Warning: this post contains spoilers.
According to Bell, a good plot can be written with the LOCK principle in mind:
- The lead character has to be established early on as someone compelling and special, someone we might care about.
- The objective of the lead character is something he wants to get or something he wants to get away from. Often it is clearly stated by the lead himself in the dialogue.
- Opposition from characters or outside forces. Obstacles are put in the lead character’s way. He doesn’t get let off easily.
- Knockout ending
- The ending must have some knockout power, either as a true knockout, or as an ambiguous ending.
Again, according to Bell, all good stories can be divided into three acts of story structure:
- Act 1 – Beginning
- Introduction of the lead character and his world. The tone of the story and the objective of the lead character are established. A disturbance is introduced to compel the reader to continue. Furthermore, the opposition is introduced.
- Act 2 – Middle
- Confrontation. Subplots intertwine, creating a feeling of inevitability. Character relationships are deepened. The developments keep us caring what happens. The final battle, confrontation is set up, which will play out in the ending.
- Act 3 – Ending
- Resolution. All loose ends are tied up. Resonance is given, something that goes beyond the story of the book, something that readers can take away.
The disturbance is something that changes the status quo of the world of the lead character. He is challenged, but doesn’t pick it up, yet. It is meant to draw the reader into the story, so he is willing to put in the time to keep reading the story.
Between acts 1 and 2, and between act 2 and 3, there are doorways. The lead character steps through them, reluctantly, and there is no turning back. In the first doorway, the lead has to be challenged so much, he can’t but pick up that challenge. Something has to motivate him, a sense of duty. In the second doorway, from the middle part towards the ending, a major clue or a huge setback or crisis forces the lead character to go into the final act, the inevitable conclusion, because every story has to end.
With this theory (and more, which you may find in the book), I tried to analyze the comic book Asterix the Gaul. This is by no means a definitive analysis of the plot and structure. If you think I have made a mistake, please let me know, so I can learn from my mistakes.
The [lead character] is Asterix, a heroic Gaul from a village that defies the Roman army, despite all of Gaul has been occupied by the Romans. [objective] Asterix loves nothing more than beating up Romans. He is able to do that through a magic strength potion, made by the village druid Getafix. [tone of the story] It is very clear that this is a comedic story, because of the cartoon violence when the soldiers are beaten by a single person (Asterix).
[introduction of the opposition] The main villain is Caius Bonus, commander of camp Petitbonum, who wants to know why his soldiers are so easily beaten up by those Gauls. He selects one of his troops to infiltrate the Gaul village.
[the disturbance] Put in chains and led through the forest, the spy is easily freed by Asterix and his friend Obelix. They bring him back to the village, where he learns of the magic potion. After he is exposed as a spy, he escapes and brings back this knowledge to Caius Bonus.
[first doorway] Caius Bonus has the druid Getafix kidnapped, leaving the Gauls without their magic potion. When Asterix learns that the Romans of camp Petitbonum have kidnapped Getafix, he decides to free Getafix on his own, despite he has no super strength.
Asterix sneaks into camp Petitbonum and quickly learns that Caius Bonus plans to use the magic potion to take the place of Julius Caesar in Rome. Then Asterix finds Getafix, frees him. By freeing Getafix, the Romans learn of Asterix’s presence in the camp [no turning back now].
Having no power, Asterix surrenders himself (but he already has a plan to teach them a lesson) to the Romans. Asterix is caught, and while Asterix is feinting fear of torture, Getafix agrees to brew magic potion for Caius Bonus.
Getafix and Asterix now have the upperhand, because Caius Bonus has to order his troops to fetch ingredients, which takes forever, because of the ridiculous requests. Finally, Getafix prepares a magic potion, but it is not the magic potion Caius Bonus expected. Caius Bonus and his troops have been fooled by Asterix and Getafix and given a hair growth potion.
[crisis leading up to the final confrontation] Caius Bonus demands an antidote. Having lost his temper, he will get rid of those two pesky Gauls, once Getafix has given him the antidote. Getafix prepares it, and a separate cauldron with strength potion for Asterix.
After Getafix has finished the antidote, Caius Bonus orders his troops to seize Asterix and Getafix. However, having drunk the magic potion, Asterix can easily deal with the Romans. Asterix and Getafix escape, only to see a huge contingent of Roman soldiers, even Asterix can’t beat. They are trapped! [big confrontation]
While gloating over his seemingly victory, Caius Bonus is ordered to a tent, where he finds Julius Caesar. Having heard of those invincible Gauls, Caesar has decided to inspect his troops and looks into the situation. He learns that only two Gauls are up against all Caius Bonus’s troop and those troops are losing. Ceasar goes to Asterix and Getafix to see those fearless Gauls, followed by a now cowering Caius Bonus, afraid of possibly being sent to arena as a gladiator.
Ceasar asks to Asterix what has happened here, and Asterix replies that they had to make a magic potion for Caius Bonus to make him invincible and be crowned as emperor of Rome. Having been made aware of Caius’s evil plot, Caesar thanks Asterix by letting him go free. Caius Bonus and his troops will be sent to Siberia, so they no longer pose any danger to the Gauls.
Getafix and Asterix return to the village and the Gauls celebrate the return with a big banquet.
I’m sure there is much more to the story, and that it could be told in less words. I’m new as this, so please bear with me. I should have learned this in school, but my literature teacher made me hate unraveling plot and structure so much, I have never had any reason to keep analyzing books.
The interesting part is that the doorways are made clear on both sides. Before passing the doorway, it is clear there is no other way to go than through the door. After passing the doorway, it is clear there is no going back. I guess that is just making sure the reader knows what has happened, in case he hadn’t picked up the clues.
The body of the comic book story is 44 pages long. Doorway 1 appears at page 21, and Doorway 2 appears at page 40. So Act 1 is 20 pages, act 2 is 19 pages, and act 3 is 5 pages long. This means the story is built up very slowly, but concluded ultra-fast.
That is all.