Last year I thought I’d test Blake Snyder’s ideas on a book for fun: BS2 Project Title: Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes Date: 1966 MORAL PREMISE: Opening Image (1): “Dr Strauss says I shoud rite down what I think and remembir and evrey thing that happins to me from now on” Theme Stated (5): …
" /> Jason Holborn | Cybercarnet/Weblog - Patterns: FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON


Last year I thought I’d test Blake Snyder’s ideas on a book for fun:

Project Title: Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Date: 1966

Opening Image (1): “Dr Strauss says I shoud rite down what I think and remembir and evrey thing that happins to me from now on”

Theme Stated (5): “Human intelligence means nothing without human affection and human love” (BUT THIS IN THE FINAL STAGES OF THE STORY)

Set-Up (1-10): Charlie is retarded in 1966 North America; he works in a bakery where people mock him but he doesn’t realize they are doing so. He is amiable and sweet-natured and perseveres: he has been determined far beyond any other retardates to master reading and writing, with hopes of making himself smart.

Catalyst (12): I would say it happens off-the-page, before you meet Charlie. Like Captain America, it’s not a catalyst that he stumbles into or happens to him or that he activates: he’s just “selected for the experiment”, beating other retardate cases

Debate (12-25): Charlie’s diary entries grow clearer, denser, he experiments with punctuation and larger words and his thoughts become more complex.

Charlie experiences frustration because he’s not smart. Others can see rapid improvement in him, but he is not yet able to “think about his thinking”, or discern that he has begun transformation.

B Story (30): Miss Kinnian (Alice), the teacher who passionately fights for Charlie’s chance in the experiment, who will later become a love interest and then lover.

Fun and Games (30-55): Charlie learns (many) new languages, gestates economic theorems, develops a holistic and catholic view of human history, and learns that Professors have narrow interests and cannot sufficiently answer his questions.

Charlie begins having flashbacks to buried memories (my interpretation was that he was previously unable to evaluate these memories rather than suppressing them) of a cruel Mother and weak Father. The Mother threatens Charlie with harm or castration, fearing Charlie’s retardate nature will not only humiliate her, but take advantage of Norma, Charlie’s baby sister

Charlie begins to suspect and then realize his friends do not like him, and use him for entertainment and amusement.

Charlie discovers his co-worker has been stealing from the bakery all along; Charlie was never bright enough to notice before.

Break Into Two (25):
Charlie’s fired from the bakery he knows as a home; people can’t deal with his change and are frightened. But moreover, Mr. Donner believes that sweeping up and mixing dough is no life for a man like Charlie – with intelligence, Charlie must get more out of the world and out of life. Mr. Donner fundamentally believes he cannot justify employing Charlie at the bakery: Charlie must challenge himself and confront the world.

Charlie conflicts with the researchers, especially Dr. Nemur whom Charlie feels does not see him as a human being.

Midpoint (55) Charlie escapes from the Science Team during the Chicago public presentation, taking Algernon with him. Charlie’s now smart enough to no longer be a lab rat anymore; he can control (to a human extent) his life and path and destiny.

Bad Guys Close In (55-75): Algernon begins to mentally slow.
The writing is on the wall for Charlie 2; he ultimately will follow Algernon and revert to being Charlie 1 again

Charlie gets his own home and lives on his own on his savings (by no means a Bad Guy)

He meets his free spirit neighbor Fay with whom he develops a sexual relationship, working through his neurotic fear of women and dirtiness (hardly a Bad Guy)

Charlie returns to the Lab — but on his condition that he be granted funds and space to participate as a co-researcher and academic (a Good Guy and personal victory)

Break Into Three (85): I’ll say “Charlie successfully battles his inner demons to seduce Fay, his free-spirited neighbor.” Now he has broken entirely out of childhood and into adulthood.

Charlie discovers what happens to lab animals (ie. he identifies with lab animals): frozen and incinerated. He asks that Algernon be saved from this fate.

Charlie visits his “incinerator”, the back-up plan for what to do with him if the experiment fails: the Warren State Home, which he has been afraid of all his life since early elementary school. During the tour, Charlie is superficially kind to a retarded boy with a poor woodworking project; knowing that it’s not good but that the boy needs praise. MOMENT OF GRACE Charlie realizes he treats the retarded boy exactly as people once treated him

Charlie’s personality disappears; he is now incredibly, brilliantly smart but with no real true knowledge of human relations, he flounders and in his continuous disappointments and frustrations, he develops cynicism and grows cold, experiencing anger. He has a drunken argument with Dr. Nemur.

All Is Lost (75): Charlie announces to Dr. Nemur his findings on Algernon and himself: it is hopeless and Charlie will regress again but…

Dark KNight Of The Soul (75-85): … will struggle against time and circumstance to develop further insight, that his life may mean something for science, and a lessening of suffering for others like him. Charlie thanks Dr. Nehru for all that Dr. Nehru has given to him.

Finale (85-110): Charlie describes his growing memory gaps and increasing frustrations with himself. His writing slowly degenerates back into something quickly approaching his earlier intelligence.

Finale Image (110): In a final, retarded note, Charlie implores the researchers: “P.S. Please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard”

Out of the Bottle?
– A “wish” to deliver hero from ordinary (be smart)
– A “spell” (surgery)
– A “lesson” (life was better when ignorant (or was it?))

Dude With a Problem?
– An “innocent hero” (altho he asks for it, Charlie has no earthly way of knowing what they’re getting him into)
– A “sudden évent” (surgery, tho it’s not ‘sudden’… however the invitation (prior to opening page) *is* most unexpected)
– A “life or death” battle (check, check, check)

I’m going to be bold and say BOTH. There are TWO protagonists: Retarded Charlie and Genius Charlie. Charlie 1 lives OOTB and Charlie 2 experiences DWAP (perhaps Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde or Incredible Hulk or any given “two personas share one existence” story can all  be written in this fashion? Two different stories for each version of the protagonist.)