Plot as a driver for change: A cat story
“Life is a journey, not a destination.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.
This week it’s raining cats at our house. Besides having a stray cat adopt us and become our “outdoor” boy, I also had to take one of our indoor boys, Simba, a 20-lb Maine Coon, to the vet.
Considering he hasn’t been out of the house in years (Simba, not the vet), it went pretty well. I did say “considering,” right?
I nonchalantly put the cat carrier on the bed next to Simba and then, like the Flash, snatched him up and shoved him in said crate before he could put up a fight. He hissed going in and then instantly learned how to meow. (Really, he doesn’t meow–he whines when he wants something).
But this day, he meowed loudly all the way to the vet and until he was taken out of the carrier. He quivered and whined while being weighed, but when that didn’t seem to be working to gain the attention he wanted, he reverted to a new technique–flirting with the vet technician. I’ve seen him beg for food before, of course, (how do you think he got to 20-lbs in the first place?) but I’ve never seen him outrageously flirt with a stranger before. He rubbed up against her face, he purred, he tried to cuddle with her, and he became the champion of the day at my vet’s office. When I left, four female assistants were at the front desk cooing over him.
In Blake Synder’s “Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need,” he wrote that the events of the story (the plot) aren’t as important as how the events affect your characters. Don’t think, “What happens?” Think, “How does what happen change my character?”
I like to think of the events of my story as the vehicle of change. In my story about taking Simba to the vet, the visit itself wasn’t important. What was most interesting was how my cat changed his personality as a result of the visit.
When you plot out your story think about how the events will impact your characters, how they will change or not change, and how the event effects their character arc.
Remember what Emerson said–the journey is not about the destination but about what we learn in the process. The same goes for your characters.