Who Farted? : Why Character Development is Important to Your Plot

Here’s the scenario.

A man and women are alone in an elevator when the foul, sulfuric, tell-tale sign that someone has committed an olfactory offence occurs. It’s a real nose stinger, so rank it melts your nasal hair. The man and woman look at each other.

Who farted?

It’s the ultimate whodunnit.

In fact, the professional perpetrators perpetuating bawdy humour, Viz , even has a definition for such a thing. In their Rogers Profanisaurus (Viz Rogers Profanisaurus), their definition of Agatha Christie is “a silent, putrid fart committed by someone in this very room, and only one person knows whodunnit.”

But, toilet humour (mostly) aside…for now…in my handy-dandy, desktop paperback OED, the word “scenario” is defined as “a possible sequence of future events,” and “a written outline of a film, novel, or stage work.” The word “plot,” the second definition, is “the main sequence of events in a play, novel, or film.”

You could have the man say, “Whoever smelt it, dealt it,” and you leave it at that. End of story. But that would make a pretty dull story. It’s a non event, really, so why bother writing it?

But if you reveal more about the people trapped inside the elevator-cum-gas chamber, there are countless possibilities. Simple details like their age and occupation could say a lot.

She’s a nun and he’s a fetishist with a flatulence fixation.

He’s a high-power attorney and she’s a cafeteria worker in the office cafe…and both of them had the chili for lunch.

Do they speak to each other? Does one do all the talking and the other remains silent? Do they move away from each other or stand still? All these possible reactions depend on what kind of character you portray them to be. If you don’t take the time to develop your characters so that they are more than a laundry list of physical features, it won’t matter what you do with this scenario. It will be dull.

The situation could be humorous or dramatic. Maybe she is suffering from a serious, chronic illness and the cocktail of medications she must take gives her uncontrollable flatulence. Will he be the type of character to be sympathetic, or will he ridicule her?

The potential for humor is obvious. Take a look at the following Internet classic and a more recent video. What do they say about the “characters” involved?

Another important question to consider is the type of elevator. Is it in a posh hotel? An office building? A government building? Or is it a freight elevator? Going with an earlier example, why would a nun and a fetishist be in a freight elevator?

Do you see what I mean?

Plus, people may not know it, but setting can be an important character in the story and should not be discounted when you want to write an interesting story.

That’s why “setting” will be the subject of my next post. 🙂

©2012 by Zetta Brown. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article can be used without written permission from the author.

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