A good story is a chain reaction of events. Once the first event happens, the second event can’t help but happen. Nothing happens accidentally.
Like a movie set, you can rest assured that every single detail is placed there for a reason. A good story has no time for fluff or filler.
We’re all walking around, leading our normal, boring lives, when suddenly something happens: a divorce, a new job, a UFO sighting, an assassination, an impromptu journey. That first crucial event is the thing that triggers the avalanche. From there the action grows and one thing leads to another. Inevitably the stakes grow higher and higher until they boom out of control.
The climax is the last battle, when everything comes to a head. When the climax is over, the dust begins to settle. People go back to their everyday lives. But some sort of change has occurred, a change which can’t be undone. The landscape of the mountain has been altered; it will never look the same again. That’s how you know that you lived through a good story.
A good example of this is Braveheart, the classic Mel Gibson movie. The avalanche begins when an English soldier slits the throat of William Wallace’s new wife. UNTIL THEN everything is relatively normal. (Even the state of war is normal for this time and setting.)
But once his wife is killed, William Wallace reacts. He can’t help it. He and his clan slaughter the English garrison in his town. It’s a blatant act of defiance agains the English. They send a couple of survivors packing back to England, to tell King Longshanks that the Scots aren’t going to take it anymore.
Now a chain of events have been set into motion. The battles grow larger and larger. William Wallace becomes a national hero, a thing of legend. He takes the fight all the way to London, where he is captured for high treason. The stakes have grown (snowball effect) from a personal feud to an all out war between nations.
When William Wallace is finally captured and killed, the dust of this story begins to settle. The chain of events that started with his wife’s murder has played itself out. Like a true hero, Wallace has undergone a transformation of living and acting for the sake of others, for the sake of the Scots, and gives his life for the cause.
The snowstorm and chaos subsides, but things will never be the same again. A change has taken place somewhere in the midst of all this story.
The casual viewer knows that Braveheart is a hell of a story, even if they don’t know why.
You don’t have to be a scientist to enjoy the sunset. But if you want to create your own sunset, well knowing what they’re made of is a good place to start.