Monthly Archives: December 2014

Film Review – The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug


bilbo in the trees

Of the three Hobbit films, The Desolation of Smaug is hands down my favourite. For me it is just a perfect film; it has plenty of antagonists, its has protagonists that come into their own, Orlando Bloom returns and it has a dragon.

The reason I really love the film though has to be because of Bilbo, who has found his courage and saves the day more than once. In the book my favourite bits are when he rescues the dwarfs from the spiders, from the cells of Thranduil and from their own impatience when they can’t immediately find the keyhole. Admittedly he also wakes a dragon, but nobody’s perfect and it would have happened eventually anyway.

Bilbo’s development though is a brilliant example of a character arc. In the first film, while he finds courage enough from the ‘Took’ within to go on the adventure, the reality of that decision hits him harder than I think he imagined. One of the places he is happiest is in Rivendell, where he is safe and could even learn a great deal from Elrond and his books. In the Desolation of Smaug though, he has found a great deal more of his courage, and it is with despair that the audience knows a great deal of it comes from the one ring. The effects of the ring begin to take a hold of him, but Bilbo in his heart knows that the ring has an effect on him and that disgusts him. He can’t give it up though, but he does use it to do good, not evil. He saves his friends more than once using it, and he saves himself from Smaug using it.

I also love the film, because it moves into a new part of Tolkien’s world and Peter Jackson’s vision of Mirkwood and Lake Town add extra depth to the world he has build up in his films. We caught a glimpse of Erebor in The Unexpected Journey, but we once again get to see that kingdom, and what all three of these places do is show the diversity of the world Tolkien created. Middle Earth is full of different peoples; Elves, Dwarfs and Men, each different from each other, but also different from others of their same kin.


The Dwarfs are less easy to compare, as in truth Thorin’s company and their ancient kin in Moria seem to have had similar interests. The difference when comparing the realm of Moria to Erebor, is seeing Erebor as fully operational. It gives the audience a much better idea of what it is Dwarfs do in their halls. I also much prefer the visualisation of Erebor to Moira because it seems to make more sense. Moira seems to only be a mine and only the great hall of Dwarrowdelf. This great hall never made much sense to me; where do people live, what do they do and why is there seemingly no evidence of activity in that great hall therefore what was it for apart from to look impressive? It was simply column after column. Now this is how it is actually described in the book, but seeing Erebor, all the different chambers, the mines, the workshops and the imperial spaces, makes you realise that there must be a lot more to Moira you just don’t see it. Also seeing Erebor lets you see that the dwarfs are mighty and have a deep culture, you just don’t see it in the Lord of the Rings.


The depiction of Mirkwood and Lee Pace’s portrayal of Thranduil lets you see a different side to the elves as well, a side not as blessed. Still elegant but a little bit more chaotic beneath the surface. For Thranduil and his kingdom of Mirkwood, is not like Lothlorien or Rivendell. His kin are the Sindar, the elves who never saw the Light of the Trees of Valinor in the first age. Galadriel was born in the Undying Lands and Elrond is descended distantly from Melian the Maia. The Sindar are more like the elves before their kin went into the West. They are more human-like in their behaviour, more susceptible to their feelings. Seeing them shows a hint of the differences between Elves that is played out in books like the Silmarillion. They are a lot easier to relate to than the magnificence of Elrond and Galadriel, but are still wondrous compared to humans.

lake town

And then there is Lake Town. A place of desperation and lost hope. The people of Rohan and Gondor didn’t look as if they were living the life of luxury, and the comparison between the two is startlingly in itself, as the grandeur of Numenor can be seen in the city of Mina Tirith. What you don’t really see though in either Rohan and Gondor is what human nature is like when life has dealt you a cruel blow. You don’t see the aftermath of the wars, but you do see the aftermath of the Desolation of Smaug. You see humanity at it’s best (Bard) and it’s worst (The Master). There is a distance memory in Lake Town of the splendour they once had before the mountain fell to a dragon, but that is now just a hope to use to carry on and then be manipulated by Thorin. It is not about Kings or Stewards vying for control or to protect their kingdoms, it is about humans simply trying to survive in a hard world.

So, the Desolation of Smaug is easily my favourite Hobbit film, because Bilbo grows, and because Peter Jackson has added so much depth in his recreation of Tolkien’s world, that Middle Earth now feels more complete than it ever had before.

If you liked this you like these film reviews too:

The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers

The Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King

The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Film Review – The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey


bilbo goingon an adventure

I have to admit, I wasn’t as excited about the Hobbit coming out as I was about Lord of the Rings. I’m not a big fan of the book, I’m not keen on the character of Thorin, and just generally it doesn’t compare all that well to the Lord of the Rings or the Silmarillion. However, it was Peter Jackson in charge, Ian McKellan as Gandalf and Martin Freeman who I love from Sherlock as Bilbo. That and they pulled Richard Armitage out to play Thorin, which could never be a bad thing.

From the moment I first watched it though I absolutely loved it. A lot of people I know are sceptical about how they can make a short book into three films, but when you do read the book a lot does happen, but it lasts two paragraphs in the book and then it moves on. There is also a lot of backstory in the films can you can only find in the appendices of the Lord of the Rings. It is also a lot easier to focus the story and work on the character interaction in the film, compared to the book and even to the LOTR films because there actually is a main character in the Hobbit.

Focus on Bilbo, and then you can draw out the story line around him basically being the audience and asking the questions about what happened and what the other motives of the characters are. In the book it is just sort of we’re going to the mountain to reclaim our homeland but the story of how it was lost isn’t that drawn out.

the wandering dwarves

The tragedy of the mountain being taken and Dale being destroyed is mentioned but not in great depth, and what the dwarves did afterwards is barely mentioned at all. All of the characters have depth and personality, some with backstories that add to the story. The opportunity of the filmmaker is to visualise all of this, make it more real and expand upon the book, where the story is there but it isn’t as interactive and immediate as in the Lord of the Rings books.

Another thing that people also tend to forget is that to make the Lord of the Rings into just three films they cut an awful lot of material out, which is why the extended editions are treasured by die-hard fans, but even then entire storylines are just brushed aside. So making one book into three films I suspect was less of the challenge than making three extensive and long books into three films.

And then there is the scene in Gollum’s Cave. Riddles in the Dark is the single greatest scene in all six of Peter Jackson’s films of middle earth. The Fellowship of the Ring might have Arwen fleeing the Nazgul, The Two Towers might have Helm’s Deep and the march of the Ents, and the Return of the King might have the one ring melting in the fires of Mount Doom, but none of it compares to the sinister yet sweet  interaction between Bilbo and Gollum.


Gollum who has lived so long in the dark can think only of riddles about the world he knows around him; the mountain, time, the wind, whereas Bilbo has teeth and eggs, before Gollum accidently slips up and tells him to ask him a question rather than a riddle. The horror Gollum faces when ‘what is in my pocket?’ makes him lose the opportunity to have a decent meal (Bilbo) for the first time in centuries. And then he finds the ring is gone, he snaps and Bilbo has no choice but to flee.

pity stays his hand

Pity though stays Bilbo’s hand, which means Gollum lives and waits for decades to hold his precious again, admittedly in the fleeing moments before he falls into the fire of Mount Doom and is part of the destruction of the one ring, because it is only in accident when Frodo and him are fighting over who gets to keep the ring that the ring is even destroyed. All that history and importance in one scene, you can’t help but love it, and because of it even the most sceptical person like myself can fall in love with Middle Earth again.

If you liked this you like these film reviews too:

The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers

The Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Film Review – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King


the ride of the roharrrim

Firstly, The Return of the King gets a lot of stick because of the multiple endings and the large amount of time it takes to get to the Grey Havens. Well, anyone who has read the books will tell you that most of the plot Sam and Frodo have is actually in the Two Towers book, and in the The Return of the King book there is a lot more ending than what is in the film. Peter Jackson and his team had a lot more material that they could have included but didn’t.

I also really like the ending to the film. Sam and Frodo are rescued, they are reunited with the rest of the Fellowship, Aragorn becomes King and marries Arwen, the Hobbits go home and Sam marries Rosie Cotton, and then Bilbo and Frodo travel to the undying lands in order to find peace from the destruction the ring inflicted upon them.

There isn’t anything in there that isn’t unimportant, so while it took longer than most people’s patience can manage to end the film, there are no loose ends and the film ends perfectly. I even think it ends more perfectly than the book does, as I really don’t like the destruction of the Shire by Saruman that the Hobbits return to in the book.

Beyond the ending though, the film itself is about people making a stand to defend themselves. Everyone must have heard Samwise’s speech at the end of the Two Towers, because the amount of determination in the film is just inspiring. I also really love everyone’s motivation, to defend something they love. Aragorn steps up to become King and defend Sauron, not just because he knows it needs to be done but to also save Arwen.

Both Merry and Pippin pledge their allegiance to the world of men, and overcome all the prejudices that came with it. They proved themselves in battle, despite the reach of their arms being shorter, and pretty much induced an army of men to follow them because they didn’t hesitate for a second to follow Aragorn’s charge at the Black Gate. They might have been quickly overtaken, but they charged down the enemy full of the belief they were doing this for Frodo who had taken on such a heavy burden.


And it is burden’s beyond the measure of normal life that the film is really about. It is why I like the ending so much, because it is uplifting and about the lightening of those burdens,even if the scene at the Grey Havens is heart-breaking. When you see the colour return to Frodo’s cheeks just simply because he has physically stepped away from Middle Earth which he helped save, the impact of the rest of the film suddenly hits you, because the impact on Frodo is internal, and while Elijah Wood portrayed it beautifully Frodo’s struggle is not apparent until right at the end. Everyone else’s burden is more apparent, but no less inspiring.

The Hobbits are burdened with the guilt laid upon them by others that because they are small and therefore they cannot help. They overcome that prejudice (which as a petite person I greatly appreciate). Aragorn is burdened with the responsibility to rule and to redeem the world of men, which in the eyes of the Elves in particular needs redemption after the fall of Numenor and Isildur’s Bane. There are two burden’s though that the film for me and I suspect a load of people can relate to more easily, is that of Sam and Éowyn.

sam carrying frodo

Samwise in the book is under appreciated, because he is seen as a servant who is loyal to Frodo, rather than the friend that is portrayed in the films. It isn’t a servant/master dynamic. Sam doesn’t have to watch his master fall into darkness and despair, he has to watch his friend instead. The only analogy that best depicts what Sam has to watch, is that of a friend falling into an addiction, a one that they struggle to give up even though it is slowly destroying them. On top of that the ring burdens Frodo with feelings of emptiness and despair akin to depression.

The person Sam knew is destroyed by this addiction and depression, while he helplessly watches. So when Sam heroically starts to carry Frodo up Mount Doom, shouting about how he cannot carry the burden Frodo endures, but he can carry him, I tear up and I hope that everyone else out in the real world, who suffers from addiction and depression has a friend as good as Sam to pick them up and help them.

And then there is Éowyn, who has to overcome a prejudice that sadly is still prevalent in the world; that she is a woman and that her place is different to that of men. She rides into battle all the same though, taking Merry with her, and slays the Witch-King of Angmar, the Lord of the Nazgul. And she does so, because she is  woman.

Here in lies how deep-seated the meaning of the word ‘man’ really is when it come to defining that it means to be one and what it means if you aren’t. It could be used to define humans in general, but in the field of battle it means males. So while Éowyn rides into battle to take up the duties of a man, in truth what she is doing is riding into battle as a woman who is defying the expectations of her gender.

eowym in battle

In battle the Witch-King of Angmar is so held with the belief at a man could not slay him, that he falls to Éowyn’s sword because of a twist of linguistic definition, because Éowyn does not believe herself to be a man, she believes herself to be a woman who is equal to man and whose place is no different. It’s a massive shout out for equality, and Tolkien’s love for the viking legends of shieldmaidens helps to prove that women, even if it is only certain women haven’t always been seen as lesser than men.

Anyway, yes the ending might be longer than the tradition of Hollywood would demand, but it ties up all the loose ends, and it is a lightening of the burdens they have all endured in the pursue of destroying evil, that started with the hobbits fleeing the Shire and ended with a King of Men and his people bowing to them.

green dragon ending

If you liked this you like these film reviews too:

The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers

The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Film Review – The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers



Gandalf falling through the caverns of Khazud Dum while fighting the Balrog has to be one of the best opening scenes to a film ever. I just love it. The visuals, the dramatic music and Ian McKellen wielding a sword against an ancient evil of the first age of Middle Earth. What’s not to love?

Beyond the opening scene though, the film, like the Fellowship of the Ring, is a classic, but unlike the first film which I reviewed earlier this week, I love the second film for an entirely different reason. Yes the morals of working together to make a better world are still a strong under current, but the real reason I love the film is actually because of the writing.

The first film was very respectful of the original source, but The Two Towers wouldn’t work if it followed the source material, because the structure of the book just wouldn’t make for a very good film. Here in comes the writing genius of Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair and Peter Jackson truly shines in this film, and the reason I appreciate it so much is because the blending of the three separate story lines in the film is seamless and respectful of Tolkien’s book, whilst also being a brilliant example of a Hollywood  blockbuster.

It is the perfect example of writing for budding and even experienced writers to gain insight from.The script weaves seamlessly through the three story lines, and in the extended version especially the use of flashback to inform the audience of the character’s thoughts is a fabulous example of how a filmmaker can adapt a book. They use it several times, to depict the fate of Merry and Pippin escaping into Fangorn; the parting of Arwen and Aragorn; and for Faramir and his inner grief and torment.


In the extended version, Faramir’s flashback the victory celebrations with his brother Boromir and his departure for Rivendell, demonstrates beautifully his relationship with his brother and also his strained relationship with his father. While the films only hint at Faramir’s relationship with Gandalf, which in the book is a teacher-student relationship, the films portray Denethor’s disdain for his younger son. The flashback then moves to Faramir’s vision of Boromir in his funeral boat, and you fully understand now his actions towards Frodo and Sam. He has his beloved brother’s legacy to live up to and a distance father to try and impress. All of which is portrayed in less than five minutes, of admittedly the extended version of the film.


Another great example of how the filmmakers made the book come to life, is the inter-cutting scene between Aragorn analysing the battlefield, for what they think is Merry and Pippin’s last movements, inter-cut with the actual actions of Merry and Pippin, as Aragorn realises they managed to flee into Fangorn Forest. The tension until that moment when you learn they are actually alive is wonderful, until of course Gimli opens his mouth and mentions that only madness would have driven them in there. And the story is driven forward again, into the next perilous adventure for the two young Hobbits.

I mentioned in my review of the Fellowship of the Ring, that Merry and Pippin in the film are growing up via their experiences, and my favourite story line in the film is theirs, because they both grow to believe that even though they are small, they can have a massive impact.

‘The coming of Merry and Pippin will be like the falling of small stones that starts an avalanche in the mountains.’ Gandalf

That line is my favourite in the entire film, because without Merry and Pippin one of the Two Towers in the film would not have been defeated. Fine they failed to convince the Ents to join in the battle at first, but Pippin’s growth in the film is just wonderful. He goes from still being a bit naïve and young, dreaming of the joy of the Shire. But from the minute Merry mentions that Isengard would potentially destroy the Shire, at the first opportunity he gets, Pippin somehow convinces Treebeard to turn around and essentially drop them off at Isengard. I honestly couldn’t speculate what Pippin thought the two of them could do to stop Saruman from destroying the Shire on their own, but we don’t ever need to know, as the Ents march to war on seeing the destruction wrought by Saruman and the orcs on their forest; cue one of Howard Shore’s greatest achievements and you get to sit back and enjoy one of the strangest but most spectacular battles in film history.

LOTR The Two Towers 183

I enjoy Helm’s Deep, and the Elves coming to fight in that battle; and I love Sam’s logic for why they are fighting in the end and Faramir’s realisation of the bigger picture. The film wouldn’t be as half as good without the special effects, the genius of Andy Serkis and the magical ability of Elves to leap onto galloping horses, but for me the Two Towers is first and foremost an achievement in screen writing and adaptation.

If you liked this you like these film reviews too:

The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King

The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Film Review – A Muppet Christmas Carol


a muppet christmas carol

I often get described as a Scrooge. Fine, I admit it I’m not a big lover of Christmas, I prefer Boxing Day (26th December for those of you that don’t know), generally because there is less hype about that day. I don’t get excited in the run up to Christmas, because in truth it is just one day and the months of preparation beforehand is an anti-climax.

That’s why I wait to only get excited on Christmas Day itself, which admittedly only my family get to see, so a lot of people don’t believe it. I get to spend time with them, I get Christmas dinner (and the excitement of knowing I have Boxing Day leftover dinner yet to enjoy) and I also get to legitimately watch one of my all time favourite films: A Muppet Christmas Carol.

I am not a huge fan of Christmas films, but if I was told I could only ever watch one of them again for the rest of my life, it would just have to be the Muppets, no doubt about it. The film is a brilliant representation of what Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’ would have looked like had he known Jim Henson.

The book is a bit grim in places, as much of Dicken’s work is, but the message behind the story, the morality of the tale, should never be forgotten. The good and generous spirit of Christmas should be remembered the rest of the year as well. Maybe that’s why Christmas isn’t overtly extra special for me, because I do try and live like that all year around.

The adaption with the Muppets though, is just pure comedy genius as well. Gonzo as Charles Dickens with Rizzo (there for the food) is just a match made in heaven, because only Gonzo of all the Muppets could pull off being the slightly arrogant omnipotent author who also makes the whole experience of the story into a thrill seeking adventure. Life is an adventure, and while most of us won’t be hooking onto Michael Caine via a lasso, we each have our moments and that the ones who define us should not be forgotten.

gonzo and lasso

Which is exactly what Scrooge has tried to do; he has buried the joy of Christmas when he met Belle, because of the pain of the Christmas he lost her. Scrooge though is not as unredeemable character like most people imagination, because it doesn’t take him that long to come around to the idea that life can be wonderful even if you have nothing. Because that is what his entire life has been about, being in pain because he had lost something, which he never recovered from. How can you not sympathise with Scrooge who is simply in pain and isn’t all that good at dealing with it?

The reason he doesn’t want Tiny Tim to die, is because he knows the pain the that would be felt if he did, because he has felt that sort of pain all his life and he want to save Bob from feeling it, because he can.

He wants to donate to charity because he can.

And inspired by the film’s funniest moment, he wants his bookkeepers to feel the heat wave because he can.

heatwave this is my island in the sun

So I always ask myself all year around is what can I do for others, because I want to and I can?

Film Review – The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring



The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it.

For me the end of 2001 had a massive impact on my life; on the books I read, the music I listened to and my acceptance of myself as a geek. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was released and I can honestly say, that for me it changed a lot. I have always been a swot and a geek and I was bullied for it, but until LOTR was released as a film I had only ever felt like an outsider. Admittedly being thirteen/fourteen is not easy for anyone, but from the moment that I first heard Galadriel speak against a blacked out screen and Peter Jackson drew me into Tolkien’s world, I realised that I should wear the label placed on me by others with pride not with shame, and as I analyse the film below, it taught me to work with others and their differences not against them.

Fine, it wasn’t just Lord of the Rings that helped, I grew up a lot when I was thirteen/fourteen, but Tolkien became an integral part of my life. From the moment I was stood in a cinema foyer and on a small TV screen I saw Frodo being thrown up the crumbling stairs of Moria in a trailer, until right now when I’m sat with a copy of ‘The Children of Hurin’ next me with a bookmark halfway though, J.R.R. Tolkien has been a massive inspiration. He inspired the first series of fantasy books I endeavoured to write (which are shoddy beyond belief but still important to me at least); his use of deep and fantastical history has inspired the current series of fantasy books I’m writing; and his characters have taught me to never give up.

the stairs of khazud doom

I have immersed myself deeply in Tolkien’s world, so much so that the opening line of the film irritates me a great deal. Having just finished reading ‘The Silmarillion’, and while much as been lost from these tales, Galadriel does still live, and does in theory still remember it all. So yes, the opening line draws me in and annoys me intensely, but once I get past it, the film itself is a classic.

For many people, the Fellowship, consists of the nine companions who set out from Rivendell heading to Mordor, but for me the true fellowship of the ring is Frodo and Sam. From the very start of the threat when Gandalf hurries to the Shire to persuade Frodo to flee and Sam decides it is an ideal time to trim the verges, the two of them set off on a journey together that will cement their friendship and in the last film help save the world.

But sticking with the Fellowship of the Ring for now, at the beginning it is the two of them. While the others join them and then with an almost perfect ‘last one in, first one out’ policy, leave again, at the end it is Frodo and Sam carrying on to Mordor.

fellowship scarecrow

In the Shire when Sam suddenly stops in the middle of a field, proclaiming that one more step will take him further away from home than ever before is one of the most poignant moments in the film. Once I stop chuckling at the crows resting their wings on the arms of a scarecrow, and Sam takes that extra step he is truly beginning a journey that takes him and Frodo further away from home than most others in Middle Earth would ever journey.

In truth the fellowship of the ring, in my terms, doesn’t end at the end of the film, the first Lord of the Rings film is just the first step of Frodo and Sam’s journey together.

However, the film is not just about Frodo and Sam, and the definition of the Fellowship isn’t just about the companions who even just briefly accompany the ring. The dynamics between members of the Fellowship, is also about redemption as well. Aragorn and Boromir wish to redeem the legacy of men that Isildur had marred, by learning to get on with each other but also learning to resist the power that the one ring can hold over men so easily. Aragorn is more successful at this than Boromir, but even he redeems himself almost immediately by giving his life in the attempt to save Merry and Pippin.

The developing relationship between Legolas and Gimli as well, in a way symbolises the antagonistic relationship between Elves and Dwarfs, and how pointless their feud really is in the long run. While their relationship is prickly at first, as they begin to encounter other enemies together, they both begin to realise that being enemies with each other only makes the orcs, the trolls, and Sauron’s other followers stronger, because they are not using their full strength to work together to defeat them because they are also busy fighting each other.

merry and pippin

And then there is Merry and Pippin, who for the first film tag along and have an adventure. While it is wrought with grief for them, they are redeeming the errors of their youth, by growing in the first film. For both of them, it takes all three films for them to grow up entirely, but the Fellowship of the Ring is the beginning of that journey for them, and it nearly always makes me cry when they distract the orcs to let Frodo escape at the end.

Because while the Fellowship is about accompanying the ring to Mount Doom, what the fellowship is really about is learning to work together, to redeem themselves from the past, from deep seated prejudices and from the bliss of youth, in order to defeat an evil force. It is about different people coming together, despite cultural and generational differences trying to make the world a better place. Peter Jackson managed to create a visually stunning backdrop to this story, and Howard Shore made a beautiful soundtrack, but the real reason the film is a classic is because neither of this aesthetic things are used to detract from Tolkien’s original idea of the Fellowship, they are there only to enhance it.

If you liked this you like these film reviews too:

The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers

The Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King

The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The Key to a Great Story – Driving the Plot Forward


Naomi Watts and Tom Holland star in The Impossible

In previous posts I’ve talked about the different types of plots you can create, the different ways you can combine the basics and use sub-plotting and story arcs. One of the crucial things can you need to do to make any of this work though is to use the plot to drive the story forward.

There are two places that this drive comes from: events outside of character control and character’s themselves (Pro-active and Reactive development). To explain this properly though, what you need to understand straight away is that I’m talking about how the plot is driven forward from the perspective of the protagonist. Where it gets complicated is when you begin looking at how the plot is driven forward from the perspective of other characters, but I will explain that later on.

I’ll start with how plot can drive forward the story. What I mean by events that are outside of character control, is that the events that take place are outside of the control of the protagonist. So these can be derived from natural events (for example in the film ‘The Impossible’, the protagonists are dealing with the threat posed by the Indian Ocean Tsunami) or the events can come from other characters.

The first of these two is pretty easy to understand: an earthquake, a hurricane, icy roads etc., basically anything natural, usually weather, that makes it harder for the protagonist to get on with their initial plan for the day or as with the movie example above, changes the plan into something unrecognizable, unexpected and pretty horrific.

Events can come from other characters though is a little bit more complicated, as it doesn’t fall under character driven plot as you would expect, but drive from plot outside of the main character’s influence. Where the complication lies, is that it is character driven plot, just not from the perspective of the protagonist, but from the antagonist.

For starters though, please just assume that when you are plotting a story, that you are plotting initially from the perspective of the protagonist. Later on in the development process you can look at how plots fall into different categories in terms of drive, but as the majority of stories are from the perspective of the protagonist, looking at plot from their perspective makes the most sense.

The most basic way to explain plot driven from other character’s actions is to describe it as the villain putting his evil plans into action. So Sauron sending the Nazgul to the Shire; Voldemort beginning his takeover of the world; and the annihilation of the Jedi and the building of the Death Star, are all good examples of how a villain begins his evil plans. These are however very obvious plots. Sometimes sinister plots can be more subtle.

in time clock

One of my favourite examples is from the film ‘In Time’, where the distribution of time left for people to live is very carefully restricted in poorer areas in order to ensure than the lifespans of the poor are not overlong in order to maintain population levels, but at the sacrifice of their quality of life and their chance to take on the opportunity to be immortal. This example is not an individual plotting an evil takeover, it is more of an organisational driven scenario, where individuals in this scheme are singled out by chance.

The protagonist needs to deal with plot that has been set by the antagonist. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin need to flee the shire in order stop Sauron from being reunited with the one ring. In the book the threat is less immediate than in the film, and the forgotten hero hobbit of Lord of the Rings, Fredegar Bolger, who at great risk to himself stays behind in the shire to keep up the appearance that Frodo is still in residence while the other four secretly leave for Bree, via the Old Forest and Tom Bombadil.

bb ferry

Not quite the same as the film’s tension filled encounter with a Black Rider that ends with the four Hobbits sprinting for Bucklebury Ferry, in the hope they can reach Bree and Gandalf before the Black Rider’s cross the Brandywine Bridge twenty miles away. Whichever example you look at though, book or film, Sauron sets a threat in motion and the characters have to react to that threat. They then have to react to the decision that Elrond makes to not allow the One Ring to remain in Rivendell, and the Fellowship is formed.

These two examples are good examples of how plot is driven forward outside of the control of the protagonists, but equally plot needs to be driven by the protagonists themselves as well. Character driven plot, from the perspective of the protagonist, is linked to plot driven by natural events and other characters, but there are two ways in which character driven plot can work, and it depends on whether the protagonist is pro-active or reactive.

How a character reacts to plot happening around them, depends entirely on your character and the stage of development that they have reached. Now each unique character will react to things differently, so I can’t say for certain what you will need to do, only you will know that. However, there are two basics concepts that a character will undertake, and that is whether they react to an event, or are proactive. Looking at the example above of Frodo leaving the shire, in the book he know he needs to leave and takes months to do so, and while he is reluctant he is being proactive. In the film he doesn’t have the luxury of time and has to be reactive to the situation.


Another good example of a character acting either pro-actively or re-actively, is to look at the difference between Harry Potter in the Philosopher’s Stone (or the Sorcerer’s Stone depending on which side of the Atlantic Ocean you live on) and Harry Potter in the Deathly Hallows. In the first book, while Harry is proactive in trying to figure out what the parcel from Gringott’s actually is, but when it comes to the threat the immediate course of action is to just tell Dumbledore. When he isn’t there Harry, Hermione and Ron have to react to a new scenario and deal with the threat themselves. In the Deathly Hallows though, the three of them are actually being pro-active in trying to stop Voldemort. They don’t just react to the attack on Hogwarts by being there to fight and making sure the Order of the Phoenix are there to help, they are there pro-actively looking for Horcruxes in order to stop Voldemort before anyone else has to die.

So to summarise, plot can be driven forward by events outside of the main character’s control, such as natural disasters and events that are set in motion by antagonists, but it can also be driven forward in different ways depending on how the protagonist handles the events, either proactively or re-actively. This is of course, just a simple explanation of how to drive plot forward, and in my upcoming posts I will expand upon this further.