The Microaggression

This is a complicated plot, due to its misunderstood nature. Start by introducing the protagonist to a new environment. Common settings are a college or an office where everyone is middle-aged and stuck in their outdated ways. As the protagonist gains understanding of the rules of this environment, rip the rug right out from under her. Reveal the antagonist through a seemingly innocuous statement that conveys prejudice toward a person of color. Extra points if this character initially appears as an ally.

The second dramatic stage is commonly referred to as the “Battleground Phase.” Usually, this entails a lengthy lecture about what a microaggression is, and how the antagonist committed it. This part can come from a human resources drone, a dorm advisor or a white kid with dreads named Sebastian. If you want to heighten the tension, make the protagonist answer to an accusation of over sensitivity. The protagonist may question herself before finding a true ally, or simply a group of like-minded people who totally know where she’s coming from. At the end of this phase, the antagonist still shouldn’t understand why any of this stuff is happening.

The final dramatic phase occurs when the protagonist and their allies band together and convince the antagonist to see the error of his ways. The conflict is typically resolved with a heartfelt admission of guilt, followed by a ten-point action plan to be more culturally aware. For a happy ending, have everyone agree microaggressions are actually a thing. For an unhappy ending, have the antagonist realize microagressions are a thing and he’s left a wake of subtle misogyny and racism through the course of his life. For a twist ending, have the protagonist realize she was over sensitive the whole time. For a super cataclysmic ending, have everyone realize that microaggressions wouldn’t be a thing if our culture and its institutions weren’t so deeply rooted in prejudice.

Religious Persecution

Open the story in the protagonist’s ordinary world. Paint the picture of piety. Consider a Bible study group, a sermon at a local Church or a group of people singing hymns while warming their hands in front of a burning cross. By the way, this is American storytelling, so your protagonist better be white and Christian. This plot simply won’t fly with a protagonist of any other faith or ethnicity.

The protagonist needs her ordinary world disturbed in some fashion, so introduce a conflict through a plot device called a “Supreme Court decision.” But feel free to choose any device that would prompt the protagonist into action. Remember: an abortion clinic is always ready to open down the street. The first act ends as the protagonist vows to stop what she perceives to be an atrocity.

The antagonist should appear at the beginning of the second phase. The antagonist must embody the conflict, so he can be a caricature of a flaming homosexual or trailer park welfare mother who’s addicted to tax payer-funded abortions. Be lively with the portrait you paint. This plot works really well with a shallow stereotype as the antagonist, but feel free to give the antagonist some depth. Consider the possibility that two people of the same sex can genuinely love each other, or women have to make difficult decisions that aren’t any of your business. Toward the middle of this phase, the main character takes his or her first action, like, say, denying a marriage license to two people who so genuinely love each other.

During this phase, you can go into the protagonist’s backstory. Reveal she was once a person other people judged indiscriminately, until she found a group of people who forgave her because she accepted Jesus Christ into her life. Maybe she’s a tragic character because she doesn’t quite understand she might have been brain-washed. Maybe they’re the only people who have ever loved her and she’s scared to lose that love. Maybe she so desperately craves their approval that she’ll go to absurd lengths in support of the group’s beliefs. Close out the phase with a significant setback for the protagonist. The easiest way to do this is to put her in jail. An ironic way to do this is for her to experience the same hatred she showed those two people who so genuinely love each other.

In the final phase, resolve the conflict. Some say it was resolved in the first act with the Supreme Court decision. Those people probably aren’t storytellers. But you are, so this is when you do it. After a release from jail, the protagonist ascends, while the rest of us descend. This means she stubbornly refuses to admit any wrongdoing and conferences with Mike Huckabee, while her opposition foams at the mouth as they vituperate against her narrow, outdated views. Give the protagonist a sense of internal accomplishment, even if the plot points to the fact that she was horribly misguided in her attempts at imposing her self-righteous morality. For a feel-good Hollywood ending, have a blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus give her a wink, a nod or a celestial thumbs up. Or force her to give those two people who so genuinely love each other a marriage license.

The Catfish

The first dramatic phase begins with a chance online encounter between the protagonist and the antagonist. They manage to fall madly in love without ever having met each other. That’s the most difficult part of constructing this plot: making it believable that two people could have such strong feelings for each other without ever meeting one another. However you accomplish this impossible task, make sure they agree to meet IRL to finish up this phase.

The second dramatic phase typically begins right before the encounter. The protagonist’s only obstacle during this phase is actually meeting the antagonist. Raise the protagonist’s expectations, then send them crashing down. Have fun with it. Do it several times. Consider giving the protagonist an ally during this phase, like a friend who rolls her eyes a lot, but doesn’t actually ever tell the protagonist what she really thinks. She’s just happy her dumpy friend thinks he or she is in love and wants him or her to have that feeling for as long as possible. At some point, the antagonist should offer proof that he or she exists. As proof, consider something like Tony Danza’s Twitter account. By the end of the second phase, the protagonist should definitely suspect something is up.

During the final phase, the protagonist resolves to find out who the antagonist really is. Go against convention and lower the stakes. After ruling out a rogue’s gallery of suspects, reveal the antagonist as a lonely person who got tangled in the heady escapade of an internet-fueled emotional bond. Typically, good storytelling ends with bang, so the protagonist might come to the conclusion that our perception of the world is colored by our desire for acceptance, by the shame we carry for the acts we can’t forgive ourselves for doing and the small hope someone will love us anyway. However, this plot usually ends with a shrug, as if to say, “That’s just the times we live in, bro.”