Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Quick Take: Consequences II

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Jan• 17•15

gallows       All storytelling is about cause and effect. All major actions in a story should have consequences and the consequences should escalate as the story goes along. Conflict equals consequences. It’s a simple way of thinking about a storyline. The inciting incident and first plot point in Act One create the consequences in Act Two, which in turn creates the worsening consequences in Act Three.

When a story lacks appropriate and escalating consequences, the reader or viewer experience it as a plot hole or a nagging sense that something’s not right.  Good examples of escalating consequences can be found in the film The Drop originally based on Dennis Lehane’s short story  Animal Rescue. The film expands the story with added complications and backstory. The protagonist, Bob Saginowskia is a bartender in a place that stores the drops, or cash from illegal betting.Recipe for disaster, right?  Bob also rescues a battered pit bull puppy in Act One. This act entangles him with a troubled woman and her dangerous cohorts, most importantly her sociopath ex-boyfriend.

In the film version the writers have stirred in a robbery,  an investigation, the bar owners,Chechen mafia members unhappy about the robbery, and an unsolved murder. The consequences keep building until you’re wondering if any of the cast members are going to survive. Consequences heighten the stakes and create tension and suspense.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have faith

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