Most of us have probably had the urge to seek revenge against someone who's harmed us at least one time in our lives.
That's one reason why we enjoy reading revenge stories and watching revenge movies.
Over the next few weeks I'll be discussing various kinds of plots and the specific structures of each of them. I'm hoping, by mentioning a few devices writers use, Readers will enjoy their books even more by understanding how writers set about creating a story a Reader just can't set aside until she's reached the end.
A revenge plot involves a protagonist who's been wronged. She's tried to get justice through normal channels, but doing things the right way left the antagonist unpunished. The protagonist believes she has no choice but to take matters into her own hands.
A revenge plot is set up in this fashion:
1. The protagonist is living her normal life when along comes the antagonist to harm her in some way.
2. The protagonist takes action through proper channels but gets no satisfaction.
3. She decides she can't live with what the antagonist has done. If the authorities won't punish the offender, then she will seek justice in her own way.
Important Note: Readers should see the protagonist's actions as morally justified, and they ought to be able to empathize with her too. (A friend stealing a woman's husband would be a weak motive for revenge. A friend killing a woman's husband AND setting up the crime to look like the wife did it AND the friend being awarded custody of the couple's children--now we're talking major motive for revenge (with mega complications. How is the protagonist going to get revenge against a woman whom her children have grown to love while the woman served her time in jail for a crime she didn't commit?)
4. The protagonist plots her revenge and goes about carrying out her plans, improvising whenever she fails along the way.
5. The big showdown occurs when the protagonist and antagonist meet face to face. At this point the protagonist may succeed, fail, or decide to let go of the need for revenge because the moral price she must pay is too great (or for some other natural reason which would leave the Reader feeling satisfied).
A revenge plot can be tricky to write because the protagonist usually goes to a much darker place than she is accustomed to. A writer must take care to keep her from losing favor with the Reader or the Reader will be greatly dissatisfied.
The upside of a revenge plot, from a Reader's perspective, can be this: that urge to seek revenge we all have from time to time can be met when we Readers live vicariously through the protagonist who succeeds in getting justice for a wrong every Reader can identify with.
Next week I'll discuss another type of story line. Until then, go out and get some revenge--only in your stories, of course. :-) I hope you read a good one this week!
Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author
Fran's Web Page