Posts Tagged ‘trouble describing what his protagonist wants’

Writers of Fiction and Narrative Nonfiction,

I gave this assignment to a hardworking client who had trouble describing what his protagonist wants.

“Do I Know What My Protagonist Wants?”

The assignment was to watch three movies and write a one-paragraph description on each.  My client had chosen movies I hadn’t seen (which made the assignment a perfect exercise)–his summaries/teasers had to “sell” (make me want to see the movies).

Below each summary written by my client are my comments/suggestions.

D,

I am so proud of you.

Your summary of Black Swan is the way to write a pitch / a book jacket / and what I’d call “author’s story-track for self.”  Bravo!

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest: Hacker Lisbeth Salander has been hospitalized as a child for trying to kill her abusive father, Victor. Ultimately, she kills him and stands trial for murder in Sweden. Her protector and advocate is investigation journalist Michael Blomquist, who runs down a string of corrupt government employees and criminals who have created and allowed a string of child prostitution and sex trafficking rings. Salander is acquitted because of her intrepid physical and hacker skills and moves on to help jail those guilty for the sex crimes.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest: Hacker (replace “Hacker” with “Friendless” or an adjective that signals her emotional-state) Lisbeth Salander has? or had? been hospitalized as a child for trying (replace “trying” with “attempt-to-kill” her father. Ultimately (“ultimately” is vague; also need transition–how many weeks, months or years later; what inciting-incident compelled her to “not fail” in her attempt this time), she kills him and stands trial for murder in Sweden. Her one? protector and advocate is investigation journalist Michael Blomquist, who runs down a string of corrupt government employees and criminals who have created (delete: and allowed a string of)  an empire of child prostitution and sex trafficking (delete: rings). Salander is acquitted because of her intrepid physical and hacker skills (doesn’t make sense–she’s acquitted because of her skills? what’s her journey in prison?) and moves on to help jail those guilty for the sex crimes (would be even more compelling to add what she does for victims).

* * * * * * * * * * *

Black Swan: Ballerina Nina wants to be chosen as the greatest ballerina in New York most prestigious company, but is driven to perfection and to not only fulfill the role of the pure, virginal white swan but also the sensual, critical black swan while trying to please her obsessive stage mother and sexual predator director. When the director challenges Nina to lose control to play the Black Swan with the same ease as her rival, Nina’s self-destructive impulses take over with devastating consequences.

Black Swan: Ballerina Nina Sayers wants to be chosen as the (delete: greatest) principal dancer (delete: ballerina) in New York’s most prestigious company. She is driven by her stage-mother’s demand for perfection and the sexual-predator director’s bait to choose her over her rival . The message: “Not only fulfill the role of the sensual, (delete: pure), virginal white swan but also the  (what’s the opposite of virginal?) delete: critical _________” leads to Nina’s letting her self-destructive impulses take over with devastating consequences.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The Social Network: Mark  Zuckerberg is obsessed with being invited to the right finals club at Harvard, but since he is Jewish and a nerd he has no chance. The hacker genius piggybacks off the ideas of two other Harvard students to build Facebook as a way to meet and critique girls, and is sued by them and his best friend. Ultimately he realizes that people are addicted to the darker and lighter motives of his site and moves to Silicon Valley to build the greatest social network device ever.

The Social Network: Mark  Zuckerberg is obsessed with being invited to the right finals club at Harvard, but since he is a nerd and because he’s Jewish he has no chance. The hacker genius piggybacks off the ideas of two other Harvard students to build Facebook as a way to meet and critique girls, and is sued by them and his best friend. Ultimately (the word “ultimately” doesn’t replace the transitional-sentence to show what he does during the journey of being sued) he realizes that people are addicted to the darker and lighter motives of his site and moves to Silicon Valley to build the greatest social network device ever.

You used the word “ultimately” in the first and third summaries instead of using words to show what the Hero wants or his/her obstacles along the journey.  Your write-up of Black Swan is best because you tell us who the protagonist is, what she wants, who/what the antagonists are, and the hook–she’s an active main character. You used action-verbs.

Starting today, I’m going to be a tougher coach. You’ve proven to me that you can write dramatic sentences/summaries. I want a new summary (one paragraph) of your novel by tomorrow. Write it the way you wrote Black Swan‘s summary.

Also, I suggest your changing the working-title of your novel. Often a new working-title gives new energy to the writing.

Cheers!

Coach Teresa LeYung-Ryan


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What does protagonist Ruby Lin want?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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