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The trick to solving all story problems is...

This is a short post. But the simple truths are most powerful.

I'm not going to give you any magical solutions to story problems, nor any examples of really difficult problems I've solved (like the one in the screenplay I just wrote which was a doozy).

I'm going to give you something even better.


Because that's the trick to solving all story problems. You have to KNOW that you can. If you don't know it then you are likely to give up before you solve it. Then you'll just substitute the first problem for another problem that you probably won't be able to solve. 

By their very makeup, all problems have the solution built into them. A problem is just two opposing dynamics.

Joe needs to get across town in 10 minutes to prevent his girl from being murdered. That's one dynamic. He's locked in a bank vault and the timer lock won't open till the next morning. That's the opposing dynamic. 

That's a simplist example, but in principal all problems are the same. Opposing dynamics. To solve the problem you simply have to make the initial dynamic stronger or the opposing dynamic weaker. So the solution to Joe's problem is to find a way to free himself and get to his girl. Or! To find a way to alter what's happening with his girl and the murderer. Don't forget to look at both sides of the opposing dynamics. 

There is a corrolary to this principal: The harder the problem the better the solution.

Put your heroine in quicksand with a half-dozen guerrillas with machine guns all around her and a lava flow headed her way from an erupting volcano. Believe me, when you get her out of there it's gonna be a great solution. Add an alligator and it's be even better!

It doesn't matter how difficult or complex the problem is. There is ALWAYS a good solution. Burn that into the back of your forehead.

And don't make the mistake of thinking that the solutions require complex mechanics or convoluted game theory algorithms. 

How does everyone solve their problems? The simplest way possible. If you can be clever at the same time that's even better.

The best answer is always simpler than you would expect. It is the search for complex solutions that obscures the simple ones. And the simple ones are best. Why? Because they require the least effort. And that is the definition of the best solution to a problem.  

The same principle works for story structure problems as well as individual scene problems. 

You may tear your hair out. You may want to tear up your script. You may want to quit writing.


Just keep looking. The solution is always there.

A persistent mouse always gets the pellet at the end of the maze. Even with his tiny mouse brain he knows the secret.


©Jeffrey Scott