An extraordinary ingredient for every story.

In yesterday’s blog, I hinted that I was going to reveal one of my “rules” of writing today, so here goes.

You’ve probably heard descriptions of basic plot structure before like, “A stranger comes to town, and everything changes,” as well as “What makes this night different from all others?”

And both of those simple statements echo between my ears every time I’m building a show from the ground up.

But here’s the other one that I came up with that helps keep me on track when I’m working on a show, or more importantly, when I’m coming up with an idea for a show.  Because if I can’t make my hero a part of what I’m going to say below, then it’s going to have a hard time getting out of the gate.

Something extraordinary happens to someone ordinary.

You see, audiences need someone to relate to.  Someone they can go on the journey with.  “I know what that guy is feeling.  I know him or her because in some way (no matter how small), I am him or her.”

And that’s the ordinary.  (I’ll use Richard Collier from Somewhere in Time as an example.  He’s a hard working writer – and he has struggled for success.  Could be a lot of folks, right?  Me?  You?  People you know?  The majority of people in some way or another?)

But then, here’s where the fun, and the fantasy, and the reason for making your show into a show (or a book, movie, video game, etc.) in the first place comes in.

Something extraordinary happens.  (In Richard’s case, he is diagnosed with a terminal illness, and then he meets the love of his life, only to find out she lived almost 100 years ago . . . and he decides to travel back in time to be with her.)

And Somewhere in Time is only one example.  Jean Valjean was just a typical French dude trying to help his sister out when he was jailed for 19 years.  Luke Skywalker was just a farm kid.

Check out your favorite shows, tv shows, movies . . . you’ll find this contrast of the ordinary person on the extraordinary journey all over the place.

Now, just make sure it’s in your shows.  Because if you do, you may just find your ordinary self with some extraordinary success.


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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.