D for Devastation

Your character is there, surrounded only by enemies; they’re ready to destroy him physically or metaphorically (sometimes both). Sometimes the hero will survive; some other times, it’s his defeat that makes him great. Think about the end of 300, with the Spartans ready to die for their freedom, 300 against thousands of soldiers.

Their glorious death makes them heroes, as well as Sir William Wallace, in braveheart (if you didn’t watch the movie, please do so). I remember that when I was reading The shadow of the wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, I was in a sort of panic, thinking about what would happen to the characters.

He mastered character creation so well that you feel what the characters feel and you won’t let anyone leave the scene. I read that book many times, in English, Italian and Spanish, and I thought I was reading it for the first time.

So, this last D is the one that lets you think about the worst. Your character is on one side of the battleground, and the opponent is laughing at him and ready to finish him; there isn’t no chance. A miracle? Maybe, but has to be a believable one.

Devastation.

If an angel comes from the sky and saves him, that’s when you say, “oh, come on, really?”. How comes it was never a single scene with an angel and now this creature arrives just in time? Why it didn’t come before, then? Why waiting the last scene to intervene if it was such a great and powerful creature?

Now, you have the four Ds in your hands, you know how to make the distance between the character and the primary desire, you know how to make it impossible and even beat your character so severely that everyone will think it’s the end (and a bad one).

Not all stories have to conclude with a good ending, so play it well; sometimes, it’s a good ending when your character dies as a real hero; other times, it’s a good ending when he triumphs in the last scene.

Not just that, use the 4 Ds when you’re writing the single scenes. Ask yourself:

  1. What is the objective of the character in this scene, the main desire?
  2. How to make this objective difficult?
  3. How to make this desire impossible?
  4. The desire seems gone, out of reach, but then… is it, really?

Let’s take Forrest Gump. He’s in love with Jenny Curran, from schooldays until the movie’s end. At the end of the film, there’s a perfect example of the 4 Ds; Forrest is rich and bored in his big mansion and hopes of seeing Jenny again. Sometimes he’s sure she’s coming, walking through his garden, but then it’s just an illusion, a ghost, a mirage. One day, he’s gardening when he sees Jenny coming again toward him. He thinks she’s again a ghost, but this time she’s real and she came for him.

  1. He loves Jenny so much that he only wants to see her again.
  2. He is in pain and he starts being delusional.
  3. We see jenny again walking through his garden, but we think it’s just a vision. He’s irremediably crazy.
  4. We were wrong, she’s there, coming back for him, finally reunited with Forrest and he’s finally happy.

All of these actions happened in no more than 2 minutes, but it’s one of the movie’s best scenes because of its pathos.

We finished with the 4 Ds! We’ll focus more on desires and objectives next time. Ready? Keep reading!

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