Continuing the series from my Patreon, here’s Part Two.
(A nod to Chuck Wendig’s book Damn Fine Story for the but/therefore concept.)
When I start a story, a scene, a whatever – I have to think about what’s going to happen.
Character Y wants something, BUT there’s interference, and THEREFORE she has to deal with that before she can get to her goal. Think of them as the turns in the road.
The fight scene at the plane is a beautiful microcosm of this exercise. Let’s break it down:
1. Indy wants to get on the plane, THEREFORE he climbs up to incapacitate the pilot.
2. The mechanic sees him, and THEREFORE they start to fight.
3. This draws the attention of the Big Guy who loves to box, THEREFORE he approaches and challenges Indy
4. This also draws the attention of the pilot who has a gun, THEREFORE
Indy is fighting and being shot at
5. Marion pulls out the wheel-blocks of the plane to use as a weapon, THEREFORE eliminating the threat from the pilot
6. When she does this, the pilot slumps onto the controls, BUT the plane engines start and the plane begins to spin.
7. Marion hops into the cockpit to try and fix this problem, BUT the hatch closes and sticks shut
8. Marion can’t get the man off in the small space, THEREFORE the plane grazes the fuel tanks, opening them
9. Here come Nazis, THEREFORE Marion uses the gun
10. This causes an explosion and a fire, THEREFORE killing the enemies
9. This also alerts the entire camp, and puts the plane in grave danger of explosion (which is an awesome way to raise this scene’s tension! Are you excited? Isn’t this fun?)
(oh my god, she whispers. Marion, he realizes.)
BUT the Big Guy is having such fun beating the crap out of Indy, he doesn’t care about the coming fire (hurry, Indy, hurry)
10. The Big Guy is undeterred and overconfident and also about to win, THEREFORE he misjudges the spinning rotors and dies, (gross)
11. Marion is trapped and the fire is coming! (Seriously, watch the progress of the flames in the background of the shot. It gives me goosebumps even though I know they make it out in time. Writing this as narrative and conveying that urgency would be a great challenge to try.) THEREFORE Indy shoots the lock, freeing Marion, and they both run to safety.
Now, you have to know when to start having more THEREFOREs and less BUTs so that you get resolution. You can also double or triple up on some BUTs to ramp up tension and stakes.
Next time, I want to talk about writing Marion as a character. Thanks for reading! If you like this, there’s a bunch more for only $1/month on my Patreon!