Bala Ramadurai

COEXIST - Actionable Stories for Sustainable Change - T - Tough challenge

“What makes heroes heroes?” It is the ability to surmount tough challenges that everyone else before them gave up on.

So far, the hero has always had some help and they never truly believed in themselves or their own ability. The heroes were never in such a hopeless situation all by themselves before. We, as authors, have really set them up so that they can excel at what they are really good at, in the story - Be a Hero!

Let’s recap. In the COEXIST storytelling method, we

  • chose a hero and an issue in step C;
  • wrote our grand story in one-line in step O;
  • made our hero “get out” of their comfort zone in step E;
  • gave them an external threat for them to battle in step X;
  • moved the hero from reaction to action in step I;
  • removed the help of their best friend/mentor in step S;
  • and now, pit them against the very thing that they never faced before on their own.

Let’s go back to the stories that we have been tracking.

In Finding Nemo, Marlin has to now fight his worst enemy, his own parental instinct, to let his son do his own thing. The toughest challenge he faces is to help Dory, who is caught in a fishing net, while protecting his son, Nemo.

In The Matrix, Neo has to now fight his worst enemy, Agent Smith. One of the toughest challenges he faces is Agent Smith in the subway station, followed by many more interactions with the Agents, all this while trying to get back to the ship within time (There are sentinels attacking the ship in the real world).

In Titanic, Rose has to now fight for survival against all odds. With Jack gone, Rose has to get picked up by the rescue teams, not be detected by Cal and still make a life for herself as she had promised Jack before he died.

How do you perform the step of T - Tough Challenge?

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COEXIST - Actionable Stories for Sustainable Change - S - Support of friend/mentor - gone

“What are friends for?” this is a rhetoric you would hear from your friend when they help you in your hour of need. Awesome!

But in your story, if you want the hero to struggle the most and you want their best to come out, remove the support of their best friend/mentor. This is when the hero realizes that the power is within them.

Let’s recap. In the COEXIST storytelling method, we

  • chose a hero and an issue in step C;
  • wrote our grand story in one-line in step O;
  • made our hero “get out” of their comfort zone in step E;
  • gave them an external threat for them to battle in step X;
  • moved the hero from reaction to action in step I;
  • and now we are about to remove the help of their best friend.

Let’s go back to the stories that we have been tracking.

In Finding Nemo, Marlin and Dory reach Sydney and the dentists' place only to find Nemo “dead”, Marlin’s worst fear. Marlin finding his son again, now has to fight his paternal instinct to be protective and let his son be.

In The Matrix, Neo and Trinity reach the military installation and rescue both Morpheus and Trinity only to find Agent Smith in battle, Neo’s worst fear. Neo finding Agent Smith again, now has to fight his instinct (and advice from his fellow officers) to run away and fight back.

In Titanic, Rose and Jack (after rescuing Jack and after the Titanic sank) reach a place of safety on a piece of wreckage, only to find Jack dead, Rose’s worst fear. Rose finding Cal again (on the Carpathia), now has to fight her instinct of looking for support and fight her way back in life.

How do you perform the step of S - support of friend/mentor gone?

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COEXIST - Actionable Stories for Sustainable Change - I - In-between

We’ve reached an important point of a story. For regular movie-goers in India, we know this phase as the Interval or Intermission. Not only does this break in a movie serve as a pop-corn/bathroom break, but also from a story-perspective, it is the middle point of the story.

So, what is so special about the mid-point? For the hero, the mid-point has just one significance and an important one at that - Move from reaction to action. No, this has nothing to do with Sir Isaac Newton’s third law.

Let’s recap. In the COEXIST storytelling method, we chose a hero and an issue in step C; wrote our grand story in one-line in step O; made our hero “get out” of their comfort zone in step E; gave them an external threat for them to battle in step X; and now the hero is just tired of running around and just reacting to whatever is thrown at them.

Let’s go back to the stories that we have been tracking.

In Finding Nemo, Marlin and Dory find a diver’s mask which has the address where Marlin’s son might be. After dealing with the three sharks (Bruce, Anchor and Chum, if you wanted to know their names 😊), Marlin is faced with a dire situation. The only way to finding his son is in the mask, but the mask is in a dark abyss. With some persuasion from Dory (“Let’s keep swimming” earworm), Marlin decides that he’ll swim for the mask.

In The Matrix, after Morpheus is captured by the agents (Smith, Jones and Brown, if you wanted to know their names 😊), Neo is faced with a dire situation. The only way to rescuing Morpheus is to go to a military location, but the location is guarded by the military and three agents. With some persuasion (indirect) from the Oracle (“Know thyself” theatrics), Neo decides he’ll fight for Morpheus.

In Titanic, after Jack is captured by Cal (Lovejoy is the thug’s name, if you wanted to know his name 😊), Rose is faced with a dire situation. The only way to rescuing Jack is to go (back) to the Titanic, but the ship is sinking and she has no idea where Jack will be. With some (indirect) persuasion from Cal (and Jack himself), Rose decides to get back on to Titanic to rescue Jack and be with him.

Well, since today is May 4th, I’ll also talk about Star Wars (“May the fourth be with you”, get it?).

In Star Wars - A New Hope, Luke Skywalker is captured by Darth Vader’s storm troopers (Oh c’mon, I can’t name them all 😊) on the Death Star, Luke is faced with a dire situation. The only way to rescuing Princess Leia is to battle out along with Han Solo and the droids. Luke decides to join the Rebel Alliance against the Galactic Empire.

How do you perform the step of I - in-between?

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COEXIST - Actionable Stories for Sustainable Change - X - eXternal threat

What is the role of monsters in movies or stories?

Monsters or villainous characters have a responsibility in a story. They are there to apply pressure on the main character/protagonist, so that the heroes rethink their decision on “getting out” of their comfort zone.

Marlin, Nemo’s dad, gets out of his anemone, but now, he has to face 3 sharks (or “4800 teeth” as a character in the movie later puts it).

Rose (in Titanic) has the iceberg episode to deal with.

Neo (in The Matrix) is arrested, intimidated and bugged after he decides to get out of the dream world.

In the COEXIST method of storywriting, so far, you have chosen your hero, issue (in the step C) and you wrote a one-liner of your story (in the step O). You then kick-started the hero’s journey by making them “get out” of their normal course of life (in the step E).

In this step, X, you will learn how to create pressure on the hero at a juncture when they have taken a decision to “get out”.

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