My husband and I love to go to the movies - but life often gets in the way. I knew it was a holiday weekend when I managed to squeeze in Harry Potter, Due Date and 127 Hours (all fantastic - definite must sees!). Aside from causing me to laugh hysterically until I could barely breathe, Due Date did something else magical - it utilized a trick from the writer's toolbox, in big, flashing neon.
Spoiler Alert! Many things go wrong in this road trip movie. Poor (sexy) Robert Downey gets banged up repeatedly, involved in multiple car accidents and several broken bones. He even winds up being rescued from a Mexican jail. At this point the movie is almost over, and you figure everything is winding up to a happy ending. And then, out of nowhere, he gets shot in the leg. Now, he didn't need to get shot. They'd already logged more than enough very funny mishaps to make the movie terrific. But they pushed the envolope and shot him in the leg (funnier than it sounds, I promise).
The speaker at one of the first local RWA meetings I attended was a big believer in Yes, and....It is one of the cornerstones of improvisational theatre, where you build on whatever just happened. Each action spirals into something else. She even handed out laminated cards printed with Yes, and? to hang over our desks. It is a fabulous reminder for writers that we need to push our characters into more and more conflict.
Due Date pulled the ultimate Yes, and... with that shot to the leg. I took it as a reminder that we often make it too easy on our characters, and no matter what happens to them, we can probably go further. Try applying the principle to your writing this week, and see what happens!