Part 4 of Constructing a Pitch – Dramatic Structure
How do science-as-protagonist stories work?
‘X is a problem. Now scientists can fix it.’ Science comes to the rescue. Science is the hero, that rescues a sympathetic victim from some abstract oppressor, the villain.
Let’s take my previous failed pitches for the Indoor Air story and change the protagonist.
Z suspected her home made her sick. She was right.
Many people suspect their homes make them sick.
Now science can do something about it.
Okay, graceless, but those are the building blocks.
The objective of the hero-character Science is the health of the victims of unhealthy houses, which are the Villain.
My original pitch offered cost-efficiency as the hero’s objective. My god, how unheroic! Back to the drawing board.
Science to the rescue!
Part 3 of Constructing a Pitch – Dramatic Structure
So my protagonist has to be one or several building scientists. Protagonists come equipped, by definition, with objectives, obstacles to those objectives, and strategies to overcome those obstacles.
(I learned this articulated approach to story structure from Pauline Peotter, in her year-long course “Playwright’s Boot Camp” at Portland State. She refuses credit for inventing the method, but I’ve never seen it anywhere else.)
Who among my building-science sources has these attributes? Continue reading Building a Pitch for Building Science
Part 2 of Constructing a Pitch – Dramatic Structure
Here we have on the operating ta— I mean, stage — four characters to build a play with.
Cast of characters –
- Sick people. They live in sickening houses. Most don’t know their home is making them sick, though some suspect.
- Health care payers. Sick care, not health care, really. They pay to make sick people better.
- Contractors. Home fixers. Sometimes healers, if the home they fix was making people sick.
- Building scientists. They find ways to make homes healthy, and figure out why houses often make their occupants sick.
Next step – Pick one of those four to be the protagonist. Continue reading Play Doctoring
Part 1 of Constructing a Pitch – Dramatic Structure
What’s the problem with the “Indoor Air is Bad For You” story? I’ve pitched it several places, with no takers. The angle with which I’ve shot it over the transoms is
The emerging discovery that it’s cheaper to treat asthma by fixing people’s homes than by prescribing them asthma drugs.
Let’s take the story apart, as a dramaturg would take apart a play, to see how it works. Or, in this case, how it fails to work. Continue reading Looking for the Hook, Dramatically
The December issue of Portland Monthly is always the History issue. The theme of this year’s History issue is Heroes.
I will have an article in it about Dr. Esther Pohl, who led the successful campaign to prevent San Francisco’s 1907 bubonic plague epidemic from reaching Portland. No other city on the West Coast managed it.
Esther Pohl pulled it off by yoking science and politics. By politics, I mean leadership, not back room deals.
The science that made it possible was the recent discovery that the plague bacillus was carried not by rats, but by fleas riding on rats. Until that connection was made, no city in all of human history had a chance against plague. Continue reading Coming Soon: December Portland Monthly