Today begins the climactic chapter of 2020, and I never thought I’d live inside such a story.
For what it’s worth, this year does have all the elements you want in a good tale.
Conflict—The most essential element of any story is tension between opposing forces.
Both politicians and regular folk are pitted against each other in battle. Never mind the halls of congress are tense; people are afraid of Thanksgiving dinners. It’s not collegial rivalry like it used to be. It’s primal ugliness. Oh, and let’s throw in a parade of racially-motivated murders and a pandemic that has paralyzed the world.
Stakes—They should be high. The outcome should matter in a big way.
Well, they’re high as can be. The fate of democracy, the state of our economy, the health of our planet and its people. My sanity and stability. Yours too. A Hollywood exec could not ask for more outlandish stakes.
Characters—The most fascinating aspect of a story should be the people in it.
Yes, great cast of characters here.
A rogue’s gallery of villains, a scattered army of shining heroes (many found in hospitals, schools, and grocery stores), and a multitude of people who find their personal angels and demons warring for their soul. Interestingly and importantly, they all believe in their own missions. And my villains may be your heroes.
And each of you is the protagonist in your version of this story. Likely you’ve been tested. as all great protagonists are. Personal and financial stress. Fear in the air all around you. Feelings of rage like you’ve seldom faced before. The most crucial drama often happens inside the mind.
Suspense—You get the best suspense when there’s a clock ticking down to a specific do-or-die event. Like a wedding or courtroom verdict or…an election.
Do you know anyone who hasn’t been biting their nails lately? Today even yogis are taking tranquilizers. Thankfully, all will be decided by tonight, right? Well…
When I say I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, I truly mean it. I have no idea what will happen or even when we’ll have the final answers.
Wait, uncertain outcome! Another great element for a story.
Real life doesn’t always offer the kind of cleansing you get at the end of a classical tragedy, but whoever you are, whatever you believe, I hope we can come together better than we are right now. And, no matter the outcome, see if you can infuse this kind of drama into the stories you tell.
I’ll be on my couch all night watching to see what happens. Or, perhaps, watching from under my couch.
President, Gotham Writers Workshop