Okay, picking up where we left off in our
discussion about the catalyst of a story:
One of the most critical parts of the setup of a story is the catalyst.
The catalyst has two important roles:
1. It starts the action of the story.
2. It defines what the story is about.
Besides action, the catalyst might also be informational, that is, the character
learns a piece of information that sets the story into motion.
A great example
of this is Patricia MacLachlan’s Sarah, Plain and Tall:
Papa leaned back in the chair. “I’ve placed an advertisement in the
newspapers. For help.”
“You mean a housekeeper?” I asked, surprised.
Caleb and I looked at each other and burst out laughing, remembering
Hilly, our old housekeeper. She was round and slow and shuffling. She
snored in a high whistle at night, like a teakettle, and let the fire go out.
“No,” said Papa slowly. “Not a housekeeper.” He paused. “A wife.”
We are six pages into the story.
The action has started with information.
Another example of an informational catalyst can be found in Judy
Life was going along okay when my mother and father dropped the
news. Bam! Just like that.
“We have something to wonderful to tell you, Peter,” Mom said before
A paragraph and a half later:
“We’re going to have a baby,” Mom said.
The story has started and is about a boy who is about to get a new
brother or sister. Information.
Okay, some of y'all are dozing again.
So I'll save the next part of catalyst, i.e., situational, for next time.
But before you go, repeat after me:
THE CATALYST SHOULD COME AS EARLY IN THE STORY AS POSSIBLE.