So, I'm a mom. I have three kids. The two oldest are in that "watch things on repeat" stage. We go the rounds with several different shows. Dora the Explorer. Go, Diego, Go! Wonder Pets. Anything with computer animation. Several times in any given day. Usually, I try to tune it all out. After a while, it all bleeds together, any way. But, I recently paid attention in a way that I never had before. I looked at it like a writer. And here's what I found:
In every episode, *something* happens. Usually, it's a problem that needs a solution. For example, Boots the Monkey loses his favorite stuffed animal. Oh dear! The world as we know it is going to end if Boots can't get his stuffed animal back. (Okay. Not really. But, it is the inciting incident.)
In order to find Boots' stuffed animal, Dora and Boots go on a journey. They have three distinct places that they must go. At each location, there is a task to accomplish. There is almost always an appearance by Swiper the Fox, who tries to do something that will prevent Dora from getting where she needs to go with the things she needs to accomplish her goals. Sometimes, Dora stops Swiper. Sometimes she doesn't.
Each episode follows the same pattern. Incident. Three challenges. A few twists and new characters. Triumph at the end. And the writer in me saw something that hadn't occurred to me before. In my own writing, I can't just leave it simple. There needs to be something to pull the story forward. There has to be complications. You can't make it too easy on your character. It doesn't have to follow the Dora the Explorer pattern, but it does need to be more than just one big problem that gets solved at the end.
So, friends, have you learned things from an unexpected place? What do you think of the Dora principle?