Status swaps are the bread and butter of fiction writers. A change of status is the standard situation from which an author or film-maker can weave a story that fills the reader or viewer with empathy, dread, hope and ultimately a sense of relief or triumph.
Consider these examples:
- Poor, deserving, beautiful girl escapes from a miserable fate, dons sparkling (if impractical) shoes and marries a prince.
- Skinny boy with horrid family discovers he is actually a famous wizard.
- Hungry, poverty-stricken boy inherits a chocolate factory.
- The supposed fool of his family rises to the position of Roman emperor, despite his tendency to stutter and drool.
- Young girl who loves reading saves her family from a vicious psychopath by conjuring a character out of a book to defeat him.
- Homeless boy with athletic talent is adopted by a kind family and drafted by a top football team.
- Brilliant young girl with neglectful family and criminal father manages to get rid of the school bully (who also happens to be the headmistress)
- Prim and proper hobbit goes on a long journey and in the process becomes an adventurer who rubs shoulders with wizards and elves and comes home with a fortune.
- Four working-class boys in Liverpool start a band and become musical superstars.
- Child in Serbia survives a dangerous childhood in a war-torn land and becomes the number 1 tennis player in the world.
- Horrible teacher gets her comeuppance when one of her students denounces her cruelty at a dazzling ball.
Not all of these are fiction, but all of them sound like fiction. Can you identify each story?
As Oscar Wilde once memorably said: “The good ended happily and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”
Sad to say, real life doesn’t work like that. The poor grow poorer, tyrants seize power, and leaders often treat their people with callous disdain: life is anything but fair. Perhaps that is one reason why, through fiction, we revel in a fantasy world where the people with merit, courage and resolution win the day. They turn the tables on the bad guys. In these other worlds created from ink, paper and celluloid, there is some hope of justice, at least after the heroes or heroines have proven their steel and their resource and have prevailed.
Can you think of other instances of status changes in fiction? Add your own example from a film or a book in a comment below.
Then continue to contemplate how you can turn that human fascination with such turnarounds into a simple story encompassing just one such status change. Add photos to emphasise how the significance of your principal character changes throughout. Vary your angles, lighting and types of shot. You will be following the great traditions of the human story.
Examples of Status Swap Situations for this Creative Task:
Your teacher makes mincemeat out of you at Parent-Teacher Night. While he shreds your character, scorns your work ethic and describes your tendency to fall asleep on Friday afternoons, you sit there sweating and wishing that you could slide under the table. All the other parents and students who are waiting for their next interview listen with a certain malicious pleasure to your teacher’s strictures. Just at the moment when you are contemplating flight through this throng of curious onlookers, your teacher’s computer is attacked by a virus. With a few nonchalant movements of your fingers, you effortlessly save all his files. He thanks you and promises you anything that your heart desires on your next report…You reply that reports don’t matter to you; you have already been offered positions by Apple and IBM and can’t decide which one to choose.
The school bully steals other students’ lunch money each morning as everyone arrives at school. Only one student, Raymond, seems impervious to the bully’s actions. Raymond is startlingly strong, despite his diminutive size. One day you see him carrying a bookcase. Then he saves everyone from the bully simply by…
Bess is fed up with Emily for boasting about her boyfriend Harvey. “He’s tall, handsome and masculine,” says Emily. “I simply cannot stop stroking him. You wouldn’t believe how fine his hair is.”
One day Emily invites Bess over to meet the love of her life.
Harvey turns out to be…
Blake is the kind of sensitive, caring boy whom other students sometimes tease. Then, unexpectedly, the most beautiful and talented girl in the school asks him to take her to the formal. Suddenly, all the boys who used to tease him want to know his secret.
A modest and self-effacing boy, Joseph never admits to anyone that he is a mathematical genius who can do equations 5 times faster than Mr Fitzgerald and 10 times faster than everyone else in 8B. But one day, he has no choice but to reveal his brilliance…Scientific American asks to interview him. The Mathematical Journal for Distinguished Nerds asks him to submit a paper…