Hi Gang. Craig with you once again. Since today isn’t a holiday, I feel no compulsion to make some kind of arbitrary holiday tie in. That can be almost scary.
Last night (Writing this days ahead) I spotted a great example of plants and payoffs. This is a frequent topic of writing blogs, but it could use a modern facelift. I think I have one.
The first Plants & Payoffs lesson most people get is about Chekhov’s Gun. It goes something like this, “If you show a gun in the first act, it needs to go off in the third act.” I’m sure I didn’t get it quite right, but you get the idea.
This plays into foreshadowing, in that your heroes aren’t pulling weapons out of thin air when they’re needed. The reader already knows the guns are present. Readers need to suspect the hero is genuine before he pulls the sword from the stone and removes all doubt.
We’re writing in the 21st century, and it seems to me my example should be more modern. Which brings me to a little silver knob. Not the metal silver, but the color. Honestly, after this episode, it could be made of Beskar steel. If you hadn’t guessed, I’m going back to the Mandalorian.
The Mandalorian seems to be the story of a single father trying to make a living. He’s all but adopted Baby Yoda, who has the name Grogu now. Mando is a good father, but doesn’t spend a lot of time at Toys R Us.
The little sphere first showed up as a knob on some lever in the cockpit of the ship they virtually live on. Baby Yoda snitched it for a toy. There was a cute father/son moment, then Mando gave in and let the kid play with it. It really didn’t need to be more than that, but it became so much more.
Subsequent episodes show Mando using this as a kind of pacifier for the kid when he needs more attention than Mando can give at the time.
Part of Mando’s mission is to deliver Baby Yoda to the Jedi, if there are any left. Eventually, he finds one and she wants to test the kid. She attempts to have Grogu move a small stone using the Force.
We know he can do this. We’ve already seen him lift a rhino-thing to save Mando’s life.
As the kid is failing, Mando tempts him with the little silver knob. We can feel this moment, and Grogu uses the Force to move the knob into his own hands.
The knob is more than a fitting for a lever. It’s more than a pacifier. It’s a bonding point between the two characters.
This week, the big bad made his play to kidnap Grogu for some Naziesque experiments. It’s Star Wars, so there was a big shootout and lots of small spaceships along with some new evil droids.
At the end of the day, Grogu was kidnapped, and Mando’s ship/home was destroyed. When he sorted through the rubble and found that silver knob, we didn’t need a lot of dialog about what it meant to him.
This is because the emotional tie was built up over time. The knob was planted in our minds last year, and built up from there. It was heart wrenching and we all felt it. I’m on pins and needles for the next episode, which will probably air before this goes live.
This one silver knob does multiple duty in the story. First, it’s a piece of equipment. It belongs to Mando. It builds his character, because the lever will function without it and he let’s the kid play with it anyway.
It establishes more character by what it isn’t. Mando didn’t stop by some store and buy the kid a Beany Baby. It’s a stupid metal ball.
Grogu’ s eyes sparkle as he puts it in his mouth. This shows a bit about how he feels toward Mando. I have to guess a little bit here, but maybe it means more because it’s Mando’s than any regular toy could. (You want your readers to start drawing conclusions.)
Now it’s become the focal point of all of our heartbreak. One object, very few words, tons of value in the story.
This heartbreaking moment was planted last year, then paid off late this year. Timing is important and it means more by making us wait to receive it.
As an author, I not only enjoy reading and viewing, I also watch for things I could do better. You can bet Grogu’s silver ball will be lodged in my mind somewhere.
How about you guys? Do you study the fiction you read or view? Do you have your own Buddy Poppy, or loose button that could do double duty in your own stories? We’d like to hear about them.