NBC's new show SMASH revolves around the creation of a new Broadway Musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. As the production takes shape, everyone involved in it must balance their often chaotic personal lives with the all-consuming demands of a life in the theatre.

In a story, the protagonist begins in their ordinary world. Dorothy is on the Kansas farm in the Wizard of Oz. In Cast Away, Tom Hanks is working at his FedEx job and spending a little time with his family and girlfriend. In Suzanne Collins' young adult novel The Hunger Games, Katniss hunts and forages in the forbidden woods to feed her mother and sister in the stark District 12.

After a story's First Plot Point, the protagonist is catapulted into a new and exotic world. The First Plot Point has twisted the story in a totally new direction. Dorothy landed in Oz, Tom washed up on an uninhabited island, and Katniss was transported to the lush Capital City.

In SMASH, the characters don't go to a new location. It is the exotic world of creating a possible hit musical that the characters must face. This is more a psychological exotic world.

Some of the characters have been in this world before, so what is new and challenging in this situation?

Debra Messing's Julia is one half of the show and song writing team that comes up with the Marilyn the Musical concept. This fabulous idea comes at a time when Messing has promised her husband and son a year off from work. She and her husband have also applied to adopt a child from China.

Messing isn't successful moving out of her comfort zone of work and slides right back into the thick of it when this exciting idea and show starts to take shape. Hubby and son are not pleased that she's broken her promise to them. So Messing's exotic world is how to keep the family happy and balance that with her work.

Tom is the other half of the song/show writing team is forced to work on the Marilyn workshop with a director that he hates. We are unclear about what caused the rift so his exotic world isn't as obvious from the beginning of the show.

Angelica Houston is Eileen who is on board to produce the play. The problem for her is she's getting a divorce from her producer husband and the court ties up all her money. Eileen has one of the most dramatic exotic worlds. She must scrounge and struggle to find the backers and money to keep the show alive. She learned the business from her soon-to-be ex and this is her first time out on her own.

Karen and Ivy are the two women vying for the role of Marilyn. Ivy is the blonde chorus girl with plenty of play experience. Karen is a talented newbie to the biz from Iowa. She's a waitress waiting for her big break. Both of them are faced with what life could be like as the star of a big musical.

Derek is the temperamental director and womanizer. He's ends up sleeping with Ivy who is cast as Marilyn. Before the play was cast, Karen went to Derek's apartment when he called her and she sang for him but refused to sleep with him. It feels like Derek's been in this situation before, so not sure what is exotic about this world for him.

Part of not knowing all the answers up front is it makes us want to continue watching the show or reading the book to find out. I call that Reader Velcro.

In Smash, we see both Ivy and Karen do FABULOUS jobs at portraying different facets of Marilyn. I couldn't wait to see them perform again and see who would get the role.

That keeping the reader stuck to the page is what we want to do with our stories.

Theory and discussion is of little help unless you relate this info to Your Story:

Find at least four or five details or situations that distinguish the Exotic world of your story from the protagonist's Ordinary World.


Tom Hanks must find food, water, and shelter on the island, as well as create fire to stay alive.

Dorothy is welcomed by a town of munchkins but threatened by the Wicked Witch of the West. She relies on the help of a lion, a scarecrow and a tin man to find the wizard and a way home.

Katniss feasts on exotic melons and mountains of food while her mother and sister are likely eating mush. A team transforms Katness with make-up and a wardrobe of new clothes after she experiences her first hot shower.

This is a taste of what you'll find in my online Story Structure Safari class beginning April 1st at Margie Lawson's Writing Academy. Come join me for

I'll be back with some more SMASHing story work soon.