Conflict, Plot, Story, London, Poe

We had four readings for the last class, three of which I enjoyed.

We read an essay that outlines the different types of conflict characters and\or stories must have: internal, external, as well as man vs. nature, man vs. society, man vs. man. I suppose I knew this before on some level but never saw it outlined before.

The second reading was an essay on plot and story from the Kung Fu Monkey Blog. Though it examines TV and movie scripts, it’s also applicable to fiction. It gives a nice breakdown of the plot of the movie The Incredibles. While most books and movies have three acts, the author writes that this film has seven.

I was looking forward to reading Poe. I lived in Baltimore for a while and visited  his grave site and one of the houses he lived in. Unfortunately, I had a tough time reading “The Purloined Letter” by Edgar Allan Poe.” What can I say? I find mid-nineteenth century language cumbersome. I did find it interesting when the professor told us in class that the story launched the mystery genre.

I first read “To Build A Fire” by Jack London in high school. It was good to read it again. It’s about a man in Alaska a hundred years ago or so. He is hiking to meet up with friends, presumably to find work at a logging camp. He is accompanied by a dog. The walk will take the entire day. The man was warned not to go out into the wilderness alone. He dismissed the advice.  The man runs into trouble when his feet get wet after breaking through the ice. The man needs to build a fire to dry so he doesn’t freeze to death. It was getting close to class time when I began reading the story so I read it fast. That heightened the sense of danger the man was in, at least for me. In the end, the man dies of course.

The professor asked the class if we liked the man. I hadn’t thought of that before. I looked at it more as a difficult situation a person was in and his life was at risk. Most people apparently don’t like the man in the story because he doesn’t head the advice not to hike alone and because he treats the dogs poorly and tries to kill the dog in an attempt to use the dog’s body and fur to stay warm. Stan asked if the dog is the protagonist of the story. What if the conflict is between the dog and the man in addition to or instead of the man vs. nature. It hadn’t occurred to me but it made sense. The dog does survive. The man certainly could be the antagonist from the dog’s point of view.

We had a could exercise in class–to put together a scene where two character come into conflict. We ended up with a former professor who lost his job because of drinking problems. To support himself, he finds a job driving a cab. One night he picks up the man who fired him, the department head, who is inebriated. This is his opportunity to take revenge. Does he?

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