Plot is Less Important Than the Emotional Dilemma

Many screenwriters waste time trying to come up with a convoluted, original plot. That’s generally pointless because no one really cares about the plot as much as they care about the character choices made during the story.

Plot is predictable. In most movies, the hero wins whether it’s a sports movie, an action thriller, or comedy. In rare cases, the hero loses such as in drama or horror. Yet the plot isn’t what audiences care about so much as they care about the characters in the story.

Think of a bad movie like the remake of “The Mummy”. The plot is predictable in that a monster gets loose and the hero has to defeat the monster. No one is surprised by the ending. What people will be surprised at is how the hero creates the ending and the hero creates the ending by solving an emotional dilemma.

In “Fighting With My Family,” a brother and sister dream of wrestling professionally in the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). The hero is the woman who goes on to become the youngest female WWE champion while her brother is left behind.

So the problem isn’t just that the hero has to struggle to stay in the wrestling training that the WWE septs up to develop new stars, but she also has two other problems:

  • Her brother is angry that he’s been overlooked by the WWE and even angrier that his sister is thinking about quitting
  • The hero thinks several other female wrestlers are plotting against her, not realizing they’re struggling just as hard as she is

Now the plot is simple. The hero wants to become a professional wrestler. The emotional dilemma is much harder and thus more interesting. How will the hero keep her brother happy despite the fact that he’s never going to achieve his dream of being a professional wrestler? How will the hero deal with the other female wrestlers who seem to be plotting against her?

Solving these dilemmas requires that the hero change emotionally, and that’s what makes the plot interesting. Remember, the plot is predictable. We know the hero is going to win. We just don’t know how.

By forcing your hero to face emotional dilemmas and overcome them by changing, any plot can be turned into a compelling story. Strip away any emotional dilemma and you wind up with just a plot, which creates a dull and flat story. Just look at any poor sequel that focuses on plot at the expense of emotional dilemma such as “Jaws 4” or “Sister Act 2”.

Plot is predictable so feel free to borrow plots from similar stories. Emotional dilemma is what sets every story apart so make sure your hero faces an emotional dilemma in your story. That will make your story more than just a fancy plot.

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