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?
One inventor had a personal objective: To make his wife’s asthma better, by identifying what in their house made her sick. But most of my sources are turned on by interesting puzzles that no one’s ever solved before. And when they began, they had the whole playground to themselves. I get how much fun that would be – but I think that’s just me being a nerd.
Writers often take the new discovery itself to be the protagonist. “Look what this can do!” These articles open with ‘Scientists have discovered that blah blah blah.’ Okay. But is there a deeper way?
The new building science does face obstacles, which – Hey! – supply conflict. Now we’re talking. What obstacles?
- The yet unknown. Buildings and the human body retain secrets that the scientists haven’t cracked yet. More research is always needed. For example, it’s impossible to predict whether a given house, with known indoor-air parameters, will make any one person sick. When a building seems to be making one occupant very sick, another is often fine. That makes the benefit of indoor-air improvement unpredictable and unquantifiable.
- General ignorance of the magnitude of the problems addressed, so neither buyers nor builders see the point of clean-air technology. I have to lay out how big and bad this problem is. Like: Housing makes LOTS OF PEOPLE SICK!
- Inertia. Do something different? What for?
- The cost of change. Building better costs more, so why do it? Ay, there’s the rub. Few know what ill health costs, so they cannot compare it to the price of wellness.
Next, Part 4, Structuring Conflict into the Pitch.