Forget battling people – imagine that your antagonist is a machine. The tension is more than just your protagonist fighting with his computer or printer though. In this plot line, your character goes head-to-head with a thinking, planning machine. A great example of this plot is I, Robot with Will Smith.
In I, Robot, humans are protected and served by humanoid robots. The robots are supposed to be incapable of hurting humans, but Del Spooner (Smith’s character) doesn’t trust them – one saved his life while letting a little girl die because of the robot’s statistical analysis. Life drastically changes when the co-founder of the robots suspiciously commits suicide. During Spooner’s investigation, he’s attacked several times by robotic creations as he tries to discover what really happened.
There are a few key elements that set this story apart as the Character vs. the Machine plot line.
- The machine is not an inanimate object. As I said earlier, your main character isn’t fighting with his computer or home security system. The machine needs to be a thinking, analytical thing that not only hinders your main character’s story, it’s actually purposefully working against your main character.
- The stakes must be high. Spooner isn’t just locked out of his house or unable to steer his car. The machines are rising up, and it’s a life-or-death situation. The same is true in 2001: A Space Odyssey and War Games.
- The machines act independently; they’re not controlled. In The Net, Sandra Bullock’s character is the victim of computer-related crimes, but there’s a person behind everything. In Character vs. the Machine, the machine makes the decisions. It’s not programmed or controlled. It acts on its own.
The fun thing about this plot is that you can write in a contemporary or futuristic setting (you could even write it in the past and work in more modern technology). Because your antagonist is a machine, you can let your imagination go and create any size, shape, and temperament of machine that you want! You aren’t restricted by much, but you do want to make sure that your story and circumstances are believable. Other than that, you’re free to create!
Stop by again in two weeks to read about Character vs. Setting. If you missed the last post, check out Character vs. Destiny here!