I’d like to offer a challenge to all of the writers who read this. It’s going to involve writing a short story, no length requirements, and you don’t even have to post it anywhere if you don’t want to. Think of it as a thought experiment.
Here’s the set-up: It’s a heist. You can set it in whatever place and time you want. I’m going to specify the characters by their role in the story and set up a general outline of the story, but you fill in the details.
We have five main characters: The PLANNER, who is in charge of the heist, two general purpose armed robbers, one of who is the HERO and the other of whom is the BETRAYER. There is a SPECIALIST, who is needed to actually open the safe/vault/mainframe/magic circle/whatever where the loot is held. Then there is an employee of the bank or whatever that is being robbed, who becomes the HOSTAGE.
The story goes like this: During a time (late night/weekend/holiday) when the target building should be empty, the team of robbers breaks in. They discover an unexpected employee whom they then take HOSTAGE–but these robbers are pros, they have every intention of releasing the HOSTAGE unharmed once the heist is over and they are clear and away.
After that snag, with the HERO busy watching the HOSTAGE, the SPECIALIST goes to work on freeing the loot. Just about the time that the SPECIALIST has penetrated the container, the building is surrounded by cops–someone tipped off the law. (As you might guess, that someone is the BETRAYER, but the rest don’t know that yet.)
There is a firefight, and the PLANNER, the BETRAYER, and the HERO end up in one section of the building, with the SPECIALIST and the HOSTAGE pinned down in another. The PLANNER says to leave the others and make a run for it, but the HERO won’t leave the SPECIALIST. (Because that’s what HEROES do.)
The PLANNER and the (still unrevealed) BETRAYER run one way, while the HERO goes back for the SPECIALIST (who is a career criminal like the others, but not a combat character.) Using the HOSTAGE as a human shield, the HERO and the SPECIALIST make their escape and make their way to the rendezvous point with the loot.
There they find that the BETRAYER has killed the PLANNER and is planning on killing them, too.
I’ll leave the ending to you–who lives, who dies, who ends up with the loot.
Pretty simple plot–basic NBC Movie Of The Week Crime Drama. A little The Italian Job, a little Reservoir Dogs. Got an idea of the flow of the action?
Okay, here’s the kicker. Before you sit down to write the story, flip a coin for each of the main characters: PLANNER, HERO, BETRAYER, SPECIALIST, and HOSTAGE. Heads, that character is female, tails, that character is male.
I’d really like people to try this, because I honestly believe that the story will work no matter how the coins fall, but the story will be a little bit different depending on the sexes of the different characters. I think it might be an interesting experiment to see how different writers deal with different combinations, and I think it might stretch us all a little to have the sexes of the characters randomly assigned.
I do intend to do it myself, and I will post a link to my story once I’ve written it. I would like to encourage others to do likewise, but as I said, it’s more for the writers than for the readers. If you do try it and don’t feel like posting the story itself, I would appreciate some feedback on how it turned out for you.