Monday, October 18, 2010

Writers' Alert

If you want to see how to plot a story and engender reader sympathy for your main character, watch and learn from Project Runway.

Yes, a fashion show.

This season's major conflict has been between the humble Michael Costello and the arrogant Gretchen Jones, and they're not going to end up in each other's arms. She talked smack about him early on, rallying the troops around her, and even after Michael C won two challenges in a row, she continued to badmouth him. But one by one, her compadres who were dumb enough to follow her design advice were eliminated.

Then the villain resurged even as our hero sank to the bottom in the last three challenges. The viewer saw Gretchen embracing her mother, Gretchen weeping as she talked about the financial bind she was in, Gretchen wondering if Michael was an idiot savant or just an idiot. What would happen next? Would Michael C be eliminated and Gretchen stomp on his corpse?

Like a theater audience cheering on Indiana Jones during a chase scene, viewers sent encouraging notes to Michael on Project Runway websites, apparently unaware that the whole show had been filmed and edited for plot months ago.

But while there may be no justice in the world, it prevails in every decently-crafted story. The hero and villain have to stay around till the last hurrah. So Michael rose to the last challenge, and both he and Gretchen will be in the final chapter. Forget the other two guys in there with them. One of them may cop the top prize, but they're minor characters in the drama.

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