There’s No Crying in Baseball…

Tom Hanks’s famous line from A League of Their Own may be true but emotions rear up at any time or place. And maybe tears aren’t needed in baseball but emotions are required in stories especially romance novels. After all, love is the one emotion everyone chases after.

Thanks to another blog, I learned about the book, Emotional Structure: Creating the Story Beneath the Plot: A Guide for Screenwriters written by Peter Dunne. Don’t let screenwriter turn you novelist away. It works whatever your genre.

The books offers a great many lessons but the first one is about knowing your story.
He separates this lesson into two parts:
1. Plot
2. Story

Plot is what happens and not just what happens but what happens to the protagonist.
Go ahead and read that sentence again.

Plot is what happens and not just what happens but what happens to the protagonist.

So you have the witness to a murder or a business collapse, a divorce or anything else that is outside the Protagonist. Some call it the External Conflict. This is what propels the pro tag to act.

Onto number 2– Story:
Story is what it does to the who it’s happening to.
Read it again and let it sink in.

Story is what it (the plot) does to the who (protag) it’s happening to.
So your witness now has to decide whether to go to the police or stay quiet. This plot is affecting him and his life.

These two parts are the units of a novel or script. And you can’t have one without the other.
So, you merge these two parts.

Let’s say our no-doubt-dashing hero and homicide detective, must find the murderer of the local football hero. The town where the murder occurred is hometown and as part of his job, he must notify the boy’s mother and his high-school girlfriend who broke his heart when she married his best friend. He plans to act professional and friendly without the warmth or how he always behaves with her. That’s his emotional defenses. He hides behind the badge and uses the distance to hide how much she hurt him.

When he arrives at her home, she throws herself into his arms and weeps. She tells him that she needs him. He promises to give his attention to finding her son’s murder. But his ex won’t give up, pulling at the emotion in him and so he tries a different way until he can get back to normal. Those skills he developed before have failed him.

Then something else happens. Let’s say, the victim is his son. So he has to use another tactic, use another skill to get back to his normal. Then something else happens and the protag must react and this repeats to the end of story and each time, he learns a new tool by reacting in a new way until his weakness is exposed. He might be unaware of the exposed weakness but he must change or fail.

This leads to our story’s climax when the character learns something. Here the emotion has to change because the hero has broken down his walls. Now he’s a better healed person for it.

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