Writer’s notes on adapting Rapunzel – Audio Drama for Schools (Appendix)


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Below you can read the story of Rapunzel as told by the Brothers Grimm.  This is the story we have selected to adapt into an Audio Drama.  Following that, this article takes you step by step through the process of generating the script outline from overall plot arc, through character arcs, to final scene breakdown.  Over the following few weeks we will be posting the final script result along with the writer’s notes on the creative and technical decisions that led to the completion of each scene.

Grimm’s Story

Basic Plot Adaptation

Character Arcs

Integrated Plot Outline

Scene Breakdown

Rapunzel

By the Brothers Grimm

There were once a man and a woman who had long in vain wished for a child. At length the woman hoped that God was about to grant her desire. These people had a little window at the back of their house from which a splendid garden could be seen, which was full of the most beautiful flowers and herbs. It was, however, surrounded by a high wall, and no one dared to go into it because it belonged to an enchantress, who had great power and was dreaded by all the world.

One day the woman was standing by this window and looking down into the garden, when she saw a bed which was planted with the most beautiful rampion – rapunzel, and it looked so fresh and green that she longed for it, and had the greatest desire to eat some. This desire increased every day, and as she knew that she could not get any of it, she quite pined away, and began to look pale and miserable. Then her husband was alarmed, and asked, what ails you, dear wife. Ah, she replied, if I can’t eat some of the rampion, which is in the garden behind our house, I shall die.

The man, who loved her, thought, sooner than let your wife die, bring her some of the rampion yourself, let it cost what it will. At twilight, he clambered down over the wall into the garden of the enchantress, hastily clutched a handful of rampion, and took it to his wife. She at once made herself a salad of it, and ate it greedily. It tasted so good to her – so very good, that the next day she longed for it three times as much as before. If he was to have any rest, her husband must once more descend into the garden. In the gloom of evening, therefore, he let himself down again. But when he had clambered down the wall he was terribly afraid, for he saw the enchantress standing before him.

How can you dare, said she with angry look, descend into my garden and steal my rampion like a thief. You shall suffer for it. Ah, answered he, let mercy take the place of justice, I only made up my mind to do it out of necessity. My wife saw your rampion from the window, and felt such a longing for it that she would have died if she had not got some to eat. Then the enchantress allowed her anger to be softened, and said to him, if the case be as you say, I will allow you to take away with you as much rampion as you will, only I make one condition, you must give me the child which your wife will bring into the world. It shall be well treated, and I will care for it like a mother.

The man in his terror consented to everything, and when the woman was brought to bed, the enchantress appeared at once, gave the child the name of rapunzel, and took it away with her. Rapunzel grew into the most beautiful child under the sun. When she was twelve years old, the enchantress shut her into a tower, which lay in a forest, and had neither stairs nor door, but quite at the top was a little window. When the enchantress wanted to go in, she placed herself beneath it and cried, rapunzel, rapunzel, let down your hair to me.

Rapunzel had magnificent long hair, fine as spun gold, and when she heard the voice of the enchantress she unfastened her braided tresses, wound them round one of the hooks of the window above, and then the hair fell twenty ells down, and the enchantress climbed up by it. After a year or two, it came to pass that the king’s son rode through the forest and passed by the tower.

Then he heard a song, which was so charming that he stood still and listened. This was rapunzel, who in her solitude passed her time in letting her sweet voice resound. The king’s son wanted to climb up to her, and looked for the door of the tower, but none was to be found. He rode home, but the singing had so deeply touched his heart, that every day he went out into the forest and listened to it.

Once when he was thus standing behind a tree, he saw that an enchantress came there, and he heard how she cried, rapunzel, rapunzel, let down your hair. Then rapunzel let down the braids of her hair, and the enchantress climbed up to her. If that is the ladder by which one mounts, I too will try my fortune, said he, and the next day when it began to grow dark, he went to the tower and cried, rapunzel, rapunzel, let down your hair. Immediately the hair fell down and the king’s son climbed up.

At first rapunzel was terribly frightened when a man, such as her eyes had never yet beheld, came to her. But the king’s son began to talk to her quite like a friend, and told her that his heart had been so stirred that it had let him have no rest, and he had been forced to see her. Then rapunzel lost her fear, and when he asked her if she would take him for her husband, and she saw that he was young and handsome, she thought, he will love me more than old dame gothel does. And she said yes, and laid her hand in his. She said, I will willingly go away with you, but I do not know how to get down.

Bring with you a skein of silk every time that you come, and I will weave a ladder with it, and when that is ready I will descend, and you will take me on your horse. They agreed that until that time he should come to her every evening, for the old woman came by day. The enchantress remarked nothing of this, until once rapunzel said to her, tell me, dame gothel, how it happens that you are so much heavier for me to draw up than the young king’s son – he is with me in a moment. Ah.

You wicked child, cried the enchantress. What do I hear you say. I thought I had separated you from all the world, and yet you have deceived me. In her anger she clutched rapunzel’s beautiful tresses, wrapped them twice round her left hand, seized a pair of scissors with the right, and snip, snap, they were cut off, and the lovely braids lay on the ground. And she was so pitiless that she took poor rapunzel into a desert where she had to live in great grief and misery.

On the same day that she cast out rapunzel, however, the enchantress fastened the braids of hair, which she had cut off, to the hook of the window, and when the king’s son came and cried, rapunzel, rapunzel, let down your hair, she let the hair down. The king’s son ascended, but instead of finding his dearest rapunzel, he found the enchantress, who gazed at him with wicked and venomous looks. Aha, she cried mockingly, you would fetch your dearest, but the beautiful bird sits no longer singing in the nest. The cat has got it, and will scratch out your eyes as well.

Rapunzel is lost to you. You will never see her again. The king’s son was beside himself with pain, and in his despair he leapt down from the tower. He escaped with his life, but the thorns into which he fell pierced his eyes. Then he wandered quite blind about the forest, ate nothing but roots and berries, and did naught but lament and weep over the loss of his dearest wife. Thus he roamed about in misery for some years, and at length came to the desert where rapunzel, with the twins to which she had given birth, a boy and a girl, lived in wretchedness.

He heard a voice, and it seemed so familiar to him that he went towards it, and when he approached, rapunzel knew him and fell on his neck and wept. Two of her tears wetted his eyes and they grew clear again, and he could see with them as before. He led her to his kingdom where he was joyfully received, and they lived for a long time afterwards, happy and contented.

–The End–

Plot

First, let’s talk about the plot arc (and be sure you read the Grimm version above before going any further if you haven’t already).

For me a plot outline is the beginning of the story writing process. I like the structure provided by a three act plan so I tend to create the events of my stories around that structure.

In adapting a fairytale I first take the events of the tale itself and fit them into the structure. I would consider it a rare thing if any story considered for adaptation automatically fitted completely into a standard three act structure, but I would also be surprised if the events in the story didn’t also naturally cover a good number of those elements even if there are some significant gaps remaining.

Next I fill in the gaps that are identified and the give the story some missing events. This comes together in the outline (see below).

You’ll note that this initial outline is mostly followed in the final work, but, as the writing process progresses, changes are always introduced.

In the case of adapting Rapunzel, a large section of the story occurs before she is born, then there is a large gap in time, and the story picks up again when she is of marriageable age. With regard to the resolution of the story (in the original text as recorded by the B rothers Grimm) we jump from the reversal (where she is exiled from her tower and her prince is blinded) to the happy ending with some elided time spent in misery wandering about separated from her prince.

I decided I would make her parents’ story (specifically her father’s story) the focus up to the point of no return, before focusing on Rapunzel herself, and add a final confrontation with the witch after the reversal that would make the story (hopefully) more satisfying as a drama. I decided to drop the pregnancy and twins from the story as it added another gap of time before the story came to an end that I didn’t really want to bridge.

Below is the plot outline as I first conceived it.

In general, it is the story of Rapunzel’s separation and reconciliation with her father. The outline will allow you to track the increase in obstacles fom her kidnapping, pursuit, and the reversal in which her prince is blinded and she herself is exiled, right through the final confrontation with the witch and her return to her aging father.

3 Act Plot Adaptation

Act 1
Inciting Incident
Scene 1 – the cottage (int) DayThe land has been struck by a famine.

Gustav (a man who is easily swayed) has a cottage in the woods and a pregnant wife and is worried. A friend has dropped by to deliver him some fish in exchange for some venison.

Gustav’s wife refers to the vegetable garden in the enchantress’ home next door, comments on how it appears to be flourishing despite the famine, and begs him to give her some salad to go with the fish.

Initial Obstacle
Scene 2 – the witch’s grounds (ext) NightThe vegetables belong to the witch and Gustav must scale her fence and face her guardians to obtain them.

He fights some of her living statues in order to reach the garden but one leg is badly wounded in the process.

Act 2
Rising stakes
Scene 3 – the witch’s garden (ext) NightWith one leg crippled from his encounters the man is caught by the witch who is furious.
The man can’t understand why she doesn’t help her neighbours when times are so tough.
The Witch demands his soon to be born child in payment for the vegies.
Point of no return
Scene 4 – the cottage (int) DayA baby girl is born and despite Gustav’s best efforts to protect her, the witch appears and demands the child.

The witch sees the child and falls in love with it. The witch promises to make her into a healer and persists in taking her away.

Scene 5 – the cemetery (ext) DayGustav’s wife dies of grief and is buried in the local graveyard.

Gustav swears on her grave that he will demand the aid of the King in recovering his daughter and won’t take no for an answer.

Rising tension
Scene 6 – the castle appointments office (int) DayGustav seeks the aid of the King
Scene 6.5 – the castle (int) NightThe King is incensed at the story and swears a binding oath that he will see the child restored.
Scene 7 – the witch’s house (ext) DayWhen the King comes with his men to arrest the witch and return the child they find the home abandoned.   The witch has vanished.

For years the King sends forth his men to find the missing girl but to no avail.

Scene 8 – The King’s death bed (int) DayFor 18 years the King searches for the missing girl. More and more children go missing. At last frail, dying, and, more importantly unsuccessful, he calls Gustav to his bedside and begs to be released from his oath.
The King dies and the bells ring out.
The quest to find Gustav’s daughter falls upon the King’s responsibility-shirking son.
When the bells ring out, everyone wonders where the King’s son is to be found.
Scene 9 – The forest (ext) DayThere has been a recent rise in the number of missing children that the prince ignores.
Scene 10 – Rapunzel’s tower (ext) DayThe witch swoops in to an isolated location in the forest where a tower is located. She is pursuing a fleeing boy. He sought the aid of (the now fully grown) Rupunzel and when she discovers he has spoken to Rapunzel, the witch turns him to stone on the spot – a new gift for her “daughter’s” garden.

The witch demands Rapunzel let down her hair so that she might enter the tower and talk with her.

Scene 11 – The forest (ext) DayTime passes and the prince is in the forest, pretending to fulfil his father’s vow to Gustav, but actually goofing off and boasting about it to his friends. They discuss the recent disappearances of children in the region but Gustav treats the issue as something he can do nothing about.   After all, he is already looking for one missing child, a comment that never fails to get a laugh.
A servant hurries into the forest and informs Prince Franz that his sister did not return from her previous evening’s outing into the forest. The castle is up in arms.
Scene 12 – Rapunzel’s tower (ext) DayThe Prince, searching for his sister, finds Rapunzel’s tower and the statue of his sister. Rapunzel reveals what has been happening and that she is a prisoner. He falls in love at first sight and begs her aid in finding out how to reverse the spell. She agrees.

When she hears the approach of her mother she sends him away to hide. He promises to return the following night to set her free.

The witch arrives and climbs the tower for a visit.

Scene 13 – Rapunzel’s tower (int) DayRapunzel tries to wheedle the cure for the statues from her mother. The witch gets more and more suspicious. When Rapunzel says she is just concerned that her mother might be caught for petrifying a member of the royal family, the Witch demands to know how she would know anyone from the Royal family. She owns up to talking with the Prince and the witch full of fury gags her and chains her to the wall, cutting off her locks.
Reversal
Scene 14 – Rapunzel’s tower (int) NightWhen the prince returns, the witch impersonates Rapunzel, letting down the cut off hair to him. When he arrives at the top of the tower she takes him prisoner. The witch removes Rapunzel’s gag and suggests he will make a nice addition to the garden.

Rapunzel is horrified and lets slip that she loves the prince.

The witch destroys the tower, casting the girl out into the world, and retreating to her mountain fortress with the imprisoned Franz, there to spend her days tormenting the prince she has taken prisoner.

Act 3
Final Confrontation
Scene 15 – The mountains (ext) DayRapunzel sets out to rescue the prince
Scene 16 – The witch’s fortress (int) NightRapunzel enters the witch’s fortress and makes her way to the dungeon hoping to rescue the prince. There she encounters the witch.

The witch gives her an ultimatum.   She intends to kill the Prince and all the people in the Kingdom with a plague. She can save the Prince and return to the witch to resume their relationship as mother and daughter or she can die here and now and she will spare the Prince and the Kingdom.
Rapunzel’s continued defiance break’s the spirit of the witch.
Rapunzel locates her mother’s potion collection, tends the prince’s eyes and restores his sight. She also finds the remedy to the statue spell.

Denouement
Scene 17 – the ruined tower (ext) DayThe couple return to the site of the tower and Rapunzel uses the potion from the castle to restore the statues to life.
Scene 18 – the cottage (int) DayRapunzel is reunited with her father.   The prince asks for her hand in marriage and they all leave to enjoy their happily ever after.

Characters

Once the plot has been outlined, I take a good look at the characters.

I pick out the main characters (protagonists and antagonists) that I want the audience to care about. Each of these characters will be given their own character arc.

I do not always give my characters an arc. In an adventure serial, for example, there is less need to show character change and growth over time. However, in a single story, or a serialised single story, the presence of character arcs allows for significantly greater drama.

In the case of Rapunzel I have chosen to focus on four characters in particular; Gustav (Rapunzel’s father), Esmerelda (the witch), Franz (the prince), and Rapunzel herself (our titular character).

Each of these characters is going to go through a significant change as they pass through the events of the story. To this end I give each character a flaw, motivation to change, challenges, and a crisis through which the change is successfully negotiated or fails to be achieved.

I decided to make Gustav an easily swayed man (the kind who would get himself entangled in a bad deal with a witch) and, in the crucible of the kidnapping of his daughter, find the will to make a costly stand for something.

The witch is challenged to love unselfishly by raising Rapunzel. In the end she fails.

Rapunzel is challenged to take charge of her own life rather than be ruled by her foster mother (the witch).

Prince Franz is challenged to leave his irresponsibility behind and step up to meet his duties.

Each of these arcs provide the story with plenty of opportunities for dramatic conflict.

Below are the character arcs as I first conceived them.

Character Arcs

Character ArcsGUSTAVTHE WITCHPRINCE FRANZRAPUNZEL
Demonstration of existing characterDemonstration of existing character (GUSTAV)

The land has been struck by a famine.   Gustav (a man who is easily swayed) has a cottage in the woods and a pregnant wife and is worried. A friend has dropped by to deliver him some fish. Gustav’s wife says a merchant in town is suggesting the famine will break soon and no emergency measures need be taken by the King. Gustav agrees. The fisherman says the game is dying off and the streams are drying up and the King will need to take action. Gustav agrees again.

Demonstration of existing character (THE WITCH)

The witch is unaffected/ indifferent to the famine and the plight of her neighbours because of her enchanted garden. She is not evil so much as uncaring and selfish… though she doesn’t see herself this way. She is out for what she can get and Gustav, by breaking into her garden, has committed a crime so she does not feel merciful and feels she has an excuse to be cruel.

Demonstration of existing character (PRINCE FRANZ)

The prince is ducking his responsibilities in the forest and grumping about them with a chum. He doesn’t want his father’s responsibilities or the burden of fulfilling his father’s over-hasty promises (of which the promise to Gustav is uppermost).

Demonstration of existing character (RAPUNZEL)

When we meet her in the tower, Rapunzel, spoiled, self-centered, and giving little thought to others is talking to herself. She is grumping about being stuck in a tower all day with no-one to talk to but the statues in her garden. She expresses her happiness that “mother” is bringing her a new statue today

Call to changeCall to change (GUSTAV)

The visitor tells him he needs to grow a spine and leaves.

His wife refers to the vegetable garden in the enchantress’ home next door, comments on how it appears to be flourishing despite the famine, and begs him to sneak in a steal her some salad to go with the fish.

Call to change (THE WITCH)

The witch is asked to be merciful by Gustav.

Call to change (PRINCE FRANZ)

A boy cries for aid, and rather than have his day spoiled, the prince and his friend hides.

Call to change (RAPUNZEL)

A terrified boy bursts into view.   Panting he begs Rapunzel to please hide him.

She’s incensed that he has intruded on her quiet afternoon of day-dreaming and refuses to help.

The witch swoops in pursuing the boy.   She is furious that he has spoken to Rapunzel and turns him to stone on the spot – a new gift for her “daughter’s” garden.

The witch demands Rapunzel let down her hair so that she might enter the tower and talk with her.

ResistanceResistance (GUSTAV)
He wants to stand up to her but, in the end, terror wins and Gustav gives in to the witch’s demands.
Resistance (THE WITCH)

She is briefly tempted but then cruelly makes presents a selfish deal very much in her favour.

She demands his soon to be born child in payment for the vegies.

Resistance (PRINCE FRANZ)

Returning through the forest he discovers a woman weeping. Her son has gone missing. Many children are disappearing in the woods. He feels remorse for ignoring the cry for help and makes to go back, but then hears the bells. He makes excuses to himself about why he didn’t investigate and hurries back to the castle.

The woman is left crying “but where is my son”.

Resistance (RAPUNZEL)

Doesn’t want to believe the worst of the woman who raised her. She tries to make excuses about how the boy must have deserved it. The Witch lets her but doesn’t help matters much when she admits all the statues were once children. When Rapunzel seems distracted and not nearly as willing to dote upon the witch as usual, the witch leaves in a huff. Rapunzel is left feeling very suspicious for the first time in her life.

CommitmentCommitment (GUSTAV)

Gustav, filled with remorse, then tries to protect his home from the witch, reading books and buying fake witch-repellent from a charlatan.

The baby is born and despite his best efforts to protect it, the witch appears and demands the child.

The witch sees the child and falls in love. The witch promises to make her into a healer and persists in taking her away.

Commitment (THE WITCH)

The Witch has raised the stolen child and (out of selfishness) has hidden her away in a tower so no one else can enjoy her company. Despite her selfishness she tries to do things to please the girl in her own warped way.

Commitment (PRINCE FRANZ)

A servant hurries into the forest and informs Prince Franz that his sister did not return from her previous evening’s outing into the forest. The castle is up in arms.

Franz consumed with concern for his sister sets out to find her, all thought of further goofing off driven from him by the news.

Commitment (RAPUNZEL)

Rapunzel now sees the truth regarding her mother and rejects her utterly.

The witch responds by destroying the tower, casting the girl out into the world, and retreating to her mountain fortress with the imprisoned Franz, there to spend her days tormenting the blind prince she has taken prisoner.

Testing of commitmentTesting of commitment (GUSTAV)

Gustav seeks an audience with the King. The Queen has just given birth to an heir to the throne. Everyone tells him they are too busy to listen to his concerns.   He is put off again and again but does not give up.

At last Gustav appears before the aging King and explains what has happened. He begs the King’s aid in recovering his daughter from the madwoman next door. The King is incensed at the story and swears a binding oath that he will see the child restored.

Testing of commitment (THE WITCH)

The witch, on discovering Rapunzel is in love feels betrayed and is filled with jealous rage. She decides to punish Rapunzel properly and blinds the Prince with her dagger. She taunts him with the knowledge that a cure for the statues exists but is stored in her fortress in the mountains where she will keep it under lock and key forever.

Testing of commitment (PRINCE FRANZ)

The following night the prince arrives and the witch impersonates Rapunzel, letting down the cut off hair to him. When he arrives at the top of the tower she takes him prisoner. The witch removes Rapunzel’s gag and suggests he will make a nice addition to the garden.

Rapunzel is horrified and lets slip that she loves the prince.

Testing of commitment (RAPUNZEL)

Rapunzel climbs the mountain, enduring hardship to locate the witch’s fortress.

Demonstration of changeDemonstrated change of character (GUSTAV)

Gustav refuses to release the King from his promise even under threats and the quest falls upon the King’s responsibility-shirking son.

The King dies and the bells ring out.   Everyone wonders where the King’s son is to be found.

Demonstration of changed character (THE WITCH)

The witch kills herself, blaming Rapunzel for the tragedy. With her dying breath she announces that compassion is rewarded only with pain and dies.

Rapunzel locates her mother’s potion collection, tends the prince’s eyes and restores them using a potion belonging to the old witch. She also finds the remedy to the statue spell.

Demonstration of changed character (PRINCE FRANZ)

Though blinded he pleads to be killed in place of Rapunzel and his people.

 

Demonstration of changed character (RAPUNZEL)

Rapunzel chooses to accept death.   The witch is broken-hearted.

Integration

The next to last thing I do before I begin the task of writing is to integrate the character arcs and overall plot structure together, identifying the scenes and the characters to appear in each.

This is all integrated into a final plot outline (below).

Integrated Plotline

Act 1

Inciting incident

Scene 1 – The cottage where the man (Gustav) and his pregnant wife (Geltrude) live

The land has been struck by a famine.

Gustav (a man who is easily swayed) has a cottage in the woods and a pregnant wife and is worried. A friend has dropped by to deliver him some fish in exchange for some venison.

Demonstration of existing character (GUSTAV)

Gustav’s wife says a merchant in town is suggesting the famine will break soon and no emergency measures need be taken by the King. Gustav agrees. The fisherman says the game is dying off and the streams are drying up and the King will need to take action. Gustav agrees again.

Call to change (GUSTAV)

The visitor tells Gustav he needs to grow a spine and leaves.

Gustav’s wife refers to the vegetable garden in the enchantress’ home next door, comments on how it appears to be flourishing despite the famine, and begs him to sneak in a steal her some salad to go with the fish.

Initial obstacle

Scene 2 – The grounds of the witch’s home

The vegetables belong to the witch and Gustav must scale her fence and face her guardians to obtain them.

He fights some of her living statues in order to reach the garden but one leg is badly wounded in the process.

Act 2

Raising the stakes

Scene 3 – The witch’s garden

With one leg crippled from his encounters the man is caught by the witch who is furious.
The man can’t understand why she doesn’t help her neighbours when times are so tough.

Demonstration of existing character (THE WITCH)

The witch is unaffected/   indifferent to the famine and the plight of her neighbours because of her enchanted garden. She is not evil so much as uncaring and selfish… though she doesn’t see herself this way.   She is out for what she can get and Gustav has committed a crime so she does not feel merciful and feels she has an excuse to be cruel.

Call to change (THE WITCH)

The witch is asked to be merciful by Gustav.

Resistance (THE WITCH)

She is briefly tempted but then cruelly presents a selfish deal very much in her favour.

The Witch demands his soon to be born child in payment for the vegetables.

Resistance (GUSTAV)
He wants to stand up to her but, in the end, terror wins and Gustav gives in to the witch’s demands.

Point of no return

Scene 4 & 5 – The Cottage again

Commitment (GUSTAV)

Gustav, filled with remorse, then tries to protect his home from the witch, reading books and buying fake witch-repellent from a charlatan.

A baby girl is born and despite Gustav’s best efforts to protect her, the witch appears and demands the child.

The witch sees the child and falls in love. The witch promises to make her into a healer and persists in taking her away.

Scene 6 – The Graveyard

Gustav’s wife dies of grief and is buried in the local graveyard.

Gustav swears on her grave that he will demand the aid of the King in recovering his daughter and won’t take no for an answer.

Rising tension

Scene 7-10 – The Castle

Testing of commitment (GUSTAV)

Gustav seeks an audience with the King. The Queen has just given birth to an heir to the throne. Everyone tells him they are too busy to listen to his concerns.   He is put off again and again but does not give up.

At last Gustav appears before the aging King and explains what has happened. He begs the King’s aid in recovering his daughter from the madwoman next door.

The King is incensed at the story and swears a binding oath that he will see the child restored.

Scene 11 -The witch’s home

When the King comes with his men to arrest the witch and return the child they find the home abandoned.   The witch has vanished.

For years the King sends forth his men to find the missing girl but to no avail.

Scene 12 – The King’s deathbed

Demonstrated change of character (GUSTAV)

Gustav refuses to release the King from his promise even under threats.

The King dies and the bells ring out.
The quest to find Gustav’s daughter falls upon the King’s responsibility-shirking son.
When the bells ring out, everyone wonders where the King’s son is to be found.

Scene 13-14 – The forest

Demonstration of existing character (PRINCE FRANZ)

The prince is ducking his responsibilities in the forest and grumping about them with a chum. He doesn’t want his father’s responsibilities or the burden of fulfilling his father’s over-hasty promises (of which the promise to Gustav is uppermost).

Call to change (PRINCE FRANZ)

A boy cries for aid, and rather than have his day spoiled, the prince and his friend hide.

Resistance (PRINCE FRANZ)

Returning through the forest he discovers a woman weeping. Her son has gone missing. Many children are disappearing in the woods. He feels remorse for ignoring the cry for help and makes to go back, but then hears the bells announcing his father’s death. He makes excuses to himself about why he doesn’t investigate and hurries back to the castle.

The woman is left crying “but where is my son”.

Scene 15 – The Tower

Commitment (THE WITCH)

The witch raises the stolen child and (out of selfishness) hides her away in a tower so no one else can enjoy her company. Despite her selfishness she tries to do things to please the girl.

Demonstration of existing character (RAPUNZEL)

When we meet her in the tower, Rapunzel, spoiled, self-centered, and giving little thought to others is talking to herself. She is grumping about being stuck in a tower all day with no-one to talk to but the statues in her garden. She expresses her happiness that “mother” is bringing her a new statue today.

Call to change (RAPUNZEL)

A terrified boy bursts into view.   Panting, he begs Rapunzel to please hide him.

She’s incensed that he has intruded on her quiet afternoon of day-dreaming and refuses to help.

The witch swoops in to the isolated location in the forest where the tower is located. She is pursuing a fleeing boy. She discovers he has spoken to Rapunzel and turns him to stone on the spot – a new gift for her “daughter’s” garden.

The witch demands Rapunzel let down her hair so that she might enter the tower and talk with her.

Resistance (RAPUNZEL)

Rapunzel doesn’t want to believe the worst of the woman who raised her. She tries to make excuses about how the boy must have deserved it. The witch admits all the statues were once children. Rapunzel seems distracted and not nearly as willing to dote upon the witch as usual so the witch leaves. Rapunzel is very suspicious.

Scene 16 – The Forest

Time passes and once more we find The Prince in the forest, pretending to fulfil his father’s vow to Gustav, but actually goofing off and boasting about it to his friends. They discuss the recent disappearances of children in the region but Gustav treats the issue as something he can do nothing about. After all, he is already looking for one missing child, a comment that never fails to get a laugh.

A servant hurries into the forest and informs Prince Franz that his sister did not return from her previous evening’s outing into the forest. The castle is up in arms.

Commitment (PRINCE FRANZ)

Franz consumed by the news that his sister has disappeared sets out to find her, all thought of further goofing off driven from him by the news.

Scene 17 – The Tower (ext)

The Prince, searching for his sister, finds Rapunzel’s tower and the statue of his sister. Rapunzel reveals what has been happening and that she is a prisoner. He falls in love at first sight and begs her aid in finding out how to reverse the spell. She agrees.

When she hears the approach of her mother she sends him away to hide. He promises to return the following night to set her free.

The witch arrives and climbs the tower for a visit.

Scene 18 – The Tower (int)

Rapunzel tries to wheedle the cure for the statues from her mother. The witch gets more and more suspicious. When Rapunzel says she is just concerned that her mother might be caught for petrifying a member of the royal family, the Witch demands to know how she would know anyone from the Royal family. She owns up to talking with the Prince and the witch full of fury gags her and chains her to the wall, cutting off her locks.

Reversal

Scene 19 – The Tower (int)

Testing of commitment (PRINCE FRANZ)

The prince decides that he must rescue Rapunzel and find a means of rescuing his sister. He sets his mind on approaching the tower the following night.

When the prince returns, the witch impersonates Rapunzel, letting down the cut off hair to him. When he arrives at the top of the tower she takes him prisoner. The witch removes Rapunzel’s gag and suggests he will make a nice addition to the garden.

Rapunzel is horrified and lets slip that she loves the prince.

Testing of commitment (THE WITCH)

The witch, on discovering Rapunzel is in love feels betrayed and is filled with jealous rage. She decides to punish Rapunzel properly and blinds the Prince with her dagger. She taunts him by saying she could restore his eyes and provide a cure for the statues, but that it is hidden in her fortress in the mountains.

Commitment (RAPUNZEL)

Rapunzel now sees the truth regarding her mother, defies her, and rejects her utterly.

The witch destroys the tower, casting the girl out into the world, and retreating to her mountain fortress with the imprisoned Franz, there to spend her days tormenting the prince she has taken prisoner.

Act 3

Final Confrontation

Scene 20 – The mountains

Testing of commitment (RAPUNZEL)

Rapunzel climbs the mountain, enduring hardship to locate the witch’s fortress.

Scene 21 – The Fortress

Rapunzel enters the witch’s fortress and makes her way to the dungeon hoping to rescue the prince. There she encounters the witch.

The witch gives her an ultimatum.   She intends to kill the Prince and all the people in the Kingdom with a plague. She can save the Prince and return to the witch to resume their relationship as mother and daughter or she can die here and now and she will spare the Prince and the Kingdom.

Demonstration of changed character (PRINCE FRANZ)

Though blinded he pleads to be killed in place of Rapunzel and his people.

Demonstration of changed character (RAPUNZEL)

Rapunzel chooses to accept death.

Rapunzel’s continued defiance break’s the spirit of the witch.

Demonstration of changed character (THE WITCH)

The witch kills herself, blaming Rapunzel for the tragedy. With her dying breath she announces that compassion is rewarded only with pain and dies.

Rapunzel locates her mother’s potion collection, tends the prince’s eyes and restores his sight. She also finds the remedy to the statue spell.

Denouement

Scene 22 – The Tower

The couple return to the site of the tower and Rapunzel uses the potion from the castle to restore the statues to life.

Scene 23 – The cottage

Rapunzel is reunited with her father.   The prince asks for her hand in marriage and they all leave to enjoy their happily ever after.

Scene Breakdown

Once I have my plot outline complete (and all the character arc events integrated into it) I do a scene by scene breakdown of the story.

The idea, here, is to identify the central conflict in each scene. All drama maintains its interest through conflict. If a scene doesn’t have a nice strong conflict at its heart then it is failing to pull its weight in the story.

Once this is done, I am ready to begin the task of writing the script.

Below is my initial scene breakdown for Rapunzel based on the outline above.

Plot outline and Scene Breakdown

Act 1

Inciting incident

Scene 1 – The cottage where Gustav and his pregnant wife Gertrude live (int) Day
GUSTAV (the hunter), GERTRUDE (his pregnant wife), HANS (the fisherman)

The land has been struck by food shortages.

Gustav (a hunter and a man who is easily swayed by others) has a cottage in the woods and a pregnant wife and is worried by the food shortages. A friend has dropped by to deliver him some fish in exchange for some venison he caught.   Gustav serves up some salad to his visitor to go with the meat and they shoot the breeze.

Demonstration of existing character (GUSTAV)

Gustav’s wife says a merchant in town is suggesting the shortages will end soon and no emergency measures need be taken by the King. Gustav agrees. The fisherman says the game is dying off and the streams are drying up and the King will need to take action. Gustav agrees again.

His wife comments on how weak willed he is. Changing the subject, she mentions how much she is looking forward to eating her salad with the fish. She refers to the vegetable garden in the enchantress’ home next door, comments on how it appears to be flourishing despite the blight that has struck so many others.

Gustav realises that he has given his guest his wife’s salad and panics. The remains in the pantry are worm riddled and unedible.

Call to change (GUSTAV)

Gustav talks over his options with the visitor. The visitor tells him he needs to grow a spine and leaves.

Gustav decides to try his luck next door.

Central conflict of scene (POV Character – GUSTAV)

GoalSupply his wife with salad
ObstacleSalad is scarce, a famine is growing.
DisasterThe salad has been eaten by his visitor
ReactionPanic, fear of his wife.
DilemmaWill Gustav go without salad, pay an exhorbitant price at maket, or “borrow” some from next door
ChoiceGo next door.


Initial obstacle (ext) Night
GUSTAV, LIVING STATUES

Scene 2 – The grounds of the witch’s home

The vegetables belong to an enchantress and Gustav must scale her fence and face the living statues that guard her property in order to obtain them.

He fights some of her living statues in order to reach the garden but one leg is badly wounded.

Central conflict of scene (POV Character – GUSTAV)

GoalReach the garden.
ObstacleBypass the witch’s magical guardian statues and arrive safely in the garden.
DisasterLeg is broken at the knee.
ReactionPain, panic, fear.
DilemmaWill Gustav return home, take the vegetables, or surrender to the witch?
ChoiceTake some vegies and think it through.

Crippled and unsure of how to make his escape, he decides to collect some of the vegetables at hand while he thinks things through.

 

Act 2

Raising the stakes

Scene 3 – The witch’s garden (ext) Night
GUSTAV, THE WITCH

With one leg crippled from his encounters Gustav is caught, vegetables in hand, by the witch who is furious. Gustav can’t understand why she doesn’t help her neighbours when times are so tough.

Demonstration of existing character (THE WITCH)

Even though the rest of the land suffers under food shortages, the witch is unaffected/ indifferent because of her enchanted garden. She is not evil so much as uncaring and selfish… though she doesn’t see herself this way. She is out for what she can get and Gustav has committed a crime, so she does not feel merciful and feels she has an excuse to be cruel.

Call to change (THE WITCH)

Gustav begs the witch to be merciful.

Resistance (THE WITCH)

She is briefly tempted but then cruelly presents a selfish deal very much in her favour.

She demands his soon to be born child in payment for the vegies.

Central conflict of scene (POV Character – GUSTAV)

GoalSurvive the encounter with the witch
ObstacleThe witch’s cruel nature
DisasterThe witch demands the baby
ReactionHorrified
DilemmaWill Gustav refuse and be turned into a statue, or agree in order to buy some time, but risk losing the baby?
ChoiceAgrees to her demands

Resistance (GUSTAV)
He wants to stand up to her but, in the end, terror wins and Gustav gives in to the witch’s demands.

 

Scene 4 & 5 – The Cottage again (int) Day
GUSTAV, CHARLATAN, GERTRUDE, BABY, WITCH

Commitment (GUSTAV)

Gustav, filled with remorse, then tries to protect his home from the witch, reading books and buying fake witch-repellent from a charlatan.

Central conflict of scene (POV Character – GUSTAV)

GoalProtect his unborn child
ObstacleDoesn’t know how
DisasterTricked by a charlatan
ReactionOutrage
DilemmaWill Gustav defend the baby with his life, let the witch take her, or try to escape?
ChoiceDefend her (and live with the fallout)

A baby girl is born (named Rapunzel and given a family token) and despite Gustav’s best efforts to protect her, the witch appears and demands the child.

When he attempts to refuse and attacks the witch, the witch freezes him and his wife in place.

The witch sees the child and falls in love. The witch chooses not to murder the family, promises to make baby into a healer and persists in taking her away.

 

Scene 6 – The Graveyard (ext) Day
PRIEST, GUSTAV, HANS, THE WITCH

Gustav’s wife dies of grief and is buried in the local graveyard. His friend (Hans) tries to comfort him and then leaves him.

The witch appears and offers to marry him.

Central conflict of scene (POV Character – GUSTAV)

GoalTo grieve his wife
ObstacleHis daughter is still missing
DisasterThe witch appears offering to marry him (adding insult to injury)
ReactionPain and grief and anger
DilemmaWill Gustav allow the grief to consume him, take action himself, or seek aid?
ChoiceSeek aid.

Gustav rejects the witch and swears on his wife’s grave that he will demand the aid of the King in recovering his daughter and won’t take no for an answer.

 

Scene 7,8,9 – The Castle Bureacracy (int) Day
GUSTAVE, OFFICIAL, GUARD

Testing of commitment (GUSTAV)

Gustav seeks an audience with the King. The Queen has just given birth to an heir to the throne. Everyone tells him they are too busy to listen to his concerns. He is put off again and again but does not give up.

Central conflict of scene (POV Character – GUSTAV)

GoalGain audience with the king through official channels
ObstacleA petty functionary who dislikes peasants
DisasterThrown out
Reactiondespair
DilemmaWill Gustav give up, find someone who knows the king, or risk the dungeon on a break in.
ChoiceBreak-in.

 

Scene 10 – The Castle (int) Night
GUSTAV, GUARDS, KING

Central conflict of scene (POV Character – GUSTAV)

GoalPresent a case before the King
ObstacleThe King’s personal security
DisasterCaught by the guards
ReactionFear, despair
DilemmaWill Gustav fight, or throw himself on the King’s mercy?
ChoiceThrows himself on the King’s mercy and is heard.

At last Gustav appears before the aging King and explains what has happened. He begs the King’s aid in recovering his daughter from the madwoman next door.

The King is incensed at the story and swears a binding oath that he will see the child restored.

 

Scene 11 -The witch’s home (ext) Day.
GUSTAV, THE KING, THE KINGS MEN

Central conflict of scene (POV Character – GUSTAV)

GoalArrest the witch
ObstacleThe guardian statues
DisasterThe witch is not there
ReactionAnger
DilemmaWill Gustav give up, accept defeat, search on alone, or remind the king of his oath?
ChoiceRemind the king of his oath

When the King comes with his men to arrest the witch and return the child they find the home abandoned. The witch has vanished.

For years the King sends forth his men to find the missing girl but to no avail.

 

Point of no return
Scene 12 – The King’s deathbed (int) Day
GUSTAV, THE KING, THE QUEEN, ATTENDANTS

For 18 years the King searches for the missing girl. At last frail, dying, and, more importantly unsuccessful, he calls Gustav to his bedside and begs to be released from his oath.

Central conflict of scene (POV Character – GUSTAV)

GoalRetain the help of the King
ObstacleThe King is dying
DisasterThe King threatens him Gustav with death
ReactionSorrowful, sympathetic, determined
DilemmaWill Gustav accept the situation, accept jail, or remind the king of his oath?
ChoiceRemind the king of his oath (and get what he wants)

Demonstrated change of character (GUSTAV)

Gustav refuses to release the King from his promise even under threats.

The King places the quest on his son’s shoulders, dies and the bells ring out.

Everyone wonders where the King’s son is to be found.

 

Rising Tension
Scene 13-14 – The forest (ext) Day
PRINCE FRANZ, HERMANN, THE BOY, THE BOY’S MOTHER.

Demonstration of existing character (PRINCE FRANZ)

The prince is ducking his responsibilities in the forest and grumping about them with a chum. He doesn’t want his father’s responsibilities or the burden of fulfilling his father’s over-hasty promises (of which the promise to Gustav is uppermost).

Call to change (PRINCE FRANZ)

A boy cries for aid, and rather than have his day spoiled, the prince and his friend hides.

Resistance (PRINCE FRANZ)

Returning through the forest he discovers a woman weeping. Her son has gone missing. Many children are disappearing in the woods. He feels remorse for ignoring the cry for help and makes to go back, but then hears the bells. He makes excuses to himself about why he didn’t investigate and hurries back to the castle.

The woman is left crying “but where is my son”.

Central conflict of scene (POV Character – PRINCE FRANZ)

Goalto have a good time.
Obstaclethe boy and his mother.
Disasterthe death of his father.
Reactionshock, grief, desire to be with his family.
DilemmaShould Franz help the frightened woman, go and be with his family, or goof off some more?
ChoiceBe with his family.

 

Scene 15-16 – The Tower (ext) Day
RAPUNZEL, THE BOY, THE WITCH

Commitment (THE WITCH)

The Witch has raised the stolen child and (out of selfishness) has hidden her away in a tower so no one else can enjoy her company. Despite her selfishness she tries to do things to please the girl in her own warped way.

Demonstration of existing character (RAPUNZEL)

When we meet her in the tower, Rapunzel, spoiled, self-centered, and giving little thought to others is talking to herself. She is grumping about being stuck in a tower all day with no-one to talk to but the statues in her garden. She expresses her happiness that “mother” is bringing her a new statue today.

Call to change (RAPUNZEL)

A terrified boy bursts into view. Panting he begs Rapunzel to please hide him.

She’s incensed that he has intruded on her quiet afternoon of day-dreaming and refuses to help.

The witch swoops in to the isolated location in the forest where the tower is located. She is pursuing a fleeing boy. She discovers he has spoken to Rapunzel and turns him to stone on the spot – a new gift for her “daughter’s” garden.

The witch demands Rapunzel let down her hair so that she might enter the tower and talk with her.

Resistance (RAPUNZEL)

Rapunzel doesn’t want to believe the worst of the woman who raised her. She tries to make excuses about how the boy must have deserved it. The Witch lets her but doesn’t help matters much when she admits all the statues were once children.

When Rapunzel seems distracted and not nearly as willing to dote upon the witch as usual, the witch leaves in a huff.

Rapunzel is left feeling very suspicious for the first time in her life.

Central conflict of scene (POV Character – RAPUNZEL)

GoalEnjoy a quiet day of whinging
ObstacleA boy in need of help
DisasterMother turns boy into statue
ReactionHorror, conflicted feelings
DilemmaShould Rapunzel accept her mother’s explanation without thinking, make excuses for her mother, re-assess her mother, or try to help the boy?
ChoiceMakes excuses for mother, but also reassesses a bit.

 

Scene 17 – The Forest (ext) Day
PRINCE FRANZ, HERMANN, THE SERVANT

Time passes and once more we find The Prince in the forest, pretending to fulfil his father’s vow to Gustav, but actually goofing off and boasting about it to his friends. They discuss the recent disappearances of children in the region but the Prince treats the issue as something he can do nothing about. After all, he is already looking for one missing child, a comment that never fails to get a laugh.

A servant hurries into the forest and informs Prince Franz that his sister did not return from her previous evening’s outing into the forest. The castle is up in arms.

Commitment (PRINCE FRANZ)

Franz consumed by the news that his sister has disappeared sends his friends to get help and sets out to find her himself, all thought of further goofing off driven from him by the news.

Central conflict of scene (POV Character – PRINCE FRANZ)

Goalgoof off
Obstaclepesky servants hunting him down
Disasternews his sister is missing
Reactiondistress
DilemmaShould Franz return to the castle or stay here and search
ChoiceStay and search the forest

 

Scene 18-19 – The Tower (ext) Day
PRINCE FRANZ, RAPUNZEL, THE WITCH

The prince, searching for his sister (loses her tracks but hears distant singing), finds Rapunzel’s tower and the statue of his sister. Rapunzel reveals what has been happening and that she is a prisoner. He falls in love at first sight.

Central conflict of scene (POV Character – PRINCE FRANZ)

GoalRescue sister
ObstacleTracks disappear
Disastersister is a statue
Reactionhorror, anger, and love for beautiful prisoner
DilemmaShould Franz stay and confront the witch, call in his soldiers, or enlist the girl’s help?
Choiceenlist the girl’s help

After some thought he begs her aid in finding out how to reverse the spell. She agrees.

When she hears the approach of her mother she sends him away to hide. He promises to return the following night to set her free.

The witch arrives and climbs the tower for a visit.

 

Scene 20 – The Tower (int) Day
RAPUNZEL, THE WITCH

Rapunzel tries to wheedle the cure for the statues from her mother. The witch gets more and more suspicious. When Rapunzel says she is just concerned that her mother might be caught for petrifying a member of the royal family, the Witch demands to know how she would know anyone from the Royal family. She owns up to talking with the Prince.

Central conflict of scene (POV Character – RAPUNZEL)

GoalFind the cure to the stone statue spell
ObstacleMum’s selfishness, cruelty and general secretiveness
DisasterMum realises she has spoken to someone
ReactionFear at the anger
DilemmaWill Rapunzel hide the truth (but she has never lied to her mother before) or will she tell the truth (and seek mercy)
ChoiceTell the truth

Suddenly, the witch full of fury gags her and chains her to the wall, cutting off her locks.


Reversal

Scene 21 – The Tower (int) Night
THE PRINCE, RAPUNZEL, THE WITCH

Testing of commitment (PRINCE FRANZ)

The prince decides that he must rescue Rapunzel and find a means of rescuing his sister. He sets his mind on approaching the tower the following night.

When the prince returns, the witch impersonates Rapunzel, letting down the cut off hair to him. When he arrives at the top of the tower she takes him prisoner. The witch removes Rapunzel’s gag and suggests he will make a nice addition to the garden.

Rapunzel is horrified and lets slip that she loves the prince.

Testing of commitment (THE WITCH)

The witch, on discovering Rapunzel is in love feels betrayed and is filled with jealous rage. She decides to punish Rapunzel properly and blinds the Prince with her dagger. She taunts him with the knowledge that she could restore his eyes and provide a cure for the statues, but that it is stored in her fortress in the mountains where she will keep it under lock and key forever.

Commitment (RAPUNZEL)

Rapunzel now sees the truth regarding her mother, defies her, and rejects her utterly.

Central conflict of scene (POV Character – RAPUNZEL)

Goalto protect the prince
Obstacletied up
DisasterPrince captured and blinded
ReactionHorror, absolute horror
DilemmaWill Rapunzel hide her horror and comply or grow a spine and reject the witch?
Choicereject the witch

The witch destroys the tower, casting the girl out into the world, and retreating to her mountain fortress with the imprisoned Franz, there to spend her days tormenting the prince she has taken prisoner.

 

Act 3

Final Confrontation

Scene 22 – 25 – The mountains (ext) Day
RAPUNZEL

Testing of commitment (RAPUNZEL)

Rapunzel climbs the mountain, enduring hardship to locate the witch’s fortress.

Central conflict of scene (POV Character – RAPUNZEL)

GoalFind the fortress
ObstacleThe mountain
DisasterA painful fall before the gate
ReactionPain
DilemmaWill Rapunzel give up and die there, treat her wounds and abandon her quest, or treat her wounds and press on?
ChoicePress on

 

Scene 26 – 29 – The Fortress (int) Night
RAPUNZEL, THE WITCH, PRINCE FRANZ

Rapunzel enters the witch’s fortress and makes her way to the dungeon hoping to rescue the prince. There she encounters the witch.

The witch gives her an ultimatum. She intends to kill the Prince and all the people in the Kingdom with a plague. She can save the Prince and return to the witch to resume their relationship as mother and daughter or she can die here and now and she will spare the Prince and the Kingdom.

Demonstration of changed character (PRINCE FRANZ)

Though blinded he pleads to be killed in place of Rapunzel and his people.

Demonstration of changed character (RAPUNZEL)

Rapunzel chooses to accept death.

Central conflict of scene (POV Character – RAPUNZEL)

GoalRescue Franz
ObstacleThe witch
DisasterThe witch’s ultimatum
ReactionAnger
DilemmaWill Rapunzel choose to live and lose the man she loves or die to save him.
ChoiceDie to save him

Rapunzel’s continued defiance break’s the spirit of the witch.

Demonstration of changed character (THE WITCH)

The witch kills herself, blaming Rapunzel for the tragedy. With her dying breath she announces that compassion is rewarded only with pain and dies.

Rapunzel locates her mother’s potion collection, tends the prince’s eyes and restores his sight. She also finds the remedy to the statue spell.

 

Denouement

Scene 30 – The Ruins of the Tower (ext) Day
RAPUNZEL, PRINCE FRANZ, CHILDREN

The couple return to the site of the tower and Rapunzel uses the potion from the castle to restore the statues to life.

Central conflict of scene (POV Character – RAPUNZEL)

GoalReturn the statues to their families
ObstacleIn some cases a lot of time has past while the child has been a statue
DisasterMany of these children have no families any more
ReactionPity, compassion
DilemmaWill the couple leave them to themselves, or offer them aid?
ChoiceOffer them aid.

 

Scene 31 – The cottage (int) Day
RAPUNZEL, PRINCE FRANZ, GUSTAV, THE CHILDREN

Rapunzel is reunited with her father. The prince asks for her hand in marriage.

Central conflict of scene (POV Character – RAPUNZEL)

Goalreunion with father
Obstaclehe is old and does not recognise her (but she still carries the token she received at birth)
Disasterhe refuses to believe it is her
ReactionGrief but then relief when he sees the token
DilemmaWhat form will her new life take?   Life with father? Life with the prince? Both?
ChoiceBoth!

The couple (and extended family) leave to enjoy their happily ever after.

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Lessons

Worked Example (Radio Adaptation of Rapunzel)