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The Magic of Story-Telling p4

Complications and the climax…

More complications create more suspense in Caiaphas’s story. Caiaphas takes Jesus to King Herod. Jesus refuses to answer questions. And Herod can’t find any reason to impose the death penalty. Then Herod learns that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, which is Pilate’s jurisdiction. So, Caiaphas and his men march Jesus back to Pilate.

Then Pilate says that as it’s a special feast day he can release a prisoner. He wants Jesus flogged and released. Caiaphas says it’s the people’s decision whom to release. And he tells Pilate that if he releases Jesus it could be interpreted as disloyalty to the Roman Emporer. Finally, Pilate weakens and gives Jesus up for crucifiction. Caiaphas achieves his purpose.

Mr Warne writes: Any complications your character meets must come out of his efforts to solve his problem. Audiences don’t like reasonless complications. A complication without a reason slows the pace of the story and destroys suspense.

Mr Warne says there are also ways to heighten suspense: time limits; playing on audience fears eg set the story in high places or confined or isolated locations; limit the resources to solve a problem; or take something that’s normally pleasant and make it a menace, without characters knowing it. 

One of the main points Mr Warne makes in his book is that strong conflict makes powerful stories that hold audiences. Conflict can be with other people; with a character’s conscience or principles; with nature; or a couple of these things.

Mr Warne writes: When you prepare a story there are two things you want to know. What does the main character want? Who or what stops him from getting it? Answer the second question and you’ve identified the conflict. Then build this conflict as the opponents attack and counter-attack until at the climax one wins. The climax of a story is the defeat of one of the opposing forces. It doesn’t always leave everybody living happilly ever after. It only settles the matter in hand.

-For a lot more good writing advice see The Magic of Story-Telling by Clifford Warne, if you can ever find a copy.