Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Day 18: Temporary Triumphs

Think of the last time you were reading a novel and about halfway through the book everything seemed to be wrapping up nicely:  the guy got the girl, the promotion, the tattoo - whatever his goals were.  And recall your thought process as you were reading about how great life was becoming for the main character.  You probably sat there looking at that fatty book in your hand, seeing that you were only on page 200 of 400, and wondered to yourself what horrible incident was about to befall this beloved hero of yours.  Because there has to be an incident.  Else the next 200 pages are going to be a real drag.

What is the point of this "temporary triumph" (to use the term coined by Victoria Lynn Schmidt)?  Obviously none of us are going to be fooled into thinking the hero has seen the worst of his problems and he's now going to sail smoothly for the latter half of the book, so it must have another purpose.  For me, temporary triumphs are the perfect opportunity to add some drama and showcase just exactly what this character is made of.  The protagonist has, by Act II, Part 1, already seen a few trials so he or she feels their temporary triumph is well-deserved.  They're sitting back relaxing in a canoe on a calm river, positive that they've overcome the worst of the river's rapids.  We'll let them revel in their momentary victory because we want to show the readers that, despite having done little to deserve it, our characters are proud of their achievements.  And yet we know, pride goeth before the fall.  What good is a story if the protagonist changes only their surface problem without ever changing themselves, without growing and learning from the opposition and coming out a better person in the end?  So that's what we're going to do.  We're going to let them pat themselves on the back, but then we're going to see their horror-stricken faces when they realize their problems are far from over (and secretly, we're going to be routing for that kind of gut-wrenching reversal because without overcoming great obstacles the hero can barely get an opportunity to showcase how truly heroic he can be).

Today's task is to brainstorm a few options for your own character's temporary triumph.  You can find the Temporary Triumph Brainstorm worksheet by clicking the link and scrolling down to page 270.  You must remember, however, to keep the triumph relevant to the overall conflict of the story.  As Schmidt says:
"If you are having trouble figuring out what your story's temporary triumph should be, remember that it needs to push the main character toward his ultimate goal.  Look at where you want that character to be in the end of the story [and ask yourself] how [you can] use the temporary triumph to support that ending" (BIAM, pg 146).
To give you a better idea of what a temporary triumph might look like I've listed some examples from page 145 of Victoria Lynn Schmidt's Book In a Month:
  • Our heroine gets the job of her dreams and can now support her family (temporary triumph)  Oh no, it was just a scam and she already quit her old crappy job. (reversal)
  • The hero found the love of his life and can let himself love again after going through a horrible divorce! (temporary triumph) Wait - she's already married and not interested in anything long-term. (reversal)
  • The heroine discovers a cure for baldness! (temporary triumph) Oops - it has horrible side effects and her company is being sued. (reversal)
Stay tuned for when we'll discuss reversals and reversal brainstorming in more depth.

MY DAY 18:  The day was hardly productive.  I spent my time editing my website and watching TV with the hubs (in my defense it had been a while...) and got only one measly scene completed.  Looked forward with hope for a better tomorrow.

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