Kami McArthur
Plotting Tool: Death by Surprise
With examples from Lord of the Rings, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Dragon Ball Z, and The Hunger Games.
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Today I’m bringing you a plotting technique I call “Death by Surprise,” and it works as a great pinch to your readers. It can give them a twinge of suspense, shock, dread, and sorrow all at once. It works like this:

Your character is battling his way through your story, facing villain, monsters, or whatever kind of obstacles you are throwing his way. Then something out of the blue actually inflicts a fatal wound to him. It’s something the character (and maybe the reader too) never saw coming. The intensity of this plotting technique comes from the shock and surprise the character has as he realizes, he’s come so far only to die from this.

Let’s look at examples to see some different ways “Death by Surprise” can be done, then at why it works, and how you can mess it up.

Example 1:

In the Lord of the Rings films, Frodo suffers all kinds of ailments and faces all kinds of enemies; he even makes it into Mordor and through Shelob’s lair. Just when he thinks he’s safe from the giant spider, it stings him.

It’s not completely out of the blue, but Frodo doesn’t expect it. We’ve watched him come so far, so it’s painful to see him get stung. It’s like—how can that happen? Now? When he’s so close?

In this example, the audience sees Shelob sneaking up on him, but Frodo doesn’t (that creates an added layer of suspense). It’s not a surprise for us, but it is for Frodo. That moment is like a pinch to me every time.

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Example 2:

In Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, protagonist Edward Elric battles villains with alchemy. We’ve watched him overcome all kinds of fights with bad guys, and we’ve watched him overcome his own personal obstacles—the death of his mom, the abandonment from his father, the loss of two of his limbs, his complicated feelings over the predicament of his brother. We know how iron-willed Edward is. Nothing stops him. He works to overcome whatever life throws at him, all without whining.

In one episode, Edward uses alchemy to make damp dynamite explode, finally defeating some henchmen. He (and the audience) thinks he’s overcome an obstacle once again only to realize a second later that a spike of wood from the blast has pierced straight through him, pinning him to the ground.

And he’s going to die.

It’s so unexpected. It’s like a freak accident. And it’s going to do our hero in. And the tragic irony of it is that it’s an accident he inflicted on himself. It’s like, how the heck did that just happen?!

In this example, because the audience doesn’t see it coming, we’re just as shocked as Ed.

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Read More

Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.
President Thomas S. Monson

fallen-angel-with-a-shotgun:

ally0mazing:

There can only be one logical explanation for this:

Voldemort has returned….

MY DEAR

I’M AFRAID YOU HAVE

THE GRIM

alicexz:

One more last minute print for AX! I marathoned Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood earlier this year and never did any art for it. Here’s my favorite flame baby

alicexz:

One more last minute print for AX! I marathoned Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood earlier this year and never did any art for it. Here’s my favorite flame baby

terrible-beauty:

IM SO SATISFIED

Haven’t seen all these shows, nor am I a fan of all of them, but I couldn’t pass this up. 

When I first started this journey down the art path, I never thought I would hear the words, “Oh, you are so talented.” Because honestly, I started at the rock bottom. Right where anyone starts. 
- M. M. Shelline
I asked one of my closest, lifelong friends if I could share her story of becoming an artist on my blog, because just about everyone needs to hear it. The above, first picture is where her art skills were at the starting of her journey. It’s a self-portrait. The second is another self-portrait, drawn just one year later.
Here is her story (bolded by me for emphasis):
So you may be wondering, how did I get interested in art? I would tell you, “good question. Here’s my story.”
April of 2012, [my husband] Bob and I had lost hope. He didn’t get into the BYU animation program like he thought he would and he felt defeated with art. He thought he wanted to go into computer science instead to bypass the challenge of getting into animation… . I was struggling with postpartum depression, once again, and feeling as if my life was devoid of happiness. I was struggling. I was lost. I did not know what to do with my life. I felt trapped. Trapped in expectations. Trapped in the confinement in who I was becoming. I saw only two options for my future, embrace my life as it was or run away. I found both to be impossible for me to do. I desperately sought a third option.

Life continued on and to pass the time I spent at home with our girls I watched the Lord of the Rings appendices. During the appendices I saw artists create what they imagined for the film, then the idea came, “I want to do that. I will do that.” I had found my third option! The rays of light and happiness began to seep back into my life. I began my own study online with free drawing classes. That is where I completed my first self portrait. It was quite an accomplishment and I was so proud of myself for doing it.

Bob began to be motivated to continue with art after I decided that I wanted to learn how to create art. He never pushed me into anything. He is always supportive and loving, but never pushy. He would only encourage. I decided that in order to continue with art, I wanted to know how to do it right. That is when I decided that I wanted to go to school and focus on art. I was petrified to begin art. I had no previous experience. I had no real reason or motivation to do it besides the fact that I wanted to, but that was enough for me.

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(This is my 6th grade art project. I had a friend (Melissa) do the arms/hands of Sauron since I was too intimidated to do it.)
School got me going and taught me basics and gave me projects, but the real education has been on my own. I have learned more from working on projects that I want and having Bob mentor me more than any in-class assignment. I have progressed more fully due to having Bob to teach me than from anyone. I have no raw talent. I have no innate artist reaching out of me. I only have me. I have fear. I have failures and that is how I learn the most. 
Now, I am not someone to share personal information or be overly emotional, but I feel as if this story needs to be told. My tears flow as I reminisce of this change in my life. I am a changed woman. Instead of darkness, my soul is filled with ambition and light. Because of this, I want you to know that you can start from nothing and become something. You need to know that if you feel trapped – there is release. It most likely won’t be art, but it is something out there. Cast away your fear and chase it. It will be worth it, oh so worth it.

I encourage you to pursue whatever it is that you desire. Even if Especially if you have no talent. Even if there is no concrete reason why – do it. Push the fear aside and emerge victorious after hours, tears, sweat, pain, and learning. Don’t give up.
Do you want to know why I chose this photo for my self portrait? It is a reference photo for a large project that I am planning. It is going to be a three part painting illustrating depression, seeking the light, then soaring with the wings the Lord provides for us to escape the darkness. Thus, it represents no longer living in darkness, but looking to the light and moving forward.
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That is what I did and I feel ever so blessed. I truly believe that I would have been consumed by depression, fear, inadequacy, sadness, and all darkness if I did not pursue art. It gives me hope. It is an answer to prayer. I know the Lord has directed my life to find this path. Because of this, my life was saved by art. I can now say that more than ever before, I am closer to Bob. I am closer to my girls, and I am closer to my Heavenly Father. He continues to lead, guide, and mold me to become an artist, mother, and the woman I need to be. This gives me life.
Fight for real living and find those things that breathe new life into you. No matter what hardships come, I promise you – you will never regret it.

In a later post, she wrote:

I am not talented in art. If you wanted to say I have a talent, I think it would be a talent to keep going and work hard even in impossible situations. Since I have never done art before college, I have to push harder than anyone else in my classes and learn what the 18 year olds have known for years. It is intensely frustrating, yet motivating to catch up.

My teacher this semester in 2-d basically told me that I am not an artist and that I won’t get into the Illustration program, but you know what? I am going to prove him wrong. I am going to push harder, work more intensely to achieve this dream.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity I have to know M. M. Shelline. She is someone I have always looked up to and who has been an influence for good in my life. 

Whatever you love to do, do it. Don’t let a lack of talent stop you from enjoying what you desire. For a lot of my followers, that means writing. Wherever your writing skills are now, they can get better. Never let anyone tell you they can’t. 

You can learn more about M. M. Shelline or follow her blog here.

If this post has impacted you, please consider reblogging so that everyone can know what real talent (a.k.a. hard work) looks like.

Writer Problems

My neck hurts from writing so hard this week.

iguanamouth:

rumpelstiltskln:

kazekashi:

Why in the second picture they have to be like 80% legs

yeah why cant they be 100% legs? I’m tired of animon not giving what the public wants


the new reboot looks incredible

iguanamouth:

rumpelstiltskln:

kazekashi:

Why in the second picture they have to be like 80% legs

yeah why cant they be 100% legs? I’m tired of animon not giving what the public wants

image

the new reboot looks incredible

meme-spot:

Accurate

Yes, but the fans makes up for it:

meme-spot:

Accurate

Yes, but the fans makes up for it:

slushpilehell:

Please. Please turn my novels into money. I possess a supreme talent. And I am no fool; I see how this has to be. With the right team behind me I could revolutionize literature and show consumers how there is still such a thing as soul in this soulless nation.

I, too, possess a supreme talent. I am able to read dozens of ill-conceived query letters each week without my head bursting into flames.

slushpilehell

[Name]

[Title]

They were chasing me, and I was running away for my life. I bearly made it around the bend before a bullet shot passed. Beep. Beep. Beep.

I hit my alarm clock and yawned. I hated that dream. I’d had it ever since I can remember. I got out of bed. It was a morning like any other. I took a shower, got dressed, and put on my make-up. I’m looking at myself in the mirror. I hate my curly hair. I go downstairs for breakfast. I jam a pop-tart into my mouth and drink some milk from the carton. Then I have some toast. I like raspberry jam on mine, and I hate strawberry. I eat the crust.

"You’re going to be late for school!" Mom yells.

I grab my backpack and run out the door. Uugh! I can’t be late again!!! I run to the bus stop, but the bus is already down the street.

My best friend Jessica watches me from inside. “There’s Eva. Late like always,” she frowned.