Boston Marathon Bombers Story Arc…. by Nancy Brophy
Putting together a cohesive story is difficult. If it wasn’t, everyone who thinks to himself, “I could write a novel,” would. And it would be a best seller, otherwise why write? And really how difficult can it be? We’re surrounding by stories every day.
Stories must have two arcs – External and Internal. The external or plot simply answers the question: What is the purpose of the story?
The external arc must be tangible. In action/adventure such as the recent events in Boston that is easy enough to see. Indiana Jones is going after the Skull, the Arc or the sacred rock. Frodo has to dispose of the ring. People have to save themselves from a disaster. The world is coming to an end. The Titanic is sinking. A run-away Russian submarine is on the loose.
The Boston Marathon bombing has a pretty straight forward external arc. Create mayhem, destruction and death – first at the marathon and then Times Square. It is the story of small men with small dreams. Movies have taught us that a big man’s dream would have been the overthrow of the entire nation.
We all know every story must evoke emotion and a senseless bombing scene will not garner public empathy. There must be a secondary or underlying arc that builds on the emotional storyline.
Once the Boston marathon bombers were captured, what was our most pressing concern?
Why would anyone do this? And we still don’t know all the details. But many of us are waiting with bated breath, because we want the story to have a nice tidy ending. We don’t want to hear that the men were simply crazy or misguided. We want to know what they thought they would accomplish and whether or not they believed they would get caught. A couple of day ago I learned that three of the younger brother’s friends helped hide and destroy evidence that had been stashed in his room pretty much in open sight. That doesn’t sound like a guy who was worried about the consequences of his actions.
One of the most shocking facts was that his friends volunteered to destroy the evidence. Where is their social conscience? How does friend loyalty trump the death of innocents? And worse where are the parents of these young men? Why aren’t they jumping up and down screaming at their sons, “have you lost your mind?”
The underlying arc must satisfy those details. It must show growth and must have a satisfying ending. For me, that usually means the evil get punished. Having written that, I’m sure you can imagine how I would like the Bomber story to end – not just for the younger bomber but for his friends, as well.
Each of the protagonists must have both an internal and external arc, not to mention the only female lead on American soil needs her two arcs as well. With enough characters the story line resembles a complex genome map. In this case both brothers had arcs, but so did the wife and the mother. I’m sure the friends also had storylines, but they appear to only be spear carriers, not plotters.
Personally, I find it difficult to believe that the wife was totally unaware of what was happening, particularly as the husband became more and more verbal about his radicalization.
And the mother…
Well, the mother is a piece of work, isn’t she? Another reason I suspect so many of us write about dysfunctional families –we are surrounded by them. Apparently being Russian does not exempt anyone.
The truth is none of us would write the bombers as the heroes. We would choose the story of one of the three who died, or one of the 260 bystanders who lives changed forever because they lost a limb, or even those who lost a family member.
The boys aren’t heroes, but I bet they wanted to be. Apparently they didn’t watch enough American television to figure out that protagonists seldom set out to become heroes. They just are.