I’ve been blogging some about this great playwriting class I took last fall. (Story ideas you never would’ve thought of, Shine some brilliance on the core problem of your play.)
I came up with this intriguing, witty, warmhearted story about government conspiracies in germ warfare, curious grad students who are not all they seem, and a man who is killing his running buddies by exhaling pneumonic meningitis bacteria.
I wrote a bunch of scenes for the class. Now I have to figure out what will happen next.
And here’s how I got some ideas:
Write the Character’s “To Do” List
If you can’t figure out your plot, let your characters do it for you! Why should you do all the work?
For each of my main characters, I wrote his or her “to do” list. As if I was that character.
Elena — The Curious Grad Student’s “To Do” List
- Get Tim’s medical records from Duke Raleigh. OMG see if Dr. G. can get them in the guise of her work at the CDC. How to persuade her? Blackmail?
- Enroll myself in a drug trial there?!!
- Get myself shipped in in a box?
- Ooh, do I know any top military brass?
Tim — The (Maybe Lethal) Runner’s “To Do” List
- Look for my medical records.
- Get an x-ray of my lungs.
- Figure out how Elena has an in into the CDC. How can she get her samples tested? Was she lying to me?
Graciela (Dr. G.) — The Sympathetic Doctor’s “To Do” List
- Find a reason to investigate this old case.
- Figure out what Roberta is really up to.
- Tell Elena I’ll go up to Duke-Raleigh Hospital and fetch back Tim’s treatment records myself.
- Google “sudden death pneumonic meningitis.”
Thomas — The Lonely Son’s “To Do” List
- Break into the Cobb County coroner’s office and get them records on my daddy’s death.
- Get another tattoo in honor of my daddy.
- Find Tim and beat the shit out of him until he confesses.
- Get better after being shot by Roberta’s assh*le security guard.
Roberta — The Villain’s “To Do” List
- Watch Gabriella (Dr. G.). She’s an excellent physician and researcher, but she’s too warm and open and caring.
- Capture Tim and get him to exhale the pneumonic meningitis bacteria. If they exist. Culture the bacteria in the lab.
- Eliminate Elena. Or recruit her.
Plot ideas galore.
Some Possibilities for Scenes
The middle of the night. In the records office at Duke Raleigh. There’s a big box in the room, with packing and mailing labels on it. We hear weird sounds from the lock on the door to the room. We hear weird sounds from the box. Dr. Graciela finishes picking the lock on the door just about the time serious thumping and grunting comes from the box.
No, no, better yet. Dr. Graciela gets in the room, and starts snooping around for Tim’s medical records from when he was treated for bacterial meningitis there when he was two years old. Just as she’s getting close, she hears thumping and grunting from the box. She hides.
The box is opened from the inside. Elena, much cramped, hauls herself out of the box. She takes off the oxygen mask she has on. She sees that there is a bathroom off the medical records room, slips inside it to pee. Dr. Graciela slips out, finds Tim’s records, and starts towards the door. She hears Elena coming out of the bathroom, and hides again. This time, she can get a good look at who it is.
Elena comes out. She pulls her phone out of the box, inserts a device into the earphone jack, and starts scanning the rows of records. Puzzled, she moves around the lab. The closer she gets to Dr. Graciela’s hiding place, the more the light on her phone flashes. She walks closer.
Dr. Graciela: Elena??
(Elena jumps, drops her phone.)
Dr. Graciela: What are you doing here?
Elena: You’ve got Tim’s records!
Dr. Graciela: That’s what I broke in here to get.
Elena: That’s what I had myself mailed here to get.
Heh Heh Heh