Plot Devices ~ Changing a Scene



Plot devices are good… sometimes. The most obvious “this is where the action is going” device might get rolled eyes from readers. It will get mentioned by a reviewer. But there are good plot devices, if you’re willing to take a chance with switching things up in a most unexpected way.

There is an expression that “good girls ask permission and bad girls ask forgiveness.” The same can be said about boys. It’s mostly true if you remember this one thing.

The forgiveness being asked for by the bad girl or boy is more of a fake apology. One that says “I’m sorry you’re offended/upset/mad.” It’s trite, clichéd, and yet we still see the antagonist using this device as a way to throw off the protagonist.

These kinds of devices create one dimensional characters. The reader can predict how everyone will react, what will soon happen, how the good girl or boy will soon overcome the bad girl or boy in a humiliating experience that everyone will cheer. And thus, by going in this direction, you have become like every other author, leaning heavily on clichéd actions and phrases to write your novel.

What if you switch things up? What if your main character isn’t as perfect as the world sees him or her? They then become human, more three dimensional, more like everyone you really know.

It’s easy to write the good girl/guy without many drawbacks, and those predictable. It’s neat. It’s clean. You don’t have to worry about people complaining that your good girl/guy is stepping out of character. You don’t have to drop hints leading up to this transformation. You can save those precious words for other, more important plot points.

And when you’re finished, you have a book like everyone else. Nothing about the characters makes them stand out, leap off the page, grab us by the throat, and say “stay on board for the ride of your life.”

Let’s examine two ways for the protagonist to handle a situation with the local mean girl. We’ll soon discover the second viewpoint might move our book into an all new methodology that might cause the action to take off in a way we never expected.

Scene 1:

Brooke stared at Melly, uncertain what she meant.
“Why are you doing this to me?” Brooke asked.
“Oh, I’m so sorry you’re mad.” Mellie flipped her shoulder length brown hair with a slender hand. “Did I hurt your feelings?”
Saddened that she hadn’t made a difference, Brooke walked away. Mellie’s derisive laughter followed her down the hall.

Scene 2:

She stared at Mellie. Yeah, Brooke’s parents had told her to be nice, to always treat people like she wanted to be treated, but this loser was stepping all over her last nerve. Who did she think she was?
“Ah, gee.” Brooke rolled her eyes. “Can’t you think of anything better to say?”
“What? Like you’re a total loser.” Mellie glanced at her crowd, who laughed, but it was nervous laughter and they concentrated on Brooke. “Get a life.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry that I offended you.” Brooke was anything but sorry.
She wasn’t even scared of what her minister daddy would say once he heard of this. And he would hear of this, since more than half the school was witnessing the confrontation.
“Say what?” Mellie pointed a perfectly manicured, obviously fake fingernail at her chest. “Did you just fake apologize to me? Are you that stupid?”
“No.” Brooke slammed her locker door shut. “You are, if you think I’m going to play your game. Grow up.”
Titters of laughter rang out. The students now focused on Mellie. Although Brooke felt like a worm, she walked away with her head high, certain this wasn’t the last time Mellie would harass her, but it was the last time the mean girl would take her on in front of witnesses.

The second scene is more in-depth. We see that Brooke is torn by her decision, but firm in her stance to stop someone from bullying her, even if she has to stoop to their level. Where does this scene go from here? If you used the first scenario, you’ll be struggling to maintain Brooke’s good girl persona, but the second scene offers a lot of confrontation, not only from Mellie, but from Brooke’s parents. This is what makes the difference from a book that tells a good story but seems flat to a book that offers solutions without being preachy.

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