn apart) and end (Life as it is now). Fits perfectly with Aristotle, Syd Field and Campbell’s frameworks.
In Act 1 the plot draws the protagonist deeper into the challenge. He is eventually so deep that his methods, tools and abilities are insufficient in meeting the challenge. These abilities are no longer a safeguard, they are a liability. He needs to re-engineer his defense system, or die. This structure forces the underlying fears of the protagonist come front and center. Once these fears are surfaced, the story forces him deal with these fears. Remember, the challenge doesn’t exist to actually kill the protagonist or to make him give up. The challenge is there to develop him and to bring out the hero inside. Art imitating life?
“In the plot I am going to send them on a road trip to find his little sister, but in the story what I am really doing is sending them out in an unfamiliar world to see if they can find themselves.”
In other words, the plot, the turning points, the structure, are only there to support the emotional development of the character.
This emotional journey of change is the most vital element of your story. It’s what your audience will be left with after all is said and done, and the key to a story that resonates and moves. Actually, Peter Dunne says to first figure out where you want to take your characters emotionally, thus giving you a clear path to what plot points could make this journey possible. Genius.
“Hidden yet hard at work, the Emotional Structure is the story’s internal landscape; its secret architecture that informs the plot with purpose, viscerally connects the internal and external themes, and directly manipulates the tensions and rhythms of the drama’s central ideas.”
Show Don’t Tell
An important note when communicating emotion is understatement over obviousness. If your character is happy, don’t directly show: “John was very happy”. Realism sells the emotion. Details convince. Think of how that feeling would be conveyed in real life, what actions would come from that feeling?